I'm Moving to WordPress

Hi all,

Blogger changed my whole layout, colors, pictures, everything! Even the header photo was removed! So bye-bye blogger!

As a result I just bopped over to WordPress and signed up. It'll take a while to get this up and running but please check back often! I'll miss you all for the time being!

The new site is GreyHouseJournal.wordpress.com! Just so you know, I was having a little hissy-fit today so not much of WordPress sunk in. Will be working on it over the next few days.

Anyone who uses this...are you happy with the layouts/design/flexibility? Thanks so much for your input!




Blogger is Horrible Post

Well, I may be on permanent hiatus. Blogger is getting a new upgrade/look in April and IT IS HORRIBLE! I just took a peek at what's coming and it ate my dashboard. The new layout is totally unfriendly and confusing so I won't be posting for a while after the change hits. Sorry.

Why do companies "fix" things that AREN'T broken?

Going to look into another service for blogging like WordPress, etc.

Stay well and happy.


"I'm So Excited, I Just Can't Hide It" Post

Visited Miss B's blog, Besotted Brand blog yesterday and was delighted by her photo of an old cemetery in Georgia where she recently traveled. It reminded me of all the month-long trips taken each summer by car as a child. My younger brother loved old cemeteries, so whenever we saw a really interesting old one, we stopped and investigated.
Photo Source (Besotted Brand Blog)
There was something that fascinated him about them. Personally, I found them terrifically peaceful and calming. Walking into one, it felt like you had entered a patch of space where time stood still. All cares, worries and such fell away. All that was left was peace.

I've visited many cemeteries here and in other countries during my travels in life and I never felt any distress, fear or discomfort from the inhabitants residing there. Maybe a twinge of sadness on occasion, but that was it. Even in the wistfully crumbling ones where trees had turned to skeletons and Spanish moss drifted down , waving silently in a soft breeze. There was always a special peace.

In our travels we found mausoleums (sometimes unlocked), sarcophagi and old, open cement vaults used to house the coffin, empty and laying in the grass above ground. Did the family move the interred to a new grave site? Was the grave looted? So many ideas for fertile little imaginations to dwell on. Endless possibilities.

Yes, as usual, I veered off course (and in the very first sentence of this post, yikes...oh well, back to my original reason for this post).

Photo Source
Had to share this news! Miss B. is offering the Souvenir Foto Class again and I signed up! So excited! Been into photography since grade school and have six film cameras (SLR, twin lens reflex, rangefinder and Polaroids) plus two digital point and shoots. Used to be the yearbook and newspaper photographer in high school and almost majored in photography in college.

Problem is, the gap between using a film camera and digital camera has me stymied. I really (wish, wish, wish) want a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) but can't afford it. Especially 'cuz I'd want a wide angle lens and a macro on top of the standard lens.

Also I haven't done any styling or art direction (my jobs in a former life) for ages so I'm hoping to be refreshed by this class. She offered it once before however I only found out about it the day before it started and it was full. As you can see from my so-so photos on this blog I need some inspiration.

After reading Andrea Paulin's experience over the five week class on her blog Under a Blue Moon, I really hoped it would be offered again. And it is! Yay! Starts April 1 and I'm really looking forward to it. You can find more info at the Besotted Brand blog right here.

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Patio Inspiration Post

Look what I found today, it's the white (off-white) iron chairs from Pottery Barn that I showed here.

Photo Source Times when I wish I could read French.
More inspiration to get me going! Of course, my garden/patio area will look nothing like this. Lol!

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The Oleo Wars Post

One of my favorite things to do other than visit blogs in general, is to search out new food blogs and follow up on old favorites. Though I haven't cooked much at all lately, I love finding new recipes (in the belief that I will return to cooking soon) as well as discovering new techniques.

There are so many new cookbooks and blogs as well as a resurgence of methods and dishes that were popular while I was growing up. It's simply never-ending! So last week in my malaise, I found myself looking for comfort in food and recipes.

One of the blogs I enjoy is The Soup Addict. Don't think I mentioned this in the past, but I love soup as well as making it. As we exit the season of root vegetables, a recipe for French Spring Soup on her blog caught my eye. Her topics run the gamut of soup, gardening and other interesting topics including butter making, so I bookmarked the butter post and of course promptly forgot about it. Running across her soup recipe suddenly jogged my memory and I recalled the bookmarked post.

