New Year's resolutions, for me, tend to be a waste of time...mostly because they are the same every year (exercise, lose weight, ho-hum...) and they are never fully kept. However, I am in the mood for a small change which I am not even going to call a resolution. So, no to resolve...and yes to evolve.
This 2011 evolution will consist of baby steps in the direction of bringing more openness into my daily life by:
1. saying what is on my mind rather than stifling myself
2. asking more questions, even unpopular ones
3. not worrying so much about what people think about me
4. relaxing my fear of conflict
5. developing a thicker skin
At the same time I want to retain my sensitivity to others' feelings and to be a kind person; I have no intention of morphing myself into a friendless know-it-all boor. I just think that a little more openness would be beneficial and help me enrich relationships with friends and family.
Calories, that is. Well, I suppose I ought to be, but I am not. It is my favorite time of the year for indulging my palate, starting with the annual egg nog purchase which happened yesterday. My sweet tooth is oh, so happy to have this old friend in the fridge.
Of course, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Continuing on with my sugar fest, I find myself in a baking mood, a very rare occurrence. Having already created delicious cranberry walnut shortbread cookies, I got out my well-loved recipe for peanut butter cookies, always a favorite. My intention in baking them was
to gift all of them away; I made 4 dozen but ate one dozen of them, including licking bowls, spoons and beaters. Oops.
I am well on my way to overindulgence but am trying to adhere to my moderation policy:
Everything in moderation,
It is an effective mantra to carry around in my head but works better when there aren't so many holiday temptations in my path. So, calorie counting is not on my agenda. Fun is! I'll deal with it in 2011. As usual.
Thanksgiving is behind us, and it was a happy one with lots of good food and fun...though the celebrating, which went on for several days, has left me wondering what is wrong with my bathroom scale; it is weighing me 3 pounds heavier. It must be broken.
The memories of a fun time at my daughter's home and, the weekend after Thanksgiving, with friends at Dillon Beach keep running through my mind for a repeat performance of holiday pleasures. However, now that December 1 has said hello, my thoughts are turning to other matters.
Away with all the turkeys and pumpkins! It is time to start thinking in a red and green mode, so today I attacked the storage room and rummaged through assorted boxes deciding what comes out to deck the halls and what stays sadly behind.
Yes, the madness starts here and now. Am I ready for it?
I am a reluctant baker, mostly because it is important to be exact with measurements when baking, and I am a cook who enjoys just eyeballing my ingredients. However, Kary at My Farmhouse Kitchen recently posted a recipe for cranberry walnut shortbread cookies that appeared to be festive and, most important, so simple that I thought that I could put up with the rarely used measuring cups and spoons. I am so glad I did!
They turned out fabulously, just as delicious as Kary said they would . Her blog included a photograph of her beautifully finished cookies, showing evenly colored and perfectly round spheres while mine, typical of an uncertain baker, have uneven edges and spots that are a little on the burned darkish side. But the taste...oh,so divine! This recipe is a keeper.
Cleo and Winnie hung around the kitchen while the cookie creation was happening, hoping that a morsel or two might fall their way. Since I am not the neatest of cooks, they lucked out. Who knew pugs liked cranberries!
The cats, on the other hand, snoozed through the entire culinary process, content to wait for their dinner and correctly trusting that I will keep them supplied with their favorite treat: green grass, for all year-round munching, growing in a clay pot inside the house. The latest batch, just now sprouting outside, will shortly replace the half-eaten one now being enjoyed. Yes, I have spoiled animals!
When will I bake again? Well, probably very soon...and this same recipe will be my target. Since I have already eaten 5 of these marvelous cookies, there is no way there will be even a crumb left to take to Thanksgiving dinner, still four days away.
Wow. Baking twice in one week: That might be a record for me.
Feeling a bit like a vulture on the prowl, I visited a local estate sale in search of...who knows what. Just looking. That's what I told myself. This particular sale was held in a shabby woebegone barn located waaaaay up a twisty dirt road in the depths of Forestville.
After parking the car, I ambled toward the poor old barn's entrance thinking, as I spied baskets and boxes galore of junk yard items, that I was wasting my time. However, that was not the case as I found my way through the introductory trash maze and entered into a wonderland of forgotten once-loved treasures with bargain price tags .
I left the sale with a few choice collectibles, my favorite being a cheery tomato salt and pepper pair that called my name pleading, "Take me with you." And so I did. The vulture guilt faded, especially when I arrived home and placed my fabulous find on the kitchen counter where they lit up the room like Christmas tree lights. They make me smile.
