Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Don't have time to visit the gym right now? Here's an easy, fool proof way to increase your heart rate without ever leaving your car. 1) Drive to San Francisco to take in the holiday sights and atmosphere. 2) Cross the Bay Bridge and take the 5th Street exit. Proceed to Taylor and turn right. 3) Get ready now. Proceed up Taylor and turn right onto Sutter. 4) Feel your heartrate jump instantly into The Zone. Because Sutter is a one-way street and you just turned onto it going the wrong way!

That's what I did yesterday and realized my mistake immediately when all I could see was the front end view of 3 taxis approaching at taxi speeds. "Sh#t, sh*t, sh#t,sh*t" was my articulate response. But the amazing part was that the taxis were 3/4 of a block away, since they had been stopped at a red light. I made a Steve McQueen worthy U-turn across 4 lanes of Sutter and shot out of there like Santa going up the chimney. My friends (who may never let me be the driver again) said, "Let's not talk about this."

But I knew you'd all like this aerobic tip. Just try to time the red lights properly. Whew....

Thursday, November 27, 2008


OMG, my house smells incredible right now. I just finished my Thanksgiving dishes:

Green Beans with Mushrooms, Bacon & Caramelized Onions ,

Honey Roasted Yams with Cayenne, Cinnamon,& Lime Juice,

and Gingerbread with Crystalized Ginger & Lemon Zest Whipped Cream.

I walked outside and almost swooned when I came back in - that's how good it is. If I could bottle it, I'd never have to worry about my 401k again. But I can't so maybe that makes it even more special. This is going to be good for my car too, as I drive across town in about 30 minutes.

Happy Feasting Everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks Full

Wow, it's only about 36 hours until our very special day of Thanksgiving, where we publicly celebrate all the wonderful, nice things in our lives. I try to do that in small ways everyday, but the holiday is so much more official. In addition to all the big things like family, friends, good job, good health, good health insurance, a home, 2 pets, adequate food & clothing, pleasant neighbors, and a generally enjoyable life here's a (very) random list of things I'm thankful for:

  • iPod. I love my iPod!

  • TV remote control - I can switch between House and Dancing with the Stars without disturbing the two cats on my lap.

  • My Kitchen Aid mixer - responsible for my reputation as baker of killer brownies and chocolate chip cookies.

  • Q-Tips. Useful for lots of tasks, not just for ears.

  • Rotary fabric cutter. I still have a quilt I cut with scissors and a cardboard template, but that was so primitive. The rotary and ruler, like rules.

  • An car with an automatic transmission. Especially when driving in San Francisco.

  • Fast Track for the bridge tolls. Especially when driving to & from San Francisco.

  • Hot water, bath soap, and deodorant. Makes public gatherings very pleasant. Without those, I would probably be a hermit.

  • Netflix. Absence of those red envelopes can spur minor anxiety attacks.

  • Supermarket grocery carts. Imagine trying to get all the Thanksgiving ingredients without one!

  • Disposable soft contact lenses. I can wear sunglasses, ski goggles, and snorkeling mask, look better, and pretend to not need reading glasses.

  • Black, 100% cotton, stretchy, elastic waist, comfortable sweatpants which are going to come in very handy over the next 5 weeks.

There's an even dozen. Have I forgotten anything important? Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Literary Smackdown

Pssssstttttt...... that's the sound of a rapidly deflating ego. Mine.

It started a couple of weeks ago when a friend forwarded a website link for amateur writers. It's an interesting site. Anonymous authors submit essays which are reviewed and ranked by anonymous readers. High ranking, ie popular, essays are awarded cash prizes. My friend likes my writing style and said "go for it!

So I did. I cut and pasted one of my blog pieces and spiffed it up a little bit. Then I waited for the anonymous reviews, assuming they would be impressed with my talents. Hah - I had a rude awakening. The reviews were less than complimentary. One said the piece "needs a lot of work". One said "story doesn't really lead anywhere special". One said I was "lacking in compassion" and another said "oddball. no heart." I'm not sure if they meant me or the essay!

