Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where Romance Is

Where is the most romantic destination you have visited?

I've come across this question several times during the last few days, both in print and online. Some publishers say that if I write about it in a minimum number of words (usually between 100 and 200) or less and it gets published, then they would send me money.

Easy, right?

Writing about something in so many words is no problem. I may ramble, but I can edit unmercifully when necessary. But coming up with a romantic place, which I assume also means with my honey, well that's a bit more difficult.

Sure, there was that bed-and-breakfast on the Kona Coast, where a guy named "Dude" answered when I called about reservations, which made me wonder if we really should stay there. The same place where I lost the husband on the highway that first night. We were driving back from dinner. It was so dark, we couldn't find the B&B's driveway. After several passes up and down the highway, the husband got out of the car to look more closely for the turn out (turn in?). Instead of following him, I went the other way because that's where I argued was the driveway. Of course, when I turned back, I couldn't find the husband. I drove back and forth in a very obvious first-year marriage panic. I even stopped at a house where the folks were hanging out on their front porch and asked if anyone saw a tall guy with red hair walk by. They were not surprised, which makes me still wonder how many tourists asked them similar questions after sunset.

What was I talking about? Yeah, romantic destinations. I suppose those are magical settings where couples all of a sudden feel lovey-dovey. That is probably why I can't come up with one specific place.

I asked the husband to pick one and he couldn't either. Turns out we both feel that wherever go together is romantic (sappy, I know)—a road trip, hiking a trail, pedaling our bikes through the neighborhood. . . .Even going to the grocery store is a romantic destination for us. After all, what's not lovey-dovey about the husband wheeling the cart as we go up and down the aisles?

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Sky Full of Moon


Tomorrow will be a full moon. According to some experts, this full moon will be the closest one to earth in 2010, which means that it shall be the largest.

I was fortunate tonight in closing the blinds as the moon was rising over our neighbors' rooftops. Otherwise I wouldn't have gone outside running with the camera. The cosmos gives the best cheapest thrills around.

By the way, the astronomy experts report that tonight the moon and Mars will be dancing brightly near each other. (Too bad it started to rain.) For more about the celestial pair, check out this page at Universe Today: "Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: January 29-31, 2010" by Tammy Plotner.

Saving Cents

This morning's frenzy was all about finding e-coupons for our weekly grocery outing. As far as I'm concerned 25 cents off something is 25 cents saved. Right?

Until recently, I had been an inconsistent coupon user. Most times, I tore them out of newspapers and magazines and then forgot to bring them along or forgot what pile of papers they're under. Now I put coupons in a basket and check it before heading off to the store. Most times. Every so often the husband asks if I have a coupon for such-and-such product and I happily seek out the basket. I call that progress.

Today, I decided to go online and find e-coupons for the products we buy on a regular basis. (Something I should've thought of much earlier.) I thought it would be easy to do. Ha, ha. What was I thinking? I was very specific in my keyword searches: entering "coupon" plus the brand of the product, such as coupons Special K.  I was surprised that not all company web sites blatantly offer e-coupons. That ought to be a no-brainer. I was also amazed that many e-coupon web sites offer coupons for a fee. There also some web sites that send coupons instead of allowing subscribers to print them instantly.

I didn't feel like reading the small print at e-coupon web sites or downloading installers to print e-coupons, so I was unable to get the coupons that I wanted. That's what comes from being paranoid. I did register or sign up for a newsletter at a few company web sites.  I'm happy to report that I got one-dollar off coupons from Seventh Generation and the 50-cent off coupons from Brown Cow. Signing up for promotional offers at company web sites may be the way for me to go. Still, I won't give up on finding an e-coupon web site that has me jumping only through a few hoops to save money. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Cooking Mishmosh Frenzy


I got out of bed this morning with an ambitious goal: Cook two—hopefully, three—days worth of meals. I enjoy cooking, but not all the time. Before the husband and I moved in with the mama (my mom), when I didn't want to cook, we went out. Unfortunately, the mama doesn't like eating out, although she's okay with us getting take-out. It's just as well since the restaurant choices in our town are limited. And, of course, we aren't made of money.

I do my best to make nutritious, balanced meals that meet the taste preferences and dietary needs of us three. The husband limits his salt intake because of his high-blood pressure, the mama needs foods on the not-so-chewy side, and I keep tabs of foods that make me itch. The mama is also very particular. If she doesn't like something, she eats a few bites, shoves the plate aside, and says, "I'll eat this tonight (or tomorrow)." Then several days later, I throw it out or eat it on leftovers day. Another challenge is to make economical meals with organic, local products as much as possible. It's easier today than it was six years ago when we moved here. (That being Hollister, California.)

