Looking for a Warm Meal

I am going to be honest, I am not loving the cooler temperatures. Sparky thankfully removed the AC unit from the bedroom window early last week. This weekend he was rummaging through the closet mumbling. When I queried he responded that he wanted to find the space heater! He was feeling chilled!! So the bedroom is slightly warmer but I’ve taken steps to get and stay warm. First I pulled out the winter pajamas. I noticed a slight problem – several pair have dead or dying elastic. Now I know what Sparky is getting me for Christmas. Secondly I have switched the menu into soup mode. I made Vietnamese Beef Stew that was delicious. When that was nearly gone I used up the leftover rotisserie chicken to make Yellow Curry Chicken Soup. If that doesn’t warm you up then nothing will. And lastly I’ve decided that hot cocoa before bed is just the ticket!

The recipe is as follows:
1 small onion diced finely
2 T flour
1 t yellow curry powder
3 T olive oil
32 oz Chicken broth -low sodium
8 oz water
1 – 2 cups cooked and diced chicken
8 oz fresh mushrooms sliced thinly
2 cups broccoli florets
1 can Coconut milk

In a large pot add the onion and 2 T olive oil. Cook until tender. Add 1 t curry and 1 T olive oil stirring. Add flour and stir making a roue. Slowly add the broth and water stirring constantly and bring to a boil to thicken. Once thickened add the chicken, broccoli and mushrooms. Simmer until broccoli is soft. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Serve hot with crusty bread. To increase the “heat” add additional curry to taste.

How do you get warm?


Looking Bumpy

It has been a long time since I’ve suffered this unpleasantness. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I suspect strongly that it was during my last geocaching adventure. It appears I have poison ivy. I noticed it on Monday morning after I got back from my morning exercising. I had felt a few bumps but didn’t really think anything about it. Sure they itched and I scratched them and then forgot about it as I concentrated on keeping up my pace on the treadmill. As I looked in the mirror after showering it was obvious that I had a problem! On my left jaw and cheek is a perfusion of red itchy blisters. On my neck on the right side are a few more. I ran to the medicine kit to find the calamine lotion. It wasn’t there! Then it dawned on me – I’d pitched it during a cleaning frenzy. You see it was about 10 years old and way past the expiration date. Even if it hadn’t been opened, I still decided to get rid of it and of course hadn’t replaced it. Woe was me! I resorted to hydrocortisone cream to ease the itch. It sort of worked. I’ve noticed that if I sweat or touch my face or if my hair touches the rash I start to itch in a want to tear my skin off way. So far it hasn’t spread much. And I’m comforted by the knowledge that it will resolve in 2 to 3 weeks. At least I’m hoping it will be long gone by the time I leave for my vacation!

Red three leaf evil
Silent touch spells disaster
I claw at the rash

Looking at the Trees

Yesterday was the annual Geocaching Event at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve. This year there were 8 geocaches that our group set out. The theme was Lego® of My Cache. As you could probably guess the caches were all Lego themed. We had the Lego Batman cache (complete with a little diorama with Lego Batman in a bat house!). There was the multi-cache where you have to find a cache with the coordinates to another cache containing the coordinates to the final cache (a 3-D printed Lego cache container). It was aptly named Follow the Instructions. The Everything is Awesome cache was likewise a 3-D printed Lego complete with a loop for hanging it! There was a large ammo can with Legos attached to the sides spelling out GEOCACHE that was named Ole Kirk Christiansen after the inventor of Legos! Sparky 3-D printed a giant Lego to use as a cache that was named More Painful Than…. it was bright blue so it was harder to hide but we managed! And then we made a cache called Duplo® Duplicity which consisted of a large tub of Duplos which are the larger version of Legos designed for small children. Mixed into the container was a single 3-D printed Duplo that is the real cache. Also included were several pill bottles (commonly used as cache containers) that had little notes that said things like “oops! not this one” and “keep looking”. Another cache was named “Lucy on the Dock” that was hidden – you guessed it – on the dock! And the last one is Lego City – another large ammo can. There was one more that was called Lego Signal that we had trouble finding a hiding place. Everywhere was a little too close to the other caches… It is a birdhouse with Signal the Frog (the geocaching.com mascot) rendered in Legos on the side of the birdhouse. It looked so cute but it will probably go up in a week or so after the event since we couldn’t get it approved in time.

