Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Mama-isms at the Kitchen Table

I heard these three Mama-isms quite often when I was a small child sitting at the kitchen table:

"Don't lean on your hand. God will get mad."

"Don't sing at the table. God will get mad."

"Don't play with your food. God will get mad."

The husband told me he was told similar things as a kid. Just not the part about "God will get mad." His parents usually said something like: "Don't lean on the table. That's not polite."

Since the Mama had to remind me more than once about not doing certain things at meal time, I must've figure God wasn't mad at me at all. And, look, I still sometimes play with my food.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Day Out With The Mama

 "I like to pick tomatoes," the mama said, looking up as she continued picking cherry tomatoes from the depth of the green vines. "They should hire me."

Yesterday morning, the mama, the husband, and I picked tomatoes at a local organic farm. It was having one of its few U-pick days for the season. We discovered this opportunity a couple of years ago. We don't pick a lot of tomatoes. Just enough to freeze to last us until the next growing season. For us, that's about 25 to 30 pounds, which is about equivalent to what the Mama used to get from her tomato plants. With each year, the yield has gotten less, so finding a place to get a deal for organic tomatoes is really perfect.

This year, the Mama wanted to tag along for the picking. She doesn't like to go out much so it made the adventure an extra treat.  She was really enjoying herself out there amongst the rows of tomatoes, plunked in the warm sun on her green plastic bench from home. The Mama had worked her whole life in agriculture—first on her family's farm in the Philippines and then on other people's farms and with seed companies here. Now, she gardens. Nurturing vegetables and fruits for everyone else to eat is in her blood.

The mama, the husband, and I worked different parts of the tomato field. Funny, how that happened. Also, good. We each were in our own zone of quietness and comfort, enjoying some solitude knowing each other was only several long rows away.

It was a wonderful day. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Cozy Book Challenge

How many book challenges did I sign up for at the beginning of the year?  Whatever was I thinking? Oh, yeah, that I could and would read books for pleasure, at the same time as I'm doing research crazily about 500,000 different professions. hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Yeah, I'm hysterical. No, serious, I am hysterical.

I started off fine. If you were to look at my book list,  you'd see I've read a dozen so far. C'est la vie.
Just the fact that I piled up all the books that I want to read, rather than scattered throughout our space is a win for me. And, for the husband. Poor guy. Once upon a time he organized and managed a very large warehouse of paper and office supplies for a California state agency. It was very clean and orderly. It in fact rivaled the cleanliness of the Mama's garden. (The woman picks up leaves and sweeps the ground every day that it's not raining. )

What was I talking about? Book challenges, yeah. There is one I did complete: The Cozy Book Challenge.   I said I would read seven to 10 mysteries before the end of September. Every time I finished a mystery, I set it at the top of the stairs, thinking I'd write a brief review about it. hahahahahahahahaha.

But, look, that's what I'm going to do right now. Yep. Maybe I'll get another bookmark for completing it. I wouldn't mind. I actually use the one I got last year. Hey, that's another win for me, since it hasn't yet fallen into some crack never to be seen again.

Okay, so enough distraction already. . . . Uhm, okay, so some (cough) most of these books weren't on my 2011 Reading List.

The Clovis Incident by Pari Noskin Taichert
I bought this book in Albuquerque four years ago because she was a local Albuquerque author. The book is now with a  friend with a request that it eventually come back to me.  I want to read it again. The protagonist is self-employed public relations specialist and she's trying to keep herself from being extra-sensitive to the spiritual world. A visiting Chinese man was killed, but his soul is stuck until the main character can solve the crime. She's in a dilemma of having to solve it because her close friend is accused of murdering him.

The Clue of the Broken Locket
by Carolyn Keene. It's your usual Nancy Drew story. She's all confident about what's what, while her two girlfriends, George and Bess, are not. For some reason, Nancy and her friends have driven up to a far away lodge. They keep running into a woman who seems to have a split personality and  who eventually becomes the mystery they need to solve. Nancy's boyfriend, Ned, and his two friends show up to help the girls figure it out.  They're also nincompoops compared to Nancy.

