Have you got the Winter Blues? Go outside!

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I know, it’s been Winter for less than a month, but Spring is already trying to get her foot in the door.

Out walking my dogs in the fog this morning, I noticed those frilly daffodils are busting up along my driveway, this bunch already has buds on it.  There are more bunches spreading down the driveway into my tenant’s yard – gophers? How do they do that?

The sprouts push right up through the gravel base in my driveway, it’s amazing.

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See how hyacinth pushes the rocks aside to get to the sun.

Last year I didn’t get many daffodils, and only one bloom.  The hyacinth didn’t bloom at all.  Every Winter is different, so every Spring is different. Last year we had generous rains, with some cold hail storms, but not many Spring flowers. This year has been fairly dry  and sunny, and the recent rains have been warm. Go figure.

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I think that purple bud at center is an early bloom.

One of the red bud trees already has tiny clusters of flower buds.

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See the tiny buds a little above-right of center – they will burst into the prettiest pink bunches. Red bud trees are native to this area, and once mature, need very little water.

The grass I planted is full of weeds.

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This is how sticker weeds take over – they lift up and spread out and kill the grass. Some of these weeds can grow to the size of a dinner plate, and every sticker they produce is full of more seeds.

But if you mow at the right time, you can kill most of them. I’ll throw down the rest of the grass seed I bought, and with regular mowing and watering  I can get a nice lawn going here again. I don’t need a perfectly manicured lawn, but I hope I can keep it from going to stickers again. 

This has been an odd year – Hummer has been here almost all Winter, leaving only during the stormy weather. He isn’t completely dependent on flowers – I’ve watched him swishing around, doing his little bug-eating dance all day.  But, he’s really happy about the rosemary blooming – I sat and watched him for a while yesterday, sitting at the top of our crepe myrtle tree, singing away, then diving pell-mell into the rosemary bush.

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Sorry it’s blurry.  This is what everything looks like to me when I can’t find  my glasses.

These tiny purple flowers must be packed with nectar, Hummer spends his days guarding over and eating from this bush. He gets real testy about the rosemary – he’ll buzz you if you stand there too long. Biscuit likes to crawl inside this bush and scratch herself all over – the bush shakes.   Hummer has just had to learn to get along with her.

I’ll tell you what’s nice – I like to break off a bundle of these rosemary branches and burn them in my camp stove – the smell is outrageous.

Winter doesn’t always have to give you The Blues!

 

 

 

 

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Roast your vegies!

 

We got  those dumping rains I was hoping for, and Weatherman says more next  week. I  gave Estelle another brooch and set her back on the shelf – your happy voodoo doll, is your safe voodoo doll.

As usual for this time of year, we’ve been cooking and eating alot. My new favorite is roasted vegetables.

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I cut the cauliflower, beans and carrots into small pieces because they roast faster that way. Then I stir in some olive oil and toss it all with salt and pepper.

 

When I was young we were told to steam our vegetables, that boiling took the nutrients out.  It’s easy to over steam, and then you get the same as boiled. So I tried par boiling – 3 minutes in fast boiling water, then a cold rinse. That works okay for green beans, asparagus, and thin sliced carrots, but it’s still boiling. 

I quit eating broccoli and cauliflower because it was easy to over cook and under cooked they gave me indigestion.

Then I saw a recipe for grilled asparagus, wrapped with bacon slices. We loved it, and realized, we can do this in our oven, without the bacon. Roasted asparagus is one of my favorites now – Cash and Carry has big bags of asparagus for about five bucks.

So we started roasting all our vegies. Cauliflower and broccoli cook perfect, no more gas or stomach ache!

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I turn my oven on 400 and put the cookie sheet in for about 10 minutes, get it good and hot. Then I spread the vegies out and set them back in for another 10 minutes, stir, then 10 more minutes.

 

This is the only way to eat green onions, the ends get crispy, roots and all. That little tip on the string bean toasts perfect. I like a little crunch in my vegies!

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For me they’re done when things turn carmel brown. That little pepper will melt in your mouth. We topped it off with roasted chicken breast and a cabbage and carrot salad with some homemade yogurt dressing.

Those little sweet peppers roast perfect whole. I get those in the bag at Safeway, they’re a good deal, but Cash and Carry has a bigger bag for about the same price, if you feel you can use them fast enough. 

