Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Had To Experience It Formyself To Believe It

I'm not a bad housekeeper.

Too true that I'm not good at washing windows, and I don't stress out over dog hair (as long as it isn't in my food or my sheets), but no visitor is going to wind up with food poisoning from a dirty kitchen, or sustain major injuries tripping over stuff left on the floor. But ...

We got the interior of the house painted this past year, and had scrumptious carpeting put down in the bedrooms and hallway, and as a result, I had to delve into closets and corners and clean up enough for work to proceed. More than once I had to say to myself, Good grief, how long has that been in there?

Also in the past year, Bernie found an article on the web that talked about this Japanese woman, Marie Kondo, who specialized in teaching people how to "tidy up." There was a book by her:

 ... and so we ordered it from the library and read it. Most of it, anyway.

The result was that Bernie and I cut the amount of clothing in our closets by more than half. The process was easy -- take every article of clothing out of the closet and pile it on the bed. Then pick up each piece and ask yourself,  Do I love it? Really love it? If yes, then it goes back in the closet. If not, it goes, to trash or donation bag.

A couple days ago, Bernie and I found a Netflix series on the same subject, and since, having cleaned our closets, we felt like experts, we condescendingly decided to watch it.

The 40 minute show took us nearly two hours to watch, as it sparked so much conversation about how we do things and think about our household. Yow.

One of the bits that I hadn't read in the book was about arranging drawers in baths, bedrooms, and kitchens. "Stay out of my drawers" was a statement my mother taught me from childhood. However, watching the TV series, I realized that I had not only underestimated the importance of drawers and organization, I had missed out most of my life a truly lovely and uplifting -- prayer-like -- experience of bringing order and finding joy in it.

I'm not going to show a picture of my lingerie drawer, but it turned out great;  the kitchen drawer that houses dishcloths, dish towels, potholders, and a couple miscellaneous things, and that USED TO BE a veritable rats-nest of tangled fabric and buried kitchen linens now looks like this:

This thing was overflowing when I unloaded it onto the counter. I threw nothing out, but now, orderly, there is room to spare and I can see at a glance what all is in there.

The handling and folding of the individual pieces was the most surprising part of it. In taking time to do so in a certain pattern allowed me to appreciate each towel, respecting its nature and its purpose.

 And oddly enough, I think that the process has made me a better woman.


Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Wild Tree

My little almond tree on the north side of the house has clusters of beautiful blossoms. Last year it had only two, and they were pretty ratty-looking. This spring, the tree had a better idea of what to do.

Perfectly placed, the tree is not too close to the fence, and Joma can see it from her bedroom window. The scrub jay who planted it did a great job.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Leftovers: Golumpki Meatballs

So you open the fridge and there is a pound package of hamburger that's a couple days old. Oxidation has begun to make it look less appealing ...

Hmm. There's the leftover rice from two days ago when you made chicken piccata. Half a yellow onion lingers in a storage bag. Out in the garden, the stumps of three harvested cabbages still have big blue leaves living and waiting for someone to love them.

A couple months ago, I watched a food show in which some man threw his meatloaf ingredients into a stand mixer. Why not let the Red Lady Kitchen Aid stand mixer do all the dirty work? Throwing the meat, an egg, and the rice into the mixing bowl, I flipped the switch, and off she went, effortlessly and evenly mixing the ingredients. Why did I never think of this before?

Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.

The big blue leaves of the cabbage -- and a few outer leaves from a Napa cabbage in the back yard planting -- got wilted in a frying pan filled with boiling water. Into the Cuisinart food processor those leaves went, with the leftover yellow onion and a couple cloves of garlic left over from a salsa construction the day before. (Shh, I stole about three heaping tablespoons of Bernie's salsa and threw that in with the meat, egg, and rice mixture, too.) Having chopped to hell and back the cabbage leaves, onion, and garlic, I mixed those in with the rest. Go Red Lady, go.

I could have cooked the meatballs in the oven for three hours, but instead I placed them into a pressure cooker, with a can of tomato sauce dumped over them: 8 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Cool off the burner for five more minutes, then cool the pressure cooker until the lid is safe to open under cool running water.

Then I walked away until later in the evening, when I carefully scooped the meatballs out and put them in storage containers for today's meal. Not only do they taste better the second day, but they're a lot easier to handle when they're cool. When they're hot, they fall apart. All the liquid from the pressure cooker went into a separate container.

That was yesterday. Today, I gently reheated the meatballs in the microwave on a low setting while I made fresh potatoes for mashed potatoes, and heated the reserved juice after adding a tablespoon of corn starch to thicken it just a little. (Flour works, too.)

Oh, yeah. Who'd have thought leftovers and discards could taste so good?

