News Flash!

Contrary to what you've heard, money does NOT make the world go 'round. Maybe it isn't a dog-eat-dog world out there.

I asked a group of friends, "What would your dream life be?" Not even one of them would be famous or wealthy. Almost everyone would wish for enough money that they were comfortable. No one asked for a mansion in Tahiti, with hot pool boys to fetch and carry for them while they baked bronze in the Polynesian sun.

This is going to stun you...absolutely STUN you: no one wanted to change places with Paris Hilton. In fact no one even mentioned Paris at all, the place OR the phenomena. No one wanted a fancier car, a diamond tiara or a bigger t.v. No one said they wanted to be on Broadway or Wall Street, either one. Every answer I got contained one core idea: we all want the opportunity to slow down, have time with our loved ones and live a little simpler.

It doesn't seem to matter where that dream spot was, the beach, the mountains or just home, everyone wants the most basic joys. Love. Time. Relaxation. A bit of elbow room. The media has it wrong, folks. We don't want to be rich and famous. We want to be loved, loving and comfortable.

There was another recurring theme in the answers I received. We want the opportunity to give of ourselves. We want to care for our families, our communities, the environment and animals. I think I just got a peek into the human heart.

Long Weekend

My goal is to clean my refrigerator. It's time for the science projects to be discarded, and to start fresh for the summer. I figure a long weekend is the perfect time, because I can do this chore on Saturday morning and have the rest of the weekend to shake off the heebie-jeebies I might get from opening some of those plastic tubs.

OK, it isn't quite THAT bad, but I did notice some furry spots on the shredded cheese.

The stream of traffic is well underway out there and I wonder if I am the only person in America who is staying home this holiday weekend? I am a little puzzled by some of the folks driving up. You see it everywhere: these adventurous souls drive for at least a couple of hours to get here. They pack and they plan and dress for the outdoors. Hopefully, they rip the tags off of all their new camping stuff before they set up. And then they camp so close to the highway, they could throw a marshmallow from their campfire to the far side of the road. This is getting away from it all? Seriously, they could run a drive-through s'mores stand and hardly have to get up from their camp chairs. Maybe I'm just unnaturally anti-social, but I don't get it.

When we camp, we CAMP. We eat better in camp than we do at home. We get so far off the beaten path that there is no path. Our camping gear is all well-used and well-loved. Burn holes and everything. Red wine in blue plastic camping cup is a real treat. My hubs makes these grill-baked potatoes that would make you fall on the ground and twitch in ecstasy. Even the dog knows to go way out in the woods to do her business. We just plain know how it's done.

But we ain't doing it. We're staying home. I like people. But not quite that many of them. We're going to landscape and read and I have a truckload of bread to make into bread pudding. I'll probably throw the tennis ball for the dog until I can't lift my arm anymore. I need to fertilize my houseplants. Vacuum. Nap. Barbecue elk steaks. A nice, long, lazy weekend.

What are you doing?

Confessions

I have a confession to make. Hardly anyone knows this about me, and it's really pretty embarrassing.

I don't mind snakes and spiders don't bother me either, unless they're hovering over my head. I'm not squeamish and I seldom scream. I don't have any surgical enhancements and there aren't any skeletons in my closet. I haven't been a bad girl except for eating an entire bag of Poore Brothers Steak and Onion potato chips from time to time. There are no illicit relationships, no hidden marriages, I haven't left any babies on a doorstep. I'm of no interest to either Oprah or Jerry.

But I do have a deep, dark secret I carry around with me. It's a dreadful burden, considering where I live and especially where I hope to move someday. It's the sort of thing you just can't tell people unless you can handle a look of withering pity in their eyes. There is no therapy program for me, no self-help book tackles the problem and I can google it all day long and never get a hit. I am all alone in my struggle.

I am absolutely grossed-out by, petrified of, mortified by...............................................................

......................................................................................squirrels.



You can quit laughing now. It ain't that funny. The little boogers just creep me RIGHT OUT. Fluffy tailed rats. Ugh. I ought to put a picture of a squirrel in here, just for emphasis, but I decline. I don't even mind mice if they stay out of my house, but squirrels? EEEeeewwwww!

I can hear you now: "But squirrels are cute!" Yeah? Not! I can argue that they are destructive little acrobatic terrors, but that's only justification. The truth is, the little wretches make my skin crawl for no good reason except that they are what they are.

There. It's out. I said it. I guess squirrels all over North America are going to be sending me hate-mail now, and pelting my house with acorns and pinon nuts. Squirrel-lovers are going to tell me I'm a species-ist and should be ashamed of being so unenlightened and small-minded. I'm sticking to my guns. You can love them if you want to. Me, I think I'll keep the rubber-band pistol handy.


Playing along at Freefringes!

Posole

I love posole. I don't just like it, I love it. I hope you'll try it, because I think you'll love it, too.
A beautiful lady from Guanajuato, Mexico gave me this recipe. The only thing I do differently is call the ingredients by English names. Especially since I only know the Spanish names for chicken, pork, onion and hominy. You can adapt this recipe to a crock-pot easily, if you want to let it cook itself while you bound off to your exciting job.


