Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Monday, September 24, 2012

Enough of Summer!

I've hit a place where my days are not interesting.  To anyone, least of all myself.  I work for 7-8 hours a day 5 days a week.  Saturdays are spent getting little chores done, maybe seeing a movie, and dinner out.  We definitely try to fit a longer bike ride in during the day somewhere.  The days are getting shorter and we don't have the luxury of long rides on weeknights.  During the week, the rides have become more like timed rides.  There are a couple of streets near our house that don't get a lot of traffic, and the streets wind around in a circle, like a track.  So we ride around, and around, and around, first one street, then the other, until we've ridden about 40 minutes, or about 5-8 miles worth.  Since we don't have to watch out for many cars, it gives us a chance to talk - something we never get to do out on the bike trail while dodging runners, walkers and other cyclists.  We discuss everything from kids to grandkids, to politics.  (Luckily, we are in sync there, so there are no heated debates that could cause a crash.)  Mitt Romney calls my husband's cell phone every night.  Sometimes we relent and answer, and write checks.  Mittens doesn't know my cell number though, so I don't get pressured.  Good thing, because I'm an easy touch.

But it's a bit monotonous.  Sleep, work, dinner, ride, maybe some TV, reading or blogging.  Even cooking dinner is getting tedious.  What I want to cook are stews, roasts, soups.  But the days here in Southern California are still in the upper 80s, low 90s.  Our current favorite is a seasonal compromise: canned Progresso clam chowder and BLT sandwiches.  September has been an uncooperative month ever since I can remember.  It should be autumn, with crisp blue skies, a nip in the air, sweaters and jackets at the ready.  Instead, it's the hottest part of summer weather.  It's like a devil who doesn't want to relinquish his power.  I love summer, but I love it when it's appropriate.  Like in July.  By September I'm bored with it, and I want to move on to pumpkins and thinking how I'm going to decorate the house for Halloween.

I no longer want to sit by the pool.  I want to thumb through Martha Stewart's Halloween magazine and dream of spooky possibilities.  I want to hang up the pirate skeleton.

One thing that broke the monotony last week was the landing of the shuttle Endeavor at LAX.  It made the grand tour of California, flying low over Sacramento and the Golden Gate Bridge before heading to the Southland.  It buzzed over Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles before heading to Orange County and Disneyland and then flying up the coast from Huntington Beach to Long Beach and the Queen Mary, and then on to LAX.  I was so hoping to see it in person, but I couldn't get an approximate time when it would be over Disneyland or Huntington.  All the LA newspeople could focus on was themselves, so by the time it was in Orange County it was over and done with before I could make a move.  But it was on it's way up the coast towards LAX, and my husband works very close to there.  I texted him to get outside and get a picture, if he could.  I was ten times more excited about it than he was, but he's an obliging man and so he trudged to a clear spot where it seems other people had gathered as well.  And what do you know - in about 10 minutes it flew right by and he was able to get a pretty good shot.  And THEN he was excited too.  Such a piece of history - even watching it make the tour on TV brought tears to my eyes.  Here is the shot L was able to get:

Sooooo awesome!  It was really something to see, and I'm glad I was able to see it all morning on TV, and (if I couldn't see it myself) have L get a clear shot of it.

The other big news is that my son Scott (recently transplanted in Texas) got a job!  That was cause for celebration and we were thrilled for him.  I could hear the relief and happiness in his voice when he called me.  It was a brave adventure to move away and start anew, and I'm very proud of how they've handled everything.

Remember it was Skylee's birthday a few weeks ago?  Ronna sent me a few pictures from the celebration.  Apparently, she loves cake as much as Mema...  she's got the two fisted grip down pat.  No foolish party guest is going to wrestle that cupcake away from our Skylee!

