Thursday, June 30, 2011

Having it out with Reggie the GPS

Let's get it out of the way right from the get-go:
yes, I have lived and driven in Salem since 10/91,
and yes, I do (usually) use a GPS to go to locations I've never visited before.
Some of us are born with a compass in our brain and some of us flounder.
I'm of the latter, fishy variety.

I had a brainstorm this morning after once again overheating our shredder.  One of the Salemites had mentioned taking papers to Garten Industries to be shredded.

"Aha! That's what I'll do today!", and I began to think it through. "Well, if I'm going, I better make it worthwhile.". So, I dove into our hoard of documents saved since 1992, emptying folder after folder, until I'd filled one huge paper bag and one regular grocery bag. So much dust! "Sudafed, where is the Sudafed?!"

I looked up their address online. "I've been on Industrial Way, before. No problem!" You guessed it, I didn't bother entering the address into Reggie the GPS. I traveled to and I traveled fro. I found a place to pull over, so I could double check the address on my phone. "Yup, 3334 Industrial." And once again, I traveled to and fro. Nothing. (sigh)

I pulled over again and entered the address into Reggie the GPS. I have no idea what went wrong, but when I found myself close to Riverfront Park (yes, I AM slow) I realized that Reggie was taking me home. WTH?!
That's right, I pulled over again. "Reggie, listen carefully. This is where you need to take me."

Even though his directions sounded suspect, I followed them. (Except that one time. I was positive he said left. Stupid Reggie or stupid me?) "Proceed North on Broadway. Turn right on Highland . . ."  I was sure he was taking me to a vacant lot, but there it was--Garten Industries. I parked and toted those heavy bags around the side of the building to the visitor's entrance. I was immediately concerned when I saw the expression on the woman's face at the office window. (you're right, I've been called over sensitive.)
"Yes, we do have on site shredding. Go around this building, through the gate to the loading area and then ring the bell at the man door."
Man door? (sigh)
I did as I was told, rang the doorbell, waited, followed the young man, was led back to that office, paid my $10 and left--probably somewhere in the vicinity of 30 pounds lighter.

Better signage would be nice, but I'm here to tell you it can be done. And, dog-gone-it, it feels good to have all those papers gone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Day in the Life of N

It's a fact, and N knows it--when it comes to changing up ANYthing in our house, even a hint, I take that bone and run with it. Or try to. Once he begins one project, I've thought up 3 more. I only state this to give you an idea of how he was feeling before things began to happen yesterday.

Our living room ceiling has been needing a new coat of paint. In most households, anyone could take on that job, but I've discovered this is one of those things my color deficiency interferes with. The last time we painted the living room, it wasn't until we had all the clean-up completed and the room put back together, that we could see the stripes of old I had missed. You think it's tough for you to see new white paint on old? You should try looking at it with my eyes. :>P  I suppose it might be possible if we had more natural light in our house. Yeah, I'll go with that.

While I helped N finish up that task, I heard a crash--somewhere in the house. The dogs were within view, Fran was napping in her bedroom and I wasn't seeing any reasons for the . . . until I took a second look into the utility room. The two big pantry shelves N put up in the utility room eight to ten years ago, had crashed to the floor. (Thankfully, no jars were broken and no flour or sugar had escaped.) Earlier that day, I had added a small box of crackers to one of those shelves. Evidently, it was the straw that broke the camel's back (or pulled the heavy duty fastener from the wall).

While he began to sort that out, with the first of 3 trips to the hardware store, I took Fran to an appointment. By the looks of the main bathroom, the toilet decided to join the party and have issues, too.
Maybe I'll shut-up for now and quit trying to nudge him into ripping up the dining room carpet, cover up the old paneling in the living room and do a mini re-do on the little bathroom. Heck, there's always next month!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Give me it down to there... or here.

