Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Out like a lamb?

Remember the old adage that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb? Well, there was no lamb today-- cold temps and the possibility of slushy snow. Someday spring will come, but it doesn't seem to be fast enough.

Am still waiting for the stair guy to get in touch with me. I've been procrastinating about bugging him as I just don't have the energy. Maybe tomorrow.

I hate April Fool's Day, by the way... all the idiots who fall for the clearly jokey news etc.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Brave little daffodils

It's spring, or trying to be spring, in DC. Mary sent these photos from her front yard. I woke up Saturday morning to light snow and today it is so cold... but supposed to get to the 50s in the coming week.

Mary's (and my friend) Barb commented: they seem to mirror my feelings….trying to perk up but the cold just keeps me down!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What I'm Reading

I finally finished The Goldfinch -- nearly 800 pages, but it did win the Pulitzer. I have such mixed feelings about this book. The cast of characters is fascinating -- as I've said, no character I've ever met before in other novels. But it just goes on and on... obviously it held my interest enough to keep reading, but I wanted it to be over, rather than being sorry it was going to be over. Does anyone want my copy? I'd be glad to send it out to anyone who wants to give this book a try.

In the meatime, I started Bettyville, which is a memoir of a gay man in NYC who goes to Paris, Missouri to take care of his dying mother. Fuuny and poignant, and I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back to South Africa

Meredith writes:

Today was a shorter, easier hike that got us back to the guesthouse in time for lunch. I sadly forgot to take pictures of our delicious meals today, which included eggplant parmesan and pear poached in red wine (which I was surprised I liked) for lunch and hake, stuffed tomatoes and apple cake for dinner. Pat - I promise I will try to remember tomorrow for you!

Today's route took us through a forest and across some farms.

And the photos:

Adelyn with her great-grandmother

This is Adelyn with her father's grandmother called

Meanwhile, back in the Western Hemisphere

Brad and his family are vacationing in Costa Rica. I could probably name all the Central American countries, but there's no way I could position them on a map. You can find Costa Rica here (it's the green one) and they are driving across the country.

I had sent the family a guidebook, one of those laminated fold up road maps (the people on Amazon said that the roads in Costa Rica aren't named!) and a laminated fold up guide to what animals are there. His kids loved the animals one and talked about what animals they night see.

Brad sent me this photo which shows his son, after breakfast (is there anything better than outdoor breakfast in a tropical country??), taking the aminal chart and looking for a particular bird he wanted to see. I love to see kids who are curious, and so much better than having their noses stuck in an electronic device.

Brad writes: From our porch in our villa. Even has smoke coming from the crater!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meredith and Dave -- Day Two of the Hike

They walked 16 kilometers on the second day, and here are the photos:

gum trees

orchards and vineyards

Meredith says: We are on a slackpacking trip which means real beds, not having to carry our luggage and food is provided. Today the organizers mets us on the trail and set up our lunch.

My lunch box: deviled egg, ham cheese and pesto sandwich, mini fish cakes, salad and lemonade.

And we finished up at the Paul Cluver wine estate for a wine tasting

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I was thinking today: Is Tang still made? It used to be such a big deal.

Also, just now flipping around, I landed on "The Pioneer Woman" on the Food Channel. I don't know why, but I cannot stand that woman. She just irritates the hell out of me.

Dave and Meredith's Excellent Adventure

I enjoy hearing about hiking trips, way more than having to do one. Well, if a golf cart is involved, I'd be all for it.

Got an email from Meredith of "Day 1" of their hiking trip with four moe to go.  So here's the report.

Meredith writes:

Dave and I just wrapped up our first day of hiking on our 4 day hiking trip with friends. We're in the Green Mountain in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. According to our guide the region has more than 1,500 plant species, which is greater biodiversity than all of the UK. Luckily we had a decent amount of cloud cover which made the ascent part of the 18km we hiked today manageable. We are also in. The winelands and farm lands so we've enjoyed wine tastings and locally produced foods.

Ok, so I've googled Overberg region and here's where they are. This is the tip of Africa:

View over the Elgin valley. Somewhere out there is Hermanus, where we {Michelle, Tom and Mary]went in October:

More nice views:

And a baby chameleon:

Pat says: If you can't see it, look almost smack dab in the center of the photo.

