Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflections on Christmas & a Series of Small Miracles

The last of our holiday guests left this morning and I find myself alone for the first time in days. It was a good Christmas, better than I had anticipated! Looking back, several things stand out in my mind....

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were gloriously, snowy white--big, beautiful flakes falling on our noses and eyelashes--the kind Tony Bennett was singing about all week long at our house, via his Christmas album, that is. (And since when did that song become a Christmas song?, we wondered aloud this week. Kind of in the same way Jingle Bells is?  Tangential connections at best!)

Everyone in my extended family was most cordial and kind to one another on Christmas Eve.  This is something of a miracle, considering there had been some dust-ups preceding the grand event.  (I'd like to think I'm "Switzerland" in all this, but I do favor one side.  Mr. P says not to be concerned about that as "even Switzerland leaned toward the Nazis." Haha!) However, we continue to handle these flareups true to our brooding Scandinavian heritage and tradition: we silently seethe and obsess about some irksome person or situation until we eventually grow tired of it and put it out of our minds, hopefully to be swept under the rug and forgotten entirely! And my step-son's incredibly yummy fried turkey didn't hurt matters either! Miracle?....check!

Coincidentally, two of our guests who were supposed to be at our Christmas morning brunch were unable to attend, as they were stuck in London due to too much of that glorious, snowy white. Oddly, they do not know each other and it seems strange to me when I think that there were 2 people in that far away metropolis who were both trying to get to the same tiny town in the Midwest of America. Would have been even more bizarre if they ended up on the same flight, then met at our house thinking, "I know I've seen that guy somewhere before...."

I drank too much, but suffered no ill after-effects.  I am considering that my Festivus Miracle!

My step-son's girlfriend (you know, the one who never picks up a restaurant tab) actually seemed flattered when I presented her with a meatless version of this year's "Breakfast Strata" in her own little mini casserole dish. (It's not that she's a non-meat eater on any sort of ethical grounds--that would be easier to accept; it's just that she doesn't like the taste of any meat except chicken--white meat only.) Sometimes it's hard to connect with her....another Christmas miracle?!

Sausage & Sun-dried Tomato Strata
I found the most perfect recipe for Christmas cut-out cookies.  You see, my mother never made them when I was growing up.  Perhaps she did at one time, but those days must have been long gone by the time I came along. (Alas, the curse of the youngest child.) I've been through a number of middling recipes over the years; the last one (before Xmas season) had me planning to give away all my cookie cutters to the Goodwill.  Then I stumbled upon one more recipe (hope springs eternal?!) and decided to try.... Let's just say the Goodwill (God bless that excellent organization) is not getting my cookie cutters and people were asking me for "my" cookie recipe!  Miracle time!!!

The little guy is frowning 'cause his arm has been eaten!
Mr. P was a most excellent Christmas elf!  Remember that Le Creuset uber-practical pot I suggested?  Got it!...well, got the oval version by mistake, but I figure I can just learn to stir in ovals rather than circles!  Those mercury glass pillar candleholders? 'em!...well, two of the tallest size rather than a threesome--a perfect pair! All the other sizes aren't available until June!  (Nice job, Pottery Barn merchandise people, nice job!--a lump of coal for you?!)
Mr. P is renowned for his present wrapping.
In his world, there are no square corners!

And perhaps in his starring role as elf, Mr. P presented me with this romantic little item:

This dragonfly pin is a "whimsical adaptation" of the original which is in the Kremlin Museum in Moscow.  The funny thing is, I've probably looked at the original, but have forgotten! (I know, that sounds so blasé! In my defense, there were so many, many incredible insect and plant forms adapted into precious gems--those Czarinas sure had cool stuff!) If you want one, you can get one here.

Yes, all in all, a good holiday!  I hope your holiday season was just as kind to you.
Contented sigh.... on to 2011....!

The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they happen.
                             ---G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us!

Today, December 23rd, is Festivus!

Get your Festivus pole out of the closet, prepare for the feats of strength,
get ready for the airing of grievances, and most of all,
expect a Festivus miracle!

(Glaedelig Jul is Danish for Merry Christmas,
which actually isn't as creepy as this guy makes it look!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Green" Christmas

Some people just seem to have a clever way about doing things.  I envy that!

Take a look:

A cleverly wrapped Christmas gift from a friend of ours. It's sitting under our Christmas tree and it is my understanding that it contains homemade vodka infusions. (That much was divulged because we were supposed to be sure to keep it upright; she wasn't sure about the cork reliability factor!)  The flavors of said infusions remain a mystery. Oh, sweet anticipation!

Funny, I don't remember them going to Cozumel....


I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same.
Giving and receiving -- not giving and taking.
                                          --Joyce Grenfell

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Merry Merry Merry....

Some people are so darned creative....a little holiday music for you!
(Will you be able to watch this only once?!)

Good grief, it'z blizzarding outzide! 
Here'z what it lookz like, only minutez ago:

Pardon the picture quality...taken with phone.
Sure, yesterday it was nearly 50 degrees, and today it's in single digits, wind howling, snowing horizontally.
I make fun of how much we Midwesterners are willing to talk about the weather
...geesh, it's something to talk about today!

Luckily, this stack is out of the blizzard and well on its way to California! Hooray!
(Note Christmas Story paper on top!)

Now it's time to have more of those
Black Walnut & Golden Raisin Cookies
I've been obsessing about (and eating) for days!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis better giving than receiving....

Most of my Christmas shopping is done!  Hooray!  Generally I find it pretty easy to think of things for people I love.  My problem is usually reining myself in.  Not the case with Mr. P, "Eccentric Genius" that he is.  He has difficulty this time of year. From his point of view, you'd think the stars have aligned to conspire against him: there's my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and Christmas...1-2-3-!! They tend to stack up on him and his solution is to generally sigh a lot and purse his lips.  (Actually I'm playing fast and loose with that last part about the lips; I can't be sure, they're under his moustache and no one, other than his dentist, has seen them in decades.)

Holiday fatigue had already set in by #2, our anniversary.  By some mysterious consensus, we didn't exchange gifts.  Sadly, we didn't even exchange cards!  (And I love cards!)  Mr. P suggested that we could go to the card store, pick out cards, and pretend we had given them to each other. (Lame!) I suggested a nifty follow-up would be to go to the jewelry store and look at all the fancy jewelry that we didn't give each other.  Then we could go to the luxury car dealership and pick out our new car that we didn't give each other.  The possibilities are endless! (For some reason I think he interpreted my cleverness as sarcasm.  C'est la vie!)

I'm starting to get the impression that I am something of a burden to buy for.  This is probably brought on by the fact that I hardly "need" anything--that is totally what I call a "champagne problem." You know, like super rich guys sitting over their prime rib dinners complaining about all the taxes they have to pay because (you can only surmise?) they've made so much money that year!  And speaking of expensive dinners.....

Over the Thanksgiving break we went out to dinner with my step-son and his girlfriend. It was not a grand affair--really just getting a bite at a decent restaurant the evening before the big feast.  The bill for four of us came to $150.00.  Not to sound petty (ok, this will probably sound petty) but my entree was $14.00.  Mr. P purses his lips (I assume) and pays it--afterall, the bill always seems to be placed in front of the oldest male at the table and nobody quibbles with this quaint custom. For example, we have yet to see the girlfriend (who has a high-paying job in middle management with a Fortune 500 company, as they say) ever, ever pay for a meal.  So, pettiness aside, where am I going with this?....Logically, if one can plunk down $150 for a bite, everything being relative, what should one plunk down for a Christmas present? Something that will last longer than 1.5 hours and hopefully not leave you with indigestion?! Hmmmm....has the ante been upped?

So here's a helpful list of ideas (some of these I even managed to create a link, just scroll the cursor over the words):

1) Firstly, I have to make a disclaimer (Lutheran guilt; all Scandinavians have it).  We have given to our favorite charities already. The holidays aren't only about us, yada yada yada.  Our favorites are Doctors Without Borders, our local Animal Shelter, Project Zawadi, Amnesty International and our local United Fund.

2) I know plenty of women who refuse to even consider the joy of receiving a housework-related gift, such as a vacuum or mixer.  My Mom always said that if it's something that makes your life easier, then it truly is a gift!   (In all fairness, my friend who received the dustbuster would have been far more thrilled if a piece of jewelry was attached to the handle. Gentlemen take note.) My housework related choice:
Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven, 7 1/4-Qt.
Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven, 7 1/4-Qt., Cobalt Blue

The practicality of this choice astounds me--I may never have to pony up for another one of these things in my lifetime! Really, everyone in the household benefits with this one. (Shipping might be a little pricey for something this substantial, but there's some good deals out $30 and get "free" shipping for a year! Woot!)

2) Pajamas....who doesn't need new pajamas? However, I'm tall and I hate pajama pants that are too short.  Have you ever noticed that in practically every clothing store there's a "petite" section, but there's never a "tall" section for women?!  There's usually a tall section in men's.... alas, I guess women are supposed to be average or short, and if you're tall you already have a leg up on the other gals and you have no right to complain (or so it seems). Hrrmmmph! So...walking into just any clothing store is out of the question for Mr. P.  (On the upside, I cannot begin to calculate the amount of money and time I have saved by seldom bothering to go into clothing stores! :)

3) Jewelry--yeah, it's cliche.  So what's your point?!

4) Scarves, preferably of the silky or woven linen-like variety, not the actually there to keep you warm variety.  Does that make sense? 

5) Antiques.  Hmmm...that's kind of broad. Just putting that out there...

6) Antique Mercury Glass Pillar candle holders--Should probably say "antique" here... don't "need" them, but like 'em!  (And free shipping, folks!)

Antique Mercury Glass Pillar Holders
Phew! I am plumb out of ideas! Now what to do about Festivus?!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


My daughter texted me over the holidays:

"Want to see the cutest photo of  Lola EVER?"

She's right!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 22, 2010

'Tis Time to Give Thanks

Over the river and through the woods
to Grandmother's house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow. Oh!

Over the river and thru the wood,

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes, and bites the nose,

As over the ground we go.

Over the river and thru the wood,

To have a first-rate play;

Oh, hear the bell ring,


Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day-ay!

Over the river and through the woods
Trot fast my dapple gray.
Spring over the ground like a hunting hound
For this is Thanksgiving Day, Hey!

Over the river and through the woods
And through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go extremely slow
It is so hard to wait!
Over the river and through the woods
Now Grandmother's face I spy.
Hurrah for the fun,
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Autumn brings poetic thoughts....

"O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being. 
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
 Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."

                                                                                                 -  Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, November 11, 2010

She Baked Me a Cake!

Cashing in air miles, we spent the first week of November in sunny San Diego, visiting the Girl Child and her Marine hubby and, of course, our Granddog Lola!

Lola was happy to see her Abuela!
(We try to speak to her in her native language as much as possible!)
Rumor had it the weather was unseasonably warm back home (we're happy for our friends we left behind).... it was unseasonably warm and sunny in San Diego as well! Yay!  No marine layer in the mornings--we woke up to bright, sunny, cloudless skies all week long.

Ocean Beach

Our favorite place to go this time was the Dog Beach at Ocean Beach.  If you ever want to witness absolute JOY-- go there and observe all the dogs!  Our little Lola did pretty well holding her own; though she often seemed more intriqued with the dogs' owners than with the dogs themselves.  (She's such a people person!) At one point she became very attached to a spritely young woman jogging down the beach with her little Yorkie.  Apparently Lola figured she'd just go live with them from that point forward; or at least you'd get that impression by the way she never looked back...not even once.  Aside from that, it finally dawned on her that she could RUN....preferably in large, circuitous movements at breakneck speed.  She received compliments on her prowess from other dog "parents." We're so proud of our little Lolabug!

More Ocean Beach (but not the dog part).
Mr. P and I walked out onto the Pier and had lunch--an awesome Mahi Mahi Fish Taco washed down with Iced Tea.  (Wish I could show you some amazing, well-lighted, perfectly proportioned "foodie" photo here....but I only had my iPhone.  As if you'd be getting that otherwise! ha!) The salt air smell made us homesick for Mexico; this was a pretty good substitute.

Our view from the restaurant.
And for the grand finale...the actual reason (excuse) for making this trip..... my birthday!  People were very, very good to me:  Mr. P realized my need for some gold hoop earrings (his lament: "It's not a good time to be buying gold." But he sucked it up anyway!).  Our Marine smoked a leg of lamb using some of the lilac wood we brought along in our suitcases--those puppies are surprisingly heavy. (Bet the baggage handlers wouldn't have guessed "lilac logs"!)

And the Girl Child made this:

Yes, a first....the tables have turned....she made me a cake!!  Hidden beneath that "Tie Dye" exterior was a superb Red Velvet cake. We're so proud of our little Beanie! If this is a reward for getting older, bring it on!


With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.
                                         --William Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alternative realities.

I need to make a correction to my previous post-- I was wrong, I said Meg Whitman spent something like $60 million.  It's more like $140 million.

That's $140 million!

One hundred forty million dollars!