My ego went down faster than Cindy-the-blow-up-doll when she was accidentally punctured with a nail file at my cousin's wild & crazy bachelorette party. I moped around the house for a couple of hours thinking about what a cold, heartless, insensitive, mediocre writer I am. Then I started to get irritated. So I logged back on the site to read some of the prize winning essays. Then I got really irritated. For the ones which had the most reviews and highest ratings were not all well written, but they are all very sad or emotional - tear jerkers about trauma or drama or painful life experiences.

I'm onto them now. I am going to resubmit. If they want emotion, I can do that. Nobody is going to say "needs a lot of work" about my next piece. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Global Warming

Seasonal change in my part of California is very fluid. It see-saws back and forth, rather than sliding smoothly across the calendar. For example, last weekend the sky was overcast and gray, temperatures were in the mid-50's, the furnace kicked on every 45 minutes, and I made a big pot of chicken chili. The season was late fall, sliding into early winter.

But this weekend? Not a single cloud, temps in the high 80's and at 8:30 p.m. last night I had windows and doors open to let the house cool off. I had grilled salmon and green salad for dinner. On November 15th. The season was early fall, sliding backwards to late summer.

I'm not trying to say this is a problem - but it is disorienting at times. The trees where I work do not seem confused tho - they definitely know it's autumn!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Please Don't Tell Michelle

OK, now I KNOW this presidential campaign has melted my brain. Obama was in my dreams last night, and it wasn't a Martin Luther King "I have a dream" theme. More like a Bill Clinton "I am a dream boat" kind of theme. Thanks goodness all I did (in the dream) was reach out and touch his fingertips. Those long, slender, sensitive looking fingertips. Geez Louise! He's a married man with two kids and he's ten years younger than I am. Besides, I hate politics.

This could be an interesting four years. I'm turning off CNN. What happens in the subconscious should stay in the subconscious. I swear to all my fellow Americans - that is NOT why I voted for him!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Country First

Several members of my family have gone beyond patriotic slogans and gestures. They've served in the military and given precious years to their country. This post is for them.

  • My Dad: US Army, WWII, South Pacific

  • My Oldest Brother: Infantry, US Marine Corps., Vietnam

  • My 2nd Brother: US Navy, USS Coral Sea, Vietnam

  • My Oldest Nephew: US Marine Corps, Desert Storm, Kuwait

  • My 2nd Nephew: US Marine Corps, Desert Storm, Kuwait

  • My 2nd Nephew's Wife: US Marine Corps, Desert Storm, Kuwait (romance in the desert!)

  • My 4th Niece's Husband: US Marine Corps Reserve, Iraq

  • My 11th Nephew: Oregon National Guard, Army Reserve, slated for Afghanistan June 2009
    • Thank you soldiers and sailor. Mission Accomplished.

      Sunday, November 9, 2008

      This Little Piggy

      My Missouri Grandmother had a folk-art plaque in her kitchen which read "Never wallow with a pig. You'll both get dirty but the pig likes it."

      Gramma, I've been wallowing with the pigs. Our local newspaper has an on-line site, of course, where readers can leave comments on items of interest. This was heavily used during the election and the most commented one right now is the "what will Sarah Palin do next?" article. There seems to be a small, but adamantly devoted, ultra-conservative faction here in town and they post frequent, repetitive, negative & under-educated opinions. I've been drawn to it like a fly to pig manure.

      But the thing is, it's way too easy to get them ruffled and riled. I'm guilty of manipulation because I recognize the hot buttons and know how to express some things in ways guaranteed to stir up the stye. I'm swearing off it tho. It's not a good use of my time and not a productive way to move our country forward. So, I'm making a virtual vow - no more intentional pig prodding or slop sloshing. I'm pulling my boots out of the muck and retreating to drier ground.

      The rest of the little piglets can keep snorting but my snout is out. (and no, I'm not trying to insult anyone with the pig reference - it's just a literary expression.) Oink.

