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Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

Sitting in the Lazy-Boy recliner, I’m surrounded by my youngest son’s drum-kit, which is presently taking up the living room. This kit is the one item he purchased for himself when he graduated from high school in 2012. Troy is a magnificent trumpet-player, but he is starting to navigate his way around the drums. He has rhythm, and can keep the beat, which is much more than I can say for myself! Believe, me, I’ve tried. I enjoyed listening to Troy and Travis jamming together this week, Travis on guitar and Troy on the drums. There have been some impromptu, unscripted sessions of blues/rock from these talented young men, and a few others, in our home. This week both of them are home since Troy is on winter break from college, and Travis has five days off from work.

On Saturday, December 28th, Troy leaves for ten days overseas. He is travelling with the Riverside City College Marching Tigers, and will be performing at the London New Year’s Day Parade 2014, and also at the Calabata de Reyes Parade on January 5th in Madrid, Spain. This is a trip of a lifetime, and since seeing the itinerary this week, I really wish I was going! I am very glad for Troy to have this opportunity!

I realized recently there will be three of the cousins overseas at the same time when Troy goes to London. My niece Lacy was here for a month, and she and her husband returned home to Germany last Monday, December 16th. The next day, my niece Jenna left for Saipan for three months, studying biology. And Troy leaves this coming weekend. I am thrilled for each of them, because of their adventurous spirit they can travel to new places and experience other cultures, making memories to last a lifetime.

As for myself, I am on the brink of something new, and different, and possibly going back to something I’ve done before. Time will tell, and in just a few weeks I will know the answer, at which time I can be specific. But for now I need to remain ambiguous and mysterious. Let me just say, the past 16 years have been challenging in regards to how I earn a paycheck, but I have no regrets. Sometimes, taking a step backwards is moving forward, and sometimes it is time to act on faith, rather than just say it. Sometimes, reduction equates to healthy living. Sometimes, enough is enough. Sometimes, my own expectations keep me enslaved to what I think I must do, rather than releasing myself from such unreasonable expectations and living a life which is free and balanced. There is a photo my brother Fredee posted on his facebook page recently, which sums up what I am trying to say. Why? Because of what happens next. This little girl on the swing is going to jump off that swing any minute, and she is going to land on her feet. This little girl in the read cap is me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

OCTOBER 26, 2013







Sunday, September 29, 2013

This painting by Johannes Vermeer was my inspiration for an assignment in my Creative Writing class. I hope you will enjoy this short story. 
An Excercise in Imagination ~ The Milkmaid

     Anna wondered about her father’s illness, and hoped for signs of improvement as she made her way back to the pantry for more bread. The cedar-lined cupboards were revealing more empty space as the inventory was depleted. One thing she could always count on was the comforting aroma of the pantry, even if the resources were low.  It had been two weeks since the last time the neighbors stopped by to check on them, bringing fresh fruit and bread. Anna was preoccupied in these thoughts while she prepared an afternoon snack for her father, his favorite of fresh milk, bread and jam.

     Anna began her day early in the morning when the rooster crowed, before sun-up, as she knew the best time to milk Bessie was in the morning. Pulling on her mud boots, she glopped across the wet grass and through the mud to get to the barn, where Bessie waited for her. The light of the oil-lamp barely glowed, but soon Anna knew the sun would illuminate the farmland and stream through the spaces between the slats of wood on the side of the old barn.

     Before her father got sick, he worked from daylight until dark, maintaining the farm in a standard which he was re-known for in the community. He cared for all the animals, including the milk-cow, Bessie, the two horses and a menagerie of pigs, goats and chickens. The sheep had all died out from the pox, which miraculously skipped the goats. Harold had been a sheep farmer all his life, but when he lost the sheep he made the difficult decision to retire from sheep-farming. While this meant less physical labor for him and Anna, he also knew it meant a sharp decline in the income and resources. He had faith that they would make it.         
     While Anna did not mind milking the cow, her favorite place to be was in the kitchen, which was just off the mud-room after entering the house from the back door. The construction of the home was thick brick-and-mortar, built by Anna’s mother’s family over one hundred years ago. The kitchen was a comforting place where she spent many hours baking bread, jams and canning fruits and vegetables from the prosperous garden she and her father planted every spring.

