Thursday, October 31, 2019

Here’s what’s cooking at my house this week!

I admit to being a creature of habit. One of habits that has lasted for years is to plan meals ahead on Thursday and make out a grocery list, so that I can do the actual shopping on Friday. This schedule has the great advantage of leaving weekends free for cooking, reading, and whatever. So here are my ideas for cooking this week.

One night soon, just for me, shirred or baked egg. So easy, so good1

Baked egg

1 half slice good sourdough bread

A handful of baby spinach, cooked and drained

1 slice bacon, diced, cooked, and drained

2 Tbsp. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 large egg

1 tsp. cream or milk

Grease a small ramekin well. Toast sourdough and butter both sides. Shape toast into ramekin until it forms a lining in bottom of dish. Sauté bacon and drain, reserving a tsp. of grease to sauté the spinach. Cook spinach until just slightly wilted. Drain and cut into bite sizes pieces. Put spinach on toast; add cheese. Carefully break egg on top of cheese, being sure to keep the yolk whole. Add salt and pepper and pour cream or milk over egg to keep it from drying out.

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, until yolk is set but still runny. Before serving, top with bacon crumbles.

* * * *

For another night, a quick tomato sauce for pasta:

Quick and rich tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

6 anchovy fillets

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (or whole and chop them)

            Sauté garlic and anchovies in oil. Don’t skip or skimp on the anchovies. When they dissolve into the garlic and butter, you won’t taste fish or anything strong. They just add a nice, rich earthiness to your sauce.

Drain the tomatoes and save the juice for another purpose, like a pot of soup. Add tomatoes to pan, bring to a boil, and then cook on medium until sauce is slightly thick.

Should provide sauce for a pound of fettucine or spaghetti or four average servings.

* * * *

And for Sunday supper, an easy pork roast without an oven.

Pork roast without an oven

A colleague served this one night, and it was delicious. I didn’t believe him when he told me how he cooked it, so I tried it. Now it’s a family favorite, perfect for the tiny kitchen without an oven. And uses a cheap cut of meat. Can’t beat that.

2-1/2 lb. Boston butt roast, untrimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cups water

2 Tbsp. salt

Ask the butcher to cube the roast for you, if you have access to a butcher. Their idea of cubes is usually pretty big chunks, but it’s a start. You just have to cube the cubes until you get something the size you want—about an inch

Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the cubed meat and reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least an hour and a quarter, until all the water evaporates. The meat will look unappetizingly white, but cook it longer, stirring occasionally, and the cubes will develop a nice brown crust.

Serve with sauce below and lime wedges.

Garlic sauce:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

2 garlic cloves, pressed.

Salt and pepper—go easy on the salt, as the meat cooked in salted water, but I suggest at least a half tsp. pepper

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Storms—and pumpkin carving

Kids hard at work carving pumpkins
In the wee morning hours, deep thunder rumbled and grumbled across North Texas. The gods were having a fine time with their bowling in the heavens above, and I had a furry sleeping companion pressed up close to me. Of course, she was lucky that I allowed her in the bed after her earlier behavior. About one-thirty in the morning she decided she had to bark to go out. It was damp and cold, so I  let her out figuring she’d come right back in.

Not so—she lay on the deck and stared impudently at me. So I decided to fling open the refrigerator with great noise, so she’d know I was getting her cheese. One fling—and an icebox dish full of corn flew out. Corn and buttery juice all over the floor. So there I was—scraping up corn and mopping up juice, which is not easy from a rolling chair, in the early hours of the morning. I finally got her inside by slamming the door, pretending to lock her out. That brought her in a hurry.

Tonight was the annual great pumpkin carve-in, an event Jordan has hosted for several years. I fear, however, it has about run its course. In previous years, when the weather cooperated, it was held on the front porch, and young kids happily carved their pumpkins. Tonight was way too cold and wet to be outside—and those kids are growing up. The carvers were a high schooler, a middle school student, and a fourth grader (I think). Jacob was noticeably not among them, sitting on the couch, focused on getting to the middle school football game.

The snack table
For the adults, the party was a time to feast, and Jordan, with the help of others, put out a grand spread. Friends brought spinach dip, sausage, brie, chicken salad, love dip, etc., and I don’t know what all. Jordan made her bean dip and quesadillas for the kids. She talked of ordering pizza, but I doubt they needed it. I went in for a drink and some snacks, because I enjoy the company, but I was soon encouraged to go to the back room where the carving was. Once I got back there, the adults all went into the front room to visit. I was left with teenagers (and one younger) who really didn’t want to talk to me, and I had little to say to them. “What do you think about the congressional impeachment investigation” probably wouldn’t have gotten me much response. So I asked Jacob to rouse himself, which he did cheerfully, to help me out to the cottage, where I finished my supper with meatloaf and hearts of palm—an odd combination but good.

Tomorrow is Halloween, predicted to be cold (we’ll have our first freeze tonight) but dry. I’ll go in for the trick-or-treating, but I expect a repeat of tonight, and I’ll soon find myself back in the cottage eating meatloaf. It’s a lucky thing that it’s so good—made with onion soup—and I like it so much.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Having a pity party

It’s fashionable these days to style oneself as a victim—trump does it all the time, and so do his thug followers who are now crying about the process they wrote in the House rules. So I’ve decided today to call myself a victim, though I can’t quite identify the evil  villain.

Surely, it’s not the nurse who gave me two shots yesterday—flu and pneumonia. She’s someone I’ve known and respected for years, and her injections are always smooth. She said one in each arm, so I asked which one would get less sore. She said pneumonia, so that one went in the right arm. Wrong call.

About midafternoon both arms ached at the injection site, but by early evening those aches had faded, only to be replaced by severe pain in my right shoulder. I probably would have decided in a panic that my arm was about to fall off if it weren’t for the friends who had come by for a glass of wine. He said he’d had the same thing—and it was all in the shoulder, not at the injection site. Thanks to Phil for suggesting heat.

I’ve treated myself with short periods on the hot pad (my physician brother advises against extended heat) and Tylenol and wished I could take aspirin. I think I felt two tiny, tiny twinges at the injection site of the flu vaccine and nothing in the other arm. But my shoulder is still unbelievably sore and sensitive. Makes is really hard to function, so I just kept going back to bed. Perfect day for it, with the cold wet weather that makes you want to burrow in the covers. At least I don’t have to remind Jordan to water the new grass seed—that irritates her, and it’s getting watered by the heavens today.

