Wednesday, January 22, 2020

With a dental appointment behind me….

Relief. That’s what I feel every single time I walk out of the dentist’s office, secure in the knowledge that I don’t have to go back for four months. The thought that four months will go by quickly is briefly vanished from my mind. I know some of you only go ever six months or perhaps once a year, and I am jealous. But I am plagued with plaque, and I find it easiest to go along with more frequent cleanings for the reward of not having more extensive work done.

Since I know myself to have some phobias—acro- and claustrophobia, primarily—I would say that I have a dental phobia, mild but still there. I trace it back to my youth—and to my dad, who had lots of trouble with his teeth.

When I was just barely a teen, I developed a mouth full of cavities and spent lots of time in the dentist’s chair. Our dentist was a close family friend, so close that I knew him as Uncle Walt. I have no doubt he was skilled, because I think I carry some of his gold to this day. But he was a taciturn man, and as he worked he rarely spoke. Being young, I took taciturn for gruff and was slightly afraid. I also harbored the conviction that he liked my brother a lot better than me, and indeed he and John were close friends until Uncle Walt’s death.

Besides that, dental techniques have changed so much in the last sixty years that there’s no comparison. I do not remember Novocain at all, and the drill was a clumsy, loud, and slow thing. So dental appointments were long, quiet, and painful—and all too frequent.

Years later, as an adult, I discovered that Uncle Walt and his nurse/receptionist/wife, Aunt Kaffe, were delightful, charming people who indeed cared a lot about me and mine. They dined at my table in Texas one night when I was newly a single parent, and they were supportive and bright conversationalists. We laughed a lot. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe he didn’t have on his classic white jacket.

We all carry so-called baggage from our childhood, and dental fear is packed into my baggage. The hygienist I see these days is cheerful and talkative and makes me as comfortable as she can. She knows how impatient I get and that there is sort of a time limit on my patience in the chair. I am always relieved when she starts to polish, because I know the appointment is nearly over. So today when she started to polish, early in the appointment, she said, “Don’t get excited. I’m working in quadrants today.”

I was only there an hour, and it wasn’t painful or scary or anything, but I still left with that blessed feeling of relief.

Want to laugh about the dentist? Here’s a link to the classic sketch, “The Dentist,” starring Tim Conway, from the Carol Burnett Show. Have a good laugh.                                                                                                                                                        


Monday, January 20, 2020

My Foodie Weekend

I didn’t cook as much as usual this weekend, because Jordan, Christian, and I all had Saturday night dinner with our delightful new neighbors, Victor and Prudence Zavala. We went to Tokyo Café, and the talk and laughter flowed—everything from food (she’s an astounding cook) to raising children. Christian had the sake and beef bowl he loves, Pru and I each had the lobster roll—to me, that’s elegant dining—and Jordan stuck with the California roll. Victor had some kind of tuna roll—not your regular sushi, but one large item. It looked delicious, but he warned me his dish was spicy. I love the food at Tokyo Café, but I have to watch the spicy dishes—the beef and rice bowl, for instance, looks so good but the one time I ordered it, it was way too spicy. I’m now told I can request it be less spicy.

Victor and Pru came into the cottage when they brought me home, and we still had so much to talk about, I’m embarrassed I didn’t urge them to sit and have a glass of wine. But they have young children and needed to get home. Next morning, Pru delivered a large mum she got at Costco. I protested that I should be sending her flowers in gratitude, but she responded with a directive: she will buy me flowers when she wants, and I will enjoy them. Yes, ma’am! They do brighten a winter morning in the cottage.

Friday night I wimped out on going to pick up my groceries at Central Market, which means I didn’t have the ingredients for the Eggs Benedict I planned for my supper—I meant to put the eggs over smoked salmon and use some of the dinner rolls, split and toasted, still in the freezer from Christmas. By serendipity, I had asked Jordan to pick up a few things at Albertson’s, so with the ingredients she brought, I made tuna pasties. A bit labor intensive, but so good. You use refrigerated biscuits for the dough but have to roll them out thin. The filling is simply good albacore tuna, flaked, sour cream, grated cheese, and some celery. Mine were definitely not the prettiest or most elegant pasties I’ve ever seen, with carefully crimped edges, but they were tasty, and I snacked on them all weekend.

