Grandma Ward

Grandpa and Grandma 1941

Grandfather Roland and Grandma Ginny, 1941


This is my much loved Grandma Ward, with her first husband, Roland, back in 1941.

Grandma was born in Southern California but moved to the Central Valley near Modesto when she was a young girl. She remembered riding the bus with the high school kids when she was in Kindergarten, because her parents didn’t want her taking the bus the other Kindergarteners took, as it was on the Highway and they didn’t think that was safe. So she rode with the big kids. The step to get on the bus was too high for her to reach, so a high schooler would lift her up. Kindergarten was 1/2 day, and High School was full day, so she waited outside the school for 3 hours or so until the big kids got out. All alone. Can you imagine anything like that today? Her parents would be in jail for neglect.

She fell in love with my Grandfather Roland when she was in High School, on a date with another boy. I guess that boy was friends with Roland, and they double dated. They didn’t care a bit for the others they were with, and Roland asked her out the next day. A few months later, they eloped. They had to elope, because he was older (27 to her 18) and divorced. The older her family could have dealt with, but the divorced would have been a deal breaker. So they chartered a little airplane that flew them to Carson City, Nevada, and they got married. They came home and she went to school and didn’t tell anyone until after graduation. Her parents couldn’t do much with her, but they didn’t let her younger sister Florence out of their sight for about 2 years, and she wasn’t allowed to date, which she said was fine with her because she was too shy anyway and it gave her an excuse.

Roland worked in construction, and he and my Granmda (Ginny) lived in a little trailer that was hitched to the back of their car. They drove up and down the valley following work, and were very happy. My mom came along about a year later, and made them even happier. Ginny felt like my mom was her little doll to play with, and had a great time being a mom. They had another baby, a boy, two years later, but baby Roland was very ill, and never came home from the hospital. He lived for several months, but kept getting sick before he could be released. When he died, they were devistated. They had another baby, another boy, a couple of years later. This baby was my Uncle Forrest, and all was well, they were again very happy and loving life with the two little children. I think they had an apartment now. One day, Grandpa Roland stepped on a nail while at work. He wasn’t terribly worried because he had had a tetanus shot. But the tetanus shot turned out to be ineffective, likely expired when given to him, and he died quite suddenly. He complained of a headache at breakfast, and was dead before lunch. My Grandma was left with a high school education, a 5 year old, a baby, and a broken heart. They had no life insurance, because they had cancelled the policy because it was too expensive.

Grandma had to find work, and couldn’t keep her kids with her. So my mom went to a convent, and my uncle to a foster home. Grandma and Aunt Flo had an apartment together, and Grandma’s small wages went to pay for the convent and the foster home, plus of course food and rent and so on. This went on for a couple of years, until my Grandma met my Grandpa, who fell in love with her and her kids, and the next thing you know, they were married. My Grandpa was in sales for a large printing company, and they sent him around the country. They lived in Puerto Rico, which is where my Aunt Colleen was born. They lived in Texas and New Mexico and Colorado, and eventually back in California. My mom and Grandpa did NOT get along (he was abusive in many ways) and she left to go live with her Great Aunt Julia in Modesto, which is where she finished high school, and where she met my dad.

My grandfather lost his job at the printing company, I believe because they thought he was too old (he was in his 50s) and they moved to Stockton, where he opened his own company, taking most of his clients with him. They lived there the rest of their lives. My grandfather died in 1988, and my Great Aunt Flo moved in with my Grandma. Aunt Flo’s husband had died quite awhile before. She had taken care of her parents until they died, then helped Grandma take care of Grandpa, and now they were living together.

These last few years, Grandma has not been well. She blames it on having had four children, while Aunt Flo’s kids are step kids, so of course she was healthier. The reality is a combination of factors, including a 60+ year smoking habit, dieting every day from about the age of 12, breaking her hip at the age of 40, and scoliosis in her spine, which as she aged and her spine compressed, became very painful. Aunt Flo has been her nurse and caretaker, as well as her sister and best friend.

When we moved back to California from Alaska when I was 9, Richard and I came first, my mom and our dog (Samantha) came a couple of weeks later. Grandma and Grandpa had downsized to a mobile home park at that time, and it had a swimming pool. Grandma would take us swimming every afternoon, and we would watch cartoons on cable TV (which we hadn’t had in Alaska) before dinner. It was a lot of fun and they spoiled us. They decided that mobile home living wasn’t for them, so they bought a house, which was 2 blocks from our place. I would spend the night at their house sometimes, I spent a week there for Spring Break (called Easter Vacation back then), and my Grandpa would make me apple turnovers for breakfast. When my mom decided we were vegetarian, I would go over there for dinner and Grandma would make me pork chops. When I had swimming and karate lessons at the Y after school, my Grandma would come pick me up and bring me to her house until my mom got home. We were pen pals, which started when we lived in Alaska, and lasted until a couple of years ago when she broke her wrist, plus her eyes weren’t what they once were.