One minute I tell myself I’m being a wimp and to straighten up. Then I remember that I was pretty stoic about severe hip pain before the doctors decided what to do about it, so my pain tolerance must be okay. Not my imagination--the shoulder really does hurt. I also tell myself I am not one to have those vague “I don’t feel well” days—going back to bed throughout the day is unusual for me, so my body must need the rest. Isn’t it funny that we feel guilty about not feeling well?

Sophie, probably affected by the weather and maybe sensing I’m not myself (dogs are pretty good about that), has slept all day, after one brief trip outside early in the morning. I just invited her to go again by opening the door, but she stood immobile and stared at me.

I am reminded of my sweet mom, who throughout my childhood had migraines—infrequent but severe. And she took to her bed for the day. When anyone asked about her, I would cheerfully tell them, “She’ll be all right tomorrow.” And she always was. So that’s where I am—I’ll be all right tomorrow and get back to the work I meant to do today.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The party’s over

Party atmosphere at Joe T.'s

It was a wonderful weekend, but now the Austin folks have left, the Burtons have gone to meet his parents for supper (at Joe T.’s again!), and I have put a meatloaf in my toaster oven. Back to routine. It was a real treat to have the Austin family here—they’re building a new house (and living in a two-room garage apartment) in addition to their already-busy lives, so it’s been a while since they’ve been here. If the app on my phone is correct, they are within a block of home as I write.

Had a great time at Joe T.’s last night. I am not sure I have ever seen that always-crowded restaurant so overrun with people. They were milling in the street, packed three deep on the ramp up to the patio. Party atmosphere was happy and celebratory—I suspect most of them were celebrating TCU’s stunning victory over Texas. In our little group, Brandon was the only aggrieved party, and he soon recovered his good spirits. I got to sit next to three grandsons—of course they had their heads buried in their phones.

Today a leisurely date, late breakfast. Christian made baggie omelets—really, you put two eggs in a quart-size freezer baggie, along with whatever else you want—chopped bacon, diced ham, grated cheese, diced scallions—scramble it up and drop into boiling water for 12 minutes. I like eggs
Christian's baggie omelet
not quite so cooked—Christian say I like them runny, but I prefer to say “soft”—so I would cook them a bit less. But the way it turns into an omelet is remarkable. We ate in shifts because you can only boil so many baggies at a time.

I’ve been tracking family members today. Jamie, my younger son, did a half Ironman in Waco today. His daughter reports that he finished, and all is well. A mother does worry about these things. My phone tells me they are in Hillsboro, on their way back to Frisco. More worrisome—my children’s half-sister had to evacuate the family farm in the hills above Santa Rosa, CA. Prayers going her way.

            So now I have an evening to read the mystery I’m half through and prowl through the newest issue of Bon Appetit. Sophie is snoozing—all the people this weekend wore her out. Oops—my timer just went off. Meatloaf’s done!

My resolve for the week: get down to serious work. I’ve been lollygagging. Hope everyone has a great week.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A lovely weekend

Sophie is hyped to have all the people and an extra dog around and showing her
excitement by acting like a crazy wild thing, leaping from lap to lap, running 
in circles, chasing the other dogs. Pure dog happiness
My blogging schedule—and every other schedule if I had one—is way off but for such a good reason. My Megan has come from Austin, bringing Brandon, Sawyer and Ford. I’d love to say the only reason they came is to see me, but there’s that little matter of the TCU/Texas game which is where they are right now. Megan is a loyal Frog fan, but both she and Brandon went to UT for law school, and he persists in cheering for the orange. Sawyer doesn’t care,  I don’t think, but Ford has long cheered for all things purple. Jacob remains ever loyal to his dad’s alma mater, Baylor, but is decked out today in a TCU hoodie.

Jordan and I started out the weekend early yesterday by treating ourselves to lunch at Press Café, a place I like a lot but have a couple of problems with. The menu is interesting, the food good (I really like the deconstructed tuna salad), but they don’t take reservations. Every nice evening that I long to sit outside, it’s too crowded. And inside is unbearably noisy. We went at eleven which seems to be the perfect hour between breakfast and lunch service—got a table right away and could hear each other. It was cold outside, but still lovely to sit inside by the windows and look out at trees and grass—and a huge fire in a barrel—rather than other buildings.

It's a weekend of feasting. The Austin family had to wait for Sawyer to get out of school at 4:30 but they hit the road immediately and were here just before eight. We thought the traffic might be bad because of the game, but not so. We rushed off to Pacific Table where we were seated at a booth I didn’t even know existed—tucked away behind the bar, at the very back of the restaurant. Just right for the six of us (Jordan and Christian had another event), and it was much quieter than the front of the restaurant. We came home to celebrate Ford’s thirteenth birthday with chocolate cake—and new TCU gear for Jacob and the Austin boys.

Today I went with Jordan to drop the football fans as close to the stadium as we could get. Traffic was horrible, and Jordan got a scolding from a policeman at the first corner where we tried to let them out. Then we went to McKinlay’s to pick up lunch—not as easy as it sounds, though we lucked into a “to go” parking spot. I waited in the car while Jordan went in—thirty minutes later she emerged. I amused myself by watching people and cars—they are scary drivers in the University Village parking lot—and by reading a novel on my phone.

While everyone was at the game—Jordan and Christian are watching at a friend’s house—I napped, just to keep straight my record of having done nothing constructive today. Tonight, the ritual dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s. For my family, it truly is a ritual. Jordan tells me we’ll sit outside so I can hear—while I freeze to death, although at five o’clock, it’s pleasant enough I have the door open. A last bit of fall.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Penny wise and pound foolish

I had dinner with a good friend tonight who wishes to remain anonymous—you’ll see why in a minute. Whereas I’ll order a chardonnay label that I like, she will often choose whatever is on the happy hour menu—often not a chardonnay. Tonight she asked the wait person what the house wine was and ordered that. Thinking I wouldn’t be a complete pain about it I agreed. She took one sip, looked at me, and said, “This isn’t very good chardonnay.” I told her I was never trusting her about the house wine again. When the bill came, we found out why it was the house choice: $3.75 a glass.

