Labor Day “Fun”

I have spent today, Labor Day, doing some much-needed labor in my kitchen.

Here is what I did:

1) Cleared out the refrigerator and got rid of all those bottles of extras that have been there way too long. I then cleaned the shelves and drawers for a fresh start. I threw away cough syrup dated 2009. Even I won’t use that and I’m of the school that thinks those expiration dates can be stretched a bit. But not five years.
2) Reorganized the freezer and decided to thaw a couple of things that will be good this week to eat and make my life easer. I also washed down the walls and the shelves. I found some frozen shrimp that I don’t remember buying. I’m wondering if one of the girls bought it when visiting. Oh well, we will enjoy that little delicacy in the next week or so.
3) Tackled the much-dreaded plastic container cupboard, culling all plastic containers without lids. I also collected one whole set with lids and boxed it up to go up to Ojai for our meals up there. (Yes, this cupboard was ridiculously full.) Also, I washed off the shelves and stacked all the containers so that they can actually be used since they all now have their lids. I’ve been avoiding this job for a while, but today was the day to get rid of all of those extra containers whose lids have been carried out to the backyard by Cordelia over the past couple of years.
4) Cleaned and organized every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen, including underneath the sink.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I worked steadily from 11 am until 5:30 pm except for 1 hour off for a quick bite to eat and an involuntary nap.

So now my kitchen is clean inside and out and I feel extremely happy about that. Honestly, the last time I did this much focused cleaning in the kitchen was when we had it painted a few years back. From then to now, I’ve tackled little targeted jobs, but have not gone on a deep cleaning binge. The surfaces and floors are cleaned once a week, but that is different from pulling everything out from under the sink and getting on your hands and knees to reach back into those dark corners.

I am tired but feel pleased. I can say without a doubt my kitchen is as clean as it can be at least for today, which is a good beginning for the fall season. This was a “fall” cleaning instead of its spring counterpart. Certainly, high time.

You might protest that this was not a fun way to spend a holiday. I understand your logic, but I could argue that having an uninterrupted stretch of hours to take care of something that’s been nagging at me for a quite a while brings a fair degree of happiness. Maybe not classic fun, but fun nonetheless!

I hope to keep all those plastic containers under control at least for a while.

I guess it doesn’t hurt to dream…


The Moon, Planets and Labor Day Weekend

I can hear the crickets chirping outside. The waxing crescent moon has two planets clearly visible below it: Saturn and Mars. Ray and I walked around the block with the dogs and got a great view of the moon and the two planets as we walked. I noted that many of the house we passed had cars gone and lights out. Of course, this is Labor Day weekend and lots of people are out-of-town.

My experience in LA is that it is best to stay here for the holidays and go away during the day-to-day hubbub. The holidays are great because the traffic is light and there are fewer people at the movies or restaurants. Case in point, it took exactly 10 minutes to drive to St. Thomas the Apostle in Hollywood this morning, a trip that can vary from 10 minutes to 45 depending on the traffic. Admittedly, it was early when we headed over there and there is usually not too much traffic early in the morning; however, the return trip was faster as well, which is not always the case on non-holiday weekends.

The temperature is up and that’s not a lot of fun. The cool ocean breeze is not as easily felt right now and that makes for some discomfort . Of course, it’s so mild in comparison to other parts of the country, I hesitate to complain much since it makes me sound like a real jerk. Still, we have had some seriously hot days of late and it is no fun without air conditioning.

Ray has already nodded off for the night. He returned from Texas yesterday and he’s always tired when he first gets back. Hopefully, tomorrow he’ll be back to his chipper self.

On that note, this sleepy person is going to head to bed. I am ready to join Ray in short order.

Happy Labor Day weekend. Stay safe.


