Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Good as new --- and then some!

Surprise call from the body shop this afternoon -- car ready to pick up already! They had said maybe Wednesday, maybe Friday, so I wasn't expecting Tuesday. I didn't really want to walk over there, almost asked if I could do it tomorrow, but in the end I took the hike. And it was a lot colder than yesterday morning in the dark, let me tell you! Yesterday was in the mid-40s or thereabouts and I thought it would be about the same now. Wrong! It was a chilly walk and when I got in the car the temp read 31. By the time I got home it was 30. Cold.

But the car is gorgeous. State Farm had told me that their service included wash and vacuum, but this thing has been detailed within an inch of its life. He said they replaced the fender and fixed the door. It's so nice I asked if they'd replaced the door panel, too. Not a sign of repair.

Before -- hard to see all the dirt, but it was at one time covered with thick layers of those red leaves. I'd swirled the leaves over the hood and trunk to try and wipe away what seemed like imbedded stains, but it hadn't helped. And that was before I drove to California. You can also see a bit of cloudiness on the headlight -- both had gotten really badly clouded.

Like new -- but cleaner. Striping perfect.

And look at those shiny headlights! It is literally spotless, inside and out, more so than it's been in the almost-seven years I've owned it. I feel like I need to buy a cover for it, now, to keep it that way out there on the street.

So now -- I have all kinds of options about what to do on January 1st that I never expected to have. I need to find a good place to watch the Rose Bowl, although I don't really think that having wheels is going to offer up any really interesting options. There's a place in Brookings, OR that would be perfect, and one down in Guerneville, CA, but I think those are both a bit unrealistic.

It's cold!

Somebody on the Ducks twitter feed said this morning that this week is going by so slow that it's like being young and waiting to grow breasts. I can relate to both. Isn't it always like that while waiting for something you're really looking forward to? Slow week -- then it's over fast, regardless of the outcome.

And that is about all that's happening in my life, I'm afraid. Took my car for its new fender/mirror yesterday morning, had a nice walk back in the early morning dark. Very quiet and peaceful out there at 7am! And even though it wasn't as cold as today is, I was very well dressed for the cold and that wasn't a problem. Now, if I could just get the problem solved inside this cottage!

I've found that it's almost impossible to get it really warm, to any comfort level, although I must admit that by 7-8pm, when I want to turn it down for the night, a reasonable heat level has finally been achieved. The tiny wall heater up high on the wall just doesn't cut it, with or without the ceiling fan activated. Sometimes, the fan merely turns into cool air as it flows down on or about my body, and that doesn't work for me. It could use one more slow speed, I think.

It's 26 out there this morning, and due to dip into the mid-teens tonight. Not looking forward to that. I hope that wherever I live next, unlike this place and my house in Georgia, will actually be a place where winter won't require thermal clothes and many layers, and where my toes might actually not feel like popsicles despite wool socks. Is that too much to ask? The good news about the cold temp is that we have clear skies and sunshine, so some solar heat should be in the offing all week. I'm ready!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

The sun is half-shining here and I'm just hanging, passing the day with preparing my roast chicken dinner, which turned out to be 2/3 terrific. The chicken was perfect -- moist and tender; the gravy tasted just fine. But the dressing -- well, that was not a winner. I had forgotten to get some necessary ingredients to make it like my mother and grandmother made it (powdered sage, fresh celery), and since I'm trying not to drive the car very much until it's once again legal (driver's side mirror), and since it was raining and I didn't want to walk, I thought I'd punt. Not a good idea.

I picked a bunch of small celery stalks with leaves from the garden, and some fresh sage that I dried and crumbled. Not enough sage -- but the celery was the real issue. Gave an awful taste to the dish that just didn't work. There wasn't all that much of it, but I guess it had gotten really strong after all these months in the garden. I ate some --not bad with gravy over it -- but tossed the rest into the compost. That's ok -- I had all the lovely chicken and gravy I wanted. Now, the carcass is covered in water to make stock and there's lots of pulled meat in the refrigerator.

My landlady has opened the chicken pen door, closing off their exit into the rest of the garden (on the right in the photo) but allowing them to scratch around the area next to my house. Good for both the girls and the garden. They've been hanging right next to the house, but tend to scatter a bit when I go on the deck. Unfamiliar territory to them! The red ones are babies from last summer, the black/white ones are older. They make nice neighbors.

I've entered a whole new world of existence in the last week or so: twitter feeds! I ran across some Oregon ones during all the awards excitement, found one of them (#GoDucks) to be a real source of up-to-the-minute news on what's happening with the team. Another, @WinTheDay, is more official, not as active, so I prefer #GoDucks. From there, I discovered an amazing array of hashtags and sites that could be clicked on. Did you have any idea that there was a page for @NCAAFballtrucks, for example? Used by people to talk about the big trucks that take game equipment to games around the country. Photos, travels. Who knew? The Oregon truck I spotted on I-5 a few weeks ago isn't in the photo with the two Oregon trucks headed to the Rose Bowl, leading me to believe they must have at least one more of these fancy toys.

Today, I made another discovery: @TheOregonDuck, which is a feed purely for and about the mascot, with photos of media appearances and much more. Full of humor. And there are plenty of others I haven't checked out -- probably won't check out. It's kind of addictive, all in all, even though much of what comes across #GoDucks is from fans, right now talking about Duck Gear for Christmas gifts, and Rose Bowl Tickets. Like I said -- a whole new world.

And, oh yeah. That end-of-the-year Holiday Blues? Started going away Monday (birthday) and are still disappearing. All without effort from me, and trust me, I wish I knew how not to make it come for a visit, or how to make it go away sooner. But I know and trust that it always goes, and I can live with that.

That's my day. Happy day to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday around here

You know how I just gotta bake in the winter, but how I really need to share the final product so that less goes on my belly. I've been planning this one for a few days -- gave 3/4 of it to the ladies in the main house here, and kept just this portion for myself. It's so rich I don't need any more. The glaze tastes like sweetened condensed milk, which it is not. Sweet Potato Pound Cake. Yum.

Walked to the store this morning, very nice in the fresh air, clearing skies and good hints of sunshine.

I am now officially a year older -- as of yesterday. As usual, I felt a definite lightening of woes all day, as whatever grabs hold of my emotions during this season began to wane. More will leave on Christmas day and actually, I'm feeling pretty good already.

Other than that -- about the only thing going on around here is a lot of impatient waiting for the Rose Bowl to happen, on January 1st. The whole town is wrapped up in the excitement, and with the possibility of a national championship. Mariota is still the hero of the year, as well he should be. The youngster (all of 21) is getting his fourth Sports Illustrated cover and added yet another trophy to his pile, winning the AP Player of the year award. I can't imagine what it's going to be like here with him gone next year.

So tomorrow -- gonna bake some cornbread to make dressing with, then roast a nice chicken on Christmas day. And that'll be dinner -- chicken, dressing, gravy. Whatever chicken I don't eat will become a real southern traditional chicken and dumplings in a few days. Saw somebody making that on Food Network a few days ago, and just couldn't resist, since I will already have the chicken and will be looking for something to do with it.

So that's my exciting life. Actually, I rather like this level of excitement, so no complaints.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Soggy solstice

It's a soggy Sunday Solstice morning here in the Willamette Valley! The old Pineapple Express (nowadays renamed to something like 'atmospheric river') is at it again, bringing warm rain in from Hawaii and environs. Rain has fallen almost steadily for the past day or so, and should continue on through today and tonight. I like the sounds of it on my tin roof and skylight, but so far I have not ventured outside into it for any reason. It's pretty darned wet and I have no real need to leave the house. The bad news about it stopping is that it's due to be followed by a few really cold nights. Brrr!

