Saturday, December 11, 2010

Since neither Congress nor the Executive Branch look likely to step up and defend my 4th Amendment constitutional rights (protection against unlawful search and seizure), I will be opting out of air travel this holiday season. I'll be foregoing an essentially "free" airline ticket (paid for out of my credit card "reward points") and instead spending more than half my savings on gasoline and motels in a three-and-a-half day sojourn from here in the middle of the continent, to its western edge. In the dead of winter. Across a major mountain range. In my car. Alone.

This might strike some, at first, as pretty stupid. Well, let me allay your fears. If it's storming on the morning of my planned departure like it is right now, I won't be setting out at all. I want to spend Christmas with my beloved family, but not from the inside of a coffin. I've got Skype; if the continent is torn asunder by winter storms, I can always hook up with my kids via the internet.

My car pooler seems convinced I'm hell bent on committing suicide this way. He's just worried he'll have to pay more for his gas to & from work.

There is of course an elevated amount of personal risk even in good weather, of some 27 hours of driving over 7 hours of flying. It would CERTAINLY be more CONVENIENT to fly, for God's sake.

But I have sat here and watched George Bush and his cronies dismantle our Constitution and the values this country was supposed to hold dear, and done not very damned much. Watched Obama not do very damned much about it, either. I've written a few letters, made a few phone calls, donated a (very) few dollars here and there. Thing was, there just didn't seem to be anything much I could do about any of it.

The TSA and their x-ray nudie machine vs. their jackboot enhanced pat-down routine - now that, I can do something about. Doesn't matter if they do it randomly and if I never got "picked." That they CAN do it AT ALL is what makes me sick to my stomach. In my view it's just plain fucking illegal. Yoo hoo, Congress? White House? Anybody?

Obviously they don't care (at the least, or in the least). I can opt out of flying, so I am. One of the most horrifying scenes I remember from Schindler's List were the people of the newly-occupied towns getting herded and prodded into lines by the Nazis. Told to strip naked, they stripped naked. Humiliated, embarrassed, frightened - they stripped naked, God bless them, and stayed in lines, and got into the cattle cars.

Do you remember that scene?

Does anybody?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

So, the 2010 Paris week is over. Two dear friends came over to help me top off the week. Our menu tonight was:
Biftek Sauté Béarnaise
Gratin Jurassien
Navets à L’Étuviée
Pain et Buerre
Panna Cotta
Sauce aux Cerises

And here's the dessert, as promised:

And I'm so tired and full I can't move. Maybe I'll just sleep in my chair downstairs tonight....zzzz

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tonight, my current favorite: Ratatouille! With some plain old biscuits and a little bit of cheese grated on top. Easy and delicious!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Since I've got French class tonight, I made an easy omelette and just heated up the remaining baguette in the microwave. Tomorrow night! The ratatouille!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OK, I have run out of energy before I’ve run out of Paris Week. I’m too pooped to cook ratatouille tonight, or even crêpes. I opened a can of Le Manwich and cooked a pound of le hamburger and I’m making Le Goofing Off tonight. No photo. Too fatiguée even to study any French.

Bah. It’s not good getting old.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I was going to cook ratatouille tonight but the day got away from me. I did my raw crudités, cheeses, and baguette. I had smoked gouda, emanteller, cheddar, and bleu cheeses. Green onion, carrot sticks, whole almonds, raw green beans, a little tomato, and little chunks of turnip. Hot baguette right out of the oven and butter, mm mm. I also have some Paul Newman's Own salad dressing of some kind, to dip things in. See, I've figured out, the thing is about French cooking is that everyday isn't anything fancy. It's just that they have more variety and do more interesting things with them. It can be very simple. Once again, my little ring-holder kitty approved:

Monday, October 11, 2010

So today launches my third annual Paris Week. I make myself simple French dinners all week, to recapture a little of that wonderful week I spent in the City of Light in October 2007. THIS time I'm going to make more of an effort to take pictures of my creations.