Farewell, Miss Zukas by Jo Dereske. The Miss Zukas series is one of my favorite series. This, alas, is the last tale in the series. Helma Zukas is a public librarian in a town near Seattle. Her sidekick is Ruth, a rabid artist. They are like night and day to each other. It works. The author ties everything up nicely, exactly how I hoped the main characters would end up. In this final adventure, the mystery evolves around Helma's elderly great-aunt and the keepsake in her box that had been stolen. The secondary stress line for Helma is the fact that she finally said "Yes" to the Police Chief's proposal.

Acceptable Loss
by Anne Perry. The Monk and Hester series is another favorite series of mine. Monk is a London inspector who strongly believes in justice. He's one of the best detectives on the force even though he lost his memory several years before. Hester, his wife, served as a nurse in the Crimean war and a year or so ago started a safe house for prostitutes and destitute women and children in a bad part of London. It was Hester who helped Monk gradually gain confidence in himself and his abilities again. Through that all, he thought of her as a pain in the neck and so unwomanly, but yet Hester was who he would seek out to sort through his cases. It took several books before Monk realized he loved Hester. In this book, Monk and Hester want to find and arrest the owner of the boat on which orphaned boys were kept and used as play toys for the rich and famous men. Yes, Anne Perry does not shy away from disgusting criminal elements of  Victorian London. Perry also is scared to throw in complications. It is possible that the owner may be the father-in-law of Monk's and Hester's friend.

Fatally Frosted by Jessica Beck. The protagonist is a doughnut store owner and baker. This is the second story in the series, and the third is sitting in the pile. It's not so much that I like the characters as I like the doughnut recipes. I also like that sometimes Beck describes in context how to make doughnuts. Yes, I crave for doughnuts when I read this book. No, I didn't eat any. The mystery to this tale: A hated woman in town was poisoned by one of the baker's doughnuts.

Mr. Monk on the Road
by Lee Goldberg. Another protagonist named Monk. This is the same Mr. Monk of the TV series. Mr. Monk and his assistant Natalie are exactly how they were in the TV series. The book series is written in first person from the point of  Natalie. This is  the fourth or fifth book I've read in the series. It's the funniest yet. Mr. Monk, if you don't know him, has many quirks like he has to wipe his hands immediately after shaking a person's hand and that everything must be symmetrical. Natalie keeps him from going over the top. Mr. Monk was a former police detective for the San Francisco Police Department. Because of his quirks, he can't get his job back. But, because he is a dynamite detective, he is hired as a consultant. In this tale, Mr. Monk puts a sleeping pill in his brother's drink and then puts Ambrose in an RV so that the brother can see something of the world. Ambrose, you see, is an agoraphobic. This "kidnapping" is Mr. Monk's birthday present to his brother. Poor Natalie. She has to deal with two crazy brothers and the deaths that keep happening where ever they spend the night.

The Merry Wives of Maggody
by Joan Hess. I used to read this series a lot. It stars Chief Arly Hanks of the tiny town of Maggody, Arkansas. The characters are hilarious. Almost everyone in the town are Buchanans and many of them are married to each other. In this tale, the women of Maggody in all their righteous glory have decided to put on a golf tournament to help the poor golf widows. The prize is a very expensive, high powered boat. Of course, all the men of Maggody want the boat, so they've entered the tournament even though they've never played golf. Their wives are furious, so they've signed up for the tournament too. They're also unskilled in the game. Throw in the professional and almost-professional golfers, each with issues, and what do you get. A murder. I confess, I got bored halfway through, so went to the end and read backwards. I guessed right about the events.

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara. This is a beautifully written tale. It's a voice and style I rarely come across. Hirahara weaves fact and fiction quite well. The main character is Mas, a second generation Japanese American who spent his childhood in Hiroshima, Japan. He was there when the bombs were dropped. The mystery centers around Mas and his two friends who were together at the moment. In present day, someone is trying to find one of those friends, but it turns out that he was the one who died the day of the bombings. So, who is the one impersonating the dead man? Mas must sort it all out though he would rather not.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Perfume for the Mama, Parte Dos

Yes, finally. Thank you, dear friends, for waiting patiently. Here's Part One to my  quest  to find perfume for the Mama.