Didn't sleep last night -- can't remember when I had such a wide-awake, sleepless night, and don't know why. Yuk! Slept for an hour or so, woke up around 11pm, wide awake, clearly not going to sleep again for awhile. OK -- so I got up and checked the Comcast schedule for a rerun of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives I wanted to see because it featured a local restaurant. Knew it was supposed to air in the wee hours, wasn't sure when. Turned out to be 2am. Didn't seem like that would be a problem. In the meantime, I turned on the radio talk show to keep my mind off the sleeplessness. Listened to that until maybe 1am, maybe later. Then -- wouldn't you know I dozed off and woke up at 2:15! Turned on the TV, caught the second half of the show but nothing was from here. Turns out the local spot was the first feature. Naturally. Wide awake again -- left the TV on and watched another episode or so, then sometime after 3 realized the foolishness of keeping it on even though I probably wouldn't sleep anyway. No TV, no radio. Still wide awake at 4am, so I got up and had some good Peets coffee.

Now, even caffeinated, I'm groggy. Yuk again! There was a lot of irony in the situation. Normally, my lack of sleep comes from a bladder that becomes very active at night, waking me up every hour or two, so I don't get much solid sleep. Last night, already awake, the bladder apparently was asleep and would not have been an issue. Getting old sucks, and there are plenty of days when I'm no longer sure it beats the alternative. There should be an expiration date on these bodies. Actually, I'm pretty sure there is a pre-determined genetically-based expiration date that comes with each human body. We just don't know what it is or have a voice in when it might come due.

On the other hand, it's a good thing I don't have a job anymore, because in the past I had to go to work, whether I slept or not. Nowadays, if I want to be lazy and do nothing (the agenda for today) I can.

OK -- that's it for today. Nothing really worth reading here, but there was my need to communicate. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is it over yet?

I seem to have to re-learn this every year. There was a time when I knew that I was going to dread this season and everything about it, and that I would be depressed whether I wanted to or not (I called it the Holiday Blues, which is quite fitting). I was never able to control it -- full awareness of what was happening didn't help. I just needed to grit my teeth and know that by January 1st (probably by December 26th) it would all go away.

In recent years, probably due to my meditation practice and studies, I find that I no longer expect things to be terrible during the holidays, even though I still have to grit my teeth and ignore all the hoopla and even that gets easier each year. But, every year I am now taken by surprise when it happens right under my nose. This isn't a case of expectations becoming reality, because I don't even think about it until things get bad enough that I can no longer stick my head in the sand and pretend it's not happening. Friends, it's happening! The good news about all this is that once recognized as the Holiday Blues, I can see a definite light at the end of the tunnel. Another week, maybe two, and those blues will lift. Hallelujah!

Don't even ask what's behind this, because I don't have a real answer. It goes back decades, and while I've certainly given it plenty of thought over those decades, answers are vague and elusive. I can see possibilities of a beginning going back to early childhood, when well-meaning relatives would offer up a gift couched as 'birthday and Christmas'. I felt gypped. I felt a lot of things I really don't want to go into here. Nowadays, the adult in me is no longer bothered by such things, but that hurt kid is still alive and well. Whatever.

One more week. One more week. One more week.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mahalo, Marcus

Things seem to be back to normal this morning, whatever normal is in my life. Is any of it normal? Probably not, in the minds of most folks, but it works for me. Normal never had much appeal, frankly.

Be that as it may -- I woke up this morning without the least desire for anything for breakfast other than my standard easy, healthy smoothie. Food has returned to being something that's necessary to keep the body alive and healthy. The gym called and I answered. Granted, these days that answer at the gym is on the tame side, but one has to work back into these things slowly, especially when one is my age, and find out how much the body can still do. Fortunately, this body can still do more than I expected. Mostly cardio, enough weights to wake the muscles up but not enough to harm, and I more or less force myself to finish 30 minutes because I'm lazy. But that's OK. It's step one, and once the body is comfortable with that and happy pushing past those 30 minutes, I won't have to force anything.

Let's face it -- the previous week was a bit crazed around here. There was that drive home from California, followed by a football game, followed by somebody doing a hit-and-run on my car, followed by sleuthing and cops, followed by a certain Oregon quarterback doing the round of awards back east and running away with everything. Mahalo Marcus! So yeah, I guess it's no real surprise that this mind and body got all caught up in all that excitement and piled on a bit more excitement in the form of food. It was a fun week, but I'm frankly glad to see things calm down just a tad. At least for the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Carb crazy

I don't know why it is, but my appetite has been running a bit crazy since I returned from California. Not for quantity, so much, but for specific things. It's called craving, folks, and this time I'm not doing much of anything to stop it. Other than refusing to go to the market on a whim. So far.

It's not because I was hungry down there, or because the food wasn't tasty, because neither of those is the case. Food there is generally quite different from the way I generally eat, but I tend to think that's a good thing -- adds some much-needed variety to my diet. And it's good and plentiful. No hunger.

I'm not really sure what's going on here, but it seems to be a craving for various kinds of comfort food: muffins baked from whatever I have on hand, hot biscuits with oozy fried eggs, a Mexican-inspired bake with refried beans, fried eggs, cheese and sauce baked atop a flour tortilla. Notice it all revolves around something baked and full of carbs. It could be merely my usual winter urge to bake, but it seems deeper. I haven't spent a huge amount of time wondering about it, but my normal strong awareness of what's happening in my mind takes over and some dissection just happens, all by itself.

So -- it could be wanting to bake in cold weather just to warm up the house, but that doesn't fly because after the first few days home the weather turned mild. Not an excuse. I suspect it's due to a lingering depression that's been threatening for a long while, and really manifested while I was down south. This week hasn't helped. I'm still not allowing myself to get caught up in it -- just being aware that it's there, observing -- but it's the likeliest culprit to the appetite issue. Also the likely culprit to me not even trying to resist the cravings. Of course, it could also simply be the sheer comfort and joy I get from the act of baking, itself. I love to bake. Anything. And there are just times when we have to find comfort and joy where we can.

Whatever it is, it is impermanent, like everything else in this life, including this life. It will pass. I just need to try and up my exercise level in the meantime to keep all these carbs off my belly. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The culprit is found

Today is starting off with the promise of being much better than the rest of this week has been! It's early yet, but there has been some resolution in the car issue and I think all the hassle and paperwork are behind me.

My eagle-eyed landlady noted yesterday morning that the people across the street (with the driveway that was most likely the launching spot of the truck that hit my car) have a pickup, and she's noticed that suddenly this week they have been parking it nose-out rather than nose-in, as they've done in the past. Plus, they'd gone from parking it nose-out in the driveway and had moved it nose-out into a small space between the garage and the fence. Suspicious behavior, don't you think? So -- armed with the big piece of lens I went over to check, and sure enough, the driver's side tail light was demolished!

So -- lots of phone calls to my insurance company and to follow up on the hit-and-run police report. Three very nice young police came out, took my story, took photos, went over and checked out the car and then talked to the folks inside the house. Before they did the latter, they asked me what resolution I'd like to see. Hit and Run, even without injury, can be a serious charge, after all. I told them I just wanted to see the other party be financially responsible for the damage to my car, not trying to get anybody in trouble. In talking to the others, he got them to fill out an official accident exchange form with ownership and insurance info, and I did the same, then he did the form exchange. I suspect it was fairly easy to get this form -- given the option of offering it up or facing charges for a hit and run, I think most sane people would cop to the plea. I did find it interesting that the woman who owns the truck told the officer that she'd been out of town and her friend had been driving the truck, but on the form she filled out, the name of the owner and driver were the same. Not my problem. That big piece of lens I grabbed was a good find -- it was marked inside with 'Toyota', which is who made the pickup, and of course it matched the lens on the other side of the truck. Hard to argue.