When Ted and I got engaged and moved in together, I worried that she would be angry and scold me. She had asked me to promise never to do such a thing a few years before, when Richard was living with a girlfriend. I wrote to her and told her my news, and asked for her understanding. She wrote back that she had had so little time with my Grandpa Roland, and she thought we should all take our happiness where and when we could. She wasn’t thrilled, but she was OK with it.

Grandma was so strong. She outlived two husbands and all four of her children. She had many adventures and lived a good life.

She has always been a fierce ally, always on her grandchildren’s side, always wanting the best for us, always loving us. My grandma died last Saturday, and I am going to miss her terribly. I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore, but I will miss our trips to Red Lobster and our visits.

Bitter

Clinton Cookies

Clinton Cookies*

These were supposed to be our victory cookies, based on a recipe from the 1992 Presidential election, when Hillary Clinton made a comment on the Today show that she supposed she could have stayed home and baked cookies, but instead she continued her law career.  She was slammed, with the assumption being that she held contempt for stay-at-home moms, that she thought their life was simply baking cookies and drinking tea.  She quickly fell in line, doing the politically expedient thing and entering a cookie recipe in the Family Circle baking contest, a First Lady challange that survives to this day.

I decided it would be symbolic of how far we’ve come to bake a batch of her cookie recipe.  I baked some on Saturday and sent them to my Grandma and Great Aunt, who were SO EXCITED about this victory.  I baked the rest for us yesterday.  I made one small change, in that I used butter instead of shortening.  I’m not enough of a baker to know how the shortening ones would have turned out, but I looked at both oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie recipes, and both seemed to generally call for butter.  

And now, here we are. President Trump. It sticks in my throat and gave me nightmares last night. I cannot believe we are here. I cannot believe our next President will be a man with zero political experience, who denies climate change in the face of all evidence, who says and does the things he says and does. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

Anyway, since I had it ready to post yesterday, here is Hillary Clinton’s recipe.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark because we had it)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease baking sheets (I used parchment paper instead, so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening (butter, room temperature), sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled Oates.  Stir in chocolate chips.  (Add some nuts if you’re baking for Grandma and Aunt Flo, omit if you’re baking for Ted and Maya.  Life is a little complicated sometimes.)
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.
  5. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies

* The Almond Joy is Maya’s superstitiouss move…she enjoyed an Almond Joy for Obama’s win in ’08

Presidential Cereal

I had a dream last night (or was it a vision?) of a cereal box with Trump’s picture on it.  I know, what a horrid idea.  I told Ted, and he went and found this picture, likely in order to torture me.

image

I mentioned it on Facebook, (which is where Ted put the picture), and my FB and prior bloggy friend V-Grrrl said that her nephew (founder of Air B&B) had presidential cereals back in 2008.  So I did a search for Presidential Cereals, and found these.  The Obama Os and Cap’n McCain’s are VGrrrl’s nephew’s.

image

image

image

image

image image

Good thing these aren’t around all the time.  I for one do not want to see politicians in the cereal aisle?

Do you have a favorite?  I’d try Clinton Crunch.

Friday Randomness (on Saturday)

image

Maybe I should say something about the election that’s coming up, but I can’t.  I’m sick of the whole thing.  I wish that Clinton had a more worthy adversary.  I want her to win, but I’d rather it be on her own merits, not because her opponent is such an asshole.

We went to Portland a couple of weeks ago for a ‘drive by visit’.  Maya is in school, Ted and I don’t have a lot of vacation time saved up, so we flew up Friday night, spent Saturday with family, flew home Sunday morning.  My sister got married back in March, a VERY small ceremony, and this was the party to celebrate.  It was so lovely to see everyone, but again it reminded us that we are living far from my family, and the kids are growing up without our frequently getting to see them.

image

Back when I worked in a cubicle farm, I had a clock radio/iPod docking station, because I wanted to listen to my iPod at work.   When I started working from home, I brought it home and put it next to my bed.  The clock sucked for being next to my bed.  I hated the backlit display, SO bright, and it was hard to read the numbers at night.  At some point along the way, the volume stopped working well.  It was hard to get it to a decent volume.  Too loud, or too quiet.  I had no idea how to set the alarm on the thing.  For some reason, inertia mostly, I kept it for years.  Finally, I decided that I had had enough, and I went to the drug store and bought myself a new clock radio to keep by my bed.  It’s not the best ever, but it has a dark face with red numbers, very easy to read at night.  It was still a bit more bright than I wanted, so I bought an interesting product to dim it.  It’s black film that clings to the front of the clock.  You can’t even see the numbers during the day, but I don’t care about that.  What I like is that it’s dark in our room at night, and I can easily read the numbers.  I haven’t tried setting the alarm yet, so we’ll have to see how that works.