It got a lot messier, but you get the picture.  And here is a picture of the sweet birthday girl with her pretty mother:

The older kids, Lexi and Matthew, are doing well in school, and are also enjoying taking swim lessons.  Lexi excels in everything she tries, and she is a go-getter.  On the other side of the country Mia and Hayden are waiting for snow.  It seems our beach girls love the snow just as much as the water.  Mia is learning to stay focused (she reminds Hayden not to bother her because she needs to "focus") and she is good at math (a girl after my dad's heart).  Maybe she can explain it to me one day... Hayden is enjoying one on one time with mom while Mia is at school.

I miss them all more than I can say.  I check flights and keep hoping they'll get a little more reasonable. Because traveling to see the little ones definitely keeps monotony away.  I could concentrate on fun outings with my little friends instead of on how much my knees ache.  And that's just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Costco Dogs

It's been a busy few days for me.  Work has been hectic, and there has been a lot of family activity to keep up with.  It felt like last weekend came and went without much notice.  The weather was extremely hot, making us want to burrow inside our cave where it was cool.

On Saturday we did venture out in the blistering sun to Costco.  Now, you're going to scoff and say that the romance has gone out of our lives.  But I say no - it's just evolved...  L and I had completely cleaned out and organized the pantry.  We found things we had no idea we had!  A can of corn from 1988.  A can of garbanzo beans of roughly the same vintage.  A can of condensed milk so old I didn't even want to think about it.  I can't imagine what I'd ever bought them for, but they obviously came with me when I moved to our current house in 1993.  L was not even a gleam in my eye back then, and was doubtless off working through his own life struggles.  I couldn't believe that some of those cans were so prehistoric - horrified was more like it -  and vowed to do a better job of rotating foodstuffs in and out.  To never again overlook those dark corners where old food goes to fester and die.

While we sifted through cans and boxes of food both old and new, we came across an unopened box of baby rice cereal left by Katie on her first visit with Mia (who is now 6).  There was an old box of macaroni and cheese, bought in case one of the grandkids wanted it while they were here.  Yes, even a pantry built into a weird space underneath the stairs can hold memories.  Food memories.  Old paper plates from someone's birthday, along with random red plastic cups leftover from a Christmas gathering.  Luckily L was there with me, keeping me on task.  And when we'd finished organizing, old items were discarded and there was more room.  Tomato products were stacked together.  Soups were rediscovered and stacked in their own section.  We found that we must love clam chowder because we had a lot of cans of that.  Tuna, coconut milk, spaghetti sauce, cold cereal, and pasta - each found a designated space and the order was beautiful to look at.  I was almost inspired to poetry.  Almost.

We took stock of what we had, and what we were low on, and headed to Costco.  As we parked the car, I think L and I had the same thought simultaneously.  I started thinking of Costco hot dogs just as he turned to me and said "Want a hot dog?"  We're a match made in heaven, that's what we are.  Soul mates.

So before shopping, before trekking through the giant warehouse of food and Saturday samples we ordered two all beef dogs and 2 Diet Cokes.  We loaded the dogs up with ketchup, mustard and relish, and filled our cups with icy cold soda.  And then we sat side by side on a bench hugging the building - the only place in the shade - and ate our hot dogs and drank our sodas, and watched a lady who was hugging two puppies.  She told someone they were half pug and half chihuahua, and I was glad they weren't mine, poor ugly little things.  We watched all kinds of people milling about with their carts full of food and a wide variety of other things from paper to TVs, loading them into their cars and taking them home.

I was glad to be sitting next to L eating the best hot dog I've had in awhile (seriously - Costco has great hot dogs!), enjoying sitting shoulder to shoulder with my sweetie beating the heat.  Such a simple pleasure, but those are always the best.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hell's Kitchen

The whole world's gone mad.  I heard from a friend who now lives just outside Austin, Tx that it was 76 degrees, they'd just had some rain, and although the humidity was still high, they could open their windows and enjoy some cool air.  Same thing in Provo - nice cool evenings.  In fact, it seems that almost everyone is enjoying proper weather for this time of year, or even a little bit on the cool side.  But we here in Southern California?  For once we are having weather - the kind they have in HELL.

