We are all alive! Me, Lee, the rest of the local family, horses, dogs, and chickens. It’s a lot worse in other parts of the US, so I’m thankful for my knowledge of how to dress for really cold weather and that it only got down to 10° F last night.
I brought the chickens fresh water and received cold eggs is return. The horses appreciated me opening up their water troughs and giving them some energy-filled food. My snow gloves made that hard, so I ditched them. I’m glad Fiona has extra food dishes, because hers blew into the next field. Yow. So much wind.
Our heat stopped working, just like last year, so I went up to the landing and finished my work where the sun was shining. It confused the dogs. Then we went shopping for holiday food in the warm car. We had fun!
We figured the propane would get better soon as it got a little warmer, which it did. We weren’t alone. The same thing happened all over the area. It’s not like we suffered! We have dogs and many handmade items to keep us warm. And whiskey.
So, I went in the kitchen to pour myself some medicinal Jameson’s Irish whiskey with a little water. Then I sat down to crochet on my unfinished Christmas gift. First, I checked Facebook. Guess what the first damned ad I saw was for? Jameson’s!!
Can one of my conspiracy theory friends explain that? I didn’t SAY what I was doing. I haven’t mentioned that stuff, perhaps ever, except when Lee tells people he prefers Clontarf instead. (Which is why I am drinking the perfectly adequate other stuff.)
That was today’s mystery. Tomorrow’s big agenda includes cooking pork chops. I lead an exciting life when the polar winds blow.
Yesterday’s daily expedition in the Carlsbad, California area was to the Buena Vista Audubon Society’s nature center in Oceanside. It’s on the Buena Vista lagoon, which is a former saltwater marsh that was dammed 50 years ago to create a freshwater pond. One of the things we learned at our visit is that the nature center folks and friends are about to open it back up to its original state.
The center is surrounded by plantings of native vegetation, which attract lots and lots of birds. We saw California towhees, brown-headed cowbirds, hummingbirds that were too distant to identify, and something green (kept hiding).
We also saw many butterflies. There were many monarchs and fiery skippers, plus whites and some other skippers.
I have to say the highlights of the wildlife were this gorgeous lizard, an ornate tree lizard, and one resident we only heard, an American bullfrog. It had a lot to say, that’s for sure, and was so loud! Ours don’t make that much noise.
The docent we spoke with was full of information. She said the lagoon will no longer be crammed with cattails once the salt water comes in, which will be welcome to observers. The center itself was just beautiful and obviously well loved by society members. They also had prepared beautiful maps of the trail with important plants labeled, and a really good guide to the plants for young people that encouraged them to interact with some of the more interesting specimens like the lemonade berries and the rushes. I learned from the brochure, too, about how pickleweed traps salt in little growths and then drops off the stored stuff in little red segments.
I also learned a bit more about that alkali water. It comes from an aquifer under Carlsbad and is full of calcium. Now I want to try some!
After we left, we drove by Oceanside beach and watched some surfers. It was a beautiful day at the beach, which meant not much parking. We took a wrong turn and ended up at the entrance to Camp Pendleton, where my dear friend Mike spent many years. He shared some stories with me and told me all about the cool Osprey planes I saw practicing landings and takeoffs as we drove past the base. That made our wrong turn worth it. I’d never seen an Osprey (the plane, not the bird) in person.
We ended the expedition with another piece of culinary luck. We found a real taco stand hiding in the same shopping center where I bought my yarn (though I didn’t realize it at the time, since we approached from the other direction). I got to eat real fish tacos, and Lee had a most impressive burrito. We were the only Anglo customers the whole time we were there, and we could watch the cook make everything from scratch. Now, that’s some Cal-Mex cuisine! I’m doing pretty well at choosing random restaurants on this trip!
One more piece of humor for any of you who aren’t on Facebook with me. This sign has been on the door of our condo since we arrived, but I’d only read “no smoking” and the fine until yesterday. I got such a good laugh out of it that I had to share it with a family member, who shared it with all the nurses who came to her room. I cheered up an entire hospital!
