Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When Did You Throw In The Towel?

Since I have been alone, I have filled my days with errands and goals and now come to the end of the list. The next list is holiday shopping and I have no immediate desire to work on that right away.  I will not be entertaining as my daughter has insisted she be the center for that.  It  is OK as it saves me a lot of work and  I figure in years she will have reached my time in life and have a better perspective.

Today and yesterday I stumbled across an old Netflix e-mark that I had on that popular series "House of Cards."  We had watched the first and second year and then for some reason forgot to continue to watch..actually I thought it had been on another pay-per-view site.  I am old, what can I say?

Anyway I spend about three hours each evening catching up.  At first I felt guilty.  I had concerns about watching a show that has a star with a recently exposed despicable background.  There is that important question.  Can you admire the art of someone who has been revealed to be evil?  This post is not about answering that question, although I would really appreciated your opinions on that.  The show involves many people who will be paid residuals and who are talented, and therefore, I do not feel guilt.  The writers, the directors, the co-actors all deserve admiration of their work.  I also have realized with this Congress and this President, the story is not that far fetched.  The headlines of today are pretty good in melding with plot points on this series.

I got a Skype call just an hour ago, from my husband who is on the other side of the world.  You remember that, right?  Anyway, they were just evacuated from their hotel  due to an earthquake.  Do you realize there have been at least two major and many minor earthquakes recently?  No?  Well, he is safe and he sounded very calm.  His good friend, who is in his 80's, is with him on this adventure.  See?  Life is not over unless you throw in the towel.  I hope that I am that interested in adventures in my 80's.  Even if you find you do not get to see your 80's due to some crappy quirk of fate, let us hope your warrior side kicks in and you squeeze out the juice of  the life you have been  given.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cold and Hot?

North of us got their first freeze and we are 34F this morning with no frost on the grass. Everything still looks the same outside the windows. But I slept in. I am alone ( I keep reminding you) and I woke up around 6:00 A.M. and read a little in bed. Then I turned off the lights and snuggled back down into the soft flannel sheets and under the light downy quilt and drifted back into blissful sleep for several hours as dawn slid into place. It was the cold outside that makes me lazy and slothful inside. I love pulling up those blankets and not having an agenda set by an alarm. I have worked hard (not as hard as many) for this time in my life and I am thankful for this morning.  I eventually made a pot of decaffinated coffee but returned to reading "The Forest Lover" by Susan Vreeland.  (It is the life story of the Canadian artist Emily Carr based on her journals.  She lived 1871-1945 and lived in the Northwest with the indigenous people much of that time and with great discrimination by her culture.)  The writer brings me to cold and rainy British Columbia as I remain so warm as I snuggle back into bed with a warm cup.

Now for the hot:

For those of you who know about Scolville scales with hot peppers, you may remember the big deal when Habaneras became a fad for cooking.  They were not a condiment for the faint of heart and kept their level at the height of heat in pepper cooking.  They were rated as 250,000 to 577,000 on the scale.  Well, hubby got seeds from our daughter for the newest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, which he planted this summer.  This pepper is rated as 1.6 million(!) and has held the world record since 2013.

We (daughter, hubby and I) chopped some of them for testing.  (When green they have no heat at all!)  

I took one of those tiny red pieces and put it on the end of my tongue and I died.  I spit it out, but the heat kept on.  My daughter also choked on the heat.  My grandson (pretended) it was not bad at all.  My daughter put it in some vinegar for taking home and adding to whatever.

While they are extremely beautiful, this is killer stuff.

I have no big fondness for super hot food, although I do like my chile with a tiny bit of bite.  Researching I found there is a new pepper accidentally raised in Wales that will challenge the Carolina Reaper.  It is called Dragon's Breath and is 2.48 million on the Scoville scale.

I have read that eating lots of hot food does kill the taste buds over time and may be the reason that people who regularly eat hot food (Indonesians) find most food in the U.S. too bland.

I will also leave you with this caution:

"Concentrated capsaicin, found in the Dragon's Breath and other extremely spicy peppers, can trigger the immune system to go into overdrive. Capsaicin activates the proteins found on nerve endings, and those proteins can mistakenly interpret capsaicin as a signal of extreme heat entering the body, Live Science reported. The result? Reactions like anaphylactic shock, severe burns, and even the closing of one's airways are all possible, experts warn. So this extreme pepper is nothing to mess around with."

Monday, November 06, 2017

A Late Harvest of Gold

Late September and much of November are harvest times here at my house. Hubby has planted several persimmon trees outside. They are slow to ripen and, if you know anything about persimmons, the Hachaya type is astringent to eat if you do not wait until it is soft as jelly on the inside. We grow both the Hachiya and the Fuju which can be eaten before it gets soft. It is the round one that can be eaten over a longer time frame.  Early it is more like an apple and then it ripens to a juicy pear.  Its Latin name means "wheat of Zeus" or "God's pear" and "Jove's fire".

I like that I have ripe Kaffir limes and Meyer lemons to add to the recipes.

When hubby is here he makes persimmon freezer jam and persimmon bread. Since he is not here that task has fallen to me. Trying to get the accurate recipe, particularly for the jams, is hard because the persimmon has to be scooped out into measuring devices before you can find out exactly how much pulp you have for the recipe. It cannot be left out in the air for too long as it turns cloudy and brown.

The Hichiya is hard to pick because the ripeness makes the fruit as soft as a globe of jelly.  Touching the fruit for this softness as well as noticing the translucence in the fruit are the clues for picking.  But you have to hold it like a soft-shelled egg.

There is another problem in identifying those persimmons that are only half ripe and hoping that they can be used in a few days.

Then there is the basket of those that were harvested by mistake or fell that must sit in my kitchen and give those fruit flies their best days while waiting for ripening.  (It is hard to have a glass of wine in the evening without having a fruit fly go up my nose!)

I followed a persimmon freezer jam recipe exactly the other day and made three containers of freezer jam.  Unfortunately, they did not set!!  This is the problem with this fruit.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.  We will use it on toast anyway.  It is also good with vanilla ice cream.  And because it is not cooked it maintains its flavor and vitamins.  According to one website "Persimmons are low in calories and fats - they provide 70 calories per 100 grams. This fiber-rich fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin A and good source of Vitamin C and contains a range of antioxidants and minerals. But as with most fruit, you should eat these in moderation because it contains fructose, which can be harmful in excess amounts."

The flavor?  Maybe someone else can explain, but it is sweet and delicious and one of my favorite jams.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Silence of the Limes

I wrote in an earlier post that I am alone until the 22nd of November.  Hubby is on the other side of the earth.  Those of you who are divorced, separated, unwed or suffered the loss of your partner may have gone through the first of the transition of living alone a long time ago.  My life partner is not a quiet soul.  He fills the house when he is here.  Even if he is down in the basement in his office I can hear his voice on the phone through the heat register in my bedroom.  While he always looks for reasons to "run errands" he is here much of the time.

Now the big house is really quiet.  No pets and a quarter mile from neighbors on either side.  I cannot get good radio reception unless I carry a laptop from room to room, so I keep TV on in the background in the mornings.  I don't really watch it.  In the afternoon I play music, although my cable company has majorly destroyed my amplifier/speaker setup and it takes me some time to figure it out each time!

Anyway, late in the evening when all noises are off and I am finally in my warm pajamas and reading by the light from my end table I find myself listening carefully.  Do I hear a scratching in the ceiling over my head?  Have the mice moved in again?  I strain to hear the Canadian geese down on the river, but it is just a lone Mallard because the geese have not yet returned.  Eventually, I fall asleep.  Out of the blackness of the night, I am jerked awake but not sure why.  I hold my breath and listen.  I freeze as I tune into anything that makes noise.  I can even hear the creaking of the refrigerator in the kitchen, but nothing else sounds out of place and I fall back asleep.  The next night I have the same event, only this time while I am straining to find out what is wrong I hear a loud thunk.  It comes from the kitchen and I at first wonder if a thief is making a midnight snack.

I throw back the quilt and without a weapon in hand (ever the optimist) I head into the kitchen.  I turn on all the lights.  I scan.  No one is there.  No animal is hiding in a corner or behind a door.  Then I see the cause of the sound on the floor.  Thre are two of them, small and round and each the size of a golf ball.  They are surprisingly heavy for there diminutive size.  They are kaffir limes.  They have ripened and are falling from the tree at will.  I soon will have 40 of them!

Kaffir limes are knobby and odd and small.  They have a very interesting and almost floral fragrance to compliment their strong lime taste.  The leaves from the tree are used in Thai cooking as the flavor holds up to strong spicy dishes.

I have three citrus trees (a small citrus orchard) that get moved into the house every fall and returned to the deck each spring; a Calamondon, a Meyer lemon, and a Kaffir lime. (The Meyer is struggling as it was severely damaged when purchased, but it is hell bent to catch up to the other two.  It has eleven lemons and almost as many leaves.)

I have been told it is not a true lemon, but I have no idea what that means.  These lemons are bigger than store bought and will indeed make a much louder thud when they fall in the middle of the night.  (By the way, both of these always fall in the middle of the night!)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Fly on the Wall at Lunch With My Daughter

Subtitle: Why I am dressing as a ghoul for Halloween.

Me:  I saw those photos that you posted on FB.  With those women.  What were you celebrating?

Daughter:  It was sort of a bachelorette party for J.  She is getting married.

Me: Who is J?  Do I know her?

Daughter:  Remember she lives across the street?

Me:  The woman with a 7-year-old son and a daughter in a wheelchair?  I thought she was married?

Daughter:  No, they got divorced two years ago.  He already re-married and now she is re-marrying.

Me:  (Frowning)  Really...that is too bad.

Daughter:  No, Mom, is it all OK.  They have worked it all out and he lives nearby and takes the kids enough of the time.  They are happy.

Me:  So you also had dinner with M the other night. Just the two of you.  How did that go?
(M is an extremely special person to me, and I could not love her more if she was my own.)

Daughter:  She is still struggling.  She has no one to really talk to help her through this.

Me:  What about B?

Daughter:  B is really busy with the new baby.  Remember how you and I could never have a decent conversation once my son was 9 months and mobile?

Me:  Yeah.  I remember the shock of returning to the attempt to talk to adults with little ones.  What about her best friend S?

Daughter:  Well S discovered last month a lump in her breast and she has been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer.  She may end up having both breasts removed.

Me:  (Sighing out loud and trying to fight back tears.)  Did M's weekend with the old college girlfriends help?  She posted pictures on FB.

Daughter:  Yes, but they are a day's drive away and both of them are really struggling with money issues in their families, so unable to drive up and visit at all.

Daughter:  She told me that she really has no one except her therapist.  She told me she is taking a collection of meds...antidepressants, etc.

Me:  ( I am frightened and speechless.)  Well, can we plan a "girls" weekend soon...maybe as a gift for her upcoming birthday?

Daughter:  Sure, just I cannot squeeze anything in until January. 

(My daughter is not exaggerating as she is always on the go with three kids and a very busy job that requires travel.  I am depressed among other things.)

The photo above is a solar-powered garbage barge in the harbor of the city. It cleans up all the paper and plastic and crap that blows from the restaurant tables of people busy living their lives but it does nothing to remove the ugly film of oil that floats on the surface constantly.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Night in the City

Hubby has a trip, a long trip both in time and space, that he is making. He is going to be gone for a month working on a project on the other side of the globe in the middle of the ocean.  He likes to tell others it is a company he started. It is not. It is a hobby he started employing a few staff at poverty wages, and it is a bone of contention between us in terms of its expense to our personal bottom line since there is no profit margin at this stage (the first decade of its operation!). It is keeping him alive and energized, so I am of two reactions on this "project" and do a continual dance.

