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.
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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.

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.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  This is the last year of my 40s, and next year I’ll be 50, which seems so much older than I feel.  Then again, with the arthritis that’s been plaguing me, I am feeling a lot older than I did 6 months ago.  Oh well, I’m treating myself to a prednisone, which should help somewhat and allow me to have energy for the things I want to do today.  Which include:

  • Going to breakfast with Ted and Maya.  We’re going to a place in Pleasanton that is known for its omelets.  I love eggs, so this seems like a great idea to me.
  • Going to San Francisco, to the Yerba Buena Center for the arts.  I thought of going to the Legion of Honor or the DeYoung, but neither of them have exhibits I really want to see right now, and we’ve been so many times…so we’ll go somewhere new for a change.  Fun!
  • Shoe shopping!  A DSW opened in our neighborhood a few months ago, and we’ve not yet gone.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but hopefully there will be something interesting or comfy or pretty (or all three, how would that be?)
  • Nice dinner.  Ted’s making duck, per my request.  We’ve never cooked duck at home, so this will be a treat and an adventure.
  • We may or may not stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.  It’s rarely my favorite thing to do…I generally like sleep more, but who knows?  Could happen.

I’m looking forward to my birthday gifts, which are mainly in the form of delayed gratification this year.  My brother got me Season 5 of Downton Abbey on DVD (can’t wait!), but that isn’t released until near the end of January.  Ted got me the annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is on back order and I’m not sure when it will come.   My parents sent me money, which I am going to use to go to the hair salon.  That won’t be as long of a wait, I just need to make an appointment.   I got a gift certificate for a massage for Christmas, which I haven’t used yet.  I haven’t decided WHEN I want to use it, yet.  Maybe on a warmish day, as the spa is connected to a gym, and they have a nice outdoor pool.  The shoes, should I find them, the breakfast, the day with my family, the duck, those are all no-wait treats, and I know that I’ll enjoy them mightily.  One nice thing about a New Year’s Eve birthday is that I always (at least since I left hotel work) have the next day off.  So that will be nice.  Oh, and Maya has a job now, which means that she has spending money, and bought me very nice Christmas gifts, and there’s something under the tree from her for my birthday, which I look forward to opening.  (A birthday near Christmas often means birthday gifts under the Christmas tree!)

There’s something about birthdays that tends to make one reflect a bit, and a birthday on the last day of the year likely enforces this proclivity.  So I’m reflecting today on all of the things I am thankful for…my beloved husband and daughter, my family, my friends, my home, my job, my health. I feel so fortunate to have so much.

I miss my mom every day.  I miss her on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death (which sometimes falls on Father’s Day), more than ordinary days.  But the day I miss her most is my birthday.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because of everyone on Earth, she knew me the longest.  We were together before I was born.  She knew me for all of my childhood, my ups and downs, successes and failures.  I’ve lived with Ted now longer than I lived with my mom, which is a crazy thought.  So likely he knows me more than she did, or at least, the adult me.  But there’s something about that mother/child relationship that is unique.  I miss her uniquely.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tableHappy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! Our Friends to the North celebrate Thanksgiving in much the same way we in the U.S. do. Get together with family, eat some turkey, stuffing, sides, maybe a pumpkin pie. Very nice. My loyal readers will remember that my darling husband, Ted, was born in Canada, and has citizenship there, though he’s not claimed it in any way at this point. Because we are a family that enjoys celebrating life when we can, we like to have a Thanksgiving feast in October, just us, and then again in November, with Ted’s family (my parents came to California last year and joined in, which was wonderful). So I spent the day cleaning and shopping and cooking. Set the table with our wedding china, crystal, and silver. I vowed years ago to start using it more often, but when I said those words, I lied them.  (My little homage to Dr. Seuss there…anyone know which story?) So we haven’t broken out the good stuff all together in years. You know what? It was really nice. The table looked beautiful, the food was delicious (even if I do use Stove Top stuffing rather than making my own), and we had a really nice evening.
Here’s the menu:

We had flowers and candles and wine. It was lovely. Generally, we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, but this year it made sense to do it on Sunday, which appears to be more authentic anyway. So yay us! It was a little strange, though, as it got up to be almost 90 today, and the talk is about the Giants and their World Series dreams.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this. The Giants just lost game 2, but it’s best 4 out of 7, and it’s currently 1 game each, so don’t give up yet. (I pretend to care, when one of our local teams get this far. Truly, of course, why would I care? The players don’t know me or care about my victories and losses, so whatever.) Ted’s celebrating Thanksgiving by watching “The Walking Dead”. Ugh. I think I’ll read my book, this is far too gory for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* The formatting here is bugging the crap out of me. I’ve fixed this list 3 times, and it keeps getting wonky. I’m going to have to ask you to just ignore how wrong the spacing is on the bullets here, if indeed they are rendering strangely on your screen. For me it’s fine once, then a mess again.

** I had a bit of trouble with my cranberry sauce.  It’s early in the year for fresh cranberries, but I found frozen.  I didn’t have time to thaw them before boiling with sugar and water.  I don’t know if I didn’t boil them long enough or what, but after a couple of hours, they still hadn’t jelled.  I read online to add a little pectin, which I didn’t have.  I remember reading that apples have pectin, and I’ve made strawberry jam with strawberries, sugar, and apples, so I diced up about 1/3 of a Granny Smith apple and threw that in, cooked for maybe 8 minutes, and then let it cool.  I had to put it in the freezer to get it cool in time for dinner, but it worked.   Whew.  Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.

Merry Christmas to All!


It’s morning on Christmas Eve.  I was watching Tim Minchin sing “white wine in the sun”, my favorite secular Christmas song by far, so I thought I’d share it with you.   Gifts have been purchased, delivered, and wrapped. Cards and packages were mailed early last week. Cookies have been baked. The house is decorated. Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Cinnamon rolls (from a tube) is in the fridge, as well as the ingredients for our contributions to Christmas dinner. Ted is at work, and Maya is still sleeping. I’m not sure I can face the grocery store today, and I didn’t plan a Christmas Eve dinner, so it’s looking more like Chinese take out tonight. Sounds good to me.

I know I have other things I could be telling you, but for the life of me I cannot right now remember what they are.

Oh, I know! How about Utah??? Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I love that Same Sex Marriage is now (at least for the moment) legal in Utah. The Mormon Church there got all involved in California’s ban (since declared null and void) a few years ago, and I’ve always resented them for it.   And how awesome is this picture?
Boy scouts delivering pizza to county workers, workers who are working through lunch breaks in order to serve the thousands of people rushing to get married. In Utah. It’s a Christmas miracle, I tell you.

Also, Ted’s job requires that he join the SAG-AFTRA union, which means that he becomes a voting member for the SAG Awards, and we get to watch a bunch of nominated films for free in the comfort of our own home. Sweet, huh? So far we’ve watched a couple of depressing movies…1st was ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and next was ’12 Years a Slave’. Both really well done, but not exactly your feel good films of the year. It’s interesting to me how they are delivered…’Dallas Buyers Club’ arrived as a DVD in the mail, while ’12 Years a Slave’ and several others are delivered via iTunes, which I don’t like as much, because we don’t have Apple TV, which means we have to watch it on the computer rather than the TV. Oh well. It’s still fun. I guess I know what we’ll be doing this winter break…watching movies.

I’m currently hooked on the ‘Divergent’ books. I finished the second one last night. The first (Divergent) I got from the library, but the waiting list for the second was months long, so I ordered it for my Kindle, which was actually really nice. I don’t have a lot of experience with the electronic reading, but I liked it. Now I want the 3rd book….I hope Santa’s listening.

I just made an appointment for Thursday to donate blood. Blech. I’m dedicated enough that I do it once in awhile, but I’m not dedicated enough that I do it whenever I’m eligible. Far, far from it. You can donate maybe 6 times a year, but I only muster up the courage once or twice.