Her article on how to make cultured butter is very thorough and informative. And when I say butter, we're talking the stuff found in Europe, not the U.S., land of ultra-pasturization.

I'd noticed for quite some time that she had a photo and link (upper right hand corner of the home page,  that she changes periodically) to a kitchen technique. The one that was bookmarked back in January, was on "Ingredients:  Cultured Butter".

I'm in heaven...I love butter. Being raised in the Midwest for the first 25 years of my life, it was an integral part of the culture. I bet you could hear my arteries slamming shut as I said that! Interestingly, back in the mid-60's and earlier, butter was king in the Midwest and you couldn't get margarine (it was cheaper) in the state where I lived.

Margarine as I recall it back then, looked like uncolored fat (sort of like chicken fat without any pink) in a plastic pouch with a pocket of dark orange dye in it's center. The idea was to knead the colored into the ghastly fat so it "looked" like butter. I'd give anything for a photo (color) of the gross object just to share with you! So far, no luck.

I did find a few interesting links you should check out just for the photos and crazy history! After much searching I finally found two old ads showing the bag of fat with the dark orange dye plug in the center:
Is this not gross or what?

Photo Source for both images.
My mom tried it once at the urging of a relative. We all wanted to taste test it. The result. We never want that "thing" in our home again! To this day, margarine strikes me as fake butter. IMHO if I'm going to consume any calories (and margarine does have them) then I want to make them worth it and enjoy the real taste...so give me butter!

Same applies to cheese, chocolate and so on. Give me the real thing or I'll just skip it.

Now, just for your enjoyment, I found a few more pertinent links. First, this article on the "Oleo Wars" which is hysterical but totally true! Here's yet another Oleo War Saga. And this last one has the following quote from reader, Paula:  "When we went on school bus trips with my Catholic grammar school from Milwaukee to Chicago, we were “armed” with neighborhood orders for oleo (ala Girl Scout cookies). The bus always stopped at Fosslands on the way back. Our teachers (nuns, no less) would work Mr. Fossland for an excellent price. They then upmarked the oleo for us to deliver back in Milwaukee. We sat with our knees in our faces the rest of the way back, since the bus floor was covered with cases of oleo. I was doing God’s work." Can you stand it?!

Fast forward a decade or so and on my trip to Europe (and all subsequent ones), I went to the next level of heaven (if there can be one) and discovered cultured butter. I won't go into the differences here since Karen's article is excellent, other than to say there's nothing better!

I read the article and then went on to read her first article concerning basic butter making. Must say, please read them in the correct order (unlike me):  basic butter first and then cultured butter. If you even remotely like the taste of real butter vs. "gag" margarine, you must check these posts out! OMGoodness! The minute my current project in the kitchen is done, out comes the mixer and I'll be off churning!!

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Slowly Tiptoeing Into the Garden Post

Of late, I've noticed quite a few posts about what's sprouting in gardens thanks to the mild winter in many places. The kitchen gardens particularly inspire me since I really miss mine. Plus it pains me to  pay two to three dollars for a little plastic box of herbs that will spoil before I use them up! It's such a waste!

I've missed making my Mediterranean Pasta dish because it would cost me at least $8-10 for the herbs alone. Then add $1 each for a can of tomatoes, pasta, black olives, parmesan and you're up to about $12-14, which is rather pricy for a pasta dish. Tried making it with dried herbs and while it was okay, it wasn't remotely as fresh, tasty and aromatic.

In retrospect, this last year seems to have been a year of mourning. I don't know how else to explain the directionless path I've wandered. Seems it's slowly coming to an end (knock on wood). For so long, nothing interested me and now, I'm actually feeling like getting myself outside and working on my garden.

Since my plans to move out of state are on hold due to the knee, the most I could save per month if I moved elsewhere in LA would be "maybe" $100. If you factor in moving costs (since I can't do any of the lifting, etc. I've done in the past) it's a wash. So I might as well make this place livable.

