Last of 2011 Post

A late New Year's Eve Post. Gotta love L.A. No matter where you are on the Eve, you get to hear gun shots and fire crackers through the night. Makes Blue stark-raving crazy to the point that he barks at anything, even things I can't hear and I can't find his short leash to keep him close and calm him. He just stands about ten feet from the front door with "radar ears" tuning in to any sound he doesn't approve of...patrolling so to speak. The poor golden retriever across the street has been left alone in his front yard and is having a barking fit as well.

This has been the loudest, most explosive sounding NYE in the five years I've lived at this rental. People must be really happy that 2011 is over, lol!

This evening I enjoyed the holiday treat I've been looking forward to, "cannibal sandwiches" which are simply ground sirloin (not much is needed) spread on Jewish rye made by Orowheat. No, it's not rye from a "real" bakery or deli, (this is the "homogenized" version) but this dish is all about recreating the taste memories of holidays past. They're sprinkled with grey Celtic sea salt and topped with thinly sliced red onions piled high. I let the half sandwiches sit about ten minutes so the salt can begin dissolving and then feast. So good!

I would have taken a photo to share, but somehow raw ground beef is not that photogenic despite what the national beef association may think. So no photo. As I think I've mentioned, I've eaten very little red meat in the last year due to the skyrocketing prices, so it actually tasted a bit different than my memory. Hmmm.... Maybe next year, I'll go to an actual butcher vs. local grocery. Anyway, it was still a treat!

In the lull between pops, bangs and cracks I opened the back door to let Blue out and noticed a classic vintage-looking crescent moon with a "face". So lovely and magical! Would've taken a photo of it, but my SLR isn't digital and my point and shoot, even with setting changes just doesn't record night images very well.

I'll close now, before the clock strikes twelve and wish you the best year ahead. May all your dreams come true and then some! I'll leave you with this little video. Enjoy!

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A Green Tomato New Year's Eve Post

Let's see, what's the date? Yup, it's December 31st and once again my "volunteer" tomato plant is loaded with green tomatoes. It's downright embarrassing! Some of them are actually quite good-sized. Of course they're all green, but the silly thing is still putting out flowers and setting fruit.
The one on the right is almost two and a half inches in diameter!
Very hard to tell, but there's almost a dozen tomatoes in the photo above! The leaves do a good job of hiding them.
Talk about persistence....
I really shouldn't be surprised (other than by the sheer quantity of little green fruits this year) since the same thing has happened for the past five years. Sometimes I have green tomatoes into March!

Since there were so many green tomatoes this year, it set me off on a search for pickled green tomato recipes. (To be honest, it was my mother's message playing in the background saying "waste not, want not".) Well, the tomatoes, the message and Cathy Barrows's blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen. Emailed her for permission to post photos of her inspiring giardinier and received the go ahead. Can't wait to share this with you!
Photo by Cathy Barrows
A few weeks ago I ran across her post for "salad in a jar, giardiniera" and haven't been able to get it out of my mind! So easy to make (other than chopping veggies) and so delicious looking! I'm up for any kind of refrigerator pickling. Here's a shot of the final product.
Photo by Cathy Barrows
What can I say? Love at first bite? Wouldn't this be wonderful to give as a hostess gift or to friends around the holidays? Visit her blog for the recipe, it looks sooo easy!

Cathy is a co-founder of Charcutepalooza. Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy is the other founder. It was a group focused on A Year of Meat (among other things), which I followed and thoroughly enjoyed during the last year. One of the things I came away from with, was how to focus and appreciate the ingredients and their origins. You don't just grab something at the big store's deli case, you get to see how the final product develops from it's origins. It's a way to develop a deeper understanding of what graces your table and the work involved in making it especially if done by hand with love and shared with friends.

In her November post, Cathy sums it all up quite simply with these words "We’ve come a long way. We’ve salted, brined, smoked, ground, stuffed, packed and stretched our way through parts of pork, slabs of beef, flocks of chickens, dozens of ducks and hundreds of feet...". Her blog is a pleasure to follow. I want to thank her for allowing me to show you her great photos and introduce you to her blog! Enjoy!

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No Post Post

Redundant title, yes, I know. Sorry for it and the absence here since Dec. 25. For the first time since I started this blog, I have what I guess is writer's block. Or something like that.

To be honest, I actually have about eight posts started but haven't been able to solidify any of them into a cohesive entry! So frustrating. Maybe it's just too many choices....

Well, an entry will be forthcoming, so thank you for your patience and support.

This is so wierd, I've never in forever had trouble writing, I love to write!

See you shortly!



Merry Christmas Post

This is a very odd weekend. Even though I'm telling myself that "Christmas" is going to last till New Year's, it just seems very hollow. This a long post, but please bear with me, there is a point (realization on my part) to it, I promise.

Yesterday I was smoked in my own house. Even had a whole rant post written about it. The people who live in what I'm now calling "the tree butcher's house" (even though he doesn't own it or live there) once again had a party but instead of the two guys who brought the giant grill for their last party and positioned it ten feet from my bedroom window, this time they brought a huge black barrel smoker with them. Again, set away from their house and close to mine.

We all know my thoughts on the exceedingly poor insulation/weatherstripping in this rental and soon it was filled with smoke. This continued for five hours. I finally tossed my jacket on (which I really didn't need) and walked over there. Door opened and I said hello only to be greeted with a blank stare, actually over a dozen blank stares, no hellos. Okay, fine. So I explained that my house was full of smoke which triggered my asthma and wondered how much longer the smoker would be going.