     The family had willed the home to Anna after her mother died in the horrible accident that no one could have predicted. It was a stormy night, and the wind howled for hours. It was February and the stove would barely stay lit because of the wind. Just when they thought it was over, the wind diminished, and then the rain started, soft and gentle at first, but it rained for four days straight. Anna’s father, Harold, insisted upon taking care of the animals himself and refused help offered to him from his wife, Trudy. After-all, she had a little one to care for, as Anna was just a toddler. On the fifth day, Trudy woke up before Harold and sneaked out to the barn to feed the animals and clean out the barn. She was able to get to Bessie and milk her engorged udder. The two buckets of fresh, steamy milk would be a welcome addition to the cold, damp kitchen, Trudy thought as she hurried toward the house.

     The first lightning strike came while she was making her way from the barn to the house, hands full with the buckets, and she ran to take shelter next to the outhouse. Harold heard the crack of thunder that accompanied the lightning and he ran to the barn in search of his wife. The baby Anna was still asleep in her cradle which Harold’s father made, carved from one block of the oak tree in the back of the farm. The tree the cradle was made from suffered a lightning strike over twenty years ago. Not only was Harold’s father also a sheep-farmer, like Harold, but a wood-worker too. His handiwork was visible throughout the home, with tables, chairs, and the cradle.

     Harold’s focus was on finding Trudy, but she was not in the barn. He searched in the hay loft, and in each of the animal pens. Knowing how Trudy cared for the horses, Harold thought she might have gone to them to comfort them from the storm which was raging all around them. When he did not find her in the barn, he headed toward the barn door, and at the same time he first felt, and then heard the crack of lightning, instantly deafening him momentarily. Instantly he knew, he could feel Trudy had been struck. He broke into a speed of running he never knew he had within him, and found Trudy lying on the ground between the outhouse and the back door of their home. The family home they shared as husband and wife for ten years, when finally summer before last they were blessed with a child, their little Anna. Now, standing beside his wife’s limp body, he was startled by the sounds of Anna. “Dada, Dada!” she cried over and over again. He picked up Trudy’s body and ran to his daughter. Harold knew what he had to do.

     The funeral service was a quiet event, with only the neighbors coming to stand by as Harold laid his wife’s body to rest. Anna can barely remember that day, and relies on her father for the memories of her mother. Standing at the window in the kitchen now, fifteen years later, Anna was thankful that her father is such a good man, both a mother and father to her. True, she had to share the heavy work-load that the farm required, but it only helped her stay physically fit. Her upper-body strength came from driving the plow-horses in the spring for the garden. Her legs were good and sturdy because of the miles of walking she did around the farm to mend the fences. But her classic beauty and silky-smooth skin she inherited from her mother. Anna was happy to be born a milk-maid.

     Lost in thought, Anna did not hear the rapping at the door until it grew louder and more frequent. She laid aside the tray of snacks for her father and, wiping her hands on her apron, went to the front door. “Doctor Abels, so nice to see you. Please come in.” The young doctor explained that Dr. Berg was away and sent him to call on Harold. Anna escorted the doctor to her father’s room, and left the two men to visit. Twenty minutes later Dr. Abels returned to the hallway between the bedroom and the kitchen. “Anna,” he said, “I have some news to tell you. May we sit down?” Anna ushered him into the living room, bringing with them a tray of tea and fresh, warm rolls with butter and honey. Anna could not read the expression on Dr. Abels’
face. She had only seen him a couple of times before, but always with Dr. Brinkerhoff. Anna set the tray down, and they each took a seat. “Anna, you father…is not getting better. There will not be much time left before the cancer takes over his whole body. I am so very sorry.” Anna felt like one of the bricks from the wall of the house had just landed on her chest. Stunned, her face ashen-white, she stared straight ahead. If ever she prayed for strength, it was now. She and her father had endured so much and came through the hard times, but now this she had to face alone. “Anna,” said the kind, young, doctor, “If there is anything you need, I am here for you.” He understood the look of shock on her face, and then poured her some tea. Neither of them touched the rolls.