Well that was a roundabout little tangent....

If you're a regular reader you know my "garden" consists of a little strip of dirt by the chain link fence and a gaggle of pots in assorted sizes. In previous posts, I've explained how events in my life had conspired to send me into a downward spiral. One of the casualties was my little garden.

Reading about other bloggers planning out their spring seed selections pricked up my ears or rather my eyes. This led to going online and ordering a few seed catalogs like Seed Savers, Burpee's and Park's. It's been a long time since I've looked at seed catalogs. Usually it's just a trip to a nursery to pick up the plants I want since we're not talking a farm here! Holy smokes! 30 seeds cost anywhere from $4.95 to $6.95! Obviously I'll be using these catalogs mainly for inspiration or if I can't find a specific item I really want.

Living in LA does have it's advantages like lots of plant nurseries, from your basic big box store to the more boutique type. It's funny, this is the first time in a while I've felt this interested in something other than hibernating. Yeah, I've been pretty pathetic.

Anyway, these are a few pics of the disaster that used to be a lovely potted garden. It's okay to be appalled, I am. Remember this area has not seen a human other than the mo'n'blo' gardener in almost two years. From here I'll make a list of pots, saucers and accessories. Then assess what can and needs to be done. One thing that must be accomplished straight off is to empty the exhausted, old dirt that's been in the pots for over ten years and put in new dirt.

Unlike in the past, this will take a bit of time due to the inconvenience my knee will cause. Dragging pots of dirt to dump in the empty spot on the side of the house and bags of soil to and from my car at the big box store won't go as quickly as usual.

That's why I'm going to plan it all out, step by step. First, herbs will be planned out then pots prepared and only then am I allowing myself out to actually buy the plants. I believe a Meyer's Lemon tree (dwarf size for a large pot) will be next. That or some pots for veggies such as the obvious, lettuce and a bush tomato or three. Lastly the flowers. Not many, just a bit of color.

The glass table with the iron base and plastic chairs will all be subject to a bath. Meanwhile, I'll observe what's going on with the tomato and decide if it'll be ripped out or just left. Since there is no shade thanks to the tree butcher (no, still not over that), I'll have to see if the patio umbrella works since I haven't opened it in two summers.

Photo Source
I've also got two really cute bistro chairs that I bought at Marshall's about eight years ago to go with the glass table. Problem was after being out for one summer, they began rusting which of course would come off on one's clothes. Rustoleum was purchased but a number of things got in the way so there they sit in the garage.

I "may" tackle them this summer. Especially since I found almost the identical chair in the Pottery Barn catalog for $159 each! I didn't pay anywhere near that much for mine! Mine have a lattice back as well as the seat. I can't decide though if I should keep them white and paint the table base to match or vice versa. The 30 inch hight metal plant stand is white. Any thoughts?

It feels good to actually be interested in something again and planning for it. As I said though, I will be taking this a step at a time so I'm not overwhelmed. I mean, look at those photos, wouldn't you be defeated before you even began if you considered it as a whole task? It won't look all Home and Garden-y since I'm working with what's there. Expenditures will be on soil, plants and possibly Rustoleum.

So, step by step we go. Kind of like the saying associated with Aesop's fable of "The Tortoise and the Hare"...If you work slowly but constantly, you will succeed better than if you work fast for a short while and do not continue."

"Slow and steady wins the race".

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Happy Post

Yesterday I had to go to the dentist to get the permanent crown put on one of my back teeth. This is the pre-molar I managed to break on a single popcorn kernel. Let's see, the cost of one un-popped kernel of corn equals $1,200.00. Somehow that's just obscene. But there was nothing I could do to change it, so I just resigned myself to it.

Since the dentist is 20 minutes away on a good traffic day, I arrived early and wound up talking to the receptionist. She hadn't seen me in six months so the cane and limp were new to her. She inquired and I explained the pricy surgery coming up. She was shocked at the cost and how little of it my health insurance covered. We talked about some other things and then it was my turn.

Five shots of Novocain later, I was a drooling fool but it was over (no photos of this...you understand). The impressions were taken and the temporary crown was put on.