All I got was "hour" and "fish". Sighing, I rolled my eyes and I walked away.

The next "treat" was the major floodlights on the house behind me going on that evening. No big deal since they're on a motion sensor. Problem was, they never went off...all night. My bedroom was illuminated. Impossible to sleep. I was beside myself. Wound up staying up and watching DVD's on the computer.

Finally went to bed at 7 a.m.

I don't think I've mentioned that this rental sits on "siren alley". Yes, this is the street used by all police, fire, ambulances etc. because it has 4-way stop signs the full length of it, making it safer for emergency vehicles.

At 11 a.m. in the depths of sleep I was woken by the sirens of five vehicles. They ended somewhere nearby but I didn't look out. Finally just gave up on sleep and got up. I decided to call the people behind me to wish them Merry Christmas and ask about the spot lights. Turns out she was having a major panic attack.

Needless to say I felt lower than dirt but I also felt very blessed. One of my favorite sayings has always been "there but for grace go I". It's from the bible I believe and since I'm not a religious person, I've edited it...but you get the idea. That ambulance could have been for me. I had goose bumps.

So the point of this whole post is that we should "chill" a little more, take a deep breath and count our blessings because there's probably a whole lot more of those than problems. I'm very fortunate to have my health, a roof over my head, a car that runs and a friend or two.

In the coming year, I need to be more thankful and less petty, calmer and less quick to anger. I need to remember that I am not the only person on this planet and that I may never know the troubles of another. I must remember to give them their inch of grace. It costs me so little to do so.

With these thoughts the novel by Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls came to mind. Off to Wikipedia I went and found my way to John Donne's work, specifically Meditation #17 from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623). It's fairly religious, so I'll let you check it out yourself, just delete or substitute the references that aren't part of your belief system. But please do read it for it's well worth the bit of time in your day. The essence of the piece is universal and gives one pause.

And that brings me to my Christmas message for you. It's universal and crosses all religious boundaries (IMHO):

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

by Cole Porter

I'll leave you with this beautiful video of Diana Krall singing this song at the piano amidst glowing candles.

Merry Christmas my friends and thank you for reading.

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Relaxing Post

Was able to snag a few hours sleep in the morning so I'm not going bonkers. Very glad that all my errands and so on are done. Oh sure, if I was really crazed, I'd go to Whole Foods and hit their olive bar for olives with Provencal herbs (sooo good) and cheese counter (a pricey bit of heaven*). Happily, I can do that early next week when everyone else is hitting the after Christmas sales.
Source:  Wikipedia
*They do have Leyden cheese which I fell in LOVE with when visiting my friend in The Netherlands. So good for breakfast, sliced wafer thin with a wee bit of butter on black bread (and I don't mean pumpernickel). Awesome.

Still need to pick up a few prescriptions (thank heavens for the "drive-thru"), get gas in the car (saw it for $3.59 at a nearby station), pick up two things at the cleaners, mail two birthday cards and stop at the bank. But, because I have nowhere to go or be in the next three days, it can all wait till next week. Yay! No holiday insanity or dealing with crazed drivers here! Aaah....
Source:  Amazon.com
Listening to Pandora radio while I write. Every now and then a holiday piece comes on from Diana Krall's Christmas Songs album, which I love. So relaxing.

So with that I'll close, wishing you all a peaceful, relaxing evening or morning (depending on your time zone). Time goes by so quickly.

So early 60's!
P.S. That just jogged my memory. As we now step into the "way back machine" a la Rocky and Bullwinkle...a song from long ago (like 1965!), Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. Music simply to die for. Melt, melt, melt.... Enjoy!

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Holiday Get-Together Post

Remember the "craft" group that I've mentioned in past posts? Well, it's actually a knit group and tonight was our holiday potluck party at one of the member's homes (with two decorated Christmas trees, no less!). I arrived late since my errands took a nasty toll on my knee.

But it was so good to see all the women whom I hadn't seen for many, many months! Hugs galore! Just the two hours I did get to share with them warmed my heart so much! There had to be almost 30 in attendance! After talking with many and seeing the desserts they were enjoying (the dinner theme was tacos, but the desserts were all over the map), I made the mistake at 7:45 at night of eating two. Not big, but deadly sweet and yummy.

Thus here I am up at 2 a.m.

There's something about feeding children and people with immune problems and a wacked metabolism, any sweets too close to bedtime...they all get "wired" (at least in my experience). So it's back to my blog I go waiting for sleep to hit. I really should know better. And I'm not that old, it's just one's metabolism has a mind of its own at a certain point.

For instance, when I was married, we loved going out to dinner (something I haven't done in far too long) and having an after dinner drink. He had cognac and I, Amaretto or Frangelico on the rocks. At a certain point I began to notice the "sugar rush" and couldn't fall asleep. So sad, since I really enjoyed this little treat. Oh well. But so it goes.

It was still a lovely evening of seeing people (some I hadn't seen in well over a year or more), hearing about the changes in their lives and so on. I had several comments that I looked so much more relaxed since the divorce was over. Didn't realize it showed so much in my face!

So that was my taste of the "decorated" holidays and friends.

