Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Just call me Big Edie

All I've done for the last couple of hours is read the archives of this blog, You're Doing It Wrong. The author is so engaging, articulate and genuinely funny that I never want to get the end. (Sadly, she hasn't been writing as long as I want her to.) Go see; you will not be disappointed.  The verbs!  The adjectives!  I'm in heaven.  Only in my happiest dreams am I that clever.  She has kick-started my resolve to get back in the groove.  Besides, I have to start flexing my neurons so Lillie and I can churn out another season of Downton Abbey recaps.

There's a great big world out there

A few weeks ago a friend from my old job decided to set me up with a buddy of hers who is my age.  Turns out, our age is probably the only thing we have in common.  I agreed to meet up with them at a bar and listen to music.  He arrived two hours late.  The next day she encouraged me to tag along on an outing to a famous brewery in a nearby town, where I helped even out the gender ratio. Her boyfriend, the tardy friend, plus their out-of-state pal made five beer-tasters.  It was a warm, bright day and the brewery tour was interesting and somehow I rode back to town with the out-of-state friend, who was funny and friendly, although he had an unreasonable (I thought) aversion to using the air conditioner.  It was Labor Day weekend and so there was a barbecue the following day (tripling my social event count for the year) where the original set-up buddy arrived with a date who appeared to have been on the scene for quite some time.  And naturally the out-of-state pal lives seven hours away so I'm home reading the archives of clever bloggers and wondering why I even leave my house at all.

But this is good, too

You might be surprised, given the circumstances, that I accepted an invitation to yet another venue to showcase my geeky discomfort a going-away party.  I don't know where this optimism comes from.  Most of my former colleagues, including an old beau and my old boss, would be there.  You may recall that I was "let go"; a slightly fuzzier term for "fired" (i.e. no party) and so although many of them had been my friends, it was rather unwieldy to socialize with them afterwards.  And you know how it is.  You may find a spouse or a best friend at one job or another but you tend to lose the rest of them. Que sera, sera.

So as you might expect I wanted a Xanax was anxious about the party, even though logic (which has a questionable track record) insisted I had nothing to fear.  I baked cookies to bring along and put on clothes and eyebrows and drove across town to the hostess's house. THERE WERE NO OTHER CARS THERE. Wait, what? The e-mail had clearly said Friday.  I was here on Friday. What if she made a mistake and the party was Saturday?   My lizard brain (the lobe that keeps me from running out into traffic or putting my hand in fire) ordered me to just slither away immediately, but the configuration of the driveway almost guaranteed that anyone inside would have seen me arrive, so I crept up to the door and begged the hostess's husband, who remembered me, to please not tell anyone I SHOWED UP A DAY EARLY.  He promised, and I went home.  I checked; the email said Friday.  Aha! I knew it!

Except today was Thursday.

 I can see everything just fine from right here.

On real Friday, although I almost chickened out, I drove over again, if only to keep the party guests from talking about how I had lost all of my marbles since I left the company.  Turns out the gathering was lively and it was great to see everyone and I received just the right amount of attention--neither too much nor too little. I got to say goodbye to the colleague who was escaping that madhouse moving on to a bright new future, and the others saw that, despite strong evidence to the contrary, I'm still in the game.  And the husband never said a word about my little miscalculation.  (That's how it's done, boys.)

Because I'm flexible like that

I blame all the good bloggers for making me a social basket case.  The lizard murmurs soothingly, just stay home and read books.  Watch Breaking Bad and the West Wing.  Or Grey Gardens.

So maybe I should have dusted a little
Seriously.  Cats and all.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

When You're A Jet: the second half

When you're a Jet
you're a Jet all the way
from your first cigarette
to your last dying day.

You didn't think we could still jump this high

No, regrettably, this isn't us, but forty years later, they could be.  There was less dancing and singing this year; we all felt the absence of J and B.   J is in the middle of chemotherapy and can't travel, but he's feeling better so we've no complaints.  We cobbled together a FaceTime visit on the laptop and it was great to be together online, at least, and share in the joy of their beautiful daughter's engagement, but there were definitely two empty chairs all weekend.

