Sunday, March 1

In Like a Lion

Well, not exactly. March came in with a light drizzle, more like a kitten. But still, it is weather. We get a little rain around here and the local TV stations go on “Storm Watch.” It’s laughable.

Life perks along here on Planet Rian. We had a dinner party last night and, as usual, I did not get any photos of the food. Picture salmon with panko and parsley on it, scalloped potatoes that were oh-so divine (recipe below), and perfectly roasted asparagus. For dessert I made chocolate-dipped strawberries on a little nest of fresh raspberries. Here’s the gang:
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Cliff and Barbara, left, are our next-door neighbors. They are the best neighbors ever. JJ, at the end of the table, poured some beautiful pinot noirs from his collection (and the food was designed to complement them). JJ is the best husband ever and a great host. On the right are Linda and CB, who brought me into the best golf group ever, and Linda and I play golf together nearly every Wednesday.

I learned something new! Have you ever “peeled” a mushroom? I had never heard of such a thing. But we had the best mushrooms at a neighbor’s recently and I asked her how she did them. She peeled the mushrooms! No way! Here’s how:

Here is your average button mushroom with the stem removed. There is only a tiny hole for the stuffing, and often requires two bites. I used to try to cut this off and it was fiddly and yielded a mangled end-product.
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I didn’t know how to go about it, so I just tried peeling one. Look how easy the skin pulls off! Unbelievable. Mushrooms are like little sponges, so if you wash them they get soggy. And really messy to eat.
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Wa-LA! A tiny, one-bite mushroom that is easy to stuff!
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Did you notice the flowers on my table? I usually don’t put fresh flowers on the table because they are tall—and I didn’t have a short vase, until JJ bought me these two tiny vases (on sale!) at Pottery Barn.

And, since the theme was “Celebrate Spring,” tulips were in order. Aren’t they sweet?
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Here’s the recipe for scalloped potatoes. Lordy, these were good.

SCALLOPED POTATOES (from Epicurious)
Serves 6

3 pounds (about 5) Yukon gold potatoes
3 TBS butter, cut into small bits (I used more)

Salt and pepper
1.5 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
Grated nutmeg

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Layer in baking dish, overlapping slightly—sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper, and dot with butter.

Combine the milk and cream, and nutmeg. Pour over potatoes (I added more butter to the top). Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 1.25 hours (mine took 1.5 hours but I think my oven is slow). Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This can be made a day ahead (that’s how I roll) and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

That’s all the news for now. Today is a wee bit blustery and cold, so we’re wearing our fuzzy slippers and hunkering down.

Sunday, February 22

Lazy Sunday

We like doing nothing on Sundays. More to the point, we like not having to do anything if we don’t want to. It makes Sunday seem special.

This is what morning looks like around here. JJ loves to do the Sudoko puzzle. He’s laser-focused on this activity. 1-IMG_1595

I, on the other hand, have given up my 40-year relationship with the Times Sunday Crossword because when Merle Reagle took over they became impossible. Who needs impossible. Not me. I cook breakfast. This is what we’re having for breakfast today—California omelet with bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, and avocado. You people who prefer whole grain cereal with nonfat milk and dry toast for breakfast might want to look away. This is a seriously Paleo breakfast. But this will keep us going until dinner, and eating like this is how we lost weight and feel great. Obviously we don’t eat like this every day…but close, we do eat eggs every morning. Have you heard the news? Eggs (and cholesterol) have been exonerated! I’ve been saying this for years: Eating cholesterol has no effect on your cholesterol levels. It’s the grains and refined sugar that cause problems. 1-IMG_1596

Last night we had the “girls” over for bridge. We play bridge with these two every Monday afternoon, but we decided a night game was in order. We all had a good time and will do this again. Ulla, on the left, is playing the hand. Her partner, me, is “dummy”—my cards are on the table—so I can get up and snap this photo while she plays out the hand. Jim and Jeanne are defending the hand. Bridge is an infinitely interesting game and keeps your mind sharp. Well, that’s what they say, anyway.
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I have been playing golf every week on Wednesdays, sometimes more often, with a group from our community. This has reawakened my passion for the game and I am getting some of my strength and stamina back and hitting it like I used to. There is nothing more satisfying than nailing the sweet spot and seeing that ball head for the sky. I love it!