Last and most certainly least, I was walking the other day and saw a big beautiful lemon tree in a neighborhood yard. I asked if it would be OK if I were to pick a couple of lemons, and they graciously said yes. While looking for one to shove in the cavity of the chicken that was that night’s dinner, I came across this mutant lemon, and I had to pick it and bring it home so I could show you. The tiny lemons are actually normal sized. Then there’s the one that’s about the size of a grapefruit. And then there’s mutant. Ted thinks it looks kind of like a bird, but I say it looks like it’s giving us the bird, so to speak.
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Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night.

Veterans Day

Take a moment to thank all of the Veterans this Veterans’ Day, for their patriotism and service. There is a sad, lovely poem written during the First World War, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and surgeon, after he witnessed the death of a friend. Lieutenant Colonel McCrae died of pneumonia during the war, in 1918.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

The picture is my Great Grandfather, Percy Herndon, in his WWI uniform. This is before he married my Great-Grandmother, and the woman in the picture is his sister, my Great Aunt Julia, for whom I was named. Aunt Julia died before I was born, but she was a large and important presence in my mother’s life. My Great-Grandfather served in Russia, and came home safely. He married my great grandmother, and they had 5 children, 3 of whom lived to adulthood, and all 3 of whom are still alive today. (My Grandma and Great Aunt, who live together in Stockton, and my other Great Aunt, who lives a bit north of Sacramento.) I didn’t know him growing up, as he died right after we moved back to California from Alaska. But I know him through stories, and I wish I had known him better.

*The above is recycled from the last two Veterans’ Days. I love the picture of my Great Grandfather and his sister, and the poem is so moving.

Shopping on Thanksgiving

The other day, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that she thought Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving was a horrid and evil idea, and people that do so need to re-prioritize their lives.  (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the idea.)  I thought about it a little bit, and I decided, no, it’s not evil.  What if you are unfortunate enough to be part of a family where the day is to be ENDURED, and you have to choke down your food and get the hell out, asap, before Uncle Billy starts making racist comments, Grandpa starts criticizing everyone and making sarcastic comments, Grandma starts talking about diets, the cigarette smoke is drying out your nasal passages and your contact lenses, and really, JUST LET ME GO!  What if you don’t have any sane family or friends with whom to spend your day?  What if you don’t want to go to a movie?  There surely must be people like this out there.  My grandparents’ house was just such a house, and Thanksgiving was my very least favorite holiday ever.  Of course, I had my mom and my brother to go home with, and we were happy in each others’ company, but what if what we really wanted to do was to go to the mall?  So I spoke up and defended such unfortunate people, suggesting perhaps that they may need our understanding more than our scorn.

After that, I started wondering what it is about stores being open on Thanksgiving that bugs people so much.  I mean, there are restaurants that are open, hotels are open, hospitals are open, movie theaters are open, some grocery stores are open.  So why the anger at department stores?  Then I realized, after looking at Nance’s post, that it doesn’t have so much to do with the sacredness of Thanksgiving and the family unit, as much as it does the hyper-consumerist pressure that is put on us, to buy buy buy, spend spend spend.  The fact that capitalism falls apart if companies don’t continue to grow, and many retail establishments make the majority of their money in December, puts an enormous amount of pressure on us.   There’s no such thing (or perhaps it’s just very rare) as a company that makes $8,000,000 a year, and is happy with that.  They pay their employees the same amount year after year, and the employees are happy with that.  Everyone has enough to live the life they want to live, so there’s no need to go crazy and try to keep making and buying MORE product.  For one thing, employees live in the real world, where their bills generally go up every year.  Health care, gasoline, groceries, clothing, utilities, it all goes up.  It’s seldom that you pull out an old checkbook and say, “Wow, my cable used to be expensive, and now look how much cheaper it is!” (unless you’ve changed your service, of course)

While I never did like the idea of going to the mall on Thanksgiving, I understand a little more why it’s so galling to people to know that it’s out there, that news reports are going to start yammering about consumer confidence (which, for anyone who has lived through a few recessions, can cause stress about job stability), the commercials are going to start in earnest, and the pressure to make everything absolutely perfect for everyone is going to become just too much.  I can’t keep up, I don’t try, and honestly, I don’t even want to.  But some of us do get sucked into that pressure, and it’s exhausting.

