Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year....

As part of my annual calendar wrap up, I look at the year in review online. The internet is a fantastic tool for researching pop-culture, and I find myself getting lost amongst the trivial topics of what our society deems important. I am particularly fond of lists. Top 10's are always interesting, and sometimes surprising: from New Year's resolutions to what became popular, and what waned. The best photos from National Geographic. The year's hottest music and movies.

But the best is always the most Google searched topics.
A telling example is Christmas Day's most popular queries:

  1. prime rib roast cooking time
  2. after christmas sales 2009
  3. is starbucks open on christmas
  4. what stores are open on christmas day 2009
  5. mele kaliki maka
  6. oklahoma road conditions
  7. walmart christmas store hours
  8. is best buy open on christmas
  9. iowa road conditions map
  10. mimosa
Okay, I get the prime rib thing, but Starbucks? WalMart hours? What kind of society do we live in that searches for Best Buy Christmas hours before the mimosas? Has Corporate America taken over our common sense? (Is common sense an oxymoron?)

I wish you a very happy new year, that you kiss your soulmate at midnight and all of your searches end with mimosas.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the day before Christmas....

I awoke with a panic. It was the day before Christmas; I had completed all of my shopping, wrapped the gifts, baked all the treats. What had I forgotten? I poured a cup of coffee and grabbed the paper in my normal relaxing morning ritual. Only I couldn't relax. I just knew there was one last thing to cross off my list....

Like a thunderbolt, it hit me. I had spaced going to the post office to mail my packages! In the trunk of my car they were out of sight, and completely out of mind. I would now have to stand in line for ages in the company of countless other procrastinators in festive holiday moods. The post office is the last place I planned on being on Christmas Eve, but it was imperative my mail was postmarked before midnight, so off I went.

The line was long. Really long. And people were grumpy. And smelly. But I finally reached the front and plopped my packages on the counter. The USPS guy looked like he had worked a season or two behind the counter, and kept glancing at the clock behind me, just over my head. He sleepily recited the standard mail jargon, charged me a fortune, and tossed the packages onto the conveyor belt. As an afterthought, I asked for a book of stamps to take with me.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Can I see what's available in Christmas stamps?"

USPS Guy: "We ran out of Christmas stamps. Everyone is mailing this year, and they didn't make enough to last until Christmas. I've got Hanukkah stamps, Kwanzaa stamps, museum stamps.... but no Christmas stamps."

Me: "Okay, then, let's see the museum stamps."

Me: "Uh, that's a Madonna and Child."

USPS Guy: "Yeah, that's all that's available. Sorry."

Me: "But that's Jesus! And Mary!"

USPS Guy: "Yeah, we ran out of the Snowman stamps the first week of December. I can see what else we might have back here....."

Me: "Merry Christmas. I'll take the museum stamps, please."


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Campers....

I am a city girl. Manhattan, London, San Francisco, Paris. Love them all. I could spend my life bustling from one museum to the next. Expose my palate to a different nationality every night. I love the smell of bus exhaust. The sound of horns honking. The feel of trains jiggling china off shelves. I'd gladly surrender my driver's license for a public transportation pass and live in the city.

So when I announced my engagement 6 years ago, my boss quietly said, "Does he know.... you don't go.... outside?"

You see, I married the guy who was everything nature. He would rather have a rectal exam than experience the frenetic life of the city. A day off meant all day fishing, or hiking, or climbing. Every weekend spent sleeping on the soil in his trademark one-man tent.

Waking to the sound of woodpeckers. One with the universe. Eschewing basics like electricity, plumbing and hygiene. Before I wandered into his scene, Matt contentedly spent his time waist-deep in snow-melt rivers, chasing trout and breathing clean air. He had no clue what was about to hit him.

And neither did I.

There were compromises. Of major proportions. Where would we live? Was Matt willing to buy a suit? Would I tempt fate and sleep under the stars? The negotiations were long and intense, but in the end both parties were satisfied.

Matt goes off to feed his soul in the wilderness with the boys (and by boys, I mean grown-up responsible sorts who like to hang out with bears, drink whiskey by the fire and have farting contests). But he did buy a suit, and has learned to appreciate theatre. Being a professional chef has opened many doors for him in the culinary world, and I have become accustomed to the star treatment we receive in fine restaurants.

