Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life Is Way Too Short

I just finished reading a book by Fanny Flagg (love her) called "I Still Dream About You".  I wasn't too sure if I was going to like it, it's very unlike most of her other books, but as it went on I came to love the story and, most of all, the characters.  I especially loved Maggie Fortenberry, the main character and former Miss Alabama who is now in her 60's. Maggie has lived most of her life with her past in the fore front of her mind, at least until the end of the book.  I won't tell you the ending, you may want to read it yourself and be delightfully surprised, as I was.  Oops, sorry, spoiler.
Anyway, what with reading the book and the coming of the new year I have come to the same conclusion that Maggie did; life is just too darn short to waste it.  I've made a mental list of things that life is too short to do or not to do, and I'm going to share them with you if you're interested.  I'd be willing to bet that you have a list of your own.
First of all, life is too short to hold a grudge, even against a sister who keeps doing the same dumb things time and time again.  I've decided that I can't help what she has done or what she will do in the future, I can only help how I react to her.  She's my sister and I will love her despite her actions. Although, I won't always love her actions.  I am not going to pass by Carlos' donut shop  when  I am dying for an apple fritter.  I'm going to stop in, say hi to Carlos, order my donut and sit and eat and relish it guilt free.  I am not going to feel personally offended when the mean checker at the grocery store doesn't even look at me and say thank you, I will simply understand that perhaps she's had a crappy day.  We all have those from time to time. Life is too short to not stop cleaning the kitchen and sit down with my grandchildren and play the new game they got for Christmas, Queen something or other.  I'm not going to covet that cute little green Fiat that I love that is parked in the lot by Jack in the Box and wonder how could someone who works at a fast food place afford that car.  I'm just going to be thankful that I don't have a car payment.  Life is absolutely too short to wear those cute red high heels that I bought, but make my feet feel like I've just walked 100 miles in combat boots across the Gobi Desert.  I am not going to feel guilty about my reality tv shows that bring me much amusement.  I am going to enjoy every single day of this new year and hopefully handle the bumps in the road with grace.  And...I am going to stop slouching and stand up straight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Meta World Peace?  Give me a break.

I Can Do Stuff Now

Yes, indeed.  As my son-in-law said, I've have finally joined the 21st century.  It takes me awhile to transition from one century to the next, but I did it!
I got a new phone, a phone that does stuff.  All sorts of stuff, stuff I never even dreamed of doing before.  My new phone makes me feel like I have been carrying around one of those foot long, 5 pound phones from the....was it the 70's?  Anyway, I LOVE my new phone.
Only one problem, texting.  Now, I don't do a lot of texting, but people text me and I don't want them to think I am ignoring them so I like to text them back, it's only polite.  Texting on my old phone was easy, isn't it suppose to be even easier on these new fangled things?  I thought it was going to be a breeze.  I watch tv, I see Rizzoli get out her phone and do remarkable things in no time flat.  I want to do that.  But, for some reason I cannot seem to send a text.  What the heck is wrong with me? 
So, I do what I always do.  I call my daughter.  She comes over and takes my phone (she's a wiz with this kind of thing) and plays with it and plays with it and finally gives up,  She cannot figure it out either.  Surely we are not both stupid, are we?
Well, Steve and I are going into town to go to a movie so we may as well stop by the ATT store and see what they say.  There was a reason that I ordered my phone on the phone and not the ATT store, now I remember what it was....they are not any smarter then I am.  They cannot determine the problem, they don't know why I cannot send a text.  "I think you should just call and see what they can do for you" says the no brighter than I am girl.
So, I do.  It took them all of 10 seconds to figure out what the problem is.  When I ordered my phone the girl on the other end of the phone took my texting plan off of my phone plan.  Why did she do this, I ask.  Don't know, was the reply.
She put it back on my plan and now I am a happy texter again.  And I must say that I felt not nearly as dumb as I was just moments ago.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Perfect Tree