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving.  Since Ted was born in Canada (though they came to the U.S. when he was just over a year old), I like to make Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us.  Often I make a turkey breast, but this year I wanted leftovers, so I made a small turkey, about 10lbs.  There was enough that Monday night we had Thanksgiving dinner, Tuesday we had turkey chili, Wednesday we had leftovers, Thursday we had turkey pot pie. Friday I was looking in the fridge, and we still have yams, cranberry sauce, and gravy, but no more turkey.  So I decided to buy a turkey breast, and we would have Thanksgiving dinner part 2.  When I told Ted, he said he would rather have pizza, he’s a little tired of turkey.  So pizza it was.  I’d already bought the turkey breast, so we will be having that along with the yams and so on, probably tonight.

Are you a fan of the Gilmore Girls?  I’m a fan, and I’ve been watching the series again on Netflix in anticipation of the new season coming out after Thanksgiving.  If you’ve not been paying attention, it’s going to be 4 episodes, I believe 90 minutes each.  Each episode will be a different season, so they will take place over the course of one year.  There’s been a lot of speculation as to what has changed over the almost 10 years since the series ended.  One change is that the actor who played the father, Ed Hermann, has died in the interim, so there will be no Richard Gilmore.  I’m sad about that.  I loved him and Emily best for the whole show.

He loves to sleep like this. Don't know why.

He loves to sleep like this. Don’t know why.

Puppy Boy was super sick last week.  We have to assume that he ate something he shouldn’t have, or licked up something nasty off the ground, but we don’t know exactly.  He has a habit of barfing.  Not sure why, but he does. Maybe he has an acid prone stomach.  Generally we give him a Pepcid AC every morning, and that takes care of it.  But last week, he started barfing and couldn’t stop.  He threw up all over the house, with us following close behind with the carpet cleaner, until it had been a couple of hours and he was just puking foam.  We decided enough was enough, and took him to the vet.  He threw up in the car on the way there, and at the vet’s as well.  The vet said it could be that he ate something dangerous, or it could be obstructed bowels, or who knows.  Blood work and x-rays were next, followed by an IV of liquids and anti-nausea meds.  He stopped barfing.  The vet said to take him home, and if he was OK in the morning, no need to come back.  If he threw up again in the morning, we had to bring him in again.  There was something on the x-Ray that was PROBABLY nothing, but if he was still barfing the next morning, we should check into it.  Morning came, he drank some water, and barfed it up.  Back to the vet for us.  More x-rays.  More IV.  More meds.  The x-Ray was again inconclusive, but the spot that the vet worried about was gone.  We brought him home, and then the diarrhea started.  That went on much of Friday, thankfully all in the yard, none at home.  Saturday he was a little better.  Sunday he seemed almost back to his regular self, and every day got a little better until now he’s fine.  The only thing that’s bothering him at all now is that while he was sick, he was eating chicken and rice, and now it’s all gone and it’s back to kibble.  So, we never found out exactly what was wrong, except that the blood work didn’t show anything like poison, and the x-rays didn’t show anything too crazy.  Our puppy boy is fine.  Our bank account is not.

Remembering Edelmiro Abad, Again, Still

Here we are again, 15 years after that horrible day. What strikes me today is remembering the days and weeks following the attacks of September 11th, how we all seemed to come together, as a country. And how much of the world came together for us as well. So much of that is gone. I want it back in a way, but I want it to be for a good reason, not because of another horrific, unimaginable event.

Here then, I again remember Edelmiro Abad, one of the almost 3.000 who were murdered that day.

Edelmiro Abad

Beloved husband, proud father, loving son, brother, uncle and dear friend are words that best describe Edelmiro Abad. Ed touched the lives of all who knew him with loving words, a kind gesture, or his unique sense of humor. Ed lived a happy, fulfilled life with his wife of 29 years and three daughters. He also enjoyed a successful career with Fiduciary Trust for 26 years. His co-workers and clients became more than just friends; they became family. Although we have lost a beautiful person, we have truly gained an angel. We love you, we miss you, and we will meet again.

He was my mentor and friend. He was always there when I needed him professionally and personally. First and foremost always were “his girls.” He would always burst with pride when he told us about his writer, his dancer, his chef and Lorraine just being Lorraine. Ed was loved and respected by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Ed, thank you for your strength and kindness. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

-Michele Kearney

Back in June, I read on Ally Bean’s site about this project, called the 2996 project, where you can volunteer to take the name of one victim from the September 11th attacks, and write a memorial to that person. I was assigned the name of Ed Abad.

This project seems far removed to me, far removed from my life in California, 3,000 miles from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, where people suffered immeasurable horrors on that day. And yet, I thought, maybe I can do my part. Maybe I can write about how this loss, the loss of Mr. Abad and so many, too many, others has affected me. How it has affected us all.

September 11th, was, for me, supposed to be a day when I went into Oakland for a payroll conference, learning about boring changes to reporting requirements from the spokespeople from the Social Security Administration. It was a chance to get out of the office, maybe have lunch in a different place, learn some new things about my newish job.