Remember how I said around New Year's that I was going to acknowledge when something good happened to me rather than just whining about the bad things? Well, I still don't do it enough, but this is one of those times.

When I walked over to the receptionist to pay, she asked if I had dental insurance and I said unfortunately not. She then wrote a website on a post-it and whispered to me to go online and apply for this insurance.
Gifts come in various forms...like a simple little Post-It!
"Don't tell the Dr. I gave you this number". Continuing, she said that if I signed up immediately, it would reduce the cost by at least 40-50%!!! Well, push me over with a feather! I thanked her profusely and signed up the minute I got back to my home computer.

For about $12 per month I now have dental insurance! How amazing is that? What a kind person! She didn't have to do that!! What a gift!! In my case it really is, since I have several other very old amalgam fillings that are living on borrowed time at this point.

So here's the "crowning glory" as it were in all it's less than sartorial splendor. Oh, and with the gift of insurance, it "only" cost $645.00...what a difference, huh? Miracles sparkle everywhere, you just have to be open to allowing them in.
The pricy little crown is third from the right. Sorry, color's wonky.

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Fact of Life Post

A fact of Life:  
After Monday and Tuesday
even the calendar says 
W T F………..

Found this little bit of humor a while back, can't remember where, and as always forgot about it. Ran across it on the weekend and after last week, I couldn't resist sharing. It just felt sort of apropos.



Biscuits and Gravy Post

Memory Mondays

St. Pat's Day got me thinking as I said in an earlier post) about my family. While searching for a quote to send a friend, I ran across one in Robert Fulghum's book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It immediately made me think of my father. It's at the end of this post.

In the last years of his life, my dad re-discovered Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast. This was a horrifying discovery for me since my parents' home had become a combo of "Heart Attack Hotel" and "Stroke City". What was scarier, was that my mother was enabling him!

She had figured out how to whip up a batch of Sausage Gravy, putting it into recycled margarine containers from her friend Irene (my mom never used margarine after her experience with oleo). Then she'd mix up dough for biscuits, bake them, cool completely and bag them. Everything was then frozen.

This way she could thaw a tub of gravy overnight, the next morning, heat it and pop a few biscuits into the toaster oven. Within minutes she had dad's breakfast. He always looked so delighted when he dove in. His eyes twinkled and when finished, he'd smack his lips and smile. The perfect picture of pure happiness.

As time went on, this became his (gasp!) daily breakfast after he went to George Webb's to see his "friends" for a cup of coffee. On weekends, of course, it was real eggs, bacon and butter. Eggbeaters never entered the picture, much less the house.

Recent posts on food networks seem to be featuring more and more comfort foods, among them recipes for Biscuits and Gravy. In looking up the nutritional (ha!) information for these heavenly little pillows of poison, I came across www.livestrong.com, a partner of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the following statistics.
"One 2 1/2 inch diameter biscuit has 212 calories, according to the FatSecret website. An oz., or 2 tbsp. of sausage gravy has 44 calories, you'll take in 256 in calories."

Frankly this sounded a bit low to me, so over at the www.fatsecret.com site I found that one biscuit with gravy equalled 508 calories. I won't even tell you the breakdown of saturated fat and so on. At www.allrecipes.com, I found one serving dished up 710 calories, so there's a lot of variation.

Now, if you'd seen my father's version, it would have scared you silly. At least two if not three biscuits topped with about 3/4 cup of sausage gravy. Yes, you may faint right now. My arteries are snapping shut right now just recalling this!

Since I've never had a taste of this dish or would ever make a batch, I'm using a photo from www.tasteofhome.com so you can see what I'm referring to.
Photo Source
I'll end with the Robert Fulghum quote because it's exactly what my father said to me when I questioned his sanity for eating this way.

And sure,
I know if you eat this way you'll die. So?
If you don't eat this way
you're still going to die.
Why not die happy?

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Simply Sunday's Post

This whole accepting life as it comes and not going into a deranged tailspin of worry and fighting what I can have no effect on, is still new to me. I'm still kind of in shock. It's almost as if, once I gave up the mindset that I "could" control life, I was set free, freer than I'd ever felt before.

