Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Food, food, food!

For Christmas, my Canadian daughter gave me a copy  of The Best American Food Writing 2018. You may know the Best American series—volumes of short stories, essays, mystery stories, travel writing, and so on. 2018 was the first year the editors recognized the importance of food writing—way over and above cookbooks—in our culture. So far, my eyes are opened wide just reading the introduction by famed food editor Ruth Reichl, one of my heroes. It was a folklorist, not a historian, wrote several years ago: “The foods we eat, the way we eat them, and the imagination we bestow on their preparation will tell much about us to historians, folklorists, and anthropologists of Buck Roger’s twenty-fifth century,” (If our planet lasts that long.)

I’ve been having my own mini-food culture the last few days, and I hope it’s an omen for the new year. I also hope it tells a good story about me. Saturday night I pan-fried a filet of ruby red trout with seasoned breadcrumbs and finished it with lemon butter. Delicious—but as usual I overestimated when I placed my online order, and I had another filet left. I cooked it yesterday and flaked it into a cream cheese mixture today to serve as an appetizer tonight. Trout is so delicate, I’m afraid I may have overwhelmed it with cream cheese. I let it sit in the fridge to “collect itself.”

Sunday night, Jordan and I decided to serve the bison kielbasa we’d brought home from our road trip, and I made German potato salad—one of Christian’s very favorite foods. I usually use canned and sliced potatoes (lazy of me) but they don’t carry them at Central Market, so I planned ahead and cooked the potatoes Saturday. After chilling in the fridge, they sliced easily and held their shape instead of crumbling as warm potatoes will do.

Last night friends and I went to the Tavern. I never get there on Monday night when meatloaf is the special, so I was delighted. While my companions dined on healthy salads, I had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach—that alone should tell you a lot about me. Today I had a wonderful lunch of cold meatloaf and German potato salad.

If what you eat and do on New Year’s Eve is predictive of the coming year, I have a definite preference: a quiet early supper with a friend or two, a meal slightly elegant (a notch up from comfort food), and no watching the new year in. So tonight good friend Jean came for an early supper. We had my trout spread for an appetizer—she put a hearty stamp of approval on it—and Coquilles Saint Jacques (scallops and mushrooms in a cream sauce with a gruyere/crumb topping)—rich and good. For dessert I offered Jean a choice of homemade toffee or fudge dipped in dark chocolate (nobody should have to make such a choice)—she chose toffee, and we toasted the New Year with a New Mexico champagne that she had brought. We talked of “cabbages and kings and many things” in a nice long, comfortable visit. Jean’s husband is terminally ill and in a care facility; we share a church and many friends and a history at TCU; we are sympathetic in our world views. There’s a never a lack of things to talk about, and I found it easy and encouraging to welcome the new year in with this good friend.

Of course, we didn’t really welcome the new year. As I write this, it is ten o’clock. By midnight I plan to be sound asleep. But it already feels like 2020. I think it will be a good year. My prayer for all of us is that 2020 brings sanity to our country and our government. Peace across the world would be wonderful, but it’s probably a long shot.

And for each of you, my wish is that 2020 brings you what you most want and whatever you need. Let us all make it a year of caring for each other, a year of sharing the love. Peace and sweet dreams, my friends.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Computer complications

The Christmas decorations are still up—we leave them until Epiphany—but otherwise I’m almost caught up from Christmas. Today, December 30, is one of those in-between days—not a holiday but a nothing day sandwiched between holidays. Hard to tell yourself to buckle down to work when the next holiday looms. But I have made a dent on the pile on my desk and am ready to get back to my various projects.

I had a tough lesson the other night about how much my daily life revolves around my computer. I tried to log on about ten o’clock at night but couldn’t get in. The screen showed the space for my code already filled in and flashed to the message that the code was incorrect, but it wouldn’t let me erase the incorrect code. It just kept entering strings of the number 2. Luckily, I had enough sense to know that it was late, I’d had a bit of wine, and things would look different in the morning.

But I sure had a sleepless night, worrying about the computer. At one point, I convinced myself I’d been hacked, and someone was making off with all my banking information even as I tossed and turned in bed. Then I thought it was malicious hacking—someone unknown who gets jollies from messing up people’s computers. What if it wiped out everything? I began to catalog what I’d lose—the final version of my current work-in-progress is with my editor for safe keeping (thank goodness!), a lot of my work is backed up in Dropbox, the blogs are available online. But all those family pictures from the last twenty years! And the manuscripts of my cookbooks—now I’d have to go to the actual book and retype to fix a dish. And a host of individual files I didn’t remember and wouldn’t miss until I wanted them.

Finally towards morning I slept fitfully and dreamt—of computers, of course.

Next morning, I avoided the computer. I didn’t want to know if it was going to do the same thing over again. But there was a glimmer of hope. Just before I turned it off, I got a message that said, “Something went wrong. Please try again later.” Well, morning was for sure later. I made tea, straightened the kitchen, talked to the dog—and finally took a deep breath and booted the computer. It started! I had to change my password—took a couple of tries—but finally I was in.

Still, it was wonky, still giving me strings of the number 2 and jumping all over when I tried to scroll down a list of files. In a moment of inspiration,  I abandoned the remote keyboard and opened the laptop to work on the real keyboard. Magic! Everything was fine. So now I’m working on the laptop, with the lid only partly open so that I can see the remote monitor—it’s like taking a blind typing test all those years ago in high school typing class (probably the most useful class I ever took anywhere). A new keyboard is scheduled to arrive today or tomorrow, so my computer complication was not the end of the world. But it was a close call.

I don’t necessarily want to become less dependent—I don’t think that’s possible—but I want a better insurance program. There are two experts in the family and several who are knowledgeable. One son-in-law  has a graduate degree in software engineering, and my oldest granddaughter works in the genius bar at an Apple Store. I guess I should ask for help. I don’t want any more sleepless nights.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas in the rearview mirror

Deer at the feeder, with the sun reflected on
the limestone cliffs above the river
The Alters have scattered to their various parts of Texas—and one to California—after five glorious days at a terrific house outside Blanco, right on the Blanco River, in the heart of the Hill Country. Seventeen of us—loud, noisy, tripping over each other and ecstatically happy—most of the time.

