Sunday, January 22

Dinner Party

Things have been quiet around here, but we have been busy. We had a dinner party this weekend. I never seem to get pictures of the food because when dinner is ready, JJ and I are like traffic cops telling people to get in line--no one wants to go first--and where we want them to sit. 

I did get a picture of the main dish (beef short ribs) mid-cooking.

They were absolutely delicious! Tender and moist. The secret is low and slow cooking. I have been making short ribs for dinner guests for at least a decade, because all the work is done the day before--there's no last-minute fuss, and because who doesn't like tender, fall-off-the bone meat? Save for the vegetarians, that is. 

In the above photo, I have browned them (I used the oven broiler because there are 7 or 8 pounds of ribs) and put the mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) on top. I only season them with salt and pepper. I pour beef broth and red wine (white wine is okay too) over top, cover them and put them in a slow oven, about 300° for 3 hours.

After they cool enough to handle, I remove the meat to a smaller baking dish (this is a turkey-sized roasting pan and they will shrink) and drain off the liquid and solids into a bowl, discarding the carrots and stuff. You could eat them, but in this case I was done with 'em. Then I pour the strained liquid back on the meat, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Something about them sitting in their juices overnight makes them even better the next day.

The next day I can skim off all the fat because it's solidified on the surface. I put them back in the oven for an additional hour or two at 300°...they will wait for you. I remove the ribs to a serving platter, thicken the broth, and that's it.

Here are some of the guests. 

This is JJ and Steve. Looks like I caught JJ mid-sentence. 

Cliff and Marilyn.

Barbara, Cliff's wife--our next door neighbors. We love 'em. 

Bud, Marilyn's husband and a real cut-up. His personality shows in the photo.

The fun thing is that Barbara and Bud have friendships in common from their school days, and we discovered that Marilyn and JJ have friendships in common from their school days! 

It's so much fun. We love throwing parties! 

Thursday, January 12

Frankly, Not a Lot

Well, the 2016 holiday season is finally behind us--the decorations are all put away, the parties in the history books. It seemed like a long season. But our festivities started in late October when we went on that transatlantic cruise.

I haven't posted in a while because honestly there isn't much going on. We have gotten down to the serious business of being retired homebodies.

You know that AT&T commercial where the guy walks away with his new iPhone 7 and crashes into the door? "Hey! I want that phone!" To qualify, you must be a DIRECTV customer, which we are.

So we went to the AT&T store and I walked out with this. Totally free. And we save $80/month over the next two years because we bundled everything with them. Man, I love this thing. I don't want to go anywhere, because the whole world is right here in this powerful little device. My old android phone was a real dinosaur.

The slick and clever salesmen (plural) managed to talk us into sell us a security system for our home, and we will save an additional $10/month because we got it. So the security system was also free, as was the installation. Not that we'll use it much, but we are dedicated skinflints.

We also scored a new wifi modem in the deal, and it is much stronger than the old one, so I no longer need an enhancer to get a decent signal to the front of the house where my studio is.

We were in the middle of booking a trip when the internet went down, so we had to cross our fingers and hope the last hotel room wouldn't get booked. I was worried. Why?

Did you know there will be a solar eclipse in the US in August? I did, I have been waiting for this. For my whole life, actually. It's a really big deal to me. It's on my bucket list.

This thing will traverse the entire country on August 21.

We studied the map and decided on Oregon, because we could drive there, and see friends along the way. But it turned out to be less expensive to fly. Skinflints, remember?

I chose Albany, which is just below the red central line and in the path of totality.

I am geeked! I just hope the weather is clear.

Around here, it has been raining. A lot, and often. Big squalls. It's hard to take a picture of rain, but this is our street today. I sure hope that hillside holds.

It's really cool to see the hills turn green. It's so rare, we're all buzzing about it.

The only problem (well, aside from potential floods and mudslides) is that all that fresh grass portends increased brush fires in the fall.

All is well! We're both feeling fine!

Tuesday, December 13

Happy Christmas, Y'all!!!

Been busy? Yeah, us too. When you live in a retirement community, where everyone is unemployed and not only has time on their hands but disposable income, when the holidays roll around there are more parties than is probably good for us. But I will say this--we are sitting home for New Year's Eve this year. You know you're getting old when staying home sounds better than going out on New Year's Eve.

We went to see Johnny Mathis. He's 80 now, much older than this album cover. He was okay, but then again, he's 80. Still packing the house, but....maybe time to hang up the ornaments.

We went to a street party. Well, not so much a street party as a party for the people on our street, which comprises 12 homes. The hosts "made" us do some silly stuff before we could have a drink. It was like herding cats, but we complied and were presented with this photo:

I saw this spiderweb this morning and it is so intriguing. The web was like fine tulle.

Isn't it cool? I never saw one like it before, its body is about 1" long.

One of our neighbors has cancer and we have all been taking dinners to her husband. That's the kind of place we live in. 💗 I was looking for a way to cook pork chops because I don't make pork chops very well and pork was on sale, and I found this recipe. I've made it twice now and it's a keeper. It's very, very good. Five stars.