I meet my refined, metropolitan friends in the city (and by friends I mean the kind of chums who wear nice shoes, love Broadway and talk about the latest paint colors). But I bought some hiking boots and didn't die when I came upon my first snake. Running into bear scat doesn't even scare me anymore.
We have gone camping, and it's not all that bad. In fact, sometimes it's pretty fun.

But we did have to get a bigger tent.


Monday, October 26, 2009

So much to complain about....

I complain about my cleavage. It's not what it used to be. An inch or so lower and more cylindrical than I'd prefer. Now I know why they add that little extra "sock" to tank tops, although that only works for a few years. I can't go braless any more. Can't pass the pencil test. My breast length is racing my hair length and I can no longer play Mermaid in the bathtub.

I complain about my hair. In the quest for the perfect curl, I end up with light-socket frizz. I can't blow it dry. I can't wash it at night. I wash it in the morning and have to wait until 10:00 for it to dry. Wavy but not curly. What used to be golden is now brown. With some gray.... little patches here and there. Unwelcome silvery strands to catch the light. A reminder of lost youth.

I complain about my body. Strange, lumpy parts replace the once over-looked smooth areas. I can't drink without a hangover. Aches and pains visit with more frequency. Gone is the ability to scarf down a double cheeseburger and shake. Now, every calorie likes to hang out, just in case it's needed.

I complain about time. Not enough of the lazy, day-off kind. Too much of the busy, run-around kind. It takes too long to walk here, or run there. There's not enough time in the day to take on that last task; usually housework.

I complain about so much. But I don't complain about my hair falling out from Chemo. Or the doctor wanting to take more breast tissue (just to be cautious). I don't complain about heaving until there's nothing left to give. Or the needle marks covering my skin. I don't complain about being given a length of time in which I can live.

The fact is, I have cleavage. And hair. And a healthy body. And time...... I am not sick. I am lucky. Many are not. I have decided to honor my friends, my family, my sisters in breast-hood by simply shutting my mouth. I will not complain about life, as I have permission to live it however I please. The coffee line is too long? Someone cut me off in traffic? The electric bill is too high? Lucky.

Lucky to be here.....


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things I love about fall....

  • Leaves running across the road like cats.
  • The sawdust smell of a fallen branch (in anyone's yard but mine!).
  • Spongy grass.
  • Netflix Sunday afternoons with hot chocolate and blankets.
  • Hats.
  • Cloud animals. 
  • Pajama pants. Finally.
  • Costumes and candy. (Lots and lots of candy.... costume optional.)
  • Long, hot baths with a book. 
  • Walking the dog in the wind.
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Aspen leaves applauding the breeze.
  • Closed-toed shoes. And new socks.
  • Oak ball wars.
  • Crunchy footsteps.
  • Enormous, lopsided pumpkins on my tiny, lopsided porch.
  • Baking cookies. And bread.
  • Rain.

What's your favorite thing about fall?


Monday, September 14, 2009

Shorter days....

It's happening. I went to a late matinee yesterday and when the show was over I readied myself for the spotlight of summer waiting to greet me on the other side of the theatre door. I dug my shades out of my enormous candy and snacks receptacle purse (it's amazing what you'll find in there), located my keys and headed for the exit. If I hurried home I'd still have time for a bit of gardening before nightfall. I followed the movie lemmings in a race to get to out, found the door, and squinted in anticipation of the brutal California sun.

It was.... dark. At 7:30. Fearing Sudden Onset Blindness (I saw it once on Oprah and have been terrified ever since), I stopped dead in my tracks. Like a line of dominos, the single-file group of about 20 people behind me collided in a chain reaction of L.A. freeway proportions. And I was their leader.

A good friend once told me "If you're going down, never do it alone. Take as many people with you as you can." So in a moment of pure genius, I turned to the Twilight t-shirt wearing 13 year old directly behind me, shook my head and said in my best childless-woman-of-little-tolerance voice, "Come on! Can't you see there are people behind you? You're going to kill someone!" By the time she could muster a witty teenage retort I was long gone.

So I suppose the day getting shorter tells us summer has come to an end. It's time to prepare the soil for a winter garden, move the chair cushions inside, and finish all of those sunny weather projects that got started in June. It will start raining soon and hanging out in the garden 'til the bugs start biting will have to wait until next year.  I wonder if there are any good movies coming out.....