Because I was buying perfume online, I purchased a bunch of samples so the Mama could decide which one or two she likes. My decision of which samples was based on the descriptions.

The Retailer: I went with DSH, based in Colorado, because they had the best descriptions and prices for my budget. 

Roll-on Perfumes
DSH had some perfumes on sale because they were being discontinued or were made on a temporary basis. I chose two perfumes in roll-on format. It turns out that the roll-on formats are easier for the Mama to handle.

en Fleur: "...A necklace of island flowers that stirs the soul: the one and only Plumeria."  No brainer there. I love the smell of plumeria, and I wanted to share the happy scent of that one with the Mama. The mama's reaction: Okay.

butterfly: " is fresh and clear...It is vibrant, colorful and alive! butterfly's flirtatious juice is a blending of sexy summer florals, succulent fruits, and meditative tea and incense notes." The description made me imagine Mama as a young woman and the vibrant colors and smells of the tropical flowers that surrounded her. Until she came to the United States, the Mama lived in middle of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. I hoped that this perfume would be a scent that reminded her of then. The mama's reaction: She chose that one to put on when she went to see her eye doctor.

Parfum de Grasse: "Grasse is the legendary 'City of Perfumes,' the magical birthplace of superb flower essences and the world's greatest fragrance." I don't know if that's fact or fiction, but the description had me wondering if this perfume might be like Chanel No. 5. When I was small child, the daddy bought her a good-size bottle of the perfume and that is what the scent Mama wore for many years when she went out.

Parfum de LUXE: "Inspired by the Art Deco movement of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, Parfum de LUXE is Rich, Confident and Pure. . . Ladies in fashionable clothes and their perfume was a statement." The Mama definitely has style that is her own. Sophisticated. Simple. Elegant. But that's not why I chose this perfume. I wanted something that had ylang ylang, a flower that grows in the Philippines. And this was it.

Rose Vert: "In a dream I am lost in fields of roses. . . ." The mama, the gardener, grows roses in the front and the back yards. She prunes her roses,  sticks the branches in the dirt, and they bloom for her. I don't think any perfume could be better than home-grown roses. But, why not give this a try.

Cafe Noir: "It is a Paris Night. Dark and Sophisticated. . .It is an oriental fragrance, fusing classical sensibilities with the flair of the artist. It harmonizes spice, floral, resin and wood notes with the beloved aroma of coffee. It is a sensual and captivating perfume." The description is so not the Mama, at first reading. But I don't know. It may describe the woman that the Mama may have dreamt about being when she was young. . .before she had children. . .before she married. . .before the war disrupted her world.

DSH put two free samples into the package. One was called the Afternoon: "the scent of a warm day: sunny skies, soft kisses, laughter and happy memories."

The Mama's reaction to the samples: By the time we got to them, the smells ran together, so it was difficult to say which was okay, better than okay, or yes, that's the one. Checking out the fragrances again will be a fun thing to do. Probably on a rainy day when she can't go out to play in her garden.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day One

No, I haven't forgotten to write Part 2 about buying birthday perfume for the Mama. Yesterday afternoon while looking for a bookmark I found the envelope containing all the tags and bits of information about the perfume samples that I got her. So, part 2 is a coming. One day.

These days, it just takes me a long while to get around to doing the fun writing. Something called writing deadlines get in my way, as does making meals for the crew and doing the minimum housecleaning that I can get away with, which generally means when we're all sneezing. Not to say trying to stay half a step ahead of the Mama and remember to go water the flowers and chayote vines before they wilt. Oh, and other stuff, whatever they are. By the way, is anyone out there flinching with my grammatical errors yet. I'm sure they're there. "They" referring to errors.

I ought to be sleeping. I've got only 15 minutes left of the sleep cycle for my liver to regenerate itself. I read somewhere that our livers naturally do that between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. I've never thought of myself as a night owl, but that's who I seem to be lately.

So, who wants to know what "Day One" is all about?

In short: I did 30 minutes of one of those "The Biggest Loser" exercise video. And, I've been able to go almost 20 minutes without scratching the eczema on my face, which I achieved because I'm challenging myself with a timer.

It's starting all over again.

At least, I've finally started.