Last Dance with the VW

Or maybe it isn’t. Hubby, engineer that he is, wants to try a few more of those ubiquitous last things before he gives up on the VW altogether. He’s watched innumerable YouTube videos and visited VW forums and read and re-read the owner’s and repair shop manuals. In my opinion, he needs to read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein as well for ideas on reanimation projects.

According to his research, the transmission, or a component of it called a “solenoid,” has gone kaput. When the car is warmed up, she still runs as well as ever. The problem is that warming it up took two minutes, then five, then ten, and almost twenty even in warmer weather. And even then the car didn’t shift properly, forcing me to pull over and warm it up some more.

Long time readers of this blog may remember that the (’93) Ford truck, the ’95 Corolla, and the VW (’03) created a suicide-murder pact in the summer of 2019. We’d spent six weeks running between dealers, independent auto repair shops, and automotive supply stores. That Labor Day weekend culminated in the VW’s electrical system cutting out on me in heavy traffic. And now it was trying to kill me again with the transmission problems.

So after a trip to the VW dealer’s to see what could be done (flushing and changing transmission fluid, replacing this bit, changing that part? They were concerned that any of those options make things worse), he called. Did I want to go ahead and get the Prius I’d had my eye on for the last two years?

Yes, please.

The Toyota dealer had three in my first color choice. It’s called sea glass pearl, a green-blue that shimmers in the sunlight as if coated in pearls. Test drive, paperwork, learn how to at least start it and turn it off from the sales rep dedicated to teaching we of a certain generation about new electronic features, and off I went.

Driving the Prius home was quite a Zen experience. The gas engine is very quiet, and the electric one doesn’t make a sound. It’s comfortable; the audio system is fabulous; and I have peace of mind knowing that I’m conserving gas while reducing emissions. And turning heads. This car is an instrument of grace and beauty. It’s bigger than the VW, but not awkwardly so. In time, we will learn to dance together.

The technology in the Prius is a quantum leap from the VW just as the VW was from the Nissan Pulsar that I drove before (the one who died of a broken timing belt while I was driving). There are beeps and a backup camera and lots of little things that I’ll be getting used to before it becomes as intuitive as driving the VW has been, but that will come with time.

As for Hubby, well…he’ll be taking it to a repair shop that specializes in German cars to discuss the solenoid (whatever that is) and if they can do it reasonably or get him the parts to do it himself. The engine and body are still in decent shape, and he needs a new-to-him ride for his trips to Detroit. If not, he will drive it until it really dies and we will donate it.

And if it gets stolen on one of the trips to his mom’s, as far as I’m concerned after this last round of issues, the thieves can help themself and I’ll throw in a kiss and six months of insurance.

I’ll Crumble for Ya….

 

oatmeal platter
Photo by Monserrat Soldu00fa on Pexels.com

 

Oh, did you need an ear worm this morning?  One to provide a soundtrack for this entry?Substitute “crumble” for “tumble” and here you go.

Crumbles are great for scratching the dessert itch while providing a lot of fiber, not a lot of sugar, and fruit. They go together pretty quickly and only take about 30 minutes to bake. I make them in a 9″x9″ pan. It fits in my toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up the house with the big oven.

My method is a spin off of the one in Trina Hanhamann’s The Nordic Diet. I cut the recipe in half and added some extra spices and leave out the chopped almonds and use different fruit.

For four servings, you will need:

Fruit, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Apples are great as are pears. Cherries  (pitted) work as do all berries except strawberries. Fresh, canned, or frozen all work well.  Toss with a couple of tablespoons of flour or cornstarch and a couple of tablespoons of your preferred sweetener and cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to taste. I use coconut sugar.

Oatmeal, preferably old fashioned rolled. Steel cut would not work in here at all–they just aren’t intended for baking.  About a cup and a half will nicely cover the fruit. Mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Add a third of a cup of sugar, a dash of salt, and pour over the fruit.

Dot the top with butter, either dairy or vegan.

Now pop into a 375 (350 if using a glass pan) oven for about 30 minutes. When the top is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbly, it’s done. Let it cool for about 10 minutes or so before tucking in to it. A dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt makes a nice topping as would a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

And with all that fruity and oat-y goodness I see no reason why you couldn’t have some for breakfast. I know I have, and I will do it again.