Friends asked me incredulously what we would do for five days in Blanco, which they described as a wide place in the road. But what a charming wide place, sort of old-timey looking and even boasting an emporium. At the Redbud Café on the square, I had one of the best tuna sandwiches ever. One day a few people went to Luckenbach, and on our final day we all descended on Fredericksburg. It’s probably been twenty years since I was there, and I found it a bit disappointing. Picturesque old stone buildings mostly house stores sporting tourist-bait, and the streets were crowded. And why do all those people bring their dogs for a dog of souvenir-hunting? Restaurants were on a long wait, so we ended up at a place that advertised wine, beer, and BBQ—but  had no wine! Colin ended up pushing me on my Rollator, which was a sight to behold I’m sure but kind of fun—and sure easier than me trying to walk all that way.

People from small families don’t understand that with so many of us, keeping occupired is rarely a problem. The house we were in offered plenty without venturing away. For the boys—we  have four ranging from fifteen to twelve—there was pool, billiards, foosball, ping pong, and a basketball hoop in the driveway. Many of us spent much of each day cooking—takes a lot to feed seventeen people!

In the evenings, at dusk, deer came to a feeder on the riverbank—timid, graceful creatures who trusted us. Later most evenings we sat around a gas-fueled fire pit—it was warm and nice during the day but evenings turned downright chilly. Some evenings ended with card games around a huge table in front of one of the fireplaces. And then we each went our way—four bedrooms in the main house and two in the guest house.

In a fully equipped kitchen—four ovens, two refrigerators (one of them commercial) we fixed tacos, tamales, a full turkey dinner, and chili—notice a tendency there? We munched on leftovers for breakfast and lunch, tamales being the most popular breakfast food. But there were cinnamon rolls and cornbread, all kinds of delights. My problem with all that cooking is I find it hard to let go—after years of feeding this gang, I find myself on the sidelines, partly because of my walker and partly because the next generation takes over the kitchen and does it their way. They produced great food, while I perched at a corner of the big island with my computer so that I was in the midst of the action if not actually part of it.

We had so much to take—clothes, food, and gifts—that most families came in two cars. On the way down, Jordan and I had fun showing off various Texas sites and features to Dylan, the California sister who had only visited briefly before. On the way home, we had a great adventure when we stopped at Dutchman’s Hidden Valley, a sprawling treasure of a store, butcher shop, candy shop, restaurant—practically everything you could want. Endless shelves  held a variety of salsas and mustards and preserves. An enticing  counter smack inside the front door offered hand-dipped chocolates and homemade fudge—I found the chocolate-covered orange peel that I love. We came away with cheese, bison kielbasa and summer sausage, and chocolate, of course.

All good things come to an end, and it’s always good to get home but also always sad to mark the end of a much-anticipated family gathering. A lovely dinner with good friends last night helped to stave off my sadness but I came home late to a wonky computer (lay awake in the night worrying about that!) and even an electric toothbrush that wouldn’t work. In the cold light of day, I have fixed the toothbrush, ordered a new remote keyboard, and relished a sandwich of the corned beef from Zabar’s that Dylan brought. I guess Christmas 2019 is now a happy memory.
Christmas dinner

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A near-perfect Christmas day

I hope your Christmas Day was as wonderful as ours. We spent the first hour or so waiting for stragglers to awaken so we could open the mammoth pile of gifts under the tree—seventeen people make for a lot of presents.

dinner rols ready to bake
Christmas isn't Christmas without cheeseball
But the best part of the day was yet to come. Most of us spent it in the kitchen cooking together. Christian did a turkey in the air fryer; Dylan spatchcocked a smaller turkey, seasoned it with herbs, and did it in the oven. Megan made her classic apple pies, and Lisa her green bean casserole and the northern-style bread stuffing I love. Christian helped me with my mother’s roll recipe—it takes three risings, rolling out by hand, a lot of work and it makes a lot of mess.Melanie made a coconut meringue pie and washed a ton of dishes, including four cookie sheets.

We stumbled over each other in the kitchen and drank wine or some kind of drink made with Prosecco. We tasted and tested and commented. Gravy was a communal effort, the dripp8ngs from Christian’s turkey plus some prepared bought from HEB and seasoning decided upon by all. Christmas music played—all the old favorites from what sounded to me like Bing himself. Snacks were put out—the traditional cheeseball, a jalapeno dip, sausage and cheese, and children wandered in and out, wondering when dinner would be ready and what could they snack on and could thy please have a real Bellini. The answers were soon and chasse and no to the Bellini.

our bountifulbuffet
Dinner was great—the turkey moist, the gravy rich and plentiful, the potatoes smooth and creamy. An updated green bean casserole, a broccoli-rice casserole, truffle mac and cheese. And that ubiquitous cranberry sauce from can. Apple pie, coconut meringue pie, wine cake—who could ask for more. And an all-hands effort to clear the table, ended with Jamie doing what he likes to do alone—cleaning the kitchen.

Now it feels like midnight, though it’s barely past eight, and there’s a rousing card game going on, with most kids involved. Others are sitting by the fire, and a few ventured out into the evening cool.

Yep, it’s as near perfect as any Christmas I’ve known in my long years. Whatever your faith and preference, I hope the holiday message of love and hope sings as clear and loud at your house as it does at mine.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Random December memories…

Longtime special friends Martha and Dick Andersen, who know well my affinity for all things Scottish, sent me a Scottish Santa tree ornament this week. To my delight, it is by folk artist Jim Shore. More than a few years ago Shore’s Christmas figures—Santa, angels, snowmen—were the rage in Texas, or maybe I just thought that because I had a friend who carried his work in her gift shop. My great splurge one year was to buy a Saint Nicholas figure. A year or two later I looked for a tree ornament for a friend who collects angels but could not find a single Jim Shore angel ornament. I assumed his popularity had peaked and waned, so I was surprised to get this wonderful figure.

A web search showed me how wrong I was. Shore has gone from a regional artist with a few subjects to a one-man industry, with a craft studio, a superstore, an affiliation with Amazon, and contracts with Disney, Peanuts, Coca Cola and other name brands. His Heartwood Creek brand is now internationally known. But he still relies on themes and patterns from folk art—quilting, rosemaling (stylized painting on wood, a Scandinavian artform), and tole painting.

It’s a Jim Shore Christmas at my cottage. Want to see more of his work? Here’s a link: https://jimshore.com/pages/shop-by-type

I had a second nostalgia trip this morning when a friend confessed to one of those incongruities that can creep into fiction—she had mentioned the Golden Gate Bridge (I think that was the bridge) in a story set several years before the bridge was built. That triggered a memory of the Dorothy Johnson short story, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,”—I have a vague memory that Johnson had a Congressman witness an Old West gunfight and then head for the airport. It was corrected before publication, but the memory is rattling around in my head.  One mention led to another, and it turned out another friend is a huge fan of the film version of that story  but knew nothing about Johnson’s other work. Now she’s reading one of the short story collections.