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I've always been a social creature. In fact, all my 5th grade report card said in the comments section was "My darling Katie. If we could get her to stop talking and start working, her grades would improve." A life-long challenge, I'm afraid.

I had plans. For everything. By 17 I was out every weekend, going here, seeing that. Busy, busy, busy. I'd kiss my parents goodnight on my way out the door. I watched them wave goodbye as I ran past them on the porch, and try not to wake them when I got home.

At 25 I had collected a few really cool stories to write home about. I had stamps in my passport. There was always a concert, or an opening, or a trip with good friends. Opportunity everywhere and I was not going to miss any of it. I had no responsibilities. No reason to say no. I jumped at chances. Letters home were filled with tales of my adventures and photos of beautiful sunsets.

Slowly, the tables started turning. As I took on new responsibilities, my parents released theirs. I started my career as my Dad was retiring. Bought a car and a parking space as they bought a boat (not a weekend boat you can tow behind your truck, a 40-something foot multi-bedroom boat in the San Juan Islands). I acquired a mortgage around the time my parents paid off their house. Thought about starting a family as their last child was finishing college. I was tying myself down as they were releasing their reigns.

Now I check my email for their letters of adventure. I study the photos of their travels. I haven't been a guest in their house for years. Instead, they stay at mine on their way to or from their destination of choice. I cry as they pull away to continue their life stories, and I miss them. They are free. Truly free. I dream as I drive to work about the day I can loosen my bindings; release myself from the responsibilities of the life I have chosen. Wander the world from port to port, watch the sun set with an umbrella in my drink and my toes in the sand. Until then, I can always live vicariously....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

If you give a girl a carriage....

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 7. And toothless. And wanted a dolly carriage more than life. I had a pretty extensive doll collection, complete with dresses and shoes and hair clips and jewelry. I'd lock myself and my cat Smudge Pot in my room and play fashion parlor for hours.

My mom made me the happiest girl on the planet when I woke up on my birthday to find the perfect pram to take my favorite doll on a walk. She was about 18 inches tall and had her own closet; a blue metal chest that opened to form a dressing room with drawers and hangers. Her wardrobe was to die for! Prairie dresses just like Holly Hobbie, fabulous hats to match, even socks. She had eyeballs that rolled back in her head if you laid her down.  She was the best doll ever. Then one day her head just popped right off her shoulders and couldn't be reattached, not even by my brother David who could fix anything.

I was devastated. Nothing could get me out of the dark mood that shadowed my afternoons. Well, almost nothing. Smudge Pot had been trained to sit for hours and watch the "purple and sparkly" develop in me. It was a natural progression, I suppose, to try the decapitated doll's clothes on the poor cat, and since she didn't complain (with claws, anyway) I was off and running with my new hobby: cat dressing. She loved it, I swear. I taped her dressed up little body in the stroller and took her for walks. She never left the house without a hat.

30-something years later my mom still shakes her head when I mention Smudge Pot. She was the first cat of many in my life, and she taught me a lot about unconditional love. And how to clip extensions to very short hair.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I tried everything....

Not so long ago I couldn't find enough recipients for the goodness my garden was producing. Every day I had a bounty of at least three tomatoes and more cucumbers than a village of widows could use. Peppers and herbs filled my market basket and I gave the basil curious haircuts once a week. My neighbors, my mom's neighbors, and even the crew at Starbucks were all reaping the rewards of my garden. It seemed so idyllic, harvesting and consuming the fruits of my labor. I was one with the Earth. In line with the moon. Down with natural pesticides. I was a garden goddess.

Then one day there were only two tomatoes. And two cucumbers. The basil wasn't growing a mullet and the peppers were on stand-by. As the days went by, my basket got lighter and lighter. I didn't know what I had done wrong. Was I over/under watering? Adding too much Miracle Grow? Not singing loudly enough? I was perplexed about my lack of new veggies. Not knowing what to do, I knew where I could find the answers. I was off to the garden center.

I consulted the directions on bags of amendments. I checked charts and labels and guides on additives. I didn't find anything helpful. The kids working for beer money didn't even know the plants in the nursery needed watering; they weren't going to offer me any new insight. Noticing a very comfy wicker chair, I slumped down and folded my arms in a huff. 