I was in the shower, getting ready, when Ted came in and told me that his Aunt had called his mother, called from England since she knew we were so far removed, time wise, and might not yet be up and watching TV or listening to the news. Ted told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. By the time I got downstairs, the first tower had fallen…they were showing the second plane hitting, over and over again. I remember the horror that I felt, not knowing whether this was the work of foreign terrorists, or perhaps the work of another Timothy McVeigh type psychopath. I remember worrying about Ted and his family, about the fear that was felt by many people of color, of that certain color, during the first Gulf War, that they would be targeted for acts of violence and hatred.

Then the second tower fell. It was such a horrid time, such an amazingly horrid event in the history of our country. I remember thinking…this is what people in Northern Ireland, Israel, Kashmir, and London have been living with for years. Now it has come here.

My boss came to my house, not sure if what he had heard on the radio was true, or if it was a stupid radio stunt. He knew by my face that it was true. We left from here to go to Oakland for our conference, not sure that that was the thing to do, but oddly holding on to normalcy. We arrived in Oakland, went through maybe 15 minutes of training, before the Federal Building there was shut down as a precaution. So we went home. Then in to the office, oddly. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went. Just habit I suppose, like I went into work the day after the earthquake in ’89. Stayed at work for a few hours, watching the news unfold, crying quietly in my cubicle. Finally the word came that we should go home.

I came home, hungry for more news. Turned on the TV, only to see pictures of people, desperate people, jumping to their deaths from the top of the twin towers. It was the most horrid sight I have ever seen in my life. I hope to never see anything like it again. I turned off the TV, cried, cleaned house, tried to get some idea of how to deal with this.

I remember the weeks following…the days of strange quiet in the air when no airplanes flew…knowing that there were no airplanes, from coast to coast, border to border. It was a very strange feeling.

I remember being told by my leader that we needed to act normal, that we needed to go shopping, to keep our economy afloat. This cut me to the quick. I wanted to sacrifice…to give up something, as the victims of the attacks had done. As our grandparents had done after Pearl Harbor, with their shortages and sacrifice, that you felt and knew were contributing to the greater good of America, the fight against evil. Instead, we were asked to go shopping.

I knew then that we would attack Iraq. Hoped in my heart that I was wrong. Hoped that our leader would not take this opportunity to settle a grudge against the man who shamed his father. But deep down, I feared that I would turn out to be right on this.

I remember the day my mother and I had chosen to go to an Afghani restaurant for dinner, and decided it was somehow wrong to change those plans because of current circumstances…that maybe if we went, we would be telling the people who ran the restaurant that we understood that THEY were not the Taliban. THEY were not Al Quaeda. THEY were not the people who had attacked our nation. The day we chose, sadly, was the day that the U.S. started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Our waiter walked around like a man in a dream, a man in a nightmare. I felt like we were there to support him, but that maybe, he just wanted to be home, alone, to not have to serve food to strangers, white strangers, and wonder what we thought of him, if he even had those thoughts at that time. Any thoughts to spare save those for his friends and family at home.

I remember that there were songs that were not supposed to be played on the radio. One of those songs was U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday. To this day, the opening lyrics tie me with September 11th, with the pain and horror of watching those buildings fall, of watching people fall to their deaths rather than stay in such a toxic, horrid building.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes, and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song,
How long?

Now, 5 years later, how am I to put any sort of perspective on that day. On the many, many horrid days since that day. On the loss of American life, the loss of life for our allies from England, France, Germany, Australia, etc. The loss of Iraqi life, the loss of Afghani life in a now mostly ignored war….what to say about the more recent loss of life in Israel and Lebanon…what to say about the hatred in our hearts, that pits person against person so venemously.

I want to say moving, amazing words to remember them all. To remember Ed Abad, of Brooklyn, who I committed to commerate this day. And truly, I don’t know how.

Eggs in Pepper Boats

image
One of my Christmas gifts this year was a lovely cookbook, Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pepin.  I’ve tried a few recipes from it, with various levels of success.  This recipe I consider an unqualified success, because it’s super delicious and relatively easy.  You cut a poblano pepper in half, simmer it a bit to soften it, then fill the cavity with a little cheese and an egg, and cook it (covered) until the egg is set to your liking.  It’s really good.  Depending on how hot the peppers are, it’s either spicy or not.  Poblano peppers are not terribly spicy anyway, but I’ve made this twice now, and there was definitely a difference in heat between the two.

Ted and cheese don’t get along as well as they used to, so I made this for him without any, which is clearly healthier anyway.  But not as tasty in my book. And I keep forgetting the cilantro. I’ll have to try it that way next time.

EGGS IN PEPPER BOATS

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients
2 (4 oz each) banana, cubanelle or poblano peppers
4 extra-large eggs, preferably organic
6 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves (or as much as you prefer)

For the peppers: Split the peppers lengthwise in half and remove the seeds and the stems if you want. Arrange them cut-side down in a large skillet and add the oil, water and a ¼ teaspoon of the salt and cook, covered, over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the peppers are softened somewhat but still firm.