Edging Up on A Thousand Posts

Today’s post is #989.  That means that in 11 days I will be at 1000 posts since I began this 20 minute a day experiment a few year’s back.  One of my students suggests that I have a party to celebrate my 1000th post.  I don’t know about that, but I am pleased that my writing has added up over this time.  That is a good feeling.  Also, I have a pretty good chronicle of these past few years represented here in these posts, as well as some flash fiction, personal essay and even some haiku.  (One of my relatives mentioned that she never reads my posts if they are haiku so I stopped writing very many.  I was surprised to find, however, that ]I liked several when I went looking.  Here they are:

Healing Gifts

This was a good day
An old friend was kind to me
Gave back some keep-sakes

Nothing of value
Except to me and my kin
A kind gift of love

Good actions can heal
Close wounds that have long since ached
Shift coldness to warmth

Tonight I sleep glad
Knowing big-heartedness lives
Feeling its embrace

And another:


A storm approaches
The air is thick with moisture
Bugs cling to the screens

Darkness slows down time
Far off a train whistle sings
The moon cast shadows

Lamplight glows soft cream
Peppermint tea wafts
City thoughts far off

We are now back home
Ten miles from the Red River
Here the air smells clean

And one more:

A Perfect Day

We drove the coast road
Sun glinting on blue water
Surfers atop waves

We headed inland
Our grove filled with orange blossoms
Sweet scents filled the air

At dusk we found wood
And built a roaring campfire
Hot dogs roasted brown

The curved moon was pale
Venus and Mars shone bright white
Stars filled the dark sky

We packed up the car
With food, coats and a tired dog
Started the trek back

Tailights guided us
Home on the crowded highway
Soft warm beds await

A perfect Sunday
Ocean, orange blossoms, campfire
April’s brand-new start

Not everybody likes poetry, or better said, my attempt at poetry.  That’s okay.  Still, I love the succinctness of the form.  It feels satisfying to write.

So, 11 days until my 1000th blog post.  

I am pleased about that accomplishment.

Maybe I’ll start writing a little haiku again after I hit 1000.  

That would be okay.

Sleep well, my friends.


Five Items I’d Grab if My House Were On Fire

If my house were on fire, then here are the things that I would grab as long as I knew all people and animals were safe:

1) My family photographs. I am calling that one item, though there are hundreds of photos. This reminds me to put them in one box that could be easily grabbed. I would be sick if I lost the photos that chronicle the life Ray and I have shared with our children over these past three decades. I need to get those photos gathered up and in one place.

2) My grandmother’s Bradley and Hubbard lamp with its stained glass shade. This one object exemplifies the sum total of my mother’s family for me because it is well crafted from fine materials, has clean lines and produces a soothing soft green and red glow. I saw this lamp in my grandmother’s home when I travelled with my family to Bastrop, Texas to visit her as well as my aunts, uncles and cousins. I have many happy memories of those times together. Also, this lamp is one of the first antiques that I noticed and loved on sight, which set into motion my later passion for buying and selling antiques and collectibles.

3) My journals. Again, there are many of these, but I am calling them one item. I need to get all of these in a box as well because they chronicle details of every part of my life from early teens up until I shifted from journals to my computer five years ago. These are like the photos, a chronicle of my life, and I would be very sad not to have them to pore over when I am old and have time to relive those small moments that have added such happiness. Yes, another item to get boxed up, just in case.

4) The contents of our lockbox, which includes important documents plus a few pieces of my jewelry. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, but I do have several pieces that matter to me because they were gifts from my childhood best friend, Patricia, as well as my father, mother and Ray.

5) Only one more thing? Oh, dear. Of course, this would need to be my purse since it contains my phone, charger, and credit cards. That isn’t very interesting, but I would be hard pressed to live without it, particularly if I found myself standing outside my home watching it burn to the ground.

While I have never gone through a devastating event like a house fire, I can only imagine the anguish that comes from watching all your earthly possessions going up in flames. However, what I realized from compiling this list is how few objects I own that are true “essentials,” and, of course, even those are not so important that I couldn’t live without them. That is not to say I wouldn’t grieve over the loss since I know without question that I would. There is something so comforting about being surrounded by beloved objects collected over a lifetime, and there is also the trauma of losing everything without warning. I hope I never have to experience this and my heart goes out to the people who have.

