Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Odd Day

I had one a strange flip floppy day where good and bad flukey things kept happening. Don't know if I can recall them all at the moment - perhaps because I celebrated finishing the taxes with a wee bit of vino. But I'll do my best.... *computer screen shimmers and fades into a series of flashbacks*

I went to the thrift shop today, the one that's only open a few times a week for a few hours. I'm trying to make it there once a week in my search for a couple of specific items for my Faerie garb for this year's festival. Before I even got in the door, I spied a box of PErFeCT for me set of cappuccino cups and saucers. The woman who runs the shop offered them to me for a great price and I carried them inside and set them on the counter until I was done shopping. They were clinking around in a plastic sack and I was afraid I'd chip them. But people make little piles on the counter ALL THE TIME. I found another good coffee cup for Hubby and some pretty coasters that match my living room decor. Then I went into the back of the shop where the clothing is displayed and, although I didn't find either of the items I'm searching for, I found a great piece for one of the skinnier faeries in our group, a lovely book about the seasons, and two fae-ish skirts for me to wear any time.

I brought it all up to the counter in order to pay, looked around. "Where are my cups?"

The youngish woman behind on the other side of the counter looked around and then said "Oh, no! I sold them to that other lady!"

She'd known they were mine, she'd even offered to put them in a box instead of the bag - which she then did. But this other lady apparently had set her stuff on top of my stuff and she just started checking things out and .... well, sold them to someone else.

They weren't even priced, so I am highly suspicious. I think the other lady WANTED them and intentionally didn't say anything when they were added to her purchase. I mean, who "accidentally" buys five extra cups and saucers and a stack of coasters, huh?

The manager was standing there too and I was just sort of speechless, hoping that I was imagining it all. And then I said something snippy about wishing that she hadn't put the cups in the box until I'd come up to pay for them (thinking that it would have been more difficult to accidentally buy a bunch of loose pieces), which I immediately felt bad about because the girl obviously felt bad enough already.

The manager, a really nice woman, we know each other from years of chatting back and forth, as folks do in a small town, felt really bad too and she then grabbed a bag, threw the rest of my stuff into it and said "Free". I objected, she insisted she'd feel better. I felt bad because the stuff I got for free was priced a lot more than the cups I "lost", but I also felt better about them being so nice. On the way out of the shop I stroked some pretty silk scarves and she popped those into my bag as well.

So, wierd. Maybe the lady didn't mean to buy the cups. Maybe she'll get home and take things out of the car and go "Huh?!" and bring them back. Maybe. But if not, I have to "let it go".

But they were sooooo pretty....

But so are my new skirts.....

Okay. Let it go. Moving on.

I went to the school to get a copy of William's track meet schedule. He kept forgetting to bring one home for us. And I needed to coordinate the family's schedules for the rest of the week. I went into the office and stated my request to a woman who glanced at me briefly from behind the counter where there's a really large work desk area with two doors opening up on both the right and left side, and three more doors on the back wall.

The woman listened to my request and then disappeared, stage left. She then appeared and strode quickly, disappearing stage right. Another woman came out of one of the right hand doors and disappeared into one of the back doors. Someone else came out of another back door and went through a door on the right and then popped back out and went into a door to the left that no one had used yet. The second woman came out of the other left hand door and went back across to the right hand door she'd first come out of. Another woman came out of a back door and went left. The orginal woman moved from right to left again and then popped back into view only to go through a back door. A fourth woman went..... oh, never mind . It goes on like this for a another few minutes and then finally the second woman, NOT the original woman who listened to my now long ago request, came out of the back door waving two papers and set them in front of me on the counter. I felt like I had just witnessed a very complex choreographed Act III in a comedy play.

Not as comedic, the two papers, one which appeared to be the requested schedule, came with the following news. William's report card will be arriving in the mail tomorrow and he GPA are now officially so low that he will not be able to continue to be on the track team. That is, without using a one time waiver allowing him to continue to participate in an extra curricular activity even with his grades in the crapper.

As if on cue - maybe it was some sort of karmic theatre? - William's football coach came in and caught the end of the conversation and started to say "You're gonna use the waiver on tra...." and then stopped himself, shook his head, and exited stage right. I have to admit I can see his point, although that's not my first concern. My first concern is the whole idea of allowing a waiver in the first place. Perhaps there are circumstances when it would be appropriate to use but this isn't one of them. We've been helping, questioning, demanding, cajoling, inquiring, questioning, confused, frustrated, and any other verb you can throw in here trying to convince William that his ever decreasing GPA over the last FOUR semesters is unacceptable. There doesn't seem to be any logical punishment or natural consequences that have or will help in this particular situation, but I certainly can't justify rewarding him by signing this waiver.