For the eggs: Remove the skillet from the heat and, if necessary, turn the peppers over so they are hollow-side up. Place the cheese in the peppers. Break an egg into each one and sprinkle the eggs with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Return the skillet to the stove, cover and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

To serve: Transfer to plates, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Fixing your Fridge

We thought our refrigerator was dying yesterday. Such a sad day. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike our fridge. Our last fridge had a bottom freezer, which I really liked. But when it died, we didn’t have a lot of time to shop and wait, as living without a fridge can be difficult, so we went with what was in stock in the color that matches our other kitchen appliances. We’ve never replaced all of our appliances at once, so we’re always trying to match what we have (bisque). Anyway, our current fridge is a top freezer model, and the drawers are difficult to pull out to clean, and the door compartment things (where you put your mayo and so on) have broken twice, and are not easy to get replaced. I overall dislike it.

However, much as I dislike our fridge, I don’t want to have to buy a new one. This one is 5 or 6 years old. I resent how cheaply appliances are made these days. When our last one was dying, we had a repairman come out, and he said it was expensive to fix, and the problem nowadays is that you can buy an expensive fridge with all of the bells and whistles, or you can buy a cheap one, and they have different configurations, shelf space, bells and whistles, but the basic guts of them all are now cheap and don’t last. I HATED hearing that. GET OFF MY LAWN! I know, I’m old, and I don’t like this disposable economy that we live in. I want a fridge that will last 20 or 30 years.

Side story, we bought a stove quite a few years ago. There was a crappy little piece of plastic in the control knobs that broke, and one burner would not turn off. It was always on, at a low temp, but on. Not good. And yes, it was a couple of weeks after the warranty ran out. Grrr. The guy who came to fix it said it was a tiny piece of plastic in the back end of the knob, which of course used to be metal, but is now plastic, and they don’t make them like they used to.

So here we are. Maybe a week or two ago, I was in the kitchen and the fridge was making a weird noise, starting and stopping, starting and stopping. Uh oh. But it mellowed out, and turned out OK. Or so I thought. Then a few days later, I noticed some green onions had frozen in the fridge. Not good, but what’s going on? Off and on over the next week or so, we hear the stopping and starting of the fridge, like, “START.STOP.START.STOP” quickly like that. Then yesterday, we noticed that our food didn’t seem as cold as it had been. It was luke warm. We looked in the freezer, and noticed that the freezer had snow/ice in it. Ted’s parents were over for dinner, and they mentioned how that had happened to them, and it meant blockage in the vents between the freezer and fridge (ice), which causes the air to not flow. They unplugged their fridge for a couple of hours, and that melted the ice blockage, and it was fixed. Maya looked on her phone for an answer, and that seemed to be it. So Ted and his dad cleaned out the snow inside, and vacuumed the horrible amount of dust on the back of the fridge, and we all hoped for the best.

When we woke up this morning, the fridge was 60 degrees (according to our meat thermometer). Not good. I decided to take my life in my hands and eat eggs anyway, and the milk smelled fine, so I put it in my tea. Then I read up on such things, and talked to my friend Cherry, who went to culinary school and studied food safety, and decided to follow Ted’s advice and throw things out. So when Maya got up, I took her to breakfast/lunch. I cleaned out the fridge, and took our perfectly frozen food to our neighbor’s house, and unplugged the fridge. I left the doors open and put a fan on it to try to melt the ice blocking up the works. When Ted came home from work a couple of hours later, the snow had melted, but the ice in the vents was still frozen solid. So he worked on that, attacked it with the hair dryer, etc. for a couple of hours. When all was clear and looked good, we plugged it back in. Here we are, a couple of hours later, and it’s looking good. There is still a chance that we will need a new fridge fairly soon (Do I want this? Yes. Do I want to pay for this? No.) The fridge isn’t down to the required

Here’s the video Ted watched to give him tips on what to do when your freezer is still cold but the fridge isn’t.

Friday Randomness

Wow…it’s been over 2 months since I last posted here. I wonder if the J who posted every day, sometimes multiple times a day, would believe that this time might come? Sigh. I like blogging, it’s just that all too often lately, it doesn’t even occur to me, when priviously it was as though my life was fodder for the blog.

So…what’s new in the life of J?

Well, I started my new job June 1st. I ended my last job May 27th, giving me a grand total of 4 days off between jobs. I regret that a bit, but on the other hand, I didn’t really have any money to go anywhere, and we would have had to find someone to take care of Mulder, and Maya was still working at the time, and Ted didn’t have any vacation time either. So be it. So work work work it is. But I work from home still, which I still really like. My job is different than anything I’ve done before, which is good. I like my coworkers. We had a big meeting to go to in mid-June, meaning I had to get dressed and leave the house, and see my coworkers in person. I liked them even more in person than over the phone, so that’s a good thing. We’re hiring another new person on our small team, she starts Monday, so I guess that means I won’t be the new girl anymore.

