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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.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Emerald Isle

I am packing and getting excited. In six days, I will wing my way to the Emerald Isle. My trip will fulfill the last request of my dearly departed Moose—Paul.
It had been our plan for years to go to Ireland for a vacation when he got well. He didn’t. At the end we planned his memorial service in Fremont, one in Sacramento, and the scattering of his ashes upon a park in the Bay area.  Every detail of his wishes, I kept true. The playing of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Rebeca singing in Spanish, How Great Thou Art! Tamera reciting the lyrics to Loreena McKennitt’s Dante's Prayer which at the moment plays softly in the background of my computer.
But his last request was to ask me carry his ashes around my neck in a silver locket and to bring the last of his ashes with me to Ireland. I am to find a pub that we would have picked had we gone there together.
 “There,” Paul said, “I would have drunk whiskey till the pub closed. So I want you to flush my ashes down the john…because you know part of me would have ended up there any way.”
Who could have turned down such a noble quest?
I take with me three princesses—my goddaughter Brandy, cousins Cindy and Carolthat loved Paul like I do. After two years, we finally carry his ashes to his ancestral homeland on his maternal side. 
We will dance, drink and sing. We will celebrate and remember the man.
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
Today’s Menu:
Breakfast: Hot oatmeal and almond milk. Coffee with agave syrup and almond milk.
Snack: Home grown Fuji Apples
Lunch: Pasta, peas, marinara.
Snack:  Home grown Fuji apples
Dinner: Leftover black bean soup and sourdough bread

Snack: Chocolate covered cranberries