Next - went to the library. Returned some library books. Uhmmmmm...... I don't think anything wierd happened.

I had a half hour before my appointment with the tax lady. My breakfast seemed long ago. So I decided to try the newly reopened Port-a-Sub next door to the library. They had a poster on the front door offering "NEW Mini Grilled Sandwiches and Wraps - Only $3.99" I ordered one. The kid behind the counter didn't know what I was talking about. I explained what I wanted again. He said that I must mean the breakfast grills. No. I walked back out and looked at the poster and said I meant the regular ones. Still confused. We both went outside and looked at the poster. Then he excused himself and went to some back office to ask some invisible person about the wraps. He came back and said I could have one but they didn't have any small wraps so he'd half to make it on a large wrap (meaning the tortilla it's wrapped in). Fine with me. He proceeded to make me this humungous grilled wrap and charged me $3.99. I ate half. I saved the other half for dinner tonight. I thought the universe was trying to be nice to me because it had lost my cappucinno cups.

I had our taxes done this year because it's been a decade since we've had an outsider do them and I thought it might be useful to make sure I was doing them correctly. That, and I was just sick and tired of doing it myself. It turned out that I had been doing a few things incorrectly, although because we ended up not needing to itemize for a few years, it hadn't cost us anything in real money. She also knew of a few new things I wasn't aware of and answered my questions about some money issues we'll be facing next year. So in the end, it was well worth the cost of the appointment. I was glad for that.

I took Rosie out to pee just awhile ago and in the dark I heard the neighbor's dark start to bark. A few barks later it turned to wild squealing and then sudden silence. It was very disturbing. We have coyotes. We have mountain lions. It was dark. My flashlight decided to choose that moment to go dead. There was no way to go see what happened. I have to hope that the owners were home and went out to check things out. I'm still freaked out.

Two more days to get the backyard and assorted outside spaces ready for our big weekend of digging and fixing. I got my brick walkway all dug up tonight, the bricks stacked tight against the house to be re used. It bums me out that all that work of designing and laying the walkway - undone. I can't think about it. All the fences we have to take down. Still worried about losing my apple tree. I have to just. not. think. about. it. I'm holding onto my friend Kathy's comment -

"If this was happening to me, so that I wouldn't think about everything that was getting torn apart, in my head I'd just start planning my brand new back yard design."

So, there is that.

I'm rambing, huh? I mean, rambling. It's probably the win. Wine. Why didn't someone say something? Okay, so I'll shut up now. I'll show you some photos instead.

You like my new lawn ornaments?

Is this a stop smoking campaign? Or a sports challenge?

Last night's late night dinner. Veggie stir fry. With the black beans, it didn't even need any sauce.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

I saw this flyer posted on the door of the local county art gallery the other day. You can click to open the photo to make it easier to read. Or you can go directly to the link they show on the bottom.

I thought this was a brilliantly fun idea. I'm going to find myself a poem for my pocket and on April 30 I'll see how many people I can get listen to me read it. It will be a short poem I think. I don't want to push people too far out of their comfort zone.

And I'll post my poem here.

If you participate, let me know what poem you chose and share it online. I'll come "listen to you read it" by hopping on over to your blog.

Earth Hour

So, I participated in Earth Hour last night. Did you? It was pretty successful apparently, although the first I even heard of it was a vague reference a few days ago and then I found out it was last night only hours before it arrived here in PST.

I joined in by flipping off all the power to the house and going off in the dark for my walk. The irony, of course, was the house was pitch black, white the night itself was not.

There was a beautiful crescent moon. Not only crescent, but low in the western sky and tipped to be a horned moon. There were street lights and house lights and headlights on cars. I wouldn't be surprised if we were the only people in town to participate. Or if others did participate, it would be those "Global Warming is Against God's Plan" types that asked people to turn all their lights on during the hour in "protest". Sigh.

I didn't feel the need to sit in the dark and reflect on the darkness. I do that on a regular basis up here in the mountains, with storm driven power outages. It turns out that a lot of people gathered together in a sort of celebratory way for the hour, so I guess my walk wasn't too off plan.

I ended up at the uptown pub where all the lights were on and a small group of regular locals were hanging out doing the Saturday night karoake. A couple of kids, one guy, and a handful of women. Not one of them can sing on key. But it's fun. I listened and sang and danced along from my seat, drank two pots of tea and read my new ghostly, cozy mystery. Celebrating the dark by coming together to combine our lighting and electricity needs seems like a good choice.