The errand I ran today was getting the ham shanks, turnips and I forgot what else. But I'm set for the week. Of course, once again, my egg nog addiction has hit especially since Von's had half gallon cartons for $2.99...kind of hard to resist! Funny, when I lived with doltoid, he always bought egg nog and if he saw me drink any, he'd comment on my weight...one less worry now...and my weight hasn't increased much at all, so there! :)

I seem to be (please) nodding off. Hope you enjoyed this post and do one thing at least, just for yourself this season!

P.S. No relation or promotion, but if you're in "downtown" L.A. go to the Water Grill...to die for if you remotely like fish! It's in the Biltmore Hotel. Valet parking in the hotel's garage. Pricey, but well worth it and the trip!

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Crack o' Dawn Post

Really hate it when I can't fall asleep. Especially if I can't figure out why. Started out going to bed just after midnight. There I was, waiting for sleep to come over me. But...nothing. The hours passed. I tried my breathing technique where I focus solely on my breathing which blocks out all the thoughts still racing through my brain, but to no avail.

My feet felt like they were in blocks of ice, yet when I felt them, they were the same temperature as the rest of me. My silk quilt was put to cozy use and held in the body heat beautifully but my feet refused to recognize this. This led to nasty cramping in the tootsies and ankles. I actually got up and took a muscle relaxer to quell them. Fat chance.

This kept up for about four hours till I finally gave up. Thus the crack o' dawn post just to whine about it. What can I say? I get grumpy when I'm tired especially for no reason, don't you?

Listened to five or six podcasts of a Prairie Home Companion (free at iTunes). Garrison Keillor's soothing voice usually has me in a nice place where I start yawning and can easily sleep. Nothing. Read through a bunch of blogs which will usually lull me when it's this late. Again, nothing.

Feeling totally frustrated, I decided to write and so we have this post.

Oh wait, being able to complain about it has really helped, I'm starting to nod off...finally...I hope. Will continue later or tomorrow. Sweet dreams!

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Re-thinking My Re-Thinking Post

This morning I got to thinking (or rather re-thinking) my "to-do" list for the next two weeks. Christmas Eve and Day don't have to turn into the be-all of the holiday anymore. Heck, I can drag it out all the way to New Year's! My own re-invented version of the season. ;)

So I down-sized my shopping list since I was a bit apprehensive about how long my knee would last and decided to make my ham shank affair sometime between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. I'll probably make a no-brainer comfort food like Chicken and Dumplings, for Christmas to eliminate my stress. It's such an easy recipe.

Funny, this blog has helped me see how carried away I can get with ideas to comfort myself through the holiday...mainly food oriented. What happens is that I go overboard and wind up overwhelming myself to the point of doing nothing. Just a lot of energy and stress to no end. This is then followed by guilt. I'm only entertaining me :)  for heaven's sake. And while I deserve it, it shouldn't exhaust and depress me. Kind of defeats the purpose.

So, as I said in an earlier post, simplifying. Maybe one special nosh every other day. Frankly, I get so much happiness from writing these posts knowing I have a family of sorts around the globe that reads them, that I'd rather hit the keyboard than try to re-create the holidays of past. Holidays that now only live in my memories.

If I feel energetic enough, maybe I'll clear a portion of my desk and drag out my 4-in-1-printer. It's an HP. Why I bought that brand I'll never know, but it was a good price at the time. Sadly HP inks are not as stable as Epson Dura-bright ink (my printer of choice for the last umpteen years) and will smear at the slightest touch of moisture, like your finger. But maybe it'll scan nicely. Then I'll print out whatever on my Epson.

Once I figure the scanner out, I'll start uploading some of my old family photos. Also need to sign up with a service that backs up my computer once a day. After losing so much this summer, I really should. But we'll see how it goes.

I wrote yesterday that I'd try to take some pictures while I'm out, but don't know what I'll find. It's not the eerie "Twilight" type of gloom, with fog, woods and trees covered in moss and bracken. Just boring grey.

Mr. Blue and I had a most excellent game of tug-of-war with Rocky Raccoon, his unstuffed "roadkill" toy. So now the little dear, after spending some time under my chair here, has retired to his little red bed. He's such a sweetie.

Last night before I went to bed I noticed Laurie Eno over at the Daily Corgi blog had a post on "herding Corgis" which was very interesting. Showed a whole 'nother side of this tenacious little breed. You should give it a look, there are two short videos. It always amazes me that such a short little dog was the result of breeding for the purpose of herding cattle in Wales. Cattle are huge by comparison!

P.S. After taking the trash out, I was so pooped that I decided to forage in the garage pantry and freezer for dinner rather than go out. I am soooo out of shape! Once back in the house, I pulled out the South Beach Diet book which I will be reviving after the holidays.

I figure that if I drop about 15 pounds, it'll be less stress on my knee making it easier to exercise. At a certain point in life, you just learn that diet alone won't be enough, working out is needed. I'm just too young to feel this ancient.

P.P.S. No new photos unless I take some of my backyard and there's nothing new there. It just looks more pathetic in the gloomy light. Oh, for a little fog.

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More Holiday Thoughts Post

Since I have the MRI scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, I'm going to have to run out tomorrow to pick up the holiday fixin's, limited as they are. Of course, it's supposed to rain also. Just what I don't look forward to, crazed holiday shoppers/drivers made more frenetic by rain! You will recall, that rain here is usually drizzle, but it may as well be a full blown thunderstorm for the chaos it causes. I'll try to take some photos while I'm out tomorrow. Depends on what there is to snap.

