Wednesday, January 18, 2017


So yesterday I was cleaning up the vegetable beds, getting ready for spring planting when I finally pulled this baby out of the ground.

It has been growing for at least a year, probably more like 16 months if I'm remembering correctly when I planted fall carrots (August of 2015).

Giant Mutant Carrot, as I am calling it, was as long as my forearm and thicker than my wrist. It was left to its own devices in a bed of onions I watered but only harvested a few of, and for some reason it never went to seed and just kept growing.  So yesterday I decided it's time had come. 

It was flavorful and delicious, despite the scary appearance. But since it was so old, I decided to use it in a carrot cake instead of serving it straight up as a vegetable.

It was pure mutant deliciousness!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Give to yourself in 2017 (because 2016 sucked)

The magical place where comfort and fashion intersect in 2017.

So by now we are well into the new year and most likely at the point where most people's resolutions have begun to fail. Did you make any? How is your resolve going? I think I read a study once that said by about January 21st, your resolutions are either a regular part of your life or have already fallen by the wayside, for better or worse. With most of us, it's the latter.

My resolutions this year are pure pleasure and therefore have a high probability of success, which it seems to me is the way to go. You can always set new rules for yourself, but for your resolutions (which stems from the word resolve, which means to settle and put to rest) , why not resolve to be a better friend to yourself in one way or another? A royal edict coming down from the Throne of You, towards your most loyal subject, also You.

My first new resolution is to only wear comfortable clothes...starting now...for the rest of my life. I'm heading into my golden years and 55 years of scratchy, snug or constricting clothing is enough for one lifetime, thank you. I'm over those items that look great but feel like CIA-sponsored torture -- snug jeans, pointy toes, scratchy blouses, or high heels that look great

but make you want to hurl them at someone after you've been standing in them for more than 30 minutes.

As we get older I suppose we can expect some times when we feel shitty physically, so why should our clothing inflict it on us now, while we still feel relatively good? Go for those new jeans with the elastic band that smooths out muffin tops and eliminates zipper flaps and buttons. Dance the night away in some nice sandals.

Zen begins in the waistband.

I suspect there will be much better reasons to be bitchy up the road so let's be kind to ourselves now. Choose the fleece, choose life. Choose the flats, choose joy. So very zen.

My other resolution is to be less busy. We've talked about busy-ness here before -- how it runs in cycles and creates balance as we cycle through busy-ness to our seasons of "down time." And all that's true, but if my busy seasons were a nine on the scale before, this year I want them to be a six. 

My new motto is that anything worth putting off until tomorrow is even more worth putting off until next week. Underachieving rules the day.

I've also resolved to get back into my own garden more. With taking several months off, all the beds are now free of pests and I'm hoping to have a honeymoon year with my vegetables. I miss it, and I miss the independence and sustainability I feel when I'm growing a good portion of our food. I'm also hooking up an automatic watering system (which I've resisted for years, mainly because being out in the garden daily doing watering also gives you time to check plants for pests/diseases). But an automatic watering system will allow me freedom from being tethered to the garden in the hottest summer days. Again, it's all about comfort.

I don't know what the official Chinese New Year animal is, but for me this year is going to be soft, fuzzy and slow-moving. The year of the Panda? Sloth? If 2016 took things from us (everything from our sense of justice to an orderly and civilized government), I think 2017 should be all about giving back. 

For me, giving begins in the waistband, moves to the feet, and is made of a soft fabric that doesn't constrict your torso or your mood. So here's to a giving, peaceful 2017. Can't say much about the government's chances, but at least my waistband's not going to annoy me any more.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A blind squirrel finds the nut

Big Ag has a saying...."even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut."

Yesterday that saying was about me and photography. I make no attempts to be a photographer, but sometimes I see something and know I need a picture of it.

Yesterday we had some crazy weather and I got this shot of the vineyard near our home. I used my old point and shoot because I didn't want to get my nice camera wet since I wasn't sure what I was going to get in terms of lighting, etc. Of course now I wish I'd had my Canon, but at least I got something.

I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

Monday, January 9, 2017


A couple of nights ago I finally got around to making a recipe shared by another blogger online a couple of weeks ago. It was a rice, vegetable and salmon dish, and I was really excited about making it. The only problem was, I must have done something wrong because my end result was a very bland-tasting entree. 