Monday, March 23, 2015

One Procrastination Item Done

Right before I went into the hospital, I had ordered a sofa which never got delivered. Periodically the delivery company would call me and I told them I have no room for it since the bed is now in my living room, which is true.

Well, today I finally called the company (Overstock.com) which is separate from the delivery company. I have to say they were extremely nice. So it will be taken care of, and I get a credit on the sofa, less $140 to ship it back from the delivery company to Overstock which I think is fair.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

From shingles to olive oil

OK, so I'm sort of late to the whole olive oil thing but I also had sticker shock with the varieties of olive oil. I ended up going cheap -- Bertoli -- anyone have thoughts on this? I know olive oil purists would spt out Bertoli, but do I really need to spend $20 and up on a bottle of this stuff?

And does "cold pressed" matter?

Saturday Musings

I had ordered an 8-inch cast iron frying pan which arrived yesterday. I ordered it via eBay and it arrived in an Amazon box. What was surprising is a glitch. Correct frying pan, but there was a gift card in it that the frying pan was a gift from David L. Chen.

No, I don't know him. It's not surprising that with the millions of packages eBay/Amazon must do there are mistakes along the way... so thanks David L. Chen, even though I paid for the pan myself.

The first day of spring brought about four inches of snow. Some of which has melted today, even though it is very cold.

Tonight I'm going to make my filet mignon, with mushrooms, with baked potato. I had not purchased a steak from a grocery store in years, and I definitely had sticker shock. Think United Health Care would pay for my "medicinal" steak?

A life lesson I still am learning is that I am not alone with certain feelings of sadness, shame, embarrassment, etc. I was on the phone with Mary yesterday, at one point started crying, and she said something so funny that I am still laughing about it. Prudence prevents me from sharing, but it's funny how one sentence can make you feel as if you're not alone.

I sent out a bunch of "little" invoices today... had been procrastinating about it as if I am Daddy Warbucks with more money that I know what to do with. The little ones add up to a nice chunk.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Austin Wildlife

Michelle's husband took this photo of the owl in their backyard. He says, "this is the first time for a barred owl... many years ago we had an entire family of what I think were Eastern Screech owls, mom, dad and three or four baby owls. They hung around for a couple years and then - poof - they were gone.  I made the kids and most of the neighbors come look at them.  Eastern Screech owls are small but way cool because of the bright yellow eyes."

Shingles Vaccination?

It's been recommended that I get a shingles vaccination within the next few months. Just recommended. Anybody have one? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


ong... i just realized I am wearing green today... purely an accident... or is it? Anyway, the prize for Miss St. Patrick goes to Mary's great niece. Mary believes the baby's great-grandmother is Irish and provided the outfit. Love it!

How to Cook a Steak

I have been told that because I'm low on iron, I should eat two rare steaks a week, the rarer, the better. "Spinach isn't going to do it," I was told since we absorb (don't know if that's the right word) animal protein more than plant protein.

I mentioned this to a steak-loving friend of mine who offered this system which I will try... first step is to buy a cast iron skillet.

He advises:

I used to use 60 pounds of charcoal a year but when it came to cooking for one I abandoned the grill and took up with high quality cast iron skillets. (Lodge Manufacturing makes the best, in Tennessee, where else?). I got one of their smallest that I use to cook myself a filet a couple of times a week. (Stockyards has the best I have found.) I have bigger skillets for company.
I start with a six-ounce US Choice or Prime completely trimmed filet. The way they cut them, that is about two inches thick. Most of the cooking directions give times based on thickness.
I put a touch of olive oil (prevents sticking) and a dollop of butter (good taste) in the iron skillet and heat it until the butter is melted and starting to bubble just a bit. Then I set the heat at about half and put the steak in (with tongs), the steak having been seasoned with sea salt and a little pepper. Brown the steak for about two minutes and turn it. If it tries to stick when you turn, it needed a little more time. Then two minutes on the other side. 