The little snafu* with my brother still was weighing on me when I finally decided to let it go over the weekend. I can't change him, he has a stubborn streak as do I so it would only get worse.
After the Storm.
Once again, a sweet little gift dropped into my lap today. I didn't wish for anything, I just went about my daily business of working on my blog and checking on friend's blogs. The only thing different was that I'd let go of fear and worry for the day. There was nothing I could do today to resolve the events of the last week, so why give today short shrift? It didn't do anything to me.

In fact, it struck me that I was so grateful not to have him as well as the man I used to be married to (known as doltoid in my writings) in my life at this point. No more of the usual trap of waiting for their approval or whatever. Amazing how much more you can see with 20/20 hindsight. I was so thankful!

This means I'm on my own, all by my self which is scary. But sometimes "being alone" is better than "being alone with..." those kind of individuals.

While I dwelt in the unfamiliar peace that I found this midweek, I read Corey Amaro's blog, Tongue in Cheek, her Sunday entry which I must have missed when she posted it.

It's not so much what she wrote, but her link to Amy Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are". Right below the "Book Description" you'll find a short video, watch it. Magical! I also found a quote that I like from the book, "It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear".

It  really sounded like a good book based on the reviews. However, after reading Amazon's "Look Inside" I decided the book's not for me and for a number of reasons. I don't mean to sound judgy (that is a word isn't it? Lol!) but it's a little too mother with six children living on the farm, finding Christ, for my personal taste. But have a look yourself, it may be something you'll like. Me, I'll glean what I can and be thankful for the gifts it contained for me.

Sometimes the end result (buying the book) isn't the message, it's reading a few parts that contribute to your life and that's enough. It's the journey not the destination that's important. It's finding the Grace in things as they are, not demanding something, some place else.

*I think that's why I like the acronym "snafu" it's meaning is so perfect for moments in life that don't go the way we wanted or planned. Check out this link for a complete definition. (Note: for those with a delicate constitution, there is a swear word in the acronym so please be advised.)

Well, I'm off to listen to A Prairie Home Companion podcast or two and then to bed. Funny, found a rather critical review of it recently relating to the "snore factor" which I found hysterical because that's exactly why I listen. Only in my case, I'd refer to it as the "relaxing factor" and I'm fond of them just for that. I LOVE stories, especially when told by a great storyteller!

Goodnight :)

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March 17, 2012 Post

Whenever St. Patrick's Day rolls around I inevitably am reminded of my father and his Irish heritage. He took great pride in it and when asked why he wasn't wearing green, replied "I'm 100% Irish, I don't need to". This year thinking of my family is more painful than usual. It reminds me of the Mary Engelbreit greeting card I sent to someone who had a similar dysfunctional family background:
"Let's put the fun back in dysfunctional"

When I went to college, drinking green beer on March 17 was a time honored tradition and the multitude of bars started serving green beer at 8 a.m. Green beer is not something you want to get inebriated on or be around someone who is. Let's just say the operative word here is "gross". Fortunately, I find beer tasty only on a super hot summer day after working in the garden or on the extremely rare occasion when I've been dragged to a baseball game. Then, I only really want a taste, half a beer at the most.

Then there's the classic dyeing of the Chicago river a brilliant shade of green! It's a 50 year old tradition. Even though I lived just outside the city for five years, I never made the effort to go in to see it since the drinking starts very early in the morning.
Photo Source
There are those that go a totally different but equally novel "green" route and sport the following dye job. I bet the little fur ball is wondering how he's going to live this one down among doggie friends.
Photo Source
So may you all have a day of luck and a year of good fortune and...

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Traditional Irish Blessing



A Thought Post

Friendship isn't about whom you
have known the longest…
It's about who came, and never left your side.



The Land of Pollen Post

Since the gardeners come this afternoon, I thought I'd better get outside and pick ripe tomatoes so they don't poach those like the avocados last time. Since you've had plenty tomato-y photos, I'm not going to bore you with yet another photo, suffice it to say, I picked six more!

It may be slowing down a bit due to the branches trying to re-root to make more plants...yikes! The avocado tree on the other hand is flowering like mad! All the avocado trees in the area, look almost like they're covered with snow, there are so many blossoms. Here's a shot or two of mine.

While out back, I noticed the Queen Palm is quite a happy little (actually large) camper, shooting out flower sprays right and left! These are then bursting open to reveal millions (okay, maybe not millions, but lots) of seeds which will self-sow quite readily.

On lower left, an old flower spike. On right one just opened.

Two flower spikes with lots of seeds.
Surprising since it gets no fertilizer. It does get all day sun though, so that must be the key!

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Under the Weather and Gloom Post

The weather here has been heavenly the last five or so days. Just heavenly but I'm under it as the saying goes. Not so much physically sick but bitten by a mental bug. Funny how much words can hurt. Especially when they come from someone you're related to and love. Someone you've known your whole life.

"Machines and relatives get most of the yelling.
But never trees. As for people, well, the Solomon islanders have a point. Yelling at a living thing does tend to kill the spirit in them.
Sticks and stones may break our bones,
but words will break our hearts."
Robert Fulghum

It always amazes me when we treat relatives with so much less care than friends and acquaintances. Several years back, I read something about this phenomena. Shortly after reading that article, I stopped watching a number of television programs where family members belittled each other or treated each other poorly. One in particular was "Everyone Loves Raymond".

This also was a prime example of how poorly spouses treat each other. Now, I don't mind an occasional dose of sarcasm and so on, life is like that, but not all the time. The Middle is another show I have a problem watching. It just seems so negative, so damaging mentally to watch. And of course, how could I forget Two and a Half Men? So very many bad examples there.

Life is too short to waste time viewing such cynical drivel. Seems it also makes it "okay" for people to turn around and treat others in real life virtually the same way as they've seen characters on TV shows behaving.

"Think of what a better world it would be
if we all - the whole world
had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon
and then lay down with our blankets for a nap."
Robert Fulghum

Maybe I'm just feeling gloomy as another birthday is slowly approaching. It's funny, speaking to a friend several months ago, she mentioned how turning 26 was devastating for her. Quite a few of her girlfriends had voice the same opinion. I almost fell over because 26 for me had been a truly depressing birthday...not 25 or 30, but 26!

This feels a lot like the same oppressive weight I felt at the approach of that birthday. Mind you, I have...holy c#@p! I was just counting and it's about two months away! Yikes! We won't be talking numbers here, but it's not one of the milestones you'd think would have such an effect, just like 26 wasn't.

Maybe it's a lot of things combined. The economy, the divorce, the loss of family members, the loss of my life as I knew it, the upcoming, inevitable surgery and so on. Who knows?

I want to thank you for stopping in and visiting, it's such an honor. And for getting all the way down to the end of this gloomy little post I'm going to leave you with another quote, also by Robert Fulghum from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:
"Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave
something and take something away.
Most of this "something" cannot be seen or heard
or numbered or scientifically detected or counted.
It's what we leave in the minds of other people
and what they leave in ours.
The census doesn't count it.
Nothing counts without it."

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Tomato Bounty Post

As promised yesterday, here's a shot of the eight tomatoes from the teensy garden! They were photographed on the back porch just before half were put into the paper bag to share with the neighbors who kindly take my garbage cans out and in each week.

Really hard to believe it's March!



Crazy Weather Post

I'm starting to feel like a Farmer's Almanac with all this weather talk. Saturday, it hit 90F (32.2C) where I live (way too early for that). Today it's predicted to reach a high of 58F (14.4C). Every blogger I read has mentioned the crazy weather this winter. The plants and trees are totally confused. For example, the avocado in back is covered with flower buds which will probably be killed off by tonight's almost freezing temperatures. Hopefully not since 39F (3.8C) is predicted.

My neighbor's peach tree is blooming. Lovely pink buds and flowers which will probably die tonight. And it seems I'm destined not to have any green tomatoes for canning!

A little earlier, I returned from a brief grocery run and it was still light. The days are obviously getting longer. After resting the knee for a while I went outside to fetch the ripe tomatoes before the roof/orchard rats found them. They love ripe fruit and veggies.

Thought that there were four, so I almost fell over when I picked eight! Plus, from a glance under the foliage,  there's at least six or more in various stages of ripening as well as more green ones. Not to mention that the silly plant is still flowering! I've actually lost track of how many I've picked in the last two weeks!

This is very rare for March which is when I usually give up, rip the plant out and chuck it with the green tomatoes into the green waste can. Today and tonight's weather will be a challenge for it. If the plant gets through today and the night, future weather is supposedly supposed to warm back up.

Surprisingly, the tomatoes that have ripened in this cooler weather (if one can call this winter cooler) are much tastier than those picked during the height of summer. Kind of the opposite of what one would expect since summer fruits are usually the most flavorful! Either that or I just really want summer-tasting tomatoes!

Oh, by the way, Day Light Savings Time starts Sunday, March 11 at two a.m. this year! Barely four days away. Yay!

See? A flaming Farmer's Almanac! Lol!

P.S. I'll have a photo of the tomatoes I picked tomorrow, it's too dark to photograph them now and they look so-so under incandescent light.

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Life in a Coffee Cup Post

When I began this post it seemed to grow until it was actually two stories in one. Had I kept going, I would have wound up with a book, not a post.

For some time now I've been wanting to record stories of the lives of my parents and growing up with them. So periodically I'll post a tale of a time gone by, hoping to save it from the dust bunnies of lost dreams and memories.

Most people seem to have special stories of their family, both happy and sad, but few ever get recorded and as time passes, poignant memories fade. Details vanish. Names of images in old photos are lost and as a result, a lot of our own history is lost.

My mom always thought she'd have time to write the names on the back of those pictured in old photos. It never happened. Like every other wish and good intention, it was lost in the milieux of living. So without further ado, I give you a little story of my father.

Mornings with George and the Gang

My dad had owned his own company for many years. The kind of work his company performed was major rebuilding of printing presses. As a result he spent many days traveling across the states, usually by car to look at possible jobs so he could estimate crew size and costs. He loved to drive and I inherited this love.

When feeling stressed or crazy, one of the best remedies is getting in the car and just driving. In the past, nowhere in particular, just getting out of one's head and looking at new scenery was the goal.

In recent years, the cost of gas has made it more imperative to at least have a destination or purpose for the journey. The only requirement still was that it had to be at least an good 50 miles one way and not all be freeway or highway driving. But I digress, as always.

Retiring, was the worst thing my father could have done, like many men his age, it was all he'd ever known and as a group they went into the labor force early due to the Great Depression (the first one). As a result, he was often bored with facing long days of doing nothing and as a result had to find several new "habits" to replace the ones he had when he was working.

He had informed my mother that he would not be doing housework upon retirement. He did enjoy washing up the dinner dishes though for some reason. After about a year of this and with her health declining, mom hired someone to come in to clean every month.

The other problem with retirement for self-made men of his era is that they'd never had time when working to develop friendships with men the way women usually do, so in retirement he had no one to hang out with. Well, other than my mother, and despite his undying love for her, he could only take the 24/7 with her for so long.

One new habit was to get up early as he always had and go over to the local George Webb's for coffee and sometimes breakfast. Now mind you, mom would have happily gotten up and cooked a lovely breakfast and dad had proven a very capable cook himself over the years.

If my little brother or I were home, he'd trade off with mom and cook us breakfast. One had a choice of sunny-side-up, over-easy or scrambled. His sunny-side-up eggs were to die for so we always chose those! Nice runny yolk, not wiggly whites. Perfectly done. Yum! But back to my story.

The customers at Webb's in the early morning hours were men much like my father, with no place to go socially. They had been foisted into the labor pool very young because of the depression. There was no time to think of anything but putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head and your family.

So gradually a group of disparate buddies developed. They were alike but each had such a different story. The common bond was that of an unidentified (to them) feeling of suddenly being left without a purpose. Their whole life had been work and family. That bond was sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with other men and debating the state of the world.

It's important to mention here that, these quasi-friendships went no further. Men of my dad's era weren't taught such social skills. Friendships that developed through sports like golf didn't take root until the next generation came along.

When dad came home afterwards and you could see he felt worthwhile, like he had solved the problems of the world. He'd retire to the den, his recliner, open whatever current book on history or politics he was reading and most likely drift off into a peaceful slumber. So went his retirement.