Dorothy died in 1984, and her work, once widely heralded and filmed, is now pretty much unknown. Her most famous short stories, in addition to Liberty Valance, are “The Hanging Tree,” “A Man Called Horse,” and “Lost Sister,” her take on the sad story of Cynthia Ann Parker’s return from Indian captivity to white society. Western author Jack Schaefer wrote a classic introduction to her stories, describing the “singing sentence” at the end which causes readers to gasp with surprise and delight.

I was privileged to know Dorothy. Met her at Western Writers of America meetings and developed a correspondence with her. After her death, I gave my thick Dorothy Johnson file to Sue Hart of the University of Montana, who did a documentary on Dorothy’s work. My folder included not only letters but research notes for two introductions to short story volumes and the text of a monograph.

So this morning, Dorothy came galloping back into my memory, half falling off her horse as she did on her letterhead photo. A pleasant trip into the past. I wish I’d written that book about her. The memories are fuzzy now, the people who knew her well all gone.

Christmas is a time for making new memories and treasuring the old. Tomorrow night my entire family will be gathered under one roof. Lots of memories to be made. I am like a kid waiting for Santa, fidgety with anticipation.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Pushing back my boundaries

Yesterday was, for me, a busy day, though ten years ago I’d have probably thought it was an easy day. Jordan, neighbor Mary, and I went to an HEB superstore—really called HEB Plus—some twenty miles away and then out to lunch. I was home long enough to sort of catch up on the day’s emails and make sure all at my desk was in order. Then a quick nap, put together an antipasto try to take to a party, and was off to a small gathering with longtime friends—didn’t get home until after nine, which is late for me to be out. Lesson learned from the day: I rely on my desk time to keep my world in order, and if I’m too long away I feel I’m losing control. I loved everything I did yesterday but always felt sort of out of kilter. Does that make sense, or does it sound like the lunatic ravings of a recluse in the making?

We set out about ten in the morning for HEB. Why go that far for groceries? Because these stores are bigger and offer more than most groceries. Mary pronounced it Central Market only cheaper (they are owned by the same company)—I would add it’s Central Market on steroids. We didn’t actually buy much. The week preceding Christmas is not a good time to shop—none of us planned to cook much at home this week. But I now want to study the recipes I’ve marked to try and go back list in hand. I want to buy some of that delectable fresh bread and study the various salmon cakes. I want to buy fresh gulf oysters and pork that, according to the sign, has no additives, antibiotics, or hormones. Freshly made casserole dinners for two and all manner of fresh salads. Jordan was intrigued by the shredded rotisseries chicken and announced we would soon have chicken enchiladas since she wouldn’t have  to shred the chicken herself. The store has prepared things for the quick cook but an equal offering of basics for those of us who like to do our own preparation.

The evening’s gathering was to be a happy hour with three longtime friends. It turned into a full-fledged meal at which we lingered at the table, exchanging gifts, talking about the holidays, how we came together, and other such. Our hostess served us homemade cauliflower soup with caraway seeds, spiced pumpkin bread, and  a green salad with walnuts and craisins. I planned my antipasto platter for the happy hour several days in advance. I wanted to upgrade the way I serve meat and cheese, piling it in a crowded platter rather than laying out neat slices. I chose salami, mortadella, a  Gouda, and provolone and lightened the platter with tiny tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumber slices, and segments of small sweetie oranges, with a dip of homemade pesto, sour cream and a dab of mayonnaise.

Getting home at 9:30, I barely had time and energy to once again organize my desk, before I fell into bed. This morning I started the day with a list of small chores to be done—and a fresh new haircut. Life is hectic this week, even at my slow pace.

Monday, December 16, 2019

A December day in Texas

‘Twas  a dark and stormy night—oops, no. I got carried away. It was a cold morning, slightly damp, and most discouraging. Another good day to stay in. Makes me think how fortunate I am to have that choice to make and to have enough “busyness” at home to keep me happy.

Though I confess I’m not that busy. A neighbor posted a picture of herself making a face on Facebook—not a happy face—and wrote that was what she thought of folks who have their Christmas shopping done, presents wrapped. Shhh! Don’t tell her, but I am one of those. There are still a couple of presents that have me biting my nails to see if they’ll arrive in time—one for a gathering tomorrow night, and I’m losing hope on that one even though the tracking says between the 16th and 20th. Another gift I thought perfect for old and dear friends in Omaha has apparently disappeared into a black hole. It may brighten their days in the dark of February.

Jordan and I are compulsive list makers—it’s a gene that Megan happily confesses she missed. But we have lists of groceries to be bought tomorrow, groceries at the end of the week, who’s cooking what when we all get together, what we’re having for dinner each night that all seventeen of us will be under one roof—yikes! Melanie even did a spread sheet, and to my alarm it read, “Breakfast on your own.” I asked Jordan to put cottage cheese on the shopping list.

Meanwhile, today I did odds and ends—some author-like chores, including looking for a picture I’ve had trouble locating and getting what head start I could on my neighborhood newsletter—but mostly Christmas. I’ve wrapped the last three presents (excluding those not yet arrived), written a few Christmas cards, figured out what to do about the last person on my list. My wrapped Christmas presents are pitiful—if you’ve seen that ad where a youngster about five holds forth in a hardware store and in one climactic moment hands a customer a clumsily wrapped gift with paper going every which way, you know what my packages look like. I strive for tight, neat corners, but somehow, I never get there. My daughters’ packages are always neat and square with fantastic bows, while I confine myself to red yarn. And, really, I like gift bags the best.

A lovely letter from an elementary school friend—we also went to church together for years—cheered me today. She and I share a love of Lake Michigan, and we’ve reunited on Facebook—one of the great pleasures of social media—but we’ve never directly communicated before. Now we share hip troubles—she is scheduled for January surgery—and I have been encouraging her about the benefits, not negative aspects, of a walker. She wrote of her appreciation, and I was grateful. It’s the season for spontaneous and unexpected communication, whatever we can do to bring a little joy into someone else’s life—not just those who need joy, but those who don’t expect to hear from us. The unexpected always brings special pleasure.

