Friday, November 28, 2014

Post Thanksgiving-Burp

Actually I did not eat too much.  Just about 2 tablespoons of EVERYTING...except I did have a normal serving of dessert and about three and half  glasses of wine (over the fours hours of prep-cooking at daughter's house.)  But I feel good this morning.  Here is part of my post TG breakfast.



Picked a week ago (early) from this overloaded tree in the photo directly below and this larger not so overloaded tree in the next photo.



These persimmons cannot be eaten until they are perfectly ripe and so we put them in brown paper bags in the refrigerator and then bring them out one bag at a time to ripen on the kitchen counter and it works about 80% of the time.

Below the second of two harvests.  Fortunately for us the raccoons and squirrels have not yet found the tree and if we can continue picking them before they are ripe, we may get most of this harvest each year!


Regarding taste question below:  The texture is custardy or a gelatin texture, sweet not tart, and ours have no seeds.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

If Wishes Were Raindrops the Planet Would Be Nurtured So Much More


My greatest wish is that everyone on the planet has a full and satisfied stomach today...my greatest wish...and for everyday hereafter. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It is Elegans

My prior post was a sad song about Central America, a link to a sad land.  Today, with the thankfulness season approaching, I promise more uplifting posts.  I will write instead about an interesting plant native to Guatemala.

I saw this plant in a fall herb garden at the National Arboretum one year and was intrigued since it was so hearty in late fall and still full of blooms.  I bought this plant last year for my herb garden as its common name is pineapple sage (Salvia elegans).  As a Master Gardener I did my research before planting...NOT.  I buy stuff and stick it where I need to put a plant and then hope it makes it without a lot of mollycoddling.  Fortunately it was in a place where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade, which is the perfect niche.  All of my soils are relatively rich and thus it grew like a house on fire.  I did my research later, and discovered this baby can get to be FIVE FEET high.  There goes a third of my small herb garden.


Does it smell or taste of pineapple you may ask?   I will copy text from one garden that sells it "Did I mention that it really does smell like pineapple? You may be skeptical about the fragrance. After all, the orange and chocolate mints may smell like their namesakes, but only if you concentrate really hard and use your imagination. Pineapple sage, on the other hand, really smells pineapple-y, and it's also an attractive plant in its own right."  No, I did not find a strong pineapple smell, but my old olfactory glands are not what they used to be.  The leaves are edible, but not striking in pungency like mint or sage.  The flowers can be used in fall salads and are a nice colorful addition.  The flowers are also a favorite of hummingbirds as the days grow short.  I think they look a little like hands giving directions ;-).


This plant, like a chrysanthemum, uses a photoreceptor protein and blooms as the day gets shorter.  So it is a nice accent to late fall gardens when other bloomers are going to sleep or forming seeds.  Pineapple sage forms blossoms as the day grows shorter and the nights longer which starts on June 21.  Cotton and rice are also short day plants.  Next year I am going to try more carefully to see if I can get the hummingbird at this plant.  I do not get many hummingbirds to my yard.  The plant freezes back to the ground after the first freeze, but may survive a harder winter if I mulch it carefully.  (It is not expensive to replant each year.)


I think the "elegans" name comes from the shape of the flowers - like ballerinas hands arching.   It is dainty, discriminating, and elegant.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cancel Those Vacation Plans as the Ship is Sinking--A Thursday 13

My universe is cracking!

This is my Thursday Thirteen, which I have not done in a long time, and which, unfortunately instead of a thankfulness list, is reduced to a reality to do list!  (As a background, before you read ahead, this house was completed in 2006 so she does not yet have that patina of charming old age.)