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Speaking of 'shrooms Post

The mushrooms/fungi pictured look a little too scary to cook with, lol!
A few years ago I came across an exhibition of the Los Angeles Mycological Society (forgot where) and was fascinated! The group's exhibition was so intriguing. Most of the live mushrooms and fungi on display were found in the environs of LA or thereabouts! Who knew so many specimens would hail from this area?

Because of my post the other day showing some new fungal additions to the yard, this group suddenly popped into my head, so I went online to find their website and voila, there it was! Sadly, I had just missed one of their exhibitions in February which was just a few miles away.

So I looked up how to contact them. One had several options so I picked the most likely and inquired if I could send photos in an email. The person responded via email the next day and said just a photo wouldn't be enough. But I was invited to their next meeting on Mar. 19 at 7:30 p.m., where members (who are non-professional hobbyists) would be happy to give it a try!

Unfortunately, the meeting venue is the Times-Mirror Meeting Room at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Too far for me to venture at night with the shape my knee's in, so I'll have to wait for their next exhibition. Darn!

Yeah, I know it sounds like a boring hobby, but for some reason I find it fascinating especially given the recent discoveries of healing properties of fungi. Seriously, look at all those weird shapes above!

For now, it'll all have to wait till I figure out what to do about my knee. C'est la vie. (Hey, that rhymed!) Thank goodness, I have some dried porcini (cepes), morels, golden chanterelles and shitakes for cooking!

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Gardeners, Fuertes and Ripening Tip Post

We have new gardeners who started in January. At this time of year, gardening is truly mow-and-blow since nothing much is growing and all the leaves have fallen months ago. In fact, I went out to my car yesterday evening and noticed they'd raked patterns in some areas that are just dirt.

You'll perhaps recall the rent increase of a few months ago at which time the landlord was told to instruct the gardeners not to pick the avocados on the tree hanging in the yard of this rental. In the past I'd been very generous giving her bags of them. For the extra $210/month, I felt they could purchase their own.

An avocado in the hand and Blue ignoring me.
Yesterday, I looked out just to see what was taking so long, and discovered the assistant up on a ladder batting and hacking Fuerte's out of the tree! When asked why, he informed me that "the boss" told him to pick them. Where does this feeling of entitlement come from? Telling him to stop multiple times finally worked but he took the avocados with him!

So I promptly walked limped out the gate, found the green treats in a bag by their tools, picked them up and brought them in the house. The property manager was called and soon the two guys left! Now one could understand where they might see the big fruits just sitting there on the tree and assume that no one wanted them. But at least have the courtesy to ask.

The avocados are picked as needed. They get traded for citrus from the yards of friends! When fruit is on the tree, it can be left for a surprisingly long time, months to be specific. It'll still be totally fresh and edible, in fact in this case, they actually get more buttery tasting.

Now that I've had my little tirade, I'll show you just what they were absconding with. First, my hand. The avocados were so big, they covered my palm!

My palm. 
Avocado in palm with thumb out and Blue still ignoring me.
These four would easily make three to four batches of guacamole for someone and be worth a bag of citrus, like Meyer lemons, in trade (yum). I also picked three more ripe tomatoes while out there which puts the count at seven for the week and there are four seven more in the ripe to nearly ripe stage still out there!

By the way, if you ever want to ripen fruit, just put it in a brown bag with an apple. Apples give off ethylene gas which is a ripening agent. It's used commercially to ripen fruit that's picked green so it transports well.

A. of the couple (P. and A.) who live in the other house on this property told me she was going to make guacamole for a party (after the windstorm in December that brought down about 80 avocados). She also invited me to the party, but told me the avocados weren't ripe enough for dip, so I mentioned the apple idea to her. She put about 20 of them in a drawer with an apple. (Really suggest a brown bag vs. a drawer in case you forget about them.) The poor woman had enough ripe fruit for bowls and bowls of dip! In fact she was handing out containers of it when people left. It only took two days for so many to ripen! I'm just very happy she didn't put all 80 of them in the drawer!

Does anyone else have out of season or humongous fruits or veggies like this? What do you do with it? Enjoy it yourself, or trade for other goodies? Or both?!

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