Once my mother realized her youngest (me) of five had more natural curl than the rest of the tribe, she became concerned about the proper way to deal with the possible, unruly mop about to sprout out of my follicles. I don't know if it was a magazine article or her hairdresser friend, Jo, who advised her, "cut it short and keep it short!", but that's how I ended up with what was called a "Pixie" haircut for the first 11-13 years of my life.

How I hated my short hair! I begged and pleaded on a regular basis, "PLEASE can I let my hair grow?!"--repaying my mother's good intentions with the kind of mental (verbal) torture I felt she was imposing on me. My sisters, who were 12 & 13 years older than I, would try and coax my short hair into the latest fashion, but a sixth grader definitely doesn't feel like she's fitting in when her hair looks like it belongs on someone 12 years older.

Since that wonderful day when I finally was given the okay to grow out my hair, the length has continued to change--ever so moderately. When N and I met, it was at it's longest--just at my shoulders. In the past 32.5years, the hair has mostly been short, though I have grown it out over my ears 3-4 times.

Just recently, I decided I want a softer look now that I'm older and accumulating more gray. Karyn, who styles my hair, has a wonderful way with crafting and sculpting my unruly locks. As long as I have her, I think I can keep it the length it is now. What else has made this latest change fairly easy? Product.

I began with Karyn's favorite, Bed Head's Manipulator. It was okay, but I couldn't find a balance between applying it too heavy or too light. After that I experimented with Bed Head's Curls Rock. I really liked what it did for my curls, but I suspected it was causing my face to break-out. Now I've landed on my third and favorite product in Bed Head's Foxy Curls line--the mousse. It's my favorite by far. First I towel dry my hair, get a (approximately) 2"x3" dollop of mousse in my hands, hang my head upside down, smush it evenly throughout my hair, then work it in fairly well. Finally, I begin scrunching, while my head is still upside down. Every 15 minutes or so, while I'm getting ready for my day, I'll continue to give it a scrunch here and there.

I'm enjoying the ease and finally learning how to make use of these curls of mine. Maybe in another 50 some years I'll have this hair figured out. Maybe.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If I had a school . . .

A few times a year, I day dream about building/rebuilding what "my" school would look like:

who would teach;
whether it would be one big multi-age classroom;
what the goals would be.

Since it's a day dream, I don't have to get too caught up in the tiny details, thank goodness.

This morning my thoughts are about making sure it was project oriented with the focus on creativity, collaboration and empathy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Asparagus Gratin

I found this recipe on Epicurious, originally published in Gourmet 2006 .

I used Dave's Killer Good Seed Bread, since we didn't have any white bread in the house. Though I'm sure it changed the looks, it added to the nutty flavor of the pine nuts.
It's delicious and I can't wait to take it to our staff luncheon. Well .... this recipe or the Vegetable Tian (this version or the second)

yield: Makes 6 side-dish servings
active time: 25 min
total time: 25 min
No other vegetable signals spring like asparagus. In this recipe, it makes for a rich, creamy side dish that's beyond delicious. We love it with... more ›


2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 large)
4 slices firm white sandwich bread, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 1/4 oz)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
print a shopping list for this recipe


Butter a 2- to 2 1/2-quart shallow ceramic flameproof baking dish.
Cook asparagus in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, then transfer to baking dish and keep warm, tightly covered with foil.
Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add bread and pine nuts and cook, stirring, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add pepper, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, tossing to combine.
Preheat broiler.
Toss warm asparagus with mascarpone, remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined well.
Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly over asparagus. Broil 5 to 7 inches from heat until topping is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Read More

Friday, June 10, 2011

Macaroon Cherry Tart Recipe

Just had to rerun this recipe.  It's amazing.  Makes me want to freeze little bags of prepped cherries so I can pull them out and make a tart any time of the year.  Fran and I found some Bob's Red Mill unsweetened coconut in a local store (can't remember which).  Quality stuff, of course!  I made this year's tart in a 10" French White Pyrex Quiche Dish.