So to my Facebook friend, you were right.  If you have a horrid family, then go home and read a good book, but leave the craziness alone, for just a few more days.  You’ll likely be happier for it.

 

Good Advice

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Many years ago, I received what I consider to be very good advice. I was talking to my boss. Ted and I had been together for 7 years…it was the anniversary of our first date, which we had always celebrated. But now we were married…so should we still celebrate our first date? So I mentioned to my boss that we had always celebrated our date-a-versary, but it felt strange now that we were married. He said something like, “Life can be hard, and sometimes is very difficult. We should celebrate life’s joys whenever we can.” I liked that advise. I still like that advise. Life is indeed sometimes very difficult. It can throw things at you that are not fair. Life is also, at the same time, wonderful and full of many happy times and moments, and these should be celebrated.

In the spirit of celebrating the joys in life, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Ted was born in Ontario, and his family moved to our little city when he was 1, maybe 18 months. According to Canadian Law, he is a citizen, even though he hasn’t lived there in many a decade, and relinquished his citizenship as a child.

In years past, I’ve tried making several different recipes for roast turkey breast. They were all good, but somehow, seemed just a bit dry. This year, Ted mentioned that he actually prefers dark meat, which somehow I never knew before. So I did a search, and found this recipe for stuffed turkey legs. I went to the store, where they had turkey thighs and drumsticks, but only separately, not still connected. So I bought the thighs, which the butcher said would be much better than the drumsticks. Then there’s the sausage. We don’t have boudin sausage around here (I think it’s a Louisiana thing), and the butcher at the grocery store didn’t know which of what they have might be the same. I decided to use calabrese sausage, based on the color, which was closer to white than the red of the other sausages in the case. I had read that some boudin sausage is white. Also, the butcher said he thought it was the best tasting sausage they sold, which reaffirmed my decision.

Confession, I’ve never made homemade stuffing before. There are many restrictions in the family (some vegetarian, some who don’t eat pork), which means no sausage, no bacon, etc. So we generally go with something similar to Stove Top, which is actually pretty good, though perhaps sometimes a little gloppy. This stuffing, however, is not gloppy, and is full of flavor and really delicious.

Boudin Stuffed Turkey Leg
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 boneless turkey legs
  • 10 feet butcher’s twine

Boudin Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup celery, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup carrots. cut in small dice
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans (or candied pecans)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound spicy boudin, removed from casing
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat with the cooking oil. Add vegetables, pecans, garlic and dry spices in the cooking oil, and cook until vegetables are just translucent. Add boudin and stir. Once boudin begins to stick to the pan, add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.When stock simmers, adjust seasoning and add diced bread. Allow to cool. (At this point, mixture can be stored up to 4 days.)

To stuff the legs: Lay the de-boned leg quarters out flat, skin side down. Divide the boudin stuffing into two portions, and spread the portions evenly onto each leg. Roll the meat up jelly-roll style, keeping as much stuffing inside as possible.

Cut the butchers twine into 12-inch pieces. Tie the pieces of twine around the stuffed turkey legs every few inches to keep them rolled tight. Once the turkey legs have been tied, season them with salt and coarse black pepper.

Roast the legs in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The result? I think this is the best Canadian Thanksgiving yet. The sausage was delicious, the turkey moist and flavorful. Really, really good.

20 Years!

First Dance003

Wow….20 years ago today, Ted and I were married. I used to say it didn’t feel that long, but I guess I’m feeling older now, and the details sometimes fade a bit. Funny how that happens. What I do remember is that it was a very hot day, that we were surrounded by family and friends wishing us well, and that it was a lot of fun. I remember at the end of the ceremony, wanting to do it all over again! Then there was the reception, which was a LOT of fun, and I’ve not been to another wedding with so much dancing, or such a lovely view.

