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Saturday, December 28, 2013

What I have learned in 2013

10.  Consumption of sugar, any sugar, leads to over eating, more sugar, and general yuckyness. 
9.  A dog, in puppy mode, will jump in your lap for pets whether he weighs six pounds or fifty.  I have the cracked ribs to prove it. 
8. Dinner in Dublin tastes better with Jameson. Dinner in Sacramento does not. 
7.  I have come to the conclusion that our Congress is completely corrupt.  This revelation comes 105 years after Mark Twain made the same observation. Better late than never. 
6.  If your best friend is a dog, you will miss engaging in stimulating conversation. 
5.  Whatever the balance is in your checking account, it will be the total of the car repair bill plus twenty percent.
4.  If your friends are talking about the beautiful sunny weather and it's the end of the year, plan on water rationing for the next twelve months. 
3.  You cannot debate convictions with an agnostic because he doesn't have any. 
2.  If someone tries to tell you that you are NOT your job title, ignore them. Society judges individual worth on that title. This is not to say that your real value is tied to work. It isn't. Your ego needs to handle to disparity. 
1.  Want to make God laugh tell him your plans. If you want to laugh along with God, write your plans down every New Year, stick them in a envelope, seal and date it.  Each New Year's Day open the envelope that is five years old. Read those plans aloud. Have a chuckle with your Creator. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


          Yesterday, I took off my wedding ring. It was time. No clap of thunder occasioned the event. No comments from a passersby. No external reaction at all. A quiet emptiness filled the ache in my heart. I was prompted to take off the ring by my own deed. I read a part of my blog, Sound the Alarm, “…my late husband, Paul…”and realized that I no longer had the identity of wife. After two and half years, I lightly hold the title of widow. I am not one half of a couple, part of a whole, flesh of one flesh. I am singularly alone.
            Today, after receiving a replacement charger cable from eBay, I managed to play the last tape in our video cam. The film started as a close up of Poindexter, the dog, sleeping on the couch. Zoom in. Zoom out. In the background, Paul spoke, “Dex. Cute dog. Dex.”
I found myself holding my breath. The scene stopped. Next in the film, I was walking outside with the camera in an unsuccessful attempt to film the dog. The scene switched to me playing with the water hose and Dex. Paul filmed me and stopped.
            The next bit started with Vlad hanging a wire creation of a dragon. He made it with his hands.
            “What are you going to name the dragon?” I said that. I held the camera.
            “Bob,” sounded Paul’s voice in the background.
            More video of Vlad, then a glimpse of Dan, Jennifer, Oscar, Brandy. I am leaning against the hospital bed that was provided by hospice. Paul rolls into the room, seated in his wheelchair, and leans forward to see the green-wire artwork hanging from the living room ceiling. It’s not the Paul in my head. Not the Paul that comes to me in my dreams. It’s reality Paul—in the last fourteen days of his life. I stopped the video.
            Tomorrow I get up, go to work, and pretend, as I do every week.

If you are one half of a whole that is gone from your today, then you understand that tomorrow is a fragment of yesterday. A ring, a video, or a piece of art, can trigger what is left of internal reaction in your heart.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Leek and Bean Soup

I hate raw onions. Having said that, my friends have extolled the flavors and likability of leeks. Up until a few months ago, I had not knowingly tried this vegetable that looks like a chive on steroids. I mixed the chopped goodie into a salad and gagged. It tasted like an onion.
Monthly, I receive a delivery of fresh fruit and veg from an organic farm in the area (Farm Fresh To You). To my disappointment, they gave me two large leeks in my package. Determined to make friends with this bulbous tuber, I remembered that I do like French Onion soup and The Chew offered a white bean soup recipe that seemed doable. I decided to merge the two. The results are yummy.
Oil – Extra Virgin Olive is my favorite
Black Pepper—Fresh ground
1 to 2 Large Leeks—sliced in nice circles
6 Stalks of Celery—coarsely chopped
3 Garlic Cloves—smashed and chopped
½ Large Yellow or White Onion—finely chopped
1 Quart Organic Vegetable Stock
Herbs—your choice. I like bay leaf, basil, caraway seed, and cayenne pepper.
Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with oil add leeks, onions, and celery.  Make sure there is enough oil to coat everything. Cook, stirring occasionally, on the stove at medium high heat for at least 20 minutes to caramelize the onions, soften the celery, and un-spiral the leeks. Add pepper and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes more.  NOTE: I do not salt my cooking. If I want more salty flavor I add more celery.  You can salt to your heart’s lament. 
NOW you have a choice at this point to transfer everything to a crock pot on low adding in the vegetable stock & herbs. OR keep everything in the pot adding in the vegetable stock & herbs. Cover and cook on low heat for about three hours. The first choice, you can go shopping. The second, you stay home and clean the house or write a blog.
When everything is hot, soft and yummy. 4 hours in a crock pot. 3 hours on the stove.
2 Rinsed Cans of White Beans, or Garbanzo Beans, or Your Favorite.  If you hate canned, then prep your fresh or dried beans the day before. Canned is faster.
Mix all.  Take 3 cups of the soup and dump it into a food processor and puree. Add it back into the soup. Mix and leave the soup on warm.

When serving in individual bowls sprinkle cheese (fresh, grated or veggie) on the top. I like Cashew Cheese or Feta. Both are yummy. Serve with a slice of hearty bread. Enjoy! Makes a great meal for Christmas Eve before Church. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sound the Alarm

I have a house alarm – loud, relentless, annoying – house alarm. Originally purchased to ward off squatters during the remodel, it came with a three-year contract that has me puzzled as to the need.  I understand the concept of safety within the home and the need to alert emergency services. It’s the alarming sound I question. Are we not inundated with beeping cars, dinging microwaves, clicking ovens, ringing phones, vibrating cells, pinging computers, singing clocks, droning television shows and ding-dong crosswalks? Every day our lives get little louder than the life time before.
 “They are adding sound to hybrids,” said Paul once said over his morning coffee.
“Who is? “
“The car companies.”
“The electrics and hybrids are silent so people can’t hear the car coming. So they are adding sound… for safety.”
“Like a beep.”
“No like an Indie car – the whine – at fast turns.”
“So a sound all the time not at intersections.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Why? I think it would be cool.”
“But the noise. Fuel cell too?”
“I guess.”
The home my late husband, Paul, and I purchased is next to the railroad tracks and a major thoroughfare. Many of our friends asked how we handle the noise. Frankly, this is the quietest place we have owned. The Alameda house sat on the approach for Oakland International Airport. I could see the pilots’ faces just above the neighbor’s roof as they flew the giant jets past me. The Fremont house also had a train and traffic—unlike this house which sits on a quiet cul-de-sac—it had the traffic running past the front yard at all hours of the night.
I will not even delve into the joys of living in an aluminum mobile home with sounds rattling in the walls or the past horrors of apartment living with people’s feet stomping above and below.
For Christmas one year my husband presented me with a sound machine that produced pleasant noises so I could sleep at night. The machine played a variety of choices: seaside, planets, ponds, whales, and a white-noise to cover-up all sounds around me.  Aside from the irritating white-noise, I enjoyed the soothing sounds but soon found myself missing the wind and rain hitting our window or my cat‘s purring at my feet. After a month, the sound machine returned to its original packaging and sat in the closet.
My mother and others in my circle have hearing aids. I am challenged with talking slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard but not so obvious to insult the person trying to hear my voice. Those of you with family members wearing hearing aids should understand. A female voice is harder to understand for most people with hearing loss as the higher tones are usually first to fail. So my voice and my cousins’ are particularly hard for Mom to hear. With background noise she is at a loss to understand me.  Mom complains if I’m playing the radio because it interferes with her ability to distinguish voices. At her home, she lives in world without music. That reality hit me hard. I adore music – Rock, Classical, Opera, Weird Al, Waltz, Country, and Western. Inside my head is a musical. Paul was jarred awake – more than once – by a crazy blonde standing on the bed singing “Yellow Submarine” at the top of her lungs.
 I know I have not done anything to extend my hearing. I love very loud Rock-and-Roll. I’ve had ear infections without doctors’ care, gone to open air concerts, fired weapons, and have done a myriad of actions that contribute to loss of hearing. I know I will soon join the many Baby-Boomers sporting the latest in hearing enhancement equipment.
Will I need to give up music? Will the only new songs to be heard will be a ringtone on the cell-phone next to me in the grocery store? I can’t imagine giving up the distinctive draw of YoYo Ma’s bow or the warble of McCartney’s latest love song.
As a society, we are erasing the sound of the cricket in the backyard and the coo of the Morning Dove in the park. As an individual, I help to accelerate the process by clinging to my louder devices which include one Bluetooth headset stuck in my ear.
Over time the density of sounds in our country will decrease the ability of our ears to hear the soft babble of a newborn and the symphonies written by our ancestors. The alarms will get louder, more jarring, and more demand prominence in our lives.