The weather was cold and partly sunny but we didn’t have any rain. Even so the turnout was a bit sparse. The regulars showed up and a few newbies that we took out into the woods. The caching was fun and the company excellent. The woods was so nice. I think Autumn is the best time of the year – especially when you can walk in the woods. The trees are just now showing some color and there are still plenty of leaves hanging on.

With every step I can hear them whispering
Muted laughter and sibilant simpering
Looking up I see them waving
Impish and misbehaving
Until one comes down
Curled and brown
A hush falls
Leaf sprawls

Looking for the Farm

After several discussions with family and friends and coupled with some stupid things observed, it has become painfully obvious that there is a HUGE disconnect between the dinner table and the origins of food. After my amusing conversation with saintvi concerning eating beef tongue, I began to wonder if people realized where food actually comes from. I did a little investigation. Granted my sample size was not large enough to definitively support my hypothesis, however it was sufficient to confirm a growing trend.
My questions consisted of the following:
1) Where do eggs come from?
2) What animal does bacon come from?
3) Do peanuts grow on trees?
4) Where does eggplant come from?
5) Does corn from a can come from the same place as corn on the cob?
6) What animal does hamburger come from?

Now to be fair my sample group was mostly small children so you would expect there to be some variation and probably a few incorrect answers. So here’s what I learned:
1) Only one didn’t know that eggs came from chickens. None knew the exact process. When it was explained one person was a little more than skeptical of the fact that chickens basically poop out the eggs.
2) Over half said that bacon came from pigs. The rest had no clue.
3) Zero correct on this one. I attribute this to the fact that we do not live in the south where I’m pretty sure they know that peanuts are from a bush/plant and the pod is found underground…
4) Not quite half of them had any idea what eggplant even was! I attribute this to a lack of variety in the diet. Those who had had eggplant were aware that it was a vegetable and all of them said that it was “icky”.
5) Most confirmed that corn in the can is actually corn not on the cob. There was one who was pretty sure it wasn’t the same vegetable. (And I can attest that canned corn seems to be a very different substance from fresh.)
6) I had one confirm that hamburger comes from hams. All the rest but one were certain it came from cows. The remaining genius wanted to think about it for a minute and finally concluded that it wasn’t from an animal but came from a plant of some type but they didn’t know which plant… (in all fairness they do come from a vegetarian family and have limited exposure to real meat.)

This confirms that there is a disconnect between what we are eating today and the origin of that food. It worries me that if we don’t understand where food comes from we are not going to be able to be intelligent when selecting food. In addition we will probably not be able to make informed decisions to support the farmers growing and raising the food that miraculously appears in prepackaged portions in the grocery cold case! I think we are in big trouble!
Rant over.

Looking for a Party

After ending the call with Lily, she felt that a celebration was in order. She looked at Aurelius and he squinted at her with the look of a self-satisfied cat. “Sardines for everyone!” she announced. It was after rummaging through the pantry that she discovered that there were no sardines, canned salmon, or even a lowly can of tuna on the shelves. An air of dejection seeped into the room. “I suppose I can go to the store.” she intoned. That elicited a chirp from Aurelius and he leapt from the chair with a thump and with the thunder of paws raced to the hall closet where he took up position staring intently at her hanging coat.

Lu was never spontaneous. She liked to plan everything. When she thought about it too hard she’d get a headache and see Aurora. Aurora was mercurial; she’d make plans and change them with her next breath. Lu was determined to be, she paused trying to find the right word, steadfast. Yes, she was steadfast. So she made a grocery list while Aurelius waited. It had started to snow when she pulled out of the garage. Her car left tire tracks down the driveway. As the garage door slowly closed, she could see Aurelius on the window sill watching her departure. The trip to the store was intended to be efficient. This time she wasn’t going to spend 30 minutes in the car psyching herself into a courageous mode. She forced a smile. She wasn’t going to be constrained by the past. She was going to celebrate even while the small voice of caution told her not to count her chickens before they hatched.

In the grocery she stood contemplating the canned fish. Mackerel was cheap and she liked it but salmon was better. She stood there with a can in each hand before putting them both in her basket. They had sardines on sale for a mere 99 cents. She scooped four cans up before putting them back. Packed in hot sauce was probably not the right choice if she intended to share with Aurelius. She decided to get the water packed variety instead. As she headed to the self-checkout a voice called her name. Although she was in a hurry to get back to her party, she paused to look for the origin. As she scanned the area behind her, she heard her name again. This time she spotted the source. Lu for a moment longed for the days when she could have simply ignored people. As Angelo approached, she heard another voice. This one was in her head telling her she was ugly and stupid and no one would ever want to be her friend. To silence her inner critic, she greeted Angelo with a smile.