Dr L and I have been besties for--unbelievably--half a century.  

J's baby brother and his wife joined us for dinner one night.  
New at the table this year is D, who was the new girl in fifth grade.  Later, she went away to hippie commune boarding school, which was apparently good training for this retreat.

Oh, you kids and your gadgets.
And yes, the refrigerator really was covered with mosaic tile. 

Chai spiced scones--no, I didn't make those, but they were an excellent encore to the previous night's pitcherful of White Linen.  

What, meal time again?  
A heavenly dinner of pork tenderloin began with Caprese salad with nectarines...sublime.

Oh, this house!  A massive log home with every amenity and beautiful views out every window.  
We've already booked it for next year.  I already can't wait!

Some of us are a little better at sitting than leaping.

There are so many days when I don't feel one bit lucky, but I know that I am.
I am lucky to have these priceless friends in my life.

All the really beautiful photos were taken by Dr L.  I took the Samsung phone cam shots.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Make mine a White Linen

Go ahead, guess what this is.   Here's your first clue: it's the first part of August.  Time for the Jenny Creek Cafe annual hog-tie and hopscotch convention!  What you're seeing is me (at home) making a bittersweet chocolate torte, and simultaneously making lemon basil shortbread, because if I'm baking by myself I can do two things at once.  That ratio reduces by the number of people helping me, but nobody was.

Along with talking until our throats are sore, a giant portion (see what I did there?) of what we do on these pilgrimages is eat.  Wonderful food is a big part of the equation.  It might be just as fun with boxed macaroni and cheese or Subway sandwiches, but I sincerely doubt it.  We love to make food for each other, and we relish eating it.

This looks peculiar because it's raw.  I forgot to take a picture after it was baked.  It was beautiful.

This guy is raw too, obviously.  Filleted, marinated and grilled on cedar planks, it was hands down the most delicate and delicious salmon I have ever eaten.

We're halfway through our long weekend retreat, still eating and drinking and talking.  Those with hardier constitutions and better knees have decided to climb this nearby cinder cone, and a slightly less agile contingent has gone to take pictures at nearby Lake Siskiyou.

There's the view from the tippy top of Black Butte cinder cone, which I can see from the window.
 I got up out of my easy chair to wave at them.

I'm here on a peaceful comfy couch in an enormous log home with my first drink of the afternoon (but not likely my last.)

Made with this, the most delightful stuff on earth

Elderberry liqueur is a magical potion that is better than any liquid you have ever tasted.  My new favorite beverage, by a wide margin, is a delight called a White Linen.  It has this St Germain, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, sliced cucumbers and good gin.  Last night when I was figuring out the math required to make a pitcher full I completely missed the admonition to top off the glass with club soda so after two or three tumblers full I really needed to pipe down and go to bed.  I didn't, but I should have.  Fortunately tonight I have another opportunity to get things right.

Since all I have is my little Samsung camera phone, decent pictures of this fiesta are a bit farther down the pipeline, but I will come up with Part Two, I promise.  Tonight's dinner is grilled pork tenderloin, caprese salad, grilled vegetables, and the second half of that chocolate jewel I was making at the top of this post.

Having a wonderful time; wish you were here.  Bring club soda.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Third Monday in May

Lottie took advantage of the showery day to take a few yard pictures.  Spring is my yard's best season, and cloudy is the best light for taking photographs.  My phone camera needs all the help it can get.  Traditionally, every year someone steals one of my flowerpots just before Mother's Day (Yo, thanks for raising me to be a petty criminal, Ma!)  This pot, which is cracked in half, has only been stolen once but the thief put it down a few feet away, probably because it would be tacky to give the old lady a broken pot of stolen flowers.  I do live on the edge of the 'hood, but even crooks have some scruples.