Today, I dealt with a Cornish hen and a couple of beef shanks that had been thawing in the fridge for a couple of days, as well as a small bag of frozen shrimp. In the veggie bin were a small head of red cabbage, a handful of brown mushrooms, a small head of Napa cabbage, several beets, some roasted chestnuts, ripe persimmon, and a package of tofu that needed to be consumed tout de suite. A very creative mishmosh challenge!

All in all, cooking was fun today. The results: We had shrimp toast and beets for lunch, and grilled Cornish hen with sweet-and-sour red cabbage, persimmon, and chestnuts for dinner. Tomorrow. we'll have beef, tofu, and veggie soup for lunch and/or dinner. I'll post recipes for these dishes some time. I figure the cost of these meals for three might equal a meal for one at a restaurant. Yep, that's what I like to think.

After today's frenzy, I may be suggesting take-out on Friday.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Taking Off for the Present



For our Christmas present, the husband and I decided that we would take at least one day off each month in 2010. That is, go on an adventure! Because we are so good at letting things slide, we designated the 23rd of every month to be The Day.

As January 23 approached, I did wonder if the husband would remember. And when he did, I wondered if we would actually do it. It's not that we don't like adventures. It's just all that pre-planning stuff: What shall we do? Where shall we go? If it rains, what then? and so forth and so on. Neither of us felt like doing the research, and neither did. The night before, we thought about the last place we wanted to check out and that's where we chose to go—Marina State Beach on the Monterey peninsula.

We woke up to a bright sunny morning. Couldn't ask for anything more after a week of rain. Well, OK. Doughnuts and coffee for breakfast and lunch at a Korean restaurant. Yum.

No straight routes for us that day. If we had, we would've been at the beach in 30 minutes. Instead, we kept to the back roads. Some we knew. Some we didn't. We took no-through roads to see where they ended. We drove by our instincts, my vague memories of the area, and an old AAA map. A few times, I turned right when the husband said left, and vice-versa. No problem.

The highlights of our adventure?
  • We could see the ocean many miles away from the top of San Juan Grade Road, which is the back way between San Juan Bautista and Salinas.
  • On Old Stagecoach Road we imagined Charley Parkhurst driving the Wells Fargo stagecoach in the mid-19th century. Charley was a well-known and well-liked stagecoach driver. Nobody knew she was a woman until she died.
  • We wondered if the old guys with the buckets at the head of the Juan Bautista deAnza National Historic trail were going mushroom hunting.
  • On the way down a dead-end road, we saw a brownish-white bull laying contently in its pasture. It was HUGE. On the way back, the bull looked less than 1/2 its size. He must've eaten one of those Alice-in-Wonderland mushrooms.
  • From out of nowhere a sheriff's cruiser pulled up behind us when we stopped on a nowhere road trying to figure out which way we should go. Some people moan, "Oh, crap!" when they see a law enforcement officer in their back mirror. Not us. At least not that day. We happily greeted the young deputies with big smiles. They ran our licenses through their system anyway just to make sure we weren't bad guys. I really wanted to ask what she found out about us.
  • We walked along the beach and listened to the surf, sometimes holding hands.
I don't know about the husband, but I am definitely looking forward to February 23.

P.S. Here's a little something we saw at the beach.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Still Waiting for that Martini


We bought a bottle of martini olives  so we could celebrate the coming of 2010 in the comfort and safety of our home. I make a decent gin martini, according to the husband. However, he's still waiting for that Happy New Year martini.

This is the second bottle of olives that we bought in the past six months with good intentions of drinking ourselves silly. Who wouldn't with such cute martini glasses from which to sip. (Ha! No dangling prepositions by which to chide me, Husband.) 

So, what are we doing with the martini olives? Mostly, I use it as an ingredient in what's-in-the-fridge concoctions. Because they're salty, I usually use one or two. Today the olives became part of a steak marinade. Here's what I did:

First, I prepared and put these ingredients in my marinating bowl:
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 martini olive, minced
  • 3 branches of Italian parsley, roughly chopped
Next, I added these ingredients (Note: These are all "about" measurements):
  • 1/8 cup  martini olive juice
  • 1/4 cup  apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • several shakes of black pepper from the tin
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of fig jam (or other sweet jam)
Then I combined everything and had the husband taste it. "Yum," he said. "It has a bite to it."