Tonight I ate the last of the coffee beef stew—even better tonight. The recipe called for three bay leaves, and by golly, I got all three in my modest portion tonight. And then Scottish shortbread from the gift basket the neighborhood association brought me in appreciation for my work on the newsletter. It’s also a bountiful season.

As we move into Christmas week, I am continually struck by how timely the theme of the message from our church is: “Be not afraid.” The words of the Angel to Mary, and the words to Joseph as he considered marriage to a young woman already pregnant. Those word have great meaning in our day and age, when fear is all around us, and we must fight to prevent it from shaping our lives. Be not afraid—the Lord is with us.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday cooking and 4 a.m. thoughts

Cacio e Matteo--tasted better than it looks

No surprise that I spent much of the morning cooking, since it’s Saturday. I’ve just finished Brewed Awakening, the eighteenth in the Coffeehouse Mystery Series. I’m a big fan of cozies—really well-done ones, not the silly, cutesy ones. Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse series is one of my favorites, and this was no disappointment. I recommend it if you have time for a novel this time of year.

The Coffeehouse mysteries all have recipes at the end, but I have a problem with them. Kindle doesn’t let you cut and paste. So I went to the web site and found the recipes—but they are simply descriptions that link you back to the Kindle text. I thought Coffee Beef Stew sounded so good, I laboriously copied the recipe by hand and then typed it into my computer, so I’d have it.

You may think beef stew is beef stew and what can you do differently. Well, this one calls for marinating the meat in a cup and a half of black coffee and later adding a half cup to the stew. Since I don’t drink coffee, I asked Christian for two cups. He texted back, “That’s an awful lot of coffee,” and I replied that it was for the marinade. So he dutifully came out with two cups of ground coffee. I said no, I needed brewed, and he looked considerably relieved. “You were about to use my whole supply,” he said.

Other touches that distinguish this stew—2 tsp. vinegar, cooked with that half cup of coffee. And you don’t just dump everything in, the way I’ve made stew for years. You cook the meat in broth for 90 minutes, add carrots and onions and cook for 15 minutes, add potatoes and cook for 20. At the end you add a half cup of frozen corn kernels and a Tbsp. of butter. It looks and smells delicious. I’ll let it sit in the fridge and “ripen,” until Sunday supper.

The recipe calls for new potatoes. Jordan couldn’t find them. She got small Idaho potatoes, which I cut up. Not sure what difference that will make, but I’d have preferred the tiny new ones. I suspect the flavor is different and the cooking time. Saw some a week ago in the market, but none today.

Tonight I’ll make Cacio e Matteo from the same book. Cacio e Pepe is one of the simplest pasta sauces in terms of ingredients—olive oil, garlic, pasta, cheese—and one of the most difficult to get right. I’ve tried it twice—nailed it one time, failed utterly the second time. Accomplished Italian chefs will tell you it’s all in the twist of the wrist as you marry pasta and cheese. This version is supposed to be  little simpler and calls for Italian herbs, not usually used.

Last night at 3 a.m. I would have told you my cold was gone—no congestion, no coughing no sore throat. At 3:30, it was all back. I had gotten up to use the restroom; then Sophie banged her water dish on the floor, indicating an immediate need for a refill. Next I spilled my own water glass and had to mop it up. I was up long enough to lose that sleep fog, and with the return of coughing, congestion, and sore throat I was awake. But I was more sensible about it, including taking  cough drop.

Still I was awake. I remembered an article I had seen about a member of the House of Representatives calling for Moscow Mitch to recuse himself from the impeachment trial because he had said he would work closely with trump’s defense lawyers, in violation of the oath he will be required to take. The House member is female, a former sheriff, and I conjured up a wonderful vision of her storming onto the Senate floor, backed up by two marshals (if this were a novel, they’d be burly, of course) and arresting him. It was a lovely comforting vision at 4 a.m., and I went back to sleep. Maybe it will become a reality. I think the pre-judgement of senators will become a real issue between now and the trial.

Sophie and I both slept late, but when I turned over about 8:15 this morning I found her lying by my bed, patiently waiting for me to wake up so she could go outside. She’s a good dog, and I must go feed her supper.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Pity parties, dogs, and car batteries—what a mix!

My tireless squirrel chaser

I threw myself a party today—a pity party. My annoying cold turned into misery in the middle of last night, and, after sleepless hours and wild dreams when I slept, I woke exhausted. Jordan and I were going with neighbor Mary to explore the HEB superstore in nearby Hudson Oaks this morning, but I cancelled. I didn’t have the oomph to do it.

That trip has become almost a joke. The first time we were to go, Mary was sick; then Jordan was sick; so today I said it was my turn! We will try to go Tuesday; pray God I feel better. I don’t feel bad, but I don’t feel good—ever been there?

Sophie, on the other hand, had a delightful morning. The squirrel population in our yard quadrupled overnight—they were everywhere, in the trees, on the roofs, darting here and there. Sophie could not contain herself. At first, I thought it was fine because she was working off energy, but that shrill barking became annoying even to me and I had no doubt what the neighbors thought.

Jordan and I both tried several times to lure her inside with cheese, usually a surefire solution, but she absolutely ignored us. I’m not sure she even heard us. In the late morning, I noticed her slowing down, lying on the grass to stare at the squirrels. At some point, she snuck into Jordan’s house and drank two bowls of water—which explains why she didn’t come to the cottage for water. That’s one way I often capture her.

Her morning workout was so strenuous that the sidewalk in the back yard is covered with muddy prints, and when she finally came in—after lunch—she panted heavily for a good twenty minutes. The rest of the day she’s slept, apparently tired out by it all. So am I, and I slept for two and a half hours this afternoon.

A bright note; the other day I set out to do some errands, only to find that my car wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. I am the original little old lady from Pasadena who only drives her car to church—I don’t even do that. We have tried to remember to start it occasionally, but apparently, we weren’t consistent enough. My insurance said they had a policy rider that covers that for only $6 a year—but I didn’t have it (I do now). Finally I called the folks down the street--J&N Auto Services. And yay for them!

I called one day when they were busy in the morning, and I was going to be out of pocket in the afternoon, so I said I’d call the next morning. I didn’t have to—they called me at 8:00 a.m. and asked, “Is this a good time?” I said “Of course,” and a young man was here within minutes. When I asked if I could call the office to give them my credit card, he said, “You don’t have to pay. It’s just down the street.” Wonderful neighborhood business, and I hope many will patronize them.