Posole

If you're making Chicken Posole, start with:
Stock:
one whole chicken or one cut-up fryer OR one pork roast, cut into bite-size cubes
1 head of garlic cut in half at the “equator”
1 large onion, cut into quarters, skin and all
1 red bell pepper, well washed, cut into quarters, seeds and all
4 stalks celery cut into large chunks
3 bay leaves
olive oil

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, over medium-high, brown the onion quarters very well on all sides (almost burned is good). Add garlic halves and saute until a pretty warm gold. Or else, cheat and use roasted garlic in the first place. Remove the onion and garlic to a bowl, add a little more olive oil to the pan and throw in the bell pepper and celery, saute until brown in places, add bay leaves and continue to saute until everything is nicely carmelized. Remove to the bowl with the onions.

Brown the chicken in the same pot. Cover with cold water and simmer until the chicken is almost tender enough to fall off the bones. Remove chicken and let rest until cool enough to handle, then pull the meat from the bones. Strain the vegetables from the stock and set the stock aside. Discard the veggies. You got all the goody out of them by now. Bring the stock back up to a simmer.

If you're making Pork Posole: brown it very well on all sides for the best flavor later. Cover with half chicken stock and half water (use commercially prepared stock to save time, if you want, but you can get several meals out of the one chicken if you do that step first) and simmer until the pork is tender. Strain the pork out and set aside, return stock to a simmer.

To the stock, add
2 large cans of hominy (rinsed well)
1 cup of diced green chilis
2 good handfuls of pearl barley (or rinsed quinoa)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
a handful fresh chopped parsley
black pepper to taste
2/3 cup prepared enchilada sauce: green for chicken posole (Posole Verde), red for pork (Posole Rojo)

simmer until the onion is tender, return the meat to the pot. Thicken with a little cornstarch, if you like. Serve with shredded cabbage, diced avocado, lime quarters, fresh cilantro (chopped) and tortillas.

Aging

Yep. I'm aging. A little more every day. My friend said that getting older was a little annoying...like a gag gift. I think that's a great analogy. How do I know I'm aging? Well, besides the mirror, there are a lot of indicators.

  • I make noise when I stand up now. If I don't make a little "uh" sound, then some joint is cracking or creaking.
  • When I got my first gray hair, I was excited. I yanked that little sucker out of my head and went hollering outside to my hubs. "Look!! A gray hair!!) The shine has worn off, folks, and it isn't exciting anymore.
  • I find myself saying things like "are you old enough to remember when......?". I know this is a sign of age because it used to drive me crazy when my elders did that to me. Now I'm doing it.
  • Once upon a time, I tried not to touch my face because it contributes to zits. Now I don't idly touch my face because I don't want to notice those occasional crazy chin hairs when I can't do anything about them.
  • I don't understand my son's music. I have even been heard to utter the ultimate old-age phrase, "Turn that crap down!" I do try to leave out the references to washtubs and primates.
  • We were once a family with big dogs. Our black lab was the sweetheart of the neighborhood. If I saw someone with a small dog, I would think "do you like that better than a real dog?" I know I'm aging because I don't disdain the little dogs anymore. I always said, "You'll know I'm old when I get a small dog." I haven't done it yet, but I can see which way the wind is blowing.

There are some rays of hope for me, yet.

  • I haven't started driving 15 miles an hour UNDER the speed limit, yet.
  • I like my music loud and my TV quiet, rather than the other way 'round.
  • Fiber plays no role at all in my thinking, I have very few doctor's appointments and no health problems worth discussing with anyone.
  • The TV schedule is not the basis for planning my day.
  • Even if I don't listen to a lot of current music artists, I do, at least realize they're out there.
  • Thankfully, I haven't started using phrases such as, "the younger generation" "kids these days" or "back in my day". I will occasionally cave in to a "when I was a child..." but anybody can say that, right?
  • I don't usually need you to repeat yourself to me. If I do ask you to say something twice, either I was concentrating elsewhere....or you said something really nice that I would like to enjoy again.
  • I am still immune to the potluck. Chicken ala king casserole made by heaven-knows-who has never appealed to me and still doesn't. I still choose dark breads and strong cheeses, sour pickles and spicy and bright foods that make my mouth sing. I figure this is the ultimate test of old age. When the day comes that flat, bland, soft, white food of unknown origin looks good to me, I'll know for sure that I am OLD.

Off-Topic?