1. Why do some people whisper certain words in conversation as if saying them fully aloud would be too awful? Example: There are so many (sotto voce) Mexicans in that store. Or I didn't know he was (here comes the sotto voce) gay. These types of statements are usually accompanied by appropriate body language: a hand cupped around the mouth and head turned abruptly to the side to engulf the listener as the apparently distasteful word is uttered.
2. Why, when someone makes one of those whisper comments in my presence, do I just let it go? OK. I know the answer to this one: Hating confrontation, I have to be really pissed off before I launch into an attack mode.
3. Why do so many politicians love to say "with all due respect" before delivering a scathing zinger?
4. Why are people paying big bucks for jeans with faded spots, wrinkles, and rips?
5. Following the example of draft card burners of the 60s, why don't Tea Party seniors "put their money where their mouths are" and burn their Medicare cards? It's not quite the same, I know, because $$$ is involved in the latter situation; but why not be consistent in word and practice? Hello, hypocrisy?
Here we go! Well, I knew those warm, outdoorsy kinds of days were soon to be a thing of the past, and so it is. The startling drop in temperature coupled with the first rain of the season is Mother Nature's way of telling me to trade the sleeveless dresses and comfy shorts for long pants and woolly sweaters. Done!
Arriving along with the expected rain and b-r-r-r factor is the onset of my first cold of the season. It seems to go with the chilly, soggy territory. With my tissue box nearby, I am all cozied up in my flannels and about to slurp piping hot black bean soup into my mouth. After that will come a major decision: whether to read my book or watch a DVD. Or maybe just nap. I do love nodding off with the pitter-patter of rain gently ringing in my ears.
The drenched picnic table, no longer the center of joy and celebration, pines forlornly on the deck, remembering summer's margaritas, chips, guacamole, and the sounds of laughter. Those happy days will return eventually, but in the meanwhile quiet is the name of the game.
Winnie and Cleo
The lady pugs, lovers of sunshine and deck merriment, have abandoned this now saturated summer scene for the comfort of their snug wicker basket, reluctantly going outdoors and getting their dainty paws wet only when their bladders are about to pop.
So I welcome the raindrops, the grey skies, and the chill in the air. My sneezing and sniffling? Well, that I really could do without. Now, for that black bean soup...
My lovely second cousin (2Cuz) and I had another get-together yesterday, and I never know how things are going to go when we adventure together. We attended an enchanting production of Travels with my Aunt at the Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma.
I was thankful that we were not going shopping, which requires that I keep track of her purse and hastily retrieve the 20 dollar bills that somehow tumble out of it. In addition, a theater date would save me from witnessing uncomfortable situations with local merchants...like watcing her attempts at bargaining flea-market-style at Macy's while complaining about the high prices and shoddy merchandise. All sweetly done, of course.
Yes. A theater outing . What could go wrong? Surprisingly, nothing much did, though she had complaints about the condition of the lobby, which - I have to admit - smelled like cat piss, a smell I know too well, unfortunately.
She slept through most of Act I and then at intermission grumbled that she couldn't understand the actors' British accents and found the show trying. Well, duh...of course, she couldn't understand their accents. She was asleep! At least she didn't snore, but the up and down lurching of her head as she tried to stay awake was amusingly distracting.
Now, here's the surprise. At intermission I took advice from a very wise writer(thank you, Patti) who once suggested that I question 2Cuz about her life and use her tales in my writing, which seemed like a great idea and perhaps more interesting than focusing in print on her foibles and our less than perfect visits. With this is mind, I pioneered off in a new chatting direction.
I am not quite sure how it happened, but something conversationally snapped, and I discovered a shocker: she was 14 and living in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. How, after all our time together, did I not know that? She related how the community was without communication and didn't know what had happened for 48 hours.
Then Act II began and, happily, she was alert and enjoyed the rest of the play as much as she could, considering Act I was a black hole for her. The Pearl Harbor discussion will be continued; I want to know see if I can score some details of what that experience was like for her.
I have spent my life mostly in the present, a good place to be, but at the same time I did not question family members, now gone, who surely had great stories to share. And, weirdly, now that I am a senior, I think I have tales to tell, but...guess what...no one is asking. All the young family members are juggling jobs, busy schedules, childrens' activities, and the day-to-day trials of managing the giant responsibility octopus that is life. Been there, so I understand. Other side of the coin: While I have anecdotes to impart, I certainly don't want to be one of those rambling old farts sitting at Thanksgiving dinner boring everyone to death. Isn't there a middle road here?
