Well, this last week was not as French as I had hoped would be. We no sooner resolved the issue with my computer when my car hesitated and stalled on acceleration, plus it was making a weird rattling noise. The dealer, the import mechanic here in town, and Google are at odds with each other regarding the issue. Whatever is going on involves the bearings, but the dispute was over which set and the cause of the hesitating.
In related news, the hunt for the best Prius at the best price is under way.
On the French living front, I made a very French dinner last week: blanquette de poulet with roasted potatoes. It provided an antidote to the car-related chaos as well as the cold weather. The recipe for the blanquette is Mimi Thorisson’s from her book A Kitchen in France. The potatoes are in the book, but not on the website for some reason.
While it is technically a recipe for blanquette de veau, we just aren’t into veal around here. I used chicken legs (remove the skin or it will make a greasy mess). This would probably work well with turkey, too.
Yes, it is rich (I used sour cream, not creme fraiche, and it worked perfectly well). Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients. But it provided a counterbalance to the stress of the day. And it made the house smell great.
Hubby commented that he felt like he was eating in a high end French restaurant. Not long after that, he dozed off in his chair.
Forgive my unintended sabbatical, Gentle Readers. Hubby, Oakley, and I have been enjoying an extended stretch of normal days. You know the kind, the ones that unfold according to routine where you get up, do your work, walk Oakley, watch maybe a bit too much TV (such as impeachment hearings), perhaps lunch with a friend.
The good kind of normal, like really high end vanilla ice cream, the slightly off white with the seeds speckling it. On its own, it’s great, but it’s able to provide a backdrop for hot fudge or strawberries if those are available as well as supporting a swirl of whipped cream.
We give thanks for the basics right now be they vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. We have the pantry stocked for the winter with human and canine food. No outstanding bills loom over us; no human or canine health crises or passages to the great beyond disturb our peace. The vehicles declared their suicide pact null and void. None of them have acted up since my VW’s last trip to the dealer’s just after Labor Day.
Outdoors, the garden was prepped for next spring with layers of cardboard and mulch. One of my friends who is an experienced, wise gardener suggested that as a last ditch effort to rid the bed of the rogue mesclun mix and seeds in the compost that hadn’t cooked properly. Just poke holes with a spade, add the plants, and voila, instant garden this May.
Indoors, I’ve been decluttering. How two people and a total of two dogs can crap up a house like this is beyond me. Not purging the knickknacks and books so much as the piles of junk like boxes that we didn’t know what to do with, so we put them in the dining room until we could figure out the best course of action. Then they decided to use it as a breeding ground. I passed those on to a couple of friends who have an Etsy shop. Or the bags of hoarded inanities and old clothes that I piled into my car for their ride to a donation center. I was a little surprised that I didn’t get a flyer with information about opening my own Goodwill franchise.
We have opened some space. What it will be filled with remains to be seen, but we welcome the good and normal.
We didn’t get out for a walk yesterday due to freezing rain. Outdoor activities are a no-go today, too. While it’s too warm to freeze, at least until tonight when the temps will plummet, the north wind tosses drops of drizzle around like the star-shaped weapons used by Ninjas.
On days like this, I struggle not to bake all the recipes. Oakley proclaims his boredom by pestering for snacks or licking the coffee table and the knickknacks on it to see how much of a rise he can get out of me, there’s only one thing to do: go to the ag store.
The one we frequent is housed in what once was a Wal-Mart on the far side of the next town over from us. The march of progress called for a move to a super center across the street, leaving this building unoccupied for some time. Then a furniture store that underwent reinvention at least twice moved in there. After its demise, the building sat empty again until the ag store chain bought it and set up camp there.
It’s not quite as good as a walk in the woods, but a bit of browsing and window shopping in a dog-friendly environment dulls the edge of cabin fever. We aren’t the only ones looking for a comfortable place to spend a bit of time. It’s not uncommon to see other people chatting or checking the bulletin board by the front entrance or debating the best tool for a given job.
