Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The year of 53

i suppose this could also be called, "The Year of Looking For Signs." What is it that fascinates me about numbers lining up? i was born in 1953 (yup, there it is in writing!) and had my 53rd birthday this September--cool enough for me, right there! BUT THEN--i did some birthday ebay shopping the week before my birthday, and (add in some Twilight Zone music here--) saw that i now have--can you guess?--53 feedbacks! How cool and yet weird is that?

As if that combination of odd numbers and odd occurances wasn't enough, i already have odd numbers going for my birthday itself--the 9th day of the 9th month. So altogether, does this make me an odd person? Possibly. i mean, i am left-handed, too. But if those do not, there are many other things that probably serve to qualify me.

Feel free to not bring them up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In the absence of a campfire...

...a gas stove does a pretty good job. At least for S'mores making.

There was the idea of a camping trip with friends. That didn't work out, but we were left with a powerful hunger for S'mores!! My good friend Adina said, "Well, I've done them over a candle before." Do i need any more of a green light than that? Not where chocolate is concerned! So we collected the necessities: graham crackers, marshmallows, and, mmm... chocolate.

Now, Adina, being the S'mores connoisseur that she is, brought Ghirardelli chocolate squares. We here in the Bay Area have a serious appreciation for Ghirardelli, especially as she happens to be a local girl (there is just no way chocolate is a man!) It's smooth, it melts well, even on stove-top S'mores. Adina also tutored me in the ways of expert marshmallow toasting--she is good, i must say. As much longer as i have loved chocolate and S'mores than her, being considerably older, i was in awe at her masterful technique. i'm one of those impatient souls who ends up with the flaming marshmallow and has to blow it out, while she steadfastly held her metal skewered marshmallow, deftly dancing with the flame, creating an enormously puffed lightly tanned delight. And at this point the differences again showed--i am one to just slap that baby on the graham cracker and chocolate, squish the cracker on top and dive in, but not so for Adina. With the careful movements of a surgeon she tipped the skewer up and slid the marshmallow ever so slowly on end onto the chocolate and cracker, held the topping cracker and worked the flow of the oversized creaminess into just the right position, and danced it over the flame as a whole for just a moment longer before she gently picked it up and bit in. i was in awe.

A couple of days later i was still dreaming of perfectly puffed marshmallows, so i picked some up at the store to try her technique myself. i turned on the gas burner, and flame and marshmallow engaged in the dance. Could i do it? Could i, the impatient one, make the dance last until the perfect shade of golden delight had been achieved? Sadly, no. Marshmallow firebomb #4087. But as i blew it out and prepared to eat it, i paused to think fondly of all the other burnt marshmallows i've enjoyed over campfires in the past.

Final bit of advice, though--if you use a metal serving fork as a skewer, remove the marshmallow BEFORE attempting to eat. That hot fork can leave quite a little blister on your lip. Trust me on this one and don't ask.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Just wondering....

Anybody out there? i mean, i love to hear myself talk as much as the next guy, but seriously....

Friday, September 15, 2006


Today is that kind of amazing fall day i love. i always forget i love it until it comes and i realize i'm holding my breath and listening to the leaves rustle and feeling the crisp air.

In one part of my brain i think fall means brown-ness and dead-ness and winter coming (yes, i'm aware that "winter" for me here in the San Francisco Bay Area is not quite what some of you view as "winter"...) BUT--apparently there is another part of my brain i'm usually unaware of that *senses* the fall on another level. That part of my brain carries the pleasure i felt jumping in rain puddles as a child (and as a college student--yes, i really did and i'm not ashamed to admit it.) It remembers the feel of the crisp coldness of the Pacific Northwest or the Nebraska plains or England or, yes, even California in that brightness that precedes winter.

i need to listen to that part of my brain more often, i think it might help balance out the other part of my brain that can only see laundry and dust and bills to be paid.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What i did on my summer vacation.