Reminded me of another friend who travels frequently and extensively, domestically and abroad. When we met for dinner recently, she insisted we had to go early enough for happy hour prices. And when we asked where everyone had parked, she revealed that she had refused a place almost in front of the restaurant because you had to pay there—so she walked a couple of blocks.

Excuse me, folks. I’m not rich, but I am old enough that I want a good glass of chardonnay and a convenient parking place. Call me extravagant if you want.

This has been a quiet week. Last week was full of social occasions—dinners out, guests at the cottage. This week, I have been home for four days, and for three of them Jordan’s sporadic appearances provided my only adult company. It’s okay because I have worked—my neighborhood newsletter took a lot of time!—and read and kept up with the unbelievable politics of our country. Enough to keep anyone occupied, but I was glad to go to supper tonight with someone whose company I really enjoy (bad wine or not).

Speaking of restaurants, my food-loving friends in Fort Worth will be sad to know that Terra on Crockett closed, a longtime Mediterranean restaurant. The couple of times I had dinner there were okay but not great, but at lunch they had an outstanding Mediterranean buffet—pricey, but really good. The turnover of restaurants on Crockett is amazing—and includes Patrizio’s which I still mourn though it’s been gone a while.

On the home front, Sophie had a spa day today. Bless WhiskerWashers who bring their portable salon to the house. Sophie’s special groomer is a man I know as Bobo. When I once told him we had to be careful because she’ll run given the chance, he—a large man and not young—said, “Then we’ll have to be really careful, because I can’t chase her.” Sophie is always excited to see him, and I have to say his kind manner brightens my day. As for Sophie running, yeah, she’d take a clear chance if she got it, but she’s less interested and less devious these days. Maybe as she ages, she realizes she has a darn good deal here. Tonight, her coat is soft, and she smells clean and wonderful. Won’t last, but it’s nice now.

I am having a great time on the NYTimes Cooking Community Facebook page—recipes, queries, comments, even such odd questions as “What’s your guilty pleasure in food?” See my Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog tomorrow for my answer to that. But I am delighted that I feel comfortable enough on the Facebook page to contribute—like the woman who asked what she could do with several tins of anchovies. My answer: make spaghetti sauce, make Caesar salad, put them in everything you can think of—they add an earthy flavor, and no one says, “Yuck! They’re anchovies in this.” They can’t tell.

My takeaway line from that page today: Bay leaves are the dryer sheets of the kitchen. Seriously, have you ever left them out of a stew? And did you notice a difference? I doubt it. I think they’re often so stale they do little for flavor. My anonymous dinner companion tonight pointed out that they do keep bugs out of your flour if you tape them inside the container.

Rain tomorrow. What joy! I hope it really happens.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Change—and new directions

No, don’t go! You’re not in the wrong place. This is still Judy’s Stew, only dramatically changed, even with a new name.. I’ve gradually been changing the look of my social media presence to reflect my change away from cozy mysteries and back to where I started—writing about women of Texas and the American West. So I thought a western look would be more appropriate.
The URL for the blog remains the same— but I’ve added a new title: “View from the Cottage.” When I was first in the cottage, I was recovering from surgery and got out very little, so what I saw of the world was viewed from the cottage. In my files, I’ve called the blog that ever since, and it’s true—my world view is as I see it from the cottage, which I guess distinguishes it from those who write from positions in the middle of politics or academia or the commercial world. It’s sort of an onlooker’s perspective. Anyway, changing the look seemed a good time to change the name.
              Change, though some resist it mightily, is usually a sign of growth, and that’s what I’m taking my writing change as. Mysteries were fine, I wanted to try my hand at them, and I think I did a credible job with fourteen either in print or available digitally. I certainly broke no sales records, but my books were consistently given four and five stars, and the comments I got encouraged me that I wasn’t embarrassing myself too badly.

But the inspiration was running out, and I knew I would never compete with younger, more dedicated authors, those who daily study their reviews and ratings, who compile statistics about what advertising works and what doesn’t, who take the business end of being a writer more seriously than I ever wanted to. It embarrasses me a bit that I wasn’t willing to do all that, to master the technology, but all I ever wanted to do was write and tell stories. Writing has, to me, always been my first calling (beyond being a mother), but it has always been second in a way—for years, I had a demanding—and satisfying—day job, so I wrote in the evenings. Now in retirement, I write at a more leisurely pace. Making room for reading and cooking and naps and lunches and dinner with friends. So the business side was low on my list.

In many ways, I see this change in focus as my career taking off in a second reincarnation at my somewhat advanced age. I have said I owe it to Debra Winegarten who, knowing she was dying, asked me to write her Alamo book for her. I did, and that book, The Second Battle of the Alamo, will launch March 7. Working on that book drew me back to history and westerns and women, as I realized how much I was enjoying working with the material. The publisher liked the manuscript well enough that they gave me a contract for another book—tentatively titled “The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas.” And they issued contracts to reprint five of my historical novels about women of the American West. I said to a friend that I felt a bit that I was riding on a dead woman’s coattails—Debra died over a year ago—but the friend reassured me by saying, “Debra cracked the door for you, but you opened it with the manuscript you turned in.” Heady stuff.

Anyway, here I am—writing about women of the West and now thinking ahead to my next title, even while still working on the Waggoner book. And I’m happy as a clam. Will there ever be another mystery? What has happened to Kelly O’Connell, and what’s going on at the Blue Plate Café? I’m not ruling anything out.

I did have some hesitation about changing the look of my blog, afraid I’d lose readers simply because they didn’t recognize the familiar sketches of my, my kids and dog, my cottage. But Judy’s Stew was running out in another way—originally meant to be about writing, cooking, and grandchildren, it evolved into a personal essay/opinion blog. Cooking spun off into my Gourmet on a Hot Plate Blog, my grandkids are so busy with school and sports and life that I don’t see them as much and don’t have as much to write about them, and I find myself writing more about random topics than writing.

