Looking left and right

(On the back roads. December 30, 2006. Photo by Robin)

Kel at X facta wrote a post about New Year Reflections where she suggested that while making our New Year’s resolutions we look left (memory) and right (future).

Looking left, I found this, an entry on January 1st in my journal (my blog is still too new to go back that far):

I started reading Victoria Moran’s book “Younger By the Day.” It’s one of those daybooks where you read a little something each day. It also has various assignments, meditations, etc.

January is titled “Possibility” and the first “assignment” is: “Keep in mind through the month of January that all manner of wondrous things are possible, and that you are open to all possibilities.”

I like the idea of starting off the new year filled with thoughts of wondrous possibilities. I’ve often thought one of my biggest hold ups in life is how I tend to limit myself. I do this by seeing myself as I think I am rather than as I might be.

So, for today (and for the month), I’m going to explore the possibilities.

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul…” ~G. K. Chesterton

And looking right, there was this. I picked this post because it was the first in our new place and the start of our 2007 sabbatical adventure and another year open to all possibilities.

Happy New Year! I hope 2007 is a wonder-filled and magical year for you.


(Amish man plowing the field. December 30, 2006. Photo by Robin)

Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

M and I just returned from an overnight trip to Lancaster county (Pennsylvania). Friends of M’s who form an impromptu band every once in a while were playing at a local (as in Lancaster local) brewery last night. Last year, for their first gig, we went and, well, it wasn’t all that great. Impromptu is one thing, and I understand the idea behind hoping and thinking you can bring together a bunch of musicians and just jam. I bet it’s nice when it works. This year the Boys in the Band got together a few times before the show to practice. The practice made a difference and I’m guessing it sorted out a few “who’s in charge” issues (not that anyone is in charge, but someone taking a strong lead could overwhelm the others).

I’m feeling hungover this evening. It’s not an alcohol hangover. We did have a few pints, but it wasn’t enough to give me a hangover, especially since we nursed our beers through several hours of hanging out at the bar and listening to the band. It’s a nicotine hangover. The smoke in the place was awful (sometimes I wonder if Lancaster county people think they’re required to smoke when they go to a bar). My lungs, throat, and sinuses feel as though I chain smoked 2 packs of cigs last night. I haven’t felt this way since before I quit smoking and I used to smoke like a fiend whenever I was drinking.

Other than the smoke, a good time was had by all.

Today, because it was bright and sunny, we took a little drive on the back roads of Lancaster county to enjoy the scenery. It’s a really beautiful area. Someday I’d like to go for a long walk on those back roads, camera ready, so I can slow down and truly enjoy the area. Sometimes it doesn’t seem right to be riding around in a car when we’re in Amish country.

I have never wanted to be Amish. Partly, I admit, there are too many things of the world that I would not give up — car, movies, music, art museums, travel, etc. Being Amish is much more than a lifestyle. The religion has a very distinct set of beliefs and practices, not all of which I could accept. But I respect and admire the Amish. They have enriched my life. — Brad Igou

Friday’s Feast

Courtesy of Friday’s Feast.

How do you usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve?

Some years we stay in, having a quiet family celebration. Some years we go out, usually to a First Night Celebration which are always great fun. First Night Celebrations, in case you’re not familiar with them, are alcohol-free, family oriented celebrations with great food, great music, and lots of other types of entertainment. The one in the city closest to where we live in the Bogs always has fireworks at midnight.

Name one thing unexpected that happened to you in 2006.

I had to learn to live with chronic pain. On the plus side, it allowed me to quit my job sooner than expected which was stressing me out more than I realized.

Where was your favorite place that you visited in 2006?

Without a doubt, San Francisco. I want to go back someday, when we have more time to really explore the city and the surrounding area.

Main Course
What resolution is your top priority for 2007?

Taking back my health. I’m the one who gave it away. I have to be the one to take it back.

Using just three words, describe 2006.

Serendipity, discovery, challenge.

Spicy Shrimp with Udon Noodles

(Leftovers. December 2006. Photo by Robin)

Last night I embarked upon another CookingLight adventure: Spicy Shrimp with Udon Noodles. The photo above really doesn’t do it justice. I’ve notice that it’s not easy to get a good shot of food. Perhaps it’s because the smell and taste are missing from the overall picture.

Spicy Shrimp with Udon Noodles is a labor intensive dish. Peeling and deveining two pounds of raw shrimp is just the start. That’s followed by lots of slicing, dicing, chopping, boiling, and sauteeing. It was worth every moment of it.

I am glad, however, that I wasn’t serving this dish to guests. Before I tell you why, you should know that I’m a huge fan of Thai food, especially the curries, so I’m familiar with red curry paste. I’ve used it a lot. I once made red curry shrimp for the folks at work, enough for about 15-20 people, and it was spiced nicely. Not too hot, not too weak in the spice. Just right.

I think someone at CookingLight made a mistake in the Spicy Shrimp with Udon Noodles recipe. I was reading the list of ingredients and was surprised to see that the recipe (which makes 6 servings) calls for 3 tablespoons of red curry paste. 3 tablespoons. That’s a heaping helping of red curry paste!

