Minor Miracles

Being a constant (read that as obsessed) reader, it was a no brainer for me to invest in a Kindle. I had over a thousand books in my personal library, but it was never enough books even though the favorites were read multiple times over the years.  Now, in my senior years (I looked up dotage, but it didn’t fit), my library consists of maybe fifty hard and paperback books while my Kindle groans under the weight of more than a thousand books. The app is on all my devices so that I always have my book nearby no matter where or when I need that fix.

Consider it safe to say, books are important to me. My neighbor, Ruby, says I’m way too busy reading to ever write a book. After a moment’s thought, I had to agree.  She nailed it.  I’m already on my third Kindle having worn out the first two in what seemed like a blink of the eye. This one has lasted quite a few years but only because my children bought me a tablet.

I’m now on my second tablet since I needed more memory to hold all the books, she said smiling with contentment.  Plus I’m on the second level of space on the cloud which I needed for all my books. Are you seeing a theme here?  I do and feel all giggly doing a happy dance because current technology allows for my greedy need for books.  But that’s me—I’ve had books in my hands since always.  I’m not bragging, just grateful that I can have thousands of books at my fingertips always.

So, it was a shock when I realized that I had worn out the cover for my Kindle before wearing out my Kindle.  That was truly unusual and much, much, much cheaper to replace.  This week I’ve picked a favorite author and am binging on re-reading all her books that I own since I’m curbing my spending.  Good writing is like air to me.  Maybe in my next life I can write that book.

 

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Mechanical? Genius? Not!

I’m obviously way too caught up in all the flooding in Texas from Hurricane Harvey never mind all the other stuff going on recently. But today is catch up day for all the chores not completed this week plus hopefully starting some of this week’s work.  At the top of my To Do list was cleaning my Dyson vacuum cleaner.

I’m really can’t complain since it is at least five years old and has never been cleaned. Ugh, how was it even working.  Since I splurged to buy this vacuum and didn’t want to replace it, cleaning it by now wasn’t an option.  It had to be done. These days anytime I want to know how to do something my first option, after calling my daughter, is to go to UTube for a demonstration.

it took about three tries to find the video using my model, but find it I did.  Within minutes, I had my filter out and washed. In return, it hugged me really tight since it was so glad to be able to breathe again. Of course, I had had to hug it really tight to get it clean so a return hug could only be expected.  The difficult part was how to remove the body of the dust collector from the cylinder that encases it.  Finally, the video show me where a hidden catch was that keeps the two parts connected.  Once that catch was released, a quick tug was all that was required to separate the two pieces.

Dear Lord, the dust, the dust.  I’m so shamed by its needy state.  With paper towels in hand, I did a dry scrub on the main part holding it over the garbage can.  After I finished sneezing from all the dust, it was time to clean the cylinder. I washed it out and dried it. Now, I’m no mechanical genius, but I feel very accomplished and gave myself a pat on the back while giving everything a chance to air out and thoroughly dry.

Now, it’s time to turn my head back to the food prep that needs doing.  After all, I’m out of bread so it’s time to make another loaf.

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Small Differences

Life can be routine.  There are chores that must be done daily, weekly, and monthly.  Often, they become a rut with our path always the same.  I found recently, that a small change causes the brain to change as well.

For example, I have hated going to the grocery store since always.  It was a challenge that I never wanted to take.  It was my custom to always go through the fresh produce first and amble through the store getting all the food needed until my return.  You just have to think of that hamster on its wheel or, at least, I did.  On one trip there a few weeks ago, I decided that I would start on the far back right of the store and work back to the front with the produce at the end.  That trip seemed shorter ending with no bruised produce or misshapen loaves of bread.  Oddly, it seemed quicker as well.