And lately Safeway has had bone-in chicken breast for 99 cents a pound, which is crazy cheap. I like bone-in chicken breast because it’s easy to cook – 350 degrees, bone side up for 20 minutes, flip it, skin side up for 15 – 20 more. I use my grandma’s old meat thermometer so I don’t have to worry about over cooking it.  The skin gets good and crispy brown, and the meat stays so tender and juicy. One of those feeds the both of us for dinner, and there’s usually enough scraps for cheese and crackers the next day. We cook two, so we have two dinners in one pan. 

Cold roasted vegies are a great salad topper the next day.

I’m probably the last person on Earth to find out about  roasting vegies, but I figured I better hip any of you who might still be in the dark!

 

 

 

 

It’s not hoarding if it’s useful

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I gave Estelle a new brooch and, no kidding, it started raining the next day.

It started raining last Thursday. Mostly just showers, but a few hours steady. Enough that I can turn off my sprinklers, and that’s money in the bank.

This morning it’s just dumping. Good thing we got a “new” rain barrel the other day.

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Some long time neighbors were moving, and they had piled their unwanted hoard on the sidewalk in front of their house, alongside a trailer loaded with absolute garbage. They bid us to help ourselves.

The rain barrel looked almost new, I was compelled to ask them if they had put it in the “out” pile by mistake, but a little voice in the back of my head said, “just load it in the truck!”

There was a shelf unit, big like we needed and in good shape, lots of shelf space for the tools that had been laying all over the work bench. This was something I’d actually been looking for, watching “free” piles all over town.  It’s not exactly stylish, but it’s tall, sturdy, and has room for more shelves.

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But there was more stuff.  It was like walking into a saloon after an AA meeting. There was a pair of iron legs, looked like they were from a work bench, old and ornate, but for some practical use. There are holes where wood was attached, and you can still read “Sears and Roebuck” in the iron.  They both had a hinged piece, and after my husband gave them a good blast with our pressure washer, the hinges became movable again.

Suddenly we realized what we had – these desks were still in use in Glenn County schools when I was a kid.

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We showed our son, who enjoys wood working, and he thought it was a good score.

Remember, it’s not hoarding if it’s useful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the light of the Super Moon

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Greetings, Earthlings.

This month the moon will come unusually close to the Earth, not once, but twice.

Should we be worried?  Is this what happened to the dinosaurs? Is the moon trying to change lanes on the intergalatic freeway? 

It’s worth taking a look – we were out on the bike just before sunset Friday evening and Super Moon floated up over the eastern horizon like a giant smiling pinata. That’s the best time to see it, it’s biggest right at sunset. You might start looking at about 4:30. 

So we’ve got plans to cook outside the next few nights, be sure to get a good look at it.

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The potatoes are steamed ahead for about 10 minutes, whole, and then I cut them in half. Everything gets olive oil, salt and pepper, and my husband likes a little paprika on the potatoes.

We got our younger son a neat little gas grill  for Christmas, one of those units you can pack up like a suitcase. It has a little tray for crumbs and grease, and the grill is really easy to clean. 

He already learned one lesson about grilling:

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But he’d never actually used a grill, just watched Dad. Dad is all about charcoal, and lately, wood, but we used to have a  gas grill, so my husband fell right back into it.  I think he wants to go back to gas now! It’s so fast – no charcoal chimney, no guessing how many charcoals, no greasy ashes to deal with later.  And perfect grill marks!

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So pretty!

 I don’t want to go entirely back to gas, but this little unit is great for taking on the road. I may have to buy one for my husband’s birthday later this year. 

Don’t forget to get out there at sunset and see Super Moon for yourselves! And remember, it’s supposed to appear again at the end of January. 

Back to Drought!?! Maybe it’s time for superstition

Looks like my neighbor’s redwoods are on fire!

 

Sunset comes early these days – that picture was taken before 5:00. Weird weather we’ve had too – 60 – 70 by day! 32 by night. And dry as a bone. 

When we drove up Hwy 32 the other day, we noticed Lassen is almost bare of snow. 

But I’m not going to worry now, I’m just going to keep moving the hoses around the yard – a city of Chico arborist once told me that big trees need water about once a month during Winter drought.  The fruit trees and the grapevines also need water, about every two weeks without rain. 

Yeah, I used the ‘D’ word!  Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player. Yes, we’re in trouble again, rain totals less than half of normal by some estimates. 