So I hope those who read the blog regularly will stick with me. And check out the new look of my Web page—

 –and my Facebook Author page--

And please give me some feedback. Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Hiding in the closet

As newscasts and headlines across the country have reported, my post about a quiet and still evening last night was premature. Although Fort Worth got only a smattering of rain—at least in my part—about nine o’clock I began to hear on TV reports of tornado touchdowns in Dallas. This morning the news is full of devastating damage, as three tornados touched down, one cutting a wide swath across north Dallas near Love Field and out into the suburbs.
Jordan looked at the pictures on TV tonight—mansions turned to rubble—and asked if I would go to my closet. I said, “Of course”—although I have only once in fifty-plus years in Texas gone to a closet. I did point out that if that kind of destructive storm hit here, being in the closet would do precious little good. The worst damage in Fort Worth I heard about was one friend who forgot to take down her outdoor umbrella and another who lost a sweetgum tree that fell on the house. No injuries. And Dallas was fortunate—no fatalities, few serious injuries.
A friend who lived in Dallas for twenty years said tornadoes rarely touch down in cities with tall buildings because of some meteorological phenomenon not yet understood—a comforting bromide that was thoroughly disproven last night. Except for the rare qualifier. But it made me think of my mom. In Chicago she used to assure me that Lake Michigan kept us safe from tornadoes—to this day I don’t know if she really believed that or if she was simply trying to comfort me. But as my friend pointed out, neither of us have heard of a tornado hitting Chicago (knock on wood), whether due to tall buildings, the lake or both.
The one time I took to the closet, it was at Jacob’s insistence. As a toddler, he was frightened by storms and completely baffled that I enjoyed them. He and I survived some severe ones together, like the night it hailed ferociously—we clung to each other in the living room and stared out the window. I don’t know that I even had the presence of mind to shut the plantation shutters. The next morning, we discovered that the add-on family room, with its flat roof, was awash in water, several inches deep. Jordan and I had spread my kids books out, anticipating a special sale for the moms from the school across the street. All ruined, as were all my precious cookbooks.
But I don’t remember the storm the night we took to the closet, only his sweet insistence that I had to go in there. My closet was fairly roomy, and he equipped it with a chair, a glass of wine, and the book I was reading—plus a flashlight in case of power outage. He brought himself some games, if I remember correctly, a blanket and a pillow, and snacks. He was most serious and efficient about the whole thing, insisting on our safety. (As I look at that thirteen-year-old today, I wonder where my sweet young boy went—he’s still sweet, but our relationship is so different!).
We did have a strong thunderstorm about two o’clock this morning, and we lost power, which made me realize how dark the cottage can be and how isolated. But I was too warm and comfortable under the covers to worry about it. The storm soon passed, and I slept again. Sophie gave up her post by my bed where she had been guarding me (or keeping herself safe) and headed off for her usual nighttime spots.
I hope it rains again tomorrow. I’ll even take a good storm. We have new winter rye grass, and it needs the moisture.
Trivia for the day: in Doylestown, PA a man robbed a bookstore. Ran in, brandishing a knife, demanded money, and when the clerk was too slow to respond, grabbed money out of the cash register and ran out the back door. Now I ask you, what kind of person robs a bookstore? A gas station or convenience store, I can see, but a bookstore? It’s almost an oxymoron. Besides, from what I know of the book world, I wouldn’t expect a small, independent store to have enough cash to bother about.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A still, silent world

The severe thunderstorm warning has expired without more than a few drops hitting us, though it was all around us. I could hear thunder to the north and to the south, which makes sense since the two systems were to collide right about over us. Right now, everything outside is perfectly still and silent—almost eerily so, in that quiet that may precede a storm. Nothing moves, no birds sing—well, of course not: it’s night. Sophie is staying close to me. There is still a tornado alert until 2:00 a.m.

Nice working weekend, when I got good things done on my manuscript. I’m at the point of plugging in bits of information and catching inconsistencies, repetitions, etc. Woke in the night last night with the realization that something was off. A young man in the family I’m studying died at twenty-five after marrying an astounding eight times. But in my manuscript, he was born in 1902 and died in 1922. Now no matter how profligate, I don’t think any man could manage eight marriages by the age of twenty. So I had to go back and do some digging—turns out he died in 1928. Still a pretty amazing record and not exactly an admirable one.

Had several things on my mind this morning—things I had to do at my desk—and so went to church on the computer. It’s so easy to get out of the habit of physically going to church. Jacob had an overnight guest—a good friend whose parents were out of town—so Christian said he was busy cooking them breakfast. We vowed we will go to church next weekend—and then found out today Megan and her family are coming then for the TCU/UT game. Grandson Ford is a die-hard TCU fan, which really tests loyalty since they are not winning this year. I think several stellar seasons have lulled TCU fans into complacency, so this season comes as a real blow.

Sunday supper tonight—I fixed hamburger Stroganoff, being too cheap to buy tenderloin for real Stroganoff. It was good but took longer to fix and was more work than I had anticipated. Maybe that’s because, contrary to my usual habit, I followed the directions step by step. While I cooked, Jordan got a bee in her bonnet and cleaned the junk drawer in my office file cabinet, occasionally muttering about what deep trouble I am in. It’s one of those drawers everyone has—pens, pencils, note paper, Scotch tape (six rolls), stamps, batteries, skis for my walker, non-slip caps or the canes I never use. Her goal, which she achieved, was to put extra printer paper where I could easily get at it—it’s been in a bookcase, behind several boxes, and inaccessible to me—I had to wait until someone came along to get paper for me. She started on my paper drawer—scads of old manuscripts which made drawing paper (on the back side) when Jacob was young but are hardly used now, greeting cards without matching envelopes, legal pads—who knows what else. I imagine she’ll discover some odd things when she gets back to it.

A new week ahead. Hope it’s a good one for everyone.

Friday, October 18, 2019

At war with my dog . . . and other trivia

Sophie and I have reached a truce that I hope will last longer than Turkey’s cease-fire. But we just had a 36-hour war. Within that time span, she woke me early two mornings, woke me twice from a nap and insisted on going out once at 12:30 a.m. This is a mature, housebroken dog who can easily go twelve hours or more without going outside. She was just bored. I was exasperated.

Finally, the last time she jumped happily on the bed as I was peacefully napping, I lost it. I scolded her—a real lecture on consideration for others, not waking me, etc. Okay, I confess—I might have raised my voice. Er, yelled a bit. She stood staring up at me, her tail in a slow, tentative wag. I swear if she could talk, she would have asked, “Whatever in the world is the matter with you.”