  1. Front door knob not turning easily and slipping on the catch and door can swing open--I am sure that is how that mouse got in!
  2. Large burner on range not auto-lighting - using a match
  3. Deck steps to back yard are sinking to one side or I am having too much wine
  4. West wall on garage is cracked near door - probably sinking
  5. A few inches of taping on front room ceiling (two stories up above my head) coming loose due to a nasty storm years ago
  6. Taping in guest bedroom ceiling coming loose now
  7. Gate not hooked up to electricity, waiting on budget ease to hire electrician as we have given up on the solar panel option
  8. Some smoke alarms need to be replaced in basement and top floor but cannot find plug-ins that match
  9. Wine cooler not working (Yes, I see the small violin you are playing.)
  10. Water pump has low pressure--called for repair yesterday.  Repairman came and fixed it in an hour.  We were told it could have cost $1900, but our repair was only $100.  (Thankfulness #1)
  11. Gutters need cleaning badly and I will not let hubby up on the ladder and it is not in the budget for right now
  12. Window in right guest bedroom does not close easily--so I no longer open it!
  13. Driveway pavement needs cracks filled AGAIN!

Next Thursday Thirteen will be a thankfulness theme...I promise!(Thankfulness #2  ease on the future budget is that most of the spring vacation has been pre-paid.)


Post Script. Regarding Blogger stats:  My  most visited post (2394 visits) was this Thursday Thirteen back in September 2012... in case you are curious.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Time for Savory

Each weathercast directed our way indicates that a cold freeze is coming.  Each night the temps drop into the low 30sF and each morning things look chilled, but there is no 'frost on the pumpkin' yet.  Of course the only pumpkin that I have is inside on the table.  I purchased the one below because it has such lovely colors and textures.


But we know that Jack is coming and soon behind him his colder friend Hard.   Thus we headed outside with harvest baskets in hand to do some last minute collection in the garden.


The dramatic swings in temperature are causing these zavory peppers to crack.  They are not hot but have just bite of heat.  They also have a bit of fruity essence when dried and smoked and used in soups, on salads, and in marinades.



We have a small smoker that is very old but loyal.   Outside on the back patio is the sweet smell of wood smoke.


I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon pealing these cloves of garlic.  I washed them, steamed them in the microwave for a little over a minute to make them easier to peal.  Then they go into jars of olive oil and into the fridge and the rest of the ivory orbs go into ziplocks with a bit of olive oil and into the freezer.  We are sometimes to humid to let them hang dried all winter, but I do have a half dozen left for fresh cooking.


When all  is done I take some time to practice a bit of photography still life.   Yes, this is quick setup and should have had a nicer background and base, but the sun's lighting through the window caught my eye and that sun moves fast.  Those tiny limes were immature kaffir limes I had to harvest before a bit of pruning to bring the tree inside for winter.


Soon it is dinner time and this snapper filet will be baked in a savory garlic, curry, basil, smoked zavory pepper flakes sauce with fresh cloves of garlic and bits of kaffir lime.  Very savory!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bloggers Are Like Coat Hangers

Maybe now is the time to take a walk to the post office and see if there is any snail mail that is worthy of my time.


I have 147 blogs listed on my blog role.  Many of them have been abandoned by their authors but they have not been removed from Blogger so I can sometimes go back and see what they used to write.  I sometimes wonder if the Library of Congress will archive some of these like they do the letters of pioneers and soldiers.  In other cases the authors have passed on for some of these idle blogs and they are, perhaps, blogging to his/her heart's content in some other part of the vast universe.  Their blog remains as a memorial and an example of how brave we can be when we fight that last great battle.

I add some new blogs every once in a while to my blog roll.  I do not go trolling for new blogs to read---who has the time?  But something catches my eye on a comment they have made to a blogger I read and thus I go read a few of their entries and then add them to my list because I find I am interested in what they have to say or the way they say it.  (I must admit that I have been thinking of trolling for Irish blogs as no Irish bloggers are on my list.  Smile.)

But what this could mean is I can lose my life (such as an old lady's life is) to reading blogs and living others' lives with too many demanding my attention and then I end up reading each of my well-known bloggers only intermittently.   I started thinking about this because a nice Blogger pinned one of my photos to Pinterest, which I have never used, but I was certainly flattered since he gave credit!  We grow whether we expect it or not.  How many lurkers read your blog but never comment?

Do any of you think about this?  Does Blogging add balance to your time or do you find it sometimes takes up too much of your time?  How many folks on your blog list?  How many do you "follow."  How often?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Soldier's Poem


Lessons 

Do away with medals
Poppies and remembrance parades
Those boys were brave, we know
But look where it got them
Reduced to line after perfect line
Of white stones
Immobile, but glorious, exciting
To kids who haven’t yet learned
That bullets don’t make little red holes
They rip and smash and gouge
And drag the world’s dirt behind them
Remember lads, you won’t get laid
No matter how good your war stories
If you’re dead
So melt down the medals
Fuel the fire with paper poppies, war books and Arnie films
Stop playing the pipes, stop banging the drums
And stop writing fucking poems about it.

Poem written by Danny Martin.

"I am an ex soldier currently in the third year of an English and Creative Writing degree course in Liverpool. I was in the army for just under seven years, leaving in early 2006. I completed two tours of Iraq, totalling one year over there. Most of my poems are based around my experiences during my second tour (TELIC 6 in 2005), when I was serving as team signaller on a Tactical Air Control Party, mainly based around Maysaan province."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Flirting

Yesterday when I was home, with the afternoons becoming shorter and the air turning cooler as soon as the sun's angle begins to drop lower on the horizon, I retreated to my sitting room and went through emails and paid bills, later to read some story that takes place in a warmer climate while trying to not think about winter's gray finger pulling constantly at the sun.  But the river does not let me sit forever.  Soon she winks at me through the windows.  She giggles when the sunshine tickles her back and I have to put down my laptop and head outside with my camera.  This is a good thing, because I would have missed this if I ignored the flirtation.   The dance of river and light is just too seductive.  (Yes, this belongs on my other blog but there is a canoe trip going on there.)


So I put on my outdoor shoes and close off my email and go outside to smile for a while.


The sunlight bounces right off the top of the river into my eyes with fire.  It bathes the pomegranate, now as high at the second story bedroom window and devoid of its red fruit, into the most stunning "lime" light.  In the distance with trees throwing off leaves I can see my neighbors house once again.


Then what should happen but this morning while hubby left early to test his guns at the neighbors field, I was called again to my back yard to see what gifts Mother Earth left me to cheer me up against the shorter days.


These leaves are the exact color they were hanging above my head.  No hue or saturation adjustment as Mother Nature has an excellent palette.  Is is not a wonder that winter comes as such a shock to the soul?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Party is Over


I think everyone is relieved that the contest is over whether their candidate won or lost, because it means no more negative ads to fast forward on the DVR and no more email boxes and snail mail boxes stuffed with junk and endless requests for money.  Our Congress has an approval rating of 12.7%.  Now the work lies in the hands of those elected and re-elected.  So, if like me, you want a break go here for an outdoor respite.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

There Were Two Paths


Well, I am resigned to taking this country in a new direction today.  Yes, my liberal candidates lost...some of them so weak I am not surprised.  I can only hope that moderate conservatives exist to fight against radical tea party guardians who want to pretty much abolish this government and turn it over to the rich to run as their own little tea party.  The winners are now claiming they will go forward and get stuff done.  This has been touted as a 'sweeping' victory but I see us very much as a divided country with no strong majority on either side.  I do not think we are going to get big things done for the next two years.   I am an elder and it will not affect me much one way or the other.  I have economic security and thus will not have to suffer.  It is up to the young to decide if the poor are a lazy drain on society, working poor have no initiative or right to a voice, immigrants cannot make a contribution, we no longer have racial or gender biases, a profit motive is better for prisons and schools, health care is not a right, and science is a fraud.