Tomorrow will be a better day! I just know it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A soliloquy on winter mornings

Winter, for me, somehow seems most heartless in the mornings. Growing up in Chicago, winter mornings were cold with deep snow. When I was quite young, I didn’t think much about cold mornings but anticipated going sledding. We lived in a park with a small hill that was just right for a five- or six=year-old to sled.  By the time the neighbor children and I reached ten or eleven, we were bored with the hill’s smallness.

My mom used to save statistics she found in the newspaper about how much soot fell per square foot in Chicago during the winter. I was young long enough ago that many households still used coal for heat. We did at least until I was in my teens, and my dad would get up extra early to light the furnace and shovel coal. And snow never stayed white for long—all that burning coal turned it a dirty gray.

In Missouri, where I was in graduate school in the small town of Kirksville,  winter mornings were even worse. Everyone in that town burned coal, and I remember waking up and looking out the window and wishing just once I could see something over than that vast expanse of gray snow.

I think I found the kind of winter mornings I dreamt of in Santa Fe when the children, as teens and older, and I would go for Christmas. Eventually those became ski vacations, though I never went near the slopes—couldn’t bear the thought of the ski lift nor of standing on top of a mountain and plunging down it. But the snow was clean and deep, and the air was that crisp cold.

By contrast, winter mornings in Texas should be easy, but I have let myself become spoiled. I have pushed those extreme cold memories so far back that I moan and groan on mornings like we had today. Thirty-seven and wet, dismal, damp, bone-chilling. Today, it set the mood for a stay-at-home day, and I cancelled plans to go to a breakfast meeting. Of course by noon, things changed, and the sun came out, though it’s been cold all day. But we didn’t get the snow that had been promised—and I am just as glad.

When my children were little, we had a beloved housekeeper who used to predict cheerfully that it would “fair off,” and sure enough today, it faired off enough that I felt guilty about not doing my errands. But I’ll do them tomorrow when it’s supposed to be warmer.

Even Sophie with her thick curly coat doesn’t like the cold. Tonight she doesn’t want to go outside, though I have tried to explain  that she needs to go pee now, because we aren’t going at three in the morning. She is curled up in a chair, regarding me with baleful eyes. I’ll have to resort to bribery with a piece of cheese.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself even before the weather turned, because I’ve been fighting off a cold. A couple of nights ago I couldn’t sleep because a scratchiness in my throat kept making me cough. It turned briefly into a sore throat, then just a tightness in my throat, and tonight I am left with just an annoying cough. Wish I knew what I did with that abundant supply of cough drops I used to have.

Jordan and I had a lunch fiasco which didn’t brighten the day. I opened one of those boxes of tomato soup from Trader Joe’s. It turned out that the foil covering was punctured before I opened it, and I had stored the soup in the pantry, not the refrigerator, We didn’t figure all this out until I’d taken several spoons full and found it quite good. But discussion led us to figure out that neither of us opened it, and that was a bad thing. Jordan refused to eat it, and I threw out mine, hers, and the remainder. I hate to waste food!

Sophie has just gone outside and quickly come back in, and Jacob has brought me some cough drops. All is well with the world—I hope it is in your world too.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Breaking the rules

For bloggers, there is one cardinal rule: avoid religion and politics. Tonight I am breaking that rule because those two subjects are what’s on my mind, so closely intertwined that I cannot separate them. As I have often said, my faith dictates my politics. And roughly quoted from Richard Rohr, my faith compels me to speak out.

Our minister’s sermon this morning took as text the words of the angel to Mary, from the Book of Luke: “Be not afraid.” It is so easy in these trouble times to be governed by fear. Indeed, fear is a tool used by others to shape our lives, from the politician’s mouth to the commercial world. We are afraid of change, of wars with which we are continually threated, of climate change which surrounds us, of disease, of immigrants. For heaven’s sake, in this age, I am afraid of traffickers who kidnap innocent teenagers. There is plenty in today’s world to fear.

Perhaps it is because of that fear that the underlying message of Christmas resonates with me particularly this year. Christians have heard all their lives that God’s gift to us of his son brings hope. And in spite of the fearful world we live in, I find that I am filled with hope. I am sure that we are going through our own Dark Ages but will emerge triumphant on the other side. Rohr says that the dark is necessary to the light—we must know fear to recognize hope.

For me, hope has a particular meaning tonight—or target, if you will. I hope for the preservation of our democracy, the defense of our Constitution. For that hope to become a reality, some false gods—read Republicans—are going to have to topple. And it may take every American to make that happen.

As the Congress moves forward with impeachment proceedings, I am baffled by the Republicans and the cult followers who defend Mr. trump. It seems to clear to me that the House Committee, under Adam Schiff, has proven his culpability beyond a doubt. His defenders have no defense so they resort to empty arguments, like ignoring the will of the people who elected trump. As Stephen King points out, he lost the popular vote by some three million and is only president because of the antiquated electoral college, which King likened to a one-mule wagon in an age of jet transport.

Because they have no solid defense, Republicans resort to several empty arguments, among them the accusation that the impeachment proceedings are illegal, a witch hunt, a politically motivated attempt to remove the president. The proceedings, however, are following the dictates of the Constitution and are, far from a witch hunt, a legal proceeding. As someone pointed out this morning, trump is not being impeached because most Americans hate him—he’s being impeached because he has violated his oath of office and abused the power of his office. Whether or not obstruction of justice is part of the final articles of impeachment remains to be seen, but he is also clearly guilty of it. But it is not hate—being booed at a ball game is hate.

If the Senate votes to acquit, as they may well—another thing that boggles my mind—we will have no recourse except the voting booth, and a fervent prayer that the elections are not so corrupted as to sweep trump and his henchmen into office for another term.

Another thing that is not mentioned on either side of the aisle but seems increasingly clear to all who will recognize it: the president’s mental state is rapidly deteriorating, a judgment confirmed by mental health professionals. But that’s a whole other bag of worms.

I guess this is where hope comes in—hope backed by faith and supported by the actions of every American. Time to be proactive.

Forgive me for breaking the rules. I don’t do it often. Usually I am Pollyanna.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

A day of domestic disasters

Diner tonight: lamb meatballs from the freezer, with an
impromptu tzatziki sauce, and fresh 
beets and greens with butter and lemon
Only thing that went right all day

Ever have a day when everything seems to go wrong? Nothing big, just little stuff. Today was such a day for me.

