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.

Throwback Thursday

Dad and Dick Gipson, New York

When my Dad died, we divided up the list of people to notify, and one of the people on my list was my Dad’s ex girlfriend, Kit. Dad and Kit dated for awhile in the early 60s, when he dropped out of college, and they moved to New York together. As Kit tells it, they moved to New York because someone had posted an ad in the paper that they needed someone to drive their car to New York from Oakland, and it seemed like a good idea. The picture above, which Ted likes to call my Dad’s album cover, is of my Dad (on the left) and Kit’s friend (Dad’s friend too, but Kit’s friend first) Dick.

I never met Dick, but at some point after this photo was taken, he and my mom got married. My mom was pregnant with Richard, though Dick was not the father. I believe they were married about 8 days before Richard was born. Dick and my mom were good friends, and Dick was trying very hard to live a ‘normal’ life, because he was gay. He had not told my mom that he was gay, and I don’t know how long it was before she figured it out. But they tried their best to be a married couple and raise Richard together. She had panicked at the idea of raising him alone, and marrying Dick seemed like a perfect solution.

Needless to say, it was not the perfect solution. Dick drank too much, and their marriage was not a happy one. They were separated (and my mom thought she was pregnant with Dick’s baby) when my Dad stopped by one fateful day to tell her he was leaving to go to Massachusetts, to serve his alternate service, as he refused the draft (and was convicted for it, and given alternate service). One thing led to another, and here I am.

I’m not sure how my mom didn’t realize I was not Dick’s child, but Michael’s. She could be pretty dense (as I’m sure we all can sometimes), and when the doctor told her she didn’t seem nearly far along enough for the baby considering the dates she had given him, he asked her if she was sure about the last time she had been with her husband, and she said yes, she was sure…it didn’t occur to her to tell him (or herself) that she had been with someone else a couple of months later. Which is how I was born at 5lbs, and she thought I was a 10 month pregnancy. A couple of years later, when Dad was already married to Mary (Maya and Melissa’s mom), her friend Kate (who knew my dad a little bit), commented on how much I looked like him, and asked why she hadn’t named me Michelle. A light bulb went off over her head, and she realized the truth.

My dad thought maybe I might be his, and Mary asked once if I was, because I looked like him, but this was before my mom even realized it herself, so because she acted so blaze’ about the whole thing, he figured no, I couldn’t be. Until she called him in October of 87, and started our meeting in motion, finally.

So that’s a lot of background for the picture above, but one thing that struck me when Kit very kindly sent me this picture, and others, of Dad and Dick and herself way back when, is how YOUNG they all are. 19 or 20. Younger than my own child. It’s hard to imagine ones parents being younger than your child, but of course they were, once. It’s interesting to see, and to think a bit about what life was like for them at the time, how different than mine at that age (and in other ways, how similar).

Dia de Difuntos

Dia de Muertos is a time to pray for and remember friends and family who have died.  It is traditionally a Mexican holiday, and a Catholic one.  I’ve never really paid any attention to it before, but the bright orange flowers reminded me of my Dad, and my Grandma died last year in November, so it made sense to me to buy some flowers and make a small alter with some pictures of Dad, Mom, and Grandma.  There are too many others that I could easily include…my Uncle Forrest, my Grandma Wells, my Grandpa Ward, etc.  For today, I’m keeping it to these three, the most difficult losses I have had to bear thus far in my life.

The marigolds that I bought came with a tag about Dia de Muertos, and had a quote that I liked.

“There is more time than life.”

The more I find that to be true, the less I like it.

Marigolds

Dad in New York, early 60s

Mom, 1990

Grandma, 1970s

My parents, 1987

Dad’s Memorial

Flowers that my sisters picked for the memorial

My Dad’s memorial was last weekend. It was difficult. But it was very nice as well. It was a lovely service and very well attended. I think there were maybe 300 people there, which showed how many people’s lives he touched. There were people there from the alternative newspapers that he started way back when, from his time managing (and more recently as a board member) an alternative, non profit radio station, from his many years working in grant writing, from mentoring others to writing books, to teaching classes. People from Meals on Wheels, where he volunteered as a delivery person for over 20 years. People from my step-mom’s life as a top tier yoga instructor in Oregon. People from the neighborhood. Friends and family. Lots of family.