Here are Linda and CB (in red). The three of us all hit our tee shots here. Linda is especially pleased with herself because she out-drove us (hers is the yellow ball). It merited a photo. The guy driving the cart was not having a good day and spent most of the time looking for his ball in the brush. 1-DSCF1401

It has been pretty hazy lately, as you can see. I love this hole—it’s mostly downhill and the ball rolls a long distance.  You don’t want to hit this ball long…it will go off the back and be lost in the canyon. That structure on the right is the Saddleback College golf practice place. I took golf lessons there, way back when. 1-DSCF1402-001

I like this hole, too. It’s a 125 yard par 3. I can usually land the green with a 5-iron if I don’t pull it (left), which happens too often, despite me saying to myself, “don’t pull it.” Left is better than right, obviously.
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Finally, because I had the camera out, this guy stopped by. Roadrunners are common in the desert but you don’t see many of them in these parts.1-1-DSCF1399

That’s all the news for the week!

Saturday, February 14

A Valentine’s Day Love Story

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A few weeks ago I mentioned in a post that my sweetheart and I met under untypical circumstances, and I have been asked to tell the story. Well, today is the day since it is Valentine’s Day and JJ proposed to me on this day. So many things transpired to bring us together and if one thing didn’t happen, we would never have met. The story tells much better than it reads so I’ll make it short.

My mom had recently passed away and I went back to Ohio to spend Christmas with my sisters and sort through our mother’s belongings.

Ohio is where I grew up, so I had many close friends in the area and I had caught the eye of a very eligible bachelor, all of whom encouraged me to move back. Especially my oldest sister, who begged me to “come home.” I wasn’t interested. Ohio winters? Um, no.

I planned to return to California on Valentine’s Day. I had my ticket. My sister’s best friend Donna came by and asked me pretty please if I would go two weeks later because she was going to a conference in San Diego and we could go together and have some fun. Why not. I changed my ticket and went with her.

I went to visit my former roommate in San Clemente, and I asked her if she needed a roommate. She said if she’d only known I was coming back—she had rented out my room two weeks ago.

I knew I shouldn’t have postponed my trip!

So I looked in the Pennysaver, a neighborhood want-ad paper, for rooms for rent. I got a callback from one guy and made an appointment to go see his house that night. I rang the bell but nobody answered. I must have the wrong house, but I had left the paper with his address and phone number back on the dresser. I drove to a pay phone and tried to remember the number. Now, if you know me, you know I am hopeless with numbers, but I remembered this one. Same guy answered, I had the right house, he just didn’t hear the bell. I went back. We talked for a while and he showed me around the house. He was a very nice guy, and he wasn’t my type (or I would’ve run like hell). I said I needed to think about it. He said he’d hold it for me until tomorrow.

I drove home, conflicted about this move. It was a very nice house, but it was in the burbs and far from the beach…not what I was looking for. On the other hand, it could be good a good thing for me to get away from the beach and the beach people. Something told me to go back. I pulled into a liquor store and bought a bottle of sparkling wine, and went back. I knocked on the door, held out the champagne and said, “Congratulations, I’m your new roommate.”

I moved in and my new roommate and I got to know each other. We both had been divorced twice, for about six years, and we liked being single. Neither of us wanted to be in a romantic relationship. Ever. Period. We became great friends—we just clicked—and it wasn’t long before we both felt like we were being hit by lightning, despite our best efforts to fight it.

The story goes on with some funny anecdotes along the way, but that’s how we met. 32 years ago. It’s still fun.