For Sunday night supper, Christian grilled some salmon—well, he tried to grill it, but the grill wouldn’t ever get hot enough, so he ended baking it, which meant we didn’t eat until 8:30 by the time he figured out the grill was just not going to do it. I made an herb sauce for it—oil and vinegar and micro-planed garlic with lots of “fragrant herbs”—cilantro, parsley, basil, and watercress. Mincing all those herbs was tedious and messy, and I vowed not to do it again until I have better tools. I’ve ordered herb scissors, so we’ll see. The sauce, however, was delicious—and pretty on the salmon.

So it’s Monday morning, and I’m just now blogging because I was too sleepy after that late dinner. But I’m resolved this will be a nose-to-the-grindstone work week for me. I have lots of reading to do. Hope you look forward to a happy and productive week. Sigh, as I write that I realize it’s a giveaway to my personality—why do I think at my age I have to be productive all the time?
Talk about productivity! Three dogs waking Jacob, or trying to.
Bonus points for finding the black dog.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Stock Show weather—or not?

Fort Worth's annual Southwestern Livestock Exposition and Rodeo opened this weekend, and true to form, the weather reflected it. Yesterday was so dreary and bone-chilling damp that I just wanted to hibernate. It was a nap kind of day, so I napped and when I got up I was supposed to go pick up my groceries from Central Market’s curbside pick-up. But I wimped out, called them and asked if they could hold them until this morning. They are so easy to work with and so eager to please that they said “Of course. Don’t worry about it.”

Early this morning, when it was still gray, I glanced at the weather forecast onscreen and thought it indicated Stock Show weather for the next two weeks. But as the sun really got about it’s business, it rose in a cloudless, clear blue sky. And while it was cool, it didn’t chill your bones.

So I set out for Central Market, but I had one heck of a time unfogging my windshield—nearly froze myself doing it. (Word is telling “unfogging” is not a word, but what else would you call it? Defogginjg?) I had to sit in the driveway for a bit, and when I set out it was still a little fuzzy on the driver’s side. Of course, perfectly clear on the passenger side.

At Central Market, for the first time ever, I had to text to tell them I was there—they usually notice and come right out. When I said again that I was sorry, the young woman said, “Don’t you dare apologize!” She was gone a little longer than usual, but when she came out, she explained she thought they bunch of basil they gave me was too scrawny, so she went back to produce for another. I absolutely love the service.

Jordan says if she picks up my groceries, they say to her, “Where’s Judy?”

Sophie doesn’t like Stock Show weather either. It gets her off her schedule. Sometimes she refuses to go out during the day, which means nature calls her in the middle of the night. Maybe it’s the dampness, but she’s snuffling more lately, and a couple of days she seemed downright lethargic.

When it stormed in the night recently, she came to my bed but no amount of encouragement on my part could get her to jump up on it. She kept jumping with her front feet, just bouncing the bed enough to keep me awake. Then she began almost morning—little low sounds deep in her throat—from fear, I presume. I decided, with the typical three-in-the-morning gloom, that age was catching up with her, and arthritis prevented her from jumping all the way onto the bed, something she’s always done. But the next morning I watched her nimbly jump up into her favorite sleeping chair. Both of us needed today’s sunshine.

A measure of how spoiled I am: we have a wonderful woman who cleans both the house and the cottage every other Tuesday. We missed a time over the holidays so by last Tuesday things—including my laundry—had really piled up. (I don’t have a washer in the cottage and getting into the house myself is daunting, let alone with a load of clothes). She called to say she had the flu, but Jordan arranged for her to clean just the cottage this morning. She texted again to say she couldn’t make it. I cannot exaggerate my disappointment.