Now the important part: The oven has been preheated to 350. Put the steak (in the skillet) into the oven. For my 6-ounce, 2-inch thick steak I then cook for six minutes, turn, and cook for five more minutes. That leaves it on the rare side of medium rare. Six on each side brings it to medium rare. For thinner steaks you would use a little less time on each side.
The advantage to using the stove top and the oven is that the steak is cooked uniformly all the way through. There is no mushy middle as often happens when you go for medium rare on the stovetop alone. I think you would enjoy rarer steaks that are cooked in this manner.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Fran's Nostalgia

Fran writes:

Look what I found in Giant supermarket tonight! Brought back a lot of memories ...waiting for the bag to explode (you were convinced it would, but it never did) and ......all those burned kernels of popcorn.
me, again: I remember the burned popcorn, but also the steam burns when you'd open the foil dome.

Monday Musings

I got a whole bunch of prescriptions today and was amusing mysel by reading the detailed info. I am sure it's 1 in 100,000 people who have some of these side effects, but they fascinate me. Today I saw one of the grossest --- well, there is some antibiotic that can grow hair on your tongue -- that's hard to beat... but one of mine has a warning about "vomit that looks like coffee grounds."

Really? I just imagine puking into the toilet and then thinking  WTF? I wonder what the "coffee grounds" are??

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What I'm Reading

Someone sent me this book while I was in the hospital, and I am just now getting to it. It is a Best Seller and also won the Pulitzer Prize. It's a very lenghthy book, but I'm slowly getting through it, and am enjoying it.

Nigel's New Toy

When I was buying Charlie, my sister's kids' dog a Christmas present, I bought one also for Baby Nigel, Stancie's new bulldog. Here is Nigel napping with his new toy:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Evening

This is Fran's sunset from yesterday...

As for me, the stair guy did show up and did all sorts of measurements and is supposed to email me with the price quote.

Barbara came for lunch and we had our long awaited Christmas party. Barbara gave me two jars of jam from a place she fell in love with in Newfoundland... she spoke so highly of the jam that I had to have a peanut butter and jam sandwich for dinner. On one half, I put the "crowberry" jam which the label says is a kind of blackberry. On the other half, I put the "bakeapple" jam which is not pronounced the way you'd think... it's more like bay-kappelle... and it's a unique flavor... I really liked both,.

Progress on One Front

Believe it or not, I got the proof of insurance from the real estate company via email. I called the bank to see if I could email the document rather than mail it. The woman (ater the annoying phone tree) was very nice and she said she could take the info over the phone and then I could upload it to their website. She was very patient as I tried to translate the insurance language.

One thing that impressed me, and it's a small thing, but you know when you have to enter your "`18-digit customer number" or whatever and then when you get a human you have to do it again? I often comment on that, only to be told that "that information doesn't travel with the call."

So with this bank, I had to put in my loan number and when I got the human, she said, "I see that your loan number is..." and she read it.

Anyway, so then I go to the website which was superb. Giant type and I had to put in my loan number and my zip code. Then there was the "browse" to upload. I found the document. The website asked if this were the only document I wanted to upload and I pressed YES and that was that. I'll know in two business days if I have satisfied the requirement.

But then, on the other hand, the stairs guy who was supposed to be here "before 12 noon" never showed up. I'm going to play it by ear today and see if he shows.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Progress on Two Fronts

I had gotten a letter from the bank that holds my mortgage (a form letter) saying that the building association doesn't have hazard insurance (whatever that is) and they have to provide proof that they do or else the bank buys insurance on my behalf and bills me. Really? They can do that?

Of course, voice mail messages went unanswered... and so today I refursed to leave a voice mail. I said I'm not going to just keep leaving voice mails that aren't returned. So blah blah blah... what happens is that I actually get my call returned. I don't want to be like that. I am not really like that, but I get sick of "oh, I was busy" or "I don't listen to voice mails" or whatever. So she claims she is gathering the paperwork and told me what info I need (such as my loan number), all of which I have so hopefully this big waste of time will get resolved.

And then there are my stairs... still unrepaired... to make a long story short, the man is supposed to come tormorrow before 12 noon so we'll see. I know I'll feel better when I don't have this visual reminder of a horrible night.,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What I'm Reading

I've been really enjoying this --- here's what Barnes & Noble says about it:
At nineteen, Annie Black abandons California for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and looking for love in the wrong places. Twenty years later, she is a happily married mother of three living in San Francisco. Then one morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened.