She got her revenge that evening. I let her out around 9:30 and by 10:30 she still had not come inside. I called out “Cheese,” which is the standard bribe that brings her inside. Nothing. I could see her on the deck, watching me. But she didn’t move. It’s not as though I can rush out into the back yard and drag her in. With my walker, that way lies disaster. Finally I texted Jordan, who was almost asleep but sent Jacob to the rescue. I gave her the cheese—I am careful never to renege on something I’ve offered her.

They say dogs have no memory or concept of time. I don’t believe it for a minute. A cross between a miniature poodle and a Border Collie (two of the smartest breeds), she can outsmart me every time. She knew exactly what she was doing—punishing me.

PS: She woke me from my nap today, jumping on the bed with enthusiastic joy. But it was okay—I’d had my nap out.

This morning, she didn’t need to wake me. Persistent drumbeats did it for her, although of course they caused her to bark ferociously. The Paschal High School Marching Band was warming up across the street, getting ready for the annual Lily B. Clayton Elementary walkathon—the students all walk a course about a mile long, with a police escort and the band leading them. A nostalgic moment for us—for six years, Christian took the morning off to walk with Jacob, and I sat on the front porch to watch all the marchers take off. The march raises an amazing amount of money for PTO projects at the school.

A moment of giggles: Jordan and I went grocery shopping. Sitting on my motorized grocery cart, I wasn’t paying attention until my groceries were almost all bagged, and I realized she hadn’t forgotten to specify I wanted paper bags. The checker asked what the problem was, and she told them, tried to brush it off. But the man who was sacking promptly took each plastic bag and set it inside a paper one. Sort of defeated the purpose.

And a moment of pride: my printer jammed, but I couldn’t see where, couldn’t pry the back off to look. I found my printer model online, downloaded the manual, found the directions for unjamming, followed them carefully—and fixed it! My instinct in such instances is to wait and pounce on Christian when he comes home, wanting him to fix it. Makes me feel grown-up to have done it myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Welcome morning visitors

A new neighbor and I have struck up a friendship. This morning she was to come for coffee, but she wrote that her babysitter did not show up and she’d like to bring the two children she’s home-schooling—second- and third-graders. I worried a bit (for naught, it turns out) about Sophie’s reaction to children, but other than being overly eager, she was sweet—and the children were calm and good with her. They did their homework, while Prudence and I visited about everything from cooking to parenting and Halloween. A lovely break in my morning work routine. And she brought me the beautiful flowers above.

She told me one funny story, from when the family lived in El Paso. On Halloween, a young boy came along pushing a wheelchair with a friend in it. She kindly gave them each candy, but when she handed it to the wheelchair-bound boy, he suddenly leapt up almost in her face and shouted, “It’s a miracle!” In retrospect she found it funny, but she said at the time it scared her half to death.

It's been that kind of week—a bit of work, punctuated by visitors and outings. Noting remarkable to blog about, unless I wanted to rave and rant about our president and Syria and Ukraine and take your pick. I find sometimes I dream the Facebook screen, so I’m fairly convinced it’s time to pull back. But increasingly I think trump’s mental health should be the main concern of the 2020 election—if he lasts that lon.

Monday night, friend Subie and I scheduled a meeting of the volunteers to help welcome newcomers to the neighborhood. We expected and prepared for at most eight—we got one person, the woman who has done the welcoming for several years and is bowing out due to the demands of a new job. Ah, the joys of volunteers. We few had a great visit, and I have high hopes that all newcomers will eventually be welcomed. We truly do have a great neighborhood.

As a non-traveler, I am amazed at how much my friends travel. Neighbor Mary came for happy hour last night before taking off this morning for Ecuador and the Galapagos, not at all fazed by the fact that the party will avoid Quito and be extra cautious in Guayaquil because of political unrest. Me? I’d have canceled the trip at the slightest hint of unrest—I do not need that much adventure. Another friend is in France on a self-designed art tour, other friends are just back from Ruidoso, and another just home from Kansas City, where she reports everything is up to date. At least those destinations I can understand. Having been to Ruidoso for Christmas a couple of years ago—the year with no snow—I wondered what they would do there for  week, but she reported a really good time. I laughed however when she asked what we will do for a week in Blanco, Texas—our holiday destination. Each to their own.

Lunch yesterday at Tokyo Café, always a favorite, and dinner tonight at the Tavern—Dover sole with good mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. But the best thing I’ve had all week? The roast that Christian fixed in the crockpot on Sunday. So simple; put a chuck roast in the pot, sprinkle with McCormick au jus dry mix and then with Hidden Valley ranch dressing dry mix. Top with a stick of butter and cook eight hours on low.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Who are the Kurds?

With the Turkish offensive in northern Syria, the internet s full not only of news of fighting and atrocities—beheadings being live-streamed to social media, a senior woman Kurdish politician pulled from her car and executed—but beguiling pictures of Kurdish children. They are wide-eyed, curly-haired, charming. Yes, it’s a form of propaganda, but it worked with me. I was charmed and spent some time this morning exploring the internet to find out who these people are and, if possible, why Russia and Turkey are determined to wipe them out.

This is sort of a primer for me, a simplification of what I found online. Wiser heads will no doubt find errors and misinterpretations, but maybe this will help others begin to understand what’s happening.

In my mind, I think I equated the Kurdish with Europe’s Gypsies—people without a country. Although they are racially closer to Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group without a country. And that is part of today’s problem.

The Kurdish number between thirty and fifty million worldwide, with the highest concentration (about thirty million) in southwest Asia in an area known as Kurdistan, a mountainous terrain located in parts of Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. There are Kurdish communities in Istanbul as well as diaspora communities in Germany, America, and other countries. The focus today is on those people in the Asian mountains. They have their own strong culture and their own language, but they are usually bilingual, often fluent in Arabic. Islam is the predominant religion, although Kurds follow several other religions. A minority are Christian.  