I got busy, cleaned the kitchen area, emptied all the trash, got out the laundry and spotted the things that needed it—I am an incredibly messy cook. Jordan is doing my laundry, and Jacob will take out the trash. The rest of the cottage will have to be gloriously messy and dirty for another week and a half. I love to come home after she’s been here, because my cottage glows and smells so clean!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A debate, a pot pie, and a monitor

Despite my active interest in the current political situation in this country, I confess I haven’t watched any of the Democratic debates until last night. Maybe it was the crowded field, but I always thought I’d wait and read the pundits’ summaries. Oh my, did I learn a lesson last night.

A good friend came in from Granbury to watch the debate. She’s such a good friend, she brought dinner from Eatzi’s—a delicious chicken pot pie, marinated tomatoes, and a thing of black olives. (Yes, she looked at me and said, “Oops, I remember. You don’t eat them, do you?”)

Mary came, Jordan was here, and the four of us had a lively happy hour but when it came time for the debate, it was just Linda and me. I realized how serious she was about this when she began to fuss about 7:45. I had the TV on Channel 5, and Linda thought the pre-debate commentary should have begun. So I flipped channels but found nothing. “Do we have the wrong night?” she asked in horror, and I assured her we didn’t. She kept telling me she watched CNN and they would have pundits on well in advance. So I finally called Jordan and asked how to find CNN—I am rather in a rut as you can tell. NBC or nothing, because I’m not a big TV watcher.

The debate had just begun when we finally found it and settled down to watch. Both being strong and convinced liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call us, we hung on every word. I, who had thought I would get bored and lost in the diatribes, was mesmerized by each of the speakers but particularly focused on Biden, Warren, and Sanders. When one of them said something we thought really important, we gave each other a thumbs up. But at the halfway point, Linda, with a long drive ahead, left. By then I was hooked, and I watched every minute.

A couple of things struck me: one was that they didn’t snipe at each other, a development that I was glad to see. Yes, there was that moment between Warren and Sanders and the underlying tension between them, but generally they were collegial. And all six emphasized that it is crucial for the United States to rebuild its alliances with foreign powers. The day of nationalism passed decades ago, and we cannot go it alone in the modern world. We need allies. Mr. trump has destroyed our alliances, alienated our allies. And, finally, especially from Sanders but from all, I heard the real and necessary concern for the environment and the climate. I can’t tell you how ballistic I go when people ignore or deny climate change.

My favorite line: When asked about facing trump in a debate, Joe Biden said, “I’ve been the object of his affection for a while now. I think I’ve taken all the hits he has.”

I thought the candidates were energized with fire last night. Shows you what a judge I am when some called the debate boring. But, yes, I came away with two favorites. No, I’m not telling who. But I am still optimistic.

Tonight, I’m home alone, just me and my Holter monitor that is checking the activity of my heart. I had always thought it was a halter monitor and had a picture in my mind of something you wore like a halter. Not so. It was invented by a biophysicist named Holter. And to my surprise today, when I was fitted with it, you need a pocket to put the monitor in. It’s attached to leads on your chest, much like when you have an electrocardiogram.

So my big panic was what can I wear that has pockets? I usually spend my days at home in a T-shirt and leggings—no pockets. Fortunately, the tunic I wore to the doctor’s office had a pocket, but I came home, rummaged around, and found the one pair of pjs I have with pockets. So by four-thirty, I was in pjs, and I intend to stay that way until I can take the thing off at three tomorrow afternoon. I declined to go to supper, with wires sticking noticeably out of my clothes, but Betty, my usual Wednesday night dinner pal, came for wine. And then I ate the rest of Linda’s  pot pie.

So don’t expect to see me out and about tomorrow. What a great way to make me put my nose to the grindstone and stick to business.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Feeling smart

I conquered technology! Okay, not really but I made some giant steps.  It all began Saturday when the brokerage where I have a bit of money notified me of a transfer of funds. I went online to check it and was told the account was suspended. Of course, I tried again, and the more times you try, the more vehement they get about locking you out. So I called. One thing high on my list of pet peeves is automated telephone systems, but I tried. That bodiless voice quoted me the balance in my account—and it was considerably less than I thought it should be. So I did what I do in moments of financial panic—I called Colin, my oldest son. He tried, but of course he couldn’t get in because I had caused them to lock the account.

Finally I called again and went through the necessary rigamarole to speak to a living, breathing person. What a relief! The balance was just what I thought it should be. The gentleman ushered me through changing my password, checking the transfer of funds, etc. One monster conquered.

I also tried to log into the web site of the service that TCU uses for benefit payments to retirees. I wanted to notify them of a change in my insurance payment. No deal. They apparently never had heard of me. Disregard the fact that I just gotten a check from them. They didn’t recognize my username, my password, my social number, or my TCU employee i.d. And worst of all, until you could get into their web site, there was no phone number to call. I emailed the retiree coordinator at TCU and she promptly replied with the phone number.

So today I called. It seems I had logged in to the employee site and not the TCU one. They need to be more clear with the names of their sites. And for some reason, maybe because I did that, it treated me as a new registrant. So I had to supply all my data and wait for a code to be sent. That took so long that the customer service guy begged off and left me on my own. Then it seems that I had repeated the request, so now I had two codes and no idea which one worked. Hit and miss, I found it. Then it asked for confirmation by my phone number. I supplied that and was told I would receive a text with a code. By now bumfuzzled with the rigamarole, I tried the previous codes—nope. Finally I remembered “text”—whoopee! I got into my account. Only to find out they already knew my insurance premium had changed—the insurance company notifies them.

But the biggie was today’s adventure with my Apple watch and phone. The watch has been sending me alert notices about a health problem. I only recently knew to check that, so who knows how long I’ve been getting those notices. But I didn’t know how to find the notices again when I called the doctor’s office. They wanted a screen shot, and I said I didn’t know how to do that. So they suggested I bring the phone in and let them collect information. Now they’re a good half hour away, and Jordan wasn’t thrilled at the idea. “Surely,” she said, “ you can find someone to walk you through finding the information.

I did. My twenty-year-old granddaughter, a Colorado University student who works part-time at the genius bar in an Apple store. With Maddie’s help by text, I took my first ECG (electrocardiogram) on my phone and also found the alert reports. Sent it all to the doctor’s office, where the nurse rejoiced with me over my advance in technical knowledge. The nurse sent it to the doctor, and the eventual verdict was that I am to wear a halter monitor for 24 hours. But how easy to do all that with my phone. And much love and thanks to Maddie—it’s so nice to have a genius in the family, even if it isn’t me.

I don’t mean to brag, but I had a great supper tonight. Fried some bacon, then sliced and fried those potatoes that I thought were a bust last night (much better with salt and pepper and a crisp crust), and soft scrambled two eggs. So good. I will sleep better tonight, having been reassured that I should not worry about the health alerts.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Confessions of a cook who should follow a recipe

Suasage skillet supper
It’s predictable. Every year after the holidays, the other adults in the Alter/Burton compound go on a diet. So I wasn’t really surprised when it happened this year—nor am I completely out of sympathy. I know that they seem to feel better when the cut back on dairy and carbs. That regimen goes contrary to my personal belief which is that one should sort of follow the American Heart Association diet—moderation in all things. But I am not asked my opinion, and if it makes them feel better, I’m all for it.

I am, however, told what they will eat or not eat, and it sure messes up my cooking. Our routine is that we mostly eat separately during the week, especially since each of us often has dinner engagements. But we do Sunday night dinner together, as a family, and I always cook unless Christian really wants to cook something. 

So this week I found a recipe for an easy lamb ragu that sounded wonderful. Nope, can’t do that. No pasta. Meat and vegetables only. Quote, “None of your fancy dishes.” On the other hand, I really do not want to cook plain burgers and a salad.

