Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sieves and blueberries and warm, soapy water

Although I don't post photos of my breakfast any longer, I still eat it every day. Doing the photos really created a habit, so now I start the day with my poached egg whites and fruit. I've stopped the orange juice, but still have my huge latte. Life is good.

Our markets are full of ripe, beautiful blueberries from Chile. For years I boycotted Chilean products because of the country's miserable human rights policies and Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, las madres de los desaparecidos. Photos of those women made me weep. But I believe that the present goverments in Chile and Argentina are better than the old, and it's good policy to support South American farmers who aren't growing drugs, so I now buy blueberries from Chile.

This morning I rinsed the blueberries as usual, using an old aluminum sieve that came from my parents' house, rinsed them in running cold water to get them clean, shook the sieve to remove any excess water, and dumped the berries into two blue and white bowls. If I were still taking photos, today's would have been a pretty one.

I dumped the sieve into a sink of warm, soapy water, and wondered why I had done so. If rinsing the berries in cold water was sufficient for something that I was going to ingest, why did I feel the need to wash the sieve with soap? Wasn't water good enough? Wasn't it already clean?

I do this with measuring cups too, glass cups that measure water go into the dishwasher, and I don't know why. As water supplies dwindle, perhaps I need to start examining what I wash that really doesn't need washing.

The blueberries were lovely, crisp and sweet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


When I was doing a post every day there was a rhythm I followed. I'd make breakfast, snap the photo, eat the breakfst, post the photo (well, almost always, a few times I forgot to post till very late in the day). Although I no longer post those photos, I still think of things to blog about, but I don't seem to write them down. I have composed brilliant opening lines in my mind, but never typed them out. I think of topics that really deserve discussion, but don't elaborate at the keyboard. Somehow the thoughts flow through my brain but not down to my fingertips.

During the Olympics I meant to talk about the commentator's overuse of the word redemption, but I never wrote about how annoyed I was at the constant use and misuse of the word. I also meant to write about the lovely, touching film about Gander on 9-11 and how that small town opened its arms and hearts to thousands of travelers. And I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the funny story about the Air Canada flight that was delayed because the travelers, watching the closing moments of the hockey game, ignored the calls to board.

I think about this blog a lot, I just don't blog what I think.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Still walking...

Wednesday afternoons are my volunteer times, at a wonderful program for girls. Since Christmas I've been teaching knitting for an hour before we settle down to homework, and two of my friends have come to help. Today one of the girls finished her schoolwork and asked if she could knit some more. I sat down with her and we both knitted. She said something that indicated that she had mixed up my two friends, who are a mother and daughter. I said, No, Miss C is the older lady, she's V's mother, she's 87. Then the girl asked how old V is, and I told her she was two years older than I, 65. The girl said, "You're 63, and you're still walking???"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shifts and Changes

It turns out that the kid didn't just go off to Haiti without telling anyone. He just didn't tell us. He told his brother, and the two of them decided that we would worry and fret too much about it, so we were better off not knowing till he returned and his adventure was over.

I can remember making this same decision about informing our parents about events, but now there's been a change. We are moving from the generation that makes decisions to the generation that has decisions made for and about us. Not that we're not still in charge of our lives, but I realize that we're no longer the "sandwich generation," taking care of parents and children at the same time. Now the kids are sandwiched between us and the new baby. I'm not sure just how I feel about this, but mostly it's a big HA!!!

Although my parents have both died, I am still dealing with estate issues. I spent this morning getting numbers ready for taxes, but that burden is light compared to the responsibility of caring for my parents. My husband's parents died after years of lingering with lots of medical issues, and so did mine. I know too much about cancer, chemo, dementia, ERs, hard decisions.

Being at the top of the sandwich isn't so bad. We can do what we want, and we don't have to tell anyone, really, although we do let the kids know where we are, most of the time.

We went to Paris a few years ago and our return was delayed. as the plane hadn't come from Houston, we were offered either a trip to Newark or another night at a nice hotel at the airport. Tough decision, eh? Newark? Paris? Newark? Paris? We spent another night in France and flew home, changing planes in Houston, the following day. The kids were so upset! They'd tracked our original flight from Houston to home, and the plane had arrived. Where were we? What they hadn't done, of course, was to track that first flight from Paris to Houston. But they were upset that we'd been "lost." We thought it was funny.

So now we shift part of the burden of worry to our kids' shoulders. Of course, we still worry about them, and about the baby, that darling next generation. She can smile now, and almost always hold her head steady. She likes to look out the window, and she likes light. Her only decisions are about waking and eating and fussing if her diaper is uncomfortable. Nice to see another generation coming along to the bottom of the sandwich.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quake Rules

When our boys were small, one of our rules was that they could not go from one place to another without telling us. If they went to play at one friend's house and decided to go somewhere else, they had to call. As they grew older and drove themselves around the county, the rule held, and they were very good about checking in with us. My reasoning from the beginning was that if there was an earthquake, I needed to know where to look for them, and they understood.

When they went off to college, the rule boundaries stretched to the state line. If they left California, we wanted to know. Even now if they're traveling they call or we will receive an email with flight information. But not always.

The kid called tonight, his usual Sunday call, but late. The big game was over, and we thought we'd hear from him at least so he could tease me about picking the Colts as winners. Therefore, when the phone rang after nine, after midnight his time, and he said he was coming back from Miami, we thought he'd been to a game party. No. He'd been to Haiti.

On Wednesday he and a surgeon from his hospital flew with ten tons of medical supplies and surgical equipment into Port au Prince, and they've worked for five days to distribute the materials to hospitals and clinics and orphanages. The kid has now set broken bones, casted arms and wrists, seen more devastation than he could imagine, flown to rural clinics and met people trying to put lives together amid ruin and poverty, and helped where he could.

At one stop a grandmother handed over a baby she couldn't care for. I asked what size the baby the baby was, and he said the same size as our new granddaughter, six pounds. But this baby was three months old, not five weeks. The baby flew back with them to the orphanage, because otherwise it would die of dehydration and starvation.

The kid has nothing but good things to say about the military working there. Our men are in full gear in 90 degree heat with high humidity. The airport is in a dust bowl, and the dust and diesel fumes swirl in the air, constantly stirred by planes and heliocopters. He said the cargo planes have come from everywhere, and the military keeps order as the aid pours in to Haiti.

Our soldiers helped secure the materials they brought in and also helped load the trucks. They never grumbled. They have no showers and must clean themselves with wipes. They have basic meals. They stand guard and help load trucks and are glad to see other Americans. I asked the kid if he had any sort of special badge or ID, and he said, "Mom, I'm white." He's blond too, and looks like an American kid. He has nothing but admiration for the job being done down there.

And now he's home again, probably standing in his shower. He left all the clothes he took with him in Port au Prince. I asked him why he hadn't called to let us know he was going, and he said he hadn't wanted us to worry. Tuesday he'd been put to the head of a line to get all the shots he needed, and Wednesday they flew out of Miami with their cargo. Tomorrow he will be two hours late for work at the hospital, but he's not taking the day. There's too much to do.

He's never left the country before without letting us know. When he went around the world we heard from him often. Our rule that originated in my worry over earthquakes has fallen because of a quake and his decision that we weren't to worry, weren't to know until he'd returned safely to tell us where he'd been. I guess the next thing will be that we'll have to stop calling him the kid.

California snow

plum tree through the window

As I read about the storm which is blanketing the east coast in record depths, I look out and see the closest thing we have to those flakes, the petals of the ornamental pear trees planted along the street.

I love these trees, their nearly-black rough bark, their beautiful foliage that changes color in echo of eastern maples, and particularly their soft tiny flowers. The tiny white petals are here briefly, falling prey to our winter rains and winds, then they blow and drift across the lawns in fragile simulation of the frozen coverings in the east. When we walked around the neighborhood yesterday the gutters, still draining the day's rain, carried drifts of petals like wave-spray. Our system does drain into the ocean, so eventually those petals will become part of the Pacific that is mimicked here in miniature.

But today the rains have stopped and the wind is calm and the skies are blue and bright. There's some sort of football game coming this afternoon, but I'll be reading or playing Lexulous. I've decided that the team with the blue shirts will win, because I always pick blue. And if I'm wrong, well, so what?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Christmas delayed

Yesterday went so well, but too fast. The kids were here by 9, and we had our traditional Christmas breakfast of waffles and scrambled eggs and fruit salad, then I threw those dishes into the dishwasher and we did presents, very fun, although the baby slept through it. I wonder what she'll think of it all next year?

Then there was a rush to get platters set out. I'd put post-its on them the day before, so everyone could tell what went where, but we were still setting things out when the first guests arrived. I never took a photo of the table, alas, but it did look pretty. Everyone from my side came, and we were pleased that my DIL's cousin and his son came too, so there were seven kids under five, six girls and one darling boy! We had a great time trying for a photo of the four Moms with their six girls, and then Quinn climbed onto A's lap for some photos too.

After all the food we couldn't believe the kids wanted Chinese for dinner, but they did, so we had another jolly meal, and then they all left. Sigh. The girls were great at helping clean up, and there are only some platters that need to be done by hand.