Puppy Boy Mulder is doing well. He doesn’t pull nearly as hard on the leash when out for his walks. He doesn’t bark nearly as much as he did when we first got him. Sometimes the neighbors can even walk by without setting him off, though the group of idiots outside our window playing Pokemon Go quite loudly at 11:20 one night was too much for him to resist. I can’t say I blame him on that one. Also, Mulder appears to be part cat. I bought him a laser pointer, and he loves to chase the little light around the house. Also, he likes to torture bugs. He caught a fly the other day, and he kept it alive and under his control for too long. I was going to try to put it outside, but then he ate it. Oh well.

This week saw both of the cars go into the shop. Ugh. One car was overdue for some maintenance type stuff that we’ve been putting off, and finally were able to manage. Expensive. Then while the one was in the shop, the other decided it was a good time for the fan/air conditioning to blow. Nice when it’s over 100 degrees every damn day. That wasn’t AS expensive, but it wasn’t cheap by any means. Both cars had better behave for a good long while now. And as Ted so wisely said, at least it’s cheaper than a new car.

Maya graduated (with honors) with her AA-T from our local community college in May. AA-T is an Associates of Arts specifically for Transfer students. They didn’t have such a thing when I transferred from my local community college way back when. Back then, you only graduated with an AA if you weren’t planning on transferring to a 4 year University. We didn’t celebrate much, other than to get takeout sushi for dinner, as she had a paper due that night anyway. We’ll save the celebration for when she graduates from Cal. Speaking of which, we made our first payment to Cal for Maya’s tuition yesterday. It’s getting real! Classes start in just a couple more weeks. Crazy.

Tomorrow we’re going to Sacramento to attend the wedding of my college roommate, Troy. I haven’t seen him in ages, and we reconnected via Facebook. He and his husband (they actually got married a month or so ago, tomorrow is the celebration) are planning to become expats and move to Spain in the next year. I wish them all the best, and am looking forward to celebrating their life together with them.

Have you watched “The Great British Baking Show”? We started watching a few weeks ago, got hooked quickly, binge watched all we could watch here in the US, and now are settling down to just watching new episodes on Friday nights (PBS). It’s really good, and I generally don’t watch a lot of reality type TV, other than cooking shows…and this is a reality cooking show, so there you go. But I like it much more than Chopped or any other reality competition type cooking show I’ve seen.

I watched as much of the conventions as I could stomach. Meaning very little of the Republican convention, and most of the evening portions of the Democratic convention. What I saw on the R side gave me the willies. I did like what I saw on the D side. I liked seeing the Bernie supporters getting rowdy, even though they were pretty disrespectful. I think Democracy is somewhat messy, and people have the right to be heard. Both of the Obama speeches were amazing. I was remembering Obama’s speech in 2008, and how he made me almost believe in a better world. He has that talent when he gives a really good speech, and it was a pleasure to see that in action again. I wish Hillary had that gift, but I’m happier for the policy type gifts that she does have, and I suspect they will mean more if she is President than being able to enthrall a room of doubters. I do hope so very much that she is our next President, and that she gets a decent congress and doesn’t blow that. I’ve always been cynical about politicians. None of them have yet managed to prove me wrong on that stance.

That’s it for now…hopefully it won’t be 10 weeks before I blog again. Now maybe I’ll try to come and see what you’ve been up to, my bloggy friends.

What the crap?

image
What the crap is going on, that it’s been 6 weeks since I last posted? God I suck.

So, what’s going on here? Well, Maya is graduating from our local community college with her transfer AA next Friday, and she has been accepted to every school she applied to for transfer, including her number one favorite tip top choice, U.C. Berkeley! YAY! We’re so proud of her it’s ridiculous. This year at least, she’ll live at home, which will save us about $16,000 in room and board.

Speaking of Cal, did you happen to see Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address? I loved it. Really moving and wonderful. I was impressed by her vulnerability and honesty, and by the advice she had regarding developing resilience.

What else is new? Seems like I went out and got myself a new job. Gulp. I wasn’t really looking for one, though I was open to it. I’ve been at my company for 15 years, and I’m ready to do something a little different. It’s more money, which is GOOD. I’ll still be working from home, which I love. It will be a lot different as far as the actual work goes, and yet my same desk, same room, same same. Strange. Always before, when leaving a job, I say my farewells to my coworkers, and leave the building. New job, new building. So this will be different in that way.

Puppy boy Mulder is doing well. He’s gotten a little better about pulling on the leash on walks, which is good. He doesn’t bark QUITE as often, though he’s still a barky boy. We’re going to a bbq with a bunch of other Keeshonden from the rescue where we got him this Saturday. That will be fun, to see him playing with his buddies.