It started with wrapping Christmas gifts. I targeted four large, heavy gifts that would be my goal for the day. Too big for bags, each required wrapping the old-fashioned way.  I thought it would be a relief to get them done, but whatever could go wrong did. I dropped the scissors or Scotch tape repeatedly--bending down to get them from a seated walker is sometimes an iffy experience. I had to cut the paper on the coffee table, the only surface I have that is large enough, except maybe my kitchen cutting board, and I was afraid that would get the paper greasy. But the paper, too long wrapped around a cardboard tube, had a life of its own and rolled up and fought back as I tried to cut it. The result was uneven jagged edges—not pretty on a wrapped package. For at least one package, I cut the paper and then realized I had not measured correctly--a wasted piece of paper unless I find small packages that need to be wrapped.

Bending over the coffee table from my Rollator made my back ache, so when I got the paper cut, wrapped around the package and secured, I moved it to my desk where I can work more comfortably. Except the one breakable package slipped out of its wrappings and crashed onto the floor—I didn’t hear the tinkling of something broken, so I just went ahead and rewrapped it. We’ll see on Christmas morning if it’s intact.

Inevitably the scissors and tape would be on the coffee table when I needed them on the desk, and vice versa. It took me an extraordinarily long time to wrap four gifts. Then I decided I would wrap a fifth one—lightweight but an odd shape, as tall as it is wide. My best effort, after three or four tries, was a mess. I gave up and put it aside for Jordan.

Tonight I wanted to bake brownies for Jacob, so I asked for an eight- or nine-inch square pan from the kitchen. Jacob arrived with an oblong glass pan, and when I laughed and said, “That’s not a square pan,” he replied, “You don’t have to be mean about it.” Made me feel guilty but didn’t stop me from asking if he’s taken geometry yet. The answer was a mumbled “No.” He didn’t get my joke. I guess thirteen-year-olds are not tuned to grandparents’ humor. Eventually he came back with a nine-inch pan, and I mixed the batter.

Here’s where I’ll whine about aging. I have no strength in my left hand, the hand with a slight tremor. So when I held the mixing bowl in that hand and tried to scrape batter into the baking pan with my right hand, I dropped the mixing bowl into the baking pan, getting a good schmear of batter on the outside of the bowl. With patience and small steps I finally got most of the batter into the baking pan, but it was a chore. The reward was that the brownies are delicious—I’ve had two and had to restrain myself from having a third. I told Jordan she better come get some for Jacob before I eat them all, but she’s gone gallivanting with neighbors and Jacob is at a buddy’s house. Brownies are all mine.

In between my domestic disasters, I finished a mystery I was deep into, had a nap, and fixed myself a good dinner. The day was by no means a loss, but I’ll be grateful if my world goes better tomorrow. Christmas can really be exhausting, but hey! You all know that.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Keeping Christmas

Today is St. Nicholas Day, but it still was a surprise to me to find a beautiful poinsettia, a bottle of wine, and various goodies on the front porch. We have a delightful new neighbor who had told me to be sure to put my shoes on the front porch last night for St. Nicholas to fill with treats. I laughed and assured her I was too old for his treats, but she replied, “You never know.” And sure enough, St. Nicholas apparently doesn’t discriminate by age.

My new neighbor is a busy, stay-at-home mom to four children, two of whom she home schools. She’s a terrific and inventive cook, and she’s undertaken a lot of the renovation of their new-old home herself. I’m not sure she never sleeps.

Last night, the entire family—mom, dad, and four children—went through the neighborhood, leaving Christmas bags at homes of friends. Other treats went in the mail. According to my neighbor, her kids think this is the best part of Christmas.

With  the children’s help, she filled 88 bags with treats. Each student at the small parochial school one child attends was told to put their shoes outside their classroom—sure enough, Saint Nicholas visited the school.

At home, this family keeps Christmas without the commercial aspct. The children get their gifts today, not on Christmas Day when the focus is more on the Holy Infant. This morning, stockings were all full, but she reported that the at-home kids walked by without noticing. Tonight, they’ll pull goodies out of those stockings. Each child will get pajamas, socks, books, candy, and an age-appropriate analog watch. In her words, “No flashy gifts here. That’s a no way for my kids.”

Her whole approach to Christmas gave me pause as I considered the rapidly growing pile of gifts in my bedroom and the time and money I’ve spent figuring out what each of the sixteen might want. Or when I think back to my children’s early years when plenitude was the code of the day. My children’s father was Jewish, so we celebrated Hanukah and Christmas both. The religious celebration got lost in the logistics. I actually had charts—not smart enough for a database—for what each child got on each of the eight days of Hanukah and on Christmas Day. And Christmas morning was liable to be something elaborate, like the set of over-size Tinker Toys that Santa had made into a house big enough for all four of my angels.

And then there was the memorable year they found my stash in the guest room closet Ruined Christmas for them, they admitted.

My anticipation for this Christmas is high—we will all sixteen be together, and Christmas morning we’ll rip through a mountain of gifts with lightning speed. Gone is the lovely, drawn-out tradition of my childhood where we had a big breakfast before opening gifts and then opened one at a time, each person respectfully watching to see what someone else got. Of course, there were only four of us—not sixteen. I barely succeed in keeping them from opening everything on Christmas Eve. If you did that, what would you do Christmas morning?

But as we race through the present opening, I will be thinking of the way my new neighbors keep Christmas. May your Christmas be blessed with love that outweighs the commercialism.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Gearing up for the holidys—and a sour note

“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December/A magical thing. And sweet to remember/We are nearer to Spring than we were in September/I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”

― Oliver Herford

One of my favorite lines of poetry. Thanks to “Texas Booklover” on Facebook for bringing it to attention this holiday season.

I have a friend who spent Thanksgiving in Santa Fe. When someone asked what they did there, the reply was, “Well, we pretty much eat a meal and then sit around and talk about where we’re going to the eat the next meal.” To me, that’s pretty much what happens in the holiday season as well as in Santa Fe.

I’ve been dragging one foot reluctantly out of Thanksgiving, still eating turkey-and-blue cheese sandwiches, reheated potato casserole and green bean casserole. Even served a raggedy chunk of cheeseball for happy hour last night. Today, I think I’ll pretty much clean up the leftovers, except maybe for the cranberry cake that turned out to be a delightful surprise. Thanks to a neighbor for the recipe—you can watch for the recipe tomorrow in my “Gourmet on a Hot Plate” column. And yes, I baked it in my toaster oven.