It was lovely to see my step-mom, Julie, and to spend some time with her. We went to the beautiful Japanese Garden in Portland, hiked in Forest Park, and ate delicious dinners. It was lovely to spend some time with my sister Melissa, shopping for birthday gifts for my niece and nephew, buying a thank you gift for the kind neighbor who took us in when Ted and Maya joined me a few days in (I went up on Thursday morning, and stayed at the house with Julie, who has two big cats. Ted is VERY allergic, so once he and Maya came up on Saturday, we stayed the next couple of nights at the neighbor’s house.) We went up to Lewis and Clark to see the chapel for the memorial. It was so nice to have some time, sad as it was, just with my sisters and step mom, where she gave us a copy of Dad’s arrest documents from Georgia in 1963, where he was arrested for being part of a march for civil rights, as well as copies of his books, etc. Once Ted and Maya joined me on Saturday morning, we spent a bit of time just the three of us. We went downtown and bought a new shirt for Ted, and had a very nice brunch.  We then went to my sister’s house to arrange the flowers that my sisters had picked at a U Pick farm while I was picking Ted and Maya up from the airport.  Saturday night we went to dinner as a large group, maybe 25 or 30 of us, close friends and family who were in town for the memorial. Sunday was the memorial, which was hard. Monday we went for a hike in Forest Park, then lunch at the house with Julie, then flew home. It was very nice to be home.

The memorial service itself was very nice. In addition to the officiant, Dad’s three daughters each spoke, as did his two best friends. It was hard to get up in front of that many people, but more sad than scary. I started crying pretty much right away, but managed to get through it all. I had ideas of using inflection in my voice and so on, but that did not happen. I just read it and barely got through. I looked down at my hands at one point and saw that my hand was shaking, so I guess I was nervous. Here is what I said.

My dad has been my stalwart, supporting me through tragedy and triumph.  There to cheer me on through life’s events, big and small.  Life in college.  Falling in love with my beloved husband, Ted.  Moving across the country.  Giving birth to my darling daughter, Maya.  Supporting me through the pain of my mother’s death in 2008.  Buying a house.  Getting a job.  Losing a job.

I didn’t know my dad growing up, we have never lived in the same city, or even the same state.  We met when I was 21, and he was 44, when he drove from Portland to San Francisco to meet me.  Since the day we met in October of 1987, he has been there for me, loving me, being my dad.

If you are here today, celebrating his life, you know the kind of man he was.  You know that he has always had a deep sense of justice.  You know that he is kind.  You know that he worked hard his entire life in support of both justice and kindness.  You know that he wanted to have adventures, and enjoy the successes in life.  You know that he was grateful for all of the gifts afforded him. You know that he loved his family deeply, and was a devoted father, husband, and friend.

My inheritance, then, is to live my life following his example, in my own ways. To care deeply about issues that are important, and for those that I love.  To find ways to work for justice.  To be kind whenever possible.  (And it is nearly always possible.) To live my life with integrity, to listen to my inner voice, and trust that voice.  To give of my heart, my time, and my effort.  Most of all, to be grateful for the gifts afforded me, and that he was my much loved Dad.

Dad’s Obituary


Michael Wells passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday July 5, 2017 while hiking in the Dolomites in Italy on a long anticipated trip with his wife, Julie Lawrence, who was the love of his life. He lived his life true to his moral compass, leading with compassion and by example. In addition to being a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he was a grant writer, social activist, consultant, journalist, professor, and business owner. He was a thoughtful, quiet man motivated by his strong beliefs to do the right thing, not seeking public recognition for his actions. Yet, because of his dedication to and deep involvement with many organizations and causes, he lived a public life.

Michael was born August 2, 1943 in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio to Georgia King Wells and Donald Allen Wells. Michael and his parents moved from Ohio to the central valley of California in 1945. He grew up in Modesto, CA in the house that his father built room by room, over several years.

