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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Thought at the Year's End

All Things Pass
by Lao-Tzu

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night
All things pass
What always changes?

These change
And if these do not last

Do man's visions last?
Do man's illusions?

Take things as they come.
All things pass.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jolly No More

It's over for yet another year. The excitement and holiday frenzy is a thing of the past, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  The Christmas lights are still merrily sparkling, both inside and out, while the Christmas tree, now stripped of its presents, still stands at attention begging to be noticed.

Chris with his new friend, Buzz Lightyear.

A comforting calm has taken over, as lives return to normal and sanity reappears after being AWOL for a week.

Christmas Eve

So, let's put the red and green back into the drawers and get ready to embrace the new year, with its tempting promise of a new beginning and fresh start, that is just around the corner.
Translation: my annual diet begins January 1.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's a Wrap!

I'm done! I'd say the annual wrapping of Christmas gifts took about 3 hours. I personally think the unwrapping is much more fun than the wrapping, but one has to precede the other. So, here is the end result of my labor of love.


 And here is how it all began.

Yards of ribbon and festive wrapping paper are, at last, gaily covering my holiday gifts, aiming to delight friends and family. It is quite a jolly collection: toys, video games, gift cards, books, DVDs, and new clothes...something for everybody. I'm so ready.

Now, to bake or not to bake? That is the question.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Halls Are Decked...Almost

The Luther Burbank Holiday Open House turned out to be both festive and well attended, a grand occasion  for the community. Volunteers tastefully decorated the Burbank home in red and green, both inside and out, bringing  holiday excitement to every nook and cranny.

Beauty was everywhere. Tour guides, dressed in vintage costumes and holiday attire, gave tours of the Burbank home to eager visitors. Even Burbank's well-used safe, once the holder of cash and seeds, took on a jolly aura.

The greenhouse, where I was a very busy cookie server, was filled with glorious poinsettia red, a vision to behold, though I think most people had their eyes on the cookies. I could hardly keep the trays filled.

I am now officially in a Christmas mood and able to put community celebrations on a back burner in order to concentrate on my own holiday . I have done all of the decorating and most of the shopping...whew...but the gift wrapping, the baking (what little I do), and the holiday cards are still not on my agenda. Maybe today?
Patience. Perseverance. It'll happen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Making Merry

 We gathered in Luther Burbank's sunny greenhouse to create some holiday magic for the rapidly approaching Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Holiday Open House. The tables were filled with a sumptuous collection of jolly ornaments and holiday treasures just waiting to be hot-glued onto the many nude pine-coned evergreen wreaths begging for adornment

As we completed our masterpieces, they were merrily hung on a nearby railing  to await transfer to the final display area where, hopefully, future visitors to the gardens would be reaching for their checkbooks to take home one of the glorious wreaths, a bargain at $35.00.

My Nutcracker Wreath
I made two wreaths in the allotted time. The first time around I didn't really know what I was doing but turned out a fairly presentable wreath with a toy theme. However, as I began my second wreath, I took my time. After spotting  a very cute and lonely collection of miniature nutcrackers, I decided that they were mine, all mine. Onto the wreath they went. More pine cones and  a festive holiday bow were added.  Then...done...and ready for the potential buyers arriving the next day.

It was a fun experience; I'll do it again next year. As if the fun crafting wasn't enough, there were divine goodies lurking about just waiting to be sampled. And, of course, I did. Twice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Being Thankful

 Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it was superb. I have so much to be thankful for: family, friends, and good health, among many other blessings. I celebrated with as much zest as I could muster, creating memories to be treasured. Enjoying grandson time, I played both freeze tag and indoor soccer without breaking any bones, always a positive. The day was actually pretty close to perfect.

Jane brought out the fine china and crystal as we feasted on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, green salad, and a scrumptiously juicy apple pie for dessert.

Glen Ellen, CA
As I drove back to Sonoma County the next day,  Mother Nature provided a display of magnificent reds,oranges and yellows... and again at Dillon Beach on Saturday as she painting the evening sky with her expert brush. Breathtaking!

Almost as glorious as the sunset were the steaks we barbecued for yet another delectable meal. I'm not stepping on the scale for a few days!

 Now, back home, I am enjoying the quiet yet savoring the recollections of this Thanksgiving. Yes, another good one...