After Oakley leaves messages on a lamppost or two in the parking lot, in we go. He’s happy and eager to do so because of the scents and the associates who tell him what a good boy he is and how handsome, mitigating the neglect he receives at home.
At the customer service desk, there’s popcorn and coffee for the people and a dish of biscuits for dogs. The biskies don’t fit my criteria for Oakley’s daily consumption, but once in a while as a treat, they’re OK. I take two, then drag him away before he scarfs up the rest of them. From there, we proceed to the automotive department to give the tires and accessories a good sniffing.
When that department has passed inspection, we practice “sit,” munch on a bite of biskie, and walk through the aisles where hoses, hardware, and paint wait on the shelves to be purchased. Again, “sit,” and biskie bite.
Power tools don’t have much of a draw for either of us, and neither does the clothing intended for average sized and much younger women. We bypass those displays. We weave through the other aisles until we reach the livestock department. They have rabbits for sale year round, and next month spring chicks will join them. Oakley quickly peeks into the holding pens, keeping his nose high enough so he can sniff but not frighten the bunnies or chicks.
I rarely buy anything if Oakley is with me. It’s infinitely easier to make a solo return trip than to juggle 75 pounds of dog, a cartload of stuff, and my purse so I can pay. When I see items I need such as pet safe ice melt or gardening supplies or the like, I make mental notes and swing by to pick them up after the day care run–it’s on the main route between our house and Ms. Lanette’s.
The true test of patience is in the garden department. We practice long sits as I look longingly at the seed packets and hand tools, anticipating the upcoming season of sun and earth. When I’m done, Oakley gets the final bite of biskie and we say “thank you” to the associates at the customer service desk as we make our exit.
We go home with stories to tell about who we saw and what smelled good that day. On days like today, those are just as important as the items I’ll return to purchase after the next day care run.
Winter finally came to town this weekend. We didn’t get that much snow, but it was one of those storms that just strolled in early Saturday, pulled up a chair, and made itself at home until finally leaving in the wee smalls Sunday morning.
Luckily, we didn’t have to be anywhere this weekend. We made the big haul grocery trip a few days before, so we didn’t have to worry about perishables and had a fresh supply of nonperishables. Such is the joy of having a pantry and a freezer.
Oh, what’s in them? Something like this:
Fish, canned and frozen
Chicken from the place that meets both our specifications
Jarred pasta sauce and canned tomatoes: crushed or diced
Rice, basmati and jasmine
Different canned beans and lentils. I’ve never been able to cook beans from scratch. Yes, it’s cheaper and more ecologically sound to do so, but beans just won’t cooperate under my direction. Except lentils.
A few cartons and cans of soups: chicken broth for homemade, tomato soup from Trader Joe’s, clam chowder, and a vegetable soup Aldi gets from Germany a few times a year
Onions and potatoes and garlic
Frozen blueberries and green beans
Baking supplies including oatmeal
Nuts and nut butter
Shelf stable Indian foods for the days when neither of us just can’t
I always have seasonings on hand so I can create tasty meals such as soups and curries out of a few items from the pantry. While I have the luxury of a dedicated room (about the dimensions of a good sized closet) for storing canned goods and supplies such as toilet paper and paper towels, I know a lot of people don’t. I wish they did. I know some other bloggers who have their stashes in plastic storage bins that fit under their beds or tucked into closets. That’s not a bad alternative.
Being well stocked mostly prevents the temptation of making runs for fast food, so our investment saves money as well. Plus if the weather goes bad, we don’t have to pick our way over crappy roads to go shopping.
And while we’re on the subject of pantries….please don’t forget your local food banks. With the chaos and insanity in DC, the most vulnerable (children, elders, and disabled) are at risk for being forgotten. Thank you.
Yesterday afternoon, rose gold light tinted the bare oak trees and open fields along the back road I take between our house and Oakley’s day care and boarding. The road skirts a semi-residential area with a reduced speed limit and light traffic, so no one honked at me as I slowed a bit to take in the beauty.
The days lengthen in increments of a minute here, a few seconds there. I didn’t have to turn on the headlights as I had to last week on the way home from picking up a happy, tired pooch.
Oakley hopped in the car, looked out the windshield and the passenger side window, then curled into a snoring ball on the front seat for the trip home.
I kept the radio on the classical music station for a score befitting a drive home under a winter sunset. Much had happened in the news yesterday, so I chose respite from it during the drive.
Once home, the aroma of salsa chicken* in the slow cooker greeted us. Oakley did his dinner dance, crashing afterwards into a hard nap on his spot on the sofa. Hubby watched woodworking videos on his tablet. I watched “A Craftsman’s Legacy” on PBS. We minimized news watching, choosing tranquility over the need for being well informed.
Somehow last night, things felt more OK than they have in sometime. The pieces scattered from by last fall’s losses are settling into their new shapes and forms. The lines in Hubby’s face have relaxed. There still are moments and there will be moments when missing his sister and brother in law overwhelm him, but like an outgoing tide, those will fade away in time.
For last night anyway, everything faded with the evening light.
*Salsa chicken: one jar of salsa of your choice (I like Aldi’s house brand Casa Mamita organic fire roasted vegetable) and enough chicken to cover the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Take the skin off the chicken if need be, place in the slow cooker, pour enough salsa to cover on top, then cover and let it go until falling apart tender. Works with any part of chicken. Pick it off the bones if need be. Use in tacos, on salad, in enchiladas, or in rice bowls.
This picture pretty much sums it up. A series of storms that began last Thursday night and ended Sunday afternoon dropped some 18.5 inches on us, the vast majority of precipitation for the season.
Thursday morning, Oakley and I went shopping for his food, then I made the last minute run to the store for milk, eggs, and so on. We had bread. Hubby had just purchased a fresh bale of toilet paper. After running the gauntlet, I grabbed a pizza for lunch, and went home to batten down the hatches. Called the guy who does the driveway? Check. Supplies in place? Check? Reading material and dog treats? Check. Settle in and enjoy the storm.
The first flakes drifted across the window as we ate dinner. Peace, coziness, and gratitude descended.
Until the next morning when everything went off the rails, making me wonder momentarily when the walls and floors would emit flames and sulphur.
Hubby hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days. We had chalked it up to one of the variations of the crud going around and treated it with standard home remedies of soup, tea, NSAIDS, and Vernor’s (you can take the kids out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the kids) ginger ale. His symptoms intensified to the point where he went to the local walk in clinic.
Fine. I didn’t ask if I should go with him. He’s driven himself to the emergency room twice with gout in his right foot and once for stitches in his left knee after a mishap with a grinder while restoring a pickup truck. Should he ask me to accompany him, I’ll take it as a sign that he really needs an ambulance.
In this case, his solo journey was not a bad thing, even with my mumbles of “fine, be that way.” Just after he left to pick his way down the slippery sloppy road, Oakley frantically ran in circles around his crate and the dinette table. I snapped on the leash and lead him outside just before he had an attack of colitis. That was for the first time in over two months. That was when we started him on the Prednisone for his eyes. His digestive system calming down has been a bonus. We–the vets and I–had been weaning him off of it. I will spare the details, but will say that Stephen King could have used the incident in a novel. Luckily, I had the herbs for calming his colon and the preferred antidiarrheal here at home. Both were administered before I took my coat off. He paced around a little like he does when he’s crampy, gave himself a good shake, then joined me on the sofa with his tush pushed up against my hip before the snoring started.
Hubby had picked his way home again, pharmacy bag in his hand. Only two other patients were there. One was on the way out with a bandage enveloping one hand; the other was signing in as Hubby left. The doctor called in the prescription to the pharmacy across the street. His whole adventure had only taken an hour and a half, even with the abysmal roads and the obligatory moron going the usual speed limit of 55 and honking at Hubby for not doing same. He ate lunch, drank tea, then took his meds and went for an afternoon-long nap.
Little else could be done. The driveway guy came and went several times. Hubby rested. I tried some new recipes based on research on food choices to reduce blood pressure since his was high on Friday. Not bad, pretty tasty.
Finally, the roads cleared and we were all able to get out yesterday. Hubby went to school. I went to the local big city for a long overdue lunch with a friend before a self-care appointment.
Today starts the February thaw. No precipitation until this weekend, but that seems up in the air at this time.
We welcome the thaw. Even with a condensed winter, it is a welcome friend.
I have grown weary of the snow. We had to have the driveway plowed yesterday. Luckily the roads were in decent shape so I could get Oakley to day care, run errands, and so on.
Today began with about two fresh inches, enough to fill in foot- and paw prints in the back yard. We can still get out if need be. Tomorrow night starting at 6 PM we will be under a winter weather watch with another possible nine inches en route.
All the basic needs are met, so we don’t have to worry too much. It’s just aggravating when I have to reschedule my whole life due to storms. One self care appointment; one long hoped-for lunch; one making myself available to run an errand for a friend who’s her husband’s primary caregiver. I don’t just mind it; I resent the hell out of it.
It wasn’t always this way. There’s a not so soft voice in my head that reminds me about my love for winter. She sounds like a college-aged me. Back then, even the four spent on the shore of Lake Superior were easier because I could walk almost everywhere.
Now, not so much. A walk to the corner grocery two miles from me is doable in theory, but in practice a really bad idea. The road provides an alternative to the major east-west US route that bisects the town proper. Except for the T-junctions at the railroad tracks and the river, there are no stop signs between here and town. Some misinterpret that as a sign to leave traffic laws and common courtesy in the dust. Many of them see bike riders, horses, and walkers as targets for some perverse game of pedestrian bingo. Once I tried to walk to the farm stand around the corner from my house, but because of inconsiderate drivers, I bailed mid-trip. Almost getting flattened by someone going 75 miles per hour in a vehicle teetering on the edge between domestic and military use will do that to a person.
Even the pleasures of the hearth wear a bit thin on days like this. I really am in no mood to cook. I give thanks for the leftovers in the fridge. Oakley had day care yesterday. He spent the whole afternoon wrestling with his buddy Willy and chasing Sam, so he’s pretty tuckered out. Hubby is nursing the crud, but diligently studying anyway.
Me? I’m writing, obviously. This entry. Emails to both senators supporting their efforts to prevent 45’s latest nationalistic antics. Starting to think about the garden.
I like this little guy. Quite dapper with the bow tie and hat, plus the broom to sweep away the last vestiges of 2017.
We spent New Year’s weekend watching the “Downton Abbey” marathon on our local PBS station. Few other options for amusement existed. We had a small storm on Friday that dropped enough snow to make the roads challenging. As in what usually is a 30-minute round trip to pick Oakley up from day care morphing into two hours. On its heels came a brutally cold Saturday. Sunday wasn’t bad. We left the Crawleys and their staff to their own devices as we went for a New Year’s lunch and a new to us bookstore. Hubby found several books on woodworking and reproducing antique furniture. I found several history related books. A good time was had by both.
Monday sent the temperatures back into the deep freeze. If someone saw the two inch snow cover glittering beneath last night’s full moon, they might have thought that the midwest isn’t that bad in winter. Unfortunately, it can be. There are two options: a grey slushy day with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, or a picture perfect day of blue skies and sparkling snow with air temps that will shatter your lungs when you inhale.
Despite the cold, the earth spins on. We move onward into 2018. I will refrain from making any statements about it not being worse that 2017 for fear that 2018 will ask it to hold its beverage before spinning out of control.