If you are wondering what to plant near your house, do not choose upright rosemary or escallonia.  If you are wondering what to plant a quarter mile from your house, select those.  They are brutally strong and grow three feet a year; I constantly slash them back.  The barberries are much more civilized and only need a little trim, which is handy because THORNS!  They're pretty though and go nicely with the Japanese maple which fades to green by summer, and also gets pretty crispy on top; it's a little too sunny there. 

This spring my dear stepmom moved out of the house she shared with my dad, who passed away five years ago.  I brought home the old pump, which provided water to the old ranch house in southern Utah where Dad was raised.  I'd like to pound a couple of long stakes through the bolt-holes so nobody can steal it, in case next Mother's Day rolls around and my local criminals think Ma might enjoy having a rusty old pump.

The new fishpond is hidden behind the fern.  So far, so good; She and Him are doing fine still alive.  

Sunday we went out to the farm to have dinner with Granny Fran (Lillie's boyfriend's grandmother) where those colorful (and tasty) happy eggs come from.  I must have looked like a soft touch because the chickens all followed me around.  We ate the first few ripe apricots on the tree and I shared a couple with my new girlfriends. 

Look at this super glamorous chicken!  He can sing, loud but not well.  He fanned out his brilliant tailfeathers like a Vegas showgirl  an NBC logo but we weren't fast enough with the camera and he wouldn't do it again.  

Today everybody's picnics got rained out. I just stayed inside with a pot of tea and the final season of The West Wing, which feels vaguely patriotic.  I'm also reading The Greatest Generation (which is rather an easy read, but I recommend it).  It makes me think about my old dad, a decorated lieutenant who served in the Phillipines in WWII, but like so many soldiers, never talked much about the war.  

Happy Memorial Day to you all, and thank you again for your service, Dad.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wet things, dry things, and windy places

For a while I've had my eye out for a big glazed urn, with no drain hole, that costs almost nothing.

Like this only about $250 cheaper.

There is an electrical outlet on my front porch, and I wanted to put a little fishpond there.  I had hoped to find one a bit larger (this one is three gallons), but I picked it up at Winco for $6.95, which is about as much as I wanted to spend.  If a bigger one comes along, I'll upgrade.   I put some pretty rocks, a small filter, a plant in a jar, water, and three little 14 cent feeder fish into the pot.

You can see the polka-dot fish in the center; the gray camo fish is just a bit lower in the frame, left of the big leaf.
I'm calling them She and Him unless Lillie decides on better names.

The first night, the fish designated as mine leapt OUT of the water like a certain fictional little clownfish, except he went over the rim and landed on the hard dry concrete.  Perhaps he had watched Finding Nemo and believed he could somehow make it all the way to the ocean; if he had checked with me I could have told him that Disney movies seldom mimic real life.  I buried him under the annuals planted on Chase's grave--together they can make the flowers bloom...

In other news...

Here is my first yellow cherry tomato!  It is currently the size of a green pea, but I have high hopes for handfuls of delicious tomatoes to come...


I confess that I was a member of the coconut oil worship club.  I loved everything about it and I smeared it generously on anything I came across.  It smells divine and made my skin feel so soft and velvety.  We were in love.

But then something peculiar happened.

First my lower legs got very dry and itchy.  Next, my arms, and then my lower back and thighs, grew drier and rougher. My hands were parched and ashy. Boy, I thought, middle-aged skin is a drag!  Lucky for me I have all this coconut oil!  I'd slather it on, and go to bed creamy and wake up crunchy.  

I'm usually much more sensible than this, but the science of oil-dissolves-oil was escaping my coconut-addled brain.  I finally made the connection and cut WAY back, switching to Aveeno or Eucerin and only a little dab of coconut oil.  

My poor skin is not ALL better, but markedly so.  I'm still quite fond of coconut oil, but I'm mostly on the wagon now.  I'm experimenting with which jobs it does best (like cleansing my face) and which tasks it needs to surrender (like keeping my hands smooth.)  We're not lovers anymore; just good friends.

As I write this, Oklahoma City and nearby towns have suffered terrible devastation from of the worst  tornado in years.  I know more bad news is coming; I hope there will be no more casualties, but the odds are bad.  If you or someone you love has been stricken, I'm so sorry.  I'm wishing you safety and strength, and a place to call home.