It's such an odd feeling to have almost nothing to do for the holidays. No cards to write, no presents to wrap, no one to call. This will be my sixth Christmas alone (yes, this is the whining section of the post). I was very close to just ignoring the day, but recalled how I felt when I ignored that one Thanksgiving. So, as I said, it's ham shank stew with root veggies and whatever green side dish I can think of.

I really have to move somewhere less suburban. Everyone I know is married and it seems there's no room for a single/divorced person.

Haven't heard from my brother since August. Nor his kids despite my emails. No clue as to what's up with the silence. Life can be really weird. Families even weirder.

My knitting group is meeting one evening this week for a holiday taco get together. The Midwestern part of me is shaking her head and muttering "tacos and Christmas don't go together". Since everyone attending has to bring something, the other part of me will pick a few avocados from the tree while slicing some veggies and making a dip (so I have something to nibble on). I've learned that most mexican food does not agree with me.

My version of a holiday get together involves cheeses like brie and herbed goat cheese, deviled eggs, liver pate, fondue, shrimp, raw ground beef and assorted breads and crackers accompanied by cookies, cakes and eggnog. Still, it will be nice to see the people since it's been a while. Plus, I haven't knit for almost a year.

For the coming weekend, I pretty much have to make up my own little version of the holiday. At least it won't cost much. I may just while away the day by going through old photos...or not. Before we all know it, we'll wake up in January 2012.

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Nibble Plan for the Holidays Post

Christmas is only nine seven days away. Why am I always so surprised? I still blame the California summers and how they extend so far into "fall". Halloween arrives and it's still shirt-sleeve weather. How are you supposed to get in the mood for Thanksgiving, much less Christmas? I'm usually just getting into the feel of holidays on the day Christmas arrives.

Last year, I had all these little foodie treats planned out for myself on Christmas Eve, Day and New Year's. I did make the ham shank meal which was delicious. About a week ago I was at the same store where I found them last year and they were still only $1.99/pound! Since turkeys seem to have gone back up in price just like last year, I may just be making ham shanks again. No need to buy as much poundage! I'll have to think about it for a day or three. Can you tell I started this entry a few days ago?

Maybe while I'm there, I'll get a second one and make split pea soup...mmm. And once again, just like last year, I'm getting carried away with myself. My mind has all this energy and I've got to remember that the body doesn't always cooperate. (I really have to get myself into a gym program.)

So instead of overwhelming myself this year with tasks, I'm going to take it one step at a time. I'll pick up the ham shanks this week or early next tomorrow...as long as my knee is cooperating. Tuesday I'm scheduled for an MRI to see what the heck is wrong with it. Frankly, I think it's lack of exercise but of course the doctors say (as always) that it won't help. Their way of saying they won't make money if they agree.

I'll also call a nearby butcher and have them reserve some ground sirloin for pick up the day before New Year's Eve, just for raw beef on rye. Mmmm! I can imagine all the people cringing at this thought but I love it with thin red onions, sea salt and ground pepper. Note: I also like my eggs sunny side up with runny yokes. :)  Yet, I don't so much love sushi...what can I say?

I already picked up some ham and cream cheese for (potential) ham and cheese roll-ups. Ideally, I'll have this recipe (not that it's really a recipe, super-easy and brainless) when I make them and take photos as I go. Though, as I said, it's not a brain-buster. :) But in lieu of that, I'll just walk you through it.

All that's left is some brie, a baguette (which I'll slice and freeze for ease of use) and some liver pate. I found a few recipes, so I may or may not make it...it'd be for New Year's Eve. Oh, and a bottle of prosecco from Trader Joe's for that!

So that's it for the holiday nibble-plan. Hope the season, whenever it is for you, gives you much joy and peace!

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Another Grocery Tale Post

While out picking up a few things to eat, I happened to walk down the soup aisle. I glanced at Campbell's condensed soups and just about fell over. Are you ready? The price posted below each row of cans read $2.19. I probably should have told you to sit down. Sorry.

Can you believe this? Seriously? They must be nuts! For canned condensed soups that are made with chemicals? Really? How do they rationalize this?

Normally I don't eat canned soups, preferring to make them from scratch. It's just that for the last months, I've sort of relied on them in the malaise that seems to be in my life at the moment. Well, those and pre-made salads.

This would have really given me fits, if it weren't for the fact that at this time of year you can score some pretty great sales on these things. Recently I picked up an assortment of Progresso soups for $0.99 per can, a substantial price reduction. Right now the number of stores having sales and coupons for Campbell's soups is abundant. Sometimes restricted to one or two types, I did find one event that had all varieties for $0.59 each. It's the rest of the year that worries me.

Obviously I'm going to have to stock up a bit while the sales are on since I'm not going to pay $2.19, ever!

I won't go into how much ground beef / hamburger has gone up to. Well, maybe just a little...a year ago I thought $2.99 for 80% ground beef was a lot, but you could still find it on sale for $1.79 and $1.99. It's currently priced at $4.99. I will say Yikes to that!

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The Saga: Final Post

Back in the Midwest again, this time for my mom's funeral; as I said in an earlier post...deja vu. Rerun of a bad movie. I was again amazed at the number of people that appeared, people I went to grade school and high school with, some of whom I hadn't heard from in decades. As I said, I was a wreck. My brother wrote and read a poem about my parents' weekly, 10 a.m. Sunday phone calls which was thoughtful.