The other day I told my coworker that we were celebrating our 20th, and he asked me, “Are you ready for the next 20 years?” Interesting question, isn’t it? I’m not the type to renew my vows, because I kind of think if you did it right the first time, why do it again? Then again, that WAS a pretty awesome party…that might be fun to do again. But what he was getting at was a more basic question, and my answer is an enthusiastic YES. I’m so glad that we’re on this trip together, and I’d do it all again.

Here’s our first song from our reception…what a fun evening that was.

Memorial Day


Today is Memorial Day, a day when we honor fallen soldiers.  My immediate family has been fortunate in that we don’t have a lot of soldiers who have died in service to their country.  My father was vehemently against the Vietnam war, and refused to go to war, though he did alternate service.  My step-mom’s first husband died in Vietnam, however, so certainly the family is not unscathed.  How is one supposed to feel in such a case?  If he had lived, she would not have married my father.  On the other hand, I cannot be glad that he died.  My father-in-law served in Vietnam, though thankfully he came home safely so that he could fall in love with my Mother-in-Law.

For WWII, my grandfather (my mom’s step dad) was in his 40s, and only had half of his stomach following surgery, so was not wanted by the military.  My grandfather (my mom’s father) had flat feet perhaps and bad hearing, so he did not serve in the military.  He did work at the ship yards in Oakland and Alameda, working on ships that were going to war.  His brother, my mom’s uncle Leland, did serve, and came home safely.

My great-grandfather served in World War I, and thankfully came home safely, because otherwise none of my more immediate family would be here.  He didn’t marry until he came home from the war.  He served in Russia, and there is a photo on my Grandma’s wall of him, with a letter signed by President Ford.

Before that we go to the Civil War, and my 3rd great grandfather, John Nevins Mace.  He was born and raised in New Hampshire, near the Massachusetts border.  He married Sarah Angelina Parkhurst (known as Angie), and within a few months he went to battle.  He died from typhoid fever before even learning that Angie was pregnant, in Washington D.C.  He served in the same regiment as Angie’s brother, Charles Nevins Parkhurst, who also died from Typhoid before seeing battle.  I know that his death left a horrible emptiness in the family he left behind.  Angie worked trying to support their daughter, Etta Louise (my Grandmother’s Grandma), and died when Etta was only 7.  Etta was raised by aunt and uncles and her grandmother and great-grandmother, a woman born during the Revolutionary War.  She was raised in a family of love, but certainly would have loved to be raised by her living parents.  My Grandma always says that because of that, every generation was raised more conservatively than it should have been, raised perhaps a generation behind their cohort.  Don’t worry, my mom’s generation caught them all up, and whatever they missed, my generation filled in.

Thank you to all of our fallen soldiers, and their families who miss them horribly.  The holes that are left in the lives of their families are horrible and tragic, and should not be ignored or forgotten in the rush to barbeque and celebrate summer.

Small Victories & Occasional Randomness

I went to the store the other day, in need of a new pair of jeans.  I have a certain brand and cut that I like, and alas, they are phasing that cut out.  No big pile with four washes from which to choose, which is how it was the last time I went to the store.   So I looked all over, dug through pile after pile, and the only pair I found was 7 sizes too big.  Rats.  Every other pair in the store was a stupid low rise cut, meaning I can’t bend over without people knowing what kind of underwear I have on.  I don’t like that, and I doubt anyone who would be forced to see my crack would like it, either.  I’m not a plumber.  When I came home, I tried the online store, and look, they still have them!  Plus, a coupon for 30% off!  So I get my jeans, and save money.  I hope I don’t regret only buying one pair.  Perhaps I should have bought two.  But since they’re going away, I kind of think it might be a good idea to look around and see what else is out there.