Where I live it was 108 today.  That's desert weather.  It rarely gets into the 90s here, let alone hover around 100.  But 108?  It's just wrong.  Completely and utterly wrong.  And so of course the dinner I had planned to make tonight was that ever popular fall/winter fare: lasagna.  Baked in the oven.  It was a special lasagna made with a white sauce and filled with chicken sausage and thin slices of butternut squash.  I had to make it tonight because L took today as his once a month work from home day - so he was home to slice that squash up for me.  Left on my own I probably wouldn't have had any fingers left.  I am knife challenged.  It's the left handed thing, I'm convinced.  Couple that with the arthritic hands, and there's no way I can slice up raw squash.  So we had our lasagna on the hottest day of the year because I had my sous chef home with me today.  And you know what?  It was pretty good - especially since we didn't eat until 7:30.  Hunger helps overcome seasonally inappropriate recipes.

This particular recipe was one I ripped out of a Williams Sonoma catalog - Skillet Lasagna.  Except I didn't bake it in a skillet.  In the catalog, they were trying to sell the pan to make it in, but I just used a baking dish instead.  Skillets in the oven make me nervous since I somehow forget they're hot and have to force myself to remember not to grab the handle with my bare hands...
I also decided to try rice lasagna noodles (which you don't precook) instead of the regular ones in an attempt to be gluten free.  (Forgetting all about the fact that I used wheat flour to make the white sauce... "A" for effort anyway...)  Instead of regular italian sausage I used sweet chicken sausage.  And, in making the white sauce, I used rice milk instead of cow's milk because I shouldn't have dairy, and L can't tolerate soy milk.  So basically, it was a completely different recipe from what Williams Sonoma intended, but I like little adventures like that. (If anyone wants to tackle the real recipe, it will be on their website.)

The sauce didn't thicken as much as I thought it would.  Because it wasn't supposed to?  Because it was rice milk?  I don't know.  And since I cooked it in a 9 x 13 baking dish instead of a skillet, it was a slightly different configuration - more spread out, less dense.  Because the sauce was a little thin, it didn't stick to the layers like a thicker sauce would have.  The noodles on the bottom 2 layers were fine but the ones on top just didn't soak up enough sauce and were a little crunchy.  (Ahh... I just went to the recipe and read reviews - many people doubled the sauce amount.  I will do that next time.)
But I maintain that it's impossible to have an epic disaster when there's a wonderful (if thin) garlic-y white sauce, sweet pieces of butternut squash and good chicken sausage.  Leftovers might be even better.  My kitchen still smells delicious.  I know I made it sound ugly, but it tasted really really good.

I'll make it again, but next time I'll probably throw caution to the wind and use regular milk, and I'll probably forget the gluten free thing and use normal lasagna noodles.  OR - I could do it exactly the same, but make more sauce so the top noodles get more soaked.  And more freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Definitely more cheese.  I thought the recipe was a little stingy on the cheese.

Now for dessert, I did a little better.  Coconut gelato topped with a fresh pineapple glaze (pineapple caramelized in butter and brown sugar) and sprinkled with coconut flakes and chopped macadamia nuts. L and I pedaled extra hard tonight in 90 degrees to earn our ice cream - like hamsters on a wheel.  Rats in a maze.  What we won't do for a little treat...
And that was our ball of fire Friday night.  I'm not sure what happens to us when we get older, but somewhere along the way we get a little tired.  We're very happy to sit watching documentaries on the history of America with our faces in bowls of ice cream.  Instead of Friday night movies, we go on Saturday afternoons to the matinee and request our senior discount.  WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?  At times it's a little bit upsetting, but then I get so comfortable watching "The Voice" in a tank top and socks (to hold in the Vaseline that I've just slathered my calloused feet with - please don't try to deny that you do the exact same thing) that I get sleepy and forget to be upset. (So this is what it's like to get old...)
So that's why L and I go cycling.  We crave the feel of wind on our face, blowing our hair, and gnats in our teeth, if only to remind us of the universal need for speed, and that we're still young enough to move and push ourselves.  Even if the wind on our face is so hot it brings to mind Beelzebub and his minions.  We're alive, we are no couch potatoes, and we have a desperate need to work off that lasagna and ice cream - both of which were sooooo worth the penalty of cycling later out in Dante's Inferno.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Birthday Blues