I read Auden again and some Emily Dickinson, sobbing as before. Really, really bad movie rerun. My bro' arranged for the same type of wooden coffin as dad's. He brought her favorite heels for her. They didn't fit her feet now. Diabetes type two had taken a toll on her feet and legs but damn, they were on her feet again (whether they fit or not) and she was going to be dancing her way into eternity in them if he had anything to say about it.

This time he had all white flowers, a voluminous cloud of them, draped above her head and across the foot of the casket. White pillar candles and votives nestled in the flowers. Her signature red lipstick highlighted her face just as in life. The fragrance of the flowers brought back memories of Locker's Florist in the village during Spring. Breathtaking.

Again, no religious entity. Just loved ones and friends sending her off through all the tears, even though it broke our hearts.

After a while we all said goodbye and retired to their house. My brother's in-laws had arranged for nibbles. It was far more somber than my dad's funeral. I think because everyone was still stunned...29 days! How unfair!

I'm glad I read the W. H. Auden poem again. The last few lines will be inscribed upon my mind till I leave this world.

My brother and I stayed on for a week, clearing out the food (dry goods were donated to a food bank) and clothing etc. sorted and donated. Basically getting the house ready for sale. We laughed and were quiet when we'd trip over a memory. Of course, going through the day to day "stuff" was like trying to cross a mine field without incurring casualties. The most insignificant thing could trigger a cascade of emotions. The permanency of death was slowly descending upon us.

We left all the furniture in place so the house would "show" better. We interviewed a real estate agent and put it on the market.

The funeral home hadn't even gotten my dad's ashes to us when mom arrived on their doorstep. So we told them to hold onto them and when mom was done in the oven, put her ashes in with dad's.

Sorry about the oven comment but to this day "gallows humor" can creep out when I least expect it. It must be a sanity mechanism of one's brain...you can laugh or you can cry and I keep choosing to laugh when possible.

Gallows humor first appeared when my bro' and I were both home in late February of the same year because mom and dad had heart attacks together. Matching heart attacks as it were, how "cute".  (Taking a deep breath.) We were driving to the hospital in their car and my brother started making jokes about the whole situation which in turn, got me started and like so many rides home from my Aunt's after Thanksgiving, we were laughing hysterically at anything.

As we approached the hospital, my brother said we should probably appear more serious. I said, I agreed, we didn't want to appear to be horrid "children" to the nurses, laughing at the miserable state of affairs. (We, the "children", were in our late forties at that point.) On the way home, he said it was gallows humor.

What is gallows humor you ask? Per Wikipedia:  "Gallows humor is the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation.[1] It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable." A perfect description!

That's pretty much it. Stopping for now. I may have a post or two down the road about further thoughts. Thank you for your patience, now go hug someone you love.

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New Digs Post

Can't remember if I mentioned that Blue got a new bed. I had "rewards bucks" from CVS for $12.95 and finally saw a bed with a cover that wasn't a gross brown! Not that this is a designer's dream but it beats Herculon, a synthetic fabric first marketed in 1961. It should have been retired long ago IMHO. I know the fabric on this bed has it's own sordid history in upholstery, but at least it's a bright burgundy.
He's made himself right at home, gross-looking chew toy, and of course, fur.

Cost me all of $2.04 ($1.52 Euros) plus tax! How can you beat that? Plus he loves it. Did I mention that I've refused to turn the heat on? If you haven't noticed I have a slight stubborn streak, which is putting it mildly. Lol! So it's quite nippy at ground level. More so, because the floor is simply the wooden subfloor and then the hardwood covering. NO insulation whatsoever!
This My lunacy is partly based on the tree butcher and what his thoughtless act cost me. From June on, my electric bill was $25-30 higher per month, because of ZERO shade on the west side of the house. None, zip, nada, zilch. For a total of $170 (126.46 Euros)! Yes, I am a stubborn little creature, aren't I? At least I know it and can laugh at myself.
Why must she always be taking pictures? I was sleeping....
Anyway, Blue is in love with his little bed.



Rude Awakening Post

Life is what happens to you
while you're busy making other plans.
John Lennon 1940-1980

Hard to believe its been 31 years since he was shot. It only underscored (for me) the amazing viscosity of time and its ability to slip right through our fingers. My first cognition of its finite quality occurred when my parents died. The permanency of death and loss hit me like a ton of bricks.

A decade later, I'm beginning to see people my own age losing family and friends. It starkly illuminates the limitations of hours and days left on this earth.

This season, everything I've been experiencing has contributed to this vivid realization. Yesterday, I called my neighbor in the house behind me to let her know UPS had dropped a package for her on my porch. While talking, she invited me to a get-together on Saturday. She said it was mainly their families. Somehow we got on the topic of her mother and mentioning that she was 63 years old.

This caught me by surprise, it knocked the wind out of me...her mom is in my age range! The date stamp on my forehead burned with this realization. For so long I've lived my life as if it would never end. What was I thinking? Maybe we all live in this fog. Possibly if we didn't we'd go crazy.

I do think the media and advertising in this country, the ceaseless promotion of the concepts of youth and beauty, lull us into this delusion. I could get up on my little soapbox here and launch into my thoughts on the complete lack of ethics paraded in front of us by the banking and investment industries as well as big business and the talking heads in Washington...but I won't. I'll stay more focused.