But I’m also looking ahead to all food that speaks of Christmas. Spent a long, happy time last night paging through the December issue of Southern Living and cut out lots of recipes, half of which I will never make. I mean, really, who around here do I think will eat roasted oysters  with bacon-saltine topping? And do I really think I’m extravagant enough to serve beef tenderloin crostini or an eight-pound standing rib roast? Jamie, whose birthday is in January, loves prime rib but he rarely comes home for a birthday dinner. No, beer-cheese fondue is probably more my speed. Or maybe the family would like a good, old-fashioned trifle.

Meantime we have to eat until the big day—or week. Some restaurants are on my calendar—I had a lovely lunch yesterday at Nonna Tata, though my friends chided me for ordering potato salad at an Italian restaurant. “Where,” they demanded, “is the pasta?” Tonight I’ll have a low-key, early dinner with a good friend, and tomorrow night it’s a happy hour birthday celebration at a Clearfork restaurant. I’ll be ready to stay home and wrap packages this weekend. Sunday dinner? I’m thinking a Mexican casserole.

The other all-consuming December occupation of course involves gifts—buying and wrapping. It rarely makes me friends when I announce that my shopping is done, but it mostly is. I think only one grandson is a hold-out. And I have wrapped three gifts—a start. Being as compulsive as I am, I plan to spend this weekend wrapping. Trouble is that in the cottage, there’s precious little room for all those packages. I’d put them on the couch, but Sophie would bat them onto the floor when she wants to sleep there. She barely tolerates the Christmas pillow and bunny, although this morning when I got up, she was wrapped around that bunny. I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.

A decidedly un-holiday-like sour note this morning. We had a leak in our water meter box, on our side of the meter (of course! it’s never on the city side!). The plumber has “patched” it—his word—but warns that the next leak will probably mean replacing pipe (and digging up the lawn) all the way to the house. He speculates the pipe is original to the house, which makes it almost a hundred years old. As I count my blessings, I’m grateful that we can fix this without cancelling Christmas. I know that would be the choice in many households.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Brinner heralds the Christmas season

Two or three years ago a small group of friends got to talking about how good it occasionally was to have breakfast foods for dinner—pancakes, fried potatoes, bacon and sausage, and so on. The upshot was we had a pot-luck meal we christened “brinner.” Everyone brought a breakfast food to an evening gathering.

But then we all got busy, got together less, and no one mentioned brinner—until recently when someone suggested we should revive the tradition. So tonight, there was brinner with Jordan and Christian hosting.

One of the problems with such a meal is that everyone tends to bring sweet or starchy dishes. We had cinnamon rolls, that wonderful hash brown potato casserole, pancakes and syrup, carrot cake, and a cranberry cake. But one person balanced the meal by bringing bacon and sausages, and someone else contributed an egg-and-green chili casserole.

Wine flowed and so did conversation as we caught up with each other, discussed neighborhood doings, speculated about new neighbors who will be moving into our tight little area. We even spent time on changes in local traffic and parking regulations. No wonder one person, who will remain anonymous, broke into bars of “God  Bless America.”

A fitting way to mark the beginning of the holiday season. Jordan and Christian have their Christmas decorations throughout the house and a fresh green tree still in its wrappings, where it will stand in full splendor when decorated. Christian takes great care with decorating the tree, a project that sometimes takes him a week.

In the cottage of necessity I have a small artificial tree and am grateful for it, even though I have spent a long life railing against artificial trees. This year, when my tree came ou of the attic, I realized it has over the years grown scrawny, with a big gap in the middle. Plus half the lights no longer work. A new tree is on order and should be here soon.

Meantime I have touches of Christmas. When I was making the cranberry cake today, I reached for the salt on the shelf where I keep it over my work space and saw that Jordan had put a up Christmas plate, on a stand, that has special memories for me—probably at least forty years old, it pictures a family of mom, dad, three kids, and an infant in a carrier decorating a tree. It is of course me, the children’s father, and my four children. Jordan is the infant.

A glass brick with Christmas lights inside—how did they do that?—sits on an occasional table, a Christmas tree pillow and a soft, stuffed bunny in a Christmas outfit are in a chair (Sophie has a problem with that because it is her chair), and Santa Mac, a Scottish Santa, shares a bookcase top with a folk art Saint Nicolas. I feel very festive, and it’s wonderful to be surrounded with decorations that all carry fond memories.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it is Advent, a time of anticipation, of hope, of gratitude. A special times of the year.

“God bless us, every one.” With a tip of the hat to Tiny Tim.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Sophie and I are settled back in the cottage, after our adventure in Tomball. Colin, Morgan, and I set out this morning before nine o’clock under gray, drizzling skies. The drive offered another nice chance for me to visit with Colin. Morgan had her Air Buds or whatever in her ears, listening to music. It didn’t seem like a long drive, but it was—we were eleven minutes late to meet Jordan, Christian, and Jacob at the Health Camp in Waco.

Do not be misled. The Health Camp is anything but a health food restaurant—the menu is limited to various forms of burgers, a grilled chicken sandwich, Frito pie, and Frito pie salad. The last item puzzled us—Morgan and I could not envision adding lettuce to Frito pie. We all had burgers, but poor Jacob ate his (and a rich chocolate milkshake) in the car, babysitting Sophie. We would have chosen a patio table, but the skies were still threatening.

My kids are beyond good to ferry me back and forth as they do. Colin was expecting to drive me all the way to Fort Worth, but Jordan volunteered to meet him in Waco—about two and a half hours from Tomball and an hour and a half from Fort Worth, Christian and Jacob, hardcore Baylor fans, make the drive fairly frequently for football games.

Just as I was basking in the glow of how good they are to me, I realized everyone had a hamburger but me. Jordan and Colin each thought the other had ordered it. So that got straightened out, and I had my very own greasy cheeseburger—not usually my choice, but the kids love that place.

We were back in Fort Worth by a little before two, and by five-thirty I was unpacked, everything put away, and I’d had a nap. It’s called being compulsive. Jordan brought out some of the cheeseball she’d made for Thanksgiving dinner, and we had a delightful happy hour.

I would call the trip to Tomball a rousing success—I enjoyed it a lot, got some work done, ate more than I usually do, and slept a lot. Visited with people I enjoyed, got to sit by the lake, did a good bit of reading. Colin and Lisa and the grandkids waited on me to the point I felt over-indulged, but they were sweet and kind about it.