My music will be only what I have committed to the library in my head.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shoot ‘em Dead

A recent conversation with an acquaintance wrapped around the subject of the assault of the innocent bystanders as a gang initiation.  A violent game “knockout” is happening across the country. Teenagers are sucker punching adults forty to eighty-seven years of age. A few of the victims in some cases dying.
“Would not have happened in Florida,” said the woman across from me. “Those old ladies are packing. Gangs do not go near them.” She smiled then nodded for emphasis as if I should take that information as fact.
An image of an octogenarian trying to pull a gun from her handbag while holding on to her walker flashed before my eyes. Having been in hand to hand combat, I understood the term sucker punch. It means you do not see the fist coming towards you. However, if I did suspect someone might be thinking about hitting me would my first reaction be to shoot an unarmed teenager? These images spun around my brain like fireflies in a hot August night.
I was so stunned by her remark I took several moments to realize that the speaker had moved to her second point.
“…the best way to handle these gangs is to give them what they want. Build an arena, sell tickets, and let them kill each other on live TV. Gladiators fighting to the death. It would be popular.”
After a couple gulps of oxygen removed from the heated air, I responded. “I see we are on opposite sides of this issue.”
“So what would be your solution to end these gangs?”
“Well…the problem does not start with the gangs. It starts with neglected children alone on the streets.” I watched her eyes roll and head shake. Clearly, the village approach to the discussion had already fallen flat. “I worked in Oakland after our economy crashed. I saw neighborhoods of poor kids standing in the street mid-day with nothing to do. No jobs. No activities. No hope. It’s a formula for problems.”
“People were out of work in the valley too.”
“I didn’t say they weren’t.”
Someone had the intelligence to change the subject. I got up for a cup of coffee. 

The next day it hit me that the conversation had been about killing people as a solution to solving problems. I am surprised that anyone believes that the death of a human being is the correct resolution to a complex social issue. That this belief system exists in my state in the year 2013 saddens me. As our world fills with more people in tighter spaces, shouldn’t we look for some way to be a bit kinder to each other? Perhaps then others would not be so angry and ready to lash out at the world or more specifically an old woman with a walker. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Silver and Gold

The last thirty days of 2013, will hold for many of us, meet and greets of family, acquaintances, new friends, and dear old friends. There is not another time of year where we can mix with this many people that have claim on some part of our hearts. 
Recently, I met with a friend that I have not seen in close to ten or twelve years. With a hug and a smile that time disappeared. We talked as if we had lunch last week. All the reasons I loved her as a friend remained, so that I can love her as a friend today.
I find this type of occurrence truly remarkable. It’s like the video of the soldier that came home from war and her dog greeted her with overwhelming wags, whines, and licks. I watch that stuff over and over because it touches me the same way seeing that friend of mine. As a proper human, I couldn’t lick Rosanne but I sure hugged the stuffing out of her. We caught up on past decades, made plans for the future, and parted feeling uplifted—there’s someone who knows and loves a bit of me.
In the next, thirty days I will attend twelve holiday functions that will include people I love. Last year at this time, I was ill and limited the number and types of events I could attend. Although there were some chances to hug the stuffing out of loved ones. This reminds me of those who are shut-in, overseas in combat, people too financially strapped to get home, and the few that just do not have anyone at all.
I, for one, attend holiday services to connect with people—to touch, to talk, and to love. I have heard many jokes about churches’ attendance being up at Christmas. The implication being that it is for show. A religious venue gives us connection when we really need it—the dark cold month of December.
As a former Brownie Scout, I recall the song, “…make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” For the next thirty days, call someone you knew but haven’t seen in a long time. Drop by the rest home a give a Christmas cactus to Cousin Ginny. Attend the office party at your new job. Deliver cookies to the old woman next door. Stop by an evening service at the local church or synagogue, on a cold rainy night.

Make a new friend and be as happy as that dog welcoming home her master. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


My first dream of my husband returning from the dead came about a year ago. He walked into the house with his best friend Spyros. Surprised I told him that he was dead—actually both of them.
“Obviously not. I am standing here.”
“But we had a funeral, well memorial service. Two of them. One in Sacramento. One with bagpipes.” I looked wildly at both of them. “You were cremated. Ashes.”
He smiled his wide grin, “I don’t think so…where are my car keys.”
“You don’t have a car.”
“Sure I do. A truck. It’s out front. Come on honey. I’m late for work.”
“But you are dead. I have a certificate from the government.”
“Well, you need to go to Social Security and straighten that out.”
This is where I wake up in a cold sweat. I don’t think anything is as scary as the Department of Social Security except maybe DMV.
I didn’t tell anyone this dream for a long time. Sounded a bit crazy. But the dreams came more often and intense. I was relieved to see the man I love but felt the frustration of ending this little life I’ve built. Mentally, I was forced to resurrect the life that I had not a few years ago but decades ago.  My husband wasn't ill and wheelchair-bound in the dream. He’s a healthy twenty-something. I’m current me—only tired. After all, I am not sleeping.
Mom said she had similar dreams of her husband, Leo, walking back into her life. He wanted to know why she remarried. Only she hadn’t. A friend said she dreamed her husband was at his desk looking for the papers he left there. Another widow stated her dearly departed looked in their closet for a particular shirt he wanted to wear.
Seems widows go through this revisiting, AKA haunting, as part of the process of grieving. I checked websites on grieving. Many suggest, doing more fun things, travel, charity work, and being with others to knock off the blues. I do all mentioned and more. 
Time is supposed to help. Okay while I’m waiting, my dreams are like a scene from Beetlejuice—I'm holding a line ticket of 9,998,383,750,000 and Social Security is now serving #2. I’m not sure I can wait that long for things to get better.
 Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I know that the squirrel is the smartest of the gatherers on this planet. I have observed their haughty superiority shown during walnut harvests and bird feeder ownership. Anyone that spent time defending their nuts must know that man/womankind does not meet the furry-rodent’s skill or intellect in the gathering of the harvest off the trees. God meant for us to bend down and pick up the leftovers as the lower phylum that we are.