I can hardly grasp the concept of that much money.  Obviously Meg couldn't either!  But let's suppose Meg gets a re-do.  If Meg had to spend $140 million--and it can't be on herself (because she tried that last time with less than stellar results)--what should she spend it on?

Hmmm.....for starters.....

A little college in Pennsylvania recently received a gift of a mere $30 million.  They're over the moon. How about Whitman University?--though I'm not sure I'd want to major in their Political Science program!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have you voted yet?

Have you voted yet?  Have you managed to wade your way through the political muck our society is drowning in? If you've been paying attention, you know that we're surrounded by the most evil people in the history of humankind and, strangely, every single one of them happens to want to become or remain an elected official! It's a scary world out there, and we must practice constant vigilance!  Or so we're told....

I truly believe most every politician originally entered politics because he or she wanted to contribute to the good of our society--whether they are Democrat or Republican, etc. etc.  I also think every politician, deep down in their hearts (if there's anything left in there) knows this as well. So it's just plain depressing when they, along with their like-minded pundits, resort to demonizing anyone who isn't in lock-step with their agenda. Just look at those TV ads if you doubt me.

Is it really noble to spend $60 million of your own fortune, or the money earned by others for that matter, on your bid for office?  Take the blatent example of Meg Whitman of eBay fame.... apparently she wants the power and prestige which comes with being the Governor of California (and the possibilities of future offices that seat holds?)  Sadly, she could have used that $60 million to start an amazing charitable foundation--as to who it would benefit, take your pick. She could have been a much loved and admired woman of influence.  I guess her ego and priorities are elsewhere.

Could it be that there's just too much money at stake?  Could it be that campaign finance reform, and I mean real campaign finance reform, might be an answer?  Oh sure, some of them talk about it, but then they get into office and their convictions seem to melt away.  It must be hard to keep your eye on the ball when all those corporate and PAC contributions keep flowing in.

I've been involved in politics for a long time. I made my campaign debut in 1972 when my friend Jeff and I led the Nixon campaign at our elementary school. And we won! It was those little Nixon buttons we designed out of cardboard (and distributed at recess) that did it--that sort of thing didn't occur to those McGovern losers! Looking back, the whole experience remains one of my most memorable elementary school experiences--though I'm not sure whether to be proud or ashamed, considering my candidate! ( I don't recall my bemused parents saying much to me about it; I have a hunch they didn't vote the way I did!)

I'm still into politics.  Mr. Pocketts and I are the local representatives for our County political party. I've been the Caucus Chairman several times--it's actually kind of fun. We put up yard signs, sometimes write letters to the editor, volunteer at our County Fair booth; I'm not sure whether it always helps, but we've met lots of people in the process--of both sets of stripes and a myriad of opinions ranging from Tea time to twilight zone!! I'm pretty sure every one of us cares about our country, even though I admit to feeling "charitable" saying this.

I watched some of John Stewart's "Restore Sanity and/or Fear" rally on C-span yesterday.  His end speech was stirring--particularly appropriate for me as that's just what I was doing--stirring ingredients together for an apple pie.  It was not lost on me that, as John went on about how the vast majority of us get along with each other every single day in America, respecting the rights of others, I was making that most American of foods--apple pie! (Ok, groan if you like, but really...)

The past year, I've almost totally quit watching television news.  When we spent several weeks in Mexico last winter, I didn't miss it.  We read the newspaper instead. Congress was debating healthcare;  the newspapers were factual, not alarmist, merely giving us a review of events.  When we got home and turned on the TV, it was like we were witnessing a different world--a world of strife and back stabbing, a world that most wanted us to hold on through the next commercial break to hear more of the same.  It's a world we wanted no part of.  We turned it off. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to give it up and let whatever happens happen.  I'm just saying we need rational thinking--something that is hard to find in cable TV land. It can really only be found within each one of us, if we have the fortitude.


"If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democrat!"
                                    --Harry Truman


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bumbling along...

....through Bulgaria!

Ask somebody what they think of when you mention Bulgaria and you'll get varied answers (excluding those who just give you a quizzical, somewhat blank look)--my favorite being "Is that where Bulgur wheat comes from?"  There's more to this country than Olympic weight-lifting cheats or the classic Bulgarian "heavy" in every Cold War spy novel!

