Category Archives: I'm Never too Old to Learn

Going Places.

Since you last saw me, I’ve been to northern California and back. Monterey/Salinas area to be precise. The handful of times I’ve been there was with my ex-husband and while I loved that area, he had a tendency to cast a pallor of gloom over everything. A little advice right here? If you have a suspicion that you’ll love some place, don’t let someone who’s a weenie take you there. Or just avoid weenies.

Anyway…

One of my friends from high school, Bridgett, lives up there and so it worked out that we were able to hang out with her quite a bit of the time, which was thoroughly enjoyable. The last time I saw her was in 2001 and we determined that nine years is far too long of a time between visits. She and her roommates were incredibly hospitable, generous and welcoming to us. In fact, I’d never met her roommates before in my life, but felt as if I’d known them for years. I love people like that.

Bridgett is a starving artist, or we can call her a cartoonist at large! She’s had creative artistic talent for as long as I can remember and I think high school art class is actually how we met. She did something with it, though, as far as college and schooling and education, and her comic strip recently made it into the local paper. I’m so proud of her. You should be, too, because I said so and also, because she was really tolerant and humble when I embarrassed her by making her autograph everything she gave me. A copy of her cartoon on the front page of the Monterey Herald’s Sunday funnies? Please autograph. A piece of paper with directions? Please autograph. HAA!

Bridgett’s strip, Squid Row, on the front page of her local newspaper… autographed

You can find her stuff here: LINK

Besides visiting with her and touring her studio, or rather, her Cartoonery, other highlights while visiting the area included driving the 17 Mile Drive and ogling the breathtaking scenery, which included enormous waves colliding with immense power upon boulders and sheer cliffs, Bird Rock covered with so many sea lions that it looked as if, from a distance, it was covered with brown, wiggling worms, but we could hear them noisily expressing their opinions from shore, and in contrast, deer quietly standing alongside the road with green beards of grass dangling from their mouths as they quietly observed us taking their picture, and, of course, the Lone Cypress secured to the rock upon which it stands with cables, a stark silhouette against a gray sky, reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree when compared to the lush cypress trees nearby.

Bird Rock with sea lions…

The Lone Cypress

Deer with beards…

When we picked Tony up from the San Jose airport on Saturday, we visited the Winchester House. Truly, a spectacular experience. I took a ton of pictures, many of which were highly illegal (you know me and my pictures!). We did both the Mansion Tour and the Behind the Scenes Tour and they were equally entertaining, fascinating and informative.

One thing, though, if you have kids who are under 5 years old, I would not recommend taking them on any tours of the mansion. Kids love stairs and, yes, there’s a whole lotta stairs. The problem occurs when you pull the child away from the stairs to stay with the tour, and you combine that with a tour time when your child would normally be napping. Can you say “meltdown?” One child with a non-stop, hour long, shrieking meltdown equals 25 unhappy tour guests. Ugh. The tour guide offered them a credit if they wanted to “take a tour at a later time” and suggested that they could “leave and join the tour at any time”… but the parents resolved to stay with the tour, for what purpose I have no idea. It’s not like they (or anyone else) could HEAR anything the guide was saying over the 100 decibel siren that was squirming in their arms. Common sense, people, common sense.

We also went to the Steinbeck Center, which was a really educational and interactive experience. Since Salinas is a valley whose main history is rooted in agriculture and farming, and the cycle of same, and Steinbeck’s life was influenced by that, there was also a section in the museum showing the stages of crops and how they get from the fields to our kitchens. Another section in the museum was dedicated to the fine arts and local artists, however, we didn’t visit that part since Bridgett wasn’t featured in it! We could have spent much longer there, but we needed to head off to the airport… two hours is enough time to get a good feel for the place.

Oh but that all crossword puzzles could be solved just by pushing a button!

In the agriculture museum, I got to be a trucker!

We had dinner out a couple of times, once in Salinas at a wonderful Italian restaurant and once at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. Both restaurants were suggested, and dinner was generously gifted to us, by Bridgett and her roommates. I truly am blessed to have good friends.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to go to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium (they have an octopus!!) because we departed Sunday afternoon, just before The Big Storm of California, January 2010, swept through the area. I’m currently listening to it beat down on the roof of my home and I’m so glad to be here and not out there in it traveling in a tin can through the sky.

Soooo, what have you done since last Thursday?

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Filed under Best Husband, I have Family, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, I Stimulate the Economy, I'm Never too Old to Learn

Different Muscles.

I attended the aquatic class at the gym tonight. It’s free with our membership and it’s something I’ve kind of wanted to do for awhile, but haven’t because, “I’m working.” I have a list, sort of, of things like that.

So, hear ye, hear ye, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at our gym, there is an hour long aquatic exercise class. I know about these classes because when I swim laps at the gym, we lap swimmers aren’t allowed in the pool at that time. The reason I was interested in trying the class is because the few times I showed up before the class was over, I waited beside the pool watching them, and I was impressed by the stretching exercises the instructor was presenting.

Stretching before and after swimming is something I really need to be more diligent about doing.

Ummm, here’s the thing. I thought I was in shape. I mean, I know I’m in shape. I can swim laps, with different stroke types, for over an hour and barely even get winded. My arms are defined, lung capacity expanded, blah blah blah.

But tonight? Tonight, I am sore. Not “I just hiked Half Dome in a day!” kind of sore, that is the holy grail of being sore for me, but I’m sore enough to notice. Huh. *shakes head*

I know, from overheard conversations, that a few of the attendees have had surgery or are recovering from injuries and are there are doctor’s orders. But, really, why they all don’t have the physique of Greek gods or goddesses is beyond me.

Anyway, my sore muscles hereby promise that we will never diss that class again. Ever.