Macaroon Cherry Tart Recipe
from 101 Cookbooks
(The following are the author's words, not mine. To see a photo of this delicious dessert, click on the link to the original recipe above.)

I made this tart a day in advance and it served up nicely. Don't get too hung up on the exact pan size, anything in the general ball-park of 8x11 will work. On the cherry pitting front, here's the trick (if you don't own a cherry-pitter): take a pair of clean needle nose pliers and use them. Once you get the swing of things it goes fast. Insert the pliers into the side of the cherry at a 90-degree angle - straight in the side. When you go in through the side with the pliers open just a hint you're able to get a grip on the pit at a comfortable angle and rip it right out. This technique leaves the cherry intact for the most part as well. Gluten free alternative: Mary, one of my readers wrote in to say she made the tart gluten and wheat free by substituting 1c almond flour and 1/2 sweet rice flour for the 1 1/2c of regular flour, "It was delicious!!!"

1/2 pound cherries, washed
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (regular apf flour will work)
2 3/4 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut (divided)
1 1/4 cup raw cane (or brown) sugar, lightly packed (divided)
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350F degrees with racks in the middle. Butter an 8x11 tart pan (or rough equivalent) and line with parchment paper. Pit the cherries (see headnote), tear each cherry in half, and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the flour, 3/4 cup of the coconut, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Stir in the melted butter and mix until dough is crumbly but no longer dusty looking. Press the mixture into the prepared pan (it should form a solid, cohesive base), and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In the meantime prepare the coconut topping by combining the remaining 2 cups coconut, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and egg whites. Mix until well combined.
Evenly distribute most of the cherries across the tart base. Now drop little dollops of the macaroon topping over the cherries (I dirty up my hands for this part), and mush/press the coconut topping around a bit into the spaces behind the cherries. Be sure to let at least some of the colorful cherries pop through the topping for visual flair. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the peaks of the macaroon topping are deeply golden. Let tart cool, and garnish by sprinkling any remaining fresh cherry halves across the top.
Makes about 48 petite bites.
101 Cookbooks

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Feet, ankles, arches and balance

I'm nearly done with my first round of physical therapy for my plantar fasciitis and the head therapist mentioned today that if it wasn't for my arches needing to be taped while waiting for my orthotics--I could be discharged.
I should be celebrating, but I have to admit I enjoy the exercise routine and the conversation that makes the time fly by.
The therapist is probably anticipating having me stay on longer--she had me start on some balance exercises this afternoon. Nothing like feeling extremely dorky, doing something that seems like it should be so easy. She had me stand on a foam pad, toe to heel, bouncing a 10 ounce ball onto a small trampoline (like the photo) and catching it, 20 times then changing directions and leading foot. So, I guess balance is something that deteriorates with age. Looks like I have something else to work on.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Deck Chairs

We've had the same 4 (Rubbermaid?), dark green Adirondack-style deck chairs for . . .  huh . . . has to be at least 7 - 10 years. They've been comfortable and durable. Well, comfortable until you've sat in one for more than an hour, then you notice you're beginning to ache in spots. And durable until the tree trimmers sent a chunk of Maple through the seat of one. We went to find a replacement and discovered they're available nearly everywhere now and in a big variety of bright colors. BUT they've morphed into something less than the originals. They're no longer sturdy, unbendable plastic. We walked away last summer and made do with the 3 chairs we had left.

My sissy K and her husband have some deck chairs that bounce a bit when you sit. They were comfortable, too. I began keeping my eyes open at all the usual places and discovered that this type of chair is usually sold in packages of 4 - 6. And they're not as inexpensive as our plastic chairs, {sigh}.

Then we just happened to noticed that Fred's had theirs (similar to the photo) for 30% off this past week. During the trip to make the purchase, we discovered a similar set with deep seats and cushions. Wow! What a shame they were double the price! I could've lived out on the deck all summer in one of those babies! So we completed our purchase and I threatened to kiss the clerk who remembered a coupon for another 10% off.