I couldn’t do it. I reduced it to about half of that. Nonetheless, the Spicy Shrimp was outrageously spicy. Noses were running, eyes were tearing up, and the occasional cough as the heat hit the back of the throat could be heard all throughout the meal. Imagine a tableful of guests all sniffling, watering and coughing. Sounds like something out of comedy. I would guess that M and I looked like something out of comedy by the time we finished.

Still and all, we both enjoyed the dish. It was quite tasty. The good thing about red curry paste is that the heat does not overtake the flavor of the dish, no matter how hot you make it. Capsaicin, it appears, is good for pain. I was feeling none by the time we finished our meal. Even my lips were numb.

I will make this again, and I’d love to serve it to guests, but I’ll lighten up on the red curry paste as I like my guests to be comfortable, not sniffling, watering, and coughing throughout the meal.

When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. ~Laiko Bahrs


(Storm at sunset. June 2006. Photo by Robin)

(Storm approaching. June 2006. Photo by Robin)

Photo Friday‘s theme for this past week is: Weather.

I took these photos last June (and it should be noted that they have not been altered in any way, although I do have one which my youngest son Photoshopped, taking out the neighbor’s house and hiding a DeLorean behind the trees as a small joke). It started out as a series of sunset shots, the sky taking on deep hues of red, orange, and slate blue. Then the clouds and wind moved in, looking like the wrath of the heavens were about to burst over the neighbor’s house. It was one of the most amazing weather sights I’ve seen (and, at times, reminded me of a Stephen King novel). You probably need to see the whole series to truly appreciate it, but these are a good sampling.

I have lots of weather shots in my collection of photos taken over the past year. Weather and nature are two of my favorite subjects. Well, other than my family (especially my lovely granddaughter). I could’ve picked a winter scene which might have been more appropriate for this time of year except that we’re experiencing a warm and sunny day here in WC. Not winter-like at all. I’ll save the snow for another day.

There’s always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down. ~Don Delillo

A picture is worth…

(Emma. December 23, 2006. Photo by Robin)

…not nearly as much as the real thing, but it’s nice to have the photos to look at. 🙂 I know I’ve written this before, somewhere in this blog, but it’s worth repeating: Being a grandmother is one of the most joyful roles I’ve had in life.

We’re back in our little apartment, getting settled in yet again. We arrived here last night, car loaded down with more stuff. I swear, we have way too much stuff in our lives. I think life would feel a lot less weighed down if we had less stuff.

Today we did some shopping to stock up on yet more stuff (mostly food stuff which will need if we want to eat). All the hauling of stuff up to the 5th floor is going to put us in mighty good shape by the time we move back to the Bogs. We don’t always take the stairs, but we do it often enough that I feel like I’m in much better shape.

The back pain and sciatica have lessened considerably. I’m mostly medication free these days which is great because I was getting tired of having “fuzzy brain.” My age sometimes makes my memory not what it used to be. The pain meds compounded that problem ten times over. The muscle relaxer is particularly bad about giving me fuzzy brain. I think it contributed to some of the depression I was feeling, too.

I’m walking almost normally. I had a great gym workout this morning. M the Elder and I have gone for a couple of walks thoughout the day. And we’ve hauled stuff up to the apartment.

We also went to the library to get library cards. I refrained from checking out all the books that interested me and settled for one on photography. I’ll have plenty of time to read and to spend at the library over the next few months. It’s nice to have a decent library within walking distance. If you don’t hear from me again, I’ve gone to live there in hopes of soaking up all the books by osmosis or something.

I have a lot on my schedule for tomorrow. Lots of mundane chores and stuff, but it’ll keep me busy and keep me moving.

That’s about it from our home away from the Bogs for now.

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. ~Elise Boulding


(Picture from EnchantedLearning.com)

Our home in the Bogs has been invaded. By mice. I keep finding signs of them in various places throughout the house. They seem to have mostly stayed in the basement, but there were a few droppings in the bathroom closet on the main floor.

I’m thinking about asking one of our friends with cats to drop her cats off for a day or two to clean the place out.

I’m amazed at how quickly the mice moved in. The house was empty for only two weeks between the time we moved out and M the Younger moved in.

We’ve put out traps and hopefully that will take care of things. I should remind M the Younger to check the traps once in a while. Dead mice can stink up the place.

We had a wonderful Christmas celebration on Saturday. My sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all here. M the Younger’s girlfriend joined us. She’s a lovely young woman and it was nice to finally meet her. There was lots of good conversation, laughter, and fun throughout the day.

Today was quiet. Just the M&M’s and myself, hanging around, not doing much of anything. We opened gifts this morning. I really like this scaled down version of Christmas. Not only did it cost less, I think the gifts were appreciated more.

It’s been raining here in the Bogs. Dreary weather. Snow is arriving tomorrow, just in time for our departure. It’s time for us to head back east. I wouldn’t mind staying here another day or two, but M the Elder has to get back to work. I need to start settling into our new town a little more, too. Besides, we should get out while the gettin’ is good. You never know what the lake effect machine might kick up in terms of snow. It could be a few inches or a few feet.

I’ll be back when we get settled in, with photos. I took hundreds of them. I’m sure there must be one or two good ones in the batch.

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck