Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Halloween, of course.

After an hour and 45 minute ride this morning, I was too tired to do anything really elaborate for Halloween, especially since Bernie and I had the afternoon slated for playing with hot oil and potatoes. Sounds fun, yes?

The ride was great, the horses moving briskly, engaging us riders and affording some entertainment as horse and I chased some ill-behaved and illegally loose little dogs that attempted to threaten us.

The slivers of potato I tossed into the fry oil in seconds produced some really tasty experimental potato chips, and then, with Bernie's tutelage, we made french fries, not the hit-or-miss taters that my mom occasionally tried, not the mealy mess that restaurants usually serve, but delectable treats so luscious that Lillian and a friend could not keep their hands off them, and we ended up sending them outside with a pile of them so that the friend's brothers could have a taste, too.

While I was checking email after that yummy midday meal, I found myself thinking about last Sunday's NFL game between the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how the really ugly striped "retro" uniforms probably contributed to the Steelers' win, either because their uniforms were so ugly that the Redskins couldn't look at them without wanting to puke, or because the stripes broke up the Steelers' visual appearance so that they were hard to see, hard to identify. What would stripes do to one's face?

The first stripe, down the center of my nose, was unremarkable; two more stripes made a part of my face seem to -- disappear. Viva stripes!

Over the course of the Halloweening hours, I had many compliments from kids about my face. The best compliment was from a toddler, who waddled up to me, pacifier in his mouth, and reached out to try to grab my stripes.

I've washed them off, ready for bedtime, but I dunno ... I think I like the look.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So we've been experimenting with cheap cuts of beef lately, because we don't have a lot of excess money. The latest experiment has been with cross-rib chuck, which at times can be on sale for $1.99 - $2.99 a pound, cheaper than hamburger.

The first cross-rib chuck roast we got was okay roasted, but a bit tough. Nevertheless, it was tasty, and at sale price, induced us to go back to the store and buy another. We figured we could always make it into chili.

Bernie, however, with his intrepid internet explorations, found a cooking method that was a bit different.

We slathered the roast (and it was insanely big, I don't know what we were thinking) with a paste of garlic and olive oil, seasoned further with salt, cumin, and black pepper. Then threw the 5+ pound thing into a 500-degree oven for 25 minutes. Then, with Bernie's through-the-door meat thermometer, cooked the roast at 250; we'd had the roast on a bed of sliced onions, and added water to a depth of 1/4 inch in the pan, basting the roast now and then with that juice, until the center measured 140 degrees.

We let it "rest" wrapped in foil for another 20 minutes.

The result: so tender you could cut the thin slices with a fork. The crust (fat side up, of course) was savory, the done-ness ... perfect. John got his "done" pieces from the ends, and Alex and I got our "rare" bits in the center. The onions were really tasty, sweet and lusciously done, and the "jus" liquid was exquisite, though the meat wasn't at all dry.

Cheap -- DELICIOUS!!!!! -- WIN!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Countin' down now, with these blog posts. Three to go for NaNoBlogMo.

This is a picture of a candle on my work table. We sit out in my garage studio sometimes at night, when the weather is clement and the wind is right, and when NFL football isn't on TV.

The candle is nestled in the curve of a broken conch shell I found on a beach on Hatteras Island, nearly thirty years ago.

I loved that place; there I could lose myself in the sound and vibration of the earth. The surf crashed when I would hit the beach at five am, and the sound sustained me, water washing around my legs as I fished, until ten, when I would break for some sort of breakfast. Then I would hurry back down to the surf, cast in, and fish until mid-day, maybe with a nap, lying in the sand. At five in the evening, I'd rejoin the family to either cook the fish I had caught, or go to dinner if I'd come up empty.

I never look at that beaten conch shell without remembering the beauty and peace of those days.

I hope Hatteras Island hasn't taken too big a beating from Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Landmark Day

Shh! The baby is asleep!

Joan Maria fell asleep during a walk, which is no wonder, after such a monumental day.

Today, while her mother was giving her cuddles and pretend-bites, Joan emitted her first real laugh.

We'd been getting proto-chuckles this past week, little gusts of gasp-and-expulsion, in response to flurries of kisses.

Later in the day, I got a few chuckles from her by putting my lips against her ear and making buzzing noises.

Such a cheerful baby, and oh, you should see those amazingly blue eyes.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where Did The Day Go?

Busy day.

One of the things they don't tell you about making foods fresh is how much time you can spend prepping them.

Yes, everything, for the most part, is better fresh. But fresh takes time. Today I bailed out of the horseback trail ride with glee, because I needed time to make a quart of ranch dressing, a half-pint of chimichurri, and more of my lemon chicken soup for my lunch. Add in clean-up, and laundry, and you've got your full day in.

Wait, I also took the old dog for a walk.

I got no Piker Press work done at all, which means that tomorrow, my erstwhile "Day of Rest," will be conflicted as I watch football with my laptop in my lap.

Fiddling with the Press will be more recreational than watching shitty football match-ups,  so I should be grateful.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dead Body

Under the bright lights of my work table, I take a morgue photograph of Dragonfly, who was found dead on my husband's work bench.

Time of Death: Unknown. Bernie's work bench has been a shameful landfill since the last time he shoveled everyone else's detritus off it, which would have been about the time of our kitchen remodel (could that only have been a mere year and some ago??) -- unfortunately, the work bench is right outside the door to the garage, and whatever doesn't fit in the house ends up piled on. My work table is along the wall in another area of the garage, and since I am known to be annoyed (go freakin' ballistic) if stuff is plopped in my work area, Bernie and his bench and his mild, sweet ways get the random dumps.

Anyway, how long had Dragonfly been there? Don't know.

Cause of Death: Unknown. Aside from deterioration of the wings, which could have been caused by having detritus piled on top of the body, or battering against a solid object, the cadaver is intact. No bites have been taken out of it; no breakage of vital exoskeleton is evident. It was not, then, caught by a large praying mantis, which would have chewed the head off, or a crow, which would have eaten the whole bug.

Place of Death: Uncertain. In 15 years of residency in this house, we have never had a dragonfly zoom into the house or garage. Did Dragonfly sneak in to make his death a last statement of ferocity, so that when he was found on the workbench behind some burnt-out lightbulbs and jars of long-collected miscellaneous nails and screws, he would make the hairs on the back of Bernie's neck jump up in startlement? Or was it more likely that any ambulatory member of this family might have brought dead Dragonfly in for a closer examination on a whim, forgetting where Dragonfly's remains were temporarily interred? (I say "ambulatory" so as to completely exonerate baby Joan of any complicity in Dragonfly's demise.)

Even in death, the head and abdomen preserve a remarkable gloss, as though polished and buffed, even in this dusty clime; even after months, if not a year, the framework and seemingly fragile panes of much of the wings are intact.

If Dragonfly were a vintage car, the joints of the wings on the thorax might have been detailed and waxed at a high class car wash only hours before the discovery of his corpse.

The leading edge of the wing is reinforced, but what shall we make of that single dark pane? Identification? A distance gauge?

My father used to aggravate my mother to near apoplexy now and again, by telling her that when he died, he was going back into the earth like a dead dog, that he neither expected nor hoped for any afterlife at all. I don't actually know what he really believed, because Mom would never have tolerated an open religious discussion. The best I can do is argue with him from a distance of years ... and death ... and say, "Well, Dad, this is just a damn bug, and I still admire the life that was in it. Don't you think that I still wish I could hear you buzz and get into things and hear your crazy wild laugh?"

Dragonfly, find my dad and bite him on the nose and tell him it's from me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Out of the Ordinary

Nothing today was out of the ordinary ... well, yes, there was one thing, but you'll have to wait to the end of this post to see what it was.

I led a ride out through the orchards -- nice, the almond harvest is done, no heavy scary machinery about to spook the horses -- and it was good. The air was cool, the sun warm. No explosive horse things.

Bernie and I occupied the kitchen after I came home, him making chicken fritters (you'll have to wait for him to blog for that recipe) and I using up some leftover ground beef to make meatballs. (For which I have no recipe, making them by eyeball and texture and smell.) We had fun, trashed the kitchen, cleaned up together, glommed on our respective culinary creations, especially junking out on his homemade pasta.

We sat outside in ideal weather until football came on ...

And then Tampa Bay beat the Vikings.

Now that was out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lemony Chicken Soup

Yesterday (Why do so many of my posts begin with "yesterday?" Sounds like a personal problem to me) I became obsessed with a recipe I looked at a couple weeks ago, involving chicken and lemon juice.

Some of the ingredients were plain old yuck, others were too much and one or two that's not enough to satisfy a gnat. So naturally I didn't follow the recipe. The results, however, were fine enough that Alex announced that she had been served her new favorite soup, and that I hadn't made enough of it to suit her. Next time, I'll remedy that. In the mean time ...

Lemon Chicken Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped thin
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup tiny pasta
  • 3 medium mushrooms, very thinly sliced
  • juice of one lemon (about 1/3 cup)

Process: Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan; cook celery, garlic and onion until they are translucent. Add chicken, pepper and salt, cook through. Add broth, making sure to get any browning mixed in. Add tiny pasta; cook 8 minutes or per instructions on the pasta box. Stir in mushrooms, cook until just done. Add lemon juice and serve immediately.

This makes about four servings, unless you're Alex, in which case it makes two. We served it alongside Bernie's delectable toasted cheese sandwiches, and it made for a delicious and hearty meal.

I strongly recommend tasting the soup before the lemon juice is added, then again right after the lemon juice is added -- just for the sensory kick in the slats it affords. Wow!

Oh, the pasta. Bernie found those adorable tiny stars in the Mexican foods section of the grocery store. They were very delicate when cooked. Next time he promises he's making his own pasta ...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yesterday I was poised to use this photo and bounce my entry off it, but one of the photos I took (in a series of seven) crashed and burned on my computer, saying that it was a file of an unknown type and couldn't be opened.

This scared me so I didn't want to even use my computer. WTF???

Once I found that my files were intact this morning, and that my computer was free of virus buggies, I thought about what I had wanted to say yesterday, and found that the picture of the eucalyptus leaves against the autumn sky was more apropos than I had thought.

I had been remembering my mother. She said, on numerous occasions, that her mother had been a great story-teller, sitting on the front stoop of their apartment building, telling tales to a small group of neighborhood kids who hung on her every word.

Hmm. What stories, Mom? What did she tell stories about?

I know she must have told stories of La Llorona, the weeping ghost seeking her drowned kids, because my mother told it to me. What hispanic kid never shivered in the night, hearing crying sounds on the air, wondering if La Llorona was coming to claim them to replace her dead children?


How many Mexican kids were in that tenement block in Bethlehem, PA, in the 1930s, to cluster around to listen to Josefa Palos tell stories? My mother never mentioned any other Mexican families living there. Mom mentioned Irish and Slovak families, racial epithets tossed as the immigrants sought a balance and foothold in America. But not other Mexicans. How could my grandmother have garnered an audience of non-hispanics, when she didn't speak English?

I know she didn't, because we (very infrequently) visited Uncle Buddy's house, where resided my uncle and Aunt Lucy, three of my cousins, and my grandmother Palos. She did not speak to me or to my sister, or my father; she spoke only to my mother, in low, nearly-whispered tones, in Spanish.

My mother claimed all her lucid life that she learned Spanish in school, because her mother insisted that she and her brothers all spoke English exclusively, to moor them in the country they had been brought to.

I studied enough of language and linguistics to know that was a lie, because even when my mother's mind began to fail, she was fluent in Spanish. In my high school years, she would not speak Spanish to me, saying that I had the accent of a Cuban. I took four years of Spanish in high school, acing every class, and another class or two in college, having exempted out of all the basic courses. Yet by the time I was twenty-five, disuse had paralyzed my ability to communicate in that language. Mom's disuse had no affect on her, ever. She was a native speaker.

See those chewed-up leaves on the tree? Our memories are subject to chewing, the mandibles of regret and remorse and denial munching up the files of what we think we remember. The leaves on that eucalyptus tree don't remember the leaf-cutter bees that snipped at them to make their nests; by and large, most of us have missing chunks of our memories that we don't know are gone, and sometimes, even when we have a visceral knowledge that they are gone, our mighty intellects furnish an alternative memory that seems to make sense.

Some day, I hope to actually meet my grandmother, and give her huge hugs, and jangle all her stories from her, unhindered by language. She will probably think that I am a pest, but then we will mount our horses, she upon her horse Liston, I upon Crow, and we will ride off on the hillsides to gossip about my mother's weirdness, and bridge the long chasm between our lives.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Golden Season

At this time of year, except for the dust in the air from the almond harvesting, California is so beautiful that I almost feel guilty for living here.

The depth of blue in the sky, the cool sweetness of the fall breeze, the still-warm sun sliding in low-angled beams that enhance the colors of every flower and lawn -- I can't think of any other place I'd rather be.

These are flowers of a palm tree. I think the golden and deep blue sum up the flavor of the season.

Yesterday morning, the marine layer (fog-like clouds) came in all the way from the Bay Area into the Valley, making Ripon look more like Santa Cruz in the morning. We pretended that we were in Santa Cruz again, having breakfast at Gilda's on the pier (we were really in my garage studio with the door open to the gray sky) and a bit later, we pretended to take a walk along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. (This time we were on Ripon's beautiful bike trail with its dwarf bottlebrush bushes, society garlic, and sycamore plantings.) By the time we returned to the house, the marine layer was burning off in spots, revealing a brilliant blue sky.

By mid-day, the sun was shining brightly; by nightfall, the air was clement enough to allow us to sit out in the open studio again, with candles and drinks and our dog keeping watch beside us.

Yeah. Guilty. Riiiiiggghhhht.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A New Dog?

Yesterday was warm, nearly 85 degrees. We decided that Howie needed a bath.

I wanted to give him a bath on a warm day because I had started to become concerned about his health. He is, after all, eleven years old, and I know our time left with him is short. His normally soft and lustrous fur was looking grayish, and felt coarse to the touch -- not Howie-pelt.  I pulled out a big galvanized tub, and filled it with warm water from my bathtub. If Howie was starting to get ill, the last thing he'd need is cold water.

He played in the hose until he was soaked, then obligingly lay down and stretched out while we soaped him and massaged him, one side and then the other.

Handfuls of hair came loose as we lathered him.

The big tub of warm water we used to rinse him off, then let him play in the spray of the hose for a few minutes. When we rubbed him semi-dry with towels, another raft of hair came loose on the nap. A walk around the block was in order in the hot sun so that he could dry a bit better.

He looked horrible, like a walking example of terminal mange. Some of his fur was still lying flat, many tufts stood out, gray and matted from the scrubbing.

Brush time.

A large-tined brush broke up the worst of the mats; a rake loosened some of the undercoat that was thick and slowly coming loose. A slicker brush picked up the hair, over and over again ... Something like a bushel basket of fur was shed off the dog, leaving behind a clean striped coat.

Now to be fair to us, Bernie and I both had at Howie with brushes a few days before, and got a huge pile of hair off him. And I'd done it a week before, combing out another mountain of hair.

The warm and soothing bath blew that dog's undercoat right off his skin.

Today his fur is silky and shining, soft and sweet-smelling (and I don't mean perfumed.) Nothing about that gorgeous striped coat says "Old dog" or "Ailing dog."

Nothing like a warm bath at the end of summer's undercoat season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anothers Weirdos!

This is a Western race fox sparrow.

He distracted us while we were supposed to be preparing breakfast; never having seen this bird before, we were glued to the windows, trying to figure out who he was.

Not only did this bird's visit to our back patio make this a memorable date, but also, in the late evening, after sundown, Bernie and I were sitting in the garage (the garage door open) and saw a fireball race across the sky, golden tail and red sparks and bluish tints around the white-gold center. Wow! Never seen anything like that before in my life.

It exploded and burnt out before it hit the ground, as far as we know.



Nice, memorable day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Not Yer Average October


We should have been seeing this in May, or June, but unexpectedly, our water lily bloomed today.

Wonderful things happen when we least expect them, and I should have kept that in mind before being crabby in previous posts.

What needs to get done will be done, and if not, well, Fate and the angels know what agenda to follow.

Pity you can't eat water lilies. They look absolutely delicious.

Monday, October 15, 2012


That's me, contemplating my work load.

Not only am I supposed to exercise the horse three times a week (and those are trail rides, not 45-minute workouts in the arena), and do laundry, and contribute to the household cooking, but also I must do all the correspondence, reading of submissions, art work (except on rare occasions), uploading of acceptable works, yada yada yada for the Piker Press.

I want to take more photos, and upload them to Flickr. I want to draw, and paint in both oils and watercolor, and do papier mache. I want to walk by the river with my husband and my dog. I want to fiddle with my tomatoes' end of season.

And I want to finish my neglected unfinished novels!

Waking in the morning, I feel like there's a pile of rocks hovering over me, waiting to drop. There reside all the things that I have to get done that I haven't got done yet; prioritizing has to become the first thing my muddled mind undertakes.

Ah well. It's better to be busy than bored.

And I'm NOT shaving my legs until I can wear shorts again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, Oct 13: Chicken Three Ways

After the morning horse exercising (in which said horse was doing some misbehaving, but that's another post) I came home and confronted food choices for the day.

One family member wanted fried chicken, though he was willing to settle for braised. Bernie and I thought chicken was fine, but we wanted piccata. Another family member craved rosemary chicken.

Rosemary Chicken Person turned traitor at the thought of piccata, but still, when I took over the kitchen, I did some of the chicken so that it could, if RCP wanted, be turned into rosemary chicken.

The chicken was rather fun to do, employing multiple techniques and hogging the stove. The real revelation came with the black rice.

"Forbidden Rice," as this black variety is called, calls for nearly 45 minutes of cooking and resting time. The flavor is faintly nutty, the aroma pleasant but nothing you'd write home about. Nevertheless, it is kickass with piccata sauce and chicken.

Lillian tasted a pea-sized portion, and declined to have more (although she's at a truly picky stage);  I loved the nuttiness and the chewy texture. Bernie liked it with the piccata sauce. Alex thought it was interesting; John chose the path of embracing a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy with his chicken.

In the end, all the piccata chicken was swallowed; two thighs of braised chicken remained; and one lightly-floured and sauteed slice of chicken breast huddled into storage with the thighs. Good food.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where's That Razor??

Remember back in the day when in movies or cartoons, a character would lift a skirt above the knee and waggle it to get picked up as a hitch-hiker? (I did not say "she" because Bugs Bunny was known to employ this device.)

This is what happens when the weather turns chilly and I stop shaving my legs.

Unlikely I'll be getting a ride soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Rain

The high today was supposed to be 73 degrees, but I don't think we got there.

Partly cloudy and cool as I prepared to go riding, the weather dictated the first delve into the winter clothes bin for a flannel shirt to wear over a heavy t-shirt. I figured that once I was in the sun and warmed up, I could tie the flannel shirt around my waist and be comfortable.

But by the time we were saddled up, the clouds had moved in, and the air felt chill. By about noon it was 68 degrees, and then it began to drizzle rain and the temps dropped to 63.

This evening I wish I had a long flannel nightgown to wear, but have to content myself with fluffy slippers for my feet, and freshly-cooked chicken wings to warm my belly as I watch very lousy football.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nitpick Worries

Lots of challenges these days.

Having been officially given ownership of the Piker Press, I find there are a lot of things that ought to be done: revamping of the Forums, a long, cold look at the "Swag" page, a purging of articles that make no sense without the pictures that once accompanied them, back at the very beginning in 2002 and two webhosts ago.

And that's just maintenance. There are submissions to be read, accepted things to edit; there are emails from contributors that need to be answered, and contacts to keep up because I love the authors.

Every contract I mail out costs me at least $1.50; our webhost costs $20/month. Printer cartridges -- well, you know they are not cheap; with no income, every dollar counts, and I wish I had the acumen to make even a teensy profit. But I don't.

Between horse, house, and homelife, and the Piker Press, I don't really have any excess time. (Unless I give up my Sundays and NFL Football, of course, but I think I do need at least one day OFF a week.) That means that the hours for painting, or writing, or the papier mache masks I was poised to do in August ... all fall by the wayside.

I'm not really complaining. It's cool to have all kinds of things to occupy one's time.

It's just ... having no income, and running out of time, daily and in life-span ... why, there's so many things I still wish I could do.

Here in the Central Valley, pansies are winter color. I need to stop clinging to the passing of summer and look forward to the rains of winter. I need to stop worrying about the dollars going out the door and look ahead to a chance to write, paint, draw, create.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Migration Season

 White-crowned sparrows arrived this past week, the first scouts, making sure the winter campgrounds were still available.

I could hear their characteristic "Chip" noises even before I saw them. Tonight, they arrived in full force, and laid claim to the eucalyptus in front of our house with repeated calls of territorial song.

Definitely Autumn.

The almond harvest is almost done, and we are so ready for a rain to knock the dust out of the air. Everything is covered with a fine beige layer -- but we don't have the worst of it, being on the north side of the Central Valley. Alex and John and the girls went to Bakersfield in the south this past weekend, and reported on their return that the air down there was thick and filthy. Yes, with winds out of the northwest, that's where a lot of our almond harvest dust ends up.

We've got our dusty season, our foggy season, our over-the-top pollen season, and then insanely perfect summer ... I love them all; I love California.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Gratuitously Fruitful

Look at the pomegranates on that one!