Otherwise, I’m continuing to rest a lot, crochet away, sit in the quiet hot tub area, and work on my mental health. It’s going well.
When I finally get a day off, I can cram a lot of fun into it, that’s for sure, and yesterday I even stepped outside my comfort zone successfully, more than once. I’m so proud.
One thing I’m happy with myself for doing is finding my own fun by myself. As Lee has gotten more and more into the Hermit Life, I’ve found myself slipping into it as well (and COVID helped form the habit of being solo). Since I wake up ridiculously early here, I usually have five hours or so to kill before Lee is able to do anything. I sit on the balcony, read, or knit, but I’m so used to getting up and doing a bunch of chores that I’ve taken to just leaving and finding stuff to do outside.
Admittedly, some of the stuff I do involves fruity drinks and beach chairs, but I wander around, take pictures, and talk to folks. I swear I’m turning into my dad with all this talking to folks stuff. Not very hermit-like.
When Lee was awake, he suggested we go take advantage of the free putt-putt golf we get as part of our stay. I think the hotel chain bought this sorta run-down course, since it’s right across from one of the properties and counts as an amenity. Here’s an admission. I had NEVER played putt-putt before, or any other golf-like activity.
A Chapter for My Memoirs
Backstory: In my horrible only year at Plantation Middle School, some person without much forethought had the great idea of having a bunch of young girls, many from backgrounds that didn’t include elitist sports like golf (back then, well-to-do white people played golf), learn the sport in physical education. Golf includes golf balls and golf clubs, both things that needed to be treated with respect. There were rules, like only swinging your club behind a certain line, not swinging without checking your surroundings, and not driving the ball while people were out retrieving their shots. Good rules. Who can guess what happened?
Yep. I had finally hit my ball far enough to get an extra point (a thing I needed because PE was my worst class) and was about to pick it up when WHAM, one of the little darlings in class swung her club onto my head. I was so focused on getting my extra point that I simply went back to the teacher to report my success. She asked me what was on my gym outfit. That would be blood. I had to go to the nurse’s office, which was hard to do when you had no idea where that was in the crazy building and you were dripping. I was so angry that I smeared blood on the exterior wall of the school, quite an act of rebellion for the rule-follower I was at the time.
The nurse washed me up and called my mom to come get me. Mom was in the middle of her nervous breakdown from having to move away from Gainesville, so she was not happy to have to drive down Sunrise Boulevard (she didn’t like four-lane roads) to come get me. She looked at the hole in my head and declared something like it was just a flesh wound and took me home with no doctor visit or anything. Mom was frugal and didn’t want to waste health care dollars on us kids when she needed so much (thus, we had no trips to the dentist until our teens, my brother’s lazy eye was not addressed until too late to fix it, etc.).
The results were that I had headaches for years and sharp pains if I moved a certain way. I have avoided golf entirely. I wasn’t the only one permanently damaged by middle school golf. Another classmate had a chunk of her chin removed by someone who didn’t check her surroundings, and as far as I know, still has a nasty scar. I believe that was the end of the golf program at Plantation Middle School.
Back to Put-Putt
Anyway, Lee likes golf and used to be really good at mini-golf, so I agreed to go. I’m so glad I did. It was great fun, and I was nowhere near as horrible at it as I feared I would be. In fact, I was even under par on one hole, and made par on a couple more. The first hole was pretty bad, since I had to figure out how hard to hit the ball to make it do what I wanted it to do, but after that, I found it most amusing to see where the ball would go and what it would do.
I declare that I would do it again, perhaps at a nicer course. But, we got a lot of laughs out of the outing and it was great to see Lee actually enjoying an activity on a trip.
Off to Calabash
We decided we wanted some good seafood, so we motored off to North Carolina (barely) to the beautiful little town of Calabash, where we’d had a great meal last year. Once again, I knitted a lot. I am trying to get that baby blanket finished before that baby is born. We tried the restaurant next door to the one where we ate last year, and were not disappointed.
