Cul-de-sac Chronicles

Image ~ December 18, 2009

Belated Bunny Day

IMG_6196The Grand Trio will be here late tonight. They are coming after my son gets home from work. The kids sleep on the two-hour drive, and the parents wish they could.

I put their baskets together yesterday. We’ve seldom celebrated on the actual date of our holidays with them. Between the years with Dad and my son’s work, most of the time we’ve made adjustments.

My son’s wife grew up in another country and culture. Her holidays were different. It’s been fun to watch her warm to the way we celebrate our holidays. She knew very little about our traditions when she first joined our family. I think she found all the Christmastime gift-giving craziness a little off-putting, however it didn’t take long for her to adapt to the fun and whimsical parts of our holidays. I received an email yesterday reminding me about the egg hunt. She wanted to make sure there would be one, and if not, she would bring eggs. :) Funny how quickly traditions take hold.

We are also celebrating my oldest granddaughter’s birthday. Grandpa spent the afternoon assembling an engineering masterpiece, the ice castle that reigns supreme in Frozen, the latest Disney movie. She will love it.

So, big times around here this weekend. The weather is cooperating, and H’s yard looks like the product of round the clock professionals. I’ve never seen a prettier spring in the cul-de-sac. It makes you glad to be alive.

 

Frostbite

fridge-organized_300How my refrigerator looks… in my dreams.

Today I discovered I don’t care much about having a clean house anymore. I’ve been cleaning since after breakfast. The grands will be here Thursday, but we’re having everyone here – my DIL’s family, too – for my granddaughter’s birthday/Easter this weekend. I used to love entertaining, and I will enjoy the actual day very much, but there’s so much to do before a party. I still have to shop and cook, etc. So what I’ve realized is, I’ve lowered my standards. I recommend it highly. Life is easier.

I was kvetching to my son last night about having too much food in the freezer. It’s stuffed with things that get pushed to the back, and the whole thing needs to be cleaned out. He said, “First  World problem, Mom.” Of course, he’s right. There are much worse problems. This I know.

But may I continue?

H’s remedy is to buy a freezer and put it in the garage. This makes sense only in H’s world. We are two people. Two! We do not need to fill another freezer with food that will stay there until the next millennium. I need to buy less and manage better. I know this is my problem. My freezer owns me.

And my brother gave us a country ham and another venison roast on Easter. We were thrilled, but do you know how much room a venison roast takes up in a freezer?

My DIL loves my fridge. Sometimes when she opens the door, I hear her say in amazement, “Look at all this food.” The first time I heard her, I was a little embarrassed, “I know. It’s overkill.” She said, “No, no. I love it. There’s always something to eat or something I can use to make something to eat.” She is a great cook.

Naturally, it’s always filled to the max when they visit because we go from a family of two to a family of seven. I make tons of food before they arrive, and every scrap is gone when they leave, which is exactly how I like it. Nothing is wasted.

Okay, enough.

So.

Have you noticed how, when asked a question, everyone on television begins their answer with “So” now? I only recently noticed this. An anchor will ask a pundit a question, and he/she will say, “So, blah, blah, blah.”  It’s become the new “like.” Like, everything begins with so. Like, what’s up with that?

So affected.

I’m currently in the Middle East with my globe-trotting memorization project. It’s pretty easy. Their countries are so large, except when they’re not. Asia and Africa will be a challenge.

I finished my first book for the book club I joined – The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. It was okay, but it didn’t knock my socks off. Our first meeting is Monday. It will be interesting to see what the others think, and even more interesting to see what the food is like. Cuz if the food is good, it will make up for the slow-moving book. That right there is all you need to know about my priorities. See. Shallow.

There will be food. Right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Changing

spring flowersWe had no plans for Easter until yesterday. The Grand Trio can’t visit because my son is in the midst of the culmination of a long-in-the-making project. Doesn’t that sound important? Hopefully they will come next weekend, and there will be baskets and birthday cake and grand celebration. My oldest granddaughter turns eight. I can hardly believe it. All of my grands were born close to major holidays. The other two were born just before Christmas and just after.

I’ve felt a little pang the past few days. We’ve spent our Easters, Father’s Days, Dad’s birthdays and Thanksgivings at my brother’s house for years. He loves holidays and family celebrations, and he loves to cook for all of us. No rotating hosts for our family. Suits me!

But we didn’t talk this week. He didn’t approach the subject and neither did I, but I did try to call him a couple of days ago. I didn’t reach him, and I didn’t pursue it after that. I knew what was happening. Things don’t feel just right yet. Dad was a huge presence.