He looked as awkward as she felt. She stared into his shopping cart. He had a large container of cat litter and a big bag of the expensive cat food. She commented that she didn’t know he had a cat. He hesitated and then began telling her about his mother’s cat. Lu surmised that he still lived at home. It was true but only because he needed to take care of his mother. Most women usually bolted as soon as he revealed that tidbit of personal information. Lu just stood there nodding. Suddenly she looked up. She had made a decision and it felt reckless. “Would you like to come over for a celebration?” She asked. “What are you celebrating?” Angelo questioned. Lu became cautious, “I have a new cat and a prospect for a new job.” She decided that he didn’t need to know about the lawsuit and it would probably be better not to discuss it. She held up her sardines and indicated that that was the party food. Angelo’s eyes brightened and twinkled, “I love little fishes! When’s the party?”

As the prospect of a party looms for Lu, Aurelius, and Angelo I am going to pause the story leaving you to form your own conclusions. Will Aurelius accept Angelo or try to kill him? Will Lu overcome her inner critic and be able to forge a real relationship with Angelo and Lily? Will she find a new job? Will she get the big bucks from the lawsuit before she has to take in a lodger? You can sight the trajectory for the ending you want! Let me know how you’d like the story to end…

Looking at New Shoes

Have you ever been shoe shopping for a particular style or color and had to settle for almost the right ones? Have you ever purchased shoes that turned out to be pure evil when worn for more than 10 minutes? Have you spent more than your budget for shoes that were worn once before shoving them back into the box and sticking them in the far reaches of the closet?? I’m pretty sure all women have been there and done that. I am guilty. I had to get a pair of shoes to go with a fancy dress that I was wearing to a wedding (a very long time ago) that were a champagne color. The dress disappeared but the shoes lingered. Several years ago I needed to have a replacement pair of black shoes. I looked all over before shelling out $70.00 for what I thought were good shoes. I wore them that winter and then put them away for the summer. The next fall I pulled them out, slipped them on, and proceeded to leave gooey black crumbs all over the carpet. Seems the soles were disintegrating. They were useless! I went shopping for some green shoes. There are zero green shoes available in any stores in the Mall. I was sad. First because there were no green shoes anywhere (unless you count Crocs and flip-flops). Second because the prices on most of the shoes were outrageous!

I bought 7 new to me pairs of shoes. The first pair is a grey fabric Lydia slip-on from MadLove. They are light weight and casual but much dressier than tennis shoes.

The second pair is made by Pr!vo. These are slip-ons in brown and brown suede. They are fairly sturdy and designed for cooler weather.

My 3rd pair is a pair of Tabatha pumps by Croft & Barrow in a taupe and beige with a nice cord detail on the toe (not the black ones pictured).

The 4th pair are black leather with a little cut out V at the front edge where the shoe meets my foot above my toes. They are Jellypop brand and very comfortable which I attribute to the cut out to accommodate my high arch!

The 5th pair are a rusty red all leather (inside and out) Camila loafer by Ralph Lauren. They are pure luxury and so soft they feel like butter.

My 6th pair are Lands’ End bungee ballet flats in navy blue. I had been looking for blue shoes and now I have 2 pair! These had never been worn – the soles are so clean (as are the rest of the shoe). I imagine they never left the box!

The last pair are perfect. They are Coach drivers in a lovely (and I had been looking for this color but had given up) purple! They are also all leather and like the Ralph Lauren, very comfortable. However they have an extra layer of cushion between the insole and the sole giving them a slightly cushier feel. My life is nearly complete!

I looked at the price tags and they were quite expensive according to the internet.
MadLove = $45
Pr!vo = $65
Croft & Barrow = $69
Jellypop = $39
Ralph Lauren = $110
Land’s End = $85
Coach = $165
Of course I bought them from Goodwill for $2.50 a pair. All of them were like new. In fact I don’t think the Ralph Lauren driving or Lands’ End shoes had ever been worn! The MadLove shoes were like new too. Even the Jellypop shoe had no indentations from toes on the inner cushioned sole. I think they must have all come from the same closet since they were all there at the same time and all my size… I’ve worn them and have to say the Coach and Ralph Lauren are like slipping your foot into heaven! I’ve never owned shoes that are so delightful on my feet. I can only guess that the color was the reason to get rid of them. Perhaps red isn’t my favorite color and purple is a color that is not easy to match but I would wear them even in fluorescent orange or neon green because they are so comfortable!!