The following trip there, I did the same thing with the same results.  My attitude has changed now as I found that to be such a satisfying experience.  It has led me to question what else I can change to rid myself of the reluctance to do a chore.  I am good at procrastination, in fact, I should be the President of Procrastintors of America; this bad habit needs to go away so maybe no Presidency for me.  I’ll start breaking that habit tomorrow……

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A follow-up on last week’s post:  I’ve baked my third loaf of sourdough bread.  Changing recipes really helped as did the addition of a Dutch Oven which provides a much-needed more-intense heat for the bread as it bakes.  There are still a couple of mistakes but this loaf was satisfying in its well-rounded loaf, dark color, and taste.  It can only get better and I’m very encouraged.

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Loafing Around

it all started with Kroger changing their sourdough bread supplier. The new loaves didn’t have that sour taste that I so love.  I toyed with the idea of making my own knowing that the bread I made way back when was better than store-bought.  Gearing up to try it, I researched various sourdough starter kits reading all the reviews and forming my own opinions of their comments.  I finally settled on one from a company called San Francisco REAL (their emphasis not mine) Sourdough Bread starter.  It wasn’t many days before I realized that I had succumbed to the name when choosing. Feeling a little foolish and a lot more dubious, I decided the only failure would be in not trying at all.

So, with all due deliberation, I began making the starter.  The recipe called for the starter mix, a 1/2 cup each of flour and bottled water.  Stir well and let it rest covered for 12-24 hours.  That’s what I did and continued doing for the next seven days.  It bubbled and grew which made my heart quickly go pity pat. Finally, the big day arrived when I could make the bread.

I mixed up a recipe for Extra Long Fermented Sourdough and let it sit overnight to ferment.  The next morning, it was kneading, kneading, kneading for ten minutes which seemed like forty….I’m kidding it wasn’t that bad, I’m just out of practice.  But it was satisfying to watch the dough come together forming a nice shape and texture.  Placing it in a buttered pan and putting it in the oven for proofing.  Now, I’m sitting here like a parent with a new baby. Will it rise? Will it double in size? Will it taste good?  I’m already critiquing the whole process since I think my starter was too liquid so I’m wondering if that will be a problem. This process is starting to feel like a soap opera.

Then, I realize that if it isn’t right the first time, then, all I’ve lost is some flour.  And there’s always time to do it again.  And that is what I did, make it again, because the first loaf never did rise, but then the initial mix hadn’t either.  The second batch doubled in size and after baking it, I had to have a taste. Meh, it’s fine but not right. After this loaf, I’ll try again using a different recipe.

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Fighting for Life

Fighting cancer in families is an all-consuming effort while living each day rife with all the normal details like raising kids, dirty laundry, and dishes.  The normality of life is interrupted only by increased doctor visits and the dreaded chemotherapy.

It started with my mother in 1978 when I received a call from her in December telling me that she had breast cancer and was going to have surgery.  What she didn’t tell me at that time was that she had found a lump six months earlier. She spent the next months cleaning the house from top to bottom including closets and drawers before telling my Dad or anyone else about her finding.

When I received the first call, I was eight and a half months pregnant and on bed rest.  In other words, as her only remaining child, I was basically useless to her in such a vulnerable time.  But this was my first brush with cancer and I was optimistic about her survival.  The reality of her situation was that the cancer spread into her bones and slowly but surely took over her life. It’s hard to remember her being so weak that I had to help her walk from her bedroom to the bathroom. She held on until her first granddaughter was born but slipped quickly into death only five days later.

In 1994, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer with the subsequent surgery giving him a pronouncement of being cured.  Even though the early diagnosis and subsequent surgery gave him high odds of survival, by 1997, he was pronounced terminally ill since the cancer had spread into his bones attacking his spine with relentless speed.  It was only nine months later that I was diagnosed with breast cancer putting us in the unique position of being a husband and wife having cancer at the same time.  Surgery wasn’t an option for Leo, but it was my only option for survival.

I’m celebrating nearly twenty years of survival while remembering the death of my husband in 2001 and my mother in 1982.  However, the curse continues with my cousin, Jeanette, diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and fighting for her life.  (Her story is at  https://jspencer2016.wordpress.com/)  Optimism and faith carries her each day as she continues fighting for her life.  Keep up the good fight, Jeanette.