Anyways, I don't know what I'll do with this kick in the head of reality, I'm pretty much just trying to wrap my brain around the concept and what my place in this world is at the moment. This much is clear, I can't just continue to "wait around" hoping for inspiration. As I said in an earlier post, this is "not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life".

Prior to the end of the world as I knew it, aka the divorce, my life lay mapped out before me with each step of the journey revealing itself to me at the appropriate time. Now, I'm lost, wandering aimlessly in a desert.

This quote (above) came to me, out of the blue a few days ago. I didn't realize that today was the anniversary of John Lennon's death till after this post was complete. The energies that can be harnessed in this world continue to amaze me. Appears as if a universal awareness of what today was, came from so many people that it permeated the ethers. A single universal consciousness of this day spread across the world.

Today, I wish you the gifts of clarity and peace. Don't wait and learn the hard way that things are not always what they seem.

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Saga Continues Post

My, I was quite the serious little blogger yesterday wasn't I? Sheesh! Somehow I can't be quite as serious today...I have to take it in small doses with a bit of time between sharing stories. So the tale of that period when my parents died will be resumed at a later date. It's just a little too intense to re-live so close to the holidays.

However, having just re-read my post, I'll go on a little further with my tale. Maybe it's because I'm listening to Pandora's R and B and Pop holiday music. Makes it hard to feel sad to that kind of music. Plus there's something about this saga that's begging to be told. Can't explain it...kind of a gut feeling, nagging at me. No guarantee how far I'll get.

Thus back to this little memoir.

Just so you know, we didn't stand my dad's casket up in the corner or slug back a shot in his honor. Lol! But the grieving began. There's no escaping it. Here I am, more than ten years later, with tears welling up and the memories are as clear as if it all happened yesterday.

My mom was in a wheelchair at the funeral and had the most vacant look on her face. Almost like she was watching a play. When we got back to the house she said she kept thinking it was all a bad joke. That any second my dad would pop his head in and with a twinkle in his mischievous Irish eyes say "Surprise". But he never did.

Per his wishes, my father was cremated. My brother and I hired the caretakers full time for my mom. He lived on the East coast and I on the West. My parents home was in the middle. As I said, I should have just stayed there, time is such a gift and gone so fast.

My brother tried to convince mom to live with his family so she wouldn't be alone. But try as he might, she wouldn't budge. With dad gone, I think the house and her memories were all she felt was left.

My husband was still the man I married (not the doltoid I divorced years later) and upon arriving home he had a trip to a bed and breakfast in Wales followed by a visit to my penpal in the Netherlands lined up. We were gone ten days. Wales is stunningly beautiful in Spring, the countryside soothed my aching heart. I would love to live there. The time with my friend in the Netherlands was just the icing on the cake of life. But the experience was short lived.

Upon returning to L.A., I called my mom to let her know we had returned from the trip.

A day and a half later she died in her sleep. Just 29 days after my dad. I was devastated. It was like she held on until she knew I was home safe and sound.

The funeral had to be delayed a week due to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. On the flight to mom's I was awfully disoriented. Discombobulated would be the perfect word to describe it. I even left my calendar with it's history of six months of pain, on the plane when I got off. I had documented all the trips to and from the Midwest. All gone...as quickly as my parents.
Siskel (R) and Ebert (L)
Deja vu. It was like a bad re-run of a crumby movie. "I'll give it two thumbs down Rodger". My brother once again swung into action. Okay, need to stop here, this little walk down memory lane will be continued.

On a lighter note, Laurie at Crazy Aunt Purl asked about chili recipes (12/7/11) so I sent her this one. My mom used to make something almost identical when I was growing up:
Shirley's Fantastic Ohio Chile (where my friend came up with the name, I'll never know)

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 - 1 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can regular stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
dash chili powder/cayenne red pepper to taste

Brown meat. Drain fat (if any). Add onion and bell pepper and sauté lightly. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Serve with chopped onions or sour cream or grated cheddar or all of the above, on top.

This recipe is easily doubled.         

Changing the subject yet again, this little blog had 162 visits on Monday, 119 of them from Slovenia. I almost fell over when I saw those numbers! Hello, and thank you for visiting!

While listening to Pandora radio, the male a cappella group Straight No Chaser came on singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Totally divine! I LOVE that group, they have such wonderful voices and their music arrangements are amazing! Have a look for yourself, I think you'll enjoy it.

Sorry this was so long. Thanks for reading!

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Stop All the Clocks Post

The power outage still has over 9,000 people in the dark and cold. I know we're weather wimps here in California, but it's supposed to hit 38F (3.33C) tonight. That's cold!

Was thinking about the quote at the bottom of yesterday's post, then re-read the last paragraph about the permanency of loss and found myself floating back in time to the period when my parents died just 29 days apart. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have just moved in with them in the final months rather than agree to hire caretakers.

I had no real idea or understanding of the seriousness of their condition. The doctors glossed over it. My parents would just say "comes with the territory". I believed them and was lulled into a false safety zone. They were my parents...they "couldn't" leave. Life is so flaming fragile...I had no concept.

The end of April came and so did "the phone call". It was my brother. The doctor in the emergency room had called him since he had the medical power of attorney. My father had lapsed into a coma after another heart attack. The prognosis was bleak. We both knew (since he clearly told us more than once) that he had no desire to be put on life support. He was a strong believer in the quality of one's life vs. the length of it.