When you're trundling across Bulgaria in a bus, you'll get a variety of comments, apparently depending on where you're from:

"This looks like west Texas." (It was hot and dry that day in the southwest.)
"This looks just like Kansas." (Fields and fields of blooming sunflowers.)
"This looks like it could be Indiana." (Cornfields.)
"We could be in Kentucky right now." (More cornfields.)

It's pretty obvious Bulgaria is an agricultural country--field after field of sunflowers, corn, and most surprisingly--roses. While we didn't actually see them blooming (that's in June, I'm told), it's not often you see something you think of as a fancy garden plant grown on an industrial scale! Bulgarians are justly proud of their roses; we were told all about them over the span of, say, hours.  (There's a lot of miles to cover--there's time.) We were highly encouraged to purchase rose scented lotions and perfumes--kind of with the assumption that you'd have to be out of your mind not to want rose scented everything. After a pit-stop, our bus full of sweaty tourists started smelling better and better.... Mr. P, with an expression of growing contentment, commented that it made him think of his Grandma. Apparently he wasn't the only one; everybody seemed rather pleased to be there!  Hmmm... maybe this was the Guide's diabolical plan all along?!  Now if she had brought out a plate of warm cookies....


Chances are, if you see a monument in Bulgaria,
it's commemorating a battle with the Turks.
Chances are, the Turks won.
Typical Soviet architecture in Eastern Europe.
Where a Soviet star or hammer & sickle once resided...
there is nothing.
Depending on your point of view,
this might be considered an architectural improvement.

A church in Vidin, Bulgaria.
You'd mind your P's & Q's walking through
that door, wouldn't you?!

Beautiful Bulgaria

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

                                  ---Mark Twain

Monday, September 27, 2010

All the really important things....

Istanbul has a lot of really cool stuff--major understatement!
Beginning with the city was a fortified city at one time.

And then there's the mosques...the glorious, wonderful, stupendous, awesome, utterly beautiful mosques!
The Blue Mosque
As you can tell, I loved those pink flowers!
 Never did find out what they were,
but they were everywhere.
However, there are the lesser known mosque Cats!
Doesn't everybody take photos of cats while on vacation?!
At the entrance of the Blue Mosque.
One photo is not enough, let's get a better look....
Hello, Puss!
Then again, besides the feline distractions, there is this:
Blue Mosque
I should mention here that it was 98 degrees, no breeze, with high humidity; probably warmer inside the mosque. So there I stood in this grandeur, trying to pretend that a torrential sweat was not running down my backside, remaining calm, even striking a thoughtful pose (ha!). One must maintain a sense of decorum afterall. But on the inside....I was jumping for joy, doing cartwheels, exclaiming (oh so thoughtfully, of course): "This is so cool!!!!" 
You could pretty much say I felt that way on the entire trip! 
Inside the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya)
For a little perspective,
those round Arabic discs are 25 feet across.
(Isn't that a couple storeys high?)
The Hagia Sofia deserves an encore because it's just that amazing!  (I'll spare you the other 100 or so photos I took of this place! Not kidding!)
Can you tell I have a thing about pillars & columns?

Later, we went to the Topkapi Palace...where the big-time Sultan lived, with his rather large entourage of servants, family, and of course, the Harem.
Speaking of Harems....
Maybe this was a little more along the lines you'd expect to see at a Palace?:
I guess I have a thing for domed ceilings, too!
At one point Mr. Pocketts and I escaped to go to the National Museum of Antiquities. (Still 98 degrees, etc.) Here's what you do when you have a few extra bits laying around:

Any one of these would have been the centerpiece of a museum back where I come from!
And when you blessedly collapse in a chair to have an icy cold Coke (98 degrees...), somebody might be watching you:
Why, hello there, you!
The Turks, or rather the Romans at the time, also made good use of a few leftover Greek bits. During Justinian's reign, ginormous cisterns were built.  And what if you had a couple pillars that, for whatever reason, didn't quite meet the specs? Well, you improvise:
Finally a good use for those pesky, old Medusa heads.
Sometimes you have to do that more than once:

After all that, it sure did feel good to get back to our hotel room and lie down in the air-conditioned bliss! We were dead tired!

While we were gone, our hotel was thinking about us.  They were kind enough to leave treats for us--every day was a Turkish Delight indeed! (sorry, couldn't resist)

Ok, so I took photos of my hotel candy--don't judge me! 

And as for the cat picture-taking my defense, I wasn't the only one!

********* ********* *********

Join me next as, for some quirky reason, I decide that riding across Bulgaria in a bus sounds like a swell idea!

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