     Two precious, short weeks is all Anna had with her father before his body succumbed to the disease. But Anna was thankful for those sweet memories they made in his final days. The neighbors came and helped Anna with the farm chores so she could have time with Harold. The milk-maid’s father passed away peacefully in his sleep. At Dr. Abels’ final house-call before Harold’s death, he assured Anna the funeral arrangements had all been taken care of by the community. The other farmer’s saw to it that the expenses were covered. Their only last concern was what was to become of the farmer’s daughter, the milk-maid. The community talked to Dr. Abels, but he had already thought of that. He just hoped the idea would be reciprocated.

     One month after the funeral they had their first date, a picnic along the river. Anna packed strawberry jam, fresh rolls, dried fish and a quart of cold milk. The young doctor did not mind whatever was in the picnic basket, he was just glad to spend time with Anna, now eighteen. In all his twenty-two years he had never been so drawn to another soul the way he was drawn to Anna. He would find out today if she felt the same. Anna realized she did not know this young, handsome doctor’s name. “Doctor, you know so much about me and my father, but I do not even know your first name. What is it?” He replied, “Gustaaf. Please call me Gus.” Anna realized now this was the same Gustaaf Abels who she has a crush on when she was just a school girl, and he came to the farm looking for work to put himself through medical school. Her father, although kind to the job-seeker, could not afford to employ him, but he had remained interested in the farm. He inquired with the other farmers in the community before Harold’s illness, and learned of the milk-maid. It was at this moment that Anna fell in love with the man, the doctor, Gustaaf Abels ~ and they lived happily ever after.
                                                            The End.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Recipes

Today I tried two new recipes and re-visited an old one. The result was great!! I will share them and attempt credit to the originals, but I added my own ideas to each of them. And in the process re-discovered I like to create things in the kitchen...especially when I am not pressed for time.

Friday morning I asked Mark to pick up a bag of frozen "Chicken Drumettes" from Smart & Final on his way to work. This is handy because he has a freezer at work he can keep groceries in. The most brilliant thing came next...going into Super Walmart on a Friday night to get the Lawry's Teriyaki marinade with pinapple juice. The product is terrific, had everything already mixed together in one bottle, and fairly inexpensive. The problem? Well, you probably figured it out already. Yes, Super Walmart on a Friday night. I do not know what I was thinking. I will spare you the details, but if you are craving someplace to go "people-watching" just go to your nearest Super Walmart on a Friday night. Riddle me this, why are there 25 checkstands and only 3 open at one time?

I thawed the chicken and marinated it in the wonderful Lawry's in a gallon size zip-lock bag, overnight in fridge. In the morning I drained the chicken and put it on high in the crock-pot for four hours. Here comes the magic trick...I put the chicken on foil-lined baking sheets and broiled it in the oven on high for 8 minutes, first putting a dallop of Famous Dave's Sweet & Zesty BBQ sauce on each one. After 8 minutes, I turned the little drumettes over and broiled for five minutes. Crock-pot on warm, I put these little delights in there to keep warm   They were yummy!! The original recipe came from:

The next recipe is a broccoli-slaw overnighter. Start with two packs Ramen noodles, crumbled, and put them in the bottom of a bowl. Next, add in two packs of broccoli slaw (from Walmart, but today I noticed the same product at the 99cents store). Now add in seeds...I used pepitas, which are pumpkin seeds, but I have seen other recipes using sunflower seeds. Now you can mix the dressing: 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup vinegar (I used Trader Joe's Orange Champagne Vinegar), and 1 cup oil (I used garlic-infused olive oil), and the two seasoning packets from Ramen noodles. Mix all the dressing ingredients well, then pour over salad. DO NOT MIX! just refrigerate overnight. Toss just before serving. I also added in about 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced.

 The grand finale: Missippi Mud Pie Thing! I remember making this years ago when we lived in Fontana, and then recently, while in Arizona, Marissa and I talked about it, so I decided to give it a try. I found this pretty picture on pinterest:  
My cousin Bonnie gave me two bags of pecans last December which I have used here and there, and kept the rest in the freezer. This was a perfect chance to use them again. The crust is 1 cup flour, 1 cube butter and 1 cup finely chopped pecans. I use my extra coffee-grinder to chop the nuts. (to clean coffee grinder, put in half piece of bread and pulverize--cleans up right nice!)  Mix those three together and spread in Pyrex. Bake for 20-25 minutes and cool completely.

