Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'll see you in September....

Good morning, y'all!

I see that some of you are anxious, wondering if I'm OK, since I've been quiet. The answer is, yes, I am just fine. It's merely been quiet around here, not much to write about. I've been enjoying the continuing cool weather, doing my exercise thing at Curves daily, and reading a lot. Too much.

I've been slowly making preparations for my upcoming visit to the Vipassana Center in South Georgia -- although I honestly haven't done much. Plotted out the route on a map, mostly thought about what to take and things to do before I leave. Need to get a little more serious about that over the weekend.

Also did a little gardening (weed control), and plan to do a little more this weekend. I've decided to do another winter greens bed, so I've pulled stuff from that bed, need to add some good nutrients to it before I leave so they can get into the soil. Don't know if I'll get around to digging the remaining bed -- I did use big clippers and cut off the tops of all the weeds down to the chicken wire level. It was a start. Somehow, I can't seem to dredge up the enthusiasm for maintaining the garden any more -- much like the rest of the house.

And so -- I leave Wednesday morning, won't be back until mid-September, won't be taking a computer with me, no updates here until I return. Be well, y'all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This and That

A friend of mine is writing a book that all of us can make good use of (especially those of us who are over 50). It's called Brain Vitality, and the basis is that all of us can grow new brain cells and keep our brains functioning well as we age. Ann uses exercise -- mostly on the mild side and suitable for all ages -- and lifestyle choices to accomplish this. I've already added her hint about crossover exercise (crossing the midline to trigger left/right brain communication) to my own daily exercise routine. Ann has been a yoga teacher for many years, is a good writer, and also a great example of practicing what you preach, so I expect the book to be a valuable addition to my own library. She's also donating many of them to good causes, for the benefit of people who can be helped by what's taught in the book.You can get more info, and pre-order the book if you wish, here.

Our cool weather continues, with thunderstorms rumbling through around 3:30 am and good rains yesterday afternoon. Weather radar shows more headed this way from Alabama. It's unimaginable to have several nights in a row of 67 degree lows in August here -- but I'm not complaining. Well, being me I do complain because the house is actually cooler than I like, so I'm in a sweatshirt, and sit with a light throw over my legs when I read, but it's not serious complaining. Much prefer this to 105! I've noted before that this is a cold house -- very hard to keep warm in the winter, but that's what makes it reasonably comfortable to live in it without AC in the summer, too. It's cooled off quite nicely over these past days and the pattern is forecast to continue through the week, at least. Weird, but pleasant.

I'm starting to think about packing and other preparations for my next trip -- I drive off a week from tomorrow, headed to Jesup, in south Georgia, for three weeks. I'll be visiting the Southeast Vipassana Center, where I'll sit a 10-day course, then stay on to serve (work in the kitchen) the following course. I'm gonna be curious to see how much difference there'll be between this course and my first one, over 7 years ago. That one was pure torture, physically and mentally, but I've done a lot of sitting since then and learned a lot, so I expect (hope!) that this one won't be so bad. If you wonder why I want to go if it was that bad, it's because despite the discomfort it was a great experience and I learned a lot. I should learn even more this time, and these centers and courses are one of the few places I know of where one can isolate oneself in total silence for such a long time. Most meditation retreats are silent, but most places also don't enforce that rule. The Vipassana centers enforce it strongly -- we're not even supposed to have eye contact with another person because that's communication of a sort, and communication of any kind is not allowed. Sounds harsh, but that's what makes it work.

Later, y'all.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Garden fresh pasta sauce

This was the perfect, cool day I've been waiting for in order to make my red sauce -- which involves lots of steaming water for scalding the tomatoes, then an all day simmer. Not something I'd choose to do on a normal August day around here.

Fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes from the garden, washed and waiting to be scalded, then peeled.

Peeled, rough-chopped, ready to cook. Juices already flowing.

Fresh basil, garlic and onion -- also from the garden.