P.S. Don't forget the ketchup drizzled across the meatballs. You just would not believe how good that is.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Not Making This Up

Lillian and her mother came back from the store in gales of laughter. They couldn't even tell me what they were shrieking about -- Lil just called up a photo on her phone and showed me. I looked at it and gasped, "Where is THAT from?" (I figured it was some trash from Tumblr.)

"SaveMart!" Lillian cried, and then dissolved into another fit of giggles.

What on earth could they possibly have been thinking? Wait, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Diploma

I snapped this picture about 12 years ago, and I was ecstatic to have captured this species of bird -- the rufous-sided towhee is a very secretive bird -- on camera.

I've seen them down in the woods by the river; when I hear their call, I search for a glimpse of them. Not often successfully, either.

This year, I saw a bird scuffling around in my euonymus bush, saw a flash of orange-ish feathers about the color of a robin's breast. A robin? In a densely leaved shrub? That made no sense.

This past week, the mystery bird made his appearance right by our pool, scratching around among the river rocks and fallen leaves. It was a towhee!

You saw a bird, what's the big deal?

The big deal is that when we moved here, twenty years ago, our back yard was dying grass. A feeble fig tree and a twig-like little persimmon starved in the far corner. The patio off the kitchen was unusable because of the summer sun that baked the cement as soon as it was dawn. All along the east fence, there was a rock-hard hill of clay soil so inhospitable it wouldn't even grow weeds.

Earlier that year, I'd read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, and was full of ideas for terraforming barren ground. Our back yard was going to change.

We put the pool in, and then I began planting. Over the next twenty years, we had a myriad of shrubs and plants that came and went; the pampas grass, a perennial morning glory, and beautiful breath-of-heaven went nuts and tried to take over the world. But the real foundation came when we planted podocarpus gracilior (Fern Pine) on the south side off the kitchen patio, and a hopseed, a eucalyptus, and a lemon tree on the eastern side of the patio. Then a nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), the euonymus, and a few years later, another podocarpus.

What was a desert is now a woodland, and the summer sun comes through the 'forest' canopy only in little sparkles. Under that canopy, a monstera deliciosa thrives beside a large-leafed philodendron. White-crowned sparrows return each year at fall equinox to scratch and feed in the undergrowth; goldfinches pack the feeders; scrub jays patrol the branches to scream if they see a cat.

But this year, a towhee.

For me, that's a lifetime achievement award.

Friday, November 02, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

How many times have I said I'm not going to do this to myself again?

Oh, well, here I am, Day 2, with 2515 words in my count already. Not done for the day, either. I can't say how many words I will type tonight, but my goodness, NaNoWriMo is already doing what I wanted it to do.

I got a late start yesterday, what with it being a holy day of obligation, and then having some outdoors work to do, as well as a landslide of laundry that miraculously appeared in the laundry room, and roasting two chickens and prepping another two for the freezer (I buy cheap whole chickens and then cut them into wings, breasts, and leg quarters). By the time dinner was done, I was ready to write.

Until the football game came on, which I was sure would be a lame-ass ridiculous display of ineptitude that I could ignore. Wait, what? The Lame 49'ers quarterback, CJ Beathard was out with an injury? Garappolo is out for the season, so that left ... whaaat? The former practice squad kid, Nick Mullens to take over as QB? Preposterous!

Then the kid marched his team down the field for a touchdown.

Okay, put the computer away, got to watch the new kid on the block. So much for 2000 words the first day.

When I sat down with my computer this morning, all set to write, I had a strange reaction: my hands began to shake like I was hyper-caffeinated. I couldn't type fast enough. Sure they were rough, un-thought-out words, but they were WORDS, and they were MINE, and no one can ever take them away from me, except me, if I decide to delete them.

I stopped trying to make up shit to write, and just listened to what the characters were saying and doing, and transcribed as fast as I could.

My, that sure does feel fine.

At least today.

And the kid did good.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Completed Oil Painting!

This sucker is finally done, after ... whaaaat? Nearly 20 years? Oh, surely it couldn't be that long.

But wait, the reference photo for it was on 35mm film. Well, maybe it was only 17 years ago.

I did a couple faint-hearted attempts at it; I knew the basic structure was the road and the palmettos. But every time I started working on it, I began to hate it. Recently I had an urge to smell solvents and linseed oil, so I pulled it down off the wall (dust-covered) and cleaned it up, and decided to mess with it as an abstract.

I kept the palmetto silhouettes, and began with a sky of ultramarine blue. Loved it. When I got to the road and the cadmium red light and cadmium red medium, I felt like I had hit one out of the park, or flung a perfect spiral football pass for a touchdown.

Yeah, that was ME shining through, maybe finding my oil painting 'voice' at last.