Next, mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 (8oz) package cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in half a tub (16 oz) cool whip and blend. Spread this mixture on top of the crust. Then take 3 cups milk and 2 (3 oz) packages of chocolate pudding and mix with electric mixer for 2 minutes. You can use any flavor, but I love chocolate best. Once the pudding is mixed for full 2 minutes it will be thick and shiny. Make sure there's no dry pudding mix left, incorporate it all! Now spread that on top of the previous layer. And then spread the remaining Cool Whip and embellish with chopped pecans and Hershey's chocolate bar pieces. Refrigerate overnight for best-est results! Here's how mine came out: 

I absolutely loved spending time with family and friends enjoying this Saturday DAY-OFF meal! Iced-tea, swimming and games round out the day. I feel refreshed and recharged! I hope ya'll enjoy this post, and get in the kitchen and try some of these ideas, or make up your own...just remember to share! 

Day Trip ~ from Prescott Valley to Jerome, Arizona

I am drawn to fluer-de-lis, so when I saw this on a fence in downtown Jerome, I knew I had to get a picture!

 While we were in Arizona this month Mike and Marissa took us to Jerome, an old town built on the side of the Black Hills in Yavapai county, about halfway between Prescott and Sedona. We left Prescott Valley and took highway 89A. The sign said 19 miles to Jerome, so I calculated that it would be about 30 minutes to get there. The timeframe quickly lost all meaning when my body said to my stomach that it did want to be on this mountain road anymore! And just at the perfect time, this vista point and parking appeared, and we were able to get out of the truck and take this picture of Mike, Marissa, me and Mark. Beyond the Black Hills is Verde Valley. It was interesting to picture this town in pre-historic times, probably filled with water until the earth quaked and created the Black Hills and the beautiful valley beyond.

The day before we left California to drive to Prescott Valley, the Granite Hill fire overtook 19 firefighter hot-shots from in Yarnell, Arizona. All the flags were flying at half-mast. One of the victims was from Riverside County in California. Another victim was a clerk at the gun shop in Prescott where my nephew Jordan and his dad shop.

House on the hillside in Jerome, AZ.
A door in the Holy Family Catholic Church in Jerome. 

Best coconut cream pie! (at the Haunted Hamburger)
Storefronts in Jerome.

Climbing the steps of Jerome.

Jordan with his Uncle Mark.
On the return trip from Jerome, there was a sign along highway 89A which stated "Mingus Lake 2.0 miles." My brother-in-law is not one to turn down an adventure, cut off onto the dirt road in search of Mingus Lake. There is a great lack of water in Arizona, and Jordan was jazzed at the idea of there actually being a lake nearby Prescott Valley. When we reached the two-mile mark, there was a sign in front of a livestock watering hole. It is definitly not a lake, but a fisherman and his gal were there anyways to try their luck.
Jordan was bummed. We had a good laugh!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Taters

I am not ashamed or too proud to say that I am not a very good cook. Mark does most of the cooking around here, and Travis also likes to cook. Travis makes home-made healthy meals to to put in the freezer and take to work. Tonight I made a successful dinner without breaking anything or burning anything, so that's a good day in my book!!

Thanks to finding this recipe on Pinterest,, I tried making Brussels Sprouts again. The neighborhood 99cent Store has a fantastic selection of produce which changes frequently. Yesterday we bought some Brussels Sprouts which were larger than any I had ever seen, so I wondered if they would be tough or bitter or worse than usual. After reading Griffin's Grub blog about the many health benefits of Brussels Sprouts, I jumped in with both feet and made this tasty dish. I figure that any memory of a bad Brussels Sprout will be erased with the many health benefits. This recipe helps keep the bitterness at bay and I found this to be very tasty. The rest of the household has not ventured into the area of Brussels Sprouts. The best thing is, this did not make the house stink, like last time I tried to make them.