A Slightly Wild Ride

 

brown and beige wooden barn surrounded with brown grasses under thunderclouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Monday (8/10/20) just felt weird energetically.

I took Oakley out to tend to morning business. As we sauntered around the back yard, the sun that spilled through the cracks in the clouds was intense, the breeze blew cold, and the air felt as if a wet towel had been draped over everything.

Well, storms, probably severe ones, had been in the forecast since Friday. Once Oakley freshened up his boundary markers, we went inside and turned on the TV to check the weather.

And I was greeted with special reports about overnight looting in downtown Chicago. All I could do was watch the footage of windows getting smashed and the shards of glass glittering in the early morning sun.

Finally, they went to  weather. This was not an ordinary storm; this was a derecho coming at us. A couple of years ago one trashed the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota. It’s a huge (in this case from well into Wisconsin to Peoria) storm complex with  thunderstorms, straight-line winds of 58 miles or more, and 240 mile wide swaths of damage. It wasn’t expected until after lunch time.

Even though Chicago proper is some 50 miles east and this wasn’t going to impact us directly, it combined with the storm to relieve me of the desire to leave my house. “Oakley, just tell me when you need to go out, but I don’t think we’re going to go anywhere today,” I told him.

Oakley didn’t mind since I gave him a liver cracker while I told him about the change in plans.

Now what? Plug in phone. Have candles and flashlights at the ready. Bring in the trash can and lawnmower. And wait. And keep the TV on but muted.

It finally arrived around 2:45. My phone went off with news of the tornado watch as the crawlers on the TV rattled off the counties under watches and warnings. Off in the distance the siren wailed a song of incoming danger. On the TV the weather guys posted a red rectangle stretching from Sugar Grove (about eight miles north of me) to one of the tiny towns on the Route 47 corridor about five miles south).

And then we lost power.

Not much to do. I grabbed a biskie for Oakley and joined him in his storm shelter between the coffee table and the love seat. A bit of thunder. A bit of lightning, but mostly wind driving the hail and the rain into the windows.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but it had tapered off by about five. Called the power company. Made my report and waited.

And waited.

Checked to make sure the sump pump pit hadn’t overflowed, hauled a ladder upstairs so I could pull a smoke alarm that sang its own death knell out of the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, and then sat and read.

And took Oakley out so he could touch up his boundary markers.

Thankfully, all the shingles were in place and the car parked outside was intact. Windows solid. Everything looked good.

Still no power and no signs of when it would be back. I lit several candles and read while Oakley sat next to me and napped.

I called the power company one more time, but the system had crashed. Turned out that about half a million people were in the same electric-less boat.

We went to bed a bit early. Not really anything else we could do. I took the battery operated lantern upstairs and read some more while the cricket songs floated in through the open windows accompanied by the rustle of the wind in the cornstalks.

The next morning sunlight filtered through the gaps in the curtains, gently waking me up. I went downstairs about 5:45. Just as I was putting water to boil on the stove, the electricity came back.

Again, I turned on the TV for weather. Seven confirmed tornados, including one in Chicago proper and one that damaged a church on the Wheaton College campus. A possible eighth one is being investigated about twelve miles to my west, suspicion raised by the downed utility lines and other damages.

Other than not being able to get to one of the forest preserves for a walk due to cleanup operations, it blossomed into a predictable Tuesday. Oakley went to daycare; I did some bits and pieces around the house. I picked Oakley up. He came home, inhaled dinner, and fell into a deep nap.

Cleanup at the little forest preserve continues today. The big forest preserve was open for business this morning, and we walked there to celebrate safe passage through the storm.

Somehow, we didn’t need to do anything else.

 

 

 

 

A Story for Wednesday

 

 

arid barren clay cracks
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Ed. note: something completely different…a conversation between two goddesses. Popped into my head last week. Hope you enjoy. 

 Gaia couldn’t remember the last time she’d really felt well. Parts of her had turned brown, and the vines that flowed from her crown as hair would on a mortal were limp and yellowed. The cough triggered by the lingering stench of human-made pollution wouldn’t really go away. She closed her eyes, willing, visualizing some new growth, some fresh green somewhere, even on a toe. 