After a return trip to London, Annie’s marriage falters, her store floods, and her son, Robbie, takes a night-time ride that nearly costs him his life. Now Annie must fight to save her family by untangling the mysteries of that reckless winter in Europe that drew an invisible map of her future.

Catching Up

I haven't posted in a while because my Internet was down. You are just up you-know-what creek without a paddle with no Internet. I have 20+ networks that come into my apartment, and luckily one of them (named "Lucky Chi") is not protected. But the signal was weak; however, I was just grateful to get on at all --- but it was the kind of thing where to open an email would take 90 seconds or so.

My router is downstairs, but my stair railings still aren't fixed (that's another story!) and I was so tempted to try it, but wisdom reigned and I didn't. I knew it wasn't my computer since I could get on with Lucky Chi. So Marilyn came today and the first order of business was to unplug and plug in my router --- and that did the trick. I am so grateful that's all it was.

It was in the high 50s today -- when Marilyn was here, we had the door open the whole time and that fresh air felt so good.

As for my stairs, I am thinking of joining Angie's List --- I think it is $20 a year. My problem is that the person/company that was recommended to me just doesn't show up or communicate... well, he communicates sporadically. It doesn't help my mental health to see this broken staircase so I need to get on that.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Scattered Saturday Thoughts

I am sorry we all get one less hour of sleep tonight.

I am really enjoying my current book.

It's supposed to get to 50 degrees on Wednesday.,

For some reason, my Internet connection stopped working. Have diddled and diddled. Now I am on the Internet thanks to the good graces of a connection called Lucky Chi that has no password. Maybe my own connection will heal overnight.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What I'm Reading

I forget how I knew about this book -- another one I  bought with that gift card. The author is the woman who wrote Pay It Forward.

Here's the summary:

While duck hunting one morning, childless, middle-aged Nathan McCann finds a newborn abandoned in the woods. To his shock, the child—wrapped in a sweater and wearing a tiny knitted hat—is still alive. To his wife’s shock, Nathan wants to adopt the boy…but the child’s grandmother steps in. Nathan makes her promise, however, that one day she’ll bring the boy to meet him so he can reveal that he was the one who rescued him.
Fifteen years later, the widowered Nathan discovers the child abandoned once again—this time at his doorstep. Named Nat, the teenager has grown into a sullen delinquent whose grandmother can no longer tolerate him. Nathan agrees to care for Nat, and the two engage in a battle of wills that spans years. Still, the older man repeatedly assures the youngster that, unlike the rest of the world, he will never abandon him—not even when Nat suffers a trauma that changes both of their lives forever.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coming Home

Mary should now be on her way from the train station home... Here is the frozen Schuykill River with Philadelphia about to appear:

And now crossing the frozen Chesapeake Bay:

Today it is 43 degrees in NYC, and I opened the garden door for about 15 minutes. I don't think there's been fresh air in here in weeks. It felt good. NYC is right on the borderline between the heavy snow DC is getting and rain/no snow so we'll see what happens.

Mary's Photo Album

Aunt Mary with grand-niece Adelyn

Aunt Judy (Mary's sister)

More Aunt Judy

The sleep of the innocent

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

At long last...

Mary gets to meet Adelyn in person.

As for me, I am loving Girl on the Train -- very compulsive reading -- and we're still in the throes of winter... snow today changing to rain then changing to sleet and then a big snow coming later in the week. I will imagine myself sitting outside in the sun feelin sweaty!

Monday, March 2, 2015

What I'm Reading

I don't think I've read a book currently on the New York Times best sellers list in ages, but this is one. When I was looking for something the other day, I came upon a $50 gift card from two Christmases ago and decided to gift myself with some books. This is one of them. I had read a bunch of good reviews about it -- it's reminiscent of Gone Girl.... so far, two different narrators and I have to say it's a page turner.

In the meantime, I've been thinking of gratitude, and today I was most grateful that Ana came and took out a slew of boxes, recylcing, garbage, etc. and then cleaned my apartment.

Can I convince myself to be grateful for winter and snow? Will I be bitching about the heat any time soon? More snow this week... in fact, two separate storms coming our way. One good thing is that it means we won't have a drought.