The meat has been sitting in the marinade for several hours now. We might have it tonight or tomorrow for dinner. Maybe, I'll make some martinis, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Twelve Days Later

Dear Gentle Readers, I thought I'd let you gander at how my head looks today. :-)

I really didn't think it would grow in this quickly. Here's how it looked the first day.

It's funny how my head feels lighter today than it did on the day I cut it. Without the hair, maybe stuff in my noggin was able to seep through the skull and evaporate into the air. Poof. Hope it wasn't any of my smarts.

With Rain Comes. . .

Rainbows!

All I had to do was look out my window, too. Gotta love that.

The weathercasters say we'll be seeing rain in our area all week. I hope so.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Claytonia Perfoliata

Miner's lettuce!

The husband and I found a patch of it growing in my neighborhood. What the heck is it doing here? It was just growing out in the open between a fence and the public sidewalk. No cover of trees, bushes, or anything, which to us was weird because we thought the wild plant can only grow in the shade. We also think of it growing out in the wilds.

I was not really curious about it until today. So, gentle readers, here's what I learned: Miner's Lettuce is part of the purslane family. No kidding. It grows throughout the United States. Some folks also know the edible plant as Winter Purslane, Spring Beauty, or Indian lettuce. Claytonia perfoliata for those who like knowing scientific nomenclature. Claytonia perfoliata. That would make a great title for an Italian opera.

Supposedly, the plant got called Miner's Lettuce in California because the gold rush miners ate the green to stave off scurvy. According to various sources on the Web, Miner's Lettuce is rich in vitamins A and C. Good to know, if I ever become lost in the wilds or my neighborhood.

To learn more about eating Miner's Lettuce, check out this link: Miner's Lettuce Salad at The Gardener's Pantry.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cloth Napkins

I’ve been talking to the husband and the mama about changing to cloth napkins for almost two years. (Time flies quickly when you’re old. That is, older.) The husband and the mama had no objections. Cloth napkins are more economical than paper ones, as well as more than one tree would be saved. But any moves of finding and purchasing cloth napkins were going to come from me.

My research was sporadic and disheartening. There weren’t, and probably still aren’t, many places to buy cloth napkins, nor were there a variety of choices of napkins. And I am very particular about shelling out money, between $4 and $5 per napkin, for something I could easily make, if I had the time. As for the mama, who is even cheaper than me, I imagined her hiding a paper napkin amongst the expensive cloth one and pulling it out to wipe her mouth when I wasn’t looking.

A couple months ago, I finally did walk my talk. It was fun and a hoot putting my foot to the metal of my mom’s Singer treadle sewing machine, after some 15 years. I also forgot how much I enjoyed shopping for fabric. I bought a few fat quarters at the local quilt store, Homespun Harbor, and a bunch of material in quarter-yard increments online at Sew, Mama, Sew. Heaven!

The end result: Nine cloth napkins! I want to make at least 21 more.

Using a fat quarter is the simplest and quickest way for making a cloth napkin. All you need to do is hem it. Here’s what I did:
  1. Press a pre-washed fat quarter.
  2. Place the fabric on a surface with the wrong side facing you. With each side of the material, fold the raw edge about 1/8 inch. Press in place.
  3. Fold the edge of each side again, about 1/4inch. Press.
  4. Sew. Voila—your napkin!
More info: You can find tutorials for different styles of cloth napkins on the web. I think Holly Keller at Chez Beeper Bebe has the ultimate tutorials. She offers a free downloadable tutorial for 5 different kinds of napkins at this link.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Homemade ASAP Tomato Soup


12:59 p.m. Drats! Lunch time! I meant to start making lunch half-an-hour ago.

1 p.m. Race down the stairs, into the garage, and pull out a bag of frozen organic tomatoes from the freezer. Rinse the tomatoes, then thaw them in the microwave, on high, for 8 minutes. Next, wash and thinly slice 3 stalks of celery. Dice 1 white onion. Sauté ingredients until soft in a combination of olive oil and not-butter.

1:07 p.m. Run upstairs to fetch camera. Take picture of tomatoes in microwave.

1:09 p.m. Dump tomatoes into pot. Stir. Take a photo. Cover pot.


