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.