Afterwards, my brother told me that the doctor confided in him that he'd "never seen anyone so pissed" at death. He was enraged by it and that he couldn't will it away. Just like my Irish father to the bitter end. I always used to say "he may not be right, but he's never wrong". The following weeks were a numb fog.

My brother and I are so different. In times like that I fall to the earth like a dried leaf, where he instead, marshalls his forces. He took care of everything for the funeral. My dad was buried in a wooden coffin just as he'd wished. It was actually made by Hasidic Jews with no metal parts, only dowels and glue (according to the funeral director). I'm sure the director was not happy since the coffin cost only $600.00 (447.96 Euros). Most coffins today run into the thousands of dollars. It's a big business.

The casket was swathed in a rainbow of fresh flowers and not the "funereal" type. He'd found about half a dozen black and white photos of my dad from throughout his life, then framed them in an assortment of silver frames. Those sat among the flowers on the lower half of the coffin. It was amazing!

He read "Stop All the Clocks, Cut off the Phone" by W.H. Auden. It's a glorious poem, so perfect for the day. I read, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. It always symbolized my father's unique life. I also read Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night" because I felt it summed up my father from birth to death so perfectly. I sobbed through the whole thing.

A surprising number of people showed up at the funeral home. Apparently, everyone in small Midwestern towns reads the obituaries. Former employees and even his early morning coffee "buddies" from George Webb's made a visit.

We did not have any religious entity present because my father's wish along with the wooden box was to be stood up in the corner while everyone else had a party in his honor. So we kept it very simple. The family and close friends were invited back to my parent's house for an afternoon feast with food brought by friends, family and neighbors.

My brother seriously thought of handing out shots of whiskey to everyone there for a toast, but felt my mom might have a coronary, so he didn't. It was a very hard day. It didn't hit any of us, the permanence of death. As time passed, it settled in painfully.

To be continued in the next post....

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Quiet Note Post

On a quiet note, I'd like to share three links with you. I hope you'll go visit them.

First is Corey Amaro's blog Tongue in Cheek. On her flight home from visiting family in California, her cousin suffered a pulmonary embolism and slipped into a coma. This is her latest post and my heart goes out to her.

Second, a commenter on her post today, shared this moving piece of music, I hope you enjoy it.

May you be surrounded by peace and love today. Find joy in every second you have with loved ones, life is so fragile and can vanish in a blink. The permanency of it can hit you harder than you ever imagined. Take nothing for granted. Share a smile with someone you don't know today.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it's called the Present.

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Wondrous Golden Sphere Post

As I stood at the kitchen counter peeling a navel orange this morning, I was captivated by the zesty scent. As the knife sliced through the orange part of the skin, one word came into my mind...intoxicating. I just fell under it's happy spell. All thoughts of anything else vanished from my mind. It was magic in a small orange orb.
After peeling it halfway, I took some photos. When I broke it into sections, it was all I could do to contain myself from just biting in so I could take a few more photos. When I could no longer contain myself, I put the camera away, broke the segments apart and savored the juicy sweetness which dribbled down my hand and chin. Who cared? I'd planned ahead and was munching and slurping over the sink.
It was amazing. I just gave into the experience, my mind was empty of all thoughts but the orange.
Funny how having less outside stimulus and such options (read:  money choices) makes you look inward. I'm finding so many small, little joyful treasures I hadn't paid attention to since childhood. The utterly simple delight of an orange just waiting for me to enjoy its pleasures.

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The Power Outages Continue Post

We were very fortunate in the town I live in. The power came on after 21 hours of being out. My appointment with the rheumatologist at 11 a.m. down in San Gabriel which is about 25 minutes away revealed a lot more damage than I'd been aware of. Knowing I might experience delays, I gave myself 45 minutes. However, it took 1 1/2 hours to get there. There were so many closed roads (and not just small side streets but main arteries), work crews were everywhere so I had to zig-zag all way there.

At one point, I pulled over to call them and let them know, they said not to worry. Easier said than done! By the time I got there I was a shaking wreck. Wasn't all that familiar with the side streets in that area so there was a lot of guessing about where exactly I was. Upon arrival, discovered they had no power and were running on a generator. Their electricity wasn't due to come on till 12/8/11, Thursday!

The book I brought to read was Isabel Allende's (one of my favorite authors) The Sum of Our Days, A Memoir. Being so rattled I kept reading the same paragraph repeatedly, but it didn't register in my brain. I finally gave up. The nurse called me in and took my blood pressure when I got there, both she and the doctor commented on how very high it was. Can't imagine why, I thought sarcastically....and told them so, nicely though. It wasn't their fault I had a tough trip, they were still dealing with the outage themselves and so calmly I might add!

Funny, I can drive through heavy rain, snow storms, and on "black ice" and I'm not phased. But having the feeling of being lost and lack of control of my route did me in!

Sorry, no photos from the drive over, I was too frazzled. I'm sure if you google Pasadena or San Gabriel wind damage you'll pull up a lot. Forgot to mention, winds in Pasadena were clocked at 90 m.p.h. which is essentially tornado level. Most of Pasadena was closed yesterday.