I may whine, but I am so grateful for everything I have. Even dry skin.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This is the way we wash the clothes, wash the clothes, wash the clothes

Didn't do it.  He swears. 
Okay well he DID do THAT, but it was a science experiment to see how big a kitten the shelf could hold
an unfortunate accident.  He swears.  

For a long time my [rebuilt] washer has leaked a little out the bottom.  I haven't had any money to replace it, so as long as I built  a levee of old towels around the edge with each load, I got by.  But suddenly it got much worse.  The levee could only absorb so much, and greasy brown water would ooze out across the laundry room floor.  It clearly wasn't going to get better, no matter how hard I wished it would.  I turned it upside down and asked e-how for help.  E-how just laughed.

Like everybody, I have to do laundry.  I confess I really like to do laundry, which is fortunate because  I will have to do it for the rest of my life.  I seriously needed a new washing machine.  

Compared to her old washing machine, this looks pretty good.
I still didn't have any money in the literal sense, but I have good credit, so the nice gentlemen at Carmona's were happy to sell me one and even installed it the next day.  I gathered up a load of marginally dirty clothes and kitchen towels.  So far, so good.  

Although basic, compared to my old washer, it looks pretty swank.  And I fixed the shelf.

If course there was a hitch.  As the lady in the Surgomatic ad realized, we live in The Future!  Good for her, less so for you and me.  All the newest technology, hand in hand with the latest social conscience,  (hindered somewhat by the notion that we need to brush our teeth using the melted ice from our nightcap because of flagrant water waste by obstinate Republicans citizens) means that we are now expected to wash a load of clothes with just one or two quarts of water. 

 Hey, I reduce, re-use and recycle.  I use cloth grocery bags. I put tennis balls in the dryer instead of brainkiller  Bounce.  I'm a good sport who cares about the planet and all, so I'm on board. 

I just would be much happier if the laundry got clean, and not barely damp merely wet.  The internet offers plenty of irrelevant suggestions  (like, "use recommended detergent" and "pick a better major"), and varied product reviews, some glowing and some scathing.  Apparently many consumers confuse "wet" with "clean",  but they are satisfied with their futuristic washers.  

I wanted to believe.   I did. 

Believe it or not, I used to be pretty gullible.  I once bought "washer balls" and used them instead of detergent for at least a couple of years before I realized they were a slick gimmick and our laundry got clean from sloshing around in a washer full of water and not because of magic ceramic pellets hidden inside the washer balls.  

(Amazon doesn't sell the ones I had, but these are basically the same stupid thing.)

So I talked to my old pals at Carmona's, which is a locally owned appliance store that tells me the truth and beats the big box store prices with one hand tied behind its back.  They suggested using the "bulky load" setting which is code for "uses lots more water than the other settings" and now my laundry comes out clean and fresh.  The new washer generously spins out a little more water than the old one, so things dry a little faster.  I promise to use that extra two ounces of water to brush my teeth.

Here is proof that I am an urban farmer with a vegetable garden in my backyard.  I have lavender (it smells nice, which is balm for the soul), my venerable old thyme plant, basil from Trader Joe's, marigolds because why not, and one yellow cherry tomato plant (note the blossoms--this could be the year!)  I am not a terribly successful vegetable gardener; but every year I plant something, just in case Dad should look down from Heaven and take pity on me, buying my produce at the farmers' market.

Haha, that's rich! You can't burn anything in the fireplace anymore.  I just dumped it on top of your dirty laundry.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Time Warp Tuesday? Okay, I'll bite.

Did someone say prom season?  

Almost forty years ago, I made this baby blue dress for my junior prom. 
 I moved away to attend college.  
I got married and had three children.
 I got divorced.
I moved back to my hometown.  
I bought a house five blocks from my high school.

Time flies.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


My pots always look the prettiest about a month after I plant them--the flowers have started to grow and bloom, but they're not raggedy or snail-chewed yet.  I love my yard in spring.