One fall, I decided to pick up all the nuts I could in a single afternoon. After a back-breaking hour, I noticed nuts squirreled away in drain pipes, notches of the tree, and semi-buried in flower beds. So I gathered those also. Quite proud of my observant skills, I filled my five-gallon bucket and shut it in the garage.
The next morning…at dawn…we were pounded out of our sleep to the sound of walnuts being flung against our new double-paned e-windows.
Paul turned to me and said, “What did you do.”
“Nothing.” But we both knew it was something. The nut flinging continued until I put on a housecoat and went outside to put the nuts back into the drain pipe, notches, and flower beds. Yes, I even toss a few back on the lawn. The rest of Fall went quietly as I picked up only the nuts that landed on the sidewalk in close proximately to our front door.
In the Sacramento house, I have two bird feeders—one for the birds and one for the squirrels. Not that I like feeding the rat-cousins but the squirrels keep Poindexter, my dog, thoroughly entertained. The word “Squirrel” evokes mad dashes about the house, crashes through the doggy door, and patrols of the fence lines. It has been worth the cost of seed.
At the Wild Bird and Feed Store, Citrus Heights, I purchased a metal spring that holds dried ears of corn for squirrels. The spring was cheap and the corn was cheap so I thought this is a good way to feed the squirrels and cut back on bird seed.
Do you see the problem with this logic? I didn’t.
Week 1. Hanged corn spring with Indian corn cob.
Week 2. Found little nibs of corn missing on the husk on one side. Cute.
Week 3. Most of the corn eaten. Replaced the old with a new ear of corn.
Week 4. Spring was on the ground. Cob cleaned off. Only the center of the kernel of corn was removed and pile of the discards now decorated the lawn. I put a new cob in the spring and hanged it off the tree.
Week 5. Spring found in the tan bark. Corn cob was gone. How can one little squirrel carry off a corn cob across a chain link fence in the rain? Put in the spring a new cob and hanged it off a different branch.
Week 6. Spring, cob, and all evidence of corn is gone. It is NOT possible for a one and half pound squirrel to carry an 8” spring with corn cob. Is it? Maybe a possum came in the dead of night. Or a raccoon? I could believe a raccoon.  So I took one corn cob, place it in the vee of the tree, and walk back into the house to change the wash.
Twenty Minutes Later. The corn cob is gone. Can you hear them laughing? Can you? They are mocking me. Those clever gatherers in red fur coats.

“Get ‘em Dex. Squirrel!”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The C-word

Someone I care about has been diagnosed with breast cancer…again. I sent her a note a couple days ago hoping it would help. She indicated it did, a bit. It is hard for anyone to address the C-word with someone they love.
At times friends have asked me what to say in that situation. The answer is not forthcoming because everyone reacts differently to life-threatening illnesses. Having said that, this is some of what I wrote to my friend:
The scary part is not the mastectomy surgery but the not knowing what the results could be. Good news the doctors don't know either. That means it is where it always has God's hands. 
You are suffering from the past stress you endured.  But it can get better. Your cancer center will have a nutritionist that has read and understands the principles in "The China Study" and "The Cure" and other books that will help you with good food and rest.
 Having been through just a bit of your tribulations, might I suggest a few possible ways to make it better.
1. Avoid talking about the C-word unless you are talking to your husband, doctors, or God. When you talk about cancer, people will tell you the most horrible stories about this friend dying or a surgery gone wrong. For every bad news story, there are five or more good news stories. Unfortunately we Americans have been trained by the media to speak the negative. You should only listen to the positive from well meaning friends and family. Walk away from the rest.
2. Get joke books, comedy tapes, videos of puppies, and fun movies--laugh as often as you can.  Laughter is the best medicine.
3. Hug the stuffing out of grand-kids, kids, hubby, and friends. Hugs fix blood pressure and stress better than any pills.
4. Knowing that if you are satisfied with your life—blessed with those you love—each day will get better no matter what the clinical statements may be.
5. MOST IMPORTANT It is okay to be mad, angry, depressed, weepy, grumpy, difficult, or unresponsive. This is your body and your reaction. So yell, scream, cry, beat your pillow, and pout if you want. But remember your smile will melt those around you—even strangers—into loving support every time.
God bless you and everyone in your world. I pray for the best possible life for you and your family.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seven Husbands

Last Sunday’s sermon reminded me of a conversation I had with Mom not long after Paul died. I've been married several times before and engaged a lot. Actually my marital track record was beginning to look like Elizabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor’s BP—before Paul. The problem—I said yes when I meant no then ran when awful got worse.
 In reality, all my previous relationships added together did not total three years. Pathetic considering I met Paul at age thirty-one and stayed with him twenty-nine years.
The conversation with Mom went like this…
“Do you think Paul will be my husband in heaven?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mom said flatly. “The rest of them won’t be there any way.”
Okay that was funny. Not true but funny. I laughed then felt a bit guilty.
We had both forgotten Luke 20:27-38—the passage Pastor Murphy sermonized last Sunday. The story was about the widow who married her husband’s brother who dies, then marries the next brother who dies and so on for a total of seven husbands. The Sadducees wanted to know whose wife would she be in the afterlife? Jesus said, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” In heaven, we are made different. Human rules don’t apply. So this grief and longing will not last either.  
Till then I wake up, breathe, and move on. 


I have permission to use "Dante's Prayer" in "Four Broads and an Irish Wake."  I will be publishing this week.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Loreena McKennitt

My day consisted of editing, rewriting, and formatting. I turned Four Broads and an Irish Wake into a book. Well a self published one. I am printing copies as my Christmas letter/gift for my family. After printing and reviewing four copies that were called “FINAL,” I think it’s done. 
The last step was to type: “Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Pimental. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever…” As I typed I realized that I had part of Loreena McKennitt’s Dante’s Prayer in the story. Not that this is going to be a best seller or even circulated but if I am trying to protect my intellectual property should I ask permission to use hers? 
So I googled “Loreena McKennitt” and “permission.” Her record company in Canada popped up along with an email address for intellectual property. Let me say that again. In seconds I had contact with an international star’s business manager. I find this exhilarating. An age of instant information makes my heart sing.
Years ago, I wrote a book Rosanne and Me. As a period piece in the fifties, I scrounged around libraries and used book stores to find prices, name brands, styles, and the like to keep the story authentic. It was a monumental task. Now Google or Bing or Ask, information is yours.