Friday, November 18, 2011

May the Force Be With You

Since spring is my favorite season, I like to bring a little of that season's glory into my home during the much darker days of late fall and winter.

Step 1

With that in mind,  I visit my favorite nursery and plunk out some cash for a handful of paper whites. Once home, I gingerly arrange them in a very tall vase (with about 2 inches of water and pebbles in the bottom) which I then place in a sunny spot to initiate the forcing process. The roots begin to appear almost immediately. 

Step 2

 And voila! In a couple of weeks, I see spring holding court in my living room. The aroma is delightful, filling the room with a delicately soft sweetness.

Step 3

So, bring on the wind, frost, and rain. I am busy making my own private spring. See, you really can fool Mother Nature!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Lt. William Horn

On this Veterans Day I cannot help but reflect on my dad's service to our country during World War II. We never spoke about it; I never asked any questions. Now it is too late. He's gone.

My thoughts go, as well, to all veterans who have served over the years, often thanklessly, and to those who are serving today. I am grateful for their sacrifices and wish that war didn't exist.


B-17 Flying Fortress
My Dad's Plane
Check out other Sepia Saturday photos.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Comfort Food Moment

The calendar has been telling me for quite some time that summer has taken a hike, but Mother Nature has still been in a summery mood, so much so that I~ being a lover of fresh air~ have been able to  have the sliding doors and some windows open in the early evening. 


Those days are over. Now the furnace is back in business, sandals are no longer on my feet, I'm dressing in several layers, and the pug ladies are all decked out in their woolly sweaters.So, what does that mean? Mac 'n' cheese, of course! I made my first batch yesterday, and it did not disappoint.

I am reminded of how much I enjoy the changing of the seasons and the trappings that go with each one.  So, I am loving the falling leaves, the crisp air that makes the tip of my nose go numb, and the stick-to-my-ribs comfort food: heavy stews, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and...mac 'n' cheese.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Forever Festive

The day before Halloween has always been filled with excitement as final touches are made on costumes and goodie bags are readied to be passed out to the neighborhood children. The scene is much different these days since those giggling young ones have now moved away and have wee trick-or-treaters of their own. The neighborhood is quiet and serene, unaware that in other areas of town, door bells are ringing like mad as costumed children scurry from house to house hoping to stuff their paper bags with candy.

This, however, does not deter me from celebrating. I still decorate inside and out: pumpkins on the porch, spooky wreathes on doors, lit pumpkins in the foyer, and my jack-o-lantern pail, perhaps my favorite Halloween treasure, outside on the picnic table. Even the kitchen has its own jolly pumpkin.

Sweets, always a temptation for me, find their way into my cupboards. Of course! True, there are no trick-or-treaters to prepare for, but I do put together and deliver goodie bags to the handful of family youngsters still here in town. I have to buy the treats at the last minute because, due to a tremendous lack of will power on my part, the treats seem to, um, vanish. 

For example, last night, just knowing that there were Tootsie Pops lurking in the kitchen, was more than I could stand; I ate four. Not too bad. Today I hit the cookies. I ate three. Again, not too bad.  I mean, I didn't eat them ALL.

Now the treat bags are filled with their sweets and tied with orange raffia, ready for delivery on Halloween...tomorrow.

That means that I am alone with all these sugary delights for the entire evening.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Confession of a Prospective Hoarder

My name is Janice, and I am a collectaholic. As if I didn't have enough collections already happening in my life, I have begun yet another: Schilling spice tins. I recently passed the word as my birthday approached, and I was lucky enough to get an impressive start on this lastest passion. How they perk up my tired kitchen!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In the Mood

Well, I'm trying to be... in the mood, that is. The pumpkin pie scented candle that I received for my birthday has been lit for the first time and is smelling like I have a wonderful treat baking in the oven. I am still feeling somewhat cheated by the lack of summer; but the dark clouds, heavy rain, and threats of thunder have forced me to forget about the summer that didn't really happen. So, facing reality, I have brought in all the outdoor cushions, covered the deck umbrella, put a new filter in the furnace, and unclogged the storm drains.

The saddest task, however, has been picking all the unripened covered with rain and not seeing red any time soon. There they sit on the kitchen counter in a forlornly green group, wishing that they could have had the opportunity to ripen blissfully on the vine as in years past.