So -- now it's going to be in the hands of State Farm vs. Progressive, and I doubt there will be much of an issue under the circumstances. I had to go to DMV (nearby) to fill out an accident report form, and since the repair shop was also nearby, I stopped there and made an appointment for the work to be done. State Farm's repair service is pretty nice, so far. If you use one of their approved shops, you don't have to get estimates. They will accept whatever estimate the shop sends them. This place was booked until the end of the month, but that's OK. And it should only take about 4 days to get it done. That's good, too. And I can drive it in the meantime, according to the police officer, as long as I feel I can do so safely.

We have a storm coming in today, and I hope the power stays on since both heat and cooking and everything else in this house runs on electricity! The old 'Pineapple Express' has kept day and night temps quite moderate all week, which is a nice by-product.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Not a good start to the week....

I went outside this morning to go to the gym, run a few errands, and found that someone had smashed into my car overnight. My first clue was the driver's side power mirror on the ground in my landlord's driveway. Then there's a dent just in front of the door, over the wheel well. Needless to say, I was not amused.

I drove to the gym and errands anyway -- probably totally illegally -- then called my insurance agent to learn that they can't handle claims and I'd have to call elsewhere. Grrrr. I really didn't want to waste my phone minutes on this, and I had to go downtown to the library anyway, so I went to their office and made the call. At the very least, it's going to cost me $300 in deductible. I'm wondering if the mirror might be simply reinstalled less expensively and I'll just live with the dent -- will need to check that out. Not like I have $300 lying around waiting to be spent.

A neighbor in the front house heard a 'loud truck' and a bang around 4am, but that's all I know. I do have a big chunk of plastic from what looks like a tail light, so if that car lives around here it should be easy to identify! My guess is that somebody was simply turning around in the driveway across the street, and backed out into me. Drunk, no doubt. Probably never see them around here again.

So that was my Monday. And since I had such a good weekend, I guess it's not surprising that the old pendulum would swing the other way soon enough. And I guess it could be worse. I have to say, I've had car insurance with State Farm for most of the last 50+ years, and while I haven't made many claims I have to say that the process used to be a lot easier.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A nail-biter

I gotta say -- as much as I enjoy time spent helping my bhikkhuni friends in California, it is truly good to be back among creature comforts and 'ordinary' life! My nice soft air bed compared to a hard pad on the floor (my choice -- could have put a frame together and used that or taken the bedroom with a real bed in it); a soft, comfortable place to sit (in my experience, comfortable places to sit, relax, read, etc. are unheard of at a Buddhist facility); and yes, even my TV and my big computer monitor and desk to sit at, rather than a plastic milk crate on the floor next to my 'bed'. The bed was not uncomfortable and I actually slept very well every night I was there, but my old body was less positive. Aching bones and joints were daily companions. So yeah, good to be home.

Drove up I-5 yesterday in just over 9 hours, compared to just over 11 hours driving down there via 101, plus it was simply an easier drive. My car (my sweet little car that's approaching 100,000 miles and still runs like new) almost drives itself with cruise control, the seats are comfortable and I had good music to drive by. Mostly low traffic. Rain the first couple of hours, maybe more, and the last couple of hours,  but the middle of the drive was mostly dry. Somewhere south of Shasta City all the fog and clouds cleared, blue skies and bright sunshine appeared, and while the sky had plenty of fluffy white clouds, they didn't stop the sunshine. All that high-desert area was greening up after some recent rains, and it was absolutely ethereally beautiful and lasted all the way into Oregon. Awesome! Mt. Shasta was wrapped in a big dark cloud, but I knew it was there.

The coolest part of the day happened not too long after I reached I-5 somewhere around Williams, after the lengthy connector interstate from around Vacaville on I-80. I was tooling along and my eye caught the word "Oregon" spelled out in huge yellow letters on the side of a big, green tractor-trailer. And it was the Oregon Ducks logo, not just the word. Of course, this caught my attention and I wondered what it was about until it cruised alongside for a second as we passed one another and I saw the word "Athletics" in smaller, finer print under "Oregon".  Then, it was obvious: team gear headed to San Jose for tonight's Pac-12 championship game! A yell and a fist-pump, and a big rush of adrenaline. Had to call a friend in Eugene to tell him I'd seen it -- way cool. After all, that game is the reason I came home yesterday rather than today. I missed two games down there, and that was ok, but I wasn't about to miss watching this one.

So -- today is laundry, shopping, getting life back to normal and ready for a nail-biter of an evening.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Panorama in 4 panels

I thought some might be interested in seeing the view I look out upon for most of each day around here. It's far too sweeping for one photo -- so here are four. As you can see, it was a lovely, sunny early morning here -- totally tempting to me as a photographer. These past days have been balmy -- into the 70s and sunny, although that's due to come to an end on Friday. Naturally, I see that temps in Eugene have also been mild, although certainly not this mild!

On the far left, our property sweeps downhill and adjoins the landlord's portion. In the distance a lone house with unkempt vineyards around it.
Continuing our journey around the panorama, our property sweeps down here to a large pasture usually dotted with cattle -- but they have a lot of land to roam and were elsewhere at this particular time.
On around -- more pasture. Cows still on the left, but starting to see the neighbor on the other side who has llamas and goats. This view, and the previous one, are what I generally look at outside the kitchen window, or the French doors to the outside, and most of the other large windows on the back of the house.
And the right side. Hard to see the neighboring house on the next hill, or their pasture, from this spot. The kitchen window is not shown, would be a smaller bay window than the one shown, just out of the frame on the right. Smaller, but big enough for an expansive view!

As expected, my body is struggling here, but it's OK and it'll be relatively short-term. Lots of creaky back aches and pains -- some muscle, some bone joints. But nothing I can't work with. The benefits of being here far outweigh all of the discomforts.

Yesterday, my two monastic (and monastic-in-training) friends came in from the Hermitage and we had a nice visit. The house is very quiet, as the head monastic is on a writing retreat this week, upstairs in her rooms. We take her food and other things up to her, and she often brings the dishes and such back when nobody is around. We only communicate by note, and only if necessary. The other monastic and I are very quiet too, to keep from disturbing her concentration. Sounds from outside, other than livestock and birds, are rare. It's a beautiful, peaceful existence.

Today, a supporter is bringing lunch, so my duties are finished for the day, in terms of cooking. That's good -- not sure what I'll do with the time, but I'll find something. Sunshine calls!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tired, but happy

For any who wonder -- I arrived safely after just over 11 hours, door-to-door, yesterday.  Much longer than I anticipated, but I took a longish lunch break because after 6 hours of steady driving, I needed the break and food! Also a couple of traffic jams of unknown origins here and there, including here in Santa Rosa. But -- I'm here, happy, and looking forward to my time with these wonderful people.

One thing that became really obvious yesterday was that going home via I-5 sounds absolutely wonderful! Long stretches of concrete, easy cruise-control, all sound much better than the scenic but winding roads and small towns of yesterday. It was, as always, great to see the redwoods and the coastline, but going home will be a different path.  And while I've been saying there's no good way to get here from I-5, I realized en route yesterday that for some reason I've been avoiding taking Hwy 12 through the city of Sonoma -- probably because of past memories of heavy tourist traffic that are unrealistic. From where we are, it's an easy drive to pick up 12 in Glen Ellen, then an equally easy drive from there to Napa and thus to I-80 and I-5. Not as big a deal as I thought it would be, as often happens.

But in the meantime -- I'm going to rest up this morning before starting lunch, which will mostly be warmed-up leftovers. This old body is tired, but happy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's a frustrated cook to do?

Behind the Vihara, from the terrace
Tomorrow morning, early, I head south to Santa Rosa for two weeks. with my bhikkhuni friends. I am SO looking forward to being there -- seeing these wonderful women who are like family to me.

I've grown since I left there at the end of July. Everything that I experienced and learned over the three months I spent with them has jelled and coagulated and filled my mind to such an extent that my first instinct is to want to kneel before each of them and thank them -- and I just might do that very thing!

