Friday, July 30, 2010

The Bite and Brew

Had a good time meeting folks, both local and otherwise, while occupying the eatsalem booth today. We enjoyed the jerky guys next door, the ever changing music and the weather. Plus, who knew we'd see a thunder storm in the afternoon?
Can't wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Twitter Mornings

One of the reasons I like Twitter, namely the regional branch, is the morning chit chat.  It's kinda like sitting around a cafe/coffee shop with the same bunch of regulars every morning, reading the morning news together.

"Hey, take a look at THIS story.", seems to be what each tweet says.  And we do.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Captured my parents and put them on a slideshow :)

I find the urge to harass my folks with a camera happens more often these days.  Hope they didn't mind too much.  I know I enjoyed it  :>)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Taking Action

Sometimes a person must take action.
There are those zillions of other times when it's best to watch and listen or even let go.
Not in this case.
Fran found out there's a maximum of 3 years deferment on student loans.  The next step--one she's not crazy about, is to request permanent disability.  Unfortunately, chronic, debilitating pain is not on their list of disabilities.   I understand they have to be careful, but a little flexibility for individual circumstances would be a nice option.  The day we received the denial in the mail, a loud, little voice told me that this is when it's appropriate to contact your congressman.
I found an online contact form and sent off a quick message.  We received an answer from a real person in a short period of time.  The congressman's representative gave us a list of items to gather.  It took a several days for us to decide what to include and how much to add to the summary.
Now it's done and ready to mail.
Wish us success.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Manual labor

N's out on the deck going from the bbq's instruction manual to the parts to the assembly.  I helped with the unwieldy parts, but I try to stay clear the rest of the time.  When you add heat, the boss's frustration can make the help feel unhelpful.  Okay, so maybe I'm making excuses for sitting on my butt in front of the computer, but when you chatter like I do it's hard for him to concentrate.  :>)

I was proud of the pups for staying clear of the waffle making process this morning, even though the batter, waffles and bacon were all on the deck bench--close enough for a quick grab.

I imagine we'll all move at a slow, relaxed pace today with these hot temps.  I'll be the first to admit to being a weather wimp.

Time to stop rambling . . . later gator

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chillin with the folks

I was so happy that my folks were driving down to spend Friday with us!  Usually that would mean I'd scramble around cleaning, but with the odd sleep schedules of the girls I decided to let that go--amazing feat for me.  But I did plan out our menu for the day, with the two of them in mind, of course.
We sat chatting in the backyard pretty much all day, except for a quick trip to Costco before they left.  It was a good opportunity for them to use one of their gift cards.  Especially since Dad liked our new shower head, with the extra, optional hand-held head.
I wonder what we should do today . . .

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feta Cheese Turkey Burgers

I LOVE this turkey burger recipe! I found it last year and have no idea of how many times I've made them since.
(I substituted sun-dried tomatoes for the olives)

Feta Cheese Turkey Burgers
(click here for link to recipe)
recipe image
Submitted By: Lol
Photo By: InTheDesert
Servings: 4

" Move over hamburgers -these turkey burgers studded with feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and oregano are fabulous. Grill and serve on your favorite whole wheat bun or stuffed inside pita bread."
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
ground black pepper to taste
1.Preheat the grill for medium high heat.
2.In a large bowl, combine turkey, feta cheese, olives, oregano, and pepper. Mix together, and form into patties.
3.Lightly oil the grate. Place patties on the grill. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2010 Allrecipes.comPrinted from 7/23/2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kill those nerves!

Fran had an appointment with her new doc today to make a final assessment as to whether the diagnostic injections worked.
Now she has an appointment scheduled on the 3rd to kill those two offending nerves!
Can't wait.
But I'll try.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Less shade, more winter warmth

Freaky, nervous me

I felt like a cat pacing back and forth in a pet shop cage yesterday, while the tree guys changed Silver Maple into something I don't recognize.  Why does it bother me on some (weird?) level to have people in the backyard?  Not sure.  I'd prefer to be outside under their feet, watching their every move.
I'll be glad when they're done.
That's all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Old Maple Tree

(Updated below)
We thought "she" was big when we moved into this house the day before Halloween in 1991.  I'm thinking Silver Maple was just a teenager back then--or late teens perhaps?  We took a drive up from Roseburg to take one last look at our newly purchased house before moving in.  We were surprised at how deep (knee-deep on the deck) the fallen leaves were and the Maple didn't even appear to have lost more than an armful.  N became more familiar with this autumn ritual than the rest of us combined.  Every year his weekends, from Oct. 1 - Dec. 1, are spent worshiping Silver Maple, whether it's in crisp, beautiful weather or muddy, cold downpours.  His tools of worship have changed over the years, but the goal is the same--transform dead, golden leaves into compost.