Anyway, his first of four flights was departing at 4:55 in the morning this past Sunday.  Since the airport is an hour and a half from our house and since we did not want to pay for a month of long-term airport parking, I had to drive him up there.  But since he knew that he had to be there at 2:55 A.M. for check-in which meant we had to leave at 1:30 A.M. for departure from this house, he compromised by offering me a fancy dinner at the city restaurant and an overnight in the local airport hotel using points.  It meant I could sleep in, which I did, get one of those awful free breakfasts and leave for home the next day around 8:00 A.M.

I had not been in this city for over a year and was impressed by all the changes.  Like many cities, it has its challenges with crime, budget limitations, and culture issues.  But the state officials have made a deal with the devil (a fossil fuel company from another country) and seem to be able to upgrade the nicer parts of the city as this company moves into the state's rural areas and expose others to air pollution and sudden death---NOT an exaggeration as I live rurally.  Chances are slim this wealth will trickle down to the more challenging areas of the city and the school systems.  I have not given up hope, though.

Anyway, while walking around the more touristy parts of the city on a perfect fall weather afternoon, with only sparse numbers of tourists, it became a nice evening to say goodbye to my husband before our temporary separation.

Below, a few photos I captured after a fancy cocktail in one of the seafood restaurants.

Lots of new dock space for all the yachty types.

Lots of crime-free sidewalks to enjoy after dinner although a few skateboarders and bikers could have used some discipline.

Fancy places to work and to live in the heart of the city.

And plenty of chain restaurants to appease the citizens along with a lovely sunset.

Friday, October 20, 2017

If I Got Paid

My last post was over two weeks ago.  If I got paid for blogging I would hate the process because there would be deadlines. But since I don't, I can write when my mojo is puttering along and ignore the lack of a muse when my spirit is deflated. I guess I have been in a funk. Shall I list the reasons? Or would you rather avoid my complaints? They are big and small. The biggest is helping a loved one fight depression and alcoholism, fully knowing my help is in vain most times and realizing that I am only pretending to pull them back from the cliff. We are in good days now so I can focus on the blog and my glass is half full.

The medium reason for a lack of creativity is that multiple health problems have been visiting hubby. Nothing death threatening or even scary. Just constant reminders that our bodies are falling apart as we age and making me face up to the fact that I have to take on more responsibilities and accept a more careful lifestyle as the years move on.  (And also try to find more diplomatic ways to get him to slow down rather than screaming at him.)

Also, I have friends and friends of friends involved with the California fire disaster and I do feel helpless so far away. Yes, this is all linked to climate change... ALL the Armegaddon shocks as our oceans heat up. Scientists are now finding that the warmer the waters of the ocean the slower the circulation of the major currents and the potential for tremendous changes when those biggest bodies of water stop moving. It will mean climate changes in huge areas, loss of seafood, and loss of land food. (Some folks think the scientists are lying to get more money for grants for this research...go figure!)  China is not looking to expand their coal industry because they believe their scientists. They are putting huge sums of their money into solar farms. Just today the Saudi's admitted that developing solar farming is so cheap they have no trouble finding the lowest bid for their development...and they are an oil-rich country!

The smaller reasons for my funk, but no less important, and tied to the paragraph above, are the horrible things happening to our country and the way some Americans accept exaggeration, daily contradictory statements, and outright lying as a means to an end if they agree on that end. 

Well, now that I have got that off my chest, maybe I can actually write something next time!?

Saturday, October 07, 2017


A good blogger would have posted something by now.  I have wanted to write about privilege which then made me think I should tell you about the spiraling web of getting a Brazilian Visa and then I realized I have No Time. I sm busy most of this three-day weekend with volunteer work and then the following days with two medical appointments. OK. I will just leave you this photo from a few nights ago as our sun starts to set once again over the water.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

People Are Real

When traveling there are usually adventures, some rewarding and some that are annoying verging on the ugly. I am of the belief that travel keeps a life in perspective and in technicolor. Without travel you have a life of monotony and lots of grayness except for an emergency or miracle or two.  Yes, life tests you but if there is little testing of beliefs, testing of bravery, testing of what is trueness, that is a life unearned.  Travel is better when leaving a safe place, and even a journey to a new town down the road can be a learning experience if one keeps their eyes open.

Of course, there are those who are afraid of having to negotiate with someone who does not speak their language, or who speaks it with a thick accent.  There are those who do not like being at the corner of a street unable to read any of the signs and being watched by the locals who sit on their benches with blank emotion in their eyes.  There are those who are put off by peculiar food smells and certainly repulsed by bizarre-looking foods.  Screw your courage to the sticking place, my friend, because this is not an us and them situation.

I consider myself an introvert based on all the tests I have taken and the literature I have read.   Having written this, I am also pretty outgoing on travel.  I am addicted to answers and always asking questions from the locals and other strangers as I suck up all of the newness of where I am.  

I even ask questions of the tourists, because they have their own funny stories.  My ice-breaker is using photography.  Those selfies usually lend themselves to an offer so that both parties can be in the photo or so the person can pose.  Recently while in Amsterdam and walking through their city park, which most tourists miss, I came across a lovely young woman with a bouquet of flowers in her arms using her phone to take a photo of herself with a large chestnut tree in the background.  A tree...a simple tree to frame her.  Of course, I immediately offered to take her picture for her and used a larger framing that would truly lend perspective to her tiny body and the monstrous tree.

As we later talked, she asked if she could take a photo of my husband and me which we agreed.  She explained she was from Turkey.  She was traveling alone and had been traveling for 20 days.  She was heading home the next day.  She was a chemical engineer and had just graduated and was going to start a new job in her homeland.  Now the cynics would remind me to check my purse and pockets when she left and other cynics would say she was something other than a chemical engineer and was just lying to impress or deceive us.  But I knew she was real.  Most people are real.  You have to believe that the globe is full of honest, hard-working and generous people or why live?  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Wrap-up

While I took over one thousand photos...OK closer to two thousand...I deleted at least 20%. ( I saw that eye-roll.)  I have backed up the rest of them for memories and so that my children have something to throw out when I die. This last post is just a quick look at who got us there.  In these times I am very aware of the importance of work, economic stability, and international relations.  I almost always find a reason to admire those that give it their all in work that is demanding and that keeps them away from their loved ones.

The crew of our ship was over the top in friendliness and assistance, as they must be in such a competitive industry. They certainly hear the same questions from old people day after day regarding the complicated schedule, and still, they fail to lose their patience. The Captain, who certainly kept to himself, was from Germany and amazing at being able to dock and maneuver through the locks with almost no jerky movement that you would notice. In the photo below, he is turning a very small wheel (palm size) that adjusts thrusters and moves us every so lightly toward the shoreline to dock.  He turns just degrees!

The lower level crew that handle the rest of the ship usually come from the Baltic states where jobs are few and skills are high.  Their ability to speak English is a premium for these jobs.

At least the maintenance can be done in an open-air office.  These ships are amazing in their complexity.

The crew that deals with the passengers are usually from the countries that the ship passes through. Germany, Nederlands, and France were the homelands of our shipmates.  When I asked they said they usually have 8 weeks on and one week off.

Above a toast with Aquavit to the success of our voyage, by the Hotel Manager and the Chef. There is no staggard seating for dinner, but they managed to mass produce a decent meal with variety!

Some of the crew were multitalented and sang and played instruments. (It was not as hoaky as it may look in this photo!)

And the Cruise Director was also super outgoing, full of humor, full of the double entendre, and a good sport...she only wore this costume on the last night and looked professional most of the rest of the trip.

The serving and cleaning crew were mostly from the Philippines and a long way from home.  

I took the photo below in a haze as my cold was beginning and while we were waiting for our shuttle to the airport.  We were almost the last to leave the ship.