But, looking ahead at AccuWeather – which, by the way, is the site most of our local tv weather casters use – I see  there are some wet systems trying to move in. Next Wednesday, January 3, it says, “rain and drizzle possible…”  By mid-January they use phrases like “steady rain…”  Around January 21 they mention “snow” (!), but that peters into regular old rain by the end of the month. 

I’ll take it.

When we have weather like this in December, there are two things I worry about. First is obviously DROUGHT!  But the second is Spring flooding. Not that my properties are at risk, but flooding causes all kinds of problems. Too much rain makes things die just like not enough. If it runs on too long it affects the garden just like not enough. 

Maybe it’s time for superstition.

Meet Estelle, my voodoo doll. I gave her the Mardi Gras beads to keep her happy. 

 

Apparently, according to Estelle, a voodoo doll can be used for good as well as evil. I keep her on my book shelf, and whenever I have a problem, I give her a gift – like the Mardi Gras beads, or an old earring – and I ask her for something.  Doesn’t hurt!

So, I will look for an old earring or brooch and ask Estelle if she can do anything about this drought. Watch the skies.

 

Wishing all of you a miracle

I woke up this morning feeling a crown of icy air on my head. I pulled the covers over my ears and tried to go back to sleep – what’s the use of  getting up when it’s so cold and dark?

And then I remembered what day it is!

I’ve got most of my chores done, dinner is in bags of brine in the fridge. We made one last sweep of the grocery store to stock up on greens, and the relatives have supplied the lebkuchen, baklava and candied nuts. 

Yesterday while my husband and sons were busy in Santa’s work shop, I gave the whole apartment the old One-Two – vacuumed up as high as I could reach and then brought in the Swiffer. First I did the apartment stairs, because it’s too easy to talk myself out of that after I’ve done all the rest. Once up the stairs, I swept and mopped the fake plastic/wood floor in the living room, cleaned the baseboards – sheesh, I hate dirty baseboards.  Then I got up on my step stool and cleaned all the ceiling lights and fans. I wiped down the windows around the dining table and cleaned the blinds.

And then I went after the knick knacks. OMG I got knick knacks. Nothing worse than dusty knick knacks.

A 3:30 I put away my cleaning stuff and I got myself a cup of coffee. I sat at my glistening dining table and stared out my clean windows. I realized I had no plans for last night’s dinner – all that food in the house, and no immediate plans for dinner, isn’t that just the way it goes? Luckily I just made a fresh loaf of bread, and there was a pack of bacon in the fridge. There’s almost always a giant bag of lettuce from Cash and Carry in our fridge. 

No tomato! Damn the torpedos, we went full steam ahead on BL’s without the T’s. I ate mine so fast I decided to lie to myself and say there was a tomato on it. Oh it was so good. Dinner tastes better when you are so tired you can hardly chew it.

Today we cook and continue to make Christmas gifts and wait for the miracle.

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

Stories are nice, whether they are “true” or not, they can make people feel good and do nice things.

That’s the miracle.

 

 

Flu season is here – stock up your pantry and your reading table!

My husband and I have been doing more than than the usual amount of running around town lately, getting those last minute gifts, mailing packages, etc. Sunday morning we did a marathon food shopping trip, trying to stay ahead of the mobs. People were already out there, but it wasn’t hectic yet.

Monday morning I woke up feeling weird, my husband felt weird – we realized pretty quickly we had The Freaking Flu.

Sheesh I feel stupid when I get sick, I wonder – have I really been washing my hands? Didn’t I just rub my nose  and eyes while standing in the check out line? Oh, SHIT!

I immediately recalled the Big Flu of 2007. My older son was attending his second semester at Butte, it was February, and almost exactly on his birthday he got sick. Within a couple of days my younger son was sick, my husband was sick, and then I got it. Each of my family got sick for three or four days, and seemed to “sweat it out.” I got sick and I went down like an old Slinky – seven days in the sack, and seven more after that hanging onto furniture to get around the house.  I couldn’t get rid of the fever, it hung on like that last party guest.

I remember drawing a bead on a part of the room, and making it for that spot. It was like being drunk.

Laying in bed was no comfort – I couldn’t sleep, the body aches and the nausea didn’t let up even in a nice warm bed.  The worst thing – watching tv or reading made me nauseous too! So I laid there cursing and staring at the wall.