Things I wish I'd asked:
1. Dad -his experiences as a WWII bombadier
2. Mom - what it was like to be an only child, never know your mom, have a step mother
3. Grandpa - about my Grandma Maude
4. Uncle Henry - what it was like growing up in Ferndale
It's too late for those questions to be answered, but with 2Cuz it can be different from now on. I am going to gently probe and see what else is in there. So we'll continue our iffy excursions and maybe even venture out to the theater again... even if she does sleep through Act I. There's always intermission.
I know autumn has arrived, but Mother Nature is having none of it, taunting me with record-breaking heat this week. Weird: I wore long pants and sweatshirts most of the summer, and now I am decked out in shorts enjoying afternoons on the deck, drinking iced tea and reading a good book.
I am not complaining as I know these window-open days will soon be a thing of the past, and I will be wishing I could still have the fresh air flowing through the house. However, I do adore the familiar differences of the seasons, and there is something very wonderful about the crispness of the autumn air and seeing my breath as I take the pug ladies for a morning stroll.
So I am ready to get out the boots, the down vests, the warm socks, and the woolly scarves that are symbols of what's to come in the next few weeks. I welcome the change and am eager for the now green pyracantha berries to spectacularly broadcast their brilliant red, for fragrant candles to be lit, and for soup to be simmering in the crock pot.
A local company was brave enough to open a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? last weekend, and I attended with trepidation remembering the last time I saw this difficult-to-perform play and wound up exiting at intermission...the first one, as there are two. Yawn.
Well, what a difference from my previous experience! I am not saying that the actors were Taylor and Burton, but they were amazing and I watched their mesmerizing performances with my dropped jaw almost reaching my lap.
I know from my limited stage experience that fisticuffs are carefully choreographed, but when an actor hits the stage with a noisy thud, it's gotta hurt. And there was a lot of physical contact going on among the four actors. The dialogue was equally astounding: shouting, overlapping lines, spit flying, the whole ball of wax... almost too real, with heart wrenching pathos at the play's end. It was so intimate and overpowering, I felt like I was intruding.
The actors must have been totally exhausted after curtain calls. I know I was; and all I had to do was sit there and gape at the human eruption happening in front of me, making the discordant family scenes in my memory bank seem like a visit with The Brady Bunch. Whew.
Forty-three years ago, today. Was I a fool? No, that's too harsh. I think it is more accurate to say that I was young, hopeful, and idealistic. I knew there was no such thing as a handsome prince on a white stallion coming my way, but I really hoped I had found true love. Ya know, the one. A car crash ended that dream.
So, what have I learned? A lot:
1. To depend on myself
2. To be open to some "prince" but to not seek him
3. To be thankful for my wonderful family who supported me through so much
4. To appreciate my brief time with my one and only husband who helped me get real and toss the happily-ever-after marriage myth out of my system
5. To finally REALLY understand that happiness comes from within
6. And to...it needs to be said again...depend on myself
After eating last night's birthday feast of Chinese food, I suspiciously eyed the traditional cookie, wondering if the fortune inside would be something prophetic for the coming year.
As it turns out, the little white piece of paper held very wise words that I now, being retired, actually have the time to put into practice.
I appreciate this reminder of what has become a mantra of sorts for me after all the years of stress and hustle when, too driven to step off life's ever-speeding treadmill, I didn't take time to delight in the riches all around me.
I like to think that I am now making up for those lost moments, treasuring the present but also reflecting back to give the many positives in my life the warm mental smiles they never received when I was madly dashing about letting my watch and daily planner control my life. How did I get so caught up in that race without without a finish line?
And so another birthday has come and gone after being properly celebrated with the warm wishes of family and friends. And Chinese food. Yes, another year gone well. Whew. I am pausing to enjoy it.
For some unexplainable reason, the summer months are filled with birthdays, one after the other, while the rest of the year is comparatively quiet with one birthday at a time and then a few weeks' space to gear up for the next celebration. Last week's birthday swim party honored my three grandnieces who all have back-to-back summer birthdays. I love a party, though, so I am not complaining.
Yesterday a small bunch of us gathered on my deck to raise our glasses to Marie and shower her with gifts.This summer's very iffy CA weather cooperated and the sun was a most welcome guest, allowing brunch to be served outside on the deck.
The party opened with Bloody Marys garnished with celery stalks and crispy tortilla chips just begging to be dipped in the spicy guacamole.
Moving on to the main event, we each grabbed a soft roll and built our own sandwiches from the selection of meats, cheeses, lettuces, tomatoes, and onions. Shrimp macaroni salad and spicy deviled eggs completed the main course.
After a break for present opening, we finished off with fresh peach pie, an absolute work of art.