It's sort of an odd thing, Earth Hour. I mean, it would be more meaningful if people remembered to turn off unnecessary lights, did without electrical things, on a regular basis. But that's the whole point, I suppose. Not that this one hour will do anything signifigant in and of itself, but that it will inspire people to continue to be, or begin to be, thoughtful and conscientious. And of course to send a message to governments and businesses and big and small.

It struck me as sort of depressing, actually, because after an hour the lights all came back ON and it seemed like such a waste. But we're spoiled. We want to see the Eiffel Tower flickering against the Paris sky. We want to feel like we're in another world on the Las Vegas strip. We like the safety of parking lots lit up like a carnival and department stores so brightly lit one can read the fine print on the washing instructions of a garment neck tag.

Recently our local Safeway was remodeled. One of the major differences was all the lights were changed and the new lights were dramatically less bright. Although I applauded the intent to reduce electricity use in theory, in real life I felt like I was walking into a cave whenever I went in the store. People joked about needing flashlights to tell the difference between a potato and an apple in the produce section. Now, about a year later, the store doesn't seem particularly dim to me at all. We've adjusted. But I was surprised at how long it took to do so.

Earth Hour is a difficult thing to visually capture. It's photos of buildings brightly lit, and then buildings suddenly disappearing into the dark. Or video of the same. Or photos or videos of people sitting around in candlelight. You can't turn on your television to "watch it live" because, duh. You can Google news and images online after the fact. They have a collection of sites you can visit at the official website.

The interesting thing is that all the changes in my life I've been making, or working towards in the last few months, had me thinking about changing my own electricity needs just a few weeks before I heard of Earth Hour. This sort of sychronicity happens to me all the time. Does it happen to you?

I was starting to think about how my night owl lifestyle requires a lot more energy use then if I took advantage of doing things when the sun was up. I used to think of myself as being clever, using lights and electricity (the dishwasher and the washing machine, the computer and television) during off peak hours. That it was was a GOOD thing that I used all these things at night. Now I think perhaps I'm rationalizing some of that smugness. In the periods of my life when I've lived without television or computers, I've painlessly and quickly shifted into a sun up to sundown (or just after) lifestyle.

I've noticed that over the last decade, more and more lights and televisions flicker from homes all around me in ever increasing numbers. More cars are on the streets even in the middle of the night. Is it just this neighborhood, or is this something that is happening all over? Are we all, increasingly plugged in to our technology, becoming a species that has lost it's natural rhythms with dark and light?

Not that there hasn't always been folk who have been called by the darkness. Shamans and poets, entertainers, writers, shift workers, mothers looking for some alone time or up with a sick child, insomniacs, or simply those who like the sense of being alone. But even regular folk nowadays seem to be pushing the end of their day into the middle of the night.

My schedule is so upside down now that I regularly think maybe I should try to shift it back in line with the "regular" world. But then I think of how much I'd miss the night, for a lot of the same reasons as the types of people I mention above. The only part of me that misses the day is the gardening me, and that me is waiting for the chance to bloom again after I get my gardens back in a few weeks. And the traveling me, which is always up earlier than everyone else, but that's a rather expensive way to reset my inner time. And doesn't seem to be a permanent fix in any case.

It's only been in the last few weeks that the environmental impact of night living has occurred to me. Maybe this will be the insight that tips the scales for me to make changes. How about you?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring has Sprung

Lots of daffies in my yard are blooming.

And wee narcissus

Kitties soaking up the warm midday sun.

Grass is turning green. Perennials are showing green. Even my statues are turning green. What? Well, yes. For some reason her skin turned GREEN over the winter. It could only happen to me. Maybe she's turning from Our Lady de Guadalupe into Our Lady de Munchkinland?

Friday, March 27, 2009

What's in the Fridge = What's for Dinner

I wasn't even gonna make dinner tonight, as I was tuckered out from digging out, moving, and refilling giant oak barrels all evening. But, digging out, moving, and refilling giant oak barrels makes one HUNGRY! Tired and hungry. I was just gonna ..... eat cereal?

Instead I ended up whipping up a "everything in the fridge I need to use up" dinner that turned out so nicely (and was less then fifteen minutes in the whipping) that Hubby polished off everything I didn't get to on my first serving.

A cold red potato and carrot salad with no mayo - just oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of horseradish sauce. It's got a bit of chopped broccoli in it too. I will definitely make this again. If I can remember how...

Another experimental dish that revolved around using up the green beans. It's got sliced almonds, the last of the fennel, mushrooms, fresh tomato (thrown in at the last minute so it they didn't stew) and seasoned with dried tarragon. The combo worked very well together. Green beans like tarragon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just Checkin' In

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I've been... er, distracted. Busy.

OKAY, OKAY! Honest truth?