I had thought I was so smart – when I knew what was coming and still felt okay, I had gone grocery shopping and picked up two huge volumes at the library – “Cinderella Man”, by Jeremy Schaap, and “Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn. My younger son was about 13 and has always been a sports fan, so I thought I’d be reading these books with him. “Cinderella Man” had just been a big hit at the box office, and “Boys of Summer” was one of those books I had heard of all my life but never read. Baseball was something my son and I could enjoy talking about – we’re both Giants fans. No matter what.

I am a reader, always have been – I can even read speeches by Ralph Nader, I’ll read anything. So those books laid next to my bed and I’d reach out and open one and read a few pages at a time before I had to put an ice bag back on my head. Both were almost impossible to put down. “Cinderella Man” is the story of James Braddock – a guy who is portrayed as a sort of Depression Era Super Hero. I didn’t watch the movie, so I was able to see it in my head the way Jeremy Schaap (son of Dick Schaap) wrote it. My family was working class, so I knew guys like Braddock – grown up in a working family, during the Great Depression (in  my case, a crapped out town), couldn’t stay in school because of a hot temper and quick fists – in those days, boys like him were kicked out of school and expected to go to work. It was when he ran away from home at 15, arrested and returned to his angry and worried parents, that his older brother tried to give him a whipping and found out – Braddock actually had a talent for fighting.  His brother, already an amateur boxer, became his first  trainer and manager.

I am not a boxing fan. I remember the old fights between Ali and Frazier, it was on tv, but it didn’t appeal to me. Ali was a colorful character, but I couldn’t care less about the fights. It was Braddock himself that appealed to me, his stubborn determination – he didn’t really want to fight, but once he got a little money, and got a wife and kids, he found himself forced again and again by the economy to go into the ring. When his over anxious manager hatched an idea to toughen him up for an important fight by hiring some big guys to spar with him, Braddock ended up with broken ribs. But he was so desperate to fight, they shut down his training camp to outsiders and kept the injury a secret lest the officials should call off the fight while he nursed himself back to shape.

The other character I learned about was Max Baer Sr., an  important opponent of Braddock, who was a hugely popular figure of the 1930’s. My dad was a boy then, and used to tell us stories about Max Baer Sr as we watched his son Max Baer Jr cut it up on “The Beverly Hillbillies”. My dad never mentioned Braddock, I suppose because Braddock was a working guy who also happened to fight, compared to the almost pimp-like character of Baer, a guy who loved flashy suits and dated Hollywood  starlets before his retirement, marriage, and children.

“Cinderella Man” is what most people would consider voluminous, a regular door stop of a book, but I was caught up so much in the story of this man I only put it down when my head started to swim with nausea.

I hate finishing a book like that, you feel you know these people, and now they’re gone. So I immediately picked up “Boys of Summer”. Starting with sketches of Kahn’s childhood in 1930’s New York, this book is also fascinating. Kahn’s life growing up in an apartment house is completely foreign to me, his dad taking afternoons off to ride the bus to Ebbet’s and the Polo Grounds to watch the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Later Kahn tracks down former players and follows up on their lives since those days – including his friend Jackie Robinson.

The best part of this book is Kahn’s childhood, but he also presents us with the golden era of baseball and players who were only legends to me until I read this book.

By the time I finished these books, I had my family interested, coming in for updates.  I was up and tottering around the house, eating better meals, feeling like myself again.

This time around, I, like my husband, was able to “sweat it out” over about three days. I didn’t take anything, I just tried to rest with my feet up and drink a lot of water.  I wrapped myself up like a mummy and slept in front of the tv set.   Although I was tired, I was still hungry. The worst part of eating was having to make something to eat.  Luckily we had just gone out and bought food, I was afraid to call our older kid over and pass it along to him and his wife.

After staying inside most of Monday and Tuesday, walking out to the mail box and back to entertain the dogs,  I woke up in the middle of the night, soaking wet, my pillow and hair were wet, my pajamas were wet, and my feet were slimy with sweat and colder than a pair of mackerels. I was shivering, so changed my pajamas, toweled my hair, and dug out a fresh pillow case and an extra blanket. My husband had a similar experience Monday night. By Wednesday morning I was feeling a lot better, able to go to the post office, and my husband set some pork ribs in the smoker for dinner. 

I hope that was the end of flu season in our house, but it’s out there people – take care of yourselves! Get a good book or two!