Michael’s strong belief in social justice, civil rights, and equality for all was evident in his lifelong personal actions and community engagement. During his 20’s, he was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He dropped out of UC Berkeley and traveled to the East Coast, where he joined the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He was arrested for civil disobedience in 1963, along with the rest of the group, while traveling through Georgia in the Quebec to Guantanamo March for Peace and Freedom. He also joined The March on Washington. He was again arrested and jailed in San Francisco, CA for participating in the Sheraton Palace sit-ins.

Committed to non-violence, he refused induction into the army during the Vietnam War, and was granted conscientious objector status. He moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he served probation alternative service in lieu of military service.

Michael and his first wife, Mary, moved to Portland Oregon. He was founder and editor of the Willamette Bridge, an alternative newspaper that centered around community organizing, and became the fourth largest newspaper in Oregon. He later founded the Portland Scribe in 1972. With the birth of their twin daughters, Maya and Melissa, Michael made Portland, OR his home for the remainder of his life. His daughters were a source of love, pride and happiness throughout his life.

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, he had a varied work life as station manager of KBOO community radio, writing for Willamette Week, fund-raising for the ACLU, grant writing and fund-raising to start Hospice House. It was at this time he completed his college degree and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Humanities. In 1986 he began practicing yoga, where he met his future wife, Julie Lawrence.

In 1987 Michael received unexpected and joyous news with the discovery of his third and oldest daughter, Julie Ward Asregadoo, whom he enfolded into his life.

In 1987 he started his own business, Grants Northwest. He took his passion for social justice and turned it into his profession. For the next thirty years he wrote grants for nonprofits, championing causes he cared about. Through his work at Grants Northwest, Michael helped over 100 nonprofit organizations, American Indian tribes and local governments to raise over $150 million. Clients included organizations in the arts, aging, alcohol and drug services, community action, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, women’s services, youth and minority services. On a national level, Michael was a former board member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) where he was Treasurer for 4 years and chaired the 2002 national conference in Portland. He was a past board member and president of the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) where he was heavily involved in developing the GPC certification process. Michael also taught grant writing for Portland State University’s Public Administration Department. He wrote and published four books on grant writing.

In 1992 Michael married Julie Lawrence in the back yard of their new home. Their 25th wedding anniversary would have been this August. Michael and Julie loved spending time with family and grandkids, dancing and going to theater and dance performances. They also loved to travel — favorite destinations included India, Bali, Machu Picchu, Europe, Thailand, the Galápagos Islands, and the Serengeti as well as several places in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Michael was a runner for almost 40 years (the name of his Hood to Coast team was the Running Dogs). He was a compulsive reader, tackling several books with varied topics at the same time. Music was central to his life and he filled his home with an amazing variety of music. Michael was an avid volunteer throughout his life as well. He delivered Meals on Wheels for over two decades on the downtown Portland route, was a regular blood donor, served as Board Treasurer for KBOO, and actively volunteered on many political campaigns.

Michael was preceded in death by his parents and his younger brother Robert (Bobby) Wells. He is survived by his wife, Julie Lawrence; daughters and sons-in-laws, Julie Asregadoo (Ted Asregadoo), Melissa Wells (Jason Gibb), Maya Wells (Herb Jahncke); and his grandchildren, Maya Asregadoo, Jack and Sophie Barinaga and Chloe and Justin Jahncke.

(A celebration of his life will be held on September 10, 2017 at 2 pm, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis and Clark College. In honor of Michael wear something orange.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Oregon Community Foundation. www.oregonCF.org

Heartbroken

Dad and Me, January 1988

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,-
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

We suffered a shocking loss this week, when my vibrant and healthy father died from a heart attack while hiking the Italian Alps with my step-mom, Julie. My sister Maya has gone to Italy to be with her while they wait for the necessary paperwork to be completed, so they can send his ashes home. This is a huge loss, confusing and horrible. We, and so many others, will miss him desperately.