      Saturday, November 8, 2008

      My head hurts this morning. I went out with friends last night to celebrate two birthdays. After we finished our thin-crust wood fired pizza and wine, we decided to go take a look at the new resort hotel which has just opened in our town.

      It's lovely, in a spare, modern kind of way. Lots of stone and metal surfaces, minimalist artwork and avante garde floral pieces. The courtyard has a combo gas fire pit and fountain, adjacent to a large pool and spa. The pool and spa were both empty. There were a few young, hip, upper income types sitting around the fire/fountain. Water, fire, and alcohol: a recipe for instant companionship.

      But my friend and I sat at the chic bar inside. Here's the interesting part. You can't just order a G & T or marguerita on the rocks. You browse thru a liquor menu, similiar to a wine list. When you find the premium brand you'd like - vodka, gin, tequila, single malts, etc. - then the bartender comes over and discusses how you'd like it mixed. It was a bit intimidating and all I wanted was a little nightcap. My friends are more savvy than I so I just said, "I'll have what they're having."

      That turned out to be one of the most delicious cocktails I've had in a long time - fresh ruby red grapefruit juice with a premium vodka. I don't know what else was in it, but it was sublime! Smooth, sweet, tart, with just a little tiny hint of the vodka. It tasted so healthy and fresh that we all had two more. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

      But now my head hurts. And I just checked my wallet and realized how much those little designer drinks cost me. Ouch. Hand me the Tylenol please! My weekend entertainment budget is shot. Looks like it'll be Netflix, Panda Garden Express, and the couch for me tonight.

      Thursday, November 6, 2008


      The winery where I work provides custom crush facilities for very small producers. This year, for the first time, we have kosher wine being made on premise. It's been an interesting cultural experience but also a bit stressful. Only the 2 rabbis and their Orthodox winemaker are allowed to touch anything involved in the process: grapes, yeast, tanks, pumps, filters etc. If the equipment stops working, we have to call a cell phone #. If the power goes out, we can't turn it back on. If we accidentally touch the tank, the wine cannot be labeled kosher.

      And I am an awful person. Because each time I walk by the tank with big Caution signs on it, I want to reach out a fingertip and touch the stainless steel. No one but God would see me. No one else would know that the wine had been contaminated by an unbeliever.

      But I won't do it. Maybe it's my Catholic guilt. Maybe it's because I don't want to get fired. Or maybe it's because sacred is sacred, even if, as an outsider, I can't really believe fully. Still, it will be relief when the wine is bottled and removed from temptation.

      Tuesday, November 4, 2008

      Thrill, Baby, Thrill!

      America, I am so proud of you! We can, we did, we will. I'm a 57 year old white female and I'm very happy for my country tonight. We chose hope, not fear. We're looking towards the future, not pining for the past. Congratulations. Let's work together now.

      Sunday, November 2, 2008

      Sinning on Sunday

      I'm sure there are people who use their extra hour in the fall to be productive or useful. I'm not one of them. I cherish my extra 60 minutes and look forward to it each year. I never set the clock back at night. I do it about 15 minutes after I wake up and then spend the next hour in a state of the easiest deadly sin: sloth!
      Here's what I've done so far:

      • Curled up in bed with the two cats, a cup of Lady Grey tea, and a new library book: 25 minutes

      • Added extra time to my morning shower, trying out the Vanilla-Apricot body scrub I got as a gift: 10 minutes

      • Cooked and ate breakfast, SITTING DOWN at the table with another cup of Lady Grey and the newest issue of Cooking Light mag: 15 minutes

      • Logged on to the NY times and read this column and this column: 10 minutes
      That's it! 60 minutes of pretty much nothing but it felt so I have to leave, run 4 errands, clean up the garden a bit, and complain when it's dark at 5:30. Happy Autumn Everyone!

      Saturday, November 1, 2008

      1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

      I have just discovered that I'm getting old. I've been alive during 11 US presidential terms now. I was planning to write on my memories of all the Presidents until I looked up the names/terms and realized the post would have to be 11 paragraphs long. Like anyone would stay awake through that? I don't think so.