So, the next stop for my knee is an MRI. Oh goody, more money. Though I have to say that I'm so very grateful for finding this clinic. Can you imagine that seeing a rheumatologist (a specialist) only cost $25.00 (18.50 Euros)!? So again, very, very thankful!

On the way home I attempted Subway again but no parking (I'd forgotten that they were offering two kinds of six inch subs for only $2.00. McDonald's was packed. The Von's parking lot...filled. A second Subway, again, no parking. Geesh! I was exhausted. Went home and crashed for three hours much to poor Blue's dismay. Poor bored little sweetie. :(

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Wow! Post

Yes, up late. Working on a post earlier. Have to get up early to see knee Dr. and between "early" and "Dr." I find sleep hard to come by. So I checked my stats. Thus the "wow", from Germany, 20 people stopped in, from Slovenia, 16, and from Russia, 10! Hi everyone and thank you for dropping by!! It means a lot to me!

Another post is in the works, but vvveeerrrryyyy long, so it'll get uploaded tomorrow (hopefully).

Again, thank you and "hi" to all of you lovely readers in Germany, Slovenia and Russia! I hope your weekend is a very happy and peaceful one! Give everyone you love a big hug!

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Let There Be Light Post

Part 1 (Note:  Written 12/1/11 and posted on 12/2/11 after power came on.)
The ill wind I wrote about swept through So Cal like the evil witch with the tail of her broom dragging and smashing everything it touched. It was soooo loud! The avocado tree in the back yard shook and swung about like it was possessed. Couldn't see the huge live oak in front since it was pitch black.

The power was snuffed out around 11 p.m. for my neighborhood. My internet connection with Verizon went down first and then everything else followed. We were all plunged into the inky blackness together.

It reminded me of a similar windstorm when we lived up in the foothills of La Canada about 15 years ago. The same howling banshee winds snapped gigantic trees like they were toothpicks. A towering parrot flower tree, with a trunk too big to get your arms around was twisted like a child's top and we heard an explosion. In the light of the morning we found it's grain burst revealing a huge vertical crack that ran the full length of the tree. Sadly, we learned there was no way to save it.

Back to the current day. Luckily, I'd just purchased a new hi-intensity little flashlight for emergencies and had another flashlight on my nightstand to make maneuvering at night easier.

The power was out in a 20 mile radius. Little did anyone know how far this destruction really reached. Most of LA county was hit. I vowed that my first purchase after this would be a battery operated radio. With no heat, I decided it was bedtime and was off to sleep and warmth under three quilts including Valborg's silk one on the very top. Mmm, toasty!

Part 2
This morning, no power. This did not bode well. The one thing I took seriously in Girl Scouts was their motto:  Be Prepared. I was. Well, almost. Five years ago I picked up a retro-Coleman camping lantern. No, not for camping, bite your tongue! Emergencies like earthquakes.

The word "battery" was on the label so I presumed it came with one. Having never had the need for it, I never opened the box. Surprise, surprise...no battery. Swell. Even worse it needed eight, yes, 8 size "D" batteries. I had AA and AAA batteries, yes, but D? No.
Poor tomato plants, snapped.
Sitting at my desk, looking at a blank monitor, I was bored out of my mind. I pulled out a pad of paper and began writing. 

My neighbors across the street and in the house behind me both called to check on me which I was so thankful for. Fortunately we were all fine. Both the trees made it through intact, thank goodness, the avocado flinging about 10-12 pieces of fruit to the ground. Picked them up. I'll be trading them for some Meyer lemons. About 30 feet of 6 foot wooden fencing on the property to the West of me blew down...the one separating the two houses. 
Note missing fence on the other side of my fence (in the foreground)
Around 3 p.m., it dawned on me that I'd better go out and get some provisions since I did not want to open the fridge or freezer...I was hoping to avoid spoilage that way. Why I sat around writing how bored I was vs. going out earlier, I'll never know.

While out, I found a number of huge trees blocking roads, on top of cars and debris was blown into piles everywhere. Other than no power and a big old mess, this block seemed to survive it pretty well.
Avocado leaves all over the yard along with a palm frond or two.
Decided to hit Trader Joe's for salads and a bottle of cabernet. Concluded that every store in the neighborhood would be wiped out of batteries, so decided to take surface streets out to Costco. It was a slow drive, everyone was being very polite and cautious since all traffic lights were out.

At Costco, I found and bought 2-12 packs of "D" batteries and a set of three high intensity lights (see what I mean...be prepared). Everyone was so nice, of course we were all in the same boat and there on the same mission.

Wound up comparing notes with a gentleman who was also picking up flashlights. We lived in the same city. A woman passing by stopped to grab two packs and overhearing us, said she'd heard there'd be no power till Saturday! Yikes! Sampled some delicious smoked salmon and pork tamales but resisted the urge to buy them because of the power problem. 

When I left, I wanted something warm and was going to get one of their hot dogs, the best. They use Vienna Red Hots and sesame seed buns. You can top with relish, onions, catsup or mustard, just like being in the Midwest, yummy. But it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. So I left, it was dark and my knee hurt.

Drove into Subway near my house but it was packed, so went on to McDonald's...closed. Continuing I went to the next Subway but it was dark. At that point I gave up and went back home. Made due with one of the salads I'd purchased and an orange. Enjoyed a little Cabernet once I got the lantern full of batteries...hallelujah, light!!! I decided it was nothing short of a miracle. You never appreciate what you have till it's gone!

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