I've been wooed away by other web lovers. I've been all Twitter-pated and kissy face with Facebook. I'm sorry. It's just, they're new. And easy. I mean, I'M not easy. At least, I have my standards. But I mean, they are less time consuming. No, wait. They certainly aren't that! I mean there's more immediate gratification in the little quips and tweets.

And they're more like talking with someone instead of talking AT someone. Like here. Not that I don't enjoy my own voice. I *blush* find myself incredibly amusing usually. I alternate back and forth between finding myself witty and wise and finding myself boring and repetitive. "Look where I went!" "Look what I ate!" "Look at my new bling!" Sigh. But occasionally I'm worth the read I guess, or the halls at this here blog would be far more echoey and unvisited.

And Flickr too, has distracted me. Flickr is not a new fling, he's an old love of mine actually, who's been ignoring ME Which I DO NOT LIKE. So suddenly I'm dancing and winking and cooking him his favorite foods and going to parties with him, in an effort to get him to lurvvvve me again.

But, I haven't forgotten you. In fact, I'm insanely thinking of starting a third blog. I've got this one for every day rambles, the studio blog which is theoretically for artistic bits and bobs - supposedly of my own making but more often just other pretties I like. The third blog idea is for words.

Well, there are words on the other two blogs also. I mean, for writing and poetry and word games and editing and all that WRITER stuff. Cuz' theoretically I am a writer. A part of me is a writer anyway. I've had the blog name reserved for years but didn't want to start it up until I was sure I could sustain it in at least a small, consistent way.

I'm still not sure if I'm ready to sustain anything new, since I'm doing such a patchy job of sustaining all the plates I've got spinning in my life already, but I still think I'm gonna jump in. How's that for throwing multiple metaphors into one sentence. Or are they similes? One uses like or as, one doesn't. Can never remember which is which. Or do I mean analogies. Damn.

Completely new topic - I had no idea how many times a day I thought of or did something for my old dog Buck. I mean, life with him had a lot of complications because of his age and physical issues. I guess I'd done a lot of it by routine and didn't think about it as I was doing it, because I keep bumping up against the habit of thinking or doing something for him and finding it isn't necessary anymore. I'm passing the window by his kennel, I should look out and check on.... oh, nevermind brain. I should make some extra oatmeal for.... oh, nevermind brain. I wonder if he'd like these new chew... oh, nevermind. It's time to let him in for.... sigh.

My life is suddenly a lot easier and it makes me feel, well, guilty. I guess. He had finished his last pill for his joints the night before he died. And he was almost finished with his dog food. We were going to have to take down his kennel fence for work in the back yard in a few weeks, and I was still trying to figure out how to make that work. We were going to take him with us down to San Diego a week after that and I was trying to plan out extra time and space for him and worried about how he'd make the journey (but knew we couldn't leave him home alone like we could when he was younger.) It seems sort of noble of him to "time" his death in such a way as to least inconvenience us. His personality was so richly "what can I do for you?", "how can I please you!?" that he even passed away in a way that was all about us and not about him. Sigh.

We had our ups and downs with figuring out how to accomodate him as he aged and I'm just so grateful that we were on a really good routine with lots of happy, in the groove, doggy grins. If we'd been in a downswing, like earlier this winter when he went completely deaf I guess, and he couldn't hear himself bark, but he tried all the time anyway.. that was hard. If he'd gone then, I would have felt really guilty because I was so frustrated with him at the time. I'm so glad we figured out answers to all the problems one by one instead of just staying frustrated.

I'm just rambling.

I'll let you know if and when I get the other blog up and running.

Now I have to go do mighty works of housewifeliness and and brave shopping quests for the holy purity of OxyClean and the rich green of lettuce. And other stuff.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Good Way to Spend a Cold Day

Whole grains - sort of made it up from what I had at the house. Whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, oat flour, oats, and corn meal.

It needed a warm place to rise. Twice.

Here's the part where I rolled out the dough, forgot to take photos until I started adding the sauce and the toppings....

I got so excited to add the toppings I forgot to the cheese. So I put it on top.

Half of each pizza had shredded soy cheese and the other half had parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella. Baked them and.....

Chicken jalapeno

and veggie.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Ol' Buck

Spring 1995 - Spring 2009




He was practically deaf. His eyes got cloudier. No matter what I encouraged him to eat, he couldn't keep any meat on his bones. More and more his back legs would wobble. He loved his walks but he couldn't make it to the end of the block anymore. He loved to ride in the car but he couldn't climb up onto the seat without help. Even though I would have gladly looked the other way so he could have slept on the low couch in the living room, he wanted to sleep on the hardwood floor right by my side. He loved his kitties, he loved us all. He wasn't perfect but I've never met a dog who was more gentle and more anxious to please.