To swing subjects completely, I've also noticed lately that I have a deeply buried urge to cook that hasn't been able to rise to the surface for a good while -- because of $$$$$ (or lack thereof) among other things.

I used to really cook for myself. Good food. Trying all kinds of recipes. I still cook, of course, but my budget and expanding waistline hold the variety to quite a dull level. Beans. Beans and lentils, good curries here and there. No wonderful baked creations. I buy basics, but nothing interesting and/or exotic, certainly. I'm well-nourished, but bored.

It's not all money, of course. A real kitchen with counter space, a real refrigerator, a stove (preferably gas) where all four burners actually work. Freezer space. But there's one more missing ingredient: people to share it with. I can only get so interested in preparing complex recipes just for myself.

I'll be able to cook and share in California, of course, but the batterie de cuisine at the Vihara leaves a lot to be desired, plus there is limited time for preparation and rather serious dietary restrictions, so I don't get very complex or interesting in my cooking there. I'm usually happy just to get necessities on the table. There's a big difference in cooking for fun for myself, whatever floats my boat, and cooking full meals around strict schedules and dietary needs. I've never had to prepare regular family meals, so I don't have a repertoire of casseroles or veggie dishes or pasta dishes that go together easily and taste delicious. So -- while rewarding in its own way, cooking there can also be a bit frustrating and hard on the ego.

So -- what do I do with this urge? I envision a kitchen with someone else -- or several someones -- cooking for  people. A lovely kitchen -- everything a cook could ever need -- and appreciative diners. Where and how to do that? Not at a retreat center, a restaurant? Who would hire me to do that? Who would even take me on as an apprentice to do that? Like much else, this is very much a pipe dream.

But worth giving up to the sub-conscious to work on, see what might come along.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Football, Food, Exercise, Meditation

Another exciting, tense and breath-holding football Saturday here in Duck Land, with only 3 more regular season games left. I have to apologize to all the people over many long years for my lack of understanding about the culture of football. Finally, I get it. The year revolves around this season, and here in Eugene it's so intense that it begins to feel as if there's nothing else going on anywhere that has any importance. So -- an early morning shout-out to Mariota and the gang in Utah, in hopes of yet another victory. I'm not sure I'll be able to watch this one. It'll air on-line at espn3.com, but the internet here has been so bad these past few days that I don't know if I'll be able to watch. I may have to settle for the radio.

But -- that's not what brought me here this morning. Today, I'm kind of ranting about something that I fully realize is largely of my own making -- the difficulty of eating the kind of nutritious diet I want on the small income I have. I do pretty well, but even while saying/thinking that, I also know that I buy some small amount of cheap things that I really should avoid, and that I buy them because they are either cheap, filling or tasty. Not enough money spent on these things to allow me to afford much more real nutrition, however, no matter how I slice it. It'll be better once I'm able to move into the affordable senior housing I'm waiting for, but that's a year or more away, and I have to deal with the present.  It'll also be a little better come January, when the measly $20 social security increase will hit my bank account. There was a time not too far in the past when I thought $20 wouldn't make enough difference to matter. Nowadays, I know better. I also think I can arrange my expenses to add another $20, so that will be a big advantage. I'm not by any means starving -- I could live for awhile on accumulated fat, if it came to that, and I have plenty of good food, even if it's sometimes boring.

On to other things -- I've been waiting until January also for my new medicare supplement to take effect so I could use the Silver Sneakers gym membership program. A few days ago I had a big duh moment and realized that my current supplement is still in effect and I can still use my Silver Sneakers card, even though I've moved. So -- the nicest gym that's part of the program around here isn't within walking or even short drive distance, but I think I've come up with a plan. There's a Curves nearby that I can walk to a couple of days a week, and then I can go to the other place a couple of times a week for yoga classes and to make good use of their steam/sauna facilities. Can't wait for that!

And -- I seem to be making progress in my efforts to establish a theravadan meditation group here in town. I'm supposed to go sometime today to meet a young woman who has offered to host our group at her wellness center, not far from here. Hopefully, she will call, and I think she will. That's a major obstacle out of the way. Once we get that, I think I'm going to bite the bullet and set up a MeetUp account for us. I may be going down to Santa Rosa later this month for a couple of weeks to help out the bhikkhunis at the vihara, so I'll probably wait until I return from that before getting started beyond the Monday morning group we are already doing. If they decide I'm needed. Of course, I always enjoy seeing them, and I miss them.

So that's my Saturday. Hope yours is happy.  GO DUCKS!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We always have to think about others

I had one of those phone calls yesterday that everybody dreads and that have thankfully been rare in my life. My phone rang early morning -- odd for it to ring at all, but the caller ID showed my elderly cousin in Georgia, so I answered cheerfully. Then -- a different voice and I knew I wasn't going to like this call at all. This was my cousin's daughter, who I'd met once or twice, and there was only one reason she would be calling me.

Yep -- Sue had died on Monday. She was 92, so that's not a huge shock, really. Terri said all the things she'd probably been repeating for a day or so: they'd found cancer all over her body a couple of weeks ago, she went peacefully, she didn't linger long. All that. But the one thing I remember most from those words is something that exemplifies Sue. Remember, this is a highly Christian southern family with deep roots in the community. People down there want to pray for others. Sue told her family to tell people that if they wanted to pray for her, pray for her not to linger. She said she'd had a good life, she was ready to go, and that we always have to think about others. She never wanted to be a burden on her family in her old age and certainly wouldn't have wanted to burden them with the the emotional and financial effects of a lingering illness. She died as she lived.

She was a friend and contemporary of my mother's, although back then as teenagers they didn't know they were related. I sought her out at a local DAR meeting after I moved down there 4 years ago, because I knew from her name that we had to be related. She treated me like a long lost daughter, kept in touch with me, tried to draw me deeper into her life. I resisted much of that but certainly was happy to have lunch with her every few months, take her to the hairdresser a couple of times, and generally happy to have her in my life. She was a rare and beautiful human being and I'm glad I had this time with her. I made a point to call her and have lunch with her right before I left. I couldn't leave without telling her, or without seeing her. She left a couple of messages on my cell phone while I was in California with the phone off. I didn't hear them until I settled up here, but I never returned the calls. I should have, and wish I had.

What shocked me the most, I think, is the emotional reaction I had to the phone call. Tears started flowing before Terri even got all the first words out, and they flowed for the whole conversation. I couldn't even talk clearly for the sobs that wanted to erupt. After we hung up, I let them flow for a few moments -- unable to do anything else. Then, a deep breath, and I performed the mundane act of opening my genealogy database and entering the date of her death -- with a sigh and more tears.  Then -- still weepy, I went back to what I'd been doing when Terri called: playing a silly computer game.

I thought about that as I played and as tears flowed. Clearly, I was using the game as an escape, as I probably use it for many times every day when I spend mindless amounts of time with it. Also clear was that all those tears were for more than Sue. Far beyond the response I might have expected from the news. I'd have been sad, yes, but it seemed that some kind of dam broke, and all the emotions from who-knows-how-long burst through. I don't cry -- don't know the last time I cried -- so this was out of character. There have certainly been a lot of things in my life over a lot of years that haven't gone right, could have been 'stuffed' even while I thought I was observing and letting go like the good Buddhist I try be.