This Christmas season, with the circumstances of my dad's health and my mom's incredible strength, tons of childhood memories just keep flooding back to  me.  I was talking to my mom the other night and we were talking about how he was "before".  We were remembering all the Christmases that we all shared as a family and the time that my dad put the whole tree, yes the entire thing intact, into the fireplace.  We held our breath and watched as the fire blazed, one of us kids, I'm sure, with phone in hand  and finger on the last 1 of 911, praying that the fire department wasn't busy responding to another home where the dad had the same great idea as ours.
I remember going out to find the perfect Christmas tree with my dad.  Oh my goodness, what a chore it always turned out to be.  We drove from lot to lot looking for perfection.  Us kids would find one and point it out to our dad, "how about this one, it's beautiful" we would all plead.  "No, that's not quite it".  So our search would continue....and continue.
When we did find the perfect tree, we tied it to the top of the car and took it home in excited anticipation of decorating it.  That was a family affair.  However, Dad was there to direct our every movement with a critical eye. I   remember trying to toss tinsel on the tree a little haphazardly and was gently scolded and shown how to put it on very deliberately.
As an adult and as my children were growing up I saw so much of my dad's traits in me.  Christmas, at least the picking out the tree part of it, was miserable for my children.  I had to find the perfect tree, I knew it was out there somewhere.  Nothing less would do.  And. although, I always thought we found it, when we got it home it more often than not resembled Charlie Browns pathetic little tree.   Perhaps I should have listened when the children showed me their perfect trees, sorry kids!  I did try to be gentle and tolerant when decorating the tree and I'm hoping that they never saw me cringe when they placed two red ornaments too close together.  I bit my tongue and waited patiently until they all were tucked into bed and then I rearranged the offending ornaments. 
I find myself doing some of the same things my dad used to do.  BUT, you will never find the fire department at our home on the day after Christmas responding to a call of a tree burning in the fireplace.

Fudge Recipe on the Back of a Jar of Fluff, Easy!

I have never kidded myself into thinking that I can cook, I know that I can't and I'm okay with that.  However, I've always thought of myself as a pretty good baker and candy maker (with the exception of chocolate chip cookies).  My problem stems from the directions, it's not that I can't read them or understand them, honestly.  I learned to read in school and I'm pretty good at it and I can understand most things.  The problem with the directions is that I simply refuse to read them.  What can they tell me that I can't just figure out for myself?  Apparently quite a lot.
Once when I was a bit younger and not nearly as smart as I am now I wanted to make some tapioca pudding, I love that stuff.  So I add everything that I need, milk, sugar, egg yolk and the entire box of tapioca.  What, you say I don't need the entire box?  Well I found that out after the fact.  Needless to say, it didn't turn out the way I had envisioned.  Oh well, better luck next time, right?
So yesterday I was going to make fudge.  You know that fudge recipe on the back of the jar of marshmallow creme, easy as pie, right?  So I glance at the recipe, take notice of the ingredients and start pouring them into the pan.  I stir the sugar and butter and evaporated milk until it boils and let it boil for 5 minutes (the recipe said 4 minutes, but 5 is better, don't you think?).  I take it off of the stove and add the chocolate chips and stir til they melt, then I add the marshmallow creme and the vanilla.   I stir and stir and stir, but it's still a bit soupy.  But I pour it into the pan and tell my husband that we can probably use it on the vanilla ice cream that I bought that day.  It'll be good fudge sauce.  So all is not lost.
BUT, this morning I take it out of the refrigerator to take a look at it and it has gotten harder, not hard enough, but harder.
And then I have a flash of memory.  When I was a Brownie (for all of 2 weeks) it was  my turn to bring the treats.  I forgot to tell my working mother that I needed treats in 30 minutes.  She barely flinched.  She got out her pot and her utensils and all the ingredients for fudge.Not the easy on the back of the jar of marshmallow creme fudge, but the time consuming, get it to the soft ball stage kind of fudge.  Keep in mind that she only had 30 minutes.  The fudge didn't have time to set and I was probably whining and crying about it so she got out the powdered sugar, made balls from the fudge and rolled them in the powdered sugar.  My fellow Brownies thought they were great.
So, later this afternoon, after I put some of the fudge, and I use the term very loosely, away to put on ice cream, I will roll the rest in powdered sugar and silently thank my mom for her grace and ingenuity.