Will we ever get back on center, though? I am heartened by the current wave of political activism. One of my personal resolutions was to get involved at least through making phone calls to express my support or displeasure to Senators Duckworth and Durbin. I also resolve to do what can to get the local Congressional rep, Randy Hultgren, out of office in November. He has been unresponsive and his staffers have been even worse. I’ll put my energy into getting in one of the candidates running against him, thank you very much.
We all have our work cut out for us. Let us continue. Let us begin.
Yesterday’s storm rode in on epic winds, the kind where a cow flying past the window might be a shock, but not a surprise. The snow fell horizontally the better part of the afternoon. While we didn’t get that much in terms of accumulation, the 25+mph velocity put us in near whiteout conditions.
Like heck I was going to drive in that. I kept Oakley home instead of taking him to daycare. We amused ourselves with social media, turkey treats in puzzles, and a couple of episodes of “The Tudors.”
It’s still extremely windy today. I don’t think we’ll see flying cows. The average Holstein such as the beauty in the above picture weighs in at just under 1300 pounds. It takes a lot for one to get airborne.
On a stroll, perhaps. One windy morning during the first late winter-early spring after our move from the suburbs to the soybean field, Hubby and I sat eating our bagels for breakfast. We heard moo-ing somewhere outside, but couldn’t tell where it came from because of the wind. Not anything out of the ordinary, really, with several neighbors keeping cows. Suddenly Orion sprang to his feet and went on point.
The pretty black and white cow sauntered through the back yard, looking around, her face knit into puzzlement.
“Mooo? MOOO?” she called, unsure of where she was. She kept walking through our field, then the neighbors’, heading northward towards one of the main roads.
Hubby and I both watched, teeth frozen midbite into our bagels. Orion held his point, but shook.
He knew what to do per his hunters’ training from his previous owner. Hubby and I had never run into information what to do in the event of a strolling bovine in the various magazines we’d read during planning and construction. My impulse was to use Orion’s tie out line as a leash and lead her home.
All 1300+/- pounds of her.
Maybe not. I grabbed the phone book and called the nearest dairy farmer and the county farm bureau and left messages asking if anyone had lost a cow and giving her last known location.
No one returned my calls. If I listened to my messages and someone sounding that crazed had left one, I doubt that I’d return it, either.
My hope is that she stayed safe after her queenly walkabout. Did she return to her milking station and report to the girls on the outside world? Did she run off with a handsome bull? Or keep running until–
We won’t think about that last possibility. I’ll just keep the image of her enjoying her freedom as she traversed the fields, air redolent with the scents of new green growth, heading towards her true north.
The air temps are bad enough, crawling up into the single digits and hanging there by their fingernails. We are in expectation of below-zero wind chills tonight. We have been rewarded for the last two winters with a rather mild one this year. The contrast intensified the shock of not uncommon weather for mid-January.
We follow hibernation protocol today with DVDs, hot beverages for me and lots of nose work to amuse and delight Oakley. Except for short runs in the yard for hygienic purposes, we are staying inside.
The big challenge: not letting my impulsiveness lead me down the path of ruin. I found a new strategy in a weight loss article posted on the Additude website: plan your meals and snacks out in advance. That way, you can override the part of your brain that looks at options for meals, gets overwhelmed, and drags you down Binge Alley. I tried it yesterday and it worked pretty well. Today began with oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch will be soup and salad. I scored a small turkey roast at Woodman’s on Thursday, so that and veggies will be dinner. For snacks, I have Kind (chocolate-nut) bars and veggies to munch. Perhaps a small bowl of popcorn to delight the palate this afternoon, but only if I get hungry. Oakley will have an extra Kong stuffed with spray cheese and pumpkin.
This morning, I did a Latin dance workout that I found on YouTube–about 15 minutes, but pretty vigorous. I’ll see if I have some coloring sheets in my work basket; otherwise I’ll run off a few fresh ones.
I should be able to keep myself busy today. The warm up creeps in tomorrow. No precipitation expected until late in the week. It’s just for the day, not forever. We’ll get through just fine.