Hey, I'm back!  No, I didn't go anywhere.  I was just busy getting used to being old, and it put me in a bad mood.  No point in coming here and offending everyone with my crabby attitude - I'm sure I offended people here at home quite enough!  Poor L didn't know what to make of me.
It was a busy week besides.  One of my friends has a daughter who is getting married to her very longtime boyfriend in a week or two, and so we gave her a shower.  Actually I didn't do too much except bring some flowers and make some food, and watch Melissa having the time of her life opening up beautiful gift after beautiful gift.  I think there should be a rule that every 10 years you can dump all of your old, ugly kitchen things and get all new ones.  I was soooo tempted to load some of those lovelies into my car and sneak them home with me.  But that wouldn't be right, would it?  Still, I was tempted...
It was one of the better bridal showers I've been to.  Everything was so beautifully done, and so much good food!  As I was getting ready to leave, I sat down for a moment to talk to my friend Glenna.  She is one of our church's treasures.  Not sure exactly how old she is, but it hovers around 90, give or take some years.  She is frail, yet unceasingly cheerful.  She is the mother/grandmother of two of the hostesses, and the grandmother of the bride.  She told me she reads my blog all the time and enjoys it very much.  I loved to hear that.  And then she told me to tell L hello for her because, in her words, "he's one of my favorites.  You don't mind me saying that, do you?"  And I don't.  And I know that L loved to hear it.  Because we ALL want to be one of Glenna's favorites.  She's one of those great ladies that make you feel good just sitting by her for a few minutes.  Amazing woman, and exactly how I'd like to be when I'm her age.  (fat chance, but I can dream, can't I?...)

And then came Friday, the Big Birthday.  I really thought I was fine.  I didn't think I was much affected by this birthday at all.  But I was wrong.  It kind of bugged me, to tell you the truth.  My friends took me to lunch that afternoon, and we had a good time.  They all make me laugh, and there weren't too many people (have I told you that I have a phobia regarding large groups of women?  Nothing makes me want to head for the hills faster than that...but small groups are good, and this was a GOOD small group.)  L made me such a lovely dinner on Friday night - steak and veggies, and red velvet cupcakes.  Very relaxing, and to tell you the truth, I just wasn't up for going out for a fancy dinner.  I've never really been a black dress and pearls kind of girl, so this was perfect.  After dinner we drove down to the beach and watched the sunset from the bluffs above Corona del Mar beach.  Everything seemed ok and just right.  Until Saturday.

Now Saturday just started out wrong.  It was hot.  I was frustrated because I really wanted to go shopping to spruce up my wardrobe, and L had Home Depot in mind instead.  And riding bikes in the hot, hot sun.  My joints were aching, and I felt every second of my 59 years.  And this is where 59 started to bug me.  So instead of doing any shopping, I turned into a martyr and got on the phone with the cable company because our Apple TV had stopped working (are you following me on my adventure through Crazy Town?) and L had gone off on a bike ride without me because I hadn't wanted to go, and then I did, but he didn't hear me.  *deep breath*  So I called Time Warner Cable which is always ALWAYS an exercise in futility.  I don't even know why I try.  Well, because I was being a martyr, that's why.  And I got nowhere, so L and I ended up making an appointment at the Genius Bar at our local Apple store.  And then we were late by 10 minutes (because L forgot to bring part of the Apple TV stuff) and we missed our appointment and had to come back later.  Oh, it was a peachy afternoon, and it really had nothing to do with my birthday, except it did, follow me?
Luckily, I had time to calm down, wash up, and become pleasant in time to have dinner with my parents.  And it was a nice time.  We met them at 6:00 and it was very hot out.  By the time we finished dinner and walked out, it was a perfect evening.  Just getting dark, and just warm enough without being too hot.  L and I headed home, full of good food and I was feeling better.  Sometimes I might just still need my mommy, you know?