What was I escaping? I'm not really sure, but I know I've been doing it for a good while as I find all kinds of nonsense (TV, fiction, computer games) to occupy my mind and keep it from meditating, from looking inside and seeing truths. I guess something doesn't want to go there. I certainly didn't go there much yesterday, other than what I couldn't avoid. I spent the day escaping, numb. Today doesn't look much better. Maybe it'll be a good wake-up, a good stimulation to meditate more, once this numbness wears off. I can hope.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Perfecting a favorite recipe

I'm getting there! I've made various permutations on this dish for a couple of years now -- going from a couple of different recipes plus some experimentation, and I'm finally beginning to make it 'mine'.  I've made the soup (coconut milk, butternut squash or sweet potatoes and lots of herbs and spices), and it's been delicious. Always. I've also made a dal (Indian curried lentils) using similar ingredients but without the squash/sweet potatoes, and that's also been delicious. This time I combined the two, with some added ingredients, and it's now a complete meal: lots of veggies, plenty of protein from the red lentils, and plenty of other nutrition.

Unfortunately, I can't give exact details of much -- especially spices -- but I can give basics. I started with one smallish butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs) and one small to medium sweet potato, cubed and cooked in water to cover until really tender, about an hour. I sauteed one large yellow onion, finely chopped, about a 3" piece of fresh ginger, grated, and 5-6 smallish cloves of garlic, sliced.

Once this was cooking well, I added a can of coconut milk, the veggies and cooking water, a tablespoon, maybe, of Thai red curry paste (the tail end of a small jar, leftover), a good amount of fresh basil and mint from the garden, some curry powder and a half banana leftover from breakfast. By this point, the dish was swinging from Thai to Caribbean, I think! But I thought the banana would add some good sweetness, and I think it did. I let this cook awhile, then added 1 cup of dried red lentils, soaked for 30 minutes or so to soften.

Somewhere along the way, I added a bit of cayenne, some turmeric, more curry powder and cardamom and let it all cook.  I tasted as I went, eventually adding salt after the lentils were soft.  A final taste told me it had a slight bitterness -- maybe too much salt, maybe from the squash or onions, I don't know. So, I gathered up my courage and added a big spoonful of chunky peanut butter to the mix. Once that was dissolved in, I tasted again and it was luscious. After that there was nothing to do other than grab my handy immersion blender to puree the whole thing (I did leave some chunks in it, for texture).

In serving, above, I added far too many green onions, and they overwhelmed much of the flavors inherent in the soup, but the peanuts were a great addition. I had a second bowl (yes, I did!) and omitted the onions and it was much better.

Is this a final product? Probably not. I suspect I'll always tweak it a bit depending upon what's on hand and whether I want to combine the starchy veggies with the lentils. There's room for all versions in my life.

Now, I have a bunch of this leftover (the good news) and a very small refrigerator (the bad news). Hopefully, I'll find room for all of it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fresh air

Can you believe that the weather is very fall-like, cool, overcast with rain in the forecast and I actually like it? Must be something telling me that Eugene is indeed where I'm meant to be. I guess a part of me will always be drawn first to Sonoma/Napa Counties in California, but unless something changes drastically, living there in this lifetime is out of the question. Eugene is almost as pleasing, certainly pleasing enough, although I do have more friends down in that part of the world, and that's part of the draw.

In the meantime, I'm working on 'growing where I'm planted', part of which is getting this little cottage made into 'home'. I'm getting there. The bed and the chair were big additions -- in comfort! I still sit outside and read a good deal, and will probably do that some all winter unless it's freezing out there, but I also use the chair indoors and the bed is comfortable. It feels a bit odd to climb onto something that high that is jiggly (the air), but it certainly seems to have been good for my back, and I'm grateful for that.  Turns out, it's also pretty good for watching TV in the evenings, if I can stay awake.

Another new thing arrived on Friday, which has also proved to be a good purchase. This place was a dust and cobweb magnet -- you could see the dust floating through the air, lots of it, particularly when a ray of sun was coming in the skylight. That dust would settle in thick layers on all surfaces -- including tv and computer monitor. I swept the floor carefully every couple of days, dusted with a good 'magnetic' cloth regularly, but the dust still wafted thickly through the air. I started wondering if an indoor air filter would catch it. Then, serendipitously, one of those filters showed up on Woot! one morning and yes, there were claims that it would catch dust and dander, and the price was right, so I ordered it. After I plugged it in I turned on the ceiling fan to stir up more dust, and I am here to report that although I make efforts to stir up dust whenever I can, there is no more dust floating around the room! Very little dust is now accumulating on surfaces -- and that may get better as more is filtered out, dusted out. The thing works. It's a bit larger than I thought it would be, but that's ok.

What else is happening? Not so much. Walks to here and there every few days. Not a lot of energy -- don't know why. I always blame that on lack of sleep, because I rarely sleep well, but I really don't know.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I did say it would be a tight fit....

....and it is, but it'll work. Imperfect, but then, nothing is perfect. I can already see me falling out of that high bed -- been a long time, if ever, that I've slept on one that high.

Fortunately, the bed is on wheels, so it can be shoved aside and 'parked' as needed. I knew the chair would need to fit sideways like this, too. But I wanted it!

My landlady thinks it's naugahyde, rather than leather, and she may be right. Naturally, this was after I'd cleaned it with a leather cleaner. Didn't seem to hurt anything, and at least it's good and clean. I actually haven't sat in it yet -- after cleaning it, then wrestling the box springs inside and putting the bed together, it was time to rest the back, and eat. But, I sat in it plenty at the store and was instantly sold on the comfort. I'm thinking that after lunch it'll be time to really rest the back, chill with some TV or something. I still need to watch a new show that debuted at 10pm last night -- past my bedtime. On the other hand, now that my day is free, maybe I'll walk to the store just for the heck of it.

The back still complains, although I think it's a bit better. I was very careful with the cleaning/moving process, but walking to the store may be asking too much of it, and I sure don't want to do that.

It's a beautiful, sunny day here, after a couple of days of real Oregon rain and cooler temps. It felt good, but it's always good to see the sun emerge, too. I much prefer easing into winter, rather than having it happen overnight.

Off to read or something in the new chair -- after lunch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A great addition to my house!

Everybody knows I'm a webcam addict and this one from Moose, WY has been my favorite of late because of the golden trees -- aspens, probably -- but this is what greeted me this morning. Gorgeous! (unfortunately, a couple of days later, the camera appears to have been taken down.)
Been a busy week or so since my last entry here. My lower back is really, really unhappy, but of course life and its necessities must go on. Standing seems to be the hardest on the back, although sitting improperly or certain positions lying down aren't much better.

Where to start? Let's see ... the double bed exited the premises back to the main house on Sunday, when a freshman at UO moved into one of the rooms there, temporarily, and needed a bed. I'd offered it up, because it took too much space, and because its softness seemed to aggravate the back issues. So, back to the air mattress, currently on the floor. Am slowly getting it inflated to a place that supports the back, and have found that its being on the floor allows me to prop pillows against the wall (below the windows) in a way that really supports the back and is comfortable.

A simple hot water bottle also made its appearance over the weekend -- and it works wonderfully! It's in use almost continuously, sitting or lying down, and aside from the welcome heat, works as support as well. A great use of $$!

A friend of the landlady's brought some big winter veggie seedlings over one day of the weekend, so now I have 4 good-sized kale seedlings that should last me nicely through the winter. Plus, a pot of small chrysanthemums also joined the crowd, a gift from the folks at Albertsons on Sunday. The existing layer of blossoms was drying out and really unsalable, so rather than toss them they were offering them to customers in the vicinity. I dead-headed the old blossoms and there was a big crop of buds underneath.

But -- the really big story of this week, to me, is a wonderful leather chair that I scored at St. Vincent de Paul on Monday! It's exactly what I've been looking for -- soft and plushy and utterly comfortable, and inexpensive. I think it may be a twin, aside from color, to one a local friend of mine has that's been my comfort-inspiration. No ottoman, unfortunately, but if and when I ever have the room, an ottoman is easy to find even if it doesn't match. I've also purchased a box spring from them, so I can use the frame and air mattress that I already have.