Tonight it was something similar to Filet de sole bonne femme - from my memory of the recipe I followed in about 1972 from that era's Betty Crocker cookbook. AFTER making and eating it, I looked in my Julia Child cookbook and online to see if there is actually such a recipe - there are apparently lots. And it turns out I cannot call it "Filet de sole bonne femme" because I forgot to put mushrooms in it. *slump* Oh well, it had real butter, Reisling wine, chopped green onions, a little bit of rosemary and thyme, and did I mention the Reisling wine? That's French enough for me. My version is a lot easier than the other ones I found. It was good, too. I had steamed Brussels sprouts and some bread-machine-made bread & butter. My ring-holder kitty approved:

This week of opulent self-indulgence culminates with a splendid dinner to which I invite two or three of my dearest friends. (They're the only ones I know will still talk to me if my dinner turns out awful.) I have to write the invitations tonight and get them in the mail. Last year we played Milles Bournes after the dinner. I'm going to ask my invitees to make suggestions for this time. I've got the original French "Breathless" DVD, and "Paris, Je t'aime" we could watch... We'll see.

On tomorrow night's menu: Ratatouille and crusty French bread, with maybe some cheese sprinkled on it. Mmm-mmm, I love me some ratatouille!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

One year ago today I quit smoking. Yay!

I made myself a chocolate cake to celebrate. Probably not the greatest idea, but hey, it's something. I'll probably end up throwing most of it out.

Today my nephew came over and painted my back yard shed for me. The old color was not nice. That's all I'll say, since it's no longer visible. The new color was scientifically obtained by the paint store lady putting a chip of my house siding into her color-detecting gizmo and coming up with the recipe to make the same color. I also got white for the trim.

I painted a couple of sheets of plywood that I'd had them cut to fit the doorway of the shed; the old doors have rotted out at the bottom due to being dragged across wet grass, etc. I painted them in the garage and when they were dry, they didn't look like the same color as the house, so I hauled one out to compare it right up against the siding. The color was 100% perfect. My eye could not detect any difference. Amazing.

So today as my nephew was painting, it was looking pretty different also. It looks more yellow. Now that it's done, and it's had a few hours to dry, it still looks different. Maybe the south side of my house – the side I got the sample chip from – is lighter than the north side – the side facing the back yard – because the sun beats on the south side all the time and hardly at all on the north side. But I don't care because the new shed color is 1000% better than the old color, and it goes just fine with the north side of the house.

This has taken a HUGE burden off my shoulders. This is a biggie. Thank you SO much, nephew! You're the BEST.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The video problem was that my video player (can't remember which I have now) needed to be updated.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Today must be Two Bafflements for the Price of One Day...

#1: suddenly my Macbook won't play any kind of video - not even the embedded thingy here on my blog page. ???

#2: TWO people have now bought the Book Lover's Necktie I've got for sale at I'm delighted but completely surprised. Hope the recipients like them!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making ratatouille today. I'm thinking it'll be dinner tonight, then lunches for pretty much the rest of the week...unless I get sick of it, in which case I'll freeze it for later.

Let me just say up-front, especially to my French friends, this is pretty loose-handed ratatouille; I consulted Julia but my version is getting simmered for several hours in a crock pot. If that turns it into mush, then I will have learned a lesson. I added a few things Julia didn't call for, such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. I also tossed in a fat teaspoon of pre-chopped garlic and a sliced stalk of green garlic I had lying about.

So, first I emptied two 15 ounce cans of tomatoes into the crock pot. I happened to have a can of whole tomatoes and one with stuff in it, like onion and celery. Doesn't matter, as long as it's tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are ideal; but I've never met a canned tomato that didn't measure up. I threw in the herbs, and some salt and pepper and turned the pot on low to warm up while doing the other stuff. (The picture above has eggplant and a few pieces of onion and zucchini in it because I didn't think to take pictures until I was well along in this process.)

Then I chopped up the 1 eggplant and 2 zucchini into pretty large chunks (I wanted more zucchini but I'd already eaten the other 2 in salads earlier this week). I figured since they would be cooking for several hours, maybe bigger pieces would keep them from turning to mush as quickly. We'll see. I filled a big bowl with water and shook maybe two tablespoons of salt into it, and stirred it well, then plunked the eggplant and zucchini into it. I put a pot on top to keep them submerged; eggplant floats - who knew? (The salt water trick is Julia's. I assume it draws out excess water so they don't dissolve while cooking.) Left that there for half an hour and went and did something else - oh yes, I chopped up the other vegetables: a whole yellow onion, a red, a green, and a yellow bell pepper, a stalk of green garlic.