Ted’s family has been in California for 50 years in a week or so. They came here from Canada back in ’66. We’ll be having a family get together to celebrate, which should be fun.

I’m wanting to re-do our tiny back yard. I was originally thinking I would put in drought resistant plants, but I talked to a master gardener who suggested that that might be a mistake, as our little yard gets very little sunshine, and drought tolerant plants generally want sunshine. So my current plan is to improve the soil by digging in some compost or something, and then plant some shade tolerant plants. It will look nice with our new patio table and chairs. Right now it looks dried out and sad to me, which generally happens when it gets warm around here. What I want is a yard that will look cool and serene. Maybe I need a little Buddha figurine out there to frighten the dog.

And wow, what about this election season? Crazy. Trump is the nominee on the Republican side, barring anything too crazy. Clinton is likely to win over Sanders, but it’s gotten a lot more contentious recently. I do not like what is happening with the Democrats. Not good. I sure hope things settle down before the convention.

Failure and Success

image
Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!

It’s Raining, it’s Pouring…

image
So happy about all of that beautiful rain we’re hoping for over the next several days*. We had a nice January, but February was dry dry day. And the ad at the bottom for slippers? I bought a pair of orthaheel slippers (not the Gemma, the Adilyn) and they are the most comfortable slippers EVER. They have arch support, not just a nice cushion at the bottom. Since I work from home, comfy slippers are important.

* I hope I’m not counting chickens before they’re hatched…we need a very wet March to make up for a very dry February. It hasn’t started raining yet, but having several days in a row coming up is a really good thing.

Braised Short Ribs

Picture from ATK website, because I didn't take a picture of ours. The picture on the recipe is what inspired me to make the polenta.

Picture from ATK website, because I didn’t take a picture of ours. The picture on the recipe is what inspired me to make the polenta.

Two recipes in two days. Sorry. I like to keep a lot of recipes here, in addition to printing them up, so I can find them when I need them. The thing with America’s Test Kitchen recipes is that only the current season episodes are free. For past seasons, you have to pay for a subscription. So there’s a time limit on them. Best to write it down somewhere. For me, that’s here.

I saw the cooks on ATK make this beef stew the other day, and I was intruiged. I am not a big fan of beef bourgenion, or coq a vin, so I don’t know why I wanted to try this one, but I did. You braise beef short ribs in Chianti, and you do it in batches to effect the flavor of the sauce.

I ended up using 2 3/4 lbs of bone-in short ribs. I’m estimating that that meant about 1 1/2 lbs of meat, or maybe 2lbs, I’m not sure. I halved the rest of the recipe. I’m not sure how different it would taste with boneless, likely just as good, or else they would have made the recipe with bone in ribs. I kind of wish I had made the entire recipe, because it was really good and I wish we had leftovers. I served it with polenta, which I sometimes like and sometimes do not. This time I liked it a lot. Also peas and carrots. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. If you’d like a cozy meal, give it a try (it was almost 80 degrees yesterday, so who knows what inspired me.)

TUSCAN-STYLE BEEF STEW/Braised Short Ribs
Ingredients
4 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions
1. Toss beef and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt together in bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, gelatin, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and remaining beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.

4. Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 12 to 15 minutes.

5. Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low, return beef to pot, and stir in cornstarch-wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve, passing extra cracked peppercorns separately. (Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Onion Burgers

image
photo from Cook’s Country website, because I neglected to take a picture of ours.

A few years ago, we tried a hamburger recipe that was inspired by an episode of Man vs Food, Louis’ Lunch Burger.  In that recipe, a bit of onion is smashed into the burgers before cooking, and then they are grilled on an antique grilling machine.  We don’t have an antique grilling machine, just a grill, and when we made it, most of the onion fell between the grates, which was a shame because they looked good.

This weekend, Cook’s Country (do you watch cooking shows on PBS?  I love them) had a similar burger , which they said was from Oklahoma, and served at a hamberger joint on Route 66.  It’s similar in that it has onion smashed into one side of the burger before cooking.  It’s different in that it’s cooked in a non-stick pan on your stove.  I liked the look of that, so we had that for dinner last night.  The results are that it was a really good burger.  I think I’ll make my burgers the same way next time we have burgers, except maybe I’ll try one trick from the Louis’ Lunch Burger recipe, which was to use a combination of meats.  I had forgotten that when we made those burgers, we used 1/2 80% and 1/2 85%.  I think these would be even better that way.  The only changes we made from the Cook’s Country recipe are that their recipe makes 4 3oz burgers, and we made 3 4oz burgers, and I only used 1/2 of an onion, though it was a decently big (yellow) onion.

ONION BURGERS
adapted from Cook’s Country

Ingredients

1/2 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick
Salt and pepper
6 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
6 ounces 80 percent lean ground beef
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 slices Cheddar cheese (No cheese for Ted)
3 hamburger buns, buttered and toasted

Instructions

1. Combine onion and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to colander and let sit for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Using tongs, transfer onion to clean dish towel, gather edges, and squeeze onion dry. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon pepper.

