Saturday, December 31, 2011

Check your brain at the door....

"If you can't take the heat, don't go in the kitchen".   Is that the saying or one of my Ellenism's that I have twisted up?

Today I am suppose to bring dessert to my sister by marriage's home, the amazing cook she is, for our long standing New Year's Eve party.   Now any other time I might be able to pull off a flashy dessert but I am in the middle of a head cold so my brain is not functioning to well.

She asked for chocolate cupcakes.  Simple, right?  Maybe my heart wasn't in it for chocolate or the cupcakes (say what?!), that and I couldn't remember which chocolate cupcake recipe I used last that turned out perfecto.  Oh Lord not now, don't fail me.  I pull out several recipes and not one clicks in my clogged head.   Nothing registers.

I decide in the end,  after sifting through my dessert file for a half hour, on the Hersey's Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe thinking that I know that it will taste yummy.  I have never made cupcakes with it however.  As I prepare the batter I remember the overflow issue when making the layers for the cake.  I make sure to under fill the paper liners and put the first batch in the oven.  Tick, tick the timer goes.  I check through the oven window and notice the rise and then I have my first dreaded feeling.  They are going to spill over and why did I forget that the recipe does this?   That was why I went to using a Springform cake pan versus a regular cake pan since the sides are higher.

The timer rings and I test with the toothpick for doneness.  Yes, they are done but they sure look ugly, all flat and pockmarked.  Thank goodness I will have frosting on top to cover that up.  I put the next batch in and allow the first one to cool.

After a decent time of cooking I try, yes try, to remove the cupcakes.  The tops are glued to the cupcake pan and I am moaning of what to do.  I grab a small knife and attempt to lift the edge enough to allow them to come out.  Muffin tops anyone?  Because that is what is going to happen if I do it this way. I decide to cut off around the rim and the side of the cupcake and forget the glued edges.  Did I say they were ugly?  Now I have crumbly edges and knife marks in the stupid paper liners.  Already I am wanting to chuck the whole lot of them into the garbage.  Husband in the kitchen is being ever so quiet and not making a comment one way or another of my endeavor to make simple cupcakes.  Oops he finally says it, "It can't be that hard to make cupcakes".  He is reading the newspaper and really hasn't been watching me.  I grit my teeth as the second batch timer goes off.  More ugly cupcakes stare me in the face.

I decide to make the frosting that goes with the recipe.  I've done it countless times and it always turns out.  Big mistake this time as I softened the butter instead of melting it as the recipe says.  What is with me today?  I blew it big time now with the frosting that I had hoped would cover the pathetic cupcakes.  The frosting is not looking like it should and my tastebuds feel this is all too sweet.  This I did chuck into the disposal.  Happy to see it melt away under the hot water coming from the tap with the wroom of the blades below.

Now what?

Advice.  If you can't laugh at your cooking...don't cook.  How many failed recipes have any of us done?  I bet more than we are willing to admit to.  Isn't that how we learn?  Sometimes our loved ones get to try them as testers, to see if it will be part of the family meal rotation or if it will take a "never to be fixed, ever again" recipe.  Like meatloaf, which I do not fix anymore.  No one liked it.  Stroganoff isn't looked at too fondly either.  I liked them but I was outnumbered by the clan.  I don't mind in the end.  I don't fix Beef Tongue anymore though my husband loves it.  I can't bear the smell let alone the texture or color.

The cupcakes and how to redeem them comes from my wise son who says not to waste them but make some new frosting.  Yes, I will make a new frosting, a white one that I will follow the recipe just as it says.  I still don't want them or like them, they will be a joke for the evening.  I did a totally different recipe for tonight....ahhh I will share that one on the next post.  It did turn out triumphantly!

 I leave you with a fading tradition that dear hubby heard on NPR.  Perhaps next year we should do this one for the holidays.

Happy New Years to all!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Nutcracker

     The house lights begin to dim, a settling in our seats, murmuring voices fade and the orchestra begins the overture.  I can see the side view of the cherubic faces of my daughters, one, two, three as we sit in the three rows of our box seats at the Opera House.  My mother and Papa, my Love and I attending the Nutcracker with our little girls decked out in their holiday dresses with black Mary Jane shoes, and their hair pulled back with bows.  The music swells and the heavy velvet curtain opens.  The magic begins.  We are caught up in the story that has entertained us for so many years.  

     Our tradition started when K. was three years old.   First just my mom/Nana, my niece and K., and thereafter we all would go.  Nana and Papa would get box seats for us.  We would take the side stairway up to the level that the box seats were on and walk till we came to the correct numbered door.  Opening the door one would enter into a dimly lit petite sitting room with a few chairs.  A velvet fringed curtain opened out upon the box seating with the sweeping view of the theater.  Before the show, the girls would lean over the balcony rail to peer down at the orchestra seating, their eyes would swing over to the stage area,  look upon the orchestra pit where the musicians would be warming up, and look up to the higher balcony seating.  They would wait ever so patiently.  

     Each year the story became more firmly ingrained in their minds.  What were the favorite parts?  What might have changed this year with the story?  Those dear happy times, even when trying to get them each dressed and out the door on time to pick up Nana and Papa or most times have a limo pick us up at their home.  

     At the Intermission, Nana would always have brought peanut butter sandwiches cut into shapes (no crust) of little horses from a cookie cutter.  Godiva chocolate and Champagne, maybe some cheese and crackers.  There would be 7-Up or Coke for the girls.  Every year.....the story was all of the day not just the ballet.  My mom created a dreamy scene of joy for her Granddaughters.  Those fleeting years when magic and dress-up went hand in hand.  Were they not little Princesses off to the castle (the Opera House), to pirouette in their full fancy dresses.  Even I felt the grandeur as we would walk up the front steps of the columned facade, pass through the large doors, and into the grand lobby.  