Can't wait to enjoy the first cup of coffee in one of those chairs. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

14-step guide to being a good friend to a chronically ill individual:

A small, 14-step guide to being a good friend to a chronically ill individual:
(from the Tumblr Blog "Spinlights")

1) I’m not broken, so don’t treat me like I am. I may not be able to join you all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should or have to stop inviting me to hang out. I can leave my house. On good days I can do just as much as you can. Having a chronic illness is isolating as is, but please do not make that isolation worse. It’s extremely insulting, hurtful, and infuriating when I realize you have completely stopped texting/calling/inviting me out like you used to because you assume I cannot do things or because I do things slowly/differently.

2) Don’t come and go. Either choose to be present in my life, or leave. I have lost too much already and I face constant inconsistency in all aspects of my life. The progression and symptoms of my disease change, flares come unexpectedly, good days come unknowingly— very little is constant. I do not need friends who treat me like I do not exist a good 90% of the time and decide to drop in and out of my life sparingly. I depend on your support more than you might think, especially during hard times. I hesitate to accept your support because so many others have walked into my life and left when I got sick and secretly needed them more than ever, so either stay or go, but if you’re going to call yourself a friend, be there.

3)Your visits and efforts are often the brightest part of my day, if not entire week. When I am home on the couch, I usually don’t have the ability or energy to entertain. Bring a movie or a game, a craft or project, but please don’t come to sit on my couch and complain about how bored you are.

4) Be flexible and try to have some patience with me. When I make plans, I make them with the intent of keeping them, but there are days where I will wake and I am simply too tired or sick to keep those plans. It is not me ditching you and I do not enjoy having to break plans, I just don’t know how I will feel one day to the next. If it happens, help me to come up with an alternative that works for both of us?

5) People with chronic illness are so often forgotten about or friends forget that the illness exists because we cease to complain/talk about it. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to be a burden or focus on the negative, but that does not mean it goes away or does not bother me. It means a lot when someone asks me how I am and wants an answer. Please remember the meaning of chronic, and if you do not understand, ask questions.

6) Before you give me unsolicited advice, think about what you’re going to say. If healing crystals, exercise, or a special diet could cure me, I would already be cured. Please don’t tell me either directly or indirectly that I caused my autoimmune diseases. It’s just plain insulting and it was hard enough to find a physician who looked hard enough into my symptoms rather than diagnosing me a hypochondriac— I do not need friends or family asserting the same.

7) You can laugh about my illness. I do all the time. If I find something offensive, I’ll let you know, but more often than not I find humor to be as good a medicine as my pain killers.

8) Speaking of pain killers, please don’t assume I have an addiction because I use them for pain. I am not addicted. Do not steal them or ask for them to get high either.

9) If we go out and you drive, please park close to our destination. A simple act that goes a long way.

10) Make the effort. I won’t ask for anything nor do I expect anything, but little things here and there go a long way to helping me cope with day to day life. Bringing something by for us to do, offering to bring something by or helping me with errands, dropping off a meal, or even just asking how I’m doing or checking in makes having a chronic illness much less lonely.

11) If you know I am struggling emotionally, whether that be a result of medication, the isolation, or a mixture of things, be present. Call me up, stop by, or something little to let me know I’m not alone. Be the friend you would want if you were in my shoes, no matter how long a dark period might persist.

12) If you don’t know how to help, what to say, what to do, how to act, that’s okay. Google my illness or ask questions to understand, look up different activities or how to help friends with chronic illnesses. It is okay to feel like there is unfamiliar territory to cross, but don’t let that be a reason to neglect me, as I would not neglect you.

13) Don’t forget— I am still me. I’m much more than my disease(s) and have interests and desires far beyond chronic illness.

14) Thank you. Know that you are a beautiful, wonderful, kind person for giving your support and being a good friend to me. Know that I will always be that person in return for you