There has been a constant drip drip drip coming from our bathroom vanity, and our water bill went up this last time.  Neither Ted nor I are plumbers (as I mentioned above), nor do we play one on TV, but at the same time, a drippy faucet seems like it should be solvable without calling a plumber and paying $75.  Friday was my day off, and Ted replaced our bathroom shower head a few months ago, so I felt like, perhaps, if he can do it, I might be able to do it, too.  I looked online, and saw a video that showed how to remove the faucet, but blurred through the complicated inner workings.  Mostly it said, take it apart, take the parts with you to the hardware store to match them correctly, then come home and put them back in where you found them, and voila, problem solved.  Well, that’s a mighty optimistic telling of how it could go, isn’t it?  I was able to get it pulled partially apart, but not completely.  I wasn’t sure whether to fight it and break it, or if maybe I needed a tool.  So I took some pictures and went to the hardware store.  There, they told me that it was difficult to disassemble because of hard water deposits, and I should just yank on it.  OK.  Back home, and now Ted’s here (he was out giving Maya a driving lesson on the freeways, which I am happy enough to miss…they make me nervous), so he just gives the darned thing one yank, and off it comes.  Yay for big man strength!  Back to the hardware store I go, with the spigot or whatever it’s called, but I didn’t bring the washer.  So they sell me what they think might fit, and back home I go.  I put it back together, with Ted’s help, though again, neither of us are plumbers.  Get everything put back together, turn the water on, and out it comes…even though the spigot is turned off.  Not working at all.  Drats.  Turn it off.  Take it apart.  Look at the washer, which has a hole that is slightly bigger than the hole in the original washer.  I wonder if that matters.  I don’t know.  Back to the hardware store I go, this time with my worn out parts, where they dig around and find yet another kit, with a washer that looks much more like mine than the first one.  Back home. Put it together.  Run water.  No better.  What’s wrong?  Could it be that I have the spring/washer combination put together backwards?  Ted pulls apart the other side of the sink to see, and yes, it does indeed appear that way.  So we try it again.  YAYYY!! This time, it worked.  No more dripping faucet.  No more wondering how much it’s costing me to have it drip, and thinking about the dry January we’ve had, and thus far, dry February as well, so the guilt of wasted water.  And it only cost me $3, four hours, and 3 trips to the hardware store.


Lots of construction around here, jackhammering apart our swimming pool. That was fun. Working from home has its benefits, but listening to someone jackhammer your pool for 5 continuous hours is not one of them. After they tore it apart, thankfully, they put it back together, re-tiled, re-plastered, and filled it with water. Then, walking by the other day, there’s this new sign. WTF? The thing is, even though we live in a condo complex, which is sort of private property, it is not one person’s property. So the pool is subject to all kind of county regulations. Like when they made us add new tiles a year or two ago, to add ‘ft’ to the ‘4’ and ‘6’ on the sides of the pool. Homeowner money had to go to adding signs to tell us that it was feet, not meters, even though diving isn’t allowed anyway. Frustrating. Anyway, I’m assuming that the sign is a county regulation, so we have no choice but to put it up, no matter how disgusting it is to walk past every day.

Awhile ago I mentioned that I have an avocado tree that needs a bigger pot.  I had contemplated going and asking some people down the street if they’d be interested in selling me their lovely blue glazed planters, and I actually did knock on their door once, but they didn’t answer.  I’ve noticed more often lately that even when people are home, they sometimes just don’t answer the door.  That’s their right, I suppose, but I find it a bit odd.  Anyway, I considered leaving them a note with my phone number, but after knocking, I went and played a bit with the planters, and GOSH they were heavy.  I tried to imagine them with a small tree inside, and I lost my will.  So on the first of my three trips to the hardware store yesterday, I picked up a huge plastic planter and a bag of potting soil, and after we finished fixing the faucet, I re-potted the avocado.  My fantasy is that someday we’ll get fruit off of it, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.