     Our daughters took all this without how out of ordinary this was.  They never were ill-behaved nor acted spoiled.  Just delighted to what to them was a Nana event.  Somehow the magic and desire to go began to pass.  Perhaps seeing it year after year lost its charm.  We tried seeing "A Christmas Carol" but didn't like the ACT production, which left us down rather that elated.  And then we stopped going.  

     The last time we all went was when R. was a wee little guy.  He hadn't a clue what he was to see.  He sat upon my lap as he didn't want to sit on the chair, Papa to our side.  All was well till the big dancing bear came out of the box, which was a new twist they did for a number of years.  That was enough for R. who promptly had enough.  He and I sat in the sitting room for a time, with Papa coming in to ask if he would sit with him.  We tried to show him that the bear was gone but R. would not go back to the seat.  In the end I moved the sitting room chair near the velvet curtain of our box area and we peeked out to watch the ballet.  Needless to say that was the last and only time R. has seen The Nutcracker.

     The very last time we saw The Nutcracker was several years ago.  One of the girls wanted to go and thought it would be nice to do just a girl time with Nana.  Nana bought the tickets and we were already to go.  The day of the show she cancelled out on joining.  It wasn't the same without her.  It wasn't the same not sitting in the box seats, without the peanut butter horse shaped sandwiches, the Godiva Chocolate, the Champagne the fullness of the holiday theme, of the comfort of family tradition.  It was gone.  Oh yes, we had a good time together my daughters and I.  But I felt it, that bleed in my heart.  The memory of Papa in his jacket, tie, ascot, his aftershave lotion, his pleasure of watching his Granddaughters, of even the year when R. didn't really see the show but entertained us in a new way which is forever in our memory.  

     I drove to my mom's last week, listening to The Nutcracker, memories flooding me.  The tears of missing it all, the tears of how much I really enjoyed it all.  How much I appreciated that yearly gift they gave us of going to the ballet.  The dinner out afterwards at Trader Vic's in Emeryville where we would talk about the performance.  All the hustle, the bustle, the stress of preparing for that day, it was all worth it.  

    In my dreams I hold a magic light.  It is a light that guides me with a child's hand in mine as we walk into a door, into a small room and I pull the curtain back for them to see where they too will watch for two hours a story of dance and delight.  I will make peanut butter sandwiches made from a horse shaped cookie cutter.  I will sip my glass of champagne and gaze on my family surrounding me.  

**** My dear niece duly noted a treat that I forgot to add!  How could I have forgotten the Petite Fours?  Nana always bought them at the Cake Box Bakery in Lafayette, still the best to me.  Yes, of course that was dessert after our other goodies.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

September 24, 2011 ~ Erin and my visit

October 25, 2011 ~ one month after we have left

The Sandwich Years

 Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will)
And the patches m
ake the goodbye harder still

     I never thought life as a grown up would be like this.  Of course none of us can know what our lives will become as the years stroll by.   I'm speaking though of the Sandwich Years, of when our parents have aged and need care and that some of us have young ones needing care too.  Granted that I did have R. at a later age than the young 20's when I had my girls; whereas some of my peers are having grandkids, I am in the teenage years of parenting with no grandkids.  Some of us have adult children that need our emotional and financial care with the economy the way it is.  We may have our own financial worries that we never expected. 

     In the past 15 years our parents began having health problems that at the time seemed like they dealt with them and didn't need our assistance.  Well, of course we were there for the moral support they needed but they didn't want or need our advice.  Just our love.  My Papa dying 12 years ago was the beginning of the crisis era with the parents.  Suddenly the roles started to shift and the children (us) of the parents began to worry of what lay ahead.

     In the past 12 years my mom had multiple surgeries, appeared to be in a depression over the loss of Papa (perfectly expected with how much they loved each other), and began her descent into FTD  somewhere in there.  We couldn't reach her though she yanked our chains plenty, we tried everything from counseling, calling her Dr.'s, setting up boundaries, to being passive towards what she acted like behaviorally to keep peace,  all the while our worry and frustration growing day after day.  We tried to ask of her long term plans, her estate, all with no success.  Now the pieces are placed and they have fallen as though she is in a warped Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, where she is trapped in her castle with no Prince who can come to her save her.   Forever she is in a spell of perpetual unrest.

     Enough of the fairy tales.  Life isn't that.  We are born, we grow, we age.  Facts are proof that the elder generation is aging to longer Golden Years than ever before.  But are those years as Golden as they wish they could be or dreamed they would be?   If they can live longer than those of their own parents then how will those extended years be lived?   I can say first hand that neither my parents nor my husbands parents have thought this intelligently through.  What happens when you can live that long life but are no longer able to understand your true needs?  Or that you refuse to accept you really need help?  You can't take care of yourself and your family watches with breaking hearts how the parent they knew to be fully aware of themselves is no longer fully there mentally or physically.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

     This past year my Love's father had a heart valve replacement, to fix the one he had done 11 years ago.  An extended warranty so to speak by going in and replacing the worn out one.  Okay, the valve replacement surgery went fine but since that surgery in January he has been going down hill.  First it was in his strength he complained about.  He didn't have the energy like he did before.  We tried to remind him he had had major surgery where his chest was cracked open to do the repair job.  It takes time to build up that strength.  Next it was his weight.  He couldn't keep up his weight, he kept losing weight, and he wasn't very hungry.  We reminded him that it was important to eat well to keep his strength up.  If you don't have the good nutrition with healthy meals then you won't be able to give the fuel your body needs to keep strong.  At least he attempted to take walks near his home.  

     Over the years he has been the primary caregiver to his wife, our mom who has had her own health problems.  He unfortunately is a very stubborn man, and that is being polite.  He won't let anyone help her which ultimately would help him.  He wants to make every single decision.  With his failing health, his ability to help her has increasingly diminished to where he is unable to care for her.  She has been at risk for too long.  He refused to have safety fixtures in all the places she needed them.  Her last fall, in the shower, was a nightmare.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

     With great worry, emotions on high, relief, frustration, concern, mom has been removed from her home and into respite care.  Dad was sometimes wanting her out of the house NOW or the answer was NO she could not leave.  Sister and brothers finally had enough of watching Mom suffer.  Sometimes the hardest answer is the only solution.  For now Mom is safe with round the clock care in a very pleasant, warm, supportive atmosphere.  She has her own studio apartment with healthy meals, exercise classes, and entertainment a couple of days a week (the holidays have been great for this with choirs coming to sing for the residents).  Naturally she is having swings of missing home, missing her husband, to peace.  The long term story is still unwritten.  Her Dr. knows in her home would not be good, especially with the awful wound from the shower fall.  The family all feel that she should stay where she is and not go home, knowing that Dad will not be able to take care of her and the ugly scene that will ultimately happen all over again.

     Making decisions on what to do when each of us age to the Golden Years and beyond should be well thought out.  We don't just die in our sleep anymore, or from sudden heart attacks or strokes.  You may be incapacitated and unable to walk, or drive.  You may get Dementia and unable to make the right choices or decisions or even be prone to Elder Care Abuse.  We all need to ask ourselves the hard questions and come up with clear answers for yourselves and for your families.  

     I have heard so many times my mom saying she never wanted to be a burden.  Yet she created a burden by not including her family in what would happen if she couldn't care for herself or make sound decisions.  While she indeed did a Trust and we can only assume that it was done correctly, she made some serious poor choices and I believe was not counseled by her attorney well.  Then again, what choice does an attorney have if a client makes or changes their Will or Trust and they can't convince their client that maybe they need to think about it or consult their family.  An attorney works for their client not the client's family.  It is private unless the client wishes their family to be included.

     No the problem arises when older folks ignore their frailty and think they can continue life as it has been.  Even when they know they shouldn't drive a car, climb a ladder, or take on home care like when they were physically able.  They need to accept their aging bodies and ask or accept help.  Not doing so is the burden.  Asking is not a burden.  Allowing is not a burden. 

     When I was in my early teens I use to love listening to Cat Stevens.  I have heard this song so many times and knew the words by heart.  I may have sung them but I did not understand the meaning.  Somehow in my 50's this song brings on a new meaning in my life.
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time


Earth Tour 1976  ~ the young musician I loved to hear as a teen

                                      2008 ~ I really liked hearing him speak.....the older man he has become                                         

Monday, December 5, 2011

Some morning sky........


I took the poochies out as I do, but yesterday morning  this huge winged cloud hung heavy in the sky.  The colors, the immense size made me feel very small as well as feeling humble.

What song came to me?  After the Goldrush, Neil Young.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What lies within, what fate may fall

 A lump was found in her breast just a month after her 52nd birthday at her yearly mammogram.  I had given birth to our third daughter a mere 10 days before her biopsy and surgery.

Mom is the type of woman who needs a huge support group and there were five or six of us together in the waiting area at the hospital while they did her biopsy to determine if it was malignant or not.  What does one talk about while waiting for a love one to find out their fate?  We talked about the birth of M.  We talked of what my other daughters were up to, what grade they were in at school, what would they dress up as for Halloween.  It felt odd to be breast feeding my baby while my mom's breast was being poked and examined.  How could a breast betray the body?

I sat with my sweet baby who lay sleeping in her Moses basket of yellow gingham and white ribbons.  I nursed her when needed.  I didn't know what to think or say.  Really I didn't understand the gravity of what it could mean to have breast cancer.  No one I knew had ever had breast cancer.  No one talked about breast cancer in 1985.

The Dr. came out to let us know that indeed it was malignant.  The lump was way back against the rib wall on her breast. So far back that it was not a lump one could have found by self breast exam.  He looked at us all, seeking out my step-father, Papa, to tell him the news and what he felt she needed to have done.  It was rather a shock to hear that she indeed had cancer.  How would my mom handle this once she came to following the biopsy?

Her Dr. was extremely conservative.  He had lost his wife to breast cancer and was adamant that she need a radical mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy.  I felt numb.  Did this mean she could die?  My Papa was not a man of many words and with this he seemed so very down and less conversive.  Worry was written all over his face.  My mom following her return home after the biopsy, before the scheduled surgery, was full of worry as well upon a threshold of fear of her future.  She was the one who kept Papa upbeat and active.  How would she be able to do this knowing she had to battle with cancer?  She worried for him I think more than she worried for herself.

The surgery was done and was "successful"  according to her Dr.  It was hard to do much for her with three little girls to take care of.  She had her three staff housekeepers who worked in her home to do what they could for her with the grocery shopping, errands and taking care of her.  They did meals for her and Papa as well.  She didn't want us to come over to help out or visit.  She just couldn't digest what had happened.