OK, it's called "Contemplating Happiness", but right now I feel like contemplating something that WOULD make me happy. Phone etiquette for doing business, even personal business. Especially regarding voicemail. It's all so simple, folks!
  • Tell me your name, the whole thing. Unless your name is Hezekiah or Methuselah or some other extremely unusual name, your first name alone is probably not sufficient. I have hundreds of clients, and each account has several people who might call on its behalf. Take pity on an old woman and tell me who you are?
  • If you are leaving me a message which asks me to call you back, then you don't really need to leave a 20 minute message telling me the whole story, only to repeat it (now stretched out to 35 minutes) when I return your call.
  • If you are in a hurry to have something done by a certain time, it is counter-productive for you to tell me all about how you met your 5th wife. I'm asking you what time it is, and you're telling me how a clock works.
  • Never NEVER start out just abruptly giving me your account number or policy number. Something like, "Hi, This is Marie Antoinette, and I am calling regarding my policy #......." All I need is a second to grab a pen, as soon as I get the hint that I'll need it. No no! Stop right there, smarty pants! You can't assume I'll have a pen in hand before I check voice mail because I only need to write down something on a fraction of incoming messages.
  • Here is where I stray into the realm of the politically incorrect. Bear with me. It happens all the time and I just really need to tell you. I have very sweet, elderly clients who call. They can't hear a thing I say. They aren't even sure I'm on the phone with them. They ask me umpteen questions, can't hear my umpteen.5 answers, and then say (get this), "Hold on, I'll put my daughter on the phone and she can talk to you." By this time I'm ready to drive my own size-six stiletto right through my temple. If your daughter can hear, and was there the whole time.....?????? Was she sitting there, hand open, trying to get you to give her the phone? Or was she sitting in your barcolounger with the lace doilies on the arm rests, laughing maniacally? IS THIS FUNNY???

I love my job. I really do. But I am a busy woman. I enjoy shooting the breeze with you, and hearing your stories. Without my cherished clients, there'd be no money for pinto beans in my house. I want to be able to give each and every one of you my undivided attention. It sure helps if you are as respectful of my time as I try to be of yours.

Love,

Your Insurance Agent

A Brand New Dog

I have a brand new dog. She is 10 years old, and I've had her since she was 8 weeks, but she's still a brand new dog. (I'll call her the Blue Dog.) You see, we mysteriously lost our other dog (the Red Dog) last summer. She disappeared without a trace. When the Red Dog went away, the Blue Dog changed.

There was no way to foresee what would happen. The Red Dog did not enjoy the good health my Blue Dog always has, so I expected she would 'go' first. I just didn't expect it to happen in such a way. I thought, foolish woman that I am, that the Blue Dog would be morose to lose her long-time sister. Not so! She is overjoyed to be an only child at last.

I always regarded the Blue Dog as a tyrant and, candidly, a bitch. She spent all of her waking hours demonstrating her authority. She never wanted to be handled or fussed over, because the Red Dog would stick her chubby rump right in the middle of any situation and demand attention. To tell you the truth, I never realized what a good dog the Blue Dog really could be.

One thing about the Red Dog that made her special: you just never saw a dog get into chewing like she did. Even as a full-grown dog, and past the years of chewing up things she shouldn't, she still loved chewing like you wouldn't believe. Give her a bone, and she didn't just enjoy it, she lusted after it. Yes, folks, it was absolute bone-sex for her. She would lay on her back, with her eyes rolled blissfully back into her head, and she would work that bone around in her mouth in perfect ecstasy. Words do not do it justice.

So I don't get to laugh at my Red Dog and her fixation anymore. But I have a brand new Blue Dog. She let me brush her entire coat yesterday. That is the FIRST time in her 10 years she has permitted such a thing. She acts like she actually gives a darn what I think. That, too, is a whole new thing. It's really quite remarkable. I can't help but wonder what those years would have been like if she'd been an only child all along.

Ode to a Mixer

Over 20 years ago, my sweet hubs gave me a Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas. Now don't you go making any smart remarks, there, you high-maintenance girls! He got me this amazing thing because he knows me, and he picked perfect. It's the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. If you don't have one, you should shut down your computer and run as fast as you can to your nearest department store. Your life isn't complete without one.

Almost every week during those 20 years of my Kitchenaid-love-affair (hereinafter referred to as my KLA for ease of typing), I've made a batch of bread. Pizza dough to pumpernickel, that baby does more than half the work for me, and cheerfully, too. Once I made a cover for it out of this adorable blue fabric with cows on it, but that didn't last. I use the mixer way too much to cover it.

My KLA is serious enough that I have actually considered packing my mixer when we go to the cabin for a couple of weeks. I haven't done it, but I've considered it. And a KLA is kind of a gateway thing, too. A food processor, a coffeemaker, a blender, a set of knives...yeah, I've got it bad. Now I'm lusting after that red cookware. Hmmmm mmmm baby. If Kitchenaid made cars, I'd be first in line.

I have gotten past the point of gazing lovingly at it, although it's still mighty pretty even 20 years into the KLA. And I have to confess that I have ogled other Kitchenaids in other colors and bigger bowls. Yeah, I know, size isn't supposed to matter, but a big bowl has its merits. But then, if I were to choose a mixer based on its color or bowl-size, is that the same as getting a trophy spouse? Nice to look at, but not a relationship one expects to last? My basic white mixer has been the object of a passionate KLA for all this time, should I even consider a plural KLA? Is that like acting out a fantasy, only to discover it would have been better being left as a fantasy? I've heard this happens, and it frightens me to think I could taint such a beautiful KLA. I need to consider this very seriously. But still, that copper Kitchenaid would look GORGEOUS in my cabin kitchen.