Now I wait to see how fast Ms. McKennitt’s business department returns emails. I bet it is faster than snail mail or fax. Yes?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Another Widow

An acquaintance of mine became a widow last week. Her husband died on a Friday. The next day she was at work. I was amazed. I did approach her and offer my condolences. Eventually, I told her that I was awe-struck that she could handle going on with life as well as she did. Myself—pretty much a basket case for almost two years.
She said, “I lost three children and my first husband. I guess I am use to death…even if that is possible.”
I don’t know if you can be use to death. I do know that no two people ever handle loss in the same way. Your moccasins will not fit me well enough to walk a mile in them. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Leaf Blowers

  At least twice a week, I travel up and down Madison Avenue. At least once a week, I watch the gardeners of retail outlets blow leaves, trash, and grass clippings into the street.  Now I don’t know if they actually go back into a busy six lane byway and herd the stuff back into a pile. I suspect not. 
  Therefore my understanding is that they are paid to clear out the parking lots of loose debris. Wait one week for everything that was in the street to blow back into the lot and then do it again. 
  Sounds like job security to me. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Last Weekend

Spectacular weekend. No I didn't do anything special. I did however get my list of weekend chores completed. Things like—filling the bird feeder, polishing shoes, sealing the tile in the shower—that kind of stuff.  I finished grocery shopping, went to church, had dinner with Mom, watch a recorded show, and found time to write.
  Sounds ordinary. It was. Ordinary is new for me. Not since chemotherapy started, over a year ago, have I had the kind of weekend described above. Two weeks before, I went to Apple Hill on Saturday and then became too sick on Sunday to go anywhere. In September, I scheduled twenty minute naps throughout the day just to function. Six months prior, I did not function. I worked and slept, occasionally eating.
Today, I am almost, but not completely, normal. Well normal for me. The result is a small feeling of—dare I say—happiness. To me I have had a profound revelation that my happiness is tied into how many active hours of life that I can squeeze into a day. So many years I have believed that the feeling of blessedness related to my attitude, other people, events, things, and the weather.
It is no surprise to anyone that knows me that I am a miserable and obnoxious sick person.  Those of you that can rise above a devastating illness and wear a smile, I salute you. I expect more out of breathing in and out. I expect a strong healthy body. When I lost my strength, my health, and cognitive capabilities, I nearly did not fight the good fight.

I am thankful I am finding me again.

Four Broads and an Irish Wake (revised a bit)

Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Prolog
The quest started, as many do, with a death bed request. Lord Paulferd, ruler of Casa de Fernandez in the capitol city of Left Coast, made his plea. His wife, the comely Ella, Lady of the realm, held her tongue, as Lord Paulferd gasped his law upon her ear.
“Twas our dream to cross the sea and visit the land of our ancestors,” he said. “But this wound from the dragon’s claw has taken my spirit hence. I will not accompany thee…”
Lady Ella held back her tears and hung her head.
“Do not look away, my Love. All will be well. Travel with companions strong to that bonny isle. Take what is left of me to the village of Dublin, find a pub if one there be and toast this warrior once then last. When all cheer ‘Hurrah!’ to the privy dash my ash. For you know if I would hence be with thee, more than part of me would have ended in that foul pit.”
Two summers passed. Lady Ella could not leave their land and the memories locked tight. The apple trees withered and blueberries failed to fruit. Her people starved. In her grief, she did not see.
Upon a blistering day, a message twittered in the air. It came from her cousin, Princess Thia of Diablo Mountain.  Thia, a buxom lass, proven in battle, and cipherer of puzzles, said, “Cousin, do not be forlorn. We can return Spring to your land. Go this season to Ireland and do your master’s will. I will bring strength and support to your noble quest.”
Although Lady Ella did not want to journey from home, she felt the purpose returning to her soul as Thia spoke brave words. But who else could go?
Upon the heels of Princess Thia’s chat, came another message from the vibrating air. This came hence from the Castle Zilla of Vlad the Impaler and his new bride, Queen Brandy—a buxom woman, young and smart, maker of magic treats and wine. “Oh, Lady Ella,” Brandy proclaimed, “take thee to Cork County and lay my father, Lord Paulferd, to rest. I will help thee, Lady. Do but ask and I will defend thee to the edge of death with chocolate, cupcakes, and fine wine.”
Ella felt the power of caring add strength to her being. She thought. I am a warrior. Princess Thia is wizard of puzzles and spells. Queen Brandy can hold any enemy helpless with the tasting of her treats. One more needed to be included in the party to make their quest a valiant deed.
Lady Ella sent the fastest horseman of the land to carry a message to Swamp Castle in the land of Right Coast.  The horseman rode for weeks, but it took too long, so a twittering of sounds was sent instead.  Swamp Castle’s John the Builder and his buxom wife, Princess Carol were also cousins of the Lady, with Thia as sister to Carol. By study and deed, Carol was a cleric and a healer of all she loved. Legend proclaimed that Carol could heal lesions with a kiss and expel demons with a song. Such a healer would ensure the survival of all.
The party, thus chosen, set from their lands on the sixth day of the harvest in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen.
Blessings be upon their journey.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day One
SMFland held little but fields of grain and sunflowers. Lady Ella disembarked the carriage first. She wore soft leather boots, her red harvest cloak and matching felt hat. Carefully hidden in the stays of her woolen corset were two balanced daggers and four throwing stars. Her whip cleverly disguised as a belt about her waist.
Queen Brandy, less subtle, carried a crossbow and quiver of poison arrows on the back of her black leather gown. Princess Thia emerged into the morning light dressed as the feminine noblewoman she was—fluttering of lace and bows covered by a soft velvet cape. She carried her book of spells and poisons as a maiden carries a prayer book. They gathered by a solitary oak and waited.
The first of the magnificent birds arrived. A raven some six yards in length glistened purple black that matched in radiance Queen Brandy's flowing hair.
The Lady approached her familiar and cooed ancient words to assure the bird and fed him almonds from last moon's harvest. The gift accepted, Ella scaled her mount. Two other birds joined them. Her companions chose a mount, took to the air, and flew towards the rising sun.
At least full day’s travel led to Camelot, if bandits were not in wait. Lady Ella used her flight time well to pray for Princess Carol who traveled from the south on her own. Twas the sweetness and innocence of that fair lass that protected her. Yet Ella prayed for her safety and for those left in her home.
The company landed in a forest far from the walls of Camelot. Ill will held still by the King against the Dwyer clan for the deeds of Michael the Great. Retribution could fall against the clan, Lady Ella and her family. The troubles were hers by marriage and, by blood, her cousins’. They needed to cross the bridge to meet fair Carol.
Princess Thia set foot on the bridge only to be challenged by a smelly troll.
"Where are you going?"  He yelled at the gate.
"To the town of Dublin," Thia replied.
"How long do you stay?”
"A fortnight." Thia circled the foul creature.
"What is your purpose?"
"Why, to dance and sing—there is no other," Lady Ella spoke resolved.
The troll cast a wary eye upon the three. "So how are thee related?"
Ella looked over the troll searching for his objective in this question. Did he know that the clan of Dwyer stepped on English soil? Or was there some other guile afoot? "Is that a question?"
Agitated, the troll screeched, "Of course, that is a question. You will answer now." He pulled his sword from the sheathe. But his posturing was for naught. Brandy let an arrow fly into his head, and killed the creature dead.
Ella quickly searched the body for his seal that gave free passage to travelers of the realm.  Once found, she looked towards Thia to hide the rotting flesh. The diminutive wizard pulled out her book of spells and cast one upon the corpse. The troll changed into a nice piece of shrubbery.
On the other side of the bridge they searched in earnest for Princess Carol.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Two
They stepped in haste across the bridge to the boats docked along the shore. As in any march, Brandy led with Princess Thia out-stepping her to be first. The Lady followed far enough behind to watch the trees and rocks for would be ambushers. She would not feel easy until Carol had joined the party.
A half day had passed when the three came to the wooden marker for Village Dublin. Princess Thia stopped to drink from her skin of water while Queen Brandy scouted ahead. Ella rested for a moment against a mossy stone. A high pitch whistle sounded from the East—Brandy's alarm. Thia and Ella dashed in sound's direction through the dark woods. They found Brandy bent over the lifeless body of a cleric. The pit of Ella stomach lurched ill. She knew the still shape was that of her cousin Carol.
Princess Thia screamed her anguish and dropped to her knees. Slowly Brandy pulled back the tan hood revealing the ashen face of the Princess. She found two dagger wounds in Carol's back but no signs of struggle. The cleric's money purse had been taken as well as her gold cross and wedding rings.
"Cowards…highwaymen." Brandy shook her head in disgust.
Pulling open her spell book, Thia fought back tears and rage. Her mind needed be clear to cast a resurrect spell. She prayed she was not too late.
Lady Ella circled the group like a hunting Eurasian Lynx. She sought the murderers if they be near. She slipped in and out shadows, finding at last the trail of the two men. Brandy listened for her step-mother's footfall amidst the wizard's chant.  All prayed and held their breath as Thia cast her spell and requested God's intervention.
The sun slipped slowly through the trees as group established a camp and waited.
"Haa.  Haa."  The little cleric sucked air into her body.
Princess Thia cried for joy. Hugs and "Hurrahs!" were given by all. Princess Carol nearly crushed by so much love. When she gained balance enough to stand alone, she gave thanks aloud to the Spirit. The party joined in the celebration.
After a short rest and a meal of biscuits and cheese, the group walked towards Village Dublin. Lady Ella and the Maker of Treats, Queen Brandy, knew that they followed the same trail as the back stabbing bandits.
On the edge of the village, Princess Carol said, "Call me not Carol. I have been beyond the light. I spoke to my Sainted Mother. She blessed me in my childhood name. I will be called Tess, henceforth."
Weeping and hugs once more ensued. Love glowed from each face. At last they had reached Village Dublin.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Later that Evening Day Two
  With a bottle of Tess' healing potion in hand, Queen Brandy headed to the kitchen of the Shelbourne Inn of Village Dublin. Lady Ella secured lodgings for the night while Tess and Thia found a wooden booth close to the fire. The landlord brought mead and ale. An hour later a feast of fish, cured pork, rump of lamb, and roasted roots was enjoyed by all. Queen Brandy fed them the healing cupcakes she had baked. Chocolate—of course.
Village Dublin was a grand town by most standards. Many shops lined the stone streets. Carriages with and without horses traveled many directions throughout the day. There was more than one pub to be found—a concern for Ella's completion of her quest. She sought something worthy of Lord Paulferd's ashes. She kept a wary eye out for the two foul men that had hurt her kin.
As Princess Tess rested at the inn, Queen Brandy found a man named Guinness who brewed beer. Anxious to learn a new recipe, she and her companions went to St. James Avenue brewery for accumulation of knowledge and perhaps a drink or two. After many hours of drinking, shopping, and eating, they returned to wake the sleepy Tess.  All bathed and dressed for the flushing of their kin.
With a few silver coins, Lady Ella had information on a pub owned by the family Dwyer.  She secured a carriage and waited for the others to join her. Queen Brandy, the first to arrive, wore her leather boots, pants, and coat made from a cougar her husband had killed for their betrothal. Although, Thia had brought a formal gown, she chose to wear a suit of blue felt wool, something that would wear well in battle. Since Tess' transformation, Thia was wary of Ireland.  Ella wore the traditional black widow weeds. Princess Tess had out shown them all by wearing soft green silks, a gift from John the Builder upon the occasion of their anniversary.
The carriage dropped them at the opening of a small alley-way and left. Brandy sallied ahead of the party. Ella pulled out her whip and Thia opened her spell book. Both stood on either side of their fair relation, Tess.
Brandy hurried back. She exclaimed, "O'Dwyer's pub is no more. We must go."
The party turned and followed her to Marrion Park. Questions flew as they sought safety under the stone carved for Sir Oscar Wilde. "Ashes rest where the pub should be... Ruffians linger near the site."
Overcome by the long journey, the attack of Carol now known as Tess, and this widow's inability to find a suitable pub in Dublin in which to flush her husband, Ella wept. Queen Brandy petted her back. No words were spoken.
They were approached by local lass. "Hello," she said. "May I be of some assistance?"
"We seek a pub to celebrate life. Oh, and one with good eats and drink," Tess replied.
"I can help."  She told of her Uncle Dan McGrattan, landlord and honorable man. His place was a few avenues away.