Looking Duped

I am usually an astute and savvy customer. Usually. I really try not to be played for a fool. Yet here I sit feeling very foolish. And I know you are all wondering why. Well, here goes…

I received an email from my insurance provider. He is very communicative. We get a quarterly newsletter from his office, birthday cards, Christmas greetings, and annual invitations to come in to discuss any changes in coverage we may want to consider. So it didn’t surprise me to see an email from him. The email was to invite me plus one to dinner at Golden Corral to discuss retirement options for my “golden” years. I discussed it with my husband and we decided to attend. I mean a free dinner and a spiel on retirement isn’t so bad. My insurance agent sent me a post card to remind me of the date and time. A week before the dinner Sparky informed me that he was going to have to work. No problem. I’ll invite a friend to come along. Hmm. All my usual peeps were either 1. working, 2. out of town, 3. not interested. I even hit up a former coworker to come with me. There were no takers.

The night of the dinner arrived. Because I’m fearless and “of a certain age” I made my way to the venue solo. Approaching the cashier I inquired where the dinner for my insurance agent was being held. She informed me that they were meeting in the banquet room. Then she asked for payment to enter. Seems the invitation omitted the “going Dutch” notice. Now I had to step back and consider the options. I could pony up $14 to go in or I could walk away. Seeing as the Golden Corral is not my idea of haute cuisine by any stretch, I can think of lots of other places I would rather spend $14, and I’m not going to sit through a boring talk on retirement on my own dime – I walked out.

I went over all the emails and reread the post card. Nowhere did it specifically say they would pay for the meal. Still it didn’t say they wouldn’t. It was an invitation to join them for dinner. Sort of like being asked out on a date only to find that you are being asked to pay your own way. At least I found out before ordering and sitting through the meal and sales pitch… The company will be getting a little “communication” from me. Heaven help them if they contact me first to find out why I ditched them!

Looking at a New Friend

The rest of the week was spent getting to know Aurelius. He was a fierce cat. She tried not to compare him to Mister but couldn’t help herself. Mister waited for trouble and would respond but this bold feline was on the prowl almost daring trouble to come visit. Mister was silent but Aurelius thumped and thudded his way through the house. Mister was affectionate in a distant way but not Aurelius. He was not shy about demanding attention. He preferred to drape himself across her lap with his back legs dangling over the edge. He would nudge her hand asking to be petted and if she stopped prematurely he would wrap a paw around her wrist and pull her hand back. They fell into a kind of routine. She felt secure for once since the home invasion with Aurelius on guard duty. He made official rounds checking every window and every door. At first she thought he was trying to escape. It finally dawned on her that he was a “watch cat” extraordinaire when she had failed to latch the garage door.

He came tearing into the kitchen and leapt onto the counter making a horrible racket. It startled her. He gave her a piercing look and headed into the family room and parked himself in front of the garage door. She of course followed and realized that the door was not only unlocked but slightly ajar. As soon as she closed and locked it he wove his body against and between her legs purring as loud as a truck.
Breakfast was an event as he stalked the toast popping up from the toaster. He tried to steal the whole eggs she had set on the counter to fry. He liked the cat food well enough but seemed to live for whatever she had on her plate. So far the only thing he didn’t like was oranges. Aurelius used the litter box, refused to sleep on the bed, and had a special hatred for dogs. She only discovered that quirk when the neighbor’s terrier decided to wander onto her porch. If Aurelius hadn’t had a solid door as a barrier that dog would have been killed. It surprised her up to see the fury and pent up anger unleashed simply from spying the dog from the window. It was also comforting to know that any future intruders would likely not survive the onslaught of Aurelius’ attack.

Lu had been scanning the employment ads in the newspaper and on line. Her resume had been refreshed and she had sent it to several head hunters hoping for some leads. She was not a frivolous spender and had a very health savings account. She figured that the worst case scenario she could live on her savings for 36 months if she was very careful and didn’t have any catastrophic expenses. She was mulling over the prospect of renting out a room if worst came to worst when her phone vibrated. She had been waiting for a call from the law firm on an update. Lily was calling to touch base. Lu sighed and relaxed. Lily wasn’t so bad and was the closest thing to a friend she had at present. She answered the phone with a confident hello. The news was good. The lawsuit had been filed and a response from the defendants had been received.