After due consideration yesterday, I opted to pay them to deliver, rather than than having me and the landlady and college student try to wrestle that chair out of her car and back here. I can't help at all, and she's only marginally in better shape, and he can't do it alone. So, I wait until Friday, but happy to do so. The chair needs cleaning, but I can't wait to sink into it. I'm 99.9% certain it'll actually fit in the space available for it. Of course, now I can no longer brag that I can move everything I own in my car, but I can live with that.

In the meantime, I'm gonna chill, rest the back, and not do too much more until the Friday delivery.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Will I ever learn?

I've eaten a fresh diet for almost 10  years now -- and mostly so for much longer than that. By fresh, I mean not processed or minimally processed. Organic from my own garden or when available/affordable elsewhere. I'm not a purist -- I eat things like chips, and occasional packaged or canned items, but they are not a large part of my diet and many of those are also 'natural' and/or organic products. No artificial flavors or coatings for me. Just chips, mostly corn and rice, canned beans that are drained and rinsed to get rid of the chemical taste.

What this has done for me is make me really sensitive and aware to the taste of chemical crap in my food. So, I should have known better. I wanted to make my favorite senate bean soup, and instead of a ham hock that's mostly bone, I thought a thick slice of bone-in ham would make a good substitute. I saw, but ignored, words on the package, where the word ham was followed in fine print by the words and water product. OK, I get that they put water in it. I didn't want to read the ingredient label -- nothing of this kind, including ham hocks, is any kind of health food. I'm not a total fool.

But  -- I didn't expect the flavor, which is industrial and bitter, has an awful after taste and tastes like a whole lot of canned soups mixed together in a recipe (tried that a number of years ago, yuk!), or the smell, which is awful (from the perspective of someone whose life doesn't include those smells). Chemicals, preservatives, smoked 'flavor'. It ruined this beautiful soup, and I couldn't afford to throw it away, but in the end, I did. I was also ticked off because it used a pound of my wonderful  Rancho Gordo yellow-eye beans, which are pricey and unobtainable around here. Grrrrrrr!

I had a bowl of it, and while it wasn't awful, the chemical flavor overrode everything else and it wasn't the soup I am used to. I won't make that mistake again -- I don't like chemicals on or in my body. I really should know better by now, but it was only ham and water! How bad could it really be? Worse....

I was in a really good mood today before this happened. And I will be again. Soon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fish tacos and critters in the night

For those who are curious, I seem to have survived my 'tweaked' back from the last post. It's still touchy and a little sore, but I've exercised it (walking) and rested it and I think it's on the way to being usable again.

But then to yesterday. A morning football game that overlapped lunchtime, so I followed my previous post by arranging a fun meal around it. That won't be possible for the next two games, both of which are evening games, but I think it's a good tradition for daytime games.

This time, I opted to try making fish tacos, which was a first for me. I've watched enough chefs on TV make them -- with various methods -- and learned that there's not "one" way to do it. So, I took what I've learned from all these and created something that worked for me.

I used snapper (actually, rockfish), soaked in milk to get rid of the fishy smell, then marinated awhile in simple olive oil, lemon, and spices like cumin, coriander and cayenne, plus S&P.  In future, I'll use much less cayenne, because it overwhelmed all the other spices.

I made some sriracha mayonnaise, and some avocado sauce with lime and yogurt, and a 'slaw' from cilantro, green onions, tomato strips (no liquid center, just the outside) and a piece of cabbage plant from the garden. The fish was baked at 400 for about 12 minutes (should have been less, but I got distracted). The tortillas softened in a hot skillet.  Assembly is simple: I slathered one sauce on either side of the tortilla, the put the fish in with the slaw on top. That's all there is to it. Aside from the excess cayenne, it was really good. And I have enough left for lunch today, which is always a great side benefit. I'll scrape some of the cayenne off before reheating the fish!

Had to laugh at myself last night as I lay in the dark listening to the radio, settling down for a hopefully good night's sleep. A critter landed on me, and came back over and over! This isn't the first time -- sometimes I see the culprit, often not, and unless it returns a second time I don't give it much thought. This one, I believe, was a small moth of some kind. Just before the first tickle on the skin I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye. Later, on another 'attack' I felt a slight, cool wind from its wings before it alit. I jumped out of the bed twice, trying to escape the thing. I've seen spiders a couple of times in similar situations, and while I can deal with a moth on me, not so much with spiders. Eventually it went away and I ended up with nine hours of almost solid sleep! I have vague memories of wakening once, about halfway through, but I basically was out from 10pm to near 7am, which is remarkable for me. The frustrating thing is that I don't feel rested -- but then, I rarely do.

I feel an urge to get out and do something today -- I've been in this house/neighborhood too much for too long, am ready for a change of pace. But then, I'm too cheap to spend the gas to drive much of anywhere, so I guess I'll stay home.

Friday, September 12, 2014


I tweaked my lower back this morning, moving two big planters full of dirt. I dead-lifted the first one up about 2 feet from the ground, but couldn't heave the second one so I was pulling it up one step at a time -- until the last one! A stabbing pain spasmed through the back. I left the planter where it was and went inside. My landlady hefted it up that final step for me a bit later.  The good news, I guess, is that I can still walk and move, albeit carefully. I try to remember to suck in the belly when I do anything, to support the back and take the pressure off those unhappy muscles.

Now -- a little fertilizer and a few plants, and I'll be in the winter garden business. That is, if I can still walk by tomorrow.  I'm keeping a positive mind.

It's been an interesting, but overall good, week. I'd been fighting off a bout of depression for awhile -- but not getting wrapped up in it, clinging, which would have made it worse. Once you identify with something like that, accept it as 'mine', suffering deepens. I've been doing a few things to offset it, but I suddenly woke up a morning or two ago and felt much better, for no reason I can determine. I'd changed how I took some supplements the previous evening, and don't know if that did the trick or not.

I've also been meditating again -- another possible reason for the depression leaving -- and am going back to my old, tried and true concentration meditation. There's a Buddha quote that says something like "make an island unto yourself, make that island your refuge, for there is no other refuge". That came to mind a couple of days ago as I sat, and I saw so clearly how much of a refuge I found concentration to be. It'll take awhile to retrain my mind to be less scattered -- and that's made even more of a challenge by a general lack of focus in recent years. But, I know I can do it. It just takes practice and determination.

And -- I've decided that I really have to trade the double bed for a twin, so I can get a chair to sit inside and read, relax, for the winter. It's fine at the moment -- the chair is on the deck and that's great, since we've had such a warm and mellow summer. I actually prefer being out there. But, that won't be the case once cooler weather sets in. So -- more changes to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

From Frozen to Gourmet

We had a football game in Eugene yesterday afternoon, and since it may be the only game all year I'll be able to watch because my cable channels are really limited, I decided I wanted to do my own version of tailgating and pigging out. Plus, I've been wanting a good pizza ever since I wandered past Mezzaluna a few days ago. But, the cost of starting from scratch seemed too much, so I punted.

Have you ever noticed how chefs on TV -- even in Italy -- finish every pizza with a good drizzle of olive oil? With that in mind and a spirit of curiosity, I cut some basil outside, added a few garlic cloves and salt and a good amount of olive oil and let it sit all afternoon until the flavors were thoroughly melded. The oil alone was delicious and, in fact, I think this would make a wonderful pasta sauce, although perhaps with minced rather than whole garlic.

 At the store, I bought my favorite Newman's Own frozen pizza with pepperoni (I like the brand because of its thin, crispy crust and the healthy ingredients, such as nitrate/nitrite-free pepperoni). It's good, but I wanted more today.

So, I also bought a few cremini mushrooms and harvested a few cherry tomatoes from the garden, and tossed those in a pan with a bit of olive oil to get rid of most of the moisture inherent in both. They were still juicy.