Concerned about Tess' strength, Ella asked about a carriage. No sooner had she spoke, a carriage pulled close to the park. The young woman halted the car.
"What is your name?" Asked Ella.
"Of course you are." Ella thanked and hugged her.  The party left for the wake.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Irish Wake Day Two
McGrattan's Pub and Food held the scent of fine whiskey and hearty ale. The buxom lassies pushed through the tangled group of finely dressed merchants, money lenders, and honest workmen. The bar wench, Fiona, greeted them first then led them through the crowd to a table covered in white cloth. Queen Brandy ordered glasses of Jameson and settled with her back to the door. Ella chose the protective position against the wall with Tess at her side. Only five others sat in the eating hall. With the whiskey, all eased into the comfort of the house.
Fiona learned of Princess Tess' home in Swamp Castle and bowed with respect. Seems the wench would travel on Boxing Day to the Island Keys with a man who had promised her many things. Her liquid eyes and flowing words poured hope and joy over all who listened. She filled the table with fine foods—roasted roots, smoked fish, and steaming bowls of Irish stew.
The Jameson flowed as the plates cleared. "Well," said Thia to her cousin. "We are here."
"I know." Ella responded and removed the silver locket bearing a cross clasped around her neck. Thia pulled a thin dagger from sleeve and handed it, hilt first, to The Lady. Ella used the tip to open the back of the locket which revealed the dark-gray ash within the chamber. Tess took the small screw into her palm and chanted prayers over the remains. Ella stood. The companions moved in a tight diamond grouping through McGrattan's, protecting the precious cargo with each step.
Princess Thia, the first to reach the door to the men's loo, banged on the door three times and shouted, "Is anyone in there?" Without a reply she banged again and asked her question. Queen Brandy pushed open the door as each woman stepped through. Thia waited at the porcelain mounted on the wall. Lady Ella shook her head. She moved instead to the foul hole hidden by a door. When the four gathered, she said, "We must shout hurrah."
With one voice they shouted, "Hurrah!" Ella flipped the locket, tapped the back, and the flushed away the bit of ash.
Outside the stall a man exclaimed, "There are four women in the loo!" Thia turned to let him know that they were done and he could have use of the place. But in a panic he ran out of the room, through the pub, and into the night, repeating his cry, "there are four women in the loo."
Overcome with emotion of the ceremony, Brandy cried in the alcove until Fiona brought her many whiskies and comforting words. Thia, Ella, and Tess returned to their table.
Setting the locket opening-side up on the surface, Lady Ella said, "There’s still a small trace of Lord Paulferd in there. We will journey to Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow and bury the last bits of my Love at Dwyer-McAllister Cottage." With that she poured a drop of whiskey into the locket and sealed it with the silver screw.
Exhaustion crept through Ella's bones. Leaning on Tess, they slipped through the night to Shelbourne Inn.
Thia, the only truly unmarried in the group, shared her grief with barkeep and sailors in from the port. Brandy, a steadfast niece, kept a blind eye and then escorted her aunt home well after the legal curfew.  
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Three
Fog moistened the path. The party rode the trail to County Wicklow. The pounding of the horse's hooves sounded a melancholy tune that made each lassie long for the safety of home. Princess Thia spied a gypsy caravan beyond the bend. Having left early without breakfast the smell of frying potatoes and bangers proved irresistible. One by one they came to the clearing, dismounted and negotiated with the sellers for food and ale.
A young ginger-haired girl approached the group with woolen caps, gloves and trinkets for sale. Tess cried out when she saw the ring. "My ring. It's my ring." The tiny gold signet bore the coat of arms of Swamp Castle. On this land, the ring could not belong to anyone else.
Ella and Thia drew daggers as did the gypsies within the camp. Queen Brandy pointed her crossbow at one of the three men that threatened her aunts' life. "Do not be hasty sirs. We came for food."
Tess spoke in her angelic voice. "Child, where did you find my ring?" The girl looked to the man that held a dagger a few feet from Ella then back to the cleric. "Child, I will buy back my ring. Pray tell me from whence it came."
Lady Ella flashed a few gold coins. Daggers and crossbow were lowered. The chieftain offered the signet ring, Tess' cross and wedding ring for sale. As money changed hands, a description of the bandits was proffered. Generally, information would not be given by the gypsies—honor amongst thieves and the like—but the bandits were distinctive in the land—English and not warmly welcomed.
Lady Ella mounted her ride and rode back along the trail to where the bandits were last seen. The group had little choice but to follow the flying clods of dirt kicked up by her steed.
From the knoll, Ella could see the bandits resting in a shepherd's field. Brandy held the horses in the tree line. Tess and Thia slipped alongside the Lady concealed from those below behind a rock.
"Cousin, pray tell me of thy plan?" Tess' hand sat lovingly on Ella's shoulder. Ella continued her gaze at the meadow and the foul bandits. She did not speak. "Would thee go and plow down the men with your horse? Perhaps have Queen Brandy dispatch them with her crossbow? Or Thia cast a fireball spell to burn them alive?" Tess saw the anger that flamed in Ella's face. With care Tess said, "Killing two men will not bring back thy dead husband."
Ella drew up to her knees and glared into Tess' face. "I know. Do you not care that these men stabbed you in the back and left you to die?"
"I am not dead. We are all well. The death of two men will not ease our journey."
"It will ease mine."
"If it's so, then ride down. Kill in cold blood. I will wait here and pray for your soul."
Lady Ella turned away, sat hard on her rump, and stared into the woods. The magpies chatted in the beech trees. Thia and Tess waited.
After some time, Ella stood and walked towards the horses and Queen Brandy. Mounting her steed she asked, "Where can we pass the night? It is too far to travel to ride to County Wicklow. "
After regaining the horses, each rode to catch the Lady. Tess trotted past her, rounded the knoll, and pointed west. "There."
The Rock of Cashel stood high above the village and fields. The Cross of Saint Patrick was a beacon that called the soul-weary and the lost. The ancient church, built upon a peak, hosted the religions of each century's faithful. Now it speaks only to the travelers that journey from Village Dublin and the town of Cork. Tess led them to the top of the craggy rock.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Day Four
The four rode to the Rock of Cashel, a fortress surrounding a Medieval Church that once seated King Muircheartach Ua Briain—a majestic sight from the trail and awe inspiring from the gate. A young cleric ran behind the horses yelling in short breaths, "Princess Thia. Princess Thia." The stable boy took the reins of Thia's horse as she slid off the saddle. Almost as soon as her boots touched the ground the cleric pursuing her grabbed her hands. "I knew that was you. Even from a distance. How did you come to this place?"
Within the encounter, Thia recognized her good friend Jane. The two shared rooms last spring in Newporte in Country Left Coast. They studied potions and spells with the Wizard Almine. Thia gave a short bow and said, "I learned that you were in Ireland. I did not know you were to come to Cashel."
"Yes. Three moons. See there. Robert is with me." Jane pointed at the handsome cleric in the garden. Princess Tess touched Thia's sleeve. The wizard introduced her sister to her friend. After a formal bow, each spoke of their knowledge of each other.
Inside the hall, Brandy and Ella found wine, bread, and broth. Soon the others savored the meal. Robert, a cleric also and Jane's betrothed, sat next to the celebrated Princess Thia and her skilled cleric sister, Tess.
Bored with talk of spells and potions, Queen Brandy walked to the pub at the base the Rock of Cashel for a wee taste of whiskey. Lady Ella strolled through the grounds to think. She felt at this high place she could caress the stars.
At the end of a long prayer, she returned to the hall to find what had been arranged for sleeping. A cell in Cormac's Chapel held cots with straw and woolen blankets. Exhausted she slumped into the bed furthest from the door. A slit in the stone wall provided a window for air and moonlight. One by one, the travelers found a bed and a blanket. By midnight, all within the fortress slept.
"Ack." Brandy struggled against the dark figure. Tess, Thia, and Ella leapt to their bare feet. Another figure grabbed Tess' throat. Thia casted a light spell. A loud thunk and then another thunk were heard. The chamber grew bright. At feet of the warriors laid the two highwaymen.
"Did you hit them?" Brandy asked Ella. She shook her head.
"Did you?"
At the doorway, stood a sheepish looking Robert. He still held his Shillelagh high. The stunned women looked at each other, at first snickered then burst into laughter. In the darkness, the man of prayers had dispatched the assassins with accurate blows from his walking stick. All took turns hugging and praising their chivalrous gentleman for his righteous deed. Queen Brandy trussed the unconscious bodies like gutted pigs.
Heady with the recent battle, Thia, Tess, and Brandy sought out mead and ale. Robert and Ella dragged the bandits to the chambers below. "The mayor can decide their fate in the morning," Said Robert.
"Do not forget the tale of Tess on the road. Justice is best served if they can no longer cause harm."
Robert locked the cell. Lady Ella walked through the gardens, past the cemetery, then to the ramparts. Seated on the wall facing east, she waited for the dawn.
Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Last Day
Smoked fish and mash in large bowls were served to the four buxom lassies on the occasion of their last day on the Emerald Isle. Queen Brandy tore off a hunk of brown bread, dipped it into the wine, and snagged a bit of salmon on her dagger. "When are we to Wicklow?" The others stopped eating and their eyes rested on Lady Ella for a reply.
Ella finished the spoonfull of mash in her mouth. "I've been pondering that very question." She looked at each of her kinsmen's sweet face. How proud she had been to have them at her side. "I believe our quest is done. Lord Paulferd's final law has been fulfilled. It is time to go to our homes and our families."
Princess Tess touched her cousin's hand. "Thee wished to be at Dwyer Cottage. Is that no longer so?"
"No longer so. We have done much to honor my Sainted husband. I wish only to pray at the foot of Saint Patrick's Cross, then leave."
"Then we shall."
They gathered at the cross on the highest point of the fortress. "My regret," whispered Ella to Tess, "is that the locket will not be buried on his ancestor's land."
"Would this holy ground not do?"
"Tell you. I have pondered the idea. In truth, it does not seem right. Yet, the silver now resists my skin."
Princess Thia, Queen Brandy, Princess Tess and Lady Ella gathered at the foot of the cross. Tess led them with the Lord's Prayer. Ella read lines from Dante's prayer.