I felt her Dr. was a butcher.  She had a long ugly incision on her chest where her breast once was.  I never saw it till many, many years later.  She never would talk of the discomfort she might have had, she just kept it all inside away from us.  If only she had taken some time to consult with other surgeons she might have had a different experience or plan.  It is awful to think of how many women were disfigured by a radical mastectomy in those days.  It was felt that was the only way to make sure you were potentially cancer free and even then they wouldn't say that.  Only if you survived after five years would you be possibly cancer free.  Because of what that surgery does to disfigure you, the ability to have breast reconstruction isn't possible.

Mom's chemotherapy made her very ill.  She would lay in her bed following the treatment, sick and miserable.  During the time she was on chemo I wasn't to bring the girls over to visit if they had a cold.  Well, when one gets a cold it will spread, so there were many times we didn't see her for weeks during the treatment phase.  She stopped her chemo treatment after three months.  She hated feeling so ill.  She seemed to feel she was not going to live, let alone make it to five years post surgery and chemo treatment.  She began to spend too much money.  Papa and I had a talk about this spending frenzy she was on.  He didn't know how to approach her on this matter.  We never did understand why she did this and I hope that maybe he was finally able to talk to her and she cut back.  

The Christmas holidays came and she seemed happier.  She had lost all her hair to the chemo and had been wearing a short wig when she was away from home.  At home she wore a scarf.  I never saw her without something on her head.  We all tried to get back to some sense of normal but my mom really didn't believe she would be around to see her grandchildren grow up.  She simply excepted this idea of hers which really didn't help those around her.   In an odd way this was a special Christmas for us as for once she was genuinely happy.  She had a tendency to get depressed over the holidays but that year  she had decided to live in the moment and appreciate whatever happened.

The worst of her getting through this nightmare was after a year of surviving she wanted to move from our beloved Wildwood home.  Out of the blue she called to say they had bought a home and sold Wildwood.  It was never listed on the MLS.  They had a shark realtor who brought in a buyer and with the stroke of a pen the home was sold.  They had been looking at homes off and on and would tell us out of the blue of their house  hunting.  My Love and I would of course try to detour them from doing this.  Mom felt so sure she wouldn't be around that she wanted a smaller home for Papa to have after she died.  She felt that those days and days of laying in bed following the chemo made her sick of her bedroom and she didn't want to be there any longer.  I only wish we could have known before they sold that lovely home.  I resented that realtor for being so pushy, it didn't help that I knew her and I my parents were social friends with her. Even as the home was packed up we all grieved over their moving.  Of course they sold that next home in about five years.  It wasn't the right home for them. 

Several years after the breast cancer, the chemo and then the move, she decided to have her other breast removed.  She was fearful that her other breast would betray her as well.  After the five year mark post cancer she still didn't believe she would live.  I think she always felt there would be death on her doorstep, no matter what any Dr. would say.

Illness can make us feel and do things we would normally logically think through.  We react versus consult.  Faith and a positive attitude can be so productive to healing, yet that door doesn't always open for everyone.  This happened to my mom 26 years ago.  She is still a survivor of breast cancer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo space on Blogspot

Anyone else use up all their photo quota?  I guess I should have uploaded smaller files....or now I have to pay for space.  What to do, what to do.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


My mind has been troubled of late.  I know my posts on this blog and on my other blog A Walk into Oblivion have been sad and preoccupied without explanation.  Some things we can't explain except to those that we need offer the explanation.

This morning I received a loving letter from my sister by marriage K. and the emotions of reading it fell like a cleansing rain over me.  
Her words of forgiveness  ~  "Forgiveness is more for the one who is hurt than the one who needs to be forgiven.  Until I forgive and let go I am still held captive by the one who hurt me.  To forgive is for me.  It takes the power out of the pain.  Yes it still hurts but doesn't consume me."

How I do this, or anyone, must take some time and practice.  Maybe I need to repeat it to myself over and over, mantra like.  Sometimes I talk the talk but I don't do that walk.  I want to.  I want to move forward and out of the cage I have allowed myself to be in.

Do I need to talk to a professional?  I don't know.  I just know deep inside all the way to the outer skin cells of my body I must let this go.  It does me no good and it certainly doesn't help the ones I love.

Obstacles that arise over a lifetime can be quite a challenge.  No one said that living would be a walk in the park day after day.  It starts from the time we are whooshed into the light of day of birth with our first breath.  The struggle to learn to roll over, sit up, crawl and walk.  But we do it without any other reason than it is there to do.  To go forward.  Teen years and the challenge to just fit in with the mob of other struggling teens.  We think we're the only ones going through it but we aren't.  Leaving home to make our way without our parents care, finding work and a place to live.  Relationships that may be casual or lead to a loving life together.  Maybe it works and maybe it fades.  That we keep climbing out of the comfort of our beds each day and as when we were small, we keep trying.  Most times we don't even think about what we are doing.  Then when that obstacle in life hits we fall hard and sit and ponder.  Okay...what do we do?  Get up or sit there and wait.  We don't know what will come along to "fix it" but we do that sometimes.  

Some of us have constant troubles that seem immense.  Some of us face crisis after crisis with our health or the health of a loved one.  How we face it, how we help ourselves or our loved ones is a mystery.  We just do it.  

But what happens when we can't?  What happens when we feel stuck?  What happens when we are going in circles without moving forward?  That is where I have been.  Stuck.  Two steps forward and one step back.  I'll get there.

After reading K.'s letter I did see some light inside me turn on.  I just need to feel it and not just say it.  I need to see that whatever my mom was, was just that.  That is in the past and I have a future ahead that doesn't include her any longer.   I feel sorry for her.  That she will never have learned to love fully her children.  That she never will enjoy all that she had with us and her grandchildren and now their children.  That we are wonderful, and loving, and that we know how to love without strings.  