Cooking for One

Later this month, Ted and Maya will be in the UK, with a brief trip to Paris, visiting Ted’s extended family.  His mom and brother are going as well, and aside from the time in Paris, they will be staying with family.  I elected to stay home and hold down the fort, take care of the dog, etc.  I would like to go to Europe sometime in the not-too-distant future, but I think I’d prefer it to be just the three of us, though I do adore my MIL and BIL.  I hope they have a fabulous time.

I was thinking about it, and I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time alone before.  I mean, I lived with my mom and brother, then with my roommate Troy, then with Ted, then with Ted and Maya.  There have been times in the past when I went on vacation with my family (to Portland or Juneau), and Maya came with me, and Ted stayed home.  There have been times when Ted went away on vacation or for work with his family, but Maya was here with me then.  There have been times when Maya went away, to cheer camp, to visit her cousin in Los Angeles, to New York with my parents after she graduated from High School, but Ted was here with me then.  There was that time in Anchorage when my mom was having her surgery, but that was strange and bad.

But this time, I will be home with no Ted and no Maya for about 10 days.  I’ll be working, no reason to take any time off.  I’ll be walking the dog, which we both enjoy.  I may get motivated and clean out my closet and do some other de-cluttering around the house, and then again, I may not.  But cooking for one?  Dinner every night?  I’m not sure about that.  One night, Ted’s aunt is going to come over and we will have tuna noodle casserole, which Ted and Maya DO NOT LIKE, nor does Ted’s uncle.  We are the only people in the family who love it.

My friend Neva has invited me and Mulder to come to see her new house, out in the valley near Stockton, one weekend day.  This same friend Neva is going to come to my town another night and we will have dinner.

So that’s 3 dinners…what about the rest of them?  It’s hard to get up a ton of enthusiasm for cooking for one.  I’m not sure why this is true, but it is true for me.  So, I have a few ideas, and am looking to you for inspiration.

  • Baked Potato and Salad (with beets – Ted and Maya hate beets)
  • Crab Cakes (Ted and Maya love crab cakes, so we have this sometimes when they are home)
  • Eggs and potatoes with fruit (like a potato and veggie hash, with an egg)
  • Scallops (Ted likes scallops just fine, but Maya hates them.  They’re spendy, so I might just treat myself and buy 3 big scallops and eat that one night)
  • Soup – There’s a corn chowder recipe that I like that might be nice.  Ted and Maya like it, but it has a good amount of cheese in it, which doesn’t agree with Ted’s stomach as much as it used to.
  • Grilled Cheese and salad or fruit
  • Tuna melt.  I love a good tuna melt, and I make a yummy one with capers that is delicious.  (Ted and Maya like this dish, we have it fairly regularly, but it’s so quick and easy, it might be good while they’re gone.)

I’m sure I can repeat a few of these and make it through the time when they’re gone.  But what about you?  Do you have any great ideas for a dinner for one?

 

Birthday Cake

Before


Maya requested carrot cake for her birthday party. She loves carrot cake and chocolate cake about equally. Last month was her Uncle Steve’s birthday, and as Steve had chocolate cake, she wanted carrot. I thought about buying one at the bakery, but decided the best way to go was going to be homemade, because there is THE family carrot cake recipe.

This is what we call “Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake”, because it is the carrot cake made by Ted’s Grandmother Thomas. It’s from a cookbook, which I believe was part of a woman’s auxiliary, and that’s all I know. My ‘chili relleno’ recipe is from the same cookbook.

I was reading online about carrot cake, and they seem to call for a LOT of oil. One recipe I read, there was a comment where someone said that they found that sometimes carrot cake tasted oily to them, so they substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk for 1/3 of the oil, with very good results. I’m game, but also chicken, so I decided to make a test run. On the Wednesday before the party, I made a carrot cake, and frosted it, and we tried it. It’s delicious! Then Ted packed the rest of it up and took it to work with him, and his coworkers scarfed down the rest. He even cut it up nicely so they didn’t have to see that they weren’t getting the entire cake. It got rave reviews at work. These pictures are from her actual birthday party yesterday.

After


If you need a carrot cake recipe in your life, and trust me, you do, here is a definite winner.

Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake
Ingredients
1 1/2 cup corn oil *
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda (clearly they mean baking soda)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 7-oz box coconut
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, which I toasted for a few minutes)
1 can (8 3/4 oz) crushed pineapple and juice (clearly sizes have changed. I only found 8oz cans.)

Sift together dry ingredients, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in coconut, carrots, nuts, and pineapple. Pour into lightly greased and floured 10×15-inch pan.**. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yields 16 to 20 slices.

* I suspect you could try any kind of oil you want. I would suggest a neutral oil, like peanut, but I did see a comment that said, once you try olive oil carrot cake, you’ll never go back. I haven’t tried this. Also, I used 1 cup oil and 1/2 cup buttermilk.

** I wanted a two layer round cake, so I used two 8″ round cake pans instead. I thought it would be ready much faster that way, but I think it turned out to be about 45 minutes. I just kept an eye on it after the 30 minute mark.

Cream Cheese Frosting
ingredients
2 3-oz pkg cream cheese (again, sizes have changed. I used 1 8oz pkg.)
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 stick soft margarine (I used butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

The Recipe

Birthday Wine


Back in December of 1997, I worked at a company that had our department holiday party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was in HR at the time, and there were 4 or 5 of us, I think, not a big crowd. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a passenger train that goes up Napa Valley for maybe an hour, and then comes back. It stops at one winery on the route, and serves pretty nice food and wine along the way. The train cars are decorated in an old fashioned way, like I imagine they might have been in the old west. You depart from a train depot in Napa, which of course has a gift shop with lots of wine stuff to be had. So that December day, just outside of the gift shop, were some crates that said, Maya. “Wow,” I thought, “Is there a Maya wine?” I went in and asked. The answer is yes, there is a Maya wine, and no, you can’t have any. Turns out it is a botique wine, very difficult to come by.

Well, if you’re at all like me, once someone tells me I can’t have something, I WANT IT MORE. Suddenly I was all about the Maya wine. I remember my BFF, Rosemary, and how when I would go to her house, there was some wine on top of the fridge that never got touched. I asked her about it, and she said her dad had bought each of the kids a bottle from the year they were born, and was saving it until they were old enough to drink it. Well, you can only imagine how wine stored on top of the fridge turned out to be (not good), but I liked the idea. And here was a wine that shared my daughter’s name! I MUST BUY SOME.

So, I started calling around. I called the vineyard, but they didn’t have any to sell. I called several small, independent wine stores, and got a resounding NO everywhere I called. One man laughed in my face (Well, in my ear, as I was on the phone). One man told me that they SOMETIMES got a case, but that the owner of the store gave or sold the bottles to his friends, and customers never got any. I had no idea there was wine that was difficult to procure. I’m a Safeway wine shopper.

Finally, I got lucky. I called a local wine store and told him my story. My daughter is Maya, and born in 1996. I want a bottle of 1996 Maya wine to toast her with on her 21st birthday. He said, “Most of the people who come in looking for that wine are posers wanting to show off for their friends. You’re the first down to earth person I’ve come across on this search. If I get any in the store, I will call you.” And he did. I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1999 at this point, but he called me and told me my wine was there. I was thrilled. I rushed to the store and bought it…the only time in my life I’ve paid that much for a bottle of wine (I think it was about $130, about 10x what I usually pay). It has been carefully stored in Ted’s brother’s wine fridge ever since, safe and sound.

Until Saturday. Saturday, we will celebrate my darling Maya’s 21st birthday with lamb curry, carrot cake, and a glass of Maya wine. I think there are 9 of us, so no one will get a lot, but we will toast to her health, and she can keep the bottle as a memento to her mother’s obsessive personality.

I hope it’s not corked.

Catching Up

It’s been a busy time, since last I stopped by here. The entire month of December is gone, and we’re a week into a New Year. So what’s going on?