After soaking the eggplant and zucchini for 30 minutes, I put them in my salad spinner and spun them, and turned them out onto a clean dishtowel and patted them dry. I heated olive oil in the skillet at a high-med. high temp until it started smoking, then threw in two cups of the big veggies at a time:

You're just singeing them to seal in the juices so it only takes a minute or two, stirring a couple times to turn each piece over. Once they're showing toasty little brown areas all over, put them into the crock pot.

When the zucchini and eggplant are mixed into the tomatoes and herbs, you then add some more olive oil to the frying pan (the previous vegetables will have soaked it all up) and sauté the onions and peppers and garlic (I added the pre-chopped garlic at this point) until they're translucent and giving off their juices. Put that in the crock pot, add some more salt and pepper, and...

Give it all a good stir, put the lid on and go do other things for a couple hours. I'll stir it again then leave it until 6 pm or so. Some nice hearty bread, some good French cheese - Heaven! Well - I'll let you know about that..

Monday, May 31, 2010

For various reasons, I've not gotten started on the "9 Great Walks in 2009" program yet; the first one I planned got replaced by a trip to the zoo, and since I don't have my calendar here (vacationing in CA) I can't recall if there was another one this month that got omitted, or if there was only the one planned. Anyway, once I get home and back in the groooove, I'll start that delightful "project" and hope to have some nice photos and interesting tidbits to post.

Today's the last day of my vacation. I can't say I'm champing at the bit to get back to work, but oh well, I'm glad to have my job, and that's for sure. I'm sure the yards are knee-high so Wednesday (I'm taking that off, too) I'll be trying to get caught up in the yard work, and then to KEEP up with it the rest of the growing season. Lots I want to do out there...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Today's big project is prepping the milliards of cardboard boxes I've got out in the garage, for carting off by the recycling people. I saved boxes for many many months, while I was selling off my Robert's photography equipment. It's all gone now so I don't need all those boxes any more, and I can use the shelves they're on to organize the stuff I will eventually sell in a garage sale (target: this October). After THAT's been sold, I can use those shelves to organize whatever stuff's left out there (and I'm hoping it will be minimal, just the things I actually need and use).

But a thought occurred to me a few minutes ago: I also need to go through the house, garage, and shed and find all the toxic crap: yard chemicals, paints, thinners, unneeded automotive fluids(?) - whatever; and bundle them up and take them to the City's Toxic Crap site. Maybe next weekend. That'll make me feel a LOT better even though it doesn't really contribute visually to my Clean-Up and Organize campaign.

There's always something, and that's the truth. Owning your home is unending Job Security.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm ridiculously chuffed right now. I just succeeded in mowing my *entire* back yard in one straight go. Years past, the first few mowings, I had to take a break in the middle...of course, while taking that break I had to have a cigarette...but I quit that in Could there be a connection?

Nah. Probably not.

Anyway, I'm exhausted and sweaty and my hurty shoulder hurts, but by GOD the yards have both been mowed (I did the teensy front yard last night).

I would NEVER have expected to be able to mow the back yard on a week night, after a full day at work (plus about 90 minutes total on the interstate getting there and back). This opens up so much goodness! I haven't even begun to realize it all yet. For one thing, I can do yard work after work instead of workouts! (I've started doing those again. Blegh.) (And I just used the word "work" three times in one sentence. Go figure.)

There's a lot more to do before I'll consider the yard "summer-ready" - and for me, that's NOT Martha Stewart Just-My-500-Best-Friends-Party-under homemade Chinese lanterns ready. It's just *acceptable*, to me.

Anyway, now I can face the neighbors. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

No walkies this weekend. I think I've got bronchitis. Energy level 0. And, since I have the Envirothon (State level) next Saturday, I'd better not push my luck, health wise.

Nothing else to report, certainly nothing interesting.

Maybe next blog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When I'm reminded that I'm weird - by me.

Yesterday on the way home I found myself weeping, hard. Why? Because I'd just emerged from an about-10-minute fantasy of me doing a music video to Charles Aznavour's "Dans tes bras" ("In your arms") - me singing and dancing all over the Pont Neuf in Paris, singing it as a love song to Paris. It was a great video, wish you could have seen it.

But, Egad.

Why do I have this deep, painful, incurable yearning for Paris? I almost wish I hadn't gone there, in 2007. I think it just made it worse because now I KNOW what I'm bring myself back in off the Run Away to Paris Ledge I have to remind myself that one of the things I'm missing is paying $800 a month for a 15' x 15' "apartment" on the fifth floor with no elevator. That's usually a pretty good dash of the old "eau froid."

I do wish I was capable of producing a music video, though. I promise I wouldn't star in it myself.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I haven't had anything really worth blogging about for quite awhile, so I didn't bother. Things were going on – good things. I've been taking advantage of a new program with our health insurance by stopping smoking (last October) – they paid for the patches, and they provide a coach who called me up every 6 weeks or so to visit and touch base. That's about as much coaching as I want or need. I've signed up for the coaching program again this year, this time to increase my physical activity. I've become quite the slug. You look at my rear end and you know what the shape of the recliner in my living room is. THAT much of a slug.

I'm not aiming for weight loss this go-round. I'm just trying to become more active. The season helps (I'm sore from yard work over the weekend, but “it's a good sore.”) And we did have a pretty extended, nasty winter. No wonder I didn't want to go outside and frolic! But it also left me with PLENTY to do out in the yard.

I'm going to put the gym I've got in the basement to use. A nice Tunturi exercise bike (that helped me lose 55 pounds in 4 months in 1994!) and a full-blown free-weight set ($1000 in a half-price sale from a gym equipment store, about five years ago) that's been pretty much gathering dust for five years. My goals: get in the habit of working out every day. That worked in 1994; I'm now 16 years older (GOOD GRIEF!!!!!???) and I don't know if I can do that again. So, I modify the goal to say, on evenings or days when I don't do any vigorous yard work or walking (more on that in a minute), I'll work out. When you start from zero, anything is an improvement.

As for the walking, I'm going to be going out, every other Saturday or so, and doing the “9 in 2009” Great Omaha Walks whose maps and info sheets are found here:

And I'm going to take my sketchbook and pens & pencils & things, and try to draw things I find interesting or pretty or awesome or whatever. If they don't embarrass me too much, I might post some of them here. In other words, I'm going to blog these walks. When I get back. When I get my breath back. Maybe after a nap... Ahem.

And then I'm going to look around town for my own “great Omaha walks.” I'll make maps of my own, maybe a list of special features and/or historical highlights, and go give them the blogger's treatment, too. I've got a friend or two who might accompany me on some of the walks. I plan to stop at the Benson Farmer's Market at 8 a.m. On Great Walk days and getting yummy things to take along for lunch.

This is sounding like so much fun, I'm getting excited about my first walk – this Saturday – to Prospect Hill Cemetery. It's a short walk so I think I can make it...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So here we are on the cusp of Spring, and did I get my big winter project, the sewing and assembling of seven Roman shades for my downstairs windows, done? BWAHAHAHAHA!!! Of course not. MAYBE this weekend I shall finish the FIRST one. MAYBE using what I've learned from doing that one, I will rip through the others in short order. But not, my friend, before next weekend, when it really will be Spring.

And now that the snow has melted (mostly) - and I can see my yards for the first time since December, it's apparent that the snow was covering a multitude, if not of sins, then of sticks. Branches. Limbs (of the tree variety, don't worry.) And that it's going to be a real race between getting all that picked up and when the yards MUST be mowed for the first time. So weekend time to work on the Roman shades will be limited for awhile.

Ah well, I'll just putz along as I have always done. It will all get done eventually. And I will be very glad to have Spring back again.

I add more Zazzle products every week or so. Must get some more photos and art work done. In my spare time.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I've started a store. You'll see the ad in the right-hand column. I keep adding new things.

It's got items with photos from my Paris vacation of 2007, some scenery and features of western Nebraska, and a few designs I made myself with either MSPaint (yes, the primitive one) or photos and a photo editor.

If it interests you, check it out. If it doesn't, no problem-O.