To add some zest and pizzaz to it, I brought out a concoction guaranteed to make any chicken or fish dish sit up and smile: 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I mixed it into the salmon and rice and voilá. Instant deliciousness.

The fact that I know this trick is owed to nothing more than living 55 years on the planet and picking up a few tricks in the kitchen. I also know a few tricks for the garden and around the house, and some in dealing with people.

But here's the deal: What if the Buddhists are right and we reincarnate over and over? Do all those tricks I've learned over 55 years of trial and error (emphasis on error) vanish into the ether when I'm born again and I have to learn it all over again....over and over?

Oh, you say, but it's the spiritual lessons that count, really. All the other stuff is inconsequential. Well, that's easy to say until you taste a bland salmon and rice dish, or have to deal with an idiot contractor, police officer, boss or doctor, or can't figure out how to fix a busted irrigation line in your pasture.

I'll tell you what. Being able to turn a bland meal into a stunning one, use a life hack to restore a kitchen sink, or deal with demagogues and difficult people are not small and inconsequential skills. They're what makes life better all the way around and are therefore important.

I hope I don't have to come back and re-learn all this stuff. I used to think the concept of reincarnation had so much merit -- it seemed so egalitarian --  but now that I've amassed a sizable body of life hacks and knowledge, I'm wont to give up my Life Skills Toolbox and start over again.

Perhaps Heaven is the place where we show up with all our learned knowledge and find we're the same age we were when we made all the mistakes that taught us those things -- but we know everything we do now. 

Now that would be another lifetime worth living again. To arrive with one's mental toolbag intact, stuffed with all of the good knowledge and none of the neuroses that generally goes along with it all. 

Now that's a lifetime I'd love to live for sure. Groundhog Day, Version 2.0.

Friday, January 6, 2017

23 from 55

This morning I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee in front of the fire when, after thinking of my dad for a moment, I briefly did some mental calculations and realized that by the time Dad was my age (55), he'd already been dead for five months. 

Not that you continue aging after your death, but you get the point.  I realized I had outlived the lifespan of one of my parents. (Mom's alive and kicking at 85, so I guess that's the next milestone to beat.)

My dad has been gone now for 32 years, which is more years than I was old when he died (I was 23). The significant thing about that is that as of the time of this writing, he's been out of my life for far longer than he was ever in it. 

With that kind of time and distance comes a certain acceptance of how things went down, which in turn allows you to pick up the whole tragic situation like a long-carried talisman, turning it over and examining exactly how it was made and what exactly it's made of

With some people in our lives, especially our parents, it's only with the passage of time that we can really understand what their life has meant to ours -- how it shaped, conformed or deformed it, and how that's played out over the decades. And you sure as hell can't learn or know that at 23.

That's because 23 is far too young to lose a parent, even though on paper it looks OK because legally you're an adult. It's too young to lose a parent even if that parent was not a particularly good one. But in our society, adulthood is probably more accurately measured in terms of life experiences rather than our actual years, so as the saying goes, at 23, you ain't seen nothin' yet, kiddo.

The other thing that makes it complicated is that my dad died in no small part due to his own actions. He was an intelligent, complex and depressed man, a diabetic who became an alcoholic (basicially an engraved invitation to Mr. Death to come on in). He was also a chain smoker, and it was that which got him in the end. A cough that had been with him so long it was how I used to locate him in a crowd or in the grocery store turned out to be a harbinger of lung cancer. It was diagnosed in the summer of 1983, and the doctors gave him six months to a year to live. 

They offered him chemo; he tried it once and gave up, saying it made him feel too sick to want to live that way. And then he spent his last few months visiting the bars he so loved, laying on the sofa, and telling me he had nothing to live for and therefore had no regrets about dying. 

At 23 I may not have had a lot of life experience, but by the time 24 rolled around, I was mentally 40.

But of course I was not, really. And in the years after my father's early departure, I made one impulsive, stupid life choice after another. Sometimes a death close to you kick starts your survival instinct, and sometimes the ways in which that instinct plays out looks like a years-long manic episode, filled with partying, traveling, screwing around and making/breaking vows to everything and everyone, including yourself. 