So tonight, for Sunday supper, we had seasoned lamb burgers, Greek potatoes, and salad dressed with a Greek vinaigrette. Explanations are due. The lamb burgers had just one slice of bread and 2 Tbsp. milk in them—acceptable, I assume. And they were delicious. The Greek potatoes didn’t, to my taste, live up to expectations. They were tossed in a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and water—I think it was the water that was the undoing. Another time I would coat them with a straight vinaigrette for more flavor.

The salad was delicious, but mostly because the tzatziki was a failure. The problem was that I didn’t have Greek yogurt, with which I can make a simple tzatziki with few ingredients. I tried to compensate with one that had lots of  other ingredients—cream cheese, feta, red wine vinegar, and some other things. I didn’t have red wine vinegar, so I substituted white. And I was reducing the recipe. Probably if I’d done it scientifically by proportion it would have been fine. But I ended up eyeballing it. The result was a very thin mixture that tasted great but lacked the body and substance of tzatziki. So we used it for salad dressing—and it was good. Oh yes, I also didn’t have dried dill weed, so Jordan supplied it after the fact.

In spite of all that, dinner was a success--principally because the lamb burgers were so very good.

That wasn’t all my weekend cooking. I ate dinner out three or four nights last week, but Saturday night, home alone in the cottage, I had the best dinner of the week: a chicken/spinach sausage fresh from Central Market, cottage fried potatoes (is that the name? sliced raw and fried till brown, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside), and sauerkraut that I got just right. I sautéed a bit of onion and garlic in butter, added undrained kraut and some water, sprinkled it just lightly with brown sugar, and simmered it for twenty or thirty minutes. At the last minute I added a splash of white wine. I think it was the long, slow simmer that softened the acidic taste and yet left the kraut with its full flavor. So good.

Today I also made Chuy’s dip. I suspect Chuy’s is a Texas thing—I only know of it in Austin (where it originated, I think) and Fort Worth. But the recipe for their dip/salad dressing is online—and it’s great. Mayonnaise, sour cream, dry ranch dressing mix, cilantro, pickled jalapenos and juice, tomatillos, lime juice. I doctored it—way fewer jalapenos but more lime juice. Love that citrus flavor. I serve it with potato chips—good, sturdy ones from Trader Joe’s because I’m not a huge fan of tortilla chips.

Love my cooking weekends. Tomorrow, a bunch of work projects await on my desk, and I shall have to get down to business. But cooking was fun and relaxing.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Staying safe

Snow? Tornadoes? Unseasonable warm temperatures? A sudden freeze? Take your pick—it’s Texas. One hardly knows how to dress for the weather, let along take safety precautions. But friends and I had a sort of negative safety lesson last night.

Five of us were enjoying glasses of wine when the drizzle intensified into a good steady rain, thunder boomed, and lightning flashed. I assured everyone that the cottage is sturdy and added that I love a good storm. All was peaceful.

Until my alarm system began to beep. The youngest among us, a college student, went into the hallway, studied the control box, but apparently came to no conclusions. The system beeped again—so I went into the hallway, saw that it was warning us of a tornado watch, which is of course more serious than a warning. I punched the button that said, “Mark as read,” and went back to join the group.

It beeped again, I got up again, reassured the thing that I had read it and knew that we were in imminent danger. But it wasn’t reassured and kept beeping. Now I don’t mean to play the pity card, but each time I had to go look at it, I had to get up from my walker, flip it around so I could actually use it as a walker, and navigate the threshold between living area and hall. It was, to put it mildly, a nuisance.

My guests began to leave, and I truly was afraid I’d be left alone to deal with that balky alarm system the whole evening. By then it was raining hard, so as the first two left, the door was open several minutes while they retrieved umbrellas and moaned about ruining their shoes. The alarm system went bananas, but I didn’t think it was urgent.

