Saturday, October 31, 2009

Buttermilk Pancakes

This morning for breakfast we had some particularly good buttermilk pancakes.

The recipe:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Makes 8 large pancakes

Mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, combine oil, egg and buttermilk. Mix dry and wet ingredients together well. Cook on a 350 degree griddle. Serve hot with maple syrup, the Canadian kind, if you can get it.

These pancakes are tender, puffy and have a distinct buttermilk flavor. We finished the whole batch ourselves and were savoring them to the last crumbs.

What removes masking tape goo?

Cleaning the masking tape off the pool tiles today. It was gorgeous, about 75 degrees. I was too hot with a long sleeved shirt and no hat; the hat kept falling off in the pool. I made it halfway around before my knees were screaming. The pool water color turned out to be aqua and very inviting. After the pool is cleaned we
can complete the acid wash of the patio and then seal everything.

Honorato was working hard in the grove doing some pruning. Happily he found one of the saws we thought had been stolen. A little at a time, the tools seem to finding their way back into the tool chest. The whole place was so disorganized that I'm not surprised that many of the lost items were simply buried.

I wore a "nose and glasses" to the rancho today and Richard didn't notice. I guess that reveals how bad I've been looking.

We'll have a quiet ghosts or goblins on the agends. All we have planned is a plate of pasta with shrimp, a spinach salad and early to bed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Filling the pool

The pool is filling right now. They started the water running about 9:00. Two hoses full blast. I cut it to one hose at about 1:00 when I left for San Marcos and the cabinet people. The pool water color looked aqua and I hope it will stay that beautiful color when it is filled to the brim. We have a big job ahead removing the goop from the masking tape that stayed so long on the tile. I can start that project tomorrow.

Richard went up to Solheim to visit his mother today. She had an incident the final week of our vacation - they described it as choking but Richard thinks, after seeing her that she probably had a stroke. She cannot speak any longer and is only making noises. She showed no sign of recognition at first but later he said she looked at him and squeezed his arm, so apparently she knew he was there. Poor Pat has been hanging on for so long but it looks now like she's on the final turn. For her sake, we all hope so as life at 98 years is not very much fun. Everything hurts, nothing interests her much and she's just been waiting, surprised every morning that she's still here, wondering if God has it in for her.

The cabinet people are progressing well with the cabinets - most have been built and today we finalized one of the stain colors. The blue shade they used for the island is too green and they'll have to try again with that. William cannot move around yet and so he's confined to his chair in the shop. Saws are buzzing most of the time and it's very difficult to hear him. He has a soft voice that is drowned out in the shop noise. He explained more to me about adding the extra drain and line for a sink in the island. He convinced me that this addition will make a big difference to the kitchen efficiency and so I agreed, but now there's another big challenge to getting a channel cut and the changes made.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pebble tech in the pool

Exciting day today. The pool which has been pretty much a black swamp for year and 1/2 got coated with pebble tech today. It looks beautiful. Tomorrow it will be filled but the fun isn't over yet. Unfortunately the masking tape was on for too long and much of it is stuck on the tiles. They will clean the whole thing with muriatic acid and a power washer tomorrow before filling, but they don't think they'll get all the goo off. This means we will have to clean after the pool is filled, using goof off and Q-tips. This seems to be the story of my life. Today I worked on the splashes of concrete on the stucco, scraping and wiping. I figure it will take at least 4 or 5 days of work to clean it up.

Two flooring guys came by to give us a bid and did a thorough job of estimating and figuring out what to do with each of the trouble spots. Unfortunately they will have to grind down some of the high spots on the floor. The expensive vapor barrier that we applied has not done an adequate job. Overall, we are so glad we made the move to fire our former contractor. Given what we know now, he would likely have botched the flooring job too.

The big winds knocked some fruit off the trees but not as much as expected...there are advantages to living in the "holler". The higher up you are, the more fruit loss. Gail and Sharon have quite a bit of fruit in the driveway that appears to have rolled down the hill. Our big blue tarp blew up onto the barbed wire and is impaled in many places. It's quite a job to pick it off a little at a time. The farmer's life is never easy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Settling in at home

Roaring winds here today. Last night the palms were blowing against the side of the house making a scratching sound that woke us up a couple of times. The air is crystal clear and the temperature about 60 degrees. We hope the avocados will hang onto the trees but it's inevitable that some of the crop will end up on the ground because of this blowing.

Both cats seemed happy to see us. They wouldn't leave us alone last night, purring, rubbing, jumping on us. Buster kept banging his head into Richards over and over and "making biscuits" on his chest. Pinkie purred and rubbed, jumping on and off the bed about a hundred times. They are at the rancho today with Richard and no doubt happy to be able to roam free after three weeks in captivity.

I'm slow and foggy in the head from jet lag. Even foggier and wonkier than usual.

Cruising in Asia

After 3 1/2 weeks of travel in Asia we are happily home. It was wonderful to get time away from the building project and we are eager now to get the last quarter finished.

Shanghai amazed us. Even though you read about the growth, there's nothing like actually being immersed in the energy and the throngs of people for a thrilling experience. The city skyline is breathtaking, particularly at night. Construction is underway everywhere, some of it the regular growth but on top of that, they are preparing