I figured if we could just get him through this cold, cold winter, we could enjoy one more summer. We could lounge in the grass in the shade of the front maple. I could pretend I don't notice when he nibbled his favorite herbs in the garden.

And then, on the first day of spring, he just curled up for a nap and never woke up.

His absence is a big echoing space.

He was a good old dog.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More Experimenting in the Kitchen, and Other Stuff

I was craving a particular salad they serve at our local pub called Firecracker Chicken Salad. It's got this spicy dressing. But we'd already gone out for lunch (on our way to the local nursery, as a way of celebrating the first day of spring) so I didn't want to eat out again. I just wanted that spicy dressing. I steamed a few things, roasted a jalapeno, mixed and blended, chopped and sliced - and voila! Doesn't it look delicious? It was! And bonus, it used some ingredients in the fridge and freezer I wasn't sure how I was gonna use.

I've been busy chipping away at the mess that is our backyard, breezeway, and yard. To clear out the backyard in preparation for some work, I need to make space in those latter two. They're all sort of log jammed together. I've taken advantage of Hubby being home to do some work that requires some muscle or at least an extra pair of arms. There's a long way to go, but we're making progress.

Before we got to work this afternoon, I wanted to do something to recognize Ostara. With no kids to help celebrate, I tend to let holidays slip by these days. Hubby suggested a trip to the garden nursery. Great idea! We couldn't really buy much, as we can't garden until the middle of April when I'll have my backyard back. But we bought a couple six packs of pansies to plant in a basket or perhaps along the border of the front steps.

We also stopped for lunch. I decided to try a popular local breakfast/lunch place that I never frequent. I tried it when they first opened, years and years and years ago, and the grill fan was so loud it drove me out never to return. But I was feeling like making changes, so we gave it a shot today. We couldn't assume that the fan would still be there after such a long time, or if it was, if it would still bother me. (Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day)

The fan, or a close fascimile, was still there, but it didn't bother me. The problem turned out to be the menu. It was a typical Western Americana tasty and greasy menu. It wasn't a BAD menu. The problem it was a menu where I couldn't find much of anything that was "allowed" in my current diet.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm mostly a vegetarian. In fact lately, cutting almost all the dairy and eggs out of my diet, I'm mostly a vegan. In the last few months I've discovered that restaurant eating can be tricky. I've become pretty good at finding something not only "allowed" but also delicious pretty much every where we've been out. But sheesh, this menu looked like it might completely stump me. Even the salads were just lettuce covered in assorted cheeses and hard boiled egg slices. No egg substitutes. (The waiter, in fact, didn't even know what I was talking about!) No soy. No whole grain breads. No vegetables except a few things in omelettes.

The only thing I probably could have ordered was the oatmeal, but I didn't want the whole milk or sugar condiments. And the salads, but after removing the aforementioned ingredients, I'd be paying $7 for ..... iceberg lettuce. Uhm, no.

I must have befuddled the waiter (a young guy) because he left and sent back the young woman manager. I asked if I could order an unbreaded chicken breast grilled and a side of grilled mushrooms that they usually put in the omelettes. And an iced tea. It turned out to be a slightly odd but delicious meal and they didn't charge me an arm and a leg for it.

This is all to say, I already found a lot of places difficult to find a decent meal. Fast food restaurants aren't my friends. Some restaurants love to smother everything in melted cheese or drippy (albeit delicious) butter sauces. But I'm learning how truly, truly, truly bad most of us eat that it's so difficult to find BASIC foods when eating out. Fresh vegetables. Whole grains. Basic alternatives for people who can't eat bread or dairy or meat or.... it's been an eye opener. Or rather, an eye widener, since I think I already saw some of the issue, particularly since I've eaten out quite a bit with my friend who suffers from Crohn's Disease (no glutens).

That's all - just more food talk.

Tonight - Dollhouse is on - Yay! The previews tell us this is an episode we wont want to miss. I think the plot thickens. Perhaps twists.

Oh wait - speaking of food - the First Family is putting in a First Garden (Second Garden? Eleanor Roosevelt had a White House Victory Garden). How awesome is that!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Here!!!

Not only did my Thanksgiving Coffee order arrive today (I only ordered it a couple of days ago!!!), but Starbucks called to tell me my espresso machine was in. Both in the same day. I was sooooo excited!!!

I'd done my research and weighing and balancing our needs, use, and budget, I had my heart set on a certain machine that got great reviews despite being in the lower middle price range. A Via Venezia by Saeco. Unfortunately, it's success seemed to make it near impossible to find. The company just came out with a slightly more expensive model with a couple more bells and whistles. I have a feeling they plan on phasing out the less expensive model and replacing it with the newer more expensive one.