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
    Loreena McKennitt’s Dante's Prayer

They wept and hugged.
High above their heads, the sky filled with the color of feathers. A Phoenix of reds and blues perched on the ramparts. Ella smiled. "Heaven has sent the way home."
"What about the horses?" asked Brandy.
"They were lent for coin." said Thia. "The stable boy will return them hence."
First, Tess mounted the colossal bird. Her sister climbed behind her. Brandy started towards the ride. Ella placed her hand on her shoulder. "Hold. Pray, I wish to speak to thee."
Brandy's brown eyes sought out some understanding of this request.
"My heart has found a place for this locket." Ella touched the silver orb engraved with a cross that she had borne for two years. "I did not know until this moment that his daughter should have this remembrance."
Queen Brandy wept. Since the passing of Lord Paulferd, she had wished for a bit of ash to hold as her keepsake. She respected this widow too much to stake claim to her husband's remains. Here in this ancient place, Brandy was gifted without petition.
Lady Ella unclasped the chain and then placed it around Brandy's neck. She held Brandy's shoulders. "There," she said looking into her eyes. "It is right." She kissed Brandy's wet cheeks.
They joined the Princesses upon the Phoenix. They chased the sun to their homelands.
The End

Four Broads and an Irish Wake—Epilog
Please meet the four buxom broads in our tale.
Princess Carol/Tess, Cleric AKA Cousin Carol Therese, Nurse, lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband John and her three grown boys. She was not stabbed by bandits but was sick upon her arrival to Ireland. We had a healing prayer and with medication Carol was able to join the adventure. She loved to eat caramel pie. A dessert made of a layer of dark chocolate, thick layer of caramel, topped with a layer of chocolate, then cut into a wedge like pie. She ate three of them.
Princess Thia, Wizard AKA Cousin Cynthia/Cindy, Programmer Supervisor, lives in Walnut Creek, California with her two grown daughters. Cindy does have friends, Jane and Robert, that live in Cork, Ireland. We visited them at their home and had a lovely tea. Robert did not assault anyone during the visit. Cindy did enjoy the whiskey provided in the land and became legend when she grabbed a gentlemen’s cheek to get him to move out of a doorway. We ran into him the next day. If you want details, contact Cindy.
Queen Brandy, Maker-of-Treats, AKA God-daughter Brandy, owner of a cupcake catering business, lives in Union City with her husband of four years. The newlywed skyped her husband every night from 1:00 A.M. to 3:00 A.M. and texted in between. They are in looovvvve. Brandy loved the food presented the afternoon tea at Jane’s in Cork. Jane took Brandy to the farmers market where most the meat and fish was purchased. Brandy did not dispatch any trolls. We did have a loud encounter with an immigration officer in London Heath Row. 
Lady Ella, Warrior/Scribe, AKA Widow, Cousin, and God-mother Pamela/Pam, writer and insurance representative. I am blessed to have family to join me on such a crazy adventure. Paul’s ashes were flushed down the loo at McGrattan's Pub and Food, Dublin, Ireland. It happened pretty much as described in the story only the bartender gave me a screwdriver. I do not own a dagger. Brandy has the locket and I am serene. 
The real story seemed as bizarre as the enhanced fantasy I wrote. It included lost keys, sunglasses, hats, missing persons—Carol, Brandy, and Cindy—one at a time, stolen rental car, President Clinton, and cigars. Each of the travelers had their own stories to tell.
We accomplished our goal and returned alive—no worse for wear. Ireland is a lovely place with warm, understanding people. We had fun.
Oh and I loved the Irish stew even if Brandy did not.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Old Gadget

I traveled to Apple Hill with my church friends. The crowds caused us to spend more time in the car than in the actual orchards.  At our second stop, I managed to find a couple frozen pies to bring home. In a corner of the barn, a nice farmer demonstrated a apple peeler and slicer combo gadget.  As my neighbor just gifted six pounds of Granny Smiths, the novelty of zipping through those puppies with the help of a machine caused me to part with $29.95 plus tax. 

Excited, I hurried to join my friends and show off my new tool. No sooner that I sat down, Doris pointed out that the gadget came with free apples. With my receipt, I went back to claim my prize. With pride I filled my bag with five pounds of Pippens. I walked back, sat down, and realized I have eleven pounds of apples to make into something. I mean...cook. Dom Dom dah.

Undaunted, I went home and put the gadget to work on my kitchen counter. Stabbing and spinning the apples was fun. But now I had a bowl filled to the rim with browning apple spirals. Something had to be done. I pulled pre-formed graham cracker crusts from the pantry and started layering apple slices, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter. When the pile domed, I mixed instant hot oatmeal and maple cereal with melted butter to form a crumble crust. I popped that puppy in the oven at 350 degrees. 

My kitchen wiped out. I'm a messy cook. I saw that there were still enough apples to feed the local kindergarten. Which in retrospect would have been a great idea. Instead I filled another graham shell and repeated the process. Apples, apples every where. I emptied the sink full of peels and cores three times. Finally, reason took hold. I remembered my apple butter recipe. 

I baked nine spiraled apples wrapped in aluminum foil. Threw all of the squishy baked goodness and the subsequent juices into my Shark blender with tons of cinnamon and a dash on Algave syrup. Apple Butter. Yummy and the apples are gone.  I still have frozen pies to eat. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Travel Tips Ireland

Yes. Ireland was awesome and worth the time and expense. We booked our trip through Travelocity. I spent two months checking sites and chatting with the online helpers about the trip. Their help was free so why not use it. I prioritized low cost, five star accommodations, and a central location in Dublin. My online advisor suggested the first two weeks in October as being the cheapest as it is the least booked.
Comparing hotels seemed to be the most daunting. Location being the most important, but I had other needs—free wifi, gym for Cindy, historical vs. new, proximity to pubs and sightseeing. In all my sorts and pages, The Shelbourne Dublin Hotel, built in 1824, met the all my needs. We received an upgrade to the booked double room thanks to the early arrival of Cousin Carol. We stayed in the lovely Peter O’Toole Suite.  Listed price of our room was 700 euros—about $1,000 per night. With round trip air fare, rental car for a week, trip insurance and our suite, we paid $1,450 per person. I could not have booked a like trip to San Francisco for that.

Mistakes were made however. The rental car was not necessary. We stayed almost exclusively in Dublin. The city is teaming with tourist, walking, horse carriage, bicycle, and bus tours. We did use the car to travel to Rock of Cashel and to Cork on a one day trip. The rental car could have been procured from the hotel for that day only or we could have transported by bus or train.
Thanks to Uncle John, I had researched the history and ancestral information prior to arriving. A few blocks away from the Shelbourne, Irish historic society, and natural history, and art museums line the streets. And we had a beer in the very place it was first made. Enchanting.
I packed mostly the wrong clothes. Although all of us complained about carrying coats, we did eventually put them on in Cork. A bit of wind in that town. Scarves, hats, and sweaters were needed. Fancy dress was not. So many shops offered bargains on clothes and jewelry, I wondered why I packed anything at all.  Oh London Airport security was down-right squirrelly about liquid containers. I left most of my travel bottles behind in Dublin so not to worry about customs.
Food ate up most of the cash.  Breakfast ran about 5 euros. Lunch 12-15 euros. And Dinner 15-25 euros. The most expensive splurge was on high tea at the Shelbourne Inn. The champagne and tea meal ran $45 euros—$62 each.