Sunday, February 8

NNTR

Nothing New To Report. A week flew by. I played golf twice. I colored my hair. I cooked seven breakfasts and seven dinners. I decided the best way to cook salmon is to bake it at around 400. I discovered if your Hollandaise breaks you can add a little cream to it and it will come together beautifully. I am still learning things!

I ate potatoes twice. Potatoes are definitely not on my diet. I got away with it, but the party is over—no more potatoes for a while. We continue to eat low-carb and the scale continues to refuse to budge…for both of us.

Asparagus and artichokes are finally in season! Now THAT’s news!

Weather continues to be incredible. But we need rain desperately.

I did not go into the studio once. My creativity went poof. (It comes back.)

I read my book, No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s very good, it won the Pulitzer prize, but it’s a huge tome at 759 pages. I won’t finish it by book club Tuesday. Not even close. I’m such a slacker.

We had friends Tom and Deborah for dinner last night and discussed what excursions we want to take when we go to the Med in the fall. Jim cooked the best steaks. I marinated them in my F/F* Marinade:

1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce (we use tamari because soy sauce has wheat in it)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, smashed or chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
black pepper
red pepper flakes

I seal the steaks and marinade in a zip bag in the morning. 6-8 hours is about right.

I made my F/F* Salad Dressing:

1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp maple syrup or honey (I don’t really measure this stuff)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

You can change up this basic dressing by adding various herbs to it. Add oregano for a Greek twist, or tarragon for French…you get the idea. It’s pretty good for marinating chicken breasts, too.

Have a great week! It looks like next week will shape up to be just like this one. And that’s just real fine.

*Fabulous/Famous. Of course.

Sunday, February 1

Hello February!

Fun continues. We are delighted with our new digs and our new friends. There is so much going on!

I didn’t accomplish much in the studio except make a mess—fabric is everywhere. I am nothing if not exuberant.

We had a couple dinner parties. Here’s a photo from last night’s fete:
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These are some of Jim’s high school classmates. The two women, Susan and Joan, we travel with. Joan is getting up because she wants to get a picture with me in it.1-IMG_1584
Susan was homecoming queen and Steve (right), was class president. Hey--we hang with the best of ‘em.

Naturally I didn’t take a photo of the food—there’s always too much commotion at serving time. We had rumaki and spicy grilled shrimp for appetizers, and for dinner we had Korean BBQ steaks, coconut rice, and baby bok choy salad with peanut dressing. Joan brought gluten-free chocolate pie for dessert.

Here’s a bummer:1-IMG_1579

The hot tub sprung a leak. Jason is digging out the insulating foam to locate the source of the leak. He found it. Evidently one of the hoses was punctured when the spa was built and has been leaking from day one. He’ll be back to repair the hose and re-spray the insulation. He said he’d make it good as new. It’s always something.

Today we’ll go to the kids’ house for Super Bowl. Tomorrow I play golf at San Clemente (a really tough course), Tuesday we play bridge both morning and afternoon, Wednesday is golf at Arroyo Trabuco, Thursday I rest, Friday we’ll be prepping for another dinner party on Saturday…you can see why I don’t get a lot of quilting done.

That’s all the news. I just might be a little brain-dead this morning.

Tuesday, January 20

Foggy Day

I like to understand things about nature, science, and astronomy. But I don’t get fog. This fog rolled in last night and is still with us today, and getting thicker. I don’t understand what makes it happen. It has been way too hot for January so I am glad because I like it cool. I play golf tomorrow—good thing I don’t hit it very far…
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That little bell hanging on the fence is from Kathmandu. A friend traveled there and brought it to me.

The Progressive Dinner was a success. I made Chicken Dijon, which goes together in a flash. It’s a no-brainer. But how to keep it hot for 3.5 hours without turning it into a chew-fest… So I browned it and put it in the crockpot, then I made the sauce to completion, cooking it way down so it wouldn’t be loose and slurpy later. I turned the slow cooker on low and sent up a little prayer.