The ingredients are pork chops, cabbage, bacon, onion. Supporting players are apple, chicken broth, apple cider, and sage. And some salt and pepper.

Cook two slices of bacon (or more), remove it and cut it into pieces. Set aside.

Brown big, fat pork chops in the same pan--you can add more bacon fat if you want, I did. While they are browning, chop the cabbage and the onions. Remove the pork chops to a plate and brown the onions, and then brown the cabbage. The recipe said to slice the onions and cabbage very thin but I chopped it big and I would say my way is better.

If you try to cook everything at once, it won't brown and browned food is where the flavor is. You want everything to be caramelized. I always cook the components separately and then marry them together. Add the chopped apple to the cabbage and keep cooking it down. When you are happy, nestle the pork chops and onions back into the pan--and don't forget the bacon!

Pour in a half cup of apple cider and a half cup of chicken broth. Cover and bake at 350° for about an hour, maybe a little more if you have a shitty oven like I do.

It's sweet and wonderful and the apples balance the....well, all the flavors go together beautifully. This would be great for company because you could do it beforehand and it bakes a long time. And it's DELICIOUS!!

Wednesday, December 7

Time Flies

When you're having fun. And we are!

Well, I did decide not to put up a Christmas tree, and the heavens did not explode. They have cute little 2' tall trees in the floral section of the supermarket--way dried out I might add, it's SoCal after all--and I paused and thought about it for a moment, but I'd have to get out all the stuff to decorate it, so I passed.

I did get all the prezzies bought and wrapped. This year's color is silver. I have to have a different palette every year, yaknow. It's the artist in me. We don't do a lot of gifts. Nobody needs anything except the grandkids. We're lucky that way.

I've been playing golf. I played twice this week. The shadows are getting long on the 18th, and it's just so pretty and peaceful out there. This is Talega, a very difficult course in San Clemente (that I decided I don't want to play again--who needs it). The golf cart is the group in front of us, and in front of them, Canada Geese, here for the winter. Geese are horrid creatures, they are nasty rascals, and there is goose poop everywhere. Man, was I glad to get this round behind me.

Today we played Arroyo Trabuco, an easier course because they have gold tees for high handicappers, which we senior ladies surely are. We had a lot of laughs out there today, and when we got to the 19th hole (the bar--duh) I pulled out my phone to take a shot of our group. You need to know I cannot see what I am taking pictures of. I have vision issues.

Looking left.

Annnnd right.

I didn't get everybody in the shot...there are about 20 to 24 of us every week, and it's a great group of peeps. My pals, I just love 'em.

Tuesday, November 29

Life and the Holiday Season

Yes, it's upon us once again. Thanksgiving with the family, well half of the family, some were sick with a stomach virus and couldn't come. So it was just the five of us, three generations. 

Chris cooked an amazing turkey, as always. He does brilliant turkey. Look: a turkey and a ham all in one photo...

Here Chris shows 8 year old Savannah the giblets. "Ewwww....."

I attempt a selfie with my darling Michelle. 

I made an amazing gluten free apple tart that I will surely make again when duty calls. I don't bake, and working with gluten free flours is tricky, so we all kept our expectations low, but it was outrageously good. I got the recipe from I Breathe I'm Hungry and it looked exactly like the picture below. Beautiful in its simplicity. 

I am just about finished with my annual seasonal cold (caught on the airplane I am sure), so I had a lot of couch time over the Thanksgiving weekend. I have 90% of the shopping done. If you don't have Amazon Prime, you're missing out. Free shipping on everything and it is on your porch in two days. Sometimes one. 

Amazon Prime also has free movies. We had a bit of a movie marathon over the weekend (sadly, no popcorn). This was good:

Yesterday was Cyber Monday and we got JJ a new computer. Saved $400. It's an "all in one." No tower, the processor is part of the screen. We hadn't planned on buying it just now, but JJ's computer has been threatening to die for months and $400 was a huge motivator, so we jumped at it. Score!

I did get outside to drain, clean, and fill the hot tub. It was 80 degrees on Thanksgiving and the day before. But then it turned cold. 

 It's beautiful and sunny, but cold. I love this bougainvillea.

I decided to not put up a tree this year. I waffled for days but the decision is final. No tree.

But we are not completely devoid of cheer and decorations. 

This is what I'll be doing Monday. I think I'm finally well enough to get out there.

Thursday, November 17

Home Again

There's not much to tell you about our transatlantic crossing other than it was uneventful. We flew overnight across the pond in cramped economy but we were able to sleep most of the way with Ambien from my doctor. We were whisked off to the ship by a delightful driver and we discussed politics all the way, which is always fun in foreign lands. We discussed Brexit primarily, but the Trump/HRC subject was hammered to death with everyone we encountered.