At Thanksgiving he was obviously feeling depressed. He followed me outside when we left and told me that our family was changing. He felt Dad’s absence keenly.

So, no Easter celebration. It seemed we would just make a call on the day and say happy Easter to each other.

Then, at the eleventh hour, my sister-in-law called. She said she had asked him a couple of weeks ago what they were going to do about Easter and he said, “Nothing.” She said the closer it got the more stressed she got. It didn’t “feel right.” So while things weren’t feeling right for my brother and me, they weren’t feeling just right for her either. Then I guess they talked it out. She is good for him.

So Easter is on.

On holidays, we look at our losses through a magnifying glass, but there’s only one way to go and that’s forward. We make traditions and we keep them for years. Then things change. Kids grow up and move to another city, loved ones die and we are left to celebrate even when it doesn’t feel like a time to celebrate. But it is. I don’t know what it will be like this afternoon when we gather round that table. I know it will not be the same, but my experience is that we usually feel better after we go through the motions of our rituals, after we soldier through bad times together. Bad times become good times again. Change is… um… always changing. Maybe that’s why we keep traditions through even the most trying times. Our spirits have to know that some things don’t change, well, until they do.

I hope all of you who celebrate Easter have a wonderful day. And I hope all of you who do not celebrate have a wonderful day, too.

 

Filling in the Blanks

Europe_population_map_countries
A few days ago, I heard a comedian say, “Most Americans can’t even identify Ukraine on a map.” He said some people placed it in the U.S. and some even put it in the middle of the ocean. He didn’t say which ocean. Politicians love to flatter us with how smart we are, and comedians love to remind us how stupid we are.

Yes, I could point out Ukraine’s general location on a blank map, but I still could only fill in the major countries in Europe, those Scandinavian ones and all those big, fat stepping-stones that go right down the middle and ‘the boot’ and the United Kingdom and Ireland, of course. That’s more than I thought I could, but those itty biddy and lesser known ones stumped me. And there sat Croatia, looking for all the world like jodhpurs straddling Bosnia-Herzegovina. But that was a couple of days ago. I found this little interactive learning tool on Ilike2learn.com, and I can now fill in a blank map of Europe. Yes, even the itty bitty ones. To what end, you say?

800px-World_Map_FINAI’m on a mission to eventually be able to fill in all (almost all) the blanks on a world map, including the major bodies of water, however, geographic bragging rights is not the purpose behind this effort. The real prize is the side effect of this type of brain exercise. Not being called stupid by Bill Maher is a plus, too, but I wouldn’t go on a mission to memorize the entire world for him. After all, he never calls.

So why then?

You’ve heard about ‘that’ study haven’t you? It’s  practically a requirement for anyone over fifty to know about that study.  It suggests that the process of learning something new creates new neural pathways in the brain. We don’t even have to be successful at our attempts. It’s just like our mamas told us, doing our best is what counts. It appears that just attempting to learn new things promotes the creation of new neural pathways. Cool, huh?

You might decide to learn that new language that you’ve been meaning to for the last 10 years. As you study the language neurons housed in the area of your brain that’s storing your native language would send electrical messengers down the axons to the cell’s center (soma) where it is then routed to a particular group of connected dendrites which would then release a chemical messenger to the new targeted group of neurons that are located next to it. New neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the new language. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.

Source: What is Neuroplasticity? 

It works the same way for new experiences, trying different things, even taking a different route home everyday.

Most of us have acquired deep knowledge about a few things in our lifetime: our job, sports, hobbies. Sometimes we forget that, albeit shallow, a little knowledge about a variety of things is worthwhile. That’s what informs perspective.

But I’m really just doing it to maintain my memory. Got to stay sharp or I won’t be able to find the chocolate when he hides it.

Now I have to figure out what I’d like to master after I conquer the world. Whaddaya think?

Frus… Frus… Frustrated

2012_10_26 passwordI’m trying to change passwords, but try doing that when your computer is acting goofy and your email works only sporadically. Like my friend’s lazy son-in-law, my email only works when the mood strikes it. The rest of the time it can be found stretching luxuriously under a shady tree, slack-jawed, heavy-lidded, feet crossed at the ankles and a straw hat cocked ever so gently over its carefree face. I would love to kick it in the shins and rouse it from its peaceful resistance.

heartbleed-bugI changed the most important passwords a couple of days ago, but there are more, and the changes take a long time because of the aforementioned computer/email woes. It’s frustrating. It feels like there are too many. Is that just me? How many homes can one person have on the internet? How are you guys doing on this? Better than I am? I bet you finished yours in 30 minutes. I hope so. If only my computer would start acting like an adult.

