Happy Ending for a chair

This is (a kinda blurry photo of) my friend Dana, who used to be on my Meals on Wheels route. Back in November, she moved into a (very nice) assisted living apartment building. I stop in for a visit occasionally, and on my last visit she mentioned to me how difficult it is for her to get up out of her chair. She had piled up pillows to help. In one of those twists that the universe sometimes takes, a couple of days later I was having dinner with my dear friend Neva, my BF from 6th grade, and she mentioned to me that she needed to sell her mom’s chair (her mom died about 2 months after my dad), which was one of those recliners that boosts you up and helps you get out of your chair. It was $1,000 new, and I don’t think it was ever used. I told her about Dana, but I didn’t think Dana could afford to pay much, if anything, for it. Neva said her mom would want Dana to have it, no charge. So today, Ted and I drove to Ripon to pick it up, and we brought it to Dana. It works like a dream, and she was so happy she started crying. I told Neva, and she said that made her day. All around, I would say a day very well spent. I wish Neva read blogs, but she doesn’t, so I can only tell you about her generosity and what it meant to Dana.

Where we are now

Our stupid 5 day forecast

Here we are, at the beginning of the first full week of February, and it’s going to be 75 degrees today. The birds are chirping merrily, the flowering trees are full of flowers, the sun is bright and warm. It would be lovely if only it weren’t so ominous, that this is going to be another drought year. Already, parts of Southern California are in drought. Up here, we’re getting there, again. There is still, surely, a lot of water in our reservoirs from last year’s deluge, but I do wish mightily that our snow pack were deeper. It’s not too late. We could have a wet LATE February (the 10 day forecast is the same as the 5 day forecast, with 0 percent rain for the next 10 days.). We could even have a wet March, though those are less common than wet Februarys. Blech. I read in today’s newspaper that today is the 42nd anniversary of the last time we had sea-level snow in the Bay Area. I remember that day, because it was the only time in my memory that we had snow in Stockton. That was the year we moved back from Alaska, where we had snow and plenty of it. I had no idea that it would be a once in a childhood type thing. I did enjoy it, though my teachers thought I was bonkers for not zipping up my jacket when it was obviously so cold outside.

Tulip Tree in our neighborhood. Some do not have their buds yet, while others are already in full flower.

The same weather pattern that pushes the storms here up north means they pick up cold air, which they then dump on the Midwest and East Coast, so presumably my friends out there are suffering a very different February than we are here. I had to explain to Maya that the groundhog predicted 6 more weeks of winter because he lives in Pennsylvania. If he were a California groundhog, he would have predicted an early spring. The idea that one groundhog should be held responsible for the weather of all 50 states is ludicrous. It is clearly a job to be shared.

Are these camellias? I’m not great with flowers, but I think so.

As Ted is still a member of SAG/AFTRA, we again received screeners to view so he could vote. I haven’t watched a couple of them yet, but of the movies I have watched, my favorites are ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. I also really enjoyed ‘The Big Sick’ and ‘I, Tonya’. I love getting screeners. The awards also cover TV shows, so we receive nominated episodes, which is strange, because you get only the nominated episode, not the nominated series/season, which feels disjointed, because it is. Speaking of TV, or at least of Netflix TV, I’ve recently binged both ‘The Crown’ and ‘Grace and Frankie’. I liked season 2 of ‘The Crown’ better than season 1. Season 1 was good, but Prince Philip was so annoying and petulant that it ruined it a bit for me. Perhaps he was (or still is) that way in real life, who knows. Season 2, he’s still a little petulant, it’s difficult to be a man in a man’s world, but overshadowed by a woman. Not as difficult as it is to be a powerful woman in a man’s world, or worse yet, a powerless woman in a man’s world, but still, I can be a bit sympathetic to his frustrations. “Grace and Frankie’ is good, as always. I love both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Ted and I have also been watching the new season of ‘One Day at a Time’, which is great, only because of Rita Moreno. I mean, everyone in the cast is very good, but she makes the show what it is.

This spring will be a big one for us. Maya is graduating from college in May, and we are planning a trip to France to celebrate both that auspicious day, and that this July will be Ted and my 25th anniversary. We had considered going to Italy, but I’m bitter with Italy still, because my Dad died there. Besides, he and my step-mom were there celebrating THEIR 25th anniversary, so I don’t want to push my luck. We’re thinking some time in Paris, and some time out at the coast of Brittany, where Ted has a friend from grad school. The last time we saw him, I wasn’t even pregnant with Maya yet. Crazy. We haven’t made any real plans yet, like hotel or flights, but I think we need to get on that soon. If for no other reason that then, life won’t get in the way.

We haven’t had a real vacation, the three of us together, that is anywhere but to visit family, for about 10 years. I love visiting family, but it would be nice to go see the world a bit as well. Too many times we have planned a vacation (in our minds at least), and then the car breaks down, or we owe money for taxes, or whatever. We always do the practical thing and scale back our vacation, and have a staycation or day trip instead. Not this time.

Speaking of 10 years, it was 10 years ago this month that our lives were turned upside down by my mom’s heart attack, bypass surgery, illness, and death. Well, the heart attack and surgery were February. The rest came later. Then Ted and I both lost our jobs in the recession (thankfully one at a time). Then other things that sucked came into our lives. It was a difficult time for awhile there, and I am very glad to not be in the midst of it anymore. I’m hoping that this will be a good year for us, and of course, for you in your neck of the woods as well. I’ll try to stop by here a bit more often, and your blogs too. I’ve gotten so lazy lately, it’s truly a disgrace. But when the weather is so nice outside, can you blame me? (As if I were outside all of the time, soaking it up, rather than inside, working at my desk, cooking in my kitchen, or watching TV…HA!)

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

Ingredients
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

Preperation
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 Whitehouse.org 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.

Solo

Anxiety
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
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
I COULD

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.