So just to err on the side of prudence, I plan to gather up what matters most to me and put it all in one spot for a quick grab. You never know when or how life might change, particularly when you live in earthquake country like I do.

I hope you’ll consider doing the same. A few special objects could make a huge difference in easing the pain of loss should disaster present itself, and the truth is that none of us is immune.

Now where are those boxes?


Life Plans at Age 16 Versus Reality at 61

When I was 16, I knew that in my future I wanted a loving husband and several children. I knew that much. I also wanted a career since I knew from watching my mother get her Ph.D. as I was growing up that having intellectual stimulation and economic freedom contributed to happiness. I saw myself in a helping profession, such as psychology like my mother or else teaching at a university. I had no doubt that I would get an advanced degree – at least a Master’s – and I wanted to travel and see the world. I also knew that I wanted to live in a city for at least a while since I had grown up in a small Texas town and already was aware of the pros and cons of that life. I hadn’t ruled out living in North Central Texas where I’d grown up, but I knew for sure that I wanted to go out into the world and see what else was out there.

Now I am 61 and I have accomplished a few of those things I planned. I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and I lived in Italy for a year right after I graduated from college. I have also traveled to Europe quite a few times during my life. Plus, I have that loving husband and three beautiful children, along with a beloved son-in-law, a possible second one on the way, and a darling granddaughter. However, the rest of my life is not as I had planned.

First, I’ve lived the past 20 years in Beverly Hills, which is a place that conjures up a whole host of images for most people, including myself. I am far from the stereotypic BH resident, but I have been actively involved with the school system here, have worked with countless parents and students over the years, and have made some good friends along the way. I would have never dreamed that would be part of my life story. Second, I worked as a professional therapist for only a few years and instead have spent most of my adult life buying and selling antiques, writing both fiction and nonfiction, and also working with students on all aspects of writing. I could never have anticipated that shift in my focus when I was sixteen. Third, I have not traveled as extensively as I would have liked – I have only been to Europe, Mexico and Canada – and I would like very much to see much more of the world before I die. I guess that remains to be seen.

So, the question is has this change from my anticipated life at 16 to my “real” life at 61 been good? The answer is more complicated than one might first think. Of course, I am grateful for my family. They make up the best part of my life and I couldn’t be more thankful for their presence. Also, I love that my life has been more adventurous that I expected, that has been a plus. However, what I couldn’t have known at 16 is that life is unpredictable, which makes planning a bit trickier than one might think.

For example:

How could I have known that I was going to marry a man who would open my eyes to the world of art, antiques and design? I might have stifled a small laugh at that possibility when I was 16.

How could I have anticipated that my reason to come to Los Angeles would be to care for my brother who had contracted AIDS? I had never heard of this disease when I was 16-years-old because it did not exist then.

How could I have guessed that my passion for writing would be the primary reason I would land a teaching job (without a teaching certificate) at one of the premier private schools in LA? I had never even heard of this school before I answered their blind ad in the LA Times.

How could I ever have predicted that teaching only one short year at that school would give me enough referral sources to last these past 15 years as a private writing teacher with the freedom to make my own schedule so that I could be home with my children and have more time for my own writing?

The answer is: I couldn’t have.

What I know now that I didn’t know at 16 is that “unknowns” periodically present themselves in life, and these unexpected circumstances have a way of shifting one’s path in directions that could never have been anticipated.

So, of course, I am happy that my life at 61 is as full, rich and blessed as it is. I am even happier to know that more zigzags will crop up on my life’s path in the future. Thank God for those unanticipated turns. They can make all the difference.


Early School Day Woes

When I was little, I was a Mama’s baby; I mean, a BIG Mama’s baby. At night, I sneaked into her bed to snuggle; in the daytime, I played near her while she read, typed or worked on bills. By age five, I didn’t mind playing in another room or outside in the backyard as long as I knew she was in the house. Her proximity was pure comfort to me. That was fine until the outside world started pulling me towards it. In other words: school.