Starbucks carried it in their online product line but it was Out of Stock and didn't seem likely to be IN stock again. But my local Starbucks, bless their friendly, helpful heart, searched and found me a remaining floor model at another Starbucks and had it sent up.

Isn't it purty!? And heavy. Oh. my. gawd! And this is important when you think of pushing the handle hard to seal it. There was a cheap espresso model available in town, it was about $30. I've seen three of these babies at the local thrift shop. Shall we assume they were a piece of crap? I can tell you one thing, they weren't much heavier than a popcorn maker. Do you have to have two people to operate one? One to make the coffee and one to hold down the machine? But my new machine - just try moving it. It's got a rubberized bottom and is heavier than at least TWO Ginny Weasleys - the Fattest Cat in the World.

It took less than an hour to take it out of the box, set it up, prime it, figure out how it worked, and head back out to the living room with our drinks of choice - espresso for Hubby, cappuccino for moi. The instructions were easy to follow. It would have taken less time but Hubby kept insisting I not turn the handle too far and I couldn't get a seal and it kept leaking. Once we figured out that indeed the handle needed to be more firmly turned, we were back on track.

Look at that beautiful foam. I couldn't get that sticker off the drain plate. Now that it's set up, it's almost automatic. It doesn't take any more time to use than our French Press. Our old machine had to have water refilled each time we used it, this one has a reservoir that will only need refilling after several regular days of use.

I think I've talked myself into making another cup. I better switch to decaf. Oh gee. I guess I'll have to open up another of our new bags of coffee. Tralala!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup"

Trying to get back into being a more conscious consumer again, we've decided to change the way we buy our coffee. I usually drink a cup, occasionally two cups, a day. Hubby drinks substantially more. He can polish off a whole French press himself in the morning and another at night.

We used to buy our coffee by mail from one of what was then only a handful of small company roasters and distributors in the business. We'd discovered their coffee on our annual north coastline camping forays and fell in love with both the coffee and their ambitions to provide a more ethical purchasing choice for coffee consumers.

We fell out of ordering it somewhere along the way, or at least not ordering as frequently. We found a bulk coffee we liked at Costco and since, with all seven of us still at home, we were still living near and frequenting Costco regularly, we switched to that for awhile. We gave Peet's Coffee a try after it was recommended by good friends of ours in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Since living here in Susanville, with a smaller family and Costco or Trader Joe's or any alternative choices a hundred miles away, we've done different things over the years. For awhile there was not one but two local roasting companies and we'd buy from them. They were good but only sold in small packages. When Starbucks came to town we were grateful, grateful, grateful. Of course now Starbucks is also available in supermarkets everywhere. My mom finds different coffees, usually flavored, and sends them on to us. Sometimes they're really tasty, other times they're just... uhm.... flavored.

For awhile I was totally addicted to the pumpkin spice flavored blend sold at World Market under the name Witch's Brew. First of all, how can I not buy a flavor called Witch's Brew!? And secondly, it sounds like a strange coffee flavor but it was so yummy. Alas, it didn't come in decaf, so for several years running I'd buy up three or four bags on sale after October 31 and stretch it out over the rest of the year. This last year they didn't carry it any longer. I was sad. But I eventually forgave them because that's where I discovered the Pumpkin Spice rooibas tea from Zhena's Gypsy Teas and it started a new love affair with rooibas teas in general and that particular tea specifically. (Everyone seems to love this particular tea as it's been sold out on the website for ages. And I'm almost out of it. Oh no!)

Hubby tends to stock up in quantity on the same ol' Starbuck blends he always reaches for if I don't remember to buy coffee first. Even when I do buy it, he seems to only feel safely stocked with about a half dozen bags of coffee beans in the refrigerator. We, in fact, have an entire door shelf of the refrigerator allocated only to coffee. Yeah.

Recently he's been doing his own taste testing. He tried some different supermarket choices - all blah. He tried Dunkin Donuts brand after hearing it was "America's favorite" on the commercials. Apparently we're not your typical Americans because neither of us thought it tasted any better than your average, moderately palatable coffee shop coffee.

I'd bought some of our old favorite company coffees for him as a Yule gift and he'd been using them off and on, trying to make them last. I realized that for several months now every time he offered me coffee and, unbeknownst to me (he just hollers "want a cuppa coffee?" and I holler back "yes please" or "no thanks"), he used this stash, I noticed the difference and asked him "Yum, which coffee is this?"