In fact, I might go back.

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Filed under Entertainment can be Cheap, I'm Never too Old to Learn, Mermaid Envy

Desk Projects.

We had a crazy night last week (or was it the week before last? Time, it’s a blur…) when the cat access door to the garage was accidentally left blocked overnight. The significance of that is, that’s where they go to take care of their “delicate” necessities. Since their access was blocked, clean-up was a necessity in the house the next morning and our losses included the kitchen rug and the batting from their purple pillow. The batting replacement required a trip to the crafty-land of Michael’s.

Michael’s is a place I like to wander through and “ooohhhh” and “awwwww” over things. Much like fireworks. I think they’re beautiful and well arranged, but have no idea nor desire (usually) to figure out how to do what I’m supposed to do with the stuff.

But this time I had a mission. I had to conquer something.

I needed to replace the batting in their pillow, which I found for $3.27 on the back wall of the store. Then I remembered that I needed a coaster for my desk. I searched and found the picture coasters that Noonie suggested in the comments of this post, but they were sold in a package of four for $12. Even with my 40% off coupon, that was enough to make me feel non-committal about them. So, I carried them around for awhile, like they were a very expensive doll that I wanted but couldn’t afford. I thought and thought while carrying them.

I happened to wander over to the bare frame and wood pieces section and thought to myself, “Cork board. I wonder if they have cork board?” Why, yes, they did. Four 6×6″ squares for $6, minus 40%, equals a reasonable price. Yay!

When I got home, I got to work.

First I grabbed the biggest cup I will be using, and used the base as a guide for how big around the coaster should be.

Then I grabbed my mouse pad for the pattern.

And photocopied it on the reduction setting. Then I cut out the outer parts on half of the pattern to use as a stencil.

I put my stencil on the cork board, grabbed my permanent marker and blackened the “outer” sections I’d cut out and then used my mad art skillz to draw in the “inner” details. Tony says there’s a scary face in that drawing, but I shrug his fears off because I’m not a scared little ninny like he is.

The other project I did was install a notebook arm inside my rolltop desk. This required that I make the cord hole a bit larger so the clamp of the arm would have something to clamp onto. That involved drills and saws and measurements, only to realize after I was all done with my hole making, that the clamp part of it easily disassembled and the hole didn’t need to be all THAT big, so the project really shouldn’t have been as complicated and manly as I made it out to be.

Oh! And check out the cubby hole area that I previously opened up (off to the right side of the picture). Remember how I pulled the frame off to give myself some working room? Well, turned out the sides of the cubby were unfinished, since they weren’t ever expected to be seen by the light of day. Since I didn’t want to go to all the trouble to finish it, I came up with the idea to glue a large scroll pattern over the unfinished area. I think it looks great!

And to wrap it all up, replacing the batting was really no big deal and the kitties love their clean, puffy, purple pillow with the new batting in it.

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Filed under I Stimulate the Economy, I'm Never too Old to Learn, Time Consumers

A Kid in the Kitchen?

You would think that being nearly 40 years old I would know my way around food and the kitchen. Not so.

In my teenage years, I started avoiding food because, for the most part, it made me feel ill and, because of that, I hated to eat. I learned later, when I had surgery for endometriosis, that one of the side effects of that disease (depending on where it grows inside of a person) can be nausea and lack of appetite. So it was for me.

As an example of my food gauche, it wasn’t until 2004 or 2005 that I learned you could cut a banana in half and it would self-seal, and you could eat the other half the next day. I was so excited about that discovery! Another example: It wasn’t until this past year that I learned you could push those little tabs in on the side of the box for aluminum foil, saran wrap, wax paper, etc. and the roll wouldn’t fall out when you were pulling some out.

I know enough to get by, but I often feel as if I’m like a kid in the kitchen and I envy and feel a little insecure around you people who have kitchen savvy and think cooking is no big deal. Those of you who think up substitute ingredients at the drop of the hat and can whip up dinners in no time flat just off the top of your head boggle my mind. I want to watch you cook, you’re like a celebrity to me, but I feel like you’ll notice how lost I am in the kitchen. I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing in there! Me, I’m like, “What’s for dinner… salad? Sure! I’ll just make it a REALLY big one and THAT can be my dinner! And DON’T WATCH ME MAKE IT!”

The other day I read an article in the October 2009 Men’s Journal, entitled How to cook like a Man. A little misleading in that there are a lot of men who are chefs but, hey, I didn’t write the article’s title — and, oh my, what a large title it is, eh?

It was followed by an article entitled, Kitchen Tool Commandments and in that article, it said you should have two knives — a 10″ chef’s knife and a paring (or boning) knife. Do I even want to know what a “boning” knife is?? *clears throat*.

I have a chef’s knife and a paring knife, and I’ve learned over the years that I also need a mixing spoon that can stand up to heat and thick ingredients, a metal pancake turner and a couple of spatulas. That little spatula in the picture is one of my favorites, it can get inside jars like nobody’s business!

Essential ingredients that I always try to have on hand include onions (you always need onions), rice (it’s a food staple), kidney beans (I love them), fresh veggies for salads and, since I’m not vegetarian, chicken or hamburger. To make it challenging, I don’t cook with dairy products, unless they’re raw (unpasteurized) — so that eliminates most “cream of…” soups and I don’t like spending more than 15-20 minutes prepping food, so the recipes I make have to be simple and quick.

My question to you is two-fold. What ingredients or spices are essential in your house and why? And what cooking utensil is essential for you? And a bonus question: What food or kitchen tip (like the banana cut in half thing) would you pass onto your child if you were teaching them how to cook?

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Filed under I'm Never too Old to Learn, Who I am