      I've always thought that Eisenhower was president when I was born, but I was wrong. When people started pinning"I Like Ike" buttons onto their tweed coats, I was already toddling around throwing temper tantrums. (I don't remember the buttons or the tantrums, but I've seen pictures of the first and been reminded several times about the second. Thanks Mom.) Harry Truman was in the Oval Office when I arrived. Followed by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. Whoever is elected in 3 days will make my list an even 12. I would very much like it to be 'that one" - a young, energetic, intelligent, calm, inclusive, pragmatic, articulate, contemporary man. But it remains up to the American voters.

      Over the course of eleven terms, I have never seen a US President in person, but I've seen one assassination, one resignation, and one impeachment. (On TV I mean) The assassination and resignation were national tragedies. The impeachment seemed like a stupid and expensive political vendetta to me, although I know not everyone saw/sees it like that. So I won't write about that situation - it is much easier to set aside than the other two.

      I was a 7th grader in Catholic school when John F. Kennedy was shot. My parents were both devout Catholics and staunch Republicans so his election was met with mixed emotions in our house. The day of his death, I was in class with 30 other tweeners passing notes and resisting education when there was a knock on the classroom door. Sister Angela, the Vice Principal, was in the hall and when our nun, Sister Mary Frances, actually left us unsupervised in the room we knew something was up. She came back in with a face as white as the wimple under her veil and with tears running down her cheeks. We were stunned. She told us the president had been shot, school was cancelled, parents had been called, and we were being sent home until further notice. We gathered up our homework in silence and left the building. I rounded up my younger siblings and we walked the 4 blocks home, conflicted about being free from school under such horrible circumstances.

      My mom had the TV on when we got there, something that was normally forbidden during daytime hours. We watched as Walter Cronkite told America that JFK was dead. We watched as Lyndon Johnson was sworn in with Jacqueline Kennedy at his side in blood stained clothes. We watched as John John saluted the casket and a nation mourned. We watched as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. We watched over the next several years as the nation plunged into the chaos of Vietnam, civil rights, summers of love, and two more assassinations: Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

      Barack Obama was 2 years old when Kennedy was shot. Sarah Palin had not yet been born. Perhaps that explains why Governor Palin has not responded more forcefully to the angry voices at her rallies who call out "terrorist" or "kill him" when she mentions Obama's name. Having never seen the results, I think she truly doesn't understand the implications of encouraging anger and hatred toward a political figure. We will never know why Lee Harvey Oswald felt the need to kill Jack Kennedy, but we understand the results of his actions. When I ate breakfast on November 22, 1963, John Kennedy was our President. Shortly after lunch 5 hours later, Lyndon Baines Johnson was in his place.

      Nixon's resignation was not as heart rending or dramatic but it too was a national tragedy. By 1973 I was a young adult, attending a community college and working just enough to eat, pay tuition, and buy textbooks. I didn't have much interest in politics but it was impossible not to be aware of Watergate and the ensuing uproar. We weren't as cynical and suspicious then and my friends and I were truly shocked to be told that an American president had lied, cheated, and spied on his fellow citizens. His decision to resign was a relief and ironically, gave him a way to exit with a tiny bit of dignity and sympathy.

      I was working as a sales clerk at J.C. Penney's and was on my way to the employee break room on the evening he resigned. I had to walk thru the electronics department to get there and I noticed the President's face was on each TV screen, with clusters of silent shoppers standing near. I watched the speech, then ate my tuna sandwich and returned to the floor. That was it. No long discussions, no prolonged grief, no long lasting psychological effects. One dishonorable president was gone and his neutral, affable VP finished out the term.

      So my conclusion from all this reminiscing is that I need to just stay calm and accept the results of the upcoming election. Our nation has survived many things - good presidents, bad president, mediocre presidents, and tragedy - and we will survive another four years with our new leader. And if not, I guess there's always Scotland. See Hit the Road Jack.