So it wasn't hard to decide we should go back to buying our coffee in bulk shipments from Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Not only do we personally favor the taste, they are also a small and, in the greater scheme of things, sort of local company. The greater majority of their coffees are either or both Free Trade and Organic and they have a lot of variety to choose from. I noticed they no longer carried one of my past favorites - Breakfast Blend. Oh well, I'll just have to experiment with some new grinds.

Here are a few of the coffees we purchased on our first order. Don't they look wonderful!?

Okay, so maybe I buy my coffee as much for the pretty labels as I do my wine. But honestly, I did consider flavor and usage as well. Pinky swear.

So Many Books, So Little Time

I've been meaning to do a book post for a couple of weeks now, but keep getting sidetracked by other topics. At the last couple of book club meetings several of the members brought up the difficulty of trying to read a book a month in their busy lives. Ideas were tossed around and I was certainly sympathetic to the varied situations because I've been in that "steal five minutes for myself" period in different stages of my life. And while I was trying to help spring board ideas that would help everyone, inside I was privately thinking how fortunate I am not to have that problem in my own life at the moment.

And I don't. I average 3-6 books a month. But I'm both frustrated and laughing at the fact that recently I've barely managed to get my book club choice read each month in time for the meeting, much less read any books of my own choosing. Now, not complaining. I joined a book club so that I would be forced to read books I had not hand selected (and for the intellectual and social stimulation of getting together and discussing them - not to mention the awesome food and drink people are generally serving), but I didn't think it would take up so much of my total reading time.

I used to be a huge joiner. Quilt club, writer's group, art's council.... not to mention all the kids' clubs and sports and activities. It all came to a screeching halt when Hubby had cancer and I had to pull in and focus on the heart of the family. Since then I've added back a few commitments here and there, but I'm a lot more selective. If truly involved, groups take a lot of time and attention and, part of my bigger plan to find a new direction and focus for the second half of my life, I want to make sure I'm spending that time and attention in ways that aren't just scatter shot all over the place. Since I have a tendency towards dabbling in general.

Right now I'm reading Alabama by Mark Childress. Crazy is right. I'm enjoying the book but also find a larger than usual part of my brain engaged on the "reading as a writer" level, impressed at how the author has taken the larger than life and made it seem plausible. That seems a key to writing just about anything. If you make your settings, characters, plot too "normal", they don't seem believable. Because real life is always stranger than fiction. Tweak things to be just too odd for truth and oddly, it becomes more real.

It's not a new book, I'm behind the times on knowing about it. In fact, I just Googled and whaddya know, it's already been made into a movie! Who knew!?

It jumps back and forth between two characters, Peejoe, a young boy in Alabama, and Lucille, a woman in... well, she's all over the place. I'm liking the Peejoe story line a lot better than the Lucille story line. I get restless reading Lucille, flipping forward to see how many pages I have left before I can get back to Peejoe, but what keeps me going is that this author seems like he knows what he's doing and I'm convinced the two stories will merge into something greater than the sum of it's parts.

I'm still in an I "heart" DeLint stage. When I mentioned a while back that I wasn't sure if I liked his earlier work Moonheart as much as his later ones, it's not to say that I didn't like it. Au contraire. I've got a lot of DeLint left still unread on my shelves, and many more that I don't even own yet, so I've got a lot to keep me happy for a long long time. The problem is, which one to read first!?

I'm also in an I "heart" Gaiman mood. I used to get the two authors blurred together. Not anymore but, there's something "similar" about them. Alas I have nothing new to read of Gaiman's as I've read all his full length works and some of his smaller pieces. I haven't read The Graveyard Book or Coraline, but I don't feel like I can afford to buy them just now. So I'm telling myself "Patience, Grasshopper".

I did, however, discover a BBC A&E mini-series set of DVD's at the local (and only remaining) video store based on Gaiman's book Neverwhere, which is the first of his book I ever read. It remains a favorite to this day because it was the first urban setting fantasy I ever read (or if it wasn't actually the first, I remember it as such) and it opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities. It was also the first of what turned into an entire cluster of books that I read at that time that took place in the hidden, lost, and underground sections of big cities and when I finally had the opportunity to travel by subway, tube, and metro many years later, it greatly influenced the way I experienced them.

We just finished the second half of the six episodes. I'd forgotten most of the plot. It was fun to remember bits and pieces of it as it went along. Hubby isn't a big reader, and not a fantasy reader at all, so it's all new and fascinating to him. Now I want to read the book again.