I Went Home Today

Thomas Wolfe said "you can never go home again".  Well, that's not true, I went home today, at least in my memories.
This has been a somewhat emotional Christmas season for me and my sisters and brother and most especially for  my mom.  So today I decided to go home, just for the afternoon.
When we were kids my mom used to make fruitcake at Christmas.  She started in maybe October?  She mixed together all of the ingredients, got out her bottle of peach brandy and poured it over her cake.  Then she wrapped in up in a white flour sack clothe and put it up on the highest shelf of the hall closet.  Guess she didn't want us kids getting intoxicated by the fumes from the brandy.
Once a week she would take that fruitcake down from the closet, unwrap it, and pour more brandy on it  then wrap it up and put it back.  She did this until Christmas when she deemed it ready to eat.  Who on earth did she think was going to eat this fruitcake with her?  We all hated fruitcake.  I think Dad shared it with her, but I'm not sure he enjoyed it.
However, the one thing that I did love was her date roll. It was a candy made, obviously, from dates.  It had nuts it in and, of course, lots of sugar.  I would watch her make this heavenly candy and wait with anticipation until it was ready to eat.  My mom is an old fashioned candy maker, no thermometer for her, she used that drop the tiny spoonful of syrup into cold water and see if it turns into a soft or hard ball.  And she did it perfectly every time.   When it reached that softball stage she would add the nuts and the vanilla and beat that syrup until it was thick and ready to roll.  She made it look so easy.
So, now I am all grown up and want to make that candy.  I started trying to make it several years ago, unsuccessfully.  I would do all the right things and still it would never turn out like hers. 
This year was going to be THE year of the date roll for me.  I get all of the ingredients out, I want to have them all ready so nothing can go wrong.  I set them all out in the order that I am going to need them and follow the recipe to perfection.
Because I can't tell the softball stage of a candy from a hardball stage, I use a candy thermometer.  The temperature reached 260 degrees so I take the pot off of the stove, call my 10 year old grandson over to help me ("are you making great grandma's candy" he hollers).  He holds the pot while I use every bit of strength to beat the heck out of that candy.  It's supposed to lose it's gloss and become thick.  After what seems like an hour I think we've reached that point, so I scoop the candy onto a large cutting board and start to roll it up.  I think my mom forgot to tell me that it takes awhile for the candy to cool down from 260 degrees, ouch.
I finally get it all rolled up and wrapped up in waxed paper ( I love waxed paper, it seems so old fashioned to me).  Well, I think I have done it exactly like I remember my mom do it and I have followed the recipe precisely.  It's wrapped up and I put it in the refrigerator to be taken out and tested in just a little while.
After a very long hour I get my sharpened knife and take the candy out of the fridge.  I unwrap it and place it on the cutting board.  And what do you know,  I guess this isn't my year.  It's so hard that it almost breaks my ginsu, super sharp, heavy duty knife. 
Well, I'll try again next year on my trip home down memory lane.  And besides, Tylor loves it no matter how hard it is.  I'm only afraid his mom will forbid him to eat it, fearing he may break his teeth.