As my furrowed brow raised, I noticed her across the aisle. I instantly new she could save the garden. She'd done it  for countless people before (although not quite in an organic capacity). Selflessly standing by to offer comfort and hope. So I took her home. And named her Mary.

She's been standing guard for two days now, and I have to admit things are looking a bit better. The bell peppers broke out in a beautiful bloom to welcome her to the neighborhood! I even offered her a tropical shell necklace to make her more comfortable in her new home.

Only time will tell if she's up to the task, but I have a feeling the veggies will taste a little sweeter, and the garden will be a better place.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A couple of days away....

I took a week away from work and didn't go anywhere. Well, almost. I had planned to play all week; catch up on movies (check), get a pedicure (check), go to lunch with good friends (check), sleep in (check). Then I got bored. 
My mom suggested going to Lake Tahoe for a couple of days and I jumped at the chance. The air was cool, the people were friendly and the water was perfect. I planted my beach chair on the edge of the shore, grabbed my book, and let my worries go sailing away with the paddleboarders....

But the last year has not been kind to my favorite get-away. The economy has dried up tourist dollars and the casinos have all but closed down. The all-you-can-eat buffets are gone, boat and bike rental agencies have gone belly-up, and parking was plenty at the beach. The lake itself seemed a bit depressed, too. The water level is the lowest it's been in over 30 years. You can walk out 400 yards and not get your tummy wet!

So now is the chance for us semi-locals (would that be regionals?) to scoop up the good deals and head up the hill for some economic stimulus. You'll have the place to yourself and low or not, that is the most beautiful lake you'll ever see. Eat out, play in the casinos and rent some bikes for a cruise around town. You'll feel like a new person. Even if only for a couple of days.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Our string of wonderful house guests have gone and all is back to normal. The house is quiet and we are a bit more unlikely to pick up our messes so fast. The lawn needs mowing and the weeds are peeking through (again!), all of the towels and sheets are blowing in the wind. 

Having guests when the temperature keeps rising can heat the house up very quickly, so we are doing much of our cooking outside, barbecued on Matt's new cast iron monster. Our tasty dinners were: chicken grilled with fresh garden peppers and onions; hot dogs and hamburgers with homemade mustard and pickles; fajitas; delicious steak with Gorgonzola butter, fresh asparagus, new potatoes, and tomato basil mozzarella salad (thanks to my parents for the photo!). We only cooked inside once.... pasta.

Although we always eat fresh, we don't always have great new company to share it with. It's fun to add another setting to the table, pour another glass of wine, and toast to friendships far and wide. I am ready for more guests, so if you're in town, stop by!

Here is a great all-around recipe for grilled veggies:
1 med. Red or Sweet Onion cut into 4 pieces then separated.
1 med. Yellow Squash sliced 1/2" thick lengthwise.
1 med. Zucchini Squash sliced 1/2" thick lengthwise.
1 med. Green Pepper cut into 1' strips.
1 med. Red Pepper cut into 1" strips.
12-14 med. fresh Mushrooms, stems removed.

Olive Oil mixture:
2 tablespoons Olive Oil.
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground Black Pepper.
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt.
1 Garlic clove, crushed.

Toss vegetables with Olive Oil mixture and place in oil sprayed grill basket.

Grill with lid closed over med. coals or lava rocks, stir occasionally until vegetables are tender (approx. 10-12 minutes)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Playing God....

I thought my garden was looking pretty good until I got up close and personal with my tomatillo. Taking up residence and about to build a cool condo complex were about a million aphids! 

I was at a loss as to what to do, so I pulled out my laptop and got to work. Natural pest control was my only option as I find no need to grow my own only to add chemicals to my food. Ladybugs are said to be a veggie gardener's best friend and I figured I could find them somewhere....

I found lots of websites that sold ladybugs by mail so I ordered an army of  3,000 for around 20 bucks. What a bargain! I laid the little bag under the plant and watched the ladybugs pour out the top. Boy, were they hungry! They found the aphids quickly and gobbled them right up. It was fascinating to watch them grab and hoard their food, even stealing each other's right out from under their chins! In the space of about 10 minutes the tomatillo was totally aphid free. I was so impressed, I moved the little bag to the tomato. The theory is this: the ladybugs get so full they find a comfy leaf to relax on and pop out a few eggs that will then hatch hungry and keep the cycle going. 