Until the gentle but annoying beeping turned into a shrill siren sound. Somehow in all my fiddling I’d reset the alarm and now it thought my departing guests were people with evil intentions breaking in to do me bodily harm and steal my worldly goods. I didn’t think to use my handy bedside remote control, so there I stood at the main control panel, trying to punch in the code with my too-fat fingers. I kept getting an error message, which flustered me and made it even hard to punch in the code. The remaining guests sat on the couch holding their hands over their ears. Finally I was able to turn it off, and quiet descended. It was wonderful.

As I drifted off last night, I prayed that the alarm would stay quiet all night, and it did. This morning, the cottage was chilly—31 degrees outside—and after I settled at my desk with a cup of tea, I saw snowflakes drifting down. They melted on impact, of course, but it was nice to see seasonable snow in January after the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. The world was that dull gray-blue that snow brings, and I thought that was just fine. I’d settle myself for an inside day, as cozy as I can make the cottage.

And then the sun came out, as though it were a fine spring day.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A family treasure…and a replica

Footstools courtesy Lewis Bundock
Photobomb courtesy Sophie
Lewis Bundock came by this morning. He’s the man who, with his brother Jim, has kept my house together and gradually updated for the over-twenty-five years I’ve lived on Park Place Avenue. They are both responsible for my cozy cottage, for which I am grateful every day.

This morning, Lewis had smaller projects on his mind. He brought us two footstools. The one on the left, above, is a family treasure. In my childhood home, it sat in front of my mom’s wingback chair—which I now have—by the fireplace. It was perfect to sit on if you wanted to get right up cozy with the warmth of the fireplace.

In my home, that stool was still in front of the fireplace, and Megan particularly liked to sit on it. Finally realizing that I was not going to give it up, she said she wanted one just like it for the new house they are building in Austin. Meantime, the original stool had suffered a broken leg, so it went off to Lewis for repair. He not only does large-scale remodeling projects but also fine hand-crafted woodwork. He fixed the old stool and made the replica you see on the right, explaining he couldn’t exactly duplicate because of the age of the original. He couldn’t find the same piece of wood, but at first to my eye I couldn’t tell them apart. And I know Megan will be delighted with her stool—she’ll be here for rodeo in a few weeks and can pick it up.

Lewis also brought a surprise present—a hand-crafted cell phone holder. I’m sure I’m not the only one who inadvertently buries her phone amid a jumble of papers on the desk and then can’t find it when it rings. In addition, when I have my hearing aids in, as I should all the time, I don’t have to hold my phone to talk. So now I can set it on the holder and go merrily about my business 

I know phone stores and Amazon and similar places are full of magnetic, plastic holders for cell phones—my sons have them in their cars. But this is hand-crafted and classy looking. I’m delighted to have it.

It’s nice to have something new as Christmas comes down. My tree now sits in the middle of my coffee table—a gentle reminder for me to take the ornaments off. The wreaths are gone from the doors; Santa Mac and my Jim Shores Saint Nicholas are packed away on a high closet shelf. Still must pack up the remnants of Christmas wrappings for next year that are strewn about in the bedroom. But that bare look of January has returned. I often think it’s one of the causes of SAD—seasonal affective disorder. If we still had all that bright cheeriness around us, we might not get sad.

Can’t resist adding a picture of Sophie. I see pictures of dogs and what they’re supposed to look like when told, “ You’re a good dog.” This is Sophie, trying to convince us she’s a good dog as she waits for a treat. You know what? She really is a good dog. Sorry about the backdrop--the junky corner of my kitchen. Note the stack of dog treat boxes.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Twelfth Night, neighbors, and an ongoing tradition

My family has along tradition of celebrating Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, with a roaring fire in the fireplace. Each person, in turn, throws a small sprig of evergreen into the fire and makes a wish for the coming year. If you tell your wish, it will not come true. A Chicago neighbor, who was like an aunt, started that when I was very young. I have no idea if she made it up or where she got the idea. I’ve heard of other Epiphany traditions—King’s Cake, for instance—but never heard of anyone else burning branches.  What it could have to do with the arrival of the three kings at the stable in Bethlehem is beyond me, but I like traditions.