Postscript: I wrote this up last night and ended up finishing Crazy in Alabama by this morning. Crazy! That was a book club book, now it's finished for this coming week's meeting. And I'm free to read something of my own choosing. I really, really need a fantasy. Jim Butcher's newest Dresden paperback, Small Favors, here I come!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Guess What I Made For Dinner Tonight

Here's a clue:

And here's how it came out:

For those of you who dislike borscht, I'm not gonna convince you that looks yummy. But trust me - YUM. I make a whole beet version and I wish you could see the pretty beet greens in it. And again, for the uninitiated, it's traditionally served with a dollop of yogurt. So, no, that's not whipped cream. Calories? So ridiculously low you'd need a magnifying glass to find them.

I used to make this relatively often, back in the cooking for a big family days. Glad I returned to my "roots". Oh, groan. I'm gonna think back and try to remember other old favorites.

Winter, Winter, Go Away?


Although we've had a few days when the sun has been warm on one's face, it's still decidedly winter. Spring is just around the corner, calendarly speaking. The vernal equinox is in less than a week!? Even the garden trusts that the cold will eventually be turned back. I've got a carpet of violets in the brick warmed corners of the front garden and all manner of green bulb shoots are peeking up out of their quilts of leafy mulch. One particularly anxious daffy is starting to look a bit yellow on the very top. Of course that only reminds me that 95% of our winters, there's always one more deep snowfall that covers the daffodils once they all decide to bloom. Sigh.


All I know is I don't feel spring coming yet. I'm still juggling mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats from jacket pocket to jacket pocket, assorted boots are lined up in the front of my closet, two or three layers are a must. The days are gray and the nights are deep and blustery and below freezing. I haven't felt spring "in the air" yet. I haven't smelled spring yet.

Somehow it feels like it hinges a wee bit on me being ready for it. I know once spring arrives, the number of things I want to split my time doing multiplies exponentially. It'll finally be warm enough to tackle cleaning in the garage. The clothes line will go back up again. The garden will need tending and planting. It will be warm enough to paint things I've been meaning to paint. Plus everything I want to do year round. My spirit craves spring's arrival but another part of me knows I'll feel the stress of the added desires once it arrives. Do I need to say YES to spring, embrace the fear of new growth, for the season to change?


Sunday, March 15, 2009


I couldn't decide this morning (okay, for most people it was already afternoon, but for me, it was morning!) on oatmeal or Cheerios. And then I remembered I'd bought a carton of the season's first strawberries last night at the market. Usually the first ones are a bit tasteless but these are giant and very sweet. Perfect atop pancakes. But hmmmm, I'd made pancakes a few weeks ago, certain they were a healthy lowfat choice. I mean, I made them with whole grain flour skipped the butter and syrup. Boy was I shocked when I discovered that 100% whole wheat, although healthy and high in protein, is also high in calories. Who knew!?

So I decided to tweak yet another recipe. Well, not a recipe. I've been making my pancake and waffle batters from scratch for so many decades that it's not really a recipe. But whatever it was, I tweaked it. I substituted oat flour for half the wheat flour. I didn't have oat flour in the house. But I did have old fashioned oats and a coffee grinder. Voila! I added two tablespoons of flaxseed meal because, although it's high in calories, it's great for lowering cholesterol. A tweak more here and a tweak more there and .....

There's no sugar in the pancakes themselves but the soy milk and flaxseed made it quite sweet enough. It seemed sort of "dry" (it didn't taste dry, the pancakes were moist, but it looked dry) so I added a dollop of nonfat yogurt, which made a perfect substitute for the butter my brain expected to be there. The pancakes (which were about 4" across or so) were 122 calories each. That whole pile of strawberries, less than 20. But again, most importantly, delicious and filling.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

"We're walking, we're walking..."

....we're walking..." Name that movie quote!

Just a few pictures I've snapped on recent walks about town.

All along the river there's these "skewered" piles of leaves. I get that they're caused by some sort of water movement but... how do they get skewered so perfectly?

Another cluster of leaves but this one looked like some sort of dried corsage of flowers and garlands. I thought it was pretty.

Sing? Uhm, okay.

"A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while."

Name that tune!


"I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all"

Name that tune!


"She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair."

Name that tune!


"Nibblin' on sponge cake,
watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp
They're beginnin' to boil."

Name that tune!

I think you have to be ooooold to have a chance at most of those. While you're thinking about them, let's keep walking...

Huh? They didn't want us to sing after all. Oh well, too late. "Left a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day...."

The sun set - the creek turns silver under the darkening blue skies.

We're not Paris, no miles and miles of window art. But I liked this one with oversized flowers in the window of a nursery and florist. What are those creatures. A swan. And.... are they bear cubs? Foxes? Dogs?

All the way dark. The lights in this shop made this bride look more like one of the undead. Perhaps it's time to get back home.

We're walking, we're walking....