I got a huge amount of food in my platter, unlike the small serving we had in Murrell’s Inlet a couple of days ago. And it was fried so beautifully that my grandmother would have approved (the great connoisseur of Florida seafood). The oysters were immense and the scallops delicate and tender. The shrimp were local (from right next door!) and the fish was glorious.
While the service was a little slow, I could not complain, since there was quite a show among the local bird population for me to enjoy. Grackles were mating and building nests, so they were in great form (and loud, being grackles).
The seagulls were also in squabbling mode, so there was lots of action. Plus, there were pelicans zooming around and catching fish. They are so beautiful to me.
After the meal, I went for a walk on the little boardwalk and boat docks, where I got to enjoy pelicans having some kind of bird party next to a party boat, which cracked me up (easily amused).
I also realized why all the birds are so dang happy right there in Calabash. The water was literally teeming with little fish. No shore bird could go hungry with all those fishies everywhere they looked!
While I was gone, Lee was paying the check, and since he was alone with our leftovers, the laughing gulls got bolder. He got a great shot of a laughing gull taking one of my shrimp.
Once we got home, I needed to burn off that fried food, so I walked on the boardwalk until I got all my steps in, then decided to enjoy an Old Fashioned and knit a table at the upstairs bar (I had been outside until a loud family arrived). A lady said I shouldn’t be sitting alone and invited me to the bar to sit with them. I ended up talking to them and another couple for a long time. Lee even came down for a while.
And in talking to the staff, I discovered that Kevin the bartender is also a history professor who specialized in my very own ancestors in Florida! His family is also from north Florida with deep roots there. Who would have guessed? This condo has the best staff, that’s for sure.
I ended up meeting another couple and stayed too long and had three drinks, so I was not at my best when I got home. Lee said I was cuddly, so I must have been out of my mind, ha ha. It was worth it, though. I truly enjoy hearing the stories of all the people I run into and finding our commonalities without ruining things by getting into politics or religion. Granted, anyone I meet here fits certain criteria or they wouldn’t be here. Hilton sure does check your credit scores and incomes. But I’ve met people from many places and backgrounds, and that’s what I like and have missed so much the past few years.
While I’m still primarily doing outdoor things (we’ve been eating on patios), at least I’m no longer scared to talk to people. I’m back to having a nice balance of being alone and in peace and interacting with others.
Wow. It’s been a really long time since I did anything with the family. Between COVID and family stresses, I’ve been on my own. So it was a pleasant surprise to have Kathleen coming back. More pleasant was a visit from her daughter-in-law, Moriah, and her baby Oaklynn (recipient of one of my baby blanket series).
I’d intended to go do a Master Naturalist thing today, but a ladies’ trip sounded more fun. Besides, I’d missed doing stuff around Cameron with anyone. (But I’m grateful for Anita and the Austin book group for some feminine company.)
So we got in Moriah’s car and headed to exotic Calvert, Texas, home of many cute shops and houses. Less than half an hour from Cameron, this little town has done what I wish we could. Dang, it’s been renovated well.
We had a great meal at the beautiful Calvert Hotel. It’s so well done and you get free wine with your meal. I had a great burger with bread and butter pickles on it. Mmm. Other than a lady insisting on touching the baby, it was a great time. Here are some pictures.
Then Kathleen and I shopped some in the stores. One with lots of colored glass really had nice stuff. I got some purple glass for my bathroom.
A visit to Calvert is not complete without checking out the En Geddes winery store. We enjoyed a wine flight and snacks, along with good conversation with the owners. I got my favorite sparkling wine, which they’ve almost sold out of it and the freeze killed a lot of the grapes.
I enjoyed all the wildflowers on the roadside. At home we have a couple new ones things to look at, like monarchs, carpenter bees, and false dandelion. The giant earth ball mushroom keeps growing, too.