ODE TO A DATE ROLL (by Emma's daughter, who cannot make a date roll to save her life)
The color's not right, it tastes like a shoe.
I honestly, truly, don't know what to do.
I went to the store, bought all the right stuff,
And yes, I'm pretty sure I bought quite enough.
I carted my groceries out of my car,
Into the house and onto the bar.
I got out the thermometer, the pot, and the spoon.
I knew that the grandsons would both be home soon.
And, oh, they would marvel.  They'd oooh and they'd aahh
At this wonderful creation as soon as they saw.
But what did they see when they walked in the door?
My pot and my spoon and myself on the floor.
I give up, I give up I said in a state
You can all go fishing and use it as bait.
So now I give up, I won't do it again,
At least til next year when, who knows, I might win!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Take a Mini Vacation

Steve and I love our mini vacations.  Most often we go to Las Vegas because it's close and there are a lot of things to do there (things that don't involve a lot of money).  This time, however, we went to Ventura.  Now, we have lived in California forever.  Me, most of my life and Steve was born in Los Angeles.  How come we have never, except for a quick trip 25 years ago to take the kids to a church meeting, been to Ventura?
You have never been there either, you say?  Well, you have to go.  I feel like I could be on the tourism bureau for that wonderful city.
Our son and his wife were going on a fishing trip for the day and asked if we would be interested in going along and watching the baby while they were on the boat.  Are you kidding?  A night in a beautiful hotel and then all day to play?  We were thrilled to do it.
So, off they went and then off we went.  We packed up Aiden and walked down the beach to the fairgrounds where they were having a flea market.  We spent the morning scouring the  market for bargains and we actually found a few great ones.  Then we ate breakfast tamales at a neat little food truck (they were yummy).
Back to the room to feed and change Aiden and then off we go again.  We took a fantastic drive all around the town and down HWY 101 to Ojai.  Ventura is one of the cleanest and prettiest towns I have ever seen, lots of history there too.
Then we ate at a cute little diner on the main street.  And then unfortunately the day was just about over.  They kids come back from their fishing trip after a total catch of 20 assorted fish, very successful!  And we are on our way home.
One the way home we get a call from our Idaho daughter asking if we had listened to the local news.   Apparently Mythbusters was doing some sort of experiment in Ventura that went awry.  Some sort of cannon ball been bonkers right through a block wall and someones house.  Yikes, well there goes one of those old historic homes down in history....again.

                                         This was the view from our room, beautiful, right?
So, go to Ventura if you ever get the chance.  You won't be sorry!

Friday, December 2, 2011


I have a small confession to make.  Nothing earth shattering or life changing, just a little thing about myself.  I have a bit of a lead foot.  Most people wouldn't know that because when someone is with me I drive no faster than the speed limit, I am a very safe driver, really.
The only time my lead foot makes an appearance is when I think I may be late, I hate to be late for anything (well, except if it's to something where I don't want to be anyway).  Oh yeah, and sometimes when I'm singing to the oldies on the radio and   I did leave the house a few minutes late to pick Tylor up from the bus stop and I was worried that I would get there late (in all truth, I have never once been late to the bus stop, possibly because of my lead foot).  Anyway, here I was driving down the road, maybe a little too fast, when a car comes towards me.  In the car is an older man, looking a teeny bit ugly grumpy.  But he holds up his hand and waves to me.  Please keep in mind that I am in my happy, happy holiday mode and I do what I always do, smile and wave back.
Then about a quarter of a mile down the road a thought strikes me.  Was he waving a friendly hello or was he holding up his hand yelling, "slow down you moron, you're going too fast".  So now I'm feeling just a little confused, but it doesn't last long, I just turn up Surfin' USA and go back to my happy place.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping

Today I am going shopping.  Not just Christmas shopping, I'm going grocery shopping too.  And I will probably go to Michaels and Wal Mart and JoAnns.  It's the Christmas season and all the people I have run into on my trips around town are feeling that Christmas spirit.  They are nice and friendly, I talked to one strange ( not weird or psycho strange, just someone I didn't know) gentleman in the grocery store parking lot for 25 minutes the other morning and the grumpiest checker ever was nice!  People in our town are usually always nice and friendly but there is something different about Christmas season nice and friendly.  I LOVE it so I am going to out to Bakersfield and share some of my Christmas spirit!  So happy first day of December everyone, I hope that wonderful Christmas spirit hits you too.