I went to Portland for a long weekend in early December. It was my step-mom’s 70th birthday, and I went up to help her celebrate. Ted didn’t come with me, mostly because of his cat allergies, which means he can’t come inside (or at least not for long) most of the houses for our family. That can work fine in summer, we sleep at a hotel or house sit for neighbors, and we eat dinner in my parents’ back yard. That wouldn’t work this time, as it was snow and ice everywhere. Maya didn’t come with me, because while the party was on Dec 10th, her finals started Dec 12th, so she had to be here to study. So it was me alone. While there, I realized that I believe the only other time I’ve gone to Portland without Ted and/or Maya, it was January of 1988, when I went up to meet my sisters for the first time. They were 17 years old and in high school. I’m pretty sure that Ted came with me on my trips after that, and there were times when Maya and I went without him (cat issues, or work), or the three of us went. It was nice in a way, though I did miss them. I flew up on Thursday, and on Friday my dad and I went down the hill from the house to help get ready for the party. A neighbor, who has parties and fundraisers in her house often, offered the use of her home for the party, which was great. Dad and Julie live on a VERY steep hill, which is absolutely no fun when it is covered in ice. So to get down the hill can be tricky. We had walking poles, but it was so steep, we decided to slide down the hill on a piece of cardboard. That sounds more fun than it was. The ice was thin, and not at all smooth, and we felt every bump and rock on the way down. The cardboard shredded by the time we got to the bottom of the hill. My dad took this picture of me when I’m part way down. At this point, I’m frustrated, and thinking it would have been more fun to stay in the house with a cup of hot chocolate or something. This little puppy ran out to say hello and urge me on. It worked, the puppy was SO cute, it cheered me right up. The rest of the way to the house was still slippery, but we had our poles, and it wasn’t steep, so we were fine.
image

I spent that evening with my sister and her husband, which was really great. They married in March, and we went up to celebrate in September. We’ve met her husband a couple of times, but this was the first time I got to spend time with just Melissa and Jason, and it was really nice to get to know him better. Saturday, Melissa and I did some Christmas shopping, and had lunch with Jason and some friends. Saturday night was the party, which was great, the ice had melted and everything was lovely. Then Sunday I came home. It was a fun trip.

What else…well, I caught a stupid cold. We had our annual baking day, which was fun, and I put together a box of cookies to bring to my friend Trudy. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels to her, but she went off of the route last year, when she moved from her home to an assisted living facility. I brought them to her on the Sunday before Christmas, and on Monday realized I was sick with a cold. Damn. It was a crummy head cold, which then went into my chest. I didn’t deliver Meals on Wheels that week, because I felt horrid, and also I worried about getting the clients on my route sick. I went again the Thursday after Christmas, and I asked another woman on my route, Dana, if she had heard how Trudy was doing. Trudy passed away the Tuesday after Christmas. Crap. I hope to hell I didn’t give her my cold. She was 101, and when I saw her last, she was not doing well. Not much appetite, not dressed, just taking it easy. Not really like herself. I am going to miss her, she was a real character and such a sweet woman.

Last weekend was my birthday, and it was beautiful weather, so Ted, Maya, Mulder, and I went to Pescadero, which is a little town at the coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. They have a bakery there that sells some amazing bread with artichoke hearts baked inside. So we ate delicious artichoke bread, then went to the beach to smell the salt water. It was a perfect day, and when we got home and cleaned up, we got dressed and went out for a delicious birthday dinner. Here’s Mulder at the beach.
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Now here we are, it’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. We’ve been watching the screeners that Ted gets for being part of the SAG-AFTRA Union. We’ve seen Lion, which we loved, and Fences, which was very good, and I liked it more than Ted did. We have a couple of others that we haven’t watched yet. Manchester by the Sea, Jackie, and likely one or two others that I’ve forgotten. We’re supposed to get La La Land, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’re also watching the new One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix, which we are really enjoying. Mostly it’s been a good winter so far, but I could have done without losing Trudy or getting sick. Next weekend we bury my Grandma’s remains, and my mom’s as well. My Grandma was cremated, and wanted to be buried in the grave with her first husband, my Grandpa Roland, who died when my mom was 5. We are going to bury my mom’s remains in with them, as well as a bit of my Uncle Forrest’s remains, and a picture of their baby Roland, who died a few weeks after birth. There’s good and bad to that. I miss my Grandma, and it’s going to be sad. I miss my mom, and that’s going to be sad, too. I miss my uncle. Blech, it all sucks. But on the other hand, 4 of the 6 cousins will be there, including my brother Richard, who I don’t see often, since he lives in Alaska. I’m looking forward to seeing him.