When we got home we decided to ride horses. Kathleen groomed Mabel, but decided not to ride her due to a hoof issue.
I rode Apache and practiced all our stuff. He started eating grass and yanked the reins out of my hands. Then he stepped in them. Luckily his jumping wasn’t too bad. I got off and had a firm word with him. Very firm. He did fine after that. Yay me.
It was nice to see Kathleen back on Dusty. It had been six months. It will take a while to get her muscles back. Moriah hadn’t ridden in years, but she got on. Good for her.
She rode, and that’s what counts.
All in all, we had fun. a good ladies day. We even went to the CAB (Central Avenue Bistro) for the first time in ages. Lee won’t eat there. Ha. He missed Tom Petty songs.
My goodness, I love traditional Southern US New Year’s food. I also love cooking it. Today has been the best day all year so far (ha) because all I did was cook easy food in a relaxing manner. Then I got to eat it.
I made fresh black-eyed peas, for luck. I cooked them with some mystery sausage and onions. They were so good. I cooked them all day. Yum.
Then I cooked two bunches of collard greens. The secret is to cut out the thick ribs (and feed them to chickens) and cook them with tasty meat. You can use bacon, ham hocks, andouille sausage, or pork of some sort. Mmmm.
I do so love collards. They aren’t so bitter and just have a mild, soothing flavor. They go great with cornbread. So if course I made that. Leftover collards and gravy (pot liquor) served over cornbread was my mother’s favorite.
My sister made deviled eggs courtesy of our chickens.
And in my family, you have to serve the peas over rice. Just one of many possibilities in the US. Here’s dinner.
The most fun part of the meal was that I decided to make a lemon cake. I just took my favorite cake mix and added some lemon juice in the water. I put in an extra egg and half a cup of sour cream. That made it really rich and moist.
I put a orange marmalade between the layers then frosted it with store bought lemon frosting. I added colored sugar for fun.
Dang, it was so good! Plus, my sister made gingerbread cake, another favorite of mine. It was also moist and tasty. So, yep, I’m full. But, so what? We had a wonderful meal and a very pleasant day. At least so far 2021 is just fine.
People sure had a lot of fun with my post asking what herbs and spices they didn’t like. I got enough responses to actually get some “real” data out of it. So, if you’re curious, here’s what people hate:
Dill and tarragon, the ones I didn’t like, are not universally loathed, though I’m at least not alone in disliking dill. One thing I do know for sure, is to not load up any food I serve guests I don’t know well with cilantro or anise, because by far they are the least liked.
I can see why people don’t like sage, though I like it, but I’d forgotten caraway seeds even existed, so the number of people saying “ick” to it surprised me.
When it comes to some of the less common dislikes, I enjoyed the creative nominations like liquid smoke and calamus root. I’ve never tried the latter. So, in case you have trouble reading the chart, here are the most disliked herbs and spices, with the least favorite ones listed first:
Where the heck did that question come from? Well, yesterday I was eating yet another healthy frozen meal, and detected a distinct note of tarragon. Ick, I am not very fond of tarragon. It’s always in there ruining the flavor of chicken or green beans. Ugh. Those thoughts surprised me, because I think of myself as someone who loves all the little plants, seeds, and tasty bits that add flavor to food.
But nope, I do not like tarragon. Sorry, plant. To be honest, dill doesn’t thrill me, either. I remember a period where I was eating a lot of my step-mother’s cooking. Flo would not cook with garlic, because she said it made her stink (and as a professional photographer, she had to get close to a lot of people). Instead, she seemed to sprinkle dill on everything. I understood fish and eggs. Those commonly get covered in dill (which I remove). But she ruined her wonderful roast vegetables with it, put it on mashed potatoes, etc. I suffered in silence.
On the other hand, I love most other spices and herbs, even some of the less popular ones. And I like hot things, too. Lucky me.