Of course I wasn't completely dysfunctional; I'd finished my college degree and had a career, an apartment, and paid all my bills on time. But my personal life is where the chaos was, and that's what part looks certifiably insane when viewed from the rear-view mirror of the calm present.

Somewhere around age 30, or seven years after my father's death, I settled down and had my son. And straightening up and flying right became more than about fixing me; it was about being fixed for somebody else, someone who totally depended on me. Having a child was a good enough reason for me to want to live well and live long.

And now here I am at roughly the age my own father died, with a son roughly the age I was when I was left fatherless. Seeing him at that age has made me more forgiving of myself for The Crazy Years, because 23 is just too young to be on your own completely, no matter how you think you feel about your parents and what you think you know about life. I see that in my son in a way I was never able to see it in myself at the time.

I'm more forgiving of my father, too, but still sad that he didn't stick around long enough to see how it all turned out. Perhaps I'll never know all the reasons why he gave up. But likewise, he'll also never know all the reasons I won't, or experience all the wonderful things he could have lived to see, but chose not to.

 At 55 years old, I feel like I've just started the third act of a four-act play. So much can still be started, be seen, and be felt. There's just so much more to life than what my father couldn't see when he was my age. 

That is, more than anything else, the talisman I've kept with me, even in the crazy years, but especially now. The secret is this: sometimes you live on not only because of the value you see in yourself and in the world around you, but most importantly, in the value others see in you.

Your heart beats for more than just you. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sputnik January 1

Dog Diary: Got up January 1, ate breakfast and put coat on to head outside in order to begin fitness resolution for 2017....Fell asleep on sofa instead. 

It happens. Hope your 2017 is exceeding all your expectations so far!

Friday, December 30, 2016

This Year


Well, the holidays are almost over and it's back to regular life for now. I received many lovely prezzies but one of my favorites is this tablecloth, which I asked my son for. I have no summer tablecloths and I thought this one would fit the bill well.  Only it was so pretty I had to use it right away. So it's July in December here at the homestead. Put on a t-shirt and have some lemonade.

Death of a Princess.

One of the reasons I was looking for cheerful decor was a bit of sadness over the too-early loss of Carrie Fisher.  "Who'll be my role model now that my role model is gone?" sang her ex-husband Paul Simon on a song called "Call Me Al." Indeed. Carrie Fisher was, in fact my role model when I was a teenager and I saw her in "Star Wars." She inspired a generation of girls to be more than just someone's husband or daughter. Be a senator. Be a freaking star pilot. And be a princess, but not the kind of pastel pink, glittered, pouting and preening model we hold up to girls today...once again, sadly. (Feminism is one step forward and a couple back, it seems sometimes.) Perhaps her death will spurn a revival in being more of a kick-ass kind of princess, who wears a dress she doesn't mind getting covered in dung when she hops into the garbage chute to escape The Evil Empire. I hope so, anyway.

Anyway, 2016 certainly seems to have generated a lot of hostility from the world. I know people who are staying up late this year just to watch it die. In many ways, on a personal level, for me it was good. But in others, it was more like that Facebook friend you have no intimate disagreements with but realize from their posts that they have some serious, off the wall cray-cray going on inside their cray-cray craniums. I don't think many would argue that 2016 was a rollercoaster in many ways.

Tide's coming in to wash another year out to sea.

Maybe in some ways I kept 2016's craziness at a distance. But I will miss Carrie Fisher's wit, guts and humor. I'll miss David Bowie's and Prince's music. And I'll miss having a President who did not make me quite so nervous as this incoming one does. We will see. That's all any of us can say at the year's end, and it's no different this year.

Because either way, it's over and we're marching into 2017. Big Ag and I will be at our favorite Italian restaurant -- early -- where we have a standing New Year's Eve reservation. And we'll sleep through midnight like children who didn't manage to stay up late enough. Nothing wrong with Second Childhood if it lets you sleep well. By the time we wake up we'll have at least seven hours of a successful New Year already behind us.

Happy New Year one and all. Hope you are exactly where you want to be at midnight, even if it's just tucked in and dreaming in your own comfortable bed.