The click of stiletto heels crossing the floor announced the arrival of Kali. Without a word, she slipped a hand beneath Gaia’s shoulder and supported her as she rose into a sitting position. Tug this pillow, straighten the edge of the comforter with the other hand. Guided Gaia into a reclining position against the freshly adjusted cushions. “Comfy?”

“Yes, thanks.” 

Kali’s straight raven hair brushed against Gaia’s face as she pressed a sisterly kiss onto her forehead. “Let me get you something to drink,” she said as she pulled a dark green bottle and a chalice crafted from silver and an enemy’s skull out of her black tote bag.

 Gaia inhaled, then froze as the skull stared at her.

 Kali poured some of the contents into the chalice. “Here.  It’s vegan. Lots of antioxidants.”

Gaia raised her eyebrows at the chalice’s appearance. “Um…”

Kali turned the face of the skull away from her. “The chalice is reusable. Just have to get in there with a brush to scrub out the crevices.”

Gaia still hesitated.

After an awkward pause, Kali admonished her, “Honey, just drink it. A blend of juices from black plums, black and red grapes, and pomegranates. Plenty of antioxidants to help you heal. No enemy’s blood.”

Gaia sipped, then smiled. “This is really tasty. Thanks, Kali.”

“How are you feeling, Gaia? Really?”

“Tired, mostly, but angry and sad as well.”

Kali pulled out a second skull chalice and poured herself a drink. “You’re a lot calmer than I’ve been about how they used and abused you. I was in touch with Hecate. We planned to open a can of whoopass on them, but there was no need to do so after the last reactor incident and the virus.”

Gaia began coughing. Kali raised her to a sitting position and held on to her as the tremors ripped through her body, triggering tsunamis, causing mountain ranges to tumble into dust.

She fell back against the pillows, then looked down at her body, new rivers streaming from her eyes. “This didn’t have to be.”

“No, but you get greedy mortals who willfully disconnected from you and sold you out for the almighty buck and everyone suffers. Suffered.”

“Suffered.” More tears slipped from Gaia’s eyes.

Kali gently dabbed the tears away. “But you know the sad part? Hecate didn’t have to lift a finger. Nor did Ma’at. She’ll take care of them in the afterlife. And I didn’t have to take any action, either.”

“I know. I never wanted you to.” Gaia covered Kali’s hand with hers.

Sighing in resignation, Kali said, “We didn’t have to. They did it all to themselves.”

 

The Humble Yet Exalted Lentil

Courtesy Wikimedia

It’s practicing for fall out there today. We started the morning with a thunderstorm at 5:45. It poured for a couple of hours, then settled into sprinkles long enough so Oakley and I could do about a 20 minute walk.

If the weather chooses to practice for fall, then I will practice cooking for it. I decided to try a new lentil curry recipe in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Among the legumes, lentils are arguably the easiest to cook. No need to soak them; just put them in a pot with water or stock and seasonings as suggested by a recipe or your culinary intuition and you have the beginnings of a meal in less than an hour. The red lentils cook in less than thirty minutes, so be aware of that if you choose them.  Check the liquid levels frequently, though, since they absorb like little sponges.

For a basic soup, sauté an onion and garlic to taste in olive oil in a good sized pot. Add the lentils and stock or water in a 2:1 ratio (i.e. 2 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils). I put in salt at the beginning. Some wait until the end due to concerns about toughness, but I’ve never had that happen.  When the lentils are done, correct for salt if needed, and add in some lemon juice and chopped spinach. The heat from the lentils will cook the spinach quickly.

Some cooks use a ham bone or bacon (precooked) to add flavor. Not my personal jam, but you do you.

Oh, you’re not in the mood for soup? If you soak and grind the lentils, you can make the crepe’s Indian cousin the dosa. Any good Indian website will have a recipe. I’ve not tried making them myself, but the restaurant we go to has them on the lunch buffet fairly frequently, so I will tell you they’re quite yummy.

Thanks to their ease in preparation and versatility, lentils have graced tables since 11,000 BCE. Native to central and western, Asia, they spread via trade routes across Europe and into India.  They can be grown in tough conditions and can return nitrogen to the soil after depletion by two or three seasons of cereal crops such as corn or wheat. They don’t need a lot of water, either, in order to thrive.