This year, our pomegranate tree decided to set more fruit on the shaded eastern side than on any other side. Six of them there, hovering about chest-height in front of the gate, making going to and from the back yard from the driveway an obstacle course.

I think I want to eat this squad before Bernie gets into full pomegranate jelly-making mode.

Oh, and though I would not at all want to tread on the NFL's toes by posting  "descriptions of the game," the Jets did not suck as badly against the Texans as they did against the 49er's last week.

Go Jets ... sort of.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday, October 7: Well, That's Different

Only a week ago, the temperature in the afternoon topped 100 degrees.

It was a bit late for a heat wave like that; usually the last of the stinking hot weather arrives in mid-September. Fortunately, it was nice and cool in the mornings, so the oppressive heat only lasted a couple hours each day.

When we woke at 6:30 this morning, we weren't very eager to throw off the blankets, and when we got ready for church, I dug to the bottom of my dresser for my favorite black sweater.

I changed after church -- wouldn't want to glurk green chimichurri down the front of that gorgeous sweater -- into a black t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it.

By three in the afternoon, I was able to lose the flannel shirt.

Which had chimichurri glurked down the front of it.

Saturday, October 6: Noms

About every two weeks, I declare an ironing day.

I can't wear anything with spandex, so my wardrobe is pretty much 100% cotton. That means ironing.

And while I iron, I watch the Food Network. Well, hell, how else can you stay at task with ironing? And thus, when you iron and watch Food Network, you find new recipes you want to try. And when you try new recipes, you come up with something -- if not completely -- different.

Today Bernie and I cooked together. He made a fabulous fruit salad of kiwi, orange, strawberry, pear, and the Holiday variety of grapes you can only get at Bel-Air or Raley's. I whomped up my version of Food Network Giada's pasta dish.

Her dish is good, make no mistake.

However, we like this version better:

8 oz. rotelli pasta
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. (1/8 cup.)
10 oz by weight (if not more) of fresh baby spinach, stemmed and chopped a bit
1 HEAPING teaspoon of black pepper
garlic powder
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup of cream cheese, brought to room temperature

Boil the pasta according to package directions. While that's cooking, heat the olive oil in a LARGE skillet. When the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being done, sizzle the spinach and pepper. The spinach will wilt and reduce in volume; when it begins to wilt, add garlic powder to taste. I use a lot, because we love garlic.

Dip about half a cup of the pasta water out and mix it with the cream cheese.

Remove the skillet from heat. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, tossing with the spinach and romano cheese. Gently stir in the cream cheese and water mixture.

Serves four.

I actually served this to our family of five a week or so ago, and it was an adequate side dish, but people were grumpy because they didn't get as much as they wanted. Today Bernie and I were on our own ... there's not a lot left.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Cuisinart?

I can't remember how long ago we bought our first Cuisinart food processor.

Neither can I recall why we bought it, as usually we have a specific reason for buying things. Why did we spend the money?

The beast can grate a pound of extra sharp white cheddar in under a minute. In 45 seconds, it can produce perfectly mixed tortilla dough. In less time than it takes to laugh heartily at such a wonder, it can slice a cucumber, or a summer sausage.

With it, we make butter and buttermilk, chimichurri or pesto, pizza dough or whipped cream, banana ice cream or chopped nuts.

It was the chimichurri that ended the life of the bowl this past week. Chimichurri is a paste of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar that elevates a fine fresh warm loaf of French bread to divine heights. My intention was to make some chimichurri, wash the bowl, and then make some butter and buttermilk from heavy cream to construct a new batch of ranch dressing.

Alas, when I began to dry the washed bowl, its locking mechanism simply fell apart.

Easily enough ordered online, the part shipped today. In the meantime, we missed making pizza dough for Thursday night football, missed shredding block mozzarella cheese for the store-bought pizza dough, the aforementioned heavy cream to buttermilk process ... and the raisin-chopping for oatmeal cookies this morning.

When I was a new wife, I had never heard of a food processor. When I was a wife of 20 years, I would have sneered at the thought of needing a food processor -- because I had no idea how useful a tool it would be. As a wife of 37 years, not having a food processor is like having a bucket over my head in the kitchen; I keep reaching for it, and it's not there.

Store-bought pizza dough ... not bad, but what we can make with the food processor -- priceless, as they say. I hope the USPS hustles that new bowl, or else I will go nuts.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

R.I.P. Rusty

I've posted this picture in this blog long ago, but it bears revisiting.