 

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Trial and Error Learning

Food and it’s preparation is part chemistry, part hard work, and, for real chefs, part fairy dust. For me, it pretty much all trial and error.  Some of the errors were edible while a couple went straight into the trash.  C’est la vie.  For the most part, it’s been going well.  I’ve always wanted to grow my own herbs.  Nothing fancy, just some rosemary and basil this year.  The rosemary is doing well indoors so far and fresh young rosemary is so much milder than the mature plant. However, the basil has been a trial with the first one dying rather quickly.  It’s replacement has nearly drowned with all the rain we’ve had and a strong storm tore all the leaves off.  So now, I have a couple of pretty, green stems that I’m praying will survive and flourish.

The tomato plants were a total bust.  One  produced a few small tomatoes with the bottom half rotten. The Roma plant gave me one small tomato before succumbing to its own drowning.  So, the tomato plants will head to the trash and some nice fall flowers will replace them.

And, by the way, who knew pesto was so picky.  In a moment of hurried insanity, using Kraft Parmesan was a huge error. Oh my, oh my.  That Parmesan should have blended with the pesto sauce, but instead each grain kept its own structure which made for a lumpy, rather bland pesto.  What is in that Kraft Parmesan that makes it like that?  Now, I have fresh Parmesan which will be grated tomorrow.  My neighbor offered me whatever grows in her garden while she is away on vacation; so, Ruby, tomorrow I’m hitting up your garden for basil.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I’ll get it right eventually.

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Seeking Healthy Eating

 

 

Years ago, I developed a healthy diet for myself and lost somewhere around 30-40 pounds. I felt good and was active, but then real life interfered with my good time and everything in my life went south.  Eating became something I did to survive, grabbing whatever was quickest and easiest.   Fatty and salt-laden foods were consumed relentlessly.  It didn’t make me feel better, but it got me through.

A three-year hiatus from cooking made me feel like a bride again, totally hopeless in the kitchen but willing to learn.  So, it became a challenge to wean myself from packaged or prepared foods to using fresh ingredients prepared at home.  It didn’t help that I was using new ceramic cookware and a new glass top electric stove.  I hadn’t cooked on an electric stove since the 1970’s.  Unfortunately, there was no choice here in our all-electric community.  Remember the Serenity Prayer?  I quoted it daily while trying to cook on this stove. Continue reading

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Returning To Life

Honesty is the best policy, or at least, that’s what I’ve always heard.  If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that it has taken a longer-than-expected time to get my home into working order.  The time has been spent getting both bedrooms and baths in good working order and set up for guests to have all necessities available.  It took a month and some help to hang all my pictures which brightened the house and emptied floor and closet space.  Now, the only interior house projects left are organizing the built-in shelving and installing shelves in the bathrooms.

The first visitors were my family which just seems appropriate.  After all, they had to put up with long separations over great distances.  It was our every-so-often family reunion which was difficult when Alicia lived in Alaska and trips home were busier than fleas on a dog.   Then, Cliff and family moved to South Africa for two plus years and Skype replaced family reunions, kinda sorta.  Scheduling time to talk was “interesting” but Alicia took on the task of setting up the times and dates for us with some living in South Africa, some in Missouri, and the rest of us in Alaska.  Then, the long hoped for day arrived and Alicia, family, and I moved back to the lower 48.

Now, we are all living in the contiguous United States.  Cliff and family are currently based in North Carolina until next year, Heather and Lilah are in Missouri, Alicia, her family and I are in Mississippi and the reunion was planned.  It was glorious to have all my family here and was the first time that my entire family was together since 2012.

Since then we’ve added two more young ones, Lilah and Violet.  We had ten adults and four children ages ranging from eleven to two.  Despite some worries about how they would all get along, it was as though they were reunited after a long absence.  Like minds understand each other obviously, no other explanation fits.  It was a busy, busy time and I loved every moment of it. Ironically, during the visit the guest bath developed a leak and the HVAC system decided it needed to leak.  Both are now repaired and I can’t wait for the next reunion.  Returning to life feels so right.