That’s it for now. Hoping you’re well.

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.

Happy New Year – Friday Randomness

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Hey There Party People, what’s shakin’? December was a good combination of busy and lazy, and somehow in amongst the lazy I did not post even once. That’s pathetic.

In line with catching you up a bit, life here has been good, not crazy, not too different than it was before. We’ve had another month with dog-boy, Mulder, and he’s settling in so very well. We all adore him so much. He’s playful and loving and wonderful. He’s learning a bit of manners, learning to walk better on a leash, etc. He doesn’t jump on the furniture as much anymore. He doesn’t bark nearly as much anymore. He’s only vomited twice. He did wake us up barking Christmas Eve morning, maybe 1 A.M. Not good. But it turned out he was barking at the police officers who were here, because our neighbor’s house had been broken into. He didn’t bark during the actual burglery, but based on the layout of our houses, I doubt he even heard it. So he’s a good guard dog. And so darned darling.

Sometimes Ted and I get each other similar gifts, without knowing that would happen. One year it was cozy bathrobes. This year it was art for our walls, at least sort of. I say sort of, because while he bought me a photograph/print to frame and hang, I bought him a set of frames to hang record albums. This is big for us, because we have such different taste in art, we have a lot of trouble finding anything to hang on our walls. He likes abstract art, geometrical with contrasting colors. I like flowers and more girly type things. I have a theory that he likes the contrasting colors because he’s somewhat color blind, and I like flowers and portraits because I’m girly.  See the beautiful picture of San Francisco and the cloudy sky up there?  That’s the picture he bought me.  I love it. I think it’s contrasting enough for him and pretty enough for me, is why it works.  It was taken by a friend of his, who does great work you can find here, if you’re so inclined.

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I love Jacques Pepin and enjoy watching his cooking shows on PBS. He has a new one now, ‘Heart and Soul’ that I’m enjoying enough that Ted gave me the cookbook for Christmas. Yay! One of the recipes was this one, which is a deconstructed sushi. I decided to give it a try the other day, and it was delishious. Our favorite grocery store has a sushi counter (don’t they all?) and they sell the spicy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger, so I bought those to add. It was really good, but I think the trout roe that I bought was a bit too fishy for me, so maybe I’d save myself a bit of money and not use that next time. But overall it was good.

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What else…well, I turned 50. Ted threw me a lovely party with family and friends, and we feasted on delicious lamb curry, curried pumpkin, and roti. So so so good. My friend Marilee was in Canada and couldn’t make it to my party, but she sent me the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen orchids this way before, but aren’t they amazing? I love them. Here we are a week later, and they’re still stunning.

What else…We’re enjoying Downton Abbey, and I’m looking forward to getting the DVD in a couple of weeks so we can forge ahead and binge watch. It’s how I started watching D.A., and really my preferred method.

We’ll see if I end up posting here more than I did last year. I certainly HOPE that I do, but I’m not going to make it a resolution or anything like that. Happy New Year, everyone.

Giving Thanks for Cranberry Sauce

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I’ve spoken here before about Thanksgiving, about how as a child, it was my least favorite holiday of the year.  (I should clarify that I am only talking about the years when I was in California…I don’t remember much about Thanksgiving in Alaska, but I’m sure it was lovely and fine.)  My entire family (on my mom’s side) is obsessed with weight.  My grandmother decided at a young age that she was NOT going to be fat like her parents and aunts, and pretty much has been on a diet ever since.  To the point where now, at age 92 and weighing in at about 88 lbs, she will still make comments like, “Well, since I ate that brownie, I’ll have to starve myself tomorrow.”  It’s digusting.  She raised her kids to be obsessed with weight as well, putting my mom on a diet when she was about 10.  It backfired, and the combination of her obsession and family genetics put all of her children into the overweight/obese category, though my aunt Colleen was much thinner than my mom or my uncle.