Kindergarten, which was optional and private when I was young, didn’t work out too well. I cried and was miserable every time Mama dragged me into the car and deposited me at Humpty Dumpty College. I just didn’t want to be there even though I could endure a morning of coloring, songs and recess if I absolutely had to, though I think I might have sniffled my way through most of those hours. I was a homebody kid with a whole range of self-designed activities that kept me completely entertained with no distractions like other kids to mess up the fun. After all, there were already plenty of kids in my family – with four older siblings and one younger. The last thing I needed – at least in my mind – was more of a social life. So, Mama let me teach school to my imaginary students and play outside with my two imaginary friends in the pecan tree, whose various limbs constituted my imagery house. This was all well and good until the inevitable happened: 1st grade.

The first day of school in 1st grade was not good. I was assigned to walk with my older brother, George, who was in 4th to Bailey Inglish, which was about 5 blocks from home. I think I made it a block before I dissolved into tears and refused to go any further. George was forced to leave me squalling on the sidewalk and go get Mama, who then had to drive us to school since we were now going to be late. I got a stern talking-to about being a “big girl now” in the car and Mama escorted me to Mrs. Bradford’s room herself. I remembering looking around the big room with all the windows and thinking it seemed pleasant enough, and I loved the little desks and chairs. Mrs. Bradford seemed nice, too, but I wasn’t very happy when Mama left. I think I managed not to cry since I was trying to prove I was too old for that in a public place, but I’m sure I had to wipe away a few tears.

That first week was a tough one. Everyday I was fine when George and I left home and got progressively less fine the farther we walked. Mama, however, had told me in no uncertain terms that I better not ever make George come get her again. That was grounds for a spanking and she’d be happy to get a switch and make that happen. George was willing to walk with me until I started crying, then walked faster so my “big baby” ways didn’t embarrass him. Each day I made it a little further before the tears started to flow and by Friday, I made it all the way to school dry-eyed just so that George would walk alongside me instead of half a block in front. After Week One, I was fine. I enjoyed my walks with my big brother, looked forward to seeing my friends and was excited to learn more about the world beyond my home and backyard. I appreciate that my mother was both sensitive and firm. That made my transition from home to school a whole lot easier.

Upon reflection, I have to note that I am not very different today from that little 6-year-old self. I am still a homebody who loves my self-designed activities over any organized group event, and it remains a challenge to get me up and out of the house for a party or other group activity. Still, once out, I tend to have a good time and enjoy the places I go and the people I meet. I still miss my mother everyday and I wish George were around to keep me company on walks, but I have long since accepted that my many happy memories will have to suffice. However, I still enjoy my imaginary friends and their adventures. The only difference is that at age six all of those stories stayed only in my head; now I get to write them down.


Dear Mean Voice Inside My Head

I didn’t realize for a long time that you were as active a character in my brain as you are. You were much better then at throwing in a subtle negative comment only occasionally. But now you’ve moved to a new level. You are relentless about tossing in your opinion, which is always counterproductive, whenever you feel inclined, which is often.

I am letting you know right now that I am ready for you to hit the road, ship out, get out of my orbit, vamoose. You are annoying on a good day and a real pain in the ass on a bad one. You know how to take anything that’s good and toss in just the right amount of naysaying to sully the air. You can be a relentless jerk and I am surprised that I have the strength of character to proceed with anything given your proclivity for calling upon shame and fear to keep me firmly under your dominating and negative thumb.

I am not foolish enough to think that I can banish you forever. Even if you are gone, your memory will inhabit the corners of my brain, filling them with the faint odor of stink. But inspite of that truth, go on, get out, take your mean-spirited, ugly old self and find a dark hole to inhabit.

I, instead, will respond to kindness, truth, beauty and love.

Now, go on, unless you can change your colors and shift from black to violet. If that’s the case, then you can stay. I don’t have a need to hurt you even though you can’t say the same to me. Could you do that? Could you discard all that darkness and just enjoy the beauty of a green rolling meadow or a white zigzag of lightning against a dark sky? I have no need to spread the sorrow.