Lily was excited. Lu’s former company had offered a settlement of $500,000. Lily cut Lu off when she started to say that it was a lot of money. Seems Polder and Swale countered with a demand for $4 million dollars! Lu was speechless. Lily wasn’t waiting for a response anyway and forged on saying that it was likely that they would get that sum since the only people let go from the company were women and all had impeccable performance reviews and that they retained many other men with poor performance records. Lu was nearly out of breath just listening to Lily. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath while Lily forged on saying that the money Aurora Dupin had been bequeathed had cleared. She asked if Lu wanted it deposited directly into her savings account or did she want to place it into CDs or some other savings vehicle. With that news all Lu’s worries evaporated. Aurelius pounced into her lap and nudged her chin with his head.

I think the pendulum has swung for Lu. As bad as life has treated her it looks like she has gathered a few friends – at least Aurelius and Lily. But then again she may have made some new enemies since I doubt her former employer is very happy with this turn of events…

Looking Askance

Tomorrow marks the first day I am eligible to work at the university in an on-call position. I’m a little nervous about going back. There have been some changes – and not all of them for the better. Even though I used to give all the tours, I will be required to take a tour. I will also need to get access and get some room keys issued. So much to do and so little time… I’m also a little suspicious that some things will be unpleasant especially my former boss’ expectation that I’ll come back and work for him.

I’ve been in contact with the lab and there is a tentative schedule for some experiments that will require my expertise. Hopefully they won’t interfere with my leisure time, ceramics class, travel plans, exercise schedule or nap time. Such is the life of a retired woman. If I put in an hour for prep, an hour for animal and cage prep and 8 hours for the study, I should rake in enough money to pay for my Goodwill trips and my animal cracker addiction.

In other news I am planning a trip to Florida to visit with my sister. Sparky has a big chunk of time in November when he will be able to get off work due to the library shutting down for the big move and renovation. That would make it ideal – no work, colder weather, not the holidays… However the coordination of said trip is tricky. We are planning to go to Disney World as an add on to the trip (only for 3 days) and the coordination of hotels and flights and (gasp!) a rental car (*shudder*) is daunting! I haven’t recovered fully from the nightmare that was the National Rental Car ordeal in May!

I’ve gotten together with a couple co-workers for lunch. It is good to catch up with them but also a little strange since we are moving away from each other at right angles… It takes a lot of effort to remain close. I hope I can continue to connect. *sigh*

Looking for Intelligent Life

I am spending way too much time standing in lines. I have to line up at the check-out (even the self-checkout has a long line), at the doctor’s office, at the dentist, even to get in the workout center! While waiting I watch people. I strike up conversations. And sometimes I have to wonder if there really is intelligent life on this planet! Case in point: I was standing in the checkout line with my groceries on the conveyor belt. I had placed one of those separator bars in front of my stuff and I put another behind. The cashier finished with the woman ahead of me and began ringing up my purchases. So far all was normal. As I stood there a young woman (maybe in her early 20s) began putting her items on the belt AND SHE REMOVED THE SEPARATOR BAR! I was puzzled. Then she shoved her stuff up and was mashing my peaches!! I picked up my fragile produce and replaced the bar. By this time the cashier was nearly through my stuff and I handed her my peaches. She took them rang them up and grabbed the other woman’s things to scan. I stopped her. (The woman had again removed the separator bar.) This delayed the process a tad since there were a couple things that had to be voided. Anyway the short conversation revealed that the young woman had NO CLUE that the bar was used to keep our groceries apart. Instead she thought that the bar deactivated the conveyor belt – a sort of brake to keep it from moving forward. It does stop the belt when it gets to the scanner but she thought that having it ON the belt would prevent it from moving. I put on my cloak of patience and explained that the bar was to prevent the cashier from combining our purchases. I don’t think she believed me. Below is a quatern where each stanza is 4 line long and each line is 8 syllables long. The first line of the 1st stanza repeats as the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza, 3rd line of the 3rd stanza, and finally the 4th line of the last stanza. There’s no required meter or rhyme scheme but I wrote it as rhyming couplets just for fun…

She looks at me with bovine eyes
She can’t discern the truth from lies
She can’t tell what’s wrong from right
There’s no thought or intellect’s light

I speak to her but she just sighs
She looks at me with bovine eyes
I search her face for just one sign
A clue, a thought, a spark divine

I can’t find intelligent life
Instead stupidity is rife
She looks at me with bovine eyes
Her head filled up with butterflies

Deeply into her eyes I gaze
All I see is a mental haze
I whisper truth and all words wise
She looks at me with bovine eyes