Oh well, it is what it is! And the coming of autumn, even without the glorious warmth of a summer to remember, is a time of great joy. I love the colors: rich golds, sunny oranges, and brilliant reds. It is indeed a time to celebrate.

So I am getting with the spirit of the season. A pumpkin collection decorates the front porch; and Beulah Witch, my annual bosom buddy, is hanging merrily on my front door to herald autumn's arrival. Yep, I'm in the mood. Sweaters. Soup. Stew. Yes.

Maybe there will be a summer in 2012.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ready For Her Close-up, Mr. DeMille

I love to cook, and I especially love to cook without opening any of my shitload vast array of cookbooks. Sometimes I just get the urge to forget Martha Stewart et al and go for it in hopes that inspiration will be the name of the game; and today's attempt at innovation will be...ta dah!...a rustic marinara sauce.

It all begins with a going-soft collection of grape and cherry tomatoes that really need to be used and my urgent craving for a hit of pasta. Though I was aiming for 2 cup's worth of these colorful beauties, I didn't quite make it, but I am close.

The next dilemma is to determine what ingredients I have on hand to turn my tomato medley into a little piece of heaven. So, out to the garden I go to gather delicious smelling Italian parsley, basil, thyme and oregano. Olive oil, chicken stock, tomato paste, and a ton (note the technical term) of garlic next appear on the counter.

And here's where the fun begins: just throwing stuff (another technical term) into the pan, beginning with the olive oil and garlic, all added using the eye-ball method. After a short cook for the garlic, in go the tomatoes and, a bit later, the chicken stock. Reduction is now the name of this game, stirring and smashing tomatoes, as I watch the once round tomatoes break down into juice, skin, seeds and pulp. At this point salt, lots of it,  joins the mixture.

My next task is to play with the consistency and taste of my developing creation, adding a little more of this and a pinch of that until it looks like the picture in my mind and tastes like I have imagined it might. All that is left is to cook/drain the pasta and put it all together in one big, glorious heap. Add a little garnish, and she's ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Yes, a winner! Please pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano and get the garlic bread out of the oven.  Works for me...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Year Bites the Dust

The birthday hurly-burly is no more, and serenity has once again taken its rightful place in my life. The overabundance of fun and food is a thing of the past for this year, and I enjoyed every minute of it. However, I am not going to step on the scale for a few days.

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
~Jack Benny~

And I don't mind at all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bye-Bye, Love!

Mother Nature's summer sun gold bounty was quite wonderful this year, but I fear the end approaches. Today, as I ventured out into the garden, I knew this would be my final gathering of these luscious cherry tomatoes that I have been enjoying all summer.

The lettuce was delicious, the cucumbers were plentiful, the early girl tomatoes were delightful; but it was the sun golds that, once again, knocked my socks off. Because they are so sweet and flavorful, I find that much of my harvest is eaten before I even get them into my kitchen. Now the leaves of the forlorn plant are withered and brown; and, though a few desperate hangers-on are still trying to ripen, this is just about the end of the line.

So, thank you and farewell. Until next year...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Farm Fresh

The local farm market never disappoints me, and I am always delighted with the produce that I bring home, mostly because there is so much more flavor happening in whatever I select to put into my trusty market basket.

The nectarines called to me...

As did the string beans...

But it was the carrots that really caught my eye this time, and into my basket they jumped. Once home, I didn't do anything fancy with them: I just gave them a good wash, sliced them up into bite-sized pieces, and blanched them just a wee bit so that their crispiness remained. The final step was a quick toss with a favorite vinaigrette and a sprinkle of fresh herbs on top.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer Antique Fair

There were so many tempting treats in Healdsburg this weekend, and I walked away empty handed. What? That is not like me!

Fun. Colorful. But no.

Yes on this cutie! But where would I put him?

Wonderful old pieces.


I almost had my wallet out.

Alas, the only item I saw that I really wanted was a small spice tin....for $35. Ouch. I don't think so. Oh, and there was the amethyst ring for $965. Right. Luckily, I don't go to antique fairs to buy; I go to look, and there was a lot to see.

The sole expense of the day was the spicy chicken hot dog, with crispy fries, that I happily devoured for lunch...the best deal I could find.