Nutritionally, they are quite the little powerhouses. According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils provide 116 calories, 10 grams of fiber, and lots of B vitamins. The type of fiber may be beneficial in balancing blood sugar levels for people living with diabetes. And they have quite a bit of protein, too.

All that nutrition, versatility, easy to grow, available in almost any grocery store? There is nothing to dislike about lentils.

 

 

 

The Longest Month

 

accomplishment action adventure atmosphere
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I have never been so happy to see a February go the way of the wind as I have been with this one. One ice storm after another; a day of winds at 35 MPH sustained with gusts nearing 60; no real thaw; all but a handful of days were as grey and dreary as a Dickens novel. Usually, the weather modulates in February, but this year all the meteorological events that prohibit outdoors activity trooped through the soybean field one after another.

The usual efforts involving DVDs, music, and decluttering projects to counteract the trapped feeling provided little help. I spent one post-ice storm day rage baking because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Slick roads prevented any attempts at escape to anywhere a person could go for an outing. For that matter, we couldn’t even get down the blessed driveway due to the layers of snow and ice. The mixed apple-berry crisp turned out well, though. The olive oil and lemon cake landed on the dry side. If I’m going to invest calories and carbs in a cake, it had better be quite moist. This wasn’t and didn’t have much flavor. It was so bad that I wanted to throw it out for the birds. Hubby ate it with strawberry jam. He said it was good that way and that he didn’t want to waste it. Very well. However,  I’ll try a different recipe next time.

I’m going through my cookbooks and trying to think springtime thoughts, but when you have howling winds and daytime highs at least ten degrees below average, it gets tough.

This last Friday was rather warmish, and some signs of spring teased us before the temperatures began yesterday’s slide. Oakley’s been inspecting every inch of the field with me in tow, getting whiffs of scents left by the wildlife trotting through the back yard while posting his own messages. An odd brave blade of grass has turned green, and a few more of its fellows undergo the same transformation on a daily basis.

Eventually, the season will change. We have a cold week ahead of us, and next weekend will be warmer but with precipitation. Will we have a semi-normal spring, or will we go from heating to cooling in a single bound?

I don’t know. We’ll just have to see.

 

 

 

Gross

photo of crocodile in water
Photo by Aldo Picaso on Pexels.com

If we’d stumbled across a gator on our walk this morning, I would not have been the least surprised. Startled as hell, yes, but not surprised. I don’t know what the numbers were, but they must have been decidedly tropical. You know, the ones that make a person wonder why “gross” isn’t a widely used meteorological term.

Walking this morning was akin to wrestling with a blanked washed in hot water. Once we were five steps from the car, the beads of sweat formed rivulets that converged into rivers flowing south from my torso.

This was sweat. Not the sexy little trickle nestled in a fitness model’s cleavage. Not the sheen of an athlete. This was stinky, dirty, wait-thirty minutes-until-it-stops-or-you’ll- start-again sweat. My shirt stuck to my back and my hair stuck to my head by the time we completed the half-hour trail. I wondered if moss grew anywhere on my body.

Adding to the hilarity was my daily round of hot flashes, the bane of women in their middle years. (For younger readers and those not of a persuasion to flashes, it can be anything from feeling like you’re going to spontaneously combust for about thirty seconds to long, sweaty affairs that feel like you’re running a fever lasting up to fifteen minutes. Mine are in the former category and for some weird reason I get them in the morning, mostly. A lot of ladies get them at night. Now you know what they’re like. You’re welcome.) And we were inundated with bugs that mistook the herbal repellant for a condiment.

Oakley and I still put in our thirty minutes. He panted, but was otherwise unscathed. I jacked up the air conditioning in the car for our comfort and safety on the way home.  When we came through the door, he drank a half bowl of water and flopped in front of the fan.

I felt the same after a shower and a glass of iced tea. Once again, life became a bearable proposition.

At this writing, we have the first in a series of thunderstorms slated for this afternoon moving through the area. They herald a break in this heat that’s hung around since last Friday.

We welcome it, indeed.

Soup Weather

 

 

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

 

We had the first snow this past Sunday. Huge half-formed flakes escorted by grey rain fell from the sky the better part of the morning.

Most Sundays or Saturdays, Oakley and I walk with a friend, but the cold damp weather vetoed it. I did a short yoga practice and made a pot of refrigerator soup.