From left to right, there's my horse's butt, me, Dink, Rusty, and Cathy the Mad Horsewoman.

That day we made a ride from the ranch where we boarded our horses all the way to my house in town, where we made Bernie bring us icewater, and let the horses graze on the front lawn.

The horse Rusty died yesterday morning, quite unexpectedly, at the age of 13, which is nothing for a horse. (Dink is currently 22.) No one knows why. He just staggered suddenly and fell; then he got up, had a bit of breakfast -- and fell again, and died within minutes.

Cathy the Mad is devastated, as any rider can understand. Long hours in the saddle make a horse far more than a beast of burden; horse and rider become partners on their travels.

My favorite memory of Rusty is how he felt compelled to stick his head into trash bins and dumpsters to see what was in them. He never took anything out of them, but they were an endless source of fascination for him.

Good night, Rusty.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Damn Right I Love My Dog

Here he is, bemusedly enjoying my new carpet in the studio. Howie, my good little dog.

Yesterday morning I was hosing down the front of the house, and the porch, walk, and driveway, getting the accumulated dust washed away. The dust is from the almond harvest, which begins in August and runs through October. The air is heavy with dust; hanging about fifty feet above the ground is a yellowish curtain that looks like smog, and coats your skin, throat, nose, screens, and everything else around.

Howie helped me with the hose. He bit the jet of water, leaped through it, barked loudly if the water wasn't spraying him. He dove for the jet, roaring a growl, danced when I made the water nip his toes.

I let him play until he started falling down; his hindquarters get tired long before his sense of fun does. After I dried him off (mostly), he plowed onto my new carpet and had a luxurious rub. The amount of exercise he got was sufficient to make him sleepy for the rest of the day.

In the evening, I rubbed along the sides of his spine with a massaging motion. He seemed surprised, and when I stopped, he backed up against my legs for more. How I wish I had thought of doing that before! I'll be glad to massage him again tonight -- anything I can do to alleviate his stiffness is wonderful.

He turned eleven last March. This poem is for him.

This Dog Follows Me

This dog follows me
perfectly at heel
through the whole house
kitchen to bedroom
from breakfast to bedtime

This dog follows me
ears interested
in what I do
front yard to back yard
gardening to sweeping

This dog follows me
with his sharp focus
with friendly smile
eager for kisses
with wide wags of his tail

Will my dog follow
when I leave this earth
will my spirit
find his doggy soul
on life's new next address

This dog follows me
as I carry him
to the next life
this dog is my friend
pressed against me in trust

This dog follows me
his mortal essence
if I can only
believe God loves me so

Even so much as I love this dog

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Studio Project

There it is, the new carpet, with the pad beneath it. It's not really blue, it's closer to charcoal, with the name "Banker's Soul." Oddly enough, it closely matches the trim on the front of the house, which I did not realize.

You can see stuff piled in the driveway, on the worktable, on the lawn. Tomorrow I hope to get things completely squared away. The lawn and driveway stuff are done, at least.

In the shuffling of "stuff" to get the floor of the studio clear, I found two canvases that had been missing, and two very nice glassed frames that would be wonderful for some pastels. Once the weather cools down from our heat wave, I'm going to want to spend some time in this new and improved studio.

Monday, October 01, 2012


 Today's cover story for the Piker Press was an anxiety-producing short story called "For Sale."

No you won't see the pic there until next week -- it only appears on the cover until October 8th, then I'll move it to accompany the story in the archives. Hey, I didn't set up the system, I just try to work with it.

Anyway, I took this photo of a for-sale sign, and then brought it home to play with Photoshop.

I changed the colors a tad, adding yellows and dimming agents to the whites, darkening the overall picture a little.

And then I really began to have fun with it -- I erased the logo and real lettering and made up my own stuff to put on the sign.

For several weeks in a row now, I've known in advance what I wanted to do with a cover image, and was able to carry out my plan adequately. That's some progress for me. Having a plan that works shaves some five hours of work off each effort.

I'm feeling a renewed interest in art work -- could it be that the weather is more conducive to hours in the studio? So much more interest is percolating that I wanted to find a carpet for my cement garage studio floor. (Standing on cement kind of gets painful on the old feet.) Today Bernie took me to a flooring liquidation store, and we came home with an inexpensive carpet piece that will be easy to clean and has a carpet pad for added cushioning. I can hardly wait to install it, and see how it changes the look of the studio.