Lee won’t eat anything with “curry” flavor. So there go my beloved turmeric, coriander, and cumin. He always declares that things he doesn’t like have cumin in them, even when I know there isn’t any in there.
And of course, there are the people who find coriander tastes like soap. They can’t help that, it’s a gene. I admit it is a bit odd, but it’s a flavor I just love.
And some people have allergies, like my friend Elizabeth, who had to give up her dream job as a chef when she found out how super-allergic she is to rosemary.
I’m not sure why I like some flavors and not others. But, I’m curious as to what herbs and spices ruin food for the rest of you. I look forward to your responses, whether on the blog or elsewise!
Now, this was a random Blogmas topic you could use in your own blog, right? Have a spicy day!
Today is Anita’s last day with me in Utah. I just have to say it’s been great. One of the best things about hanging out with your long-time friends is that you can enjoy yourselves without doing much at all. We did a lot of nothing this week.
We did have a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but since we didn’t have access to a car most of the time she was here, we spent a lot of time just hanging around the Canyons Village resort area. All the walking was a blast, and it sure used up a lot of energy. That meant we got to enjoy a lot of food, too! Thank goodness the pho and ramen restaurant finally opened, so we could eat there!
The shopping and sight-seeing was also fun, and we sure were grateful for the family visitors for taking us around. Yesterday we did a bit more shopping, and Anita got some great coral Zuni earrings. I’m so glad she got to have fun, while Kathleen and I were drooling over a huge jewelry selection AND Navajo blankets. Not bad ones!
My favorite thing she got is a huge cactus-shaped birdhouse thing. It’s going to be her “travel pillow” so she can get it on the plane. It is stuffed with excellent newspapers from Nepal!
The best part was just hanging around in the condo, eating our random foods, watching the snow, the birds and the one giant black cat that hangs around here. It was so good having someone to watch election coverage with and talk about things.
And of course, the four seasons of Schitt’s Creek were a blast. Neither of us had laughed so much in a long time.
She got out while the weather was still great, which is good, since a snowstorm is a-brewing. I’m sure the rest of us will figure out something fun this evening, though!
The intent of this post is just to say treasure your friends, and make the most of times you get to spend together. Usually Anita and I are both working a lot, so just hanging out was a real treat. Relaxing, truly relaxing, is rare, and I am glad we got to do it together. Only she and I would laugh when I pompously declare that I just realized that for every mountain, there is a valley (that’s after I looked at a team photo in the newspaper stuffed in the cactus and wondered where people played soccer in Nepal, with all those mountains).
Tell your friends you care about them! (Hey, friends, I care about you!) Write me!
That’s right, friends, I finally came home (to my Austin house). Anita had kept it in perfectly great shape, as I knew she would. She and Pickle were really glad to see me and Vlassic. Vlassic was really glad to see my bed, where no one attacks him and forces him out.
I’ve really been enjoying all the home cooking at the ranch, since Kathleen is a great cook, and even Lee’s been making stuff that’s great. Plus Chris and his barbecue monster…mmm. BUT. Anita went to the local Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant and brought home some delicious pho. Oh how I had missed those seasonings. I ate every bit of it.
Austin does have good food, even if you don’t go in a restaurant!
I finally got to give Anita the presents I’d bought her way back when I was visiting my stepsister. She liked the Persian lime olive oil and crackly lime green vase (I didn’t realize there was a theme to the gifts until just now). It was just nice to sit and talk and watch what I wanted to watch on television without feeling bad about inflicting it on others.
Also: internet. Oh how I have missed stable, functional internet.
And finally, the reason I dragged myself to Austin, finally, was to get my hair cut. Do you want to know why? LOOK:
I’ve spent a couple of weeks trying to wash out the hair color, and that has made it turn a scary carroty orange. Ugh. And the bangs. I can’t cut them myself. So, with numerous precautions and great care, new hair will emerge later today.
Plus, I’ll get to see the neighbors today, at a socially distant happy hour. I will be interested to see how that works.