 

 

 

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A New Reality

The rest of moving day was spent locating necessities like soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and drinking glasses.  Alicia had made my bed before she left and I was overwhelmingly thankful for that thoughtful gesture.  I was too tired to eat, but forced myself to find something quick and easy to throw together to keep my tummy happy.  It took me a long while to finally slow down mentally and emotionally.  I was really here.  It had happened and I was in my new home.

It wasn’t perfect but it was close enough for me at that time.  A toothbrush sitting at the kitchen sink was an unusual sight until one day it wasn’t, but keeping the sink cleaned out for brushing was unique.  The new toilet was a pleasure with a different type of flush that is really cool.  It’s the simple things that count sometimes.  But my shower, oh my goodness.  It is a floor to ceiling large, white shower with subway tile running vertically and a stainless and aqua accent tiles and the most delicious glass doors that run on a rail at the top. The hot water flows beautifully and is plentiful.  Can’t ask for more.

There are boxes everywhere.  The living room and kitchen have paths for walking and fixing a quick meal while the bedrooms are cluttered with a few boxes and what few personal items I’ve already unpacked.  Unpacking and getting rid of the boxes becomes an obsessive goal.  Days of unwrapping all my goods that I haven’t seen for a couple of years turns into a Christmas feeling as I find each beloved item.  Some were my mother’s or grandmother’s, some my husband’s grandmother, and many were my husband’s.  Next I find a box that holds a lot of my kids’ items.  Things they made, earned, or wanted so bad in earlier years which I have carried around all these years keeping them safe for when they are ready for them.  These are my most precious things.  They will stay with me forever.

One by one the boxes dwindle until at last I have a place for most things.  There is still a long to-do list, but, happily, there are many tomorrows to complete and, then, check each chore off.  The house will never be perfect, but it will always be mine.

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Back To Rehabbing

There I was, totally Brain Dead (see previous post) with the holidays barreling toward us and a minimal amount of work being done.  Slacking off was epidemic.  The carpenter and painter were finishing up their end of the work, the floors were installed as were the counter-tops, but the bathrooms were at a standstill.   Appliances were in place but a couple weren’t hooked up.  To top it all off, I got sick and lost a week of doing all the things I needed to do.  My move in date was set for December 28th.  There was definitely trouble in River City.

So, I did what I do best.  I settled myself down, did about 30 minutes–well, okay, 24 hours–of being completely, absolutely miserable and whining. Then, I settled and got realistic about everything.  Reluctantly, I changed the moving date to December 30th.  I considered changing it to late January, but then, I would lose my daughter’s help and, honestly, she can get three times as much done in five minutes as I can in an hour.  Nothing, nothing can replace that kind of help.  I firmly told the remaining contractor that I was moving in on the thirtieth and that was final, adding that I needed a sink, a shower and a toilet installed by that date.  I was mad and rightly so.  The bathroom vanities and tops were delayed and that didn’t upset me, but other items had been lying around for weeks just waiting to be installed.  So, my patience and tolerance for delay was at an end.

The move went seamlessly thanks to Alicia and a friend, Michelle.  We started at 7:00 am, with the movers due at 8:30 am, doing last-minute packing and loading up the cars with breakables, groceries, and refrigerator items to move from my apartment to the house.  The movers showed up right on time and started loading up boxes and furniture.  By noon, the truck was unloaded and the girls had finished the last of their deliveries.  They returned to the apartment for a last cleaning and just like that, by 2:00 pm,  the move was finished.  Finally, I could sit down and move a little slower which worked out well since I could barely move.  Alicia asked what else she could do and, smiling, I told her, “Leave.”  It took her about two minutes to clear out.  We were all worn out and ready for some long overdue relaxation and naps.  The big push was complete and I would and could live with the consequences.

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