The world is a fickle place. It has always been so, but now there seem to be so many ways the bogeyman can ‘get’ you. What a ray of sunshine, huh? My motto: Do what you can do, and then don’t think too much about it.

Moving on…

H filed the taxes last night!

Um…

thinking, thinking, thinking… am I supposed to change Amazon? Can’t remember. Uh… no…. definitely…. uh…. NO. That would be a definitely, probably no. Better check that ‘hit’ list again. What’s up with WordPress?

I’m not thinking about this anymore.

Um…

 

Acorn: The Truth Revealed

IMG_1359We booked it over to the dump this morning with a dozen more bags of yard waste. If I could sell gum balls for a penny a piece, I’d be rich. Did I ever tell you that acorn story? I checked my archives and can’t find it, but  I may have mentioned it in a comment somewhere. It’s one of those ‘my friend has this friend’ kind of stories.

So, my friend has this friend who pledged a thousand dollars to a charity. Then she had to come up with a way to make the money because she didn’t have or didn’t want to take money from her own account. When she looked around to see what she had to sell, she realized she had a surplus of acorns. Bazillions of acorns. Acorns out the wazoo! Acorns here, there and everywhere.

She wondered, would anyone pay for these? She opened an account with eBay and found buyers. Who would want acorns, you ask? Pigs! Pigs love acorns. As it turns out, some of the most expensive pork comes from acorn-fed pigs. See there. See how that works out for the charity-giving friend of my friend. With all the hungry pigs in the world, who was she to keep all her acorns to herself? In the end, she was happy, the charity was happy, and the pigs were happy. And acorns are environmentally sustainable. Win/Win/Win!

The food that a pig eats greatly affects the subsequent taste of its fat and meat. Some of the most expensive pork and ham come from pigs fed on acorns. The high tannin levels in the acorns are believed to lead to the unique taste of Iberico ham, said to be as complex as a mature wine. Acorns are also a good source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Pigs love acorns!

Source: eHow

So there’s the acorn story.

H dropped me off after the dump trip, and took his little truck to get mulch. His brother (80) – 13 years older than H – works a couple of days a week at the mulch place. I tell H that working in your old age keeps you healthy. He says that sleeping late and getting lots of sex with a younger woman (presumably me) keeps him healthy.

I don’t know how I worked that in with the pig story.

 

 

Zen in a Can

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I painted the railing at the front steps this morning. The sun was warm, and a slight breeze blew only enough to make the chimes dance. My mind took flight like it always does when I paint. I didn’t think about anything in particular. Like a sheet hanging on a clothesline, my thoughts kind of smoothed out as I dipped and stroked, but I do remember thinking, this will be the last thing I give up. I love painting so much.

I have very little artistic ability, but while I may not be creating anything original when I’m painting, I always feel like I’m making something beautiful again. It tricks the mind into believing it is creating, and you get that same satisfaction. At least I do. Some of us who cannot create are destined to recreate.IMG_6158

I never understood why Tom shucked whitewashing that picket fence. For sure I would have been one of his suckers.

When I was a kid, I daydreamed about standing on a hillside and painting rolling hills of daffodils. I had an easel and palette and wore the smock and beret. I guess it was my idea of what a real artist would wear.

H stayed inside to work on the taxes. He said that he made a deal with himself, no golf or spreading mulch until the taxes are done. Alright! An idea whose time has come.

Happy Hump Day! You still have half the week to do that thing you’ve been putting off.

 

 

 

Starting to Start

IMG_6110It’s a mess in here. I don’t really care about the mess. I know by now that’s how he does things, and that’s okay. It’s just that, if he’s going to make the mess, it would be nice if he actually started working on the taxes. I know I told you that he started, but I got it all wrong.  Apparently he started to start, and that’s not the same as starting.IMG_6101 We had a couple of sunny days, and it made good sense to work in the yard while the sun shined. And there were errands and chores and everyday ‘stuff’ that had to be done, and then there was that jaunt over to our favorite farmer’s stand. After such a long and strange winter, who could blame him for wanting to see what there was to see? That jar of sweet pepper relish made it worth the trip. And how do you find out how much property was worth over twenty-five years ago anyway? Understandable. These were all things that had to be done before the real starting could start.