Monday, November 03, 2014

Washing the Brain and Coming Clean With You

I had promised in my last post to talk about my addictions. First you need to accept that all addictions are by definition compulsions you cannot control based on the rewards that your brain receives from them. But, with the exception of drugs and certain weaknesses in personalities, there are varied degrees of addiction and sometimes the addiction is strong on one day and weak on another.  I will not dwell on to what extent all addictions can be bad.

Years ago, when I was young and surrounded by diapers and baby food and bills and long days at home, I started watching a few soap operas on television during baby nap times. As I look back I realize it was truly escapism because my life was boring and the over-the-top adventures of Audrey and Mike and Dr. Whats-his-name with their perfect hair and breasts and shoulders kept me distracted just long enough to be willing to face dinner.  Eventually soap operas seemed repetitive, and predictable, and boring, and as my life was no longer tied to the house, I said goodbye to Barbie and Ken and their trials and tribulations.

Recently as my life has now slowed and I spend more time in my house once again, my entertainment addiction has become British mysteries. I love trying to solve them alongside the expert and befuddled detective, or in other cases the unofficial detectives Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. If I watched an episode three years ago I may re-watch it because I have forgotten most of the details and the brain reward is the same. Hubby is most generous in sitting through these with me but usually he cannot understand half of what they say with their chin wags over a half-pint at the local "Swan and Blind Beggar" pub.

About two years ago I began to fold laundry, plan dinners, prepare food or pay bills in front the TV in the late afternoons and I returned to my former addiction.  Low and behold I came across a soap opera, one of those that fed my elder brain nicely. If you research the title of the show a description reads "An English Priest is transferred to a small Irish village." The show is called "Ballykissangel" which is the fictional name of the village in the show, and it is, of course, in Ireland. In the first episodes a very young and naive priest struggles with an overbearing Parish priest and a bunch of quirky parishioners. Eventually sexual tension between the priest and the pub owner surfaces, and while a soap opera trick, it really is done nicely and without lots of prurient plot scenes. (My opinions about Celibacy among the people of the cloth is a whole other post!) This soap opera moves beyond this priest as new priests arrive to replace him and the yearly episodes involved each of the quirky characters in amusing and sad adventures and I loved each and every odd villager, and the Irish culture and scenery was so addictive.



Yes, I will FINALLY get to the reason for this post, and it is not to show that I know how to waste time watching TV AND do work OR write wordy posts about nothing.  The real name of the Irish village where this soap opera was filmed was Avoca in Ireland. One of the reasons, and probably the primary reason, I selected Hunters Hotel for our first night, was because it was about 10 miles from the small town of Avoca! This is what addictions do...enforce you to make arbitrary and illogical decisions for that brain reward.


I dragged everyone traveling with me to that little village as a bypass on our way to a national park. I immediately found the famous pub, and just up the hill the Catholic church and crossed the bridge where many a plot point had been revealed. We pulled into the nearby parking lot and I spent about two minutes taking quick pictures and giggling. No one with me understood a wit about my school girl reaction, except for my DIL who had visited the house in the movie "Goonies" just a few months ago and posted her giggling self in front of that same house.  My intellectual mind knows that this is 'scenery'...a 'location shoot' because I was a drama minor in college.  I understand the smoke and mirrors part very well.  I also know that the little town made money for some time on this series.  I am guessing the actual name of the village in the TV show is copyrighted and that is why the name of this gift shop in the photo below is a little odd.


And, of course there was that magnificent and powerful and important character that had no lines in the series...the church.




But I also understand the magic of a storyline and how it captures you and compels you and makes you reminisce and puts you there in the lives of the characters.  And when it all comes together at the right time, it is magnificent.