As might be expected, the conversation at family gatherings was often about dieting, about what one should and should not eat, what works and what doesn’t, on and on and on.  And all the while, of course, there’s turkey and stuffing and potatoes and candied yams and gravy and pie and fruit salad and cranberry sauce and rolls.  Please eat, enjoy…with an undertone of, you wouldn’t be so big if you didn’t enjoy quite so much.  Ugh.  Add to that the chain smoking by both of my grandparents, and throw in a big helping of my grandpa’s acid tongue and sarchasm, and you get the idea.  No family gatherings were particularly wonderful or happy, but Thanksgiving seemed to me to be about food food food, and with this family, that was not a good thing.  Plus most of the food wasn’t good.  Turkey was dried out, mashed potatoes from a box, brown gravy from a packet, cranberry sauce from a can, yams from a can.  Almost nothing was fresh.

I did always like the fruit salad and the cranberry sauce, canned though it was.  Actually, I liked the mashed potatoes and gravy from a box/packet, if truth be told.  It wasn’t until I was older and tried these things made from scratch that I realized that my grandparents’ cooking was like living in Plato’s cave, eating shadow versions of dishes, and there was a real world out there with delicious versionis of these same foods.

I remember the first time I tried cranberry sauce that wasn’t canned.  It was 1993, and Ted and I were newly married.  My mom had moved to Alaska that summer, though Richard and his wife had not moved up there yet, and were still in California.  Richard and Kathy were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my mom had flown down for the wedding.  Generally we have Thanksgiving at Ted’s parents house, but we decided that year to have Thanksgiving at our apartment in San Francisco.  Kathy asked what she could bring, and I don’t remember if she brought pie or something else, but I do remember that she brought cranberry sauce.  It was a revelation. SO good.  Not overly sweet.  Fresh tasting.  I begged her for her recipe, and she looked at me, stunned.  “It’s on the back of the bag”, she said.  “1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, cranberries….cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Chill.  That’s it.”   I think she felt that day about the same as she did when she told Richard they were going to make mashed potatoes, and he grabbed the box of powdered potatoes, while she grabbed fresh potatoes from the produce aisle.

Ever since that year, I’ve made this version of cranberry sauce, with a few exceptions.  One year I tried a savory version, which I did not care for.  One year I added a pinch of salt, which was fine but not really any different.  This year, for Canadian Thanksgiving in October, I tried a new recipe.  I don’t know what motivated me to do so, but I did.  It’s very similar to the one on the cranberry bag, but has less liquid.  You start out over low heat with the sugar, cranberries, and only 2 tblsp of water instead of a cup.  When the sugar dissolves, you have plenty of liquid, so then you turn up the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries pop.  I found the recipe on Food Network, and they added a strip of orange peel, which I don’t fancy.  Some commenters used 2 tblsp OJ instead of water.  Result?  A lovely cranberry sauce!  Not adding as much water gives you more concentrated cranberry flavor.  Also, I used a bit less than a cup of sugar.  Maybe more than 3/4 of a cup, I’m not exactly sure.  Delicious. So this is the cranberry sauce recipe that I’m making for today’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’ll be thinking of Kathy, and thanking her for introducing me to fresh cranberry sauce.  I’ll be thinking of my mom and all of the years when she would come to California for a month, and Thanksgiving was during that time and she would spend a week with us.  I wish we were able to do that this year.  I’ll be thinking of my grandma and how much I love her, even if a visit with her means coming home smelling like cigarettes.  I’ll be thinking of my grandpa and how much I loved him, even if he was a mean old man.  I’ll be enjoying a lovely day of delicious, freshly made food, laughter, music, wine, and fun with our new dog, at Ted’s parents house.  I do have a lot to be thankful for.  (I considered changing that to the more gramattically correct, “I do have much for which to be thankful” but I don’t like it, so I didn’t.)

I’m also making my Grandma’s fruit salad, sweet potato pudding, and as an appetizer, shrimp cocktail.

If you’ve not tried fresh cranberry sauce, or if you have only tried the version with 1 whole cup of water, give this one a try.  It’s delicious.

Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:

12 0z cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp water or orange juice
1 strip orange or lemon zest, optional

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.