Betrayal runs through Kurdish history, including from western nations that have promised protection. A treaty signed after WWI created a Kurdish state but was cancelled three years later when the boundaries of Turkey were drawn without regard to the Kurdish state. They are historically a minority in whatever country they occupy, a fact that has led before to genocide and rebellions. Throughout the twentieth century the Kurdish people have fought for their culture and for the creation of a Kurdish state, despite the fact that their host countries seem determined to wipe them out. Because militant Kurds support force to backup nationalism, Turkey has declared the Kurds along its southern border “terrorists” and sees them as a military threat. Turkey wants to control a narrow strip of land on that border now held by the Kurds (at least until last week).

And yes, Kurdish forces fought alongside the Allies in WWII and more recently alongside U.S. forces to defeat Isis in the 21st-century conflict known as the Syrian civil war, in which the U.S. and its allies, including Russia, supported Syria in its defense against Isis and the militant forces of Iraq.

So why now are we reading that the Russians bombed four Syrian hospitals? Why are they in the mess? They claim they are supporting the regime of Syrian president Beshar Al-Assad, who inherited the presidency from his father in 2000; his father ascended to the presidency through a coup in 1971. A democracy this is not.

Russians insist they are fighting terrorists. In fact a Russian general used the same unfortunate description for the Kurds that a Texas sheriff spouted last week from the White House about Mexican immigrants: They’ll run over your children. Of all the things I worry about, immigrants running over my children--or grandchildren—is low on the list. Experts in international relations suspect, not surprisingly, that Putin’s reasons are much more complicated and self-serving. The politics are so convoluted, I won’t begin to try to sort them out here.

The saddest picture on the net: a small Syrian boy, about three, obviously injured and in distress, said, “I am going to tell God everything.” They were his last words.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The old lady in the mirror

Mushroom soup
Routine mammogram the other day. As usual, they sat me in  tiny dressing room to wait my turn, and the tech gave me the simple instructions all ladies have heard countless times. After she left, I turned to Jordan who was with me and said, “There’s an old lady in that mirror.” She laughed and said, “You were staring at the mirror the whole time that woman was talking to you.”

Indeed I was—staring in horror. I have always prided myself, vainly perhaps, on neither looking nor feeling my advanced age. But there I was staring at this woman with thinning gray hair plastered to her head—where was my comb and what happened to blond me? I had great bags under my eyes and sort of sallow skin. Plus of course, those wrinkles.

“I look like my Aunt Alice,” I wailed, which set Jordan to giggling again.

“It’s a fake mirror, designed to make you look old. Maybe I should see how I look.” She stood up, back to me, and stared in the mirror for a long time. Then, with an impish grin, she turned around and said, “I look pretty good.”

Thereafter ever time she caught me looking, she’d giggle and offer to change seats with me. Truly, there was no other place for me to look. The blasted mirror was about four feet in front of me in that small room.

I swore I didn’t look like that when I left the cottage, and I vowed to go home and check my mirror. At home, I did look better, but the lighting is different, softer. Now I worry about how I really look to others in the daylight. Maybe I’ll just wear dark glasses all the time. The pouches truly are hereditary from my dad’s side of the family.

To top it off, the tech was too solicitous. In truth, she was pleasant, talkative, and concerned. But she repeated things in a deliberate loud, slow voice and kept reassuring me I did fine. What’s to do wrong in a mammogram? Maybe she took a clue from the receptionist who checked us in and talked almost exclusively to Jordan after I confessed that I didn’t remember to bring my insurance card. And some money fell out of my purse, which led Jordan to ask why I had loose money in my purse, and I replied I didn’t have a clue. Guess I was marked as doddering right then and there.

Tonight I redeemed myself, I hope, by fixing dinner for a friend—a goat cheese/pesto appetizer, homemade mushroom soup, small dinner salads. So good. The soup was an experiment and involved both my small food processor and my immersion blender, but I finally got it close to the velvety texture the recipe specified. For dessert, I offered Trader Joe’s cookie butter. When I read about it, I asked Jordan what you ate it with, and she replied, “A spoon.” Tonight my friend tried it on a baguette slice and said it was much like peanut butter. I gave the rest of the jar to Jordan.

It’s a joy to me to prepare such a meal for a friend, and even the fixing is a joy—okay, maybe not chopping the onion and garlic—but the rest of it, making it come out right even if I have to use blender and processor (I have hand washed a lot of dishes tonight), planning the menu, finding I had hearts of palm to add to the salad, deciding to add a dollop of sour cream to the soup when serving. It’s all fun and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Tonight I cooked for a friend of over forty years. Our ex-husbands were colleagues in medicine, and we stayed in touch, sporadically, over the years after our respective divorces. Though she’s recently had major surgery, she remains a person of happy disposition with a good sense of humor, and I thoroughly enjoy her company. We differ on our opinions about trump, but I tried to soft-peddle it when it came up tonight. That means I was not my usual vociferous self. Where, I wonder, do I draw the line between passionate loyalty to our beleaguered country and friendship of long standing.

This old lady in the mirror is signing off. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Winter, chili—and sunshine?

A lifetime in costume jewelry spread out for sorting
We were so prepared for winter last night when it was still ninety degrees. Jordan envisioned chili for dinner, but chef Christian said he refused to cook chili when it was still so hot. Since it was to be rainy and cold today, Jordan ran out and did some grocery shopping yesterday and decreed today would be a stay-at-home-in-your-jammies kind of day. So I had my mind all set for a long, dark and dreary rainy day. Sophie made a hurried trip outside and was back in her crate, where she spent much of the morning gently snoring. A comforting sound.

I spent the morning working at my desk, with my prayer shawl warming my shoulders, even though I had the heat on and kept the patio doors closed. But when I looked up at noon, the sun was shining brightly—still a bit chilly, but so much for rainy and cold. Winter didn’t last very long.

We should be grateful though. In Denver, yesterday, it dropped 64 degrees within 24 hours (naw, there’s no climate change). My oldest granddaughter is in school in Boulder, and her family is visiting her this weekend—I suspect it’s parents weekend or some such. At any rate, I hope they bundled up well.

Tonight, Jordan is getting the pot of chili she wanted last night, but supper will be late. Christian rarely gets home before six and then it takes him a while to make chili. So Jordan unexpectedly busied herself going through old jewelry of mine that had been stashed away. I thought it was from boredom, but it turns out she was looking for an orange necklace to wear to a watch party for the UT/OU game tomorrow. She had already rejected the one orange shirt I own. To my mind, orange is not a flattering color, and I laughed that she thought she would find an orange necklace.