Now aren't you glad you followed me all the way to the end? ( It is too bad for those others that stopped reading and went to get the mail.)  Do I not seem more human?  No? OK.  Go ahead and see if the re-runs of this show are in your TV schedule on PBS or BBC .  I won't tell anyone.  Try to start from the beginning or you will not get the full soap opera effect or addiction.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Silliness of Life and Getting to Know the Locals

As I wrote earlier, about our recent trip to Ireland, our fellow travelers made most of the reservations and selected most of the places we would visit.  We had no problem with this, even though we had never visited the Emerald Isle, because we have been blessed with tons of travel and lots of adventures in our life, and this was a rare trip for them.

You may remember that hubby had a fall from a ladder a few weeks prior to this trip, and with his compromised neck issues, I was a bit concerned about how he would feel after such a long flight.  Therefore, we went a day earlier than everyone else and checked into a country retreat just outside Dublin to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the roads and the difference in an earlier time zone.  I must admit that I did not spend hours searching for a perfect and inexpensive place to stay.  It was for only one night, and our friends had already reserved all reasonable places for the rest of the trip, etc.  I found a place with an afternoon tea garden and a kitchen garden and a long history for 130 Euro for the one night breakfast included which translates to about 162.00 dollars in the US.  Some would say it was too much, but I found it acceptable. It was in Wicklow County which is a beautiful area and I wish we had had more time to explore more than just a few hours in this area where a number of well-known movies have been made because of its beauty.

I came across a website for this Hunter's Hotel in Wicklow County  which is about 20 minutes outside of Dublin.  The photos were very inviting, of course.  Built originally in 1650 as a forge, it was then converted to an Inn that had been owned by a wealthy family in the 18th Century and had a long and colorful history of owners following that.  Now Europeans might read through this and think cold, damp, dark and old.  I thought 'romantic escape.'  I thought 'nostalgic dream.'  Mel Gibson and Daniel Day Lewis have stayed at this hotel!  It sits out in the middle of nowhere and we almost could not find it on our tracker.  Signs in rural areas can be hidden in Ireland.



The hotel was mostly what I had expected in a creaky old way and the furniture definitely showed a history.   It was a bit of a hodge podge in decor, and when I showed my travel photos, my daughter said it looked like staying a Great Old Aunt Somebody's place.  She has no sense of history or atmosphere.  I felt right at home!  We had a glass of wine in the beautiful garden out back while waiting for our room to be ready.


At dinner that evening I observed at the nearby table two rather healthy-looking women in their mid-fifties that could have been Lesbian hikers in a Hercule Poirot story discuss plant species and birds that they had seen in a sharp and efficient conversation over their meal.  They did not mention that they had come across a body in the woods, though.  Later I sat in the lounge just across from an elderly British couple after our evening white tablecloth gourmet dinner and closed my eyes and entered an Agatha Christie mystery as I eves dropped on their gentle conversation about people they knew and gossip they shared as only elderly Brits can carry off.

After a wonderful breakfast the next day I walked in the kitchen garden and met a lovely bubbly Irish lady about 55 who was an artist and explained that she was known for her paintings of naked men.  She was a plump lady wearing a lovely silky flowered dress with a small fancy hat perched on her blonde head.  As the small talk progressed she was very willing to share her recent divorce issues after a long time marriage, her husband's awfulness in the process, and the new art studio and business which she had expanded with her two sons.  She also indicated how she could certainly be willing to paint my husband as he was a good body shape!  Her grandchild had been Baptized that very morning and that is why the family was all there to all have a late breakfast together.


When our other group of travelers arrived in Dublin and joined us later to head further south they asked if the hotel could fix a late breakfast for the four of them.  The hotel kitchen which is only open very specific hours was most generous in accommodating them with both a hot and cold breakfast.  Later they toured the gardens while we checked out and they met a landscape expert whose house was being fumigated while he stayed at the hotel.  They were able to get lots of information on all the exotic plants we might see and also some good places to visit on the island and how to avoid a few tourist traps.  All in all the casual elegance of this place was a perfect place to start our Ireland adventure.

My next post ... a soap opera addiction.