IMG_1422
Valentine’s Day can be a busy, horrid day to eat in a restaurant. There are three days that I do NOT like going to restaurants in a year, and they are: 1. Valentine’s Day 2. Mother’s Day 3. New Year’s Eve. Too crowded; special, expensive menus; harried service; grumpy customers, due to the first three items, plus you probably had a reservation and still had to wait 45 minutes for a table. We don’t go out to eat on any of these days. But we do celebrate, which means some kind of yummy feast. February is mid to late winter, which is prime crab season in NorCal, so we decided to have one of our favorite meals…cracked crab roasted with garlic, butter, more garlic, and more butter, and noodles, with garlic, butter, olive oil, and a few more things. Gah, it was good. Ted had his beloved bok choy, and Maya and I had salad, as we do not belove bok choy. Then, to top it all off, Ted made an amazing apple cake that I think we’ll be having for Thanksgiving this year, because it was SO delicious. Really, really good.  If you behave, perhaps I’ll post the recipe for you.

Today I’m off to give blood.  Back in November when my grandma fell and broke herself up, she had to have some blood, and I’ve been meaning to do it since then.  Other weekend plans, holidays, and sore throats have foiled my best laid plans, but today I’m all clear.  Eat a big breakfast so I don’t pass out, go give blood, and then come home and maybe have a nap, which is usually just what I want after giving blood.  I’d like to see a movie this weekend, but I still have two more days, so no rush, right?  Nice.   OH, I forgot to tell you, my Grandma is home!  She’s healed well enough that she is now home again, no longer on the schedule of the nursing home, taking their pills and doing exercises, all of that.  I hope she keeps up some of the exercises…stronger muscles make for a less wobbly Grandma, one who is less likely to fall down and break anything.  What a relief!  Yay Grandma!

Happy Thanksgiving


(image found on a Facebook page dedicated to Thanksgiving, here)

It’s Wednesday morning as I write this. I’m trying to motivate myself to get dressed and go for a walk, because I’m going to meet my lovely MIL for a movie date in a couple of hours, and then I’m going to spend the afternoon baking assorted yummies for tomorrow. But I do want to stop and contemplate the holiday, and what it means to me. When I was a child, Thanksgiving was a crummy holiday, which you can read about here and here, if you’re so inclined. Now, it’s a lovely holiday, perhaps my favorite of the year, though I also love Christmas and baking day. I like the very idea of Thanksgiving, of stopping to consider that which you have been given, and being thankful for it. Some things I’ve been given, which I’ll quote from last year’s post:

And, of course, stop to think about what I’m thankful for. That is a long list, as we are very fortunate. First of course, I’m very thankful for my family. Ted, Maya, Genevieve….my in-laws, with whom we will sit down and enjoy a harvest feast tomorrow….my Dad and Step-Mom…my brother and his wife…my sisters and their husbands and my beautiful nieces and nephews….my Grandma and Great Aunt…my cousins and their families. So many blessings.

I’m thankful for my friends.  Friends are the people that you choose to surround yourself with, people who support you in times of trouble, and cheer you on when things are going well.  I have made some wonderful friends in my lifetime, and I’m grateful for every one of them.

I’m also thankful to have a job.  And not just any job.  A job that is very flexible and allows me to work from home.  That is a great blessing right now.  And of course, I’m thankful for Ted having a job.  And I’m thankful for the health insurance that we have through Ted’s job. (2012 update, Ted is no longer at that job, but we still have insurance, and he’s working as an independent contractor, so I’m thankful)

I’m thankful for our health. Because it’s the most important thing a person can have, aside from love and family.

And at the most basic level, in a time when so many people are hungry, homeless, or on the verge of one or both, I am thankful for our home, for the food on our table, for the safety and love that we share. For the bounty and generosity that surround us and enfold us.

And I’m also thankful for my blog, and for you, my internet friends. Have a very happy Thanksgiving, one filled with love and laughter, and perhaps some pie as well.

After lunch with MAS the other day, sophisticated city dweller that she is, I would add that I am thankful for the luxury of a washer and dryer in my home.  I do not miss the days of living in the city, and sharing a coin operated machine with the other tenants.  Or my first apartment, where we had to use the laundromat.  Blech.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a Thanksgiving prayer, that I read in Dear Abby this morning. I know, I’m an atheist, what’s with the prayer? Whatever. It’s a lovely sentiment.

We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others.
~ Pauline Phillips, aka Dear Abby