Come here, then, and let me hold you. You are born from pain, I know. Let’s not carry on this heartache anymore. We can coexist if you will let me love you.

I promise love is healing. Trust me and watch.



Something Most People Don’t Know About Me…

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I hate seeing food go to waste. That doesn’t mean that I never let vegetables get too far gone in my crisper, but generally speaking, I am going to make every effort to effectively use every piece of food that is in my kitchen or even in someone else’s kitchen. This means that if the Breakfast Club gets an inordinately large number of tomatoes and we can’t give them all away, I will bring the rest home and make a big tomato sauce. Or if our peach tree out back starts producing more of those delicious peaches than we can eat in one sitting, then I’ll be inside cutting up peach after peach to freeze and not chance them going to waste. One week I brought home a box of broccoli from the Breakfast Club. We ate and ate on that broccoli and I gave broccoli away, as well, but still there was so much that I finally had to toss more than I felt good about doing. But there is just so much broccoli one can eat, after all.

I just think that given all the modern conveniences at out disposal, mainly the freezer, there is no legitimate reason to let food go to waste without doing something to curb the loss.

I wouldn’t say this is the “sexiest” admission I could ever make, but it is one of those funny little idiosyncrasies that most people would never guess about me.

So, if you’re at my house and you see food overflowing on counters or in the fridge, then you’ll know that I have stumbled upon an undesignated cache that requires immediate food preparation.

The good part of that over-attention to food detail is that I often have something tasty around for guests, particularly where bananas or other fresh fruit is concerned. Of course, this brings me to another admission: I have never tasted a fruit pie that I haven’t liked.

The Four Food Groups

Running Behind…

Ray and I have been busy handling two estates, which means that we have been researching, then selling items on eBay. This is a slow and meticulous process and takes lots of time. Today, I was photographing various pieces of vintage pottery while Ray was researching their origin. We got more pieces listed, but it is one piece at a time. Not the fastest way to do something, but the way it is done on eBay. Ray is faster than I am with the research since he’s been doing it longer, but I am catching on. The nice part about this is that as a visual person, I learn more and better when I read. So, my knowledge of antiques and collectibles is growing by the day as we gather information on these various items.

But now it’s 12:07 am and I missed my deadline to post daily by 7 minutes.

Oh well, I guess I need to flow with the river, eh? I will write twice today and that will have to be good enough for now.

Sleep well, my friends. I hope you had a happy weekend.


Delicious Grain Free Granola Recipe

I visited a friend today who had just made the granola detailed below. It was absolutely delicious. Here is the recipe via my friend.


Crunchy Cereal

1/2 cup organic hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup organic hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup organic unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 oz (1/4 cup) honey (or other liquid sweetener for vegan diets – maple syrup would work well)
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp organic vanilla extract (no sugar added)
⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda
⅛ tsp ground sea salt

Set the oven to 285F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Measure out the desiccated coconut; salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl then tip the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into a processor (I use a mini chopper).

Pulse for a few seconds until the seeds are roughly chopped.

Take out 2 tablespoons of seeds and tip into the bowl with the other dry ingredients. Continue to process the rest of the seeds until they are finely ground.

Tip the seed flour into the bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients well with a fork or spoon.

Measure the honey, vanilla extract and extra virgin olive oil into another bowl and mix well together.

Add the wet ingredients to the seed mix and stir until the mixture comes together, it may seem ever so slightly dry but don’t worry about that.

Tip out onto the baking tray. It drops out in bits just make sure there aren’t too many very large or very small bits of mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden, it does spread a bit! This batch took exactly 25 minutes in the fan (convection) oven. Leave to cool then break into pieces.

Store in an airtight jar.

There are so many ways you can eat these crispy, nutty nuggets. We like them straight out of the jar but you could break them into smaller chunks or grind into small crumbs. Here’s a few ideas :

as a breakfast cereal with milk or dairy free milk
on top of fresh fruit
on stewed fruit for an instant fruit crumble
as an ice cream topping

Crunchy grain free cereal

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