The punch recipe I found was terrific! It's from the old Fanny Farmer cookbook, with a tea and citrus base. It's good by itself and also half-and-half with asti. I made one change, instead of plain club soda, I used Trader Joe's Sparkling French Lemonade. Quite tasty, everyone loved it, plain or otherwise.

So, a month of preparation for approximately ten hours of fun. I never counted the guests, about thirty or so, I think. One of my nephews commented that we are a good house for these family gatherings, being mid-way between the San Diego group and the LA group.

So now it's time to take down the Christmas tree, at last. It was so dusty it had cobwebs, and one of my friends suggested I just say it had been flocked. It didn't really feel like Christmas to me, the season has past and there's no recalling it, whatever that Christmas magic is just doesn't stretch another month. It's the same with its ever-earlier advent in stores. Just because there are Christmas decorations before Halloween doesn't make it Christmas. I guess the stars and the calendar bring Christmas, and then take it away again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Floor Show

We are home after a weekend watching the baby, and I mean that literally. Even as she sleeps, we sit and watch her facial expressions, her frowns, her smiles, and we wonder what she's dreaming. I went with a list in mind but accomplished little, content instead to rock and hold her, to offer a bottle and then a burp. Grandmothers are easliy amused.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Seven Cents

I walked over to the market this morning to buy eggplants and a french roll. It was a lovely day, just under 70, pretty, with contrails fading out into fat paths, as if someone had passed a dry brush, across the cobalt sky. The eggplants were $1.49 a pound, and I bought two to make eggplant parm for tomorrow, 2.29 pounds in all. The clerk rang my three items up, but rang the eggplants as $1.99 per pound. I pointed out the error, and she sent the bagger back to check the price. We waited. We waited. She asked if she could finish my order, because there were people waiting behind me. I agreed, paid the small bill, and went in search of the bagger, who was slowly making her way to the front. Yes, the cost was $1.49 per pound.

But now I had to go to Customer Service to get my refund. Sigh. The girl at Customer Service spent an inordinate amount of time, using pencil, paper and a calculator, and finally gave me sixty-three cents. "No," I said, "that's wrong." I pointed out that the price was off by fifty cents. She, however, had used a different amount because she had misheard it. She called the register to get the correct price, calculated again, and handed me thirteen cents. I told her she was still wrong. I pointed out again that the price was off by fifty cents, and since I had more than two pounds, the refund would be more than a dollar. She just couldn't see it. She handed me some more coins, but it still wasn't right, and I worked through the problem again. She finally slapped seven cents down on the counter and said "I'm not going to argue over seven cents." Well, I will.

The eggplant is cooked, and we'll be off tomorrow for a weekend with the kids. No shopping for a bit.

I finished French's In the Wood. The ending was not what I expected, but the story is so well-written that I didn't want to do anything but read it. I don't know if I can go right into something intense. I think I need something silly.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Into the new year

We are now a week into the new year, but I couldn't tell you what I've done with it. Because we never had our family Christmas, the tree is still up and the wreath is on the door, but I've put other little things away. Traditionally I take everything down on Epiphany, but since we won't be together till the kid flies out in three weeks, up it will stay. I'll probably have to dust the presents before they all arrive.

I finished The 19th Wife and found it sad and perplexing. This is our Book Club book, but I have some weeks yet till it's discussed. Now I'm reading a mystery that won the Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author, In the Woods by Tana French. There are hints that create foreboding, alas, and I hope this is not going to have a dreadful ending. If so, I may have to resort to extreme frivolity for a while, and not the bio of FDR that is waiting.

Yesterday was my volunteer afternoon, helping with homework and teaching the complexities of double-digit subtraction and addition to girls who haven't quite learned it, and then Art League in the evening. I confess I nearly fell asleep during the demonstration, which was very interesting and well done, by a plein air painter named Cynthia Britain. I'd love to do one of her workshops, so I hope she didn't see me yawning. The first Wednesday of each month is long for me.

It was a lovely day here, in the mid-70s, and I spent the morning in the front garden, weeding and picking up sticks. We have some white birch trees, and the winter winds break the deadwood, as if the trees, having shed their leaves, go on to shed their exhausted, useless branches too. My daffodils are coming out, but so are the dandelions. Oxalis is encroaching on the few iris that have appeared, so tomorrow I will rout that out. I have nothing against oxalis in other spots, but not in that bed.

I have not seen the baby this year, which means she will be more than twice as old when we visit them on Saturday. Her happy parents report that she is sleeping for two hours at a stretch and is eating well. That's about all she has to to right now.