This year, both of us have begun to notice an abundance of deadwood in Silver Maple.  Amazingly, we can now see sky through her less leafy branches.  We tried ignoring, but it seems to have only gotten worse.  And so I began looking up local arborists.  Roger, the first, came for a peek last week.  He mentioned that he just attended a class about "Maple Wilt", that's affecting Maple trees as well as different types of trees.  After hearing that news, N did some research on the web and then peered at Silver Maple a little harder.

Roger's suggestion was to remove deadwood and begin reducing her height--starting at 20-25% this year.  Then N and I begin to wonder if we'd end up putting more money into reducing her height, only to find out we need to remove her one or two years down the road.  Gads!  I hate these kind of decisions!  Especially since we've grown accustomed to and rely on Silver Maple's shade every summer.  Not to mention all of her colorful friends: Flickers, Sapsuckers, Nuthatches, etc.  But the idea of having one of her four trunks land on the house?  Chilling, absolutely chilling!

On the other hand, we have longed for enough added sunlight for our struggling roses to thrive and to be able to grow a small, vegetable garden again.  Then it dawned on me--if Silver Maple were gone (resisted urge to make a pun and say "leave"), N would have the gift of (somewhat) way less leaf gathering.  That's a large increase of weekend time to be handed!

Now I'm waiting for a return call from another arborist.  Hopefully, we don't do our usual procrastinating on this decision.  Hopefully.

Update:  I contacted arborist/tree service #2 yesterday.  He arrived just in time for me to make it to my very important appointment (happy hour with the dames).  :)   He had a slightly different take on the Maple, one I knew would appeal to Norm's desire to keep the tree--even though getting rid of it gets us a bit closer to our dream of extending the house out 10 feet.  They'll be here this afternoon to give her a shave and a haircut.  No, not for 2 bits, but it's better than we feared.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Staying up late=sleeping in late

It's way too easy to stay up late in the summer.  Poor N!  He is on a regular schedule--unlike the rest of us.  It doesn't take much to keep us up.  Last night it was Veronica Mars.  I don't know how people can buy a series and keep from watching the entire set all in one sitting, particularly when the series has a cliff hanger at the end of each episode.  Luckily I found the strength to shove myself off the couch before the clock struck midnight last night.

N's out working over the compost today.  We noticed that our black bin that holds our kitchen waste was attracting and maybe even providing a nursery for flies.  He mixed it up and added some finished compost and now he's rototilling the compost from the yard, spreading some around in flower beds and consolidating the rest  into just one of the two bins.

I was sidetracked by some exciting eatsalem news.  We have a chef returning to open a new bistro.  You never know what you'll learn on Twitter!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The last word: The (scientifically) perfect vacation

The following is an excerpt from an article I read in "The Week" about vacation.  It was interesting enough that I wanted to share:

The last word: The (scientifically) perfect vacation

How behavioral psychologists and economists can help you make the most of your precious time off
By Drake Bennett. Originally published in The Boston Globe. ©2010 by The New York Times Co.
"The finding is a testament to the human tendency to procrastinate, in pleasure as in work. Seen this way, part of why we enjoy ourselves on a vacation stems from the fact that it gives us a deadline: an often sharply limited time window during which we have to go out and enjoy ourselves.

If you realize this, suggests Shu, you can give yourself some of the benefits of a vacation without going anywhere, simply by cordoning off a day or two and strictly scheduling it for leisure. That way you’ll actually go out and see the play or concert you would otherwise have skipped, or take the time to dig the tent and camp stove out of the basement." (to read the entire article click here)

Doctor Love round 2

Wow!  Fran had her second date yesterday and she's still in love with this new doc.  That's an event we haven't experienced over the past years.  Unprecedented?  I think that's proper word usage.  :>)
Two shots this time.  Both diagnostic and both with results.  Can't wait for the next appointment.  Feeling a bit giddy, yet too superstitious to show it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It takes a village

It's so easy to referee from the bleachers.
Even so, I called for a huddle this morning.
After listening to a friend confide about her rebellious teen (17), I slept on it and then emailed my two cents worth of advice.  In the end, I hope it's worth a little more than that.
My qualifications?  Not much--N and I have raised two teens.  We rallied through some challenges.  Oh, and I was that rebellious teen.  And while I know it doesn't give me any particular insight into every rebellious teen, it does give me a slightly different view of the problem.
Since this child is three years from the end of her term as a teen, my suggestion was to take her on an overnight college tour. Explain that this is mom and dad's hope for her, but getting to the finish line is all up to her.  My thought is she needs a reason to change course.  So much of rebellion is a child punishing their parents for whatever reason.
And now I'm curious, what kind of advice would you give to these parents?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everyone is dealing with something

This afternoon when our little summer lunch crew got together over beer, cocktails and food, we joked, teased and laughed with each other and then shared the toughest parts of what each of us is currently dealing with .
T has a father in hospice and a mother with dementia  He and his siblings recently moved their folks 500 miles from the childhood home they built their lives together in.  L-1 has an older teen pushing all the boundaries and doesn't know what to do next.  L-2 does whatever it takes to support a SIL who is third on a list for an organ transplant, even if it means helping her move from one state to another for a few months and then back again.
Sometimes it helps a teeny tiny bit to share the load, even if it's just a verbal exchange.
Lucky me, I've had two such lunches in two days.

Words of Wisdom from Carolyn Hax

Click here to find her column.

"Dear Carolyn:

I have a sticky situation at work. The company I work for often needs information from "Jane's" organization. I have been in my field for a year, while Jane is seasoned in hers.

I feel intimidated by Jane, who can be short and abrasive on the phone, and usually speaks loudly, like she's yelling at me. She hangs up as I am ending my remarks. Like "Good [click] bye."

When our conversation is over, I feel small and a bit run over.

I don't know how to deal with her rudeness and present myself as a professional who should be treated respectfully. I don't want to be argumentative, and there really is no one above her I could talk to. Any suggestions?


Jane isn't your mother, your mate, your close friend, your beauty contest judge, your doctoral review committee, the judge at your custody hearing or even the seen-it-all, public-weary power-tripper at the window of the DMV. You don't need Jane to like you. You just need the information your job requires.

So, put on your business skin (read: elephant hide) over your thin personal skin, state your business and be done with Jane, while expecting the same from her. It's both assertive and pragmatic. And if her hanging up on you shaves your Jane time to its absolute minimum, maybe that's a gift."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just one little day that's all I'm asking

Today's (and yesterday's) challenge is getting one of Fran's medications filled one day early. Before increasing the present dosage, her doctor insisted on changing the time period between each dose instead. At the time, we were concerned about the possible hoop jumping this would require from us when it was time to replenish her supply.
Sure enough! Yesterday I called the pharmacy to see if the prescription was ready, they said 2 more days (one day longer than needed). Second call was to leave a message for the doctor. At the end of the day, the third call made was to the pharmacy again, to see if the prior approval was complete. No. Today, I've made one call to the doctor, two to the pharmacy and one to the insurance. The insurance person said it was possible. Now to wait and see if I need to make another call.
This hoop jumping is a little crazy, but at least I don't work in the summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Herbed Orzo and Summer Squash

I happened across this recipe last summer, while searching for new ways to use squash.  It turned up on Carrboro Farmer's Market website. Turned out to be a keeper.

Herbed Orzo and Summer Squash
From Sheri Castle of Creative Cooking with Sheri Castle
This is so simple, yet so very good. The trick is to use as many different types of summer squash and zucchini you can find in the market. I am in love with those pattypan squashes that look like little multicolored flying saucers. In parts of the Deep South, they're called cymlings. You use the entire vegetable, just as you'd use any small summer squash or zucchini. At this stage in the season, nearly all of the squashes are so tender that they don't need to be peeled.
This can be a side dish or a light summer entree. For variety, try using crumbled goat cheese or cubes of smoked mozzarella in place of the Parmesan. Or, to make it more hearty (in a lighthearted kind of way), stir in some leftover grilled chicken, diced tomatoes and moisten with Italian dressing.

1 1/2 cup orzo pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cups (about 3 pounds) diced assorted fresh summer squashes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or more to taste)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest of one fresh lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1. Cook the orzo according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
3. Add the onion and sauté until it softens, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the squash and sauté until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Drain the orzo well and stir into the sautéed vegetables.
7. Stir in the Parmesan, basil, parsley, zest and pine nuts. If the dish seems dry, drizzle with more
olive oil.
8. Season with additional salt and pepper.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jump! Higher! Again!

It seems like it took a week to get something to happen with Fran's prescription.  It's not settled, but thanks to her phone calls she has enough to get by until the prior approval is taken care of.
Much of the thanks goes to the people at Salem Costco pharmacy for going the extra yards to help Fran out.  No stone walls--"I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do".  Instead we hear--"I'll resend, I'll recheck, I'll call you back", and then they do.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vegetable, vegetables! I want vegetables!

I bet I never said that as a child!
No wisecracks from siblings necessary.