She got caught up in the task, sorting necklaces I haven’t worn in years, earrings without mates, strings of pearls that we couldn’t identify, strange pins that obviously came from clubs or groups of one kind of another. She found three Scottish thistle pins, which she promptly allocated to her sister and Melanie, the Scottish DIL. I don’t suppose I’d wear them, but I thought she might leave me one. She had fun texting her siblings pictures of her finds—a pair of pearl drop earrings elicited from Megan the sarcastic comment that she had been looking for years for a pair just like that. A ring with SAE on it went to Colin—no response yet.

In my working days I was a jewelry freak—big showy necklaces, earrings, and lots of rings. Somehow in retirement I put all that behind me. My hairstyle hides any earrings (I never did successfully pierce my ears and always wore clip-ons), necklaces were just too much trouble, and my fingers seemed to swell so that rings were uncomfortable. Today my fingers are slimmer again, and a friend just urged me to start wearing rings again. Jordan unearthed tonight the old pawn turquoise ring that belonged to her Uncle Bob and that I wore every day. I’m tempted to start wearing it again.

What started as an idle search has now turned into a full-scale obsession. Jordan has gone through several small jewelry boxes, moved on to her home safe, and is talking about looking at the safety deposit box at the bank.

Meanwhile, I’m hungry. Hope the chili is ready soon

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Today’s trivia

Tomato plants in bloom
Today’s trivia because nothing significant happened today.

My tomato crop: I have a little desktop plant system—not a greenhouse, but three little pots with a grow-light that is on most of the day but off for specified periods of time, which seem to change as days go by. In the middle of the night, it lights up the cabin like broad daylight. I’ve grown lettuce in it—a medium success—and basil, which was a whopping success. I made a big batch of pesto from the first cutting of basil and have a small but respectable second cutting coming up.

First tomato harvest
But lately—for at least a couple of months—I’ve been growing tomatoes. Tiny, tiny tomatoes. I was surprised by lots of blooms, delighted by tiny green things. It took them forever to ripen. Meanwhile the vines grew out of hand and threatened to take over my desk. So today I harvested and meant to discard the plants. I suggested to Zenaida, who was here to clean my house, that she throw them in the back of the yard where they would compost naturally and provide nutrients for some of the bushes. But she wanted to plant them, so she found a pot with something that had given up the fight, pulled the dead plant out, and planted my three plants, which were more yellow than green. I kind of doubt they’ll survive the transition from indoors to outdoors, but we’ll see.

Second tomato harvest
Meanwhile, I have these tiny tomatoes, which really don’t have a lot of flavor. I think I’ll grow more basil next, or maybe oregano which I’d like to have. But for a while, I’m going to have a few less bushes on my desk. And I have a lifetime supply of dried oregano leaves in the freezer, the result of not being smart about ordering spices in bulk.

I was so sorry to read that former President Jimmy Carter fell, blackened his eye, and required stitches. But as a recent fall survivor myself, I was glad to have someone so praiseworthy join my company. Of course, he’s a tad older than I am, and he’s fallen twice within recent months. Jimmy, my advice is that you get a walker. I do admire him so much though—within hours of his trip to the ER, he and Rosalind were at a country music benefit for Habitat for Humanity. As a couple, they have built homes and done so much good for people across the world. What a stark contrast to the man squatting in the White House now who pled bone spurs to get out of service.

I went to a breakfast gathering of the Book Ladies this morning, and once again it was difficult for me. When two or three conversations are swirling around me, I simply cannot focus on anyone, no matter how good my hearing aids are. I love those ladies and long to be a part of their group. Today one treasured friend I haven’t seen in a long time was talking about the changes brought about by new ownership of Barnes & Noble, where she works part time. I probably got about half of what she said, but it all sounded good. It’s hard for me these days to pull myself out of bed early for these meetings and then disappointing not to be able to hear. And it got my morning of work off to a late start. So I may have to rethink that.

Tonight, happy hour with a neighbor and my Canadian daughter and her husband—she is a former neighbor. Our neighbor across the street promised wine and a snack, but I felt I should have something so invented a dip at the last minute—Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, buttermilk, blue cheese, lime juice, garlic powder, and finely chopped green onion. Not bad if I do say so. Margaret brought some Brazil-bites—light bread/cheese tiny things, but so good. And a chocolate nut mix that I talked her into leaving. No dinner for me tonight.

My distress at our national situation continues, with the White House forbidding people to testify for Congress and the Attorney General saying if Watergate happened today, he would not provide evidence to Congress. We are indeed held hostage by a corrupt regime. The Founding Fathers intended the Congress to be part of a system of checks and balances, but I fear that won’t work today. I shudder at the word revolution and wonder what form it would take. God help us avoid violence in our streets but also help us get rid of the people who now seemed to be exploiting the American system for their own benefit—and destroying democracy. There are many in Congress—Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff—devoted to saving our democracy, and I pray for them.

Monday, October 07, 2019

An accidental experiment and other trivia

Last night I accidentally performed a little social media experiment. I posted a blog—nothing spectacular, just cheeseburger soup (so good on the first cool night, even though cool hadn’t yet quite hit), some thoughts that struck me in church yesterday, and comments on a church Connection luncheon we went to. The point was to connect with other members, and I thought it a great idea. Anyway, today I did not get one like nor one comment, and I guess I’ve gotten spoiled and used to feedback.

So I checked. I had neglected to put the post on Facebook. If you want to read it you can find it at But it demonstrates to me that a big part of my audience is on Facebook. In Sisters in Crime and other groups, there’s always debate about the usefulness of Facebook, but one comforting bit of social media advice I like is to do what is comfortable for you. So I have given up trying to master Instagram and I don’t do much other than post on Twitter, but I am really vocal on Facebook—and that includes occasional advertising in the form of “boosting” posts. So my experiment kind of confirmed what I do.

Another bit of cyberspace wisdom I picked up yesterday; two friends said they had tried to order So Far from Paradise and were told it was unavailable. So I ordered a free sample as a test—no problem. Then I called Amazon. It seems you cannot always order all books from an iPhone of iPad app. So my advice to readers: if you try that and get word the book you want is unavailable, order it from your computer. As an author, I wonder how many sales lots of us have lost because that fact isn’t commonly known.