I scattered these veggies over the frozen pizza, then, once the pizza was baked and hot, I gleefully drizzled oil and basil over everything in generous quantities. In case anybody wonders, the oil did not soak into the crust and make it soggy -- even the last pieces I ate at the end of the evening were still crispy and perfect.

As you can see, oil was shining/running everywhere and in this case, that's a good thing. It also occasionally ran down my chin as I ate it, which was also a good thing in this case. I gotta say, the increase from frozen to gourmet was exponential! Such an easy and inexpensive fix, and one I'll remember for the future. And yes, by the end of the evening I ate every last piece of it, stuffed to the gills and happy. Today is diet time.

And oh, yeah, the football game turned out pretty good too.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Interesting walk this morning -- unfortunately, not totally planned so no camera, no photos. I hopped a bus that I knew went to the UO campus, but that I thought stopped at the downtown (library) terminal first. Turns out it went to campus, then presumably on downtown. Since I was there and curious, I hopped off at the campus station and walked back downtown. This is an area I know well, because I lived downtown for 3 years before leaving Eugene, and walked/cycled to/through campus with great frequency.

From the webcam -- closest I've been to this scene, previously.

Since I was there -- I walked the short distance onto campus to watch the preparations for tomorrow's ESPN Game Day broadcast -- they started building yesterday, and are still going. First time I've actually seen it live and in person! I'm still debating going over tomorrow morning. Buses don't run that early, I don't know where to park my car anywhere near campus, so the bike is my best option and I'm not sure I'm into that, either. The Starbucks a block away is opening at 4am tomorrow -- there should be quite a crowd, which would be fun. We shall see.

From there, I wandered on downtown, passing my old apartment building, almost tempted by my favorite pizza place (Mezzaluna, downtown) but they opened at 11 and it was just about that time and they didn't look open -- plus it was too early for me, somehow -- so I walked on, passing down the block where I once worked, and on to the library and then back on the bus. It felt good -- and good to know how easily everything came back to me. As far as finding my way, it was as if I'd never left. That area is fairly firmly embedded in my brain, I think! Signs on my old building, 'renting now'. That probably means a waiting list and most definitely means I can't afford it anyway, but I was sure drawn to be back there. It was the coolest place I've ever lived (with the possible exception of my little place on Orcas Island, which had a view to die for).

Partial -- and only partial -- view from my Orcas apartment.

Back home to some fresh hummus and a cold beer -- pretty nice on a hot day like this.

Looking forward to tomorrow, whatever it brings.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sunshine and fall breezes

Life in Eugene is good. The weather has cooled off to delightful days and chilly nights. Perfect! Supposedly a couple of 90+ days toward the end of this week, but I can live with that, particularly with the slight crispness to the breezes that foretells the coming of fall.

Not much happening except -- believe it or not -- I've been sleeping for a couple of days (literally -- I napped yesterday afternoon and dozed off in the evening watching TV, plus two nights in a row of good, sound sleep. That's a rarity in my life, and greatly appreciated. Rather than perking my energy up, though, it seems to be simply making me drowsy all the time. Probably the body trying to play catch-up on the Z's. I don't know how long it'll last or what's causing it, but I'm glad to see it.

I walk most days -- usually to the nearest supermarket (about an hour, round trip) but yesterday to Freddies, which is further away (about an hour and a half, round trip). Some of that is simply an excuse to take a walk, get some exercise, but part of it is because the damned refrigerator in this place is so tiny that it's almost impossible to buy much in advance. No room to store much more than the basics that live in there all the time. I was promised a larger one, but apparently that promise has been reneged.  Live and learn.

ESPN Game Day is coming to campus on Saturday for its live broadcast. I have an urge to head over and just enjoy the experience, after watching this happen from so far away for so many years. Don't know if I'll make the 6am on-air time, however. We'll see how I feel then. Fortunately, this game is on a network I can get -- not many will be!

So, that's my story for this fine September day. What's yours?

Friday, August 29, 2014

More changes...

After several weeks of deliberation, sitting on the fence, uncertain what to buy or, indeed, whether or not to even spend the $$, this morning I bit the bullet and bought a smart TV and inherited hours worth of frustration (being the good Buddhist I am, however, I did not allow the frustration to take hold -- I basically ignored it and stayed calm).

Instructions and manuals for these things (this thing, at least) are woefully inadequate. I had to figure out a lot of things and then none of the apps for wireless seemed to work. I spent a fruitless 30 minutes chatting online with a pleasant and helpful tech support person, while trying to explain to her that the signal out here is not strong enough to allow both the internet (chatting with her) and the TV to work at the same time. Naturally, I couldn't even reach the network during that time, although the TV had connected successfully and easily to it earlier. I think the afternoon slow-down was in effect too, so it was a foolish time to be trying it. I'll try again later, when the signal is stronger, see if I can get it to work.

If not -- my option is to get an HDMI cable and connect my computer to the TV and use the TV as a monitor when I want to stream something. There is a temptation to return it and save some $$ by getting a non-smart set, but that's a lot of trouble on my part, and I'm not sure it's worth it. I may have a way to use it in the future, after all. It does have a good picture, by the way, it's just not the best photo of it. And at least I got the Comcast remote to talk to it without too much trouble, and that's worth something.

Another big change -- the weather! It has been a pleasantly warm day, hovering in the high 70's, and I have to say it's been pretty darn nice. Windows and doors open, no jail-time inside during the heat of the afternoon. Best part is, this is due to last for awhile. We can only hope!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Little by little, I'm getting this little kuti organized and comfortable for occupancy. Not quite there yet, but still, progress is happening.

Yesterday saw some big changes. A desk moved in, a real double bed moved in, and a TV moved in. All seem to fit pretty much as I envisioned they would and while the spaces are tight, they are less congested than before.

Still things to tweak -- the package sitting on my meditation cushion is going to be forwarded to California, for example. The bed is comfortable where it is, it can be difficult to reach the windows for opening/closing. I also need pillows.

Comfy for watching TV or sleeping, although nothing matches the air mattress for keeping circulation from headed toward numbness in my hands if I sleep in my side, as I often do. For me, that's the big down-side of a regular mattress. Plus, I've slept in a queen-size bed for most of my adult life, and I find even the double to be constricting. Still -- gotta get used to that, because I don't intend to go back to a larger size.

The desk is a tad larger than I envisioned and takes a lot of space here, but at least it's tucked out of the way, and there is ample space to stand and reach things in the cabinets, and to reach my cushion. The TV is old, but has a good picture. It's here for me to determine whether or not I really want/need a TV at all. I'm not convinced that I do. I've set the desk up so that the monitor can easily be turned to face the bed for streaming shows that I actually want to see. That keeps me mostly from the mindless background of shows that are just 'on'.

Today I think I'm going to do a little walking for some errands this morning, and likely not do a whole lot this afternoon when the heat comes, other than read.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Still here

I swore I wouldn't do this, but I think I'm going to whine about this bloody heat wave! Just to let off a little internal steam into the already-existing external steam. To get my mind off it for a few minutes as I wait out the next hour or so until temps start dropping for the day. I've found that distraction is a big help during the hours from around 4pm to 6pm when this place reaches its limit on how much sun it can repel.

It would help if the wireless here worked well during this time, but afternoons are its worst hours and I'm lucky to even get a website to load, much less a video to play. I got lucky getting in here for this whine so I'm gonna take advantage of it. I get tired of reading, even a good book, plus my eyes start to burn  and sting and itch and I have to stop. Whine.

All in all, I've been pretty good -- looking at all the bright sides, realizing the impermanence of such extended hot weather in Oregon, knowing how much I'll appreciate the heat that the sun  pushes into this little cottage in the afternoons once winter arrives. I know the drill. I'm just tired of feeling locked into this room in the afternoons until that magic moment when the temps fall and I can open the windows and door and let the cooling breeze flow through the place. 