Friday, September 22, 2017


Americans who go to Europe become enthralled with the timber-framed houses, ancient stone castles, and old brick architecture that claims the history of the country. But, while in Amsterdam, I became intrigued by the edgy more modern architecture. Perhaps it is because I live in the country and rarely see cities or have time to walk about when I visit them.

All of the pictures below were taken in Amsterdam...just Amsterdam.  There are some really dramatic modern buildings in other parts of Europe, but I did not get a chance to see those so I will share these.

Above is the ceiling as you enter the Van Gogh Museum which was remodeled just a few years ago.  (I personally feel they totally failed on the sound suppression as the high floors get the brunt of the noise below in the open areas!)

Below is another museum...I think it was a marine museum.

My favorite is to try and capture a library or two!  I wish I had had time to go inside.

Now for some more "edgy" buildings.

I think this above is a hotel?

Lots of buildings on stilts, maybe due to the fact that Amsterdam is below sea level.

Man seems to be getting smarter about environmental building, privacy in cities, affordability, and durability.  I wish I had time to study the history of each of these projects and what the people thought after they were built.

(PostScript to Granny... I just did not find the time to do the Wednesday challenge...I refuse to admit that the word list was a bit terrifying.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Of Course There Were Castles

The major point of moving down the mid-Rhine region of Europe on a riverboat cruise is the ancient castles that dot the hillsides. Some of the castles are abandoned and in ruins, others are privately owned---one by a Japanese man who paid 25 million Euro(!), and others have been turned into hotels, perhaps charging prices not reflective of their service(?)...some even with parking at the top of the hill!

Most of the days were overcast and trying to get good photos of the castles without the definition of sunshine was a challenge.

They were all sizes and shapes.

Seeing castles from a cruising river ship is certainly the lazy way to experience the history and architecture, but I was able to visit a few castles. They require walking up many stone steps and then navigating lots of cobbles and slate and rock beds. People trip and fall all the time as they look away for a second from their foot placement.  The photo below was the only one I could find where I captured the uneven terrain.  You can see the threshold was smooth, but further in, it was treacherous!

"To reach my bed, I have 158 steps to climb, explained Hermann Hecher, the genial owner of the Burg Reinstein, near Bingen. " And it's really terrible when I forget something. Because then I have to go all the way back down and up again!"  Taken from Castles in the Air, A Journey Down the Rhine.  Hecher, a former opera singer, purchased his castle from Prinzessin Barbara von Hessen und Rhein, Herzogin von Mecklenburg, for the sum of 360,000 Deutschmarks---whatever that translates to today.

This one above is definitely a hotel.  I read that nearly all the castles on the mid-Rhine are not medieval castles, but nineteenth-century reconstructions of medieval castles.  "Most were built in the 13th and 14th centuries to collect customs duties for the Holy Roman Emperor.  Seeing what a good business it was, so-called Raubritter or Robber Barons, build their own castles to get a piece of the action."  This was an area of Jewish merchants and they were especially preyed upon.  By the end of the 17th century, most castles had been destroyed in feuds and wars.  Today more than 60 castles remain.

The stories from this area are haunting like the Grimm Brothers horror tales and romantic like words that were written by Bryon and Shelley.

Die Pfalz constructed by King Ludwig
This castle in the photo above was known for breaking up the pack ice that came down the river in the spring.

Castle maintenance and repair is not for the faint of heart.  The government sometimes will provide a grant or loan, but like agro-tourism, they make money by putting on falconry shows, having butterfly houses, and renting out for weddings.

And as you can see from these photos wine is an important crop.  It is a passion with the Germans and I learned for the first time that Reisling can be dry.  The slate stone upon which the castles are built is important in absorbing the heat of the sun which is important to the vines growing at the upper limit of this wine growing area.  I did not go on a wine-tasting because they are usually unrewarding to me.  If I ever return I will pay for a private tour, which is better.

Yes, the grape harvesting on these steep hillsides is still done by hand, but fewer and fewer are willing to work that hard and small wineries appear to be closing.

Well, thanks for coming along the river with me.  By the way, do you have a favorite castle?