2. Divide onion mixture into 3 separate mounds on rimmed baking sheet.  Mix two types of beef, then form into 3 lightly packed balls and season with salt and pepper. Place beef balls on top of onion mounds and flatten beef firmly so onion adheres and patties measure 4 inches in diameter.

3. Melt butter with oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using spatula, transfer patties to skillet, onion side down, and cook until onion is deep golden brown and beginning to crisp around edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip burgers, increase heat to high, and cook until well browned on second side, about 2 minutes. Place 1 slice cheese on each bottom bun. Place burgers on buns, add desired toppings, and serve.

Friday Randomness

Have you seen the beautiful tribute to my first husband, David Bowie, at the BRIT awards?  This is the entire thing, I think, including a tribute by Annie Lennox, a tribute by Gary Oldmam, and a song by Lorde, backed up by performers who had worked with Bowie in the past.  I’ll confess, Lorde’s song brought me to tears.  I miss David Bowie being alive in the world.  It was a better place with him here.   Coming so soon after the Emmy awards, which included a tribute by Lady Gaga, of course invites comparison.  I’ll chime in and say that Gaga’s tribute left me feeling cold, didn’t move me at all.  Hers was an over the top performance, with her dressed to honor the glam rock Bowie from the 70s.  She did a fine job, but tried to squeeze in too many songs, and it sounded like she was trying to pitch her voice to match his.  Lorde instead did a straight up version of ‘Life on Mars?’ that was gorgeous and simple.  The video above is the whole BRIT tribute.  If you want to see just Lorde’s performance, it starts about 9 minutes in.

Speaking of Gaga, I read today that Joe Biden is going to introduce her at the Academy Awards on Sunday, where she will perform her Oscar nominated song about rape and sexual assult.  This comes in the wake of a court decision this week that Kesha, who was (allegedly) sexually assaulted by her producer, Dr. Luke, will not be released from her contract with Sony.  Kesha says she wants to break all ties with Luke, but Sony says they are unable to do so, because the contract belongs to Dr. Luke’s company, which has a deal with Sony.  What a mess.  This is just an injunction, however, and the actual trial hasn’t started yet.  So we’ll see whether she will be contractually required to create 4 more albums with her attacker.  I don’t know more about the case, but I’m glad it’s getting attention.  Sexual assult is hard to prove, and so often the blame is put on the victim.  We need to change that mentality.

How’s the weather where you are?  It’s stupidly gorgeous here, 70 degrees outside right now.  We’ve had a very dry February, though not as dry as recent years.  January was pretty wet, which was good, unless you live on a cliff in Pacifica.  But February is prime rainy season.  It’s not unheard of in an ‘el nino’ year for us to have a dry spell, so I’m hoping still for a wet March and maybe even April.  After that it pretty much dries up around here.  What we need are winter storms to drop a lot of moisture, and we’re just not getting that right now.  Ugh.

Did you watch ‘Freaks and Geeks‘ when it was on back in ’99-2000?   We did, though I think we missed it first run and watched in reruns.  The entire series (only 18 episodes) is available now on Netflix.  If you came of age in the early 80s, you should give yourself up to a good binge and watch the entire thing.  We just finished the other night, and it really held up well.

I thought the series finale of Downton Abbey was this coming Sunday, but maybe they didn’t want to go up against the Academy Awards.  It’s next week, March 6th.  We have the DVD, so we’ve watched already.  Clearly I’m not evil and I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will say I think they did a really nice job with it.

Do you like Spaghetti and Meatballs?  We do.  We’re especially fond of the recipe in my Alice Waters cookbook.  It’s fairly involved, though, and usually Ted makes the meatballs while I make the sauce and it’s a real team effort weekend type meal.  So I was happy the other day to see that Smitten Kitchen had an everyday meatball recipe.  And instead of serving it with pasta, she said maybe you might want to have it with garlic toast, as sort of an open face meatball sub.  So that’s exactly what we did, and gosh it was good.  I think I would have liked the sauce portion to be a bit more complex, maybe some onions or carrots or something in there, but for a quick sauce, it was quite good.  Happily, there are leftovers on the menu tonight.

Lastly in this rambling post, for some reason last night I was thinking about these TV dinners, Libbyland, we sometimes got when I was a kid, in Alaska.  They were made and marketed to kids, so there was a game or a puzzle or something on the box that you could occupy yourself with, there was a packet of Nestle Quick that you could mix with milk and have chocolate milk (maybe they even had strawberry milk with some meals, I’m not sure.)  TV dinners back then were cooked in the oven, and these for some reason often came with chocolate pudding, so that was hot.  Strange.  The food was definitely geared towards kids tastes, and was fairly gross.  But boy, I loved those things.  I think we would get those if my mom was going on a date, so not a nightly thing by any means.