The sun is shining today, my husband has work for the next couple of days, I have a sweet puppy at my feet,  I have a day ahead to do housework, to take a walk, to breath in the crisp fall air, pick up some acorns to use at Thanksgiving when my family by marriage come over.  I have time to reflect.

I have a time to say I am sorry.  I am sorry that sometimes I can be judgemental, I say reactive responses to what I don't understand.  

What I want to say is that I love my family deeply.  That I am trying to be a better woman and a human.  

 I want to heal and let go the baggage of what was.  

When was the last time you heard Cat Steven's song Trouble?  That song came to me and reading the lyrics we all have been there....but read them for yourself....I may be slow letting go that Trouble but I am going to darn well try step at a time.


Oh trouble set me free
I have seen your face
And it's too much too much for me


Oh trouble can't you see
You're eating my heart away
And there's nothing much left of me

I've drunk your wine

You have made your world mine
So won't you be fair
So won't you be fair

I don't want no more of you

So won't you be kind to me
Just let me go where
I'll have to go there


Oh trouble move away
I have seen your face
and it's too much for me today


Oh trouble can't you see
You have made me a wreck
Now won't you leave me in my misery

I've seen your eyes

and I can see death's disguise
Hangin' on me
Hangin' on me

I'm beat, I'm torn

Shattered and tossed and worn
Too shocking to see
Too shocking to see


Oh trouble move from me
I have paid my debt
Now won't you leave me in my misery


Oh trouble please be kind
I don't want no fight
And I haven't got a lot of time

~ Cat Stevens~

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life across the sea

Amongst the trip to Italy that E. and I did was the differences we saw of life in the five places we visited.

Venice where the Calle, crowded with people flowing in an endless stream towards somewhere.  Their version of a human freeway as it lacked cars.  Hands holding cell phones, bits and pieces of Italian entered my ears.  When you merged into the narrow, twisting turning flow it all worked seamlessly.  Those who stopped caused traffic jams, where like an ant colony, the flow would effortlessly bypass and the flow would begin again.  Just as suddenly you would find yourself where the crowds have disappeared.  The quiet, the utter quiet, like being in a church.  There we might hear a radio from an open window behind lace curtains or nothing but silence.  We would pass a lone woman pulling her metal shopping cart to buy her food for the day.  Around a corner a coffee / bar / pasticcini with men and women taking their morning cappuccino or a quick shot of espresso with a tasty morning pastry.  As a day goes on it would be for lunch items and well into the night a place for wine.  The place to be to say a morning greeting and chat with the barista.  The many pastries from the panificio we drooled over, through glass windows,  sweets that tantalized us with powdered sugar thick as a layer of finely dusted snow.  Heaven in a brioche.  Venice an island of contrast.  We wondered how many of the Italians we saw were tourist like us or did they live on the island or just come in to work.  Venice that felt like a movie set or Disneyland at night without the fireworks.  The soft stroke of an oar from a gondola, sleek, dark, elegant, romantic.  I think a gondola at night would be the finest time to ride upon for the shadowy canals, quiet and empty of gawking tourist over the multiple bridges.

Vernazza with all the charm you would find in an Italian movie but it was for real.  Colors on the buildings changing to a different intensity as the sun or shade hit them.  A train would arrive in the morning unloading a new group of tourist.  They all would head down as the station was at the top and the sea at the bottom.  Tiny shops selling their tourist fare, cafes bustling all the day.  Gelato in a cone as the day warmed up would be in so many hands.  Licking the sweet tasty flavors that are hard to decide upon.  Early evening where the tiny take out shop had a line as it was selling calamari and shrimp in a brown paper cone.  The on the go appetizer.  Many bought bottles of wine to take to the breakwater with glasses that shops would loan them.  Everyone so relaxed, smiling, content.  Everyone which meant the locals and the tourist.  Time meant nothing.  To live in the moment, to enjoy and savor where you were.  to watch the sun set as the waters lapped calmly this time of year.  This idyllic seaside town.  People watching from above as I would look out our window on the street below.  I would see our landlord as he helped at the pizza cafe his brothers owned.  Setting up the tables early in the morning.  I passed him on the street a few times where we greeted each other in passing.  So kind and friendly.  E. thought she could live in a place such as this.  I wondered how I could.  I could visit here for awhile as were doing.  I would not want to live here as it was too perfect to want to lose that feeling if one stayed too long.  It is better to have the fondness of wanting to return that I would want to keep.  Being here you felt fully alive.  Up and down with your legs on steps, stairs, hills, the sky the sea.  I slept so well here.  I ate so well here.

Lucca where I finally felt lost which I did not in Venice.  I couldn't quite find where I was till I kept track of the street number on the main street that our Bed and Breakfast was off of.  So many shops that looked so similar.  Lots of people on bikes zooming by, lots of people filling the streets where a car was a rare sight but were allowed.  Who wanted to drive though?  Why?  A bike would be much quicker and can dart in and out of the mob of people with the ring of a bell.  So many times I wondered about the near misses of being run over or into a bike.  Charming old bikes with baskets.  Round and round the city the streets circumvented the old wall.  When we took the walk around the town on the wall I felt free of the narrow streets.  I could see out and above where I could not down below.  I can understand why this broad walkway is appreciated by the town locals and kept up so well.  The lovely branch spreading trees that shade so much of the circle.  The manicured wide lawns that are outside the walls below with more trees along the road that circles the wall that obscure the car traffic beyond.  Amazing that it was never bombed in WWII.  This walled town was full of locals going about there day to the Pharmacia, the bookstore, the clothing shops, the cafes, the markets.  Kids crowded one square where for their siesta they hung out.  Watching the tourist?  We looked at their styles compared to American kids.  Not much different though they didn't wear low rider pants.  Skinny jeans were it.  We saw two teen girls who appeared to be pregnant.   A few guys wore mohawks of sorts with their curly hair.  I thought how our school kids would like a longer lunch break as in a siesta time.  It seemed like they went to school in the morning and had a break for an hour and half or so and then went back to school for another hour.