Every trip has its hitch—this time it is that my car and house keys are still in Tomball. I remember saying to Colin, “I’m putting my keys in the side pocket of the car. Don’t let me forget.” Of course, we both forgot until I got home and couldn’t find them. As Jordan pointed out, I never should have taken them in the first place—obviously, I didn’t need them.

Sometimes there’s a letdown coming back from even a short vacation, but none such here because I had such a warm welcome. Jordan had Christmas decorations up in the cottage and fed me a great dinner—yeah, you got it: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole.

I had a great time, but it’s good time, but it’s good to be home.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The morning after

I love that morning-after-the-holiday feeling. The pressure is off, though I readily admit with Lisa preparing the feast, I was under little pressure. Maybe it’s anticipation that adds a bit of spice to the holiday—waiting for company, waiting for the meal. Anyway, that feeling is gone by morning, and I feel free to sleep late and sort of float through the day.  Early this morning, a dense fog contributed to the lazy atmosphere. It has gone now, but the day is cloudy and uninspiring.

I may not have had the hostess pressure yesterday, but I do want to protest that I did my part for the meal. Because I asked how I could help from a sitting position, I got the great privilege of peeling apples and potatoes. When Lisa plunked the bag of apples down in front of me, I asked weakly, “All those apples?” She smiled (a bit mischievously) and said, ‘Yep.” And do realize how many potatoes it takes for mashed potatoes for thirteen? I’m now even more in favor of mashing red potatoes with the skins on!

Dinner was traditional and so good—I think I forget from holiday to holiday how much I like turkey and gravy. And Lisa, despite being a Texan, made ‘northern” white-bread stuffing—my favorite dish perhaps of the whole meal. An updated version of green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, pistachio salad, and rolls. All wonderful. And of course it had been preceded by bountiful appetizers—a vegetable platter, a sausage-and-cheese platter, a French onion dip, hummus, guacamole—need I go on?

I haven’t yet had a piece of apple pie. After dinner, which we ate about 3:30, I suddenly found myself alone in the dining room—I think boys had gone to watch football and the ladies to see Lisa’s parents’ new house. Turkey had worked its proverbial effect, aided by a bit of wine, and made me sleepy. Plus the a/c was running full steam, and I was freezing—my internal thermometer does not sync with the rest of this family. So, full and sleepy, I snuck off for a nap. After a bit, I was vaguely aware of the hum of conversation of many voices but too comfortable and cozy to rouse myself. Two hours later, I joined everyone, just as some guests were leaving. I’d totally missed dessert.

Among the guests was a longtime friend of Colin’s—they tended bar together in their salad days—and his wife and two teenage sons. Alirio, a native of Colombia, just retired after twenty-two years with the Border Patrol. Somehow, after my nap, I ended up at the now-clear dining table with those two—lots of catching up to do, but we also talked about everything from raising kids to politics. For at least two hours. Serious discussion, interspersed with bits of humor—no, Alirio, I did not “yell” at you all those years ago for speaking Spanish at the dinner table, when I was trying to encourage Central American students to speak English. I gently suggested.

It was the kind of sustained exchange of ideas I think you only have with people you don’t see often. I did ask once if Alirio had anything to do with immigrant caravans, and he put his head in his hands and said, “It was horrible, horrible.” After a minute, he added, “Still is.” I didn’t pursue it.

One big takeaway for me: Colin and I, though basically in agreement, look at things from different perspectives: he, once a science major and now involved in big business, looks at process and results, whereas I, after a lifetime in the humanities, focus on the human aspect of politics, as well as everything else. It was an evening that will long stick in my mind, and a thoroughly good holiday.

My hope is your holiday, whatever, wherever, and with whoever, was equally rich.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Happy hour by the lake
Sunny, clear, and gorgeous today, but the lake is not mirror-smooth like it was last night when Colin and I at out there with two dogs and watched dusk turn to dark. The wind is up today, and the surface of the lake is ruffled, the windmill (decorative only) spinning fast. Even the swimming pool has tiny waves. Lisa has suggested happy hour by the lake tonight, with a fire in the pit. We’ll see how that goes.

Sophie and I are adjusting to different schedules than we keep at home. In the cottage, I usually take a short after-dinner nap and then work until eleven or twelve. Here, I’m in bed at ten—and I’m the last one up in the house. I laugh at Sophie—having once been shut into the bedroom, she won’t go in there with me unless I bribe her with a treat. But about nine o’clock, she decides it’s bedtime and crawls into her crate. When I come into the room, she looks askance at me as if to ask, “Why are you up so late?” But after that first rocky night of being in strange surroundings, we both sleep soundly all night. And she no longer sits anxiously outside the closed door when I disappear into the bathroom—the first day we were here she didn’t want me out of her sight and seemed to think the bathroom was a black hole which would swallow me.

For me, adaptation is a bit more difficult. At home in my cottage, I can roll around on my Rollator and fix my meals, take care of myself; Sophie can come and go out the patio door at will. Here, the house is on many levels, so I pretty much live in the section that has the family room, bedroom I’m using, and bathroom. For morning tea, meals, and the like I have to depend on others—and it makes me feel like a bother, though all four Tomball Alters are sweet about taking care of me. And about walking Sophie—when she comes to me and barks, I have to call for someone to come take her outside on a leash. No fenced yard. It’s a learning lesson in gratitude—gratitude that this branch of my family cares enough to take care of me and my dog and cater to our needs, cares enough to have me visit them even though my visit entails inconveniences.

Adaptation has been good in another way. Everyone here is busy—Colin working from home, Lisa getting ready to feed a multitude tomorrow, the kids busy with whatever teens do, from phones to working out. Where at home I can distract myself with everything from cooking to Christmas shopping, here there are no distractions. I’ve gotten a lot of work done, some of it things I’d been putting off.

Dogs and people, I’ve decided, are adaptable creatures, if they want to be.

No happy hour by the lake. Clouds came out in the afternoon, and by five, it was almost full dark. And then we were off to Lisa’s parents house, with Morgan driving that short distance, carefully and slowly. It was fun to see the house—they just moved in last July after some family remodeling updated floors, counters, paint, and the like. Torhild, Lisa’s mom, is quite happy with it. Now, we’re home, bellies full of Norwegian hamburgers and noodles. It’s time to sleep.

‘Night all. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with thanks for many blessings and brings you the kind of day you want—a turkey feast or a tofu turkey, a crowd or dinner for two. Make it your day!

Grandma and Grandpa's house across the field
Somehow   going there made me think of 
Over the river and through the woods
to Grandmaother's house we go