Of course, I am not really locked in here -- I can leave at any time -- but there's the question of where to go? I had a walk around the long block right after lunch, but the sun is too strong and hot to spend much time out there. The lovely porch collects sunshine like the solar collector it almost is -- hot!

And yes, I will appreciate that once the weather cools off and I want a little warmth. Right now, not so much. If the weather-guessers can be believed, we are going to have a 3 day respite around 80 starting tomorrow, with really cool nights, before popping back into the 90's for the foreseeable future. I hope they're right! A bike ride tomorrow morning in the cool air will feel really good.

OK -- enough whine. This morning I legalized my car and myself to drive/travel the roads of Oregon. Took about an hour, with very little actual waiting time, just plenty of patience and far more $$ than I had anticipated. Talk about sticker shock! Maybe it's time I seriously look into finding work.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A sunny day in the garden

The day began cool and foggy, but around noon fingers of sunshine began breaking through and now it's all clear and bright. I took the camera outside to try and catch one of the chickadees on a sunflower, but that never worked. They are such quick (and cute!) little buggers!

Instead, I took a few shots of the yard itself. It's looking pretty lush right now.

From the viewpoint of my chair

Full telephoto

Note the bee: not bad for full telephoto

My deck, amidst all this lush greenery

Behind the sunflowers

In front of the deck

It's a fun blend of wild and crazy and funky -- kind of like me, according to a friend.  No wonder it suits me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Life is good

The more I settle into life here, the better I like it. My little kuti is slowly but surely becoming 'home' as I manage to clear things out, add needed things, get a little more organized, and such. I'm still not sleeping particularly well -- something to do with the bed, I think, but I'm not sure. More likely, just the fluctuating rhythm of my old friend insomnia.

I need to get out and get some exercise, since I've just had lunch. Might as well wear off a few of those calories, and jump-start digestion, anyway. Plus it's a nice, cloudy, cool day that's really perfect for cycling. Oddly enough, what holds me back is that there are two street-crossings on the bike path before it becomes unencumbered, and those make me nervous. Always have. Still do. I never trust that cars will automatically stop for me, so I have to stop and right now I'm still a little unsteady in the standing still mode -- particularly stopping and starting up again. That'll change, with time and confidence.

Still -- I have no complaints. Good books to read, friends to talk to, good food to grow (sprouts, yogurt), and 'stuff like that there'.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A good day for hot soup

Yesterday was a good day. Found a good, simple swivel task chair at Goodwill for $6.25. Then bought a twin/full size hollywood bed frame for a reasonable price, new. It seemed the easiest, cheapest, and most flexible way to go. I really don't want to spend a lot of money on twin size anything, since eventually I want to get a double, something that will take my queen-size comforter with comfort, and give me more wiggle room. I've slept in a big bed for most of my life, and while I can adjust to the narrow one, I can't say I like it.

Both were good purchases. The chair is much better for computer use (better for my back and neck), and even though the mattress isn't supported very well at the moment, the bed is more comfortable off the floor. I cut one support slat by hand, and that worked quite well, but I would be more comfortable with one or two more, so I'll try to cut those today. Or, maybe I'll just hit up Home Depot and buy one length of wood and have them cut it to the right sizes. Cheap at twice the price, since cutting with the hand saw is a slow process.

Also, I had my inaugural bike ride yesterday! For the first few minutes, my quads were saying 'what?' 'what?' and complaining about the whole thing, but they settled down quickly enough. The new gear changer works great -- just a matter of figuring out which button moves the chain which way, and that's easy enough, in motion. So I got everything set up the way I like it and rode for about 40 minutes, total. Not nearly enough to get me to the end of the trail, but far enough, I figured, for the first effort. Gotta break the muscles in slowly. And while I haven't ridden an actual bike for awhile, I did have that cycle machine in Georgia for about a year and a half, and used it a lot, so the muscles aren't all that out of shape. I'm not going to be climbing any hills or doing any 25 mile rides soon, but that's OK.

I also had a good night's sleep (until the sound of water spraying on leaves woke me up at 7am). I've figured out that the way to actually get to sleep at a reasonable hour (for me) around here is to use earplugs -- works like a charm. Too much noise from outside otherwise. Cool weather and closed windows helps, too. Unfortunately, they don't stay in all night and into the morning.

And speaking of cool weather -- it's making me want to make some soup. Now, do I want to do that badly enough to make another grocery run today? Not so sure, but we shall see.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunshine and warm breezes

Another lazy,  warm day here in Eugene, mid-August, height of summer and only a few weeks until football season and the fun begins. Pardon that silly long sentence but I've been reading Kerouac's Dharma Bums and his freewheeling style seems to have settled into my brain, at least for the time being. One thing needn't lead logically into the next.

However lazy I am being -- and I am being much too lazy -- I've made strides, nonetheless. Yesterday morning my friend brought my bike and other stuff over, which was nice. I somehow like having that bike nearby, even if I'm not riding it. This morning I took it to my favorite bike shop (Paul's) along the Fern Ridge Bike Trail only a couple of miles from here, mostly to get some air in the tires and also have it cleaned up a bit, checked out. It probably hasn't had a good checkup since the last one at Paul's downtown location, which is where I most often went, and that was at least 5 years ago.

Old shifter on left, new on right. Note: 2 buttons on left, one button with gear numbers on right. Huh?

Turns out it's a good thing I did -- when I went to pick it up they'd changed one of the shifters because it was broken -- just flat worn out, she said. I didn't pay any attention to the new one until I got it back here to the cottage, and realized it was totally different from the one on the other side and I hadn't a clue how to use it. They probably don't even make the old style anymore! Later, after not worrying about it for awhile, certain that I could ride it to the shop without changing gears if need be to ask questions, I went out and played with it and figured it out. Or at least figured it out enough to work the rest out later, in motion.

Old shifter on left side, two buttons

New shifter, one button! What you can't see here, and what I didn't notice at first, is a second button behind the handlebar. Whew! I can work with this. Every time I get on the bike after a long layoff, I have to re-remember the shift sequences anyway (although the body always remembers, if I keep the brain out of it)

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that it wore out -- I bought this bike in 1996 when I arrived in Corvallis fresh from the first move from Georgia to the northwest and this shifter works the rear derailleur and is thus the one I use most often. I've also put a lot of miles on it during those 18 years, so I think I've got my money's worth. The bike is a Raleigh, and they told me at Paul's a few years back that replacing it would cost a helluva lot more than what I paid for it, to get the same quality, so I'm happy to just keep putting little upgrades and repairs here and there. And I guard it carefully, need to find a place to lock it up around here, and a good cover for winter rains even though it'll be under a tarp.

Now I just need to get out there and fly down the trail to the end! It's a nice level trail alongside a waterway with ducks and herons, an occasional raccoon and other critters, ending through a nice wetland area. Can't do it tomorrow -- need to go to Corvallis to deposit a check -- but I'm thinking Tuesday will be a very good day to get out in the cool morning air and test out both the new shifter and the old legs.

Yesterday I went to a real movie theater for the first time in about 5 years. When I lived in Brookings, after I left Eugene, I drove down to Eureka once to a theater, but that was the last time. I've been seeing ads for A Journey of 100 Feet on my streaming TV shows, and felt that it was something I should see. All about food -- some of it Indian food -- a natural for me, and beautifully done. Not a movie where a lot happens, just a happy feel-good story. Come to think of it, the movie that drew me all the way to Eureka was also about food -- Julie & Julia.

So -- that's my story for this warm, sunny Sunday in August. I think that after tomorrow our weather will calm down a bit for awhile, into the mid-80's, which is perfect weather, in my book. I like days when I can leave the doors and windows open to the breeze and fresh air. And in the end, I don't think this day will be quite as hot as advertised -- too late in the day for that much more heat to arise!

Back to Kerouac.