Barga was as quiet as an empty church.   Our journey began on an early morning bus ride that was headed for this medieval walled village.  After we left the main road out of Lucca we started to climb via a narrow switch backing road.   Gorgeous wooded hills that we traversed through.  Out of the bus we wandered through the main entrance of Barga.  No one else passed us for quite some time except one car that surprised us when we walked on the one narrow road a car could go on.  Then the town revealed it's charm of narrow walkways up and down, views that showed off the distant mountains, the Tuscan stones on old buildings, gates, doors, archways, an ancient aqueduct that was above a lush green narrow ravine.  Everywhere we looked we were spellbound.  Yet where were the people?  I don't think many lived in the walled town.  We heard the sounds of people inside an open window and saw some at a couple of cafes.  Small shops in the town were mostly closed or empty.  We ate at a very pleasant cafe and admired the quaintness of this rarely visited place.  Sleepy town?  Certainly clean, positively quiet.  We walked to the newer area of Barga where there were town people going about their lives.  Working, eating, living.  Normal shops for hardware, flowers, food and cafes.  A lazy feel except for the buses that went by every once in awhile or the occasional car.

Lastly was Florence where I have been three times after this trip.  Florence felt like the warm welcome of tourist season had passed.  It needed a rain to clean it's soiled cobblestone streets, marble statues, fountains, and old buildings.  There were more gypsy beggars than I had ever seen on previous visits, who were as persistent as flies.  So much going on everywhere you looked.  Food, food and more food.  Gelato every third place you walked by.  People milling about looking up, waiting in a line, talking, taking pictures.  Horse carriages going by or waiting for the tourist who would hire them.  Artists with easels set up drawing Florence scenes.  The decadent flourish in the windows on the Ponte Vecchio, so many baubles of jewelry of silver and gold.  In the old town of Florence I felt very few locals lived here.  One day we waded through a sea of market carts, filled with scarves, leather jackets, belts, bags, trinkets.  It went on down the street forever the carts.  The lure to have you buy something from a wagon was high.  No lacking in finding any trinket to bring home, the last of Italy to fit into your luggage.  How to bring home the memories of a trip?  I was weary the last few days of our trip.  I looked at the familiar sights with mixed pleasure.  Of high was sharing the inside of the Palazzo Vecchio with E. which she had not seen.  We admired the fine  detailed  frescoes on the walls, of how they could be frivolously funny or wickedly sinister.  Like a dream state we walked and studied the walls, the ceilings of gilt, paintings, details so small you could not speed through unless you had no interest.  This has to be my favorite place in Florence.  What would life have been like?

To leave the city was a bus ride to the airport.  A wake-up to the dread of travel.  Packing up, cramming in all the clothes, camera equipment, the ill fitting shoes, the last of the carefully measured toiletries.  Walking with E. getting her last two gelatos, yes two.  Walking to where we would find the bus near the train station but having trouble finding it.  Rick Steve's directions lacking the right info or decent map.  Struggling to ask a couple on the street where it might be.  The lack of understanding and then a kind gentlemen telling us where to go.  Just barely making the bus!  Riding in a bus with no air, the windows that could open all closed, sweating.  Arriving and the check in, the last cappuccino for me as I stood at the bar.  Going home.  Going home.

On the plane I thought of the island of Burano we visited while in Venice.  The vibrant colors of the homes and businesses.  It was suppose to be known for its lace but how can lace compete with shocking pink, orange sherbert, pistachio green, lavender, coral, contrasting colors side by side that made you want to go home and buy paint to do just the same on your own home.  Happy, expressive, tranquil Burano.  Surely those who live here must be filled with joy.  One house we came upon, with all the windows wide open, someone played a piano.  We stood there and listened.  One moment for us as we listened and watched sashes on windows, curtains over front doors, laundry hung as though they were art.  One moment that made me as happy as I could be to share this with my dear E.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes with Pear Compote

It's Fall!  With the change in season I start to savor the foods I haven't had all summer.  Soups and stews start to whirl in my head.  What do I want to make?  

I fixed a Beef and Barley Soup the other night that warmed us through and through.  Thick enough to stick to the ribs soup.  I was going to make Beef Stew but in the end there wasn't enough beef to satisfy my two menfolk.  The recipe files in my head started scanning with that soup coming to mind.

Sunday morning is pancake or waffle day in our house.  My Love wasn't going to fix that though.  He was planning on eggs, hash browns and sausage.  Not what I was feeling the craving for.  No, I wanted pancakes and pumpkin popped into my mind.  So what if I had them last Sunday!

This is a wonderful recipe with the addition of Pear Compote to spoon across the top.  They are moist, tender and light with lots of flavor from the spices.  The recipe originated from the January 2005 Sunset Magazine.  Here it is just in time for the holidays when you might have family overnight.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Pear Compote

1      Cup all-purpose flour
2      T. firmly packed brown sugar
1       tsp. baking powder
1/2   tsp. baking soda
1/2   tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2   tsp. ground ginger
1/4   tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4   tsp. salt
1       large egg
3/4   canned pumpkin
1/2    Cup milk
1/4    Cup buttermilk
1/4    Cup plain yogurt
2        T. melted butter

1.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.  