1:11 p.m. Finish cleaning and chopping half a bulb of garlic (10 large cloves in this case). Add to pot. With back of spoon, smash down tomatoes. Add in several mean shakes of black pepper straight from tin and 2 healthy pinches (probably 1 heaping tsp. each) of dried basil. When it comes to spices and herbs, I'm not subtle. Because the hubby must restrict his salt intake, I rarely add salt to the stuff I make.

1:14 p.m.: Carefully pluck out tomato skins with my fingers. Since the husband and the mama don't mind eating the skins, I only remove some. For that matter, why am I doing it then?

1:23 p.m. Warm up leftover garlic-mushroom and potato soup for the mama. She's not into tomato soup although I think she just might like this concoction. To bolster the protein for the husband, I tear up leftover turkey to just cover the bottom of his bowl over which I shall spoon the soup.

To go with the soup, I make cheese toast: Sprinkle shaved Parmesan on a slice of white buttermilk bread and stick in toaster oven.

1:31: Call in the troops for lunch.

Verdict: "Delicious," said the husband.

The mama looked as if she might've like some. That's OK, there still is dinner to deal with today.

I thought the soup was a little sharp, yet sweet. The "sweet" was a surprise. I had forgotten about the natural sweetness of these organic tomatoes, which we picked at a local farm last September.

P.S. The garlic, onion, and celery are also local, organic produce, which we bought at the Pinnacle Farm in San Juan Bautista. Its farm stand is open on Saturday mornings throughout the year.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Indecisiveness


One of my latest projects is divesting myself of stuff. See the photo of the snake pen. It’s inkless. Shall I:
a) throw it away?

b) toss it into one of my boxes of mementos, which I’ll open another day to decide whether I’m ready to dump what’s inside?

c) keep it forever and let my executor dump it after I’m dead?
I bought this pen years ago when I was going through a period of “Ooh, how cute. I’m a snake, I must have it.” Fortunately, that was a short phase and I have only a meager collection of stuffed snakes, snake figurines, and picture books featuring talking snakes.

No doubt, unknown readers, you understand my snake reference, one of the 12 signs in Chinese astrology. According to the Chinese Zodiac.com web site, “…When it comes to decision-making, Snakes are extremely analytical and as a result, they don’t jump into situations....” Yep. This snake pen has been lying on my desk for several days, ever since I went through my cup of pens and threw away the inkless ones. But unlike this cute snake pen, they were just plain pens of no consequence.

Maybe I’ll have made my decision about the disposal of the snake pen long before I have to deal with my spaceship looking pen. That still is full of ink!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Letting Our Minds Wander


So, do you see Bart Simpson in that tree?

How about a person in pants standing as he or she scratches his or her head?

Perhaps, you see the back side of a deer's head as it gazes at the building.

Or, do you see a mess of leaves that you're happy you won't be sweeping? That's imagining, too.

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wanna Do It?

It started by me asking the husband at the dinner table last night, “What’s the longest that your hair has ever grown?”

“About halfway down my back,” he answered.

“Me, too.” I said.

“I could reach behind at my waist and touch it with my fingertips.”

“Me, too.”

“Have you ever gone bald?” I asked.

“No,” the husband replied.

“Me, neither.”

“I’ve thought about it.”

“Me, too.”

The question popped out of my mouth, “Wanna do it?”

“Do you?”

“How long do you think our hair can grow in one year?”

“Dunno.”

Throughout last night and this morning, we asked each other, “Wanna do it?” "Shall we?" "What do you think?" "No haircuts for a year?"

When we went out this morning to shop for groceries, that’s all we planned to do. Really. Then we saw the hair salon next to the market.

And, yeah, we did it.


The Shorn Husband. . .

and The Shorn Wife

La la la...blogging.

I've been thinking, wanting, and needing (yes, needing) to begin a new blog for several months, since the hubby and I finished our last writing project. I have been lagging in some tasks, such as updating my web site, because I was awaiting the start of this here blog. What has kept me from beginning is my vacillation about choosing the right title and the right look. That can also be another way of saying I’m simply mentally tuckered out from words. But, that’s if I was being honest...to myself. After all, the title did pop out of my cobwebby mind a couple months ago while gathering chestnuts. Really, I was. Gathering chestnuts that is, but that will be a tale for another day.

So, here I am, a 56-year-old woman. There's nothing like blogging about this and that and about here and there to find my voice and rhythm. Again.

Thanks for visiting. Please stop by often.