I found a link to a video on making this recipe in my email today, but wanted the recipe all typed out instead.  My search was rewarded on this blog and they took pictures.  :>)

Summer Vegetable Gratin
Originally published in the July 2008 edition of Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 6-8 as a side or 4 as a light main dish
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound summer squash (yellow), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters (Erin’s Note: I used 1 cup of Panko Bread Crumbs)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.
Toss zucchini and summer squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.
Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and dark golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set onions aside.
Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs). Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stick in the spokes day

Late this morning, I was going to drive north to see a niece and her husband who are visiting from Canada--right after stopping to pick-up two of Fran's prescriptions.  Turns out, there was a problem with her new one.
So, instead of driving north, I drove home to see what was in my power to change.
Four phone calls later and I still wasn't any closer to getting Fran what she needed.  Tomorrow is another day.
N and I will drive up this evening instead.
Something I do have control over?
The garbage!  I CAN do that!

Monday, July 5, 2010

I'd rather jam than switch

Last June, Fran and I made a couple batches of freezer jam using Ball Freezer Jam Pectin.  The ratio of fruit to sugar was the deciding factor; 4 cups of smushed berries to 1.5 cups of sugar.  Not only was there less sugar in the jam, but the overall experience was better.  I felt like I was really eating berries and didn't feel the gritty sugar crystals in every bite.  So this year, I used all Ball and I didn't miss the boiling of the pectin or buying 10+ lbs of sugar.
It's so simple it feels like cheating.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Socially challenged

Just because I'm an adult doesn't mean I'm all finished with maturing or "don't stick a fork in me, I'll never be done".
Going to a social function makes me all too aware of that fact.  I blame it on my shyness.  After having been shy for 40+ years and then finding some relief in that area( thanks to pharmaceutical science), I find myself not knowing all the niceties and rituals of the social world.  Probably sounds lame, but I'm telling you, the feelings I get in those situations are lame, too.  Although, the definition isn't the same.

Bundle that together with being hard of hearing (yes, hearing aides are not a cure all) and I probably unknowingly hurt some feelings or cause people to shake their heads in bewilderment.  At least that what my late night anxieties tell me.  So, if I ever seem to ignore you or fail to do the most simple social niceties, feel free to gently educate me.  I'm never to old to learn, it just takes a few more repetitions to stick.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Carolyn Hax on regret

"The silver bullet against regret is to make something valuable of the life you have now. It doesn't have to be valuable in the eyes of society -- big house, fancy job, Nobel Prize, etc. -- just valuable in your eyes.
For example: knowing you've been helpful to someone who really needed it; being with someone whose face lights up when you're around, or who makes your day brighter; being able to pursue a goal/hobby/passion that feels worthy to you, or merely fulfilling; relishing the freedom to try new things where otherwise you'd be tied down . . . the limit isn't your circumstances, but instead the perspective and imagination you bring to your circumstances.
Short version: When you like where you're going, you tend to look back a lot more fondly on what got you there.
Shorter version: Look forward, not back."
~Carolyn Hax

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer favorite--Chicken Tortellini Salad

{printable version}

I'm not sure where I first found this recipe, maybe at
It's been a summer favorite ever since.  Easy to put together, once you buy the ingredients.  I like to use chopped chicken from a rotisserie chicken and I love the addition of dilled Havarti.

1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed, cut into 2" pieces
9 oz. pkg. refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 cup Havarti cheese cubes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves


Bring water to a boil in a heavy stockpot.
Add beans and cook for 3 minutes.
Add tortellini and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes longer.
Drain well.
Combine in large bowl with remaining ingredients and toss gently to coat.
6 servings

Move it, move it, move it!

Even with less than inspirational weather to urge me on, I'm determined (yes, determined) to accomplish many things today.
Okay, I've made the statement.  Guess I best work on making it a reality.
Seems like a good day to cook and make some raspberry jam.  I'm going to put together a bean dish that goes by several different names: Calico Beans, Cowboy Beans, 3 Bean Casserole.  They all have deliciousness in common and go well with many things, but particularly barbecue.
And here I go . . . . moving it!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

At the risk of stepping on Franny's toes . . .

Three long years it's been.  Well, actually more than that.  sigh.  How many doctors?  Good grief!  I lost count and don't feel like giving it a shot right now.  Today was the very first time that a doctor had read Fran's file before she came to an appointment.  The ironic thing is, over the past week she spent 2 hours going over her 3" stack of records making an outline of dates and procedures (becoming a bit angrier with every page written by Dr. H.).
He even did a procedure today.  Wow.
I think I'm in doctor love, too, and I didn't even meet him.