2.  In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, buttermilk, pumpkin, yogurt, and butter until well blended.

3.  Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until evenly moistened.

4.  Heat a non-stick griddle over medium heat; when hot, spray some pam on the griddle.  Spoon the batter onto griddle.  The batter takes a little longer to cook through so don't let them over brown.  Turn down the heat if needed.    Turn out the pancakes and top with the pear compote and real maple syrup.  (recipe to follow).

Pear Compote
  (makes enough for 2 servings)

1 pear, peeled, cored and diced,  placed in a microwave bowl.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon-sugar, cover loosely or with a microwave cover.  Heat in microwave for 1 minute.  They should be fork tender and  cinnamon-sugar juicy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mumford & Sons "Sister"


There's a chip on your shoulder, girl
And by God it'll make you fall
If you let it take a part of your soul

I see the love in your brother's eyes

And the love in your mother's cries
Sister don't test the ones you love

Sister don't let go

Sister don't let go of us

Cause your roots will rot away

And your fruit, it won't grow
Your bark will wear thin, body hollow

I see the love in your brother's eyes

And the love in your mother's cries
Sister don't test the ones you love

Sister don't let go

Sister don't let go of us

Don't test the ones you love

It'll only tear us down
If you want to feel alive
Then learn to love your ground

Love your ground

Sister don't let go

Sister don't let go of us

**********     **********  

How did I miss this song?  I heard that this was sung at the recent Bridge School concert it just has never been put on a CD at this time.  Missed the cut.

This song has a special meaning to me of late....  I love know this to be true.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love Locks

In the Cinque Terre, there is a paved trail that goes between two of the tiny towns, Riomaggiore and Monterosso.  They were so isolated from each other let alone the other towns, that the locals rarely married anyone else from another town.  

In the 20's a trail was made between the two towns while train lines were being built, where in the middle a gunpowder warehouse was placed.  The locals were delighted with the trail that now connected the two towns and asked that it be improved and kept as a permanent connection.   Unfortunately the trail was prone to landslides and it was closed more than it was open.  After WWII, the trail was reopened and it became known as Via dell'Amore because of the meeting between lover's from the two towns.  It was a journalist in 1949 who came up with the name which means "Pathway of Love". 

All along the trail you find these "Locks of Love", up a slope on heavy cables holding the rocky walled cliff in place and down below where shear cliffs drop to the sea on other cables.  Most are on the railings that line the walkway.  We found them first in Venice where the top photo was taken.  We would find them in such odd places, sometimes single and sometimes groups of them. 

When we strolled down the Via dell'Amore they were everywhere.  Some in the most difficult places one could find to secure their everlasting declaration of love.  I wondered if lover's who have broken up come back to remove theirs or do they just leave them to weather the seasons?

Some locks were written on and some where carved with names or initials.  There is a long covered walkway that graffiti written devotions and sometimes poetic phrases have been added.  All very acceptable to do.  You see the typical heart drawn with the names of sweethearts as you would anywhere.  I personally loved the locks.  Anyone can draw and write a name but a lock feels forever.   

When next I go back to Venice I want my Love and I to find a place to lock our love.  We will find that special spot, linger over a kiss while in loving embrace, and place our lock inscribed with our names. Our forever love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A little occupied

I've been a little occupied.  Well, my Love and I have been occupied.  

We brought a new puppy into our home last week and it is almost like having a newborn without the diaper changes and breastfeeding.  Sleep deprivation was hard the first couple of nights with multiple visits for potty time on the lawn.

Yet what fun a new puppy is!  So happy and full of silly antics.  Sloppy puppy kisses and little yippy barks.  Everything new and in need of exploring.  

My Italy photos are going well with touch ups and uploading though it is slow without the extra time on my hands.  At the rate I'm going it will be weeks till I am done!  Last night we looked at E.'s photos and she asked if I would be touching up hers too.  Well, of course dear....

Some changes...I have stopped working on the blog I had about R. in high school.  I felt that at his age and place this was not right.  If he was little from birth to maybe 10 it might be okay.  As a teen I know he needs his privacy and I need to be honest.  Writing about what his day is like or some event that happens at school felt too open.  

However, I have added another blog in it's place about our pets.  I can brag about the pets and tell the dirty side of them too.  They won't care!  They'll still give me puppy licks.  This blog is called Pupparoos!

Back to work and writing!  The housecleaning can's not going anywhere. I have so much to share about our trip too!! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Burano, Italy

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz...."Toto we're not in Kansas anymore....". I think you will agree when you watch this. E. and I were enchanted with Burano, full of rich, deep colors so vibrant I felt like I was in a storybook land and not a real honest to goodness little island off Venice. We wandered up and down the tiny canals or cobbled walkways, over wee bridges with not a car or motorcycle in sight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Venice has captured my heart.....

I'm home. Home, sweet home. Back with my Love and son...back with a cold as well.... I have been pouring over the photos I took and reliving the days and nights while in Italy. The trip was wonderful in every way, from the sights, to the food, the smells, to the sounds. The effect of traveling on the senses can best be described as intoxicating. That moment when E. and I walked from our bus to our first step onto our first bridge of many to come in Venice, it was impossible to not feel like you had just landed in a make-believe land. I have added this photo / video of a snippet of time in Venice....enjoy and turn your sound up....awaken the soul.....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Almost ready and off tomorrow!