Onions and garlic sauteed together.

Basil added without chopping.

Let it cook all day -- and you have Mama Nina's famous red sauce.
I learned to make this sauce way back in the day when I did a year-long stint as line cook at Mama Nina's, a northern Italian restaurant in Yountville, Napa Valley. I only had one day per week when I did set-up -- meaning I worked all day, made all the necessary sauces including this one. The rest of the time I worked evenings only, which was great for me. We used canned tomatoes, but other than that the process and recipe are the same. I may go a little heavier on garlic and basil than we did then, but since we made it daily in a huge pot, it's really hard to compare proportions (not to mention hard to remember!). It tastes right, which means really, really good. We used this mostly on pasta, but also for layering lasagna.

So now I have a good supply -- after an overnight chill, I'll pack it into small canning jars and put it in the freezer, for individual use over the winter. I expect that some of it will not make it quite that long. The best part is that literally everything aside from salt and coconut oil came from my garden. I love it even more because of that.


I had some bad news last night -- an email from my daughter-in-law telling me that my son's father, my first husband, died Friday night. So what, you might ask. After all, we've been divorced for nearly 50 years. But we'd remained friends of a sort, staying in touch, talking from time to time and he visited a couple of times when I lived in Napa, when he was traveling on business in the area. He was a good man -- not his fault he was saddled with a child bride. The issues in our marriage were mine, as I am the first to admit. I'm the one who wanted out. Still, there remained a bond of some sort between us. He was about 5 years older than me, as I recall, and since I haven't heard from him in a couple of years, I didn't know he'd been ill or anything about his health issues. This is the first of my contemporaries -- people I actually know -- who have died in old age, so it's a milestone of sorts. Not a particularly pleasant one, but a milestone nonetheless.

Friday, August 10, 2012

All is well

It's cool enough this morning that I had to use my meditation shawl while I sat, and that's a really, really good thing.  A little odd for August in the deep south, but apparently the beginning of a trend that's due to last for several days, which is also a really, really good thing.  Unlike so much of the country, we have not suffered from a drought this summer. Oh, I expect our annual rainfall is lower than normal, but still -- I was told that it rained every afternoon while I was in California, and it's rained almost every day since I've been back. Not big gullywashers, but good rain. Hence the jungle that used to be my garden. Rain always brings cooler weather, at least for the duration of the rain. After the rain moves on, it can turn into a steam bath, but the storm fronts moving across this part of the country yesterday were large enough to take hours in their slow progress. Not always rain, but good cloud cover that kept the sun's heat at bay.

One of my chores over these cooler days will be to peel the big bunch of plum tomatoes I've been gathering and storing in the fridge, then make some good red pasta sauce for the freezer.  Peeling the tomatoes requires lots of boiling water, which isn't too appealing when it's already hot in the house. But I sure do enjoy that red sauce during the winter.

It's been a quiet week around here, which is why I've also been quiet. Hasn't been much to talk about and, in fact, I've about run out of what there is to say. All is well.

Be well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A fine discovery for the bakers among us

I was trolling tonight looking for something to watch, and my eye caught "Baking With Julia" on the menu list. I quickly went to the site and yes, indeed, PBS has resurrected all of those wonderful episodes that I enjoyed many years ago when they first ran! I felt like I'd discovered a treasure, as indeed I had. Apparently, they've been brought back in celebration of her birthday. Thank you, PBS!

I had the accompanying book, which I used with great frequency, but like so many things it went the way of a used book store about 8 years ago when I thought I was going to sail around the world (or somewhere) on a sailboat. Alas. I did keep the recipes I used the most, but like so many others that had the same end, wish I had it still.

If you enjoy baking, be sure to watch some or all of these episodes, which feature different bakers in Julia Child's kitchen, teaching how to make their specialties. I've had an overload of episodes for the moment, but there are still plenty left for another day. Or two. There are also several of Julia's other shows listed on the menu -- I just hope they leave them up long enough for me to watch them.

And of course, I'm hungry now!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mild winters and cool summer nights

I seem to have spent most of this day researching and thinking about what my next steps might be, where I would like to -- as well as where I might realistically be able to -- move next spring. I'm the first to admit that when I chose to buy this house and move here nearly 3 years ago, I didn't make the choice based on anything resembling reality, and I ignored lots of red flags. Lots of them. I'm not really sure there were really any green flags, other than a bank being willing to loan me the money to buy a cheap little house, and returning to where I was born. And since it is the place I was born and know reasonably well, I saw all the things I'm so uncomfortable with here, saw that I'd never be able to afford this place without a job, but did my usual rosy thing thinking it was all something I could deal with. I guess at that point I hadn't yet fully realized that my mind and body no longer want to deal with things that I don't like, or that cause stress. What's the point?

Since there's no real point in thinking about what I'd really like to do (which involves being footloose and fancy-free, traveling to whatever worldly location appeals on the moment, staying there for as long as the spirit moves me -- a week, a month, a year -- then moving on to the next), I've tried to stay within the bounds of reason. As I've given this subject thought over the past week, I've tried to look realistically at what is truly important to me. The two primary parameters seem to be a more liberal/progressive community and some kind of Buddhist center/group. Weather is the third parameter. Out of tornado alley, for one. Someplace warm and sunny with mild winters, for another. And of course, it all has to be affordable, through the miracle of subsidized housing for seniors.

I've actually found a surprising number of these in Marin and Sonoma Counties in California, prime locations for weather, politics, and Buddhism. Not to mention wine and food and beaches and just about everything else I love. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be rentable from a distance. All have waiting lists, which isn't surprising, but once your name reaches the top of the list you are required to have a personal interview. That would be a bit costly from way out here. If they decide to rent the apartment to you, you have to visit in person again to sign the forms, give them money, the usual stuff.  No surrogates allowed. So, to make any of these work I'd have to go ahead and move to California and wait it out. Nice thought, but unrealistic, given my income. There's really no place I could stay. I think a phone call to at least one of them is in order, just to get the facts and see if there's a way around being there. And see how long the waiting lists are.

Second choice, and the most reasonable one for many reasons, is Asheville, NC. It's a lovely small city about the size of Eugene, OR and with many of the same liberal leanings. I already know a woman who established and leads a meditation group there, and there are other options as well. It's several hours closer to the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, so I could continue to go there for retreats. The apartments all sound lovely. Summers there are a delight. Winters -- I'm not so sure about.

From what I can gather through research, winters there are not much worse than winters here. But for me, it's too cold here in the winter. That opinion may well be colored by living in a drafty old house that's really hard to keep warm, and these newer, smaller, energy-efficient apartments with central heat would not likely pose such a problem. I didn't have much trouble with the cold in Atlanta for 10 years, as I recall -- because of smaller, newer, less drafty apartments with central heat. Winter is really the only red flag that pops up when I consider Asheville, so I think I need to take a little trip up there soon and check out the various apartments, maybe get my name on some waiting lists. And check out the winter weather facts. I've been watching the daily weather there for the last week, and their daily highs seem to run about what the temp is inside my house right now -- 82 degrees. I wouldn't even need to use AC for that, because to me it's pretty comfortable. And nights are cooler than here, which would be perfect.

Asheville is certainly not as appealing as the milder winters and cool summer nights of Marin and Sonoma, but unless a miracle happens, I might as well forget that idea! It would certainly be an easier move, and I wouldn't have to sell all my stuff and start all over. There's a lot to be said for that at my age. It's also easy to drive up and check the places out, unlike California.

So aside from that -- I braved the garden again this afternoon for a half hour or so and made some decent progress. It's still an overgrown mess, but these small increments of time are adding up and making a difference. I had to come back in and swallow a big glass of ice water, splash some cool water on my very red face, but all is well now.

Be well, y'all!