The only flaw in my plan was not checking the weather. Torrential rain and 2000 lightning strikes in 1 hour ruined my plan for complete aphid annihilation! Only about 50 bugs stuck it out, but the plants are all clean and dust-free and I don't have to water for a couple of days....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The pretzels are to die for....

My best guy friend and his beautiful and undoubtedly better half are coming for a visit in 2 weeks!! Michael and I have been friends for 20 years and roommates on and off throughout that time.  When Matt and I married, Michael moved to the east coast where he met Lisa, and they're in Pennsylvania until we convince them to give up their well paying jobs and move to Chico. I go see them once a year in the spring, and they come see us in the summer. 

The last time I was there we went to the Amish country and I could not get enough pretzels! Soft and chewy, salty and warm. There's nothing better! When I got to the airport to go home there were vendors selling them right outside the gate, so I got Matt a six-pack and boarded the plane..... I ate them all. I decided I had to make them for Matt to make up for my gluttony. I searched and searched for the perfect recipe, making about 6 batches before finding the perfect pretzels. This is so quick and easy, and I guarantee there will be none left over. Enjoy! 

Amish Pretzels




  1. 1
    Dissolve yeast into warm water.

  2. 2
    Add sugar, then flour& mix well- do not 'knead' as this toughens the dough.

  3. 3
    (Mix just until combined well) Let rise until doubled, at least 20 minutes.

  4. 4
    Cut into long 'ropes'.

  5. 5
    Shape into pretzel shapes, then dip into prepared dipping solution.

  6. 6
    Place on non-stick cookie sheet and sprinkle with course sea salt.

  7. 7
    Bake at 500-550°F for 4-6 minutes until golden brown.

  8. 8
    Dip face of pretzel into melted butter.

  9. 9
    Variation: add 1 t vanilla to the dough.

  10. 10
    Flavor variations.

  11. 11
    Cinnamon/sugar- omit salt& dip into cinnamon sugar after face has been coated with butter.

  12. 12
    Sour cream& onion- after dipping face of pretzel in butter, sprinkle with sour cream& onion powder Garlic- same as sour cream& onion, but use garlic powder.

  13. 13
    Sesame or poppy seed--BEFORE baking, AFTER dipping into dipping solution, dip pretzel face-down into the seeds, then bake.

  14. 14
    Salt is optional with this one.
  15. Makes 16 pretzels

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thanks, Dad.......

I worked hard in the garden today. The weeds around my raised beds were out of control and a renegade band of evil biting ants made tending the crops a chore. I decided to outsmart both obstacles by laying down weed cloth and covering it with dirt. Aha! It may just work!

Since I am meticulous about the garden, it took hours. First, I had a pad of paper, a pen, and a few ideas. This blossomed into an hour on the computer and then a trip to the Kmart garden center.  I found lots of options (mulch, top soil or bark) at every price point. I filled my trusty vehicle with mulch and weed cloth and got to work. Being an algebraic infant made things a bit tense, but I finally figured out exactly how much cloth to put where and how to evenly distribute the mulch as to not require another trip to the store. 

I had lots of time to reflect while hand spreading the mulch and I kept thinking of my dad and his gardens; how he could tell me everything there is to know about this particular plant or that, how much and when to water, and what to plant where. He always had a diagram! I was surprised by the research he did when he was truly interested in something; many more hours were spent finding out all the details of a project than the amount of time it took to actually do it. It used to drive me nuts how he'd map out a plan when anyone else would just jump in and do it. 

As I checked my diagram, it began to dawn on me that I might be a little like him. This realization didn't affect me like when I think "Oh, God, I've become my mother!". Instead, I took my ice water to a garden chair, sat down, and surveyed my hard work. I smiled as I thought how much I enjoyed all of my research, and how having a plan can make things a lot easier. Sometimes, Dad, you are right.  Thanks.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ah, my first blog..........

OK, so I have officially joined this century. I have a blog! I hope this will be a forum to share ideas about good things in life with good friends far and wide. Raise a glass to the beginning........