 I have been so busy.  So busy I have had no time to write and no time to read any blogs in days.  I have missed my blog friends words and photos but tasks must be done.  

Such as banking, bills, wash and ironing.  Some cleaning too.

I haven't packed.  I thought I would have a trial run earlier this week and nada did not happen.  Today will be packing day!  Oh today is busy!

My mom's birthday is tomorrow but we are going to visit her today.  I put together a DVD of her younger years and got it burned and ready to bring over.  I wanted to bake cupcakes for her and the caregivers but I forgot to buy flour.  I can't believe I was totally out of flour!   That just doesn't happen here in my pantry.  So instead of banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting I am letting my Love pick some out this morning for me.  This is not a big failure to not have homemade.   I am accepting this hard as it is for me.  Let go Ellen......

So we will pay a visit, bring a little vase of flowers and the DVD and then back home to work, work, work!   Not to forget charging cameras one last time.  Getting all the papers in order to put in my bag.   

I was so nervous yesterday with excitement.   Surprised myself by sleeping soundly as I was fearing I wouldn't be able to sleep.  Tonight  I may have to take some Calm Forte to make sure I get a good night's rest. to enchanting Venice first....then Cinque Terre ~ Vernazza.....then to Lucca....a side trip to Barga a wee little town....and last to my beloved Florence.   

See you all in October.....Ciao!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

While I'm away....

I've been cleaning house today.  The house will be uncleaned for two and half weeks while I'm away.....which had me thinking what my two men will be up to during this time.  Last night we were talking about meals since I am the chief cook and bottle washer.  R. and my Love jokingly said they would go out every night since I would be eating out every night.  I mentioned I could make some tasty casseroles for them and neither was keen on that.  Secretly I was relieved.  I wasn't excited about cooking and freezing recipes I have never made before since I don't make casseroles.  My Love said not to worry that they would take care of meals.

I thought of how many school mornings a school lunch that hadn't been made would have to hurriedly be put together or money passed to buy lunch.  R. isn't wild about the cafeteria food this year.  Last year I finally gave in and gave him money once a week so he could buy the rice bowls they did with Chinese food, till they changed white rice for brown rice which he was not happy about.  15 year old's don't like someone trying to fool them with a change like brown rice for white.  R. is a creature of habit as well, so this really didn't go over for him.

How many times will the cats be not fed?  I feed them their meals.  I feed Stewie in the morning and R. feeds him at night.  My Love will have to take on that task that he normally doesn't do.  Of course the cats will let him know if a meal has been missed.  Especially a dinner meal, where if they haven't been fed then during the night they will start walking all over you, disturbing your sleep.  Then they will sniff your face or touch your face with their paw.  I know this because even I have forgotten when I thought I had fed them.  They won't give up till they are fed.

Which brings me to the litter box since our cats are indoor only.  I also do that.  Now one or two days is gross but it does happen.  Anymore than that and there will be two very angry cats who may not want to use the litter box.  Not to mention that the box will be a disaster and cleaning will require a Hazmat mask.  Which leads me to a mistake I made yesterday.....

I had cleaned the kitty litter box and double bagged the stuff that they do.  I missed a couple of days and it was rather full (I know...I forgot...).  I brought it out to to take to our outside garbage which at our house is a long way from where the kitty box is.  I set it on the floor intending to take it when I left the house but unfortunately I forgot to get it.  There was one hour's time between when I left and when my Love came home.  What he walked into was less than pleasant.  Now I don't understand why some dogs love kitty poop but we have had dogs that do.  Just to get to the kitty box I had to make it a snug "kitty only" space under our laundry room sink space.  Here I left this bag right out for Stewie and what a time he had.  My Love walked into find kitty litter, clumped pee and kitty poo up and down the hall, in the kitchen and well wherever he could drag the bag that he so cleverly tore open.  Of course he had to clean up and then vacuum the floors.  I really felt bad about leaving the bag that way...I did!

So back to my leaving next week and our home, sweet, home.  I hope that maybe once the kitchen floor will get cleaned, along with the counters and then the bathrooms.  I also know that this more than likely won't happen.   Two bachelor's for those 16 freshly changed sheets or clean towels either.  I won't be here so I won't see it til I come home!

I'm not a super neat freak.  When Annie was alive there was almost always Golden hair on the hardwood floors you could see.  A big dog seems to create more presence whether it's their hair or  drool and Annie did like to drag toys all over the house.  Stewie, being small and short haired hardly leaves any hair that can me seen except on light colored clothes.  He doesn't drag toys around either.  Then again if he isn't let out enough he will pee or poo in the house.  So I am hoping that the boys remember to let him out often.  He must not have the ability to hold his bladder because he always seems to need to go outside.  He is like clockwork when it comes to doing "his duty".  If you miss taking him out he will go poo inside.  Simple fact.  I've decided being a shelter pooch that he clearly had no housebreaking skills.  He wasn't neutered early so he did like to "mark" on the floor.  That  cropped up when our daughters brought their kitties home.  He got along with one but not the other two.  He has really improved from the time he came to live with us to the present.  Really good!  Still he does have times when he leaves those little "tootsie rolls" in the same location.  Oh Stewie....he will miss me.  I nurture and love that little pup.  I know my Love will give him lots of attention to help with my absence.

Lastly will be my plants.  Most of the indoors and my succulents only will need one watering a week and I am telling my Love to just water them once while I am gone unless it is really hot.  Plants can be replaced and this time of year the season is beginning to change.  They should do just fine.

The men will hold down the fort and they will do just fine too.  I will enjoy hearing what goes on while I was away.....


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