The chicken part of dinner is also from Pinterest, from Elaine Peterson, via this website: It is so easy, and it came out very moist. I added some shallots (because I bought some at the 99cent Store) inside the chicken. I also made homemade chicken gravy after I took the chicken out of the crockpot. Mashed potatoes rounded out the meal.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One Week With My Brother

Costa Rica

My mom and I spent a week with Richard in Costa Rica. I flew from LAX to Ft. Lauderdale and mom met me there from Lexington. She had to take the long way around, going from Lexington up to Chicago, and then finally to Ft. Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport. We did not check any bags and we packed light with just our one carry-one and personal item. The flight to San Jose, CR was just a couple of hours. It went pretty smooth, until we came in for landing. It was very windy and I felt a little sick, but as soon as we touched down I was fine.
Mom on the plane in FLL.
We filled out the immigration and customs forms and headed to the counter for my first stamp in my passport! I was wondering if I would ever get a stamp in it before it expires in 2019!

Richard was waiting outside of the San Jose CR Airport, which is actually located in Alajuela. Efrain was with him, and I was glad to meet him before we took him to the bus station so he could continue on his way. Richard had Burger King lunch ready for us. Claudio in Liberia loaned Richard a car for the week, so that was nice. 

Out of San Jose is a town called Grecia, and nearby is San Ysidro and San Francisco, smaller communities with lots of coffee plantations and beautiful views. 

The first day we visited La Paz Waterfall Gardens, in the shadow of Poaz Volcano. The road into the garden still shows some evidence of earthquake damage. The weather cooperated nicely, and we got the full rain forest experience.

After the park tour, we stopped for lunch in San Miguel.

And then it was time for coffee, a visit and a Bible study with Dona Nelly. She lives in Chilamate.

The next stop was at Rosmi and Eladio's, in La Virgen. The river behind their house was double in size because of the recent rain.
Marlene at the internet cafe...and frappaccino with home-made whipped cream!
Marlene and her husband own some properties in Costa Rica. They lived in CR for many years, but due to her husband's health, and also for their children's schooling, they have returned to Canada. Marlene visits Costa Rica once a month to manage her business.

Street juggler...what an unexpected sight!

 The days seem to blend into each other as I recall the sequence of events. The next visit , with Dona Yvonne, where we had lunch. She served pickled bananas and jalepenos to go with fried chicken and tortillas. She recently moved into this new apartment, which was very new and modern.
Lila (Marlene's mother), Dona Yvonne, Mom, Richard, Bev.

Wilbur the gardener took us on a tour of the property in San Francisco. The views are endless!

Sunday morning meeting was in Guadalupe, just outside of San Jose. 

Dona Flor, Mom and Lila waiting for the cars to come down the narrow, hilly road.

On Sunday afternoon we left San Jose and went to Quepos.

Half way to Quepos we stopped for coffee and beautiful views!

Rihard, Chef Omar and Mom.

Chef Omar is the chef at Hotel Verde Mar in Manuel Antonio.

There are only 3 hotels in Manuel Antonio with direct beach access. Verde Mar is one of them.

Marlene and Lila, enjoying coffee by the pool.

After a couple days we headed for Libera, which is about four hours north. 
Time for lunch! Ramon rode along with us as far as Puntarenas. He is the manager at Hotel Verde Mar.

This is a favorite statue of my brother's. See page 19 of your passport.

Richard, Bev, Marjorie and her husband Heiner. Marjorie's brother is Eladio (Rosmi's husband), the home near the river.

Claudio, Tina, Mom, Bev and Richard at Claudio and Tina's home in Libera.

Tina and Bev.

From Libera we took a bus (like a charter bus) to Grecia.
Richard travels by bus in Costa Rica, and to Panama and Nicaragua. The schedule is 3 weeks in rotation.

From Grecia we took a local bus to San Ysidro.
On the day we left to return home, from San Ysidro we took a local bus to the bus terminal in Grecia. The big bus took us to the airport. It was only 1.5 hours trip. Richard saw us through to the Spirit Airlines gate, then we said goodbye... and cried.

Mom and her continental breakfast at the airport cafeteria.
It was a wonderful trip, and I'm so glad Mom and I were able to go. I'd love to go back someday.