It was very good and got raves. Here is the recipe.
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We all had a very good time. We have a tight-knit little community here and everyone is so nice—interesting people, interesting stories. The white-haired woman and her husband were competition ballroom dancers. All the people at the table have been married 40+ years except Jim and me, who are both on our third marriages, so we regaled them with a few funny stories from our wild, single days. We an unusual and amusing story about how we met. I’ll tell you sometime.

It’s fun to see each other’s houses and how they decorated them—so different! After the main course, we all (6 groups of 8) met back at the clubhouse for dessert and coffee. Everyone had been drinking wine all evening…imagine 48 baby boomers all talking at once. All new best friends.

There was a nice article about our community here. Below is a picture of our clubhouse, we play bridge here on Monday afternoons and this is where we have our happy hour gatherings once or twice a week. Gavilan_Hacienda

I have been busy planning and organizing a couple of trips we’re taking this year. In the spring we’ll go to the South Pacific, starting in Tahiti and calling at Napa Rui (Easter Island) among others, ending in Peru where we will go to Machu Picchu. In the fall we are taking a Mediterranean cruise with friends Deborah and Tom. We will start in Barcelona and end in Venice, with many ports in between. There is so much to see! We could just take the ship’s tours but they cost five times as much as private tours, so there is a lot of work to find and organize excursions that will make it truly memorable. It’s not really work, it just takes time.

Okay! Let’s go to the studio. I finished the background, which I paper-pieced. Actually I paper-piece everything, but there are two distinctly different techniques. Anyway, I started piecing the elephant. 1-IMG_1569

I started out as I usually do, saying, “who says elephants have to be gray (or brown)! So I incorporated some purples…but I don’t like them. It’s not the color so much as the shapes of the pieces—long strips. I need to break them up into smaller pieces. I will re-do the belly section. I have more than enough gray fabrics to work with…it’s just that I like unexpected color.1-IMG_1574
So it’s on the back burner while I cogitate my next move.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 13

Elephant Tales

For my next quilting project I decided to do an elephant. Yes, it seems a rather weird subject to me, too. Especially given that it will go here…
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…and be a focal point. We even had a special spotlight installed for whatever quilt might hang there. It’s called an eyeball, and you can see it on the ceiling. That spot of brightness is coming from the sun reflecting off something outside. Not the spotlight.

I chose the elephant because, when we were on safari in Zimbabwe a few years ago, this elephant turned around and started to charge at us because we were getting a little to close to its space and it had decided enough was enough.
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I snapped the picture just before the driver turned and beat it out of there. It’s really difficult to get a sharp picture because the vehicle is moving—and bumpily, I might add—and so is the animal.

So there is a story behind the upcoming quilt.1-IMG_1558

I made the drawing Saturday and I was pleased with it—it is reversed because that’s how I roll—but after I lived with it for a few days I decided the shapes look a little psychedelic. It’s going to be only slightly colorful, but still...

So I decided to redraw it. This is my lightbox system. You can see that it’s a rather large piece.
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In other news, we had the floor repaired again. For the third time. And we are not happy with it, we are going to have it done again. Every time they fix it it gets worse. If it was in a far corner, we’d just go with it but it’s right in the middle. It’s practically impossible to dig up a board without nicking the adjacent boards, then to replace them and get them even. It took seven hours to replace four boards. On top of that, the wood has been discontinued and will be impossible to replace once it’s all gone. This could get even more interesting.

Social life in our little senior community continues to expand. We play bridge on Monday afternoons now, and I play golf every Wednesday. There is a “happy hour” at the clubhouse every week, plus monthly Book Club. There are other things, like Mahjong, Bunco, and Bocce Ball, but there are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week.

We signed up with the Progressive Dinner “club” and got tagged to do the entrĂ©e. Great. My neighbor warned me I might get stuck having six people I did not know come to dinner. She was right. Oh well. The team captain said don’t stress, keep it simple, it’s not about the food, it’s about meeting people and having a good time. It’s this Sunday—I’ll let you know how it went.

That’s all for now, time to get back to my elephant.