I kept it going with my children when they were young, and we’ve done it with Jacob every year, I think. In recent years, Jordan, Christian, and I have included a few neighbors, as we did last night. Jordan had a lengthy list of friends, but several declined for various reasons, so there we were ten of us. The evening was pleasant, only a little chilly, and the Burtons have a new (to them) outdoor firepit, so we burned our branches on the front porch.

Every Christmas Jordan longs for the chocolate chip bars I always made for my annual tree trimming party. It’s been at least four years since I’ve given that party, so it’s been four years she’s been talking about it. So for last night, nothing would do but I had to make those bars. It was always a project, but more so in my tiny kitchen. The dough is like chocolate chip cookie dough only much stiffer—to make bars instead of cookies. I took it as far as I could but had to call Jordan for the final stirring.  My arms have lost strength, and I mostly cook from my Rollator which makes an awkward  angle for heavy-duty stirring. By the time Jordan came to help me, I was covered with flour and had a good smear of chocolate across my chest. Not only that but I had dropped a whole egg on the floor—it literally jumped out of my hand.

            The chocolate chip bars were a hit, the firm warm and cheering, the wishes silent – I’ll never tell! Even Sophie got to be part of the festivities though neighbor Greg, who ended up with her, said it was apparent she doesn’t spend much time on a leash. After the ceremonial burning, we sat in the living room and caught up with each other’s news.

Chalk the evening up as another nice memory.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Back to the real world

We tend to think the new year starts on January 1, but it really doesn’t, you know. Things get down and dirty on the first Monday after that, so today is the day. Adults go back to work, kids go back to school. I think the picture above is an image that will carry me cheerfully through this coming year—one happy guy. That’s my fifteen-year-old grandson, who plays guitar and is lead singer in a small band. Look them up on YouTube: CRVNCH. Not my kind of music (they play hard rock), but I love it because he’s so good at what he does and so (mostly) happy about it. I gave him that shirt for Christmas, because it seemed to me it spoke for him. It says "I may look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar." 
 Love the shirt, love the kid.

Today things are about as normal as they’re going to get, what with Australia on fire and the manchild in the White House having brought us to the brink of a war no one wants. Still, we all go about our daily chores as if the world were not in chaos. Over the weekend, I started new files for 2020—bills paid, etc.—and put the 2019 files aside for the awful chore of compiling tax information for the accountant. No use in rushing these things.

I keep a pottery container (don’t know how to describe it any other way—it’s sort of a free form shape) on my desk for important pending papers. It has sentimental value, because                 Winston gave it to me—he was the children’s adopted uncle, called me his sister, and had an enormous impact on all of us until he died of AIDS in the early 1990s. Anyway, Winston‘s catch-all frequently gets out of hand, stuffed with papers that threaten to fly everywhere (sort of reminds me of him), So this weekend I went through it, found all sorts of things that should go elsewhere—a bunch of family pictures, some money that should go to the grandkids (shhh! Don’t tell them! I’ll get it to them, just have to add a bit). Of course I couldn’t think of where to put the things that belong
elsewhere, so I ended up putting them back but more neatly.

And the “to do” stack on my desk was in a neat pile until this morning when I sat down and began to plow through it. I uncovered “busy-ness” details to be dealt with—an invoice to check on, a call to a lawyer, photo credit to be checked, and so on.. All those odds and ends—“brushfires” a friend calls them—eat into  your time.

So now I’m off to bake the chocolate chip bars Jordan has particularly requested. She keeps calling them brownies, but they’re not brown. The recipe, from the original Kimball Cookbook, makes two 9x13 pans—we’ll be eating chocolate chips for a long time. Good thing I got a cookie jar for Christmas.

Last night I made another family favorite—Sloppy Joe. There’s a story behind it, and it may show up in my Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog on Thursday. That’s another step  in getting back to routine—I’ve let that blog go untouched too long.
My new cookie jar