The starting could begin any minute now.

Any minute.

I don’t remember exactly how it became his job to do the taxes. Maybe because he has more patience or maybe because he can actually add and subtract. When we got married, there was never a moment when we sat down and decided who would do what. The generation before us divided responsibilities mostly along gender lines. He mowed the lawn, changed the oil in the car and repaired broken stuff; she cooked, did the mending, and took care of the kids. Sometimes the lines were crossed, but not too often. He did not change diapers. She did not change tires.

H and I never intentionally decided these things. Instead we gradually realized who was good at what. I clean the bathrooms; he puts down the mulch. I pay the bills on time; he does the taxes by the deadline – barely. But you’re likely to find either of us throwing in a load of laundry or pulling weeds or painting/general maintenance. He does change the oil in the car, and I do most of the cooking. But my confession is that I’ve never wanted to do the taxes… ever, and he wouldn’t dust a table if it had three inches of dust on it.

So I will wait for him to do the taxes in his own time…

and pretend I have a choice.

a steady stream

IMG_6100Lilac bud. Just you wait and see.

I came fully awake in an instant as something warm and wet streamed over my upper lip. The only time I remember a similar sensation was on a beautiful spring morning in 1967. I was seventeen and sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s Mustang when another car hit us. The impact sent me flying into the windshield. There it was, that strange feeling of water trickling down my face. I swiped at it, and was shocked when my hand came away covered in blood. That’s what happened this morning.

It was not a drop or two but a steady, free-flowing stream as I sat up on the side of the bed. I was in the midst of a nosebleed. I guess it’s a combination of springtime and taking Coumadin.

As I do every spring, I painted the bench on the deck yesterday. By the time I came inside, my voice sounded funny, my throat was scratchy and my lungs were wheezing. It’s going to be that kind of spring for me. This is my first spring with asthma. I had asthma last year, but I was still getting over the whole hospital ordeal, so it was hard to judge exactly how many of my symptoms were due to your basic run-of-the-mill recovery, and how much could be attributed to, well, spring being spring.

We’re going to barbecue on the deck tonight. A friend is joining us. It’s going to be one of those fourth of July meals: burgers and dogs, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans and apple pie. I swear. Apple pie! Independence day all the way… except it’s April. It’s going into the eighties today. Our coats are still hanging on the backs of kitchen chairs. Can you believe it was snowing and sleeting less than two weeks ago? What? Crazy weather AND monstrously huge chicken breasts? Can the end be far behind?

My jonquils were beaten half to death by the snow and sleet, but they still survive. I love that about them. We should all be so sturdy and beautiful.

Have a nice weekend, everybody. No bloody noses allowed.

 

 

 

Garlic, Lime and Cumin Chicken

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A few days ago, Linda at The Task at Hand left the following comment.

I have some chicken breasts marinating in the fridge right now. The marinade’s from the executive chef at a hot Houston spot. We’ll see. It’s quite simple (1/2 c fresh lime juice, 1 T cumin, 2 T olive oil, 4 garlic cloves, chopped, salt & pepper to taste).

Don’t you just love getting a recipe in your comment section? I never met a chicken recipe I wouldn’t try. I bet chicken recipes are googled more than anything else in the entire universe. I have no proof, but I bet I’m right.

H and I put this together a couple of days ago. It only took a few minutes. Linda marinated her chicken about four hours and then cooked it in a skillet, adding the marinade. We baked ours – one drumstick and two breasts – about 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Those chicken breast were so huge that I put them back in in the oven for another ten minutes. How big do they think we need our chicken breasts? For crying out loud, how do the chickens walk around with all that?

I wish I had a photo of the finished product, but we scarfed it down. *bad blogger* It was even better the second day when I ate it for lunch with leftover mango & avocado salad and roasted asparagus. All the flavors had time to marry and intensify. I think it would make good chicken sandwiches the second day. I will definitely try doing it in a pan on the stove next time. Thanks, Linda.

Roasted Potatoes

IMG_6079I served the chicken with roasted potatoes. I usually have a few purple ones in there, but I couldn’t find a one in the pantry.

We’ve recently taken to buying small potatoes, cutting them in half, tossing them in olive oil and salt, turning them cut side down in the pan and roasting them at 400 degrees for about forty minutes, but check them a few minutes early just to be sure.

IMG_6095They are so delicious. The cut side is slightly browned and crusty and the center is soft and creamy. Love them.

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