My hubby and i got to spend time last month on two different farms. We visited relatives in Alabama where the young folk still say "yes ma'am" and "yes sir," where we stayed on one cousin's farm. Wow. Acres and acres of green pasture are anchored by the light and airy farmhouse. Horses wander lazily nearby. My damp Portland Oregon roots sighed happily at all the green-ness.

The occasion was the 60th wedding anniversary of my hubby's uncle and aunt--wow, huh?--at pretty much the same time as WE are celebrating our 30th! And i was impressed with that many years (Kind of in a "jeez, are we that old?" kind of way...) But apparently all that green comes at a cost--humidity--cousin Lea Ann said, "We call it 'air you can wear.'"

We had a lovely time visiting with our too infrequently seen relatives who welcomed us and fed us well and put us up in our own "apartment." (We too have a special place we can let people stay at our house--if ya don't mind all the boxes of Christmas decorations stacked along the bedside...it's that ambiance that says "homey, but not in a good way." )

And the countryside in Alabama--i want this view out my front door! --->
There was even a rather spectacular thunder/lightning/rain storm for entertainment--let me tell ya, that thunder and lightning bit sure seems closer out there in all that open land. And greenness abounds there, it seems--Uncle Joe and Aunt Pat's house has an actual woods in the backyard, and the church we attended better have some riveting sermons, because the walls behind the pulpit were windows looking out onto fields of green and trees...my eyes only wandered a little....

THEN we moved on to a farm in Canada--as in a working farm with crops and harvesting and all those things unfamiliar to my town-bred self. It's the family farm of my good friend Adina, in Plum Coulee, Manitoba. Her two sisters, brother, and brother-in-law were home as well, bringing the temporary household count to 9 adults, 1 almost adult (just kidding, Dorian!) and a baby. Here i am frustrated--i don't seem to be able to add a particular picture i have of the farm. So picture for yourself: a vast expanse of fields surrounding a collection of granaries, house, barns, and trees, fronted by a gravel road--all washed in a translucent rose-colored late afternoon light. And picture a big ol' red tractor with my Kansas born husband driving, a very nostalgic experience for him--although this time he could reach the pedals, no longer being 8--

<-- here's a shot of that red tractor between the granaries

Oh--and both farms had gardens--in Alabama, a softly overflowing cottage style flower garden, and in Plum Coulee, a garden full of poppies, vegetables, and fruit trees. The really disturbing part? The garden in Manitoba is larger than the plot of ground that defines our entire California homestead. Anyway, in Canada they humored me and let me play at gardening. i, who am duly impressed when i can keep a rose bush alive for more than a season, got to help harvest the remaining beans. And we had a campfire out in the backyard one night! How crazy is that? i mean, if i imagine building a fire in our backyard i know it would mean either the house or the fence or the neighbor's place (or all three) likely going up in smoke.

We attended the family's Mennonite church on the Sunday, and ate some of the meals that say "comfort food" to Adina--and i have to say, i'm good with that whole watermelon and fritter thing they call a meal! (They don't call it a fritter--it actually has a German name that i can almost say but definitely can't spell--) But, oh yum!

It was a great month, whether at a family celebration in Alabama, or a family meal or cup of coffee around the table in Plum Coulee. i won't go all philosophical and sentimental on you, but i loved watching the families in action. There's a commonality to the kinds of families who like each other, evidenced by the shared jokes and knowledge of and grace for each other. i know a lot of what helps both these families give grace is their own experience of God's unconditional love and with that, how can they give anything less to each other?

But even after my summer vacation of farms, i still don't know where the phrase "he bought the farm" comes from. Any thoughts?*

*Cousin Lea Ann has a link to the possible origins of the phrase: http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/farm.htm

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why it's good to be me!

More and more lately i find my brain has gone out to lunch and forgotten to take me along. The good part? Something happens that i didn't like?? Give me 30 minutes and i'll have forgotten it ever happened.