I did not take my camera because there's not a lot to take pictures of out there on the deep blue ocean, but I did take a couple photos with my phone & iPad (some I snatched online). Now to see if I can find them and actually insert them into this post. 

Here's one, at Legal Seafood in Boston Harbor, our first port after leaving Southampton a week earlier. You might think it strange to go for food when on a cruise; I did. But truthfully the ship food wasn't that great, and when in Boston... 

I was traveling with Sarah & Bill from Dallas, and Jim. 

We had a mix of weather, we had one calm sunny day and some bumpy days, and some VERY bumpy days. One day the buffet, which is on 14, toppled plates, glassware, cereal and PEOPLE everywhere. We chose to stay low down in the ship that day and eat lunch in the dining room, sitting down. The ocean motion doesn't bother me but there were times during the night I thought I'd go flying across the room. No one got much sleep that night. 

We spent most of our days here. The card room. We played contract bridge all afternoon long.

Celebrity Eclipse is a beautifully appointed floating hotel.

There is actual grass on the top deck! Can you stand it? Not that we ever spent time up there while going across the ocean, it's very windy and cold. 

It was a gorgeous day in NYC but way too cold for us Californians, so we stayed on board. We've been there many times. JJ does a sudoku puzzle while I fiddle with my iPad. The double espresso macchiato is divine. 

We were docked next to the USS Intrepid. Photo taken with iPad. Looking south (Hudson River)

We had an overnight in the City and took an excursion to Harlem and the famous Cotton Club. Fantastic! Solomon Hicks (left) reminded me of a young George Benson. Such talent!

I took this photo through the dirty window of the Sky Bar, with my phone. 
It was an incredible sunset sailaway! 

But there's no place like home!! Thanks for visiting. 💖

Monday, October 24

The Big News Is

It. Is. Raining!

Good thing I rescheduled golf from today (Monday) to Wednesday. Pretty smart cookie I am. Our "golf commissioner" said he doubted it would actually rain, but we are getting a good soaking, complete with lightening and thunder, which happens maybe once in 10 or 15 years in coastal southern California. But I'm hunkered down inside, not going anywhere until golf on Wednesday. 

JJ got me an iPad Air for my birthday--which was three months ago, but we don't generally buy each other birthday and Christmas gifts, we get what we want/need when we want/need it, and we stick to a budget so we can afford to take once-in-a-lifetime trips a few times a year.

Which is what we are doing soon (more on that in a minute). So JJ asked me if I was taking the laptop on the cruise, and I said I didn't think so because it's a hassle to deal with at the airport and internet at sea is painstakingly slow. It's sometimes good off the ship in the port terminal, but you can't count on it. So off we went to Best Buy--I already knew exactly what I wanted and they had it in stock. It's an iPad Air.

Man, is it sweet. It is a for-real computer and comes with word processing and spreadsheet software. Unlike my Dell PC laptop, where I had to add ($) a word processing program. And if you can't figure out how to do something, like turn off the bluetooth or set the alarm for example, you can ask Siri to do it. Siri will write a note or schedule an appointment with a reminder, you don't have to type in anything. You can ask it where is a drycleaner or if you will need an umbrella today.

I love technology. Seriously. I'm glad I lived long enough to see all this cool new stuff. I still need my Kindle, because that's where all my books are, and Kindle doesn't share very well with iStuff as far as I know.

We are leaving on a cruise this week. Not a glamour cruise, but a transatlantic crossing, a "repositioning" cruise. Every fall they take the cruise ships to warmer waters (and back in spring) like the Caribbean or South America. People like to go south in winter to get warm and cruise the tranquil, turquoise waters of the tropics.

Because on a repo cruise you spend most of your trip at sea and not in exotic ports, which cost the cruise line big bucks to dock and they pass this expense on to the customer, the price is rather reasonable. Not exactly rock-bottom, but a good value. They are still feeding you and making your bed every day, and shaking your martinis and entertaining you in the evenings.

We are going with our friends Bill & Sarah, who we met on a transpacific cruise last year. I can't find the pictures...I'd ask Siri but I haven't loaded any pictures onto iPad yet. Anyway, these are our Dallas friends, and they invited us to go with them. We will play bridge every day while crossing the Atlantic, which takes 6 or 7 days, and nobody has to cook or do dishes or make a bed for 15 days. We do get a few overnights in port, notably Boston and New York City.

This is Celebrity Eclipse, a sister ship to the Millenium that we were on a few years ago. 

Blu, one of the many dining options onboard.

Wine cellar. 

Martini Bar.

World Class Bar. I like the sound of that. 

I haven't decided for sure yet but I'm considering not taking my big camera, instead using the camera in my cellphone--the iPad has a camera too, and it might be fun to experiment with. There won't be a whole lot to capture out there on the high seas anyway. 

This week we are packing and getting some grooming services done. We fly out Friday evening, arriving in London mid-morning Saturday. Our friends arrive from Dallas around the same time and we will go directly to the ship, where we have been invited to a sailaway party at 5. See you when I get back!