Now that you are expecting to go on the same adventure at the discounted Travelocity price, I need to confess the discount comes with some pain. The trip over was a breeze even with connecting with three flights Sacramento to Dallas to London to Dublin.  Coming back, we had a twelve hour layover in London and a nine hour layover in Dallas.  Oh yes there are direct flights from San Francisco to Dublin but that costly ticket does not come with a five star hotel. It’s a matter of priorities and desire. Have fun in Ireland.

Friday, October 18, 2013


The young cashier asked, "Is that cinnamon?"
"What?" I dug through my purse looking for my wallet. I looked up to see her holding the bag with six cinnamon sticks. "Yes. That is cinnamon. Haven't you seen cinnamon sticks before?"
"I like dump a stick with honey in a cup and add boiling water." The clerk looked confused. "Cinnamon tea. It's a healthy drink."
"Oh." She smiled her perky condescending smile. "My mom loves tea. She makes a lot of it at once then drinks it cold. You know, iced tea. I'll tell her about this. She might like it."
Why is it conversations with young people evokes the reference to mom or grandma? I am after all attempting to converse with her. Probably my fault for mentioning the word boiling. I should have said microwave or hot. Don't think she boils water in a teapot. It is a lost art. My mom microwaves her water. There, I did it. I mentioned mom. Did everyone relate?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Packing for Ireland

Our packing list for Ireland.

The passport neck thingy can be had at a shop that sells travel stuff like luggage. I am using my convention pass holder or use a fishing license holder.  Oh and airports sell them. In that will be passport credit card enough Euro money for food and spending plus Dollars for the American airports.

In an over-sized purse.  Itinerary. iPad and charger. Cell phone that works in the UK or pick up a cheap phone there. Maybe a camera but maybe not if i have the iPad then we don't really need it do we? Change of underwear, emergency toiletries and enough snacks to get from one country to another. Sickness pills and pain killers. Plus prescription medications if needed. Jennifer Lin taught me the Chinese style of packing which has you carry one of those compressed towels, soap, and tiny toothpaste. She didn't trust the basics will be available everywhere.
The roll-around suitcase that fits in the overhead 22 inches or less.  Coat sweater change of clothes for six days Night gown pajamas undies socks bras at least two pairs of good walking shoes cute shoes umbrella  scarves. Something green. Nothing orange. Paul's ashes in a locket. Make up toiletries condoms if needed which I won't Alka Selzer or morning after cure flip flops work out outfit there is a gym. Not sure if there is a pool if yes bathing suit.  Would bring it any way. Brush comb toothbrush. Jewelry  but not to expensive in case you loose it. I like to travel in a skirt so everything can hang out and breathe. Also a shawl that doubles as a blanket. Keys to get back into the house when you home.Hopefully, everything fits in one roll around bag. Oh an extra foldable bag to hold the junk you will buy on the trip, drag from airport to airport, and wonder why you bought it.

Copy your Itinerary + a photo copy of passport and credit cards sealed in an envelope for the suitcase. This is in case you are separated from your purse and/or neck thingy.
Pack a smile. It always helps in travel.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Houdini

“I’ve been thinking…” I said as I placed my husband’s coffee next to the newspaper. “You need to let me know that you made it to heaven okay.” 
Paul leaned forward in the wheelchair and stabilized himself enough to pick up the steaming cup. He looked at the headlines of the newspaper and not at me.
“I’m serious.” I slammed cupboard doors and the refrigerator to jar my interest into preparing breakfast. “Houdini and his wife worked out an elaborate code so when he came back to haunt her she would recognize him.”
 “I don’t think he wanted to haunt her,” Paul mumbled from behind the Sunday comics.
“You know. Communicate with her…What do you want for breakfast?”
One month and two days after our palliative care meeting with the specialist, we became chatty about Paul’s impending death. Three years before, brittle diabetes brought on five carvings of his left leg to a final below-the-knee amputation. After two surgeries to his right foot and the breakdown of the skin all over his body, he cried, “Enough.” My husband then stopped the drugs that held his fragile life together.
We planned a good-bye weekend for our friends and family—a time to visit our home Memorial Weekend. Only God knew how I would handle those days.
 “I don’t care.” Paul moved his foot and winced as in pain. My heart twisted like a salted pretzel.
“I don’t care what I have for breakfast,” he said and flipped the paper from his face as if to emphasize his indifference.
“Okay, eggs or biscuits or a fat lip.”
Paul smiled the wide toothy grin that made my knees weak. “I’ll take the fat lip.”
I scampered across the floor, grabbed his boney shoulders, and planted a kiss on his lips. “Take that.”
“Any day. Any day.”
“So biscuits it is.” I pulled my favorite mixing bowl from the cupboard. “About Houdini…”
“I don’t see a code working. Do you?”
“Well, it didn’t for the Houdinis. We need something simple that will not be mistaken for the wind or earthquake or Chinese Ninjas.”
“Were you expecting Ninjas?” Paul dropped the paper on the table and fussed with his coffee creamer.
“Could be possible, if you are not here to stop them.” I threw Bisquick and nonfat sour cream into the bowl and stirred frantically. “But let’s set some ground rules.”
“Ground rules to a haunting?” Paul half laughed.
“Yes, I think it is necessary, given the parties involved.” I paused to give proper emphasis. “No haunting, visiting, or inhabiting any electronic gadgets. I know how you are. I will not call a priest to exorcise my computer. Thank you very much.”
“Okay. I won’t haunt your gadgets.”
Paul held up his translucent right hand. “I solemnly swear to NOT haunt or inhabit any electronics including the notebooks, servers, and iPods.”
“And cell phones,” I added.
“And your cell phone. So help me God.”
June 13, 2011, Paul died of natural causes—blood poisoning from the infection of multiple skin wounds—the result of diabetes. He was forty-seven years old. Before my eyes, his body jerked and his breathing turned to deep gasps. I caressed his shaking body. He screamed one drawn-out sentence. “I loo-ve you.” I had the chance to say it back.
I sat with him and held his hand until it became icy cold. Paramedics arranged the removal of my husband’s body. I cried so hard the muscles in my abdomen felt as if I had been doing sit-ups for hours.
Loved ones came to me throughout the day. My mom—before the firemen—came first and stayed three days. She did not want me to be alone. Late in the evening, Momma kissed me good-night and took the guest room.
I wandered around the house for a while, sipped some water, and petted his dog. With a bit of courage, I entered the bedroom where he died and took my place next to the open window. The smell of a recently mowed lawn floated into the room. I tried to form a prayer but could not think of a thing to say to God. Sitting up against the headboard, I touched the fresh sheets in a hope of finding Paul’s warmth.
Closest to the window-side of our bed, my left hand felt his. I caught my breath as if surprised. So gentle, Paul held my hand, gave it a squeeze, then no more. Peering into the dark, I hoped to see something but the dimness exposed nothing.

Paul satisfied his promise. I knew he made it to heaven. I thought of a prayer. “Thank you, God.”