This is the tall wall in my entryway (one corner of my living room--you can see down the hall in this shot).  I've had a few things hanging there during the decade since we built it but aside from one mirror or another, nothing I sincerely loved looking at from the couches across the room.  Here's what's up there, clockwise from my old clock (har!): two framed pieces of pink coral or seaweed or some weird fungus, found at Goodwill. I'm debating painting the frames yellow or gray.  Next is a painting (by Lillian) of bubbles rising in deep water; a page from an old medical reference book (larger, below); an old photo of my mother Ruth and her sister Julianna skating at their home in Yosemite as young girls (larger, below); a calendar page by a local artist; my favorite dancing skeleton; an old print of California poppies; a painting (by Lillian) made from an anonymous vintage slide (I like to think it represents either my mother and aunt, or else me and my best friend Dr L); and a Goodwill mirror which is just a placeholder for some African safari photos which will eventually appear here (and there) when we finally get them printed.  The mirror in the center is from Ross--my mother-in-law's lovely antique one shifted to Lillian's room.

Here's the anatomical drawing I cut out of an old medical encyclopedia given to me by a doctor I once worked for.  There are so many cool images, it was hard to pick my favorite.  I love how graceful this one is; I imagine a serene woman gazing out her window at the horizon.  What did she think about all those decades, closed up in a book?

This is a tighter view of Mom and her sister, about 1932. Mom had polio as a little girl and had to learn to walk again; so it is neat to see her skating.  My great-grandfather went to work for the National Parks after WWI and the Topp family lived for a few years in Yosemite.  I love this picture. 

Here's another one I put together from a painted oak Goodwill frame.  It's headed for Lillian's room.  This page shows a "roentgenogram" (an X-ray for you twenty-first century types) of a hand overlaid with the American Sign Language symbol for love.  It's atypically the left hand because Lillian is a lefty (she signs.)  I borrowed the idea from this blog, but I had been tossing around the notion for a while.  I have a few other pages bookmarked to frame, too.

This one is in Lillian's room. For forty years I've saved this little scrap of kitty print wrapping paper from  Cost Plus, but it's old frame kept falling apart.  I stuck it in a free frame Sam found.  I stained the frame and spray painted the old mat white.    

Carson had to spend some time sitting in the naughty corner
because he tried too hard to help me and broke something.  Again.

We went out to dinner recently to celebrate Lillian's boyfriend's promotion and I wanted to prove that I do occasionally paint my face and wear street clothes like a productive member of society.  It's rare these days, but I can do it.

And this is why this post is titled "Waiting."  Poor old Chase, who one week ago had a very debilitating stroke, is still alive.  We seriously believed he would die within hours, or maybe days, but he hasn't succumbed yet.  After much soul-searching we elected to feed and water him with a syringe because he can't eat, but he can stretch, purr, and lift his head just a bit. We laid Chase in the warm sun coming in the window this morning.  Lottie seems to know he is not normal and won't lick or cuddle with him.  Dr L said that some cats surprisingly recover from strokes, even ones who are at death's door as he was, and by nourishing him we buy some time to see if he may do just that.  The real heartache is, of course, that if time passes and he never regains use of his body, we're again faced with the difficult decision to put him down. And we will do it.  There is a grave ready outside, but filling it back in felt like a jinx.    On top of all this,  it's been an gruesome week nationally, with the unbelievable Boston marathon bombings and subsequent death of one and capture of the other killer, and the terrible fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.  I admit I wish Chase had passed peacefully away last weekend so I didn't have to make the decision, but here we are.  

Also today we went to the farmers market and bought snap peas, artichoke and sun dried tomato dip, and heavenly fried samosas. At about forty carbs for each golden morsel --I only get fifty per day on this damn carb-restricting eating plan--  I only ate one, but it was the best thing I ever tasted in my life.  (The sugar is for tea; we stopped at the flour mill. This will last a long time.)

All things considered, I hope your weekend is shaping up to be a nice one.