Not much spectacular today, except that I got a routine dental appointment out of the way. Dentistry brings out my anxiety, and I tried to explain it to the hygienist: when I was a young teen, I had lots of cavities (poor enamel inherited from my dear father, whom I otherwise loved a lot). Our dentist was an uncle (by adoption if not blood), a taciturn man who scared me. Plus dentistry sixty-five or so years ago was not as smooth as it is today, and I still have a real dental phobia. So grateful that Jordan drove me and picked me up, that Stephanie the hygienist is such a good soul, and that my teeth are good enough the cleaning was brief, and I got a clean bill of health.

My day ended with a most pleasant happy hour with friends—one of those small world situations. I honestly thought we met on Facebook but Mary Kay Hughes tells me years ago she and her mother came to a reading group I conducted through TCU’s Community Education programs. But we also have our church and our politics in common, plus she works with Christian, and her husband proved to share all our convictions and more knowledge than I had about some of them. An evening of lively and interesting discussion.

I am heartsick tonight about withdrawal of troops from Syria and the almost instant bombing by Turkey, though I don’t think we know the truth of the situation yet. What does seem clear is that the orange one, he of “great wisdom,” let himself be hornswoggled again. He has not the faintest idea of the cost in human lives—ours and Kurdish—of his impulsive acts and lack of negotiating ability. But I won’t belabor the point—it’s all over the internet, and we will have to let the true facts sort themselves out. Tonight, my prayers for the Kurdish people and for our troops in the region.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Could Fall really be here?

Not the world's best picture because it's what was left in the pot
after four servings and two 'to go" dishes but
you get an idea of he richness
The cold front isn’t exactly here but the air is much cooler already tonight. In my corner of Fort Worth, we got only sprinkles of rain—missed the showers that were all around us, but we’re ever hopeful that they’ll hit us tomorrow.

Tonight, anticipating that cold front even if it was in the 90s today, I made a pot of cheeseburger soup—hearty and good. All the things that make cheeseburgers good—ground beef, cheese (Velveeta, but you can use that occasionally), onions—plus some extras—celery, carrots, potatoes, chicken broth. I meant to make a half recipe but was far into it when I realized I was making the whole thing. We shall have plentiful leftovers all week.

Christian and I went to church this morning, while Jordan stayed home with Jacob who is not feeling well. But she met us for a lunch at the church—no agenda, no program, just a chance to visit. They called it a Connection luncheon, an apt term. We “connected” with people I knew slightly but never had really visited with. Made some small world connections, such as the woman I used to see at Lily B. pickup, when I went for Jacob, is the mother of a neighbor we all know. Good times.

This is the beginning of the church’s capital campaign, but Dr. Peterman, our senior minister, changed the focus with his sermon. Instead of telling us the pitiful stories of how much the church needs to continue its programs, especially outreach into the world, he talked about generosity as it benefits the giver and urged us all to live generously and appreciatively. “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ it’s enough,” he said.

As I sat in the sanctuary this morning, with the glorious music and rich traditions, I was indeed grateful to be there. It strikes me that an organized religion two thousand years old with billions of devoted followers around the globe, a religion based on love, will always triumph over the selfishness, greed, corruption, and, too often, perversion of Christianity we see around us in our country today. Our people are steadfast.

I don’t think this is a Christian thing either, although Christianity to me is most relevant today. Judaism in its pure form reflects a respect for the law that is sadly missing in some of our leaders today. And contrary to the distortions we are fed, many Middle Eastern religions—Muslim, principally—are built on kindness and concern for others. With a great body of believers, we will hold on, and perhaps one day achieve a measure of peace.

I haven’t really said that very well, but it was for me a powerful thought, and this morning was not the first time it came to me.

Peace, my friends. Be of good faith.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

A major family crisis—and I slept through it

The Cavaliers--Cricket is the black and white one
They are inseperable

This morning when I raised the blind in my kitchen door, I noticed that the cars in the driveway were all rearranged. I knew Jordan and Christian has been to a big do last night—the American Cancer Society’s Cowtown Ball—and they planned to Uber home. So why were the cars moved? Then I booted my computer and got a chilling message, “Cricket missing. Plz watch for notices on neighborhood newsletter.”

Cricket is the older of their two beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, a placid girl of ten years or more who would never bolt out to explore the world the way Sophie would. But Cricket could wander sort of without knowing what she was doing or where she was going. Still, this morning, the house was quiet, so I figured she was home and safe. In fact, I thought she was probably in some hidden corner of the  house and they just hadn’t searched hard enough. I lost Jacob that way once when he was still a toddler—and after a neighbor and I searched the house and called and called, I had the phone in hand to call the police when I saw him under the dining table.

No such luck with Cricket. Turns out they came home about midnight and sat on the front porch for a nightcap, letting the dogs wander in and out because they had gates across the two sets of stairs. Cricket had apparently slipped by the gate and was gone. There ensued frantic phone calls and driving around the neighborhood. No sign of her. Jordan spent much of the night siting on the front lawn, sobbing, as she waited for Cricket to come home. Got to say Cricket, like our other two dogs, has no street sense, no car sense, and probably couldn’t find her way home from next door.

About five this morning, they got a text. Some good Samaritans had picked her up at the school across the street and taken her home, about a mile away. Christian went to fetch her at ten, and when I saw her Cricket looked blasé, like “What’s the fuss about?”

Of course, that threw the day off. Jordan and Christian were both exhausted from lack of sleep and worry. The errands we planned to do were first postponed to late afternoon and then cancelled. I did go pick up groceries from curbside at Central Market, but I am still in urgent need, of all things, of a block of Velveeta.

But at 9:30, the house is dark, and I assume everyone is sleeping. Jacob missed the excitement because he stayed over at a friend’s house. And that’s another story. At 8:30 last night I let him walk about six blocks to the friend’s house, though he was met halfway. I knew he was safe, because I talked to him after he got there, but I am of the school where you don’t walk alone after dark. It’s a hangover from growing up on the south side of Chicago. So at three a.m., when Jordan and Christian were searching for Cricket, I was lying awake beset with guilt for letting Jacob do something dangerous.

I am clearly too old for all this trauma. May everyone have a peaceful sleep and sweet dreams.