Sunday morning dawned.  Nice and hot.  L and I looked at each other and flashed a mental message to each other that we were playing hooky from church that day.  I know, I know.... I'm not proud.  But still.  I will work on my moral character this week and improve my resolve to choose the right.  We puttered around the house, not doing much of anything.  And at around 6:00 that evening we loaded the bikes up and took them down to the bike trail.  Where it was like an oven and the wind blew against us ferociously all the way back.  It almost felt like God was telling me "No nice ride for YOU tonight, you slacker,", so I took my punishment with my head bowed in contrition, but with determination to finish, and to be a better person this week.  It was not fun, but I felt like I'd paid my repentant dues.  We came home, hosed off, and undid all of our good work with a red velvet cupcake and a Diet Coke while watching our Apple TV that now at last works to perfection.  (Because our Apple Genius gave us a new unit - I left that part out before.)

Now I may not have gotten my physical shopping trip that I was hoping for.  But I did score a couple of good things online.  I have a favorite website Garnet Hill that yielded up a couple of treasures.  Their regular priced items can be a little pricey, but I found the best little black knit surplice wrap dress (that I already know won't make me look like the model, so I'm walking into this with eyes open wide) that was on sale for $68!  It came in other colors (like the blue, below) but I chose the slimming black.

It will look fine with sandals in hot weather and will take nicely to tights and boots in the winter.  And because it's so simple, accessories will be fun to play with.  AND - (and this is actually the most exciting thing) I found a pair of shoes I'd been coveting for a few months now, and they were HALF OFF.  Here they are:

  At Garnet Hill, they were on sale for $58.  In the Sundance catalog, they are still priced at $99.  WOOT!!  I've been wanting them to wear on bike rides.  It's a little hairy wearing flip flops on a long bike ride, yet my regular cross trainers are too bulky.  Cycling shoes are expensive and I'm not that hard core, anyway.  These will be perfect as they're almost like going barefoot, but with some foot protection.  I was very excited about finding them on sale.  So that was my fun this weekend: finding a couple of items I really liked (and would have paid full price for) on sale for a great price.  There are so many other things I want to buy (why is that list never ending?) but for now this will do.  I'm over my little birthday depression and life is back to normal.  When I turn 60 next year, I may have to go live in a cave for a few days if 59 affected me like this.  You know, one of those caves that has room service, high thread count sheets, and ocean views.

The only thing that would make life better right now would be a trip to see kids and/or grandkids.  I'm getting anxious to see them - several months is a long time in child-time.  We'll see what the next months bring.  I found this somewhere and it is fitting:

Lots and lots of frosting...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Birthday SKYLEE!

Nothing much to report today, Labor Day 2012.  We are enjoying the day with family in the afternoon, and getting some chores done this morning.  One thing I do want to post is a huge happy 1st birthday to our 5th grandchild, Skylee, in Colorado.  Skylee and I have both had birthdays on Labor Day, although we are many years, and a few days apart.

I can't believe she was born just 1 year ago today, and in that one short year I've seen her go from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

To this: 

And beyond.

She is very mobile, into everything, loves her food and her brother and sister, and promises to be one smart little girl, following in the footsteps of Matthew and Lexi.  How we wish we could have been there today to celebrate her 1st milestone with everyone.  (Because Mema loves cake and fun!)  Soon, Skylee, soon.  We'll not be able to resist a trip much longer.  It's amazing how much love and fun one little person can contribute to a family.  Best birthday wishes to a sweet little beauty, and lots of love from Mema and Papa.  She's definitely raised the sparkle factor of our family.

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