No need to immerse appliances in boiling water to make stock. There is no real recipe for it. If you want to be fancy, call it soupe bonne femme, the good wife’s soup. Go through your fridge. The half serving of peas, celery that’s gone limp, half an onion from a salad made a few days ago can go in the pot. You found a couple of carrots that have seen better days? Peel, trim, chop, and introduce them to their colleagues in the pot. Cabbage? Chop it finally and add that. Of course you can add potatoes, pasta, rice, whatever suits your fancy.

For stock, I used a generous tablespoon of bouillon paste and water to cover. I also poured in a can of crushed tomatoes. Salt. Pepper. Garlic, either fresh or powdered.  If you want to make it a whole meal, canned white beans or chickpeas will round it out as will leftover bits of roast meat or chicken if you need to use those up.

Simmer until everything is done. The longer, the better in order to blend the flavors. Serve with some good bread or crackers, perhaps some cheese, and enjoy at a table with an outside view. Accompany with gratitude for being inside and having a full belly, and follow up with fruit for dessert.

Carrots

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

 

I’m past the saturation point of stories about Harvey. The hurricane. I can always watch the gentle movie with James Stewart, but I am burnt toast from the images from Texas. I donated a little, and will donate more. But today I needed a break. I played in the garden and let the sun and the dirt work their magic.

Today’s lunch consisted of egg salad on whole wheat bread (Hubby) or crisp bread from Ikea (me) with the carrots that I pulled this morning. Oakley had a couple of hardboiled eggs with a scoop of the freeze-dried dog food on the side. He doesn’t like carrots unless they’ve been grated and mixed with other food. Even then, he still manages to pick them out and spit them out on the mat beneath his dish. I don’t have to step in a pile of them or chewed-up peas twice to get the hint.

These weren’t just any carrots, however. These had history behind them. Before the 1600’s, carrots were more likely to be white or purple than orange. I’d bought them from the store where I do my big bi-weekly shopping, but wanted to try growing them. They taste a little more carrot-y. The unexpected visuals of purple and white delighted the eye even if they temporarily confound the mind .

Carrots became predominately orange at that time due to hybridization and selective breeding.  According to The Carrot Museum, the story was that the scientists wanted to honor the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands, and so developed the carrots in the color we know best today. That hasn’t been substantiated, but I still think it’s kind of cool.

Whether it’s true or not, carrots still provide beta-carotene among many other antioxidants (depends on the color) as well as being pretty.

They were fairly easy to grow. They were a little smaller than expected due to inadvertent overcrowding. Next year, I will thin them out, or take tweezers to the seeds. They aren’t much bigger than grains of salt and love to stick to your slightly sweaty fingers.

Even though planting them was a bit challenging, the tops waving in the breeze looked really pretty this summer. The ivory and purple roots added a note of royalty to lunch. More wait in the garden, waving the summer on in the wind.

Harvest Season

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I pulled the last of the radishes a couple of days ago, then planted the next crop. Note to self: heed the directions concerning thinning well to avoid overblown tops and mere roots, not rosy round radishes. Maybe using tweezers to place the seeds with a higher degree of accuracy was a little obsessive-compulsive, but these should work better.

If the cherry tomatoes will perform their alchemy and turn from little emeralds to small rubies, that would be great. There are a lot of them, but none of them seem to be ripening with any haste. If all else fails by frost time, green salsa is an option.

We have had a couple rounds of green beans. Steamed. Butter. Lemon. No need to do anything fancier. I’d hoped to have enough to freeze some for the winter, but not to be this year. I’ll have my gardening chops back next year. We’ll do better then.

I had to severely weed the other day. The alleged French mesclun greens bore no resemblance to any salad green I’ve ever seen. I gave them back to the earth and to the critters who eat them.

Carrots still hide underground. They haven’t started peeking above the soil yet. It’s still early. When I was on the wedding frenzy the other day I inadvertently pulled one. It was pretty tasty. This year I planted heirloom carrots that come in purple and white as well as the best known orange. They should liven meals up a little.

Basil has been prolific. I’ll be able to get some more pesto and pasta sauce out of the plants.

The broccoli? I don’t know about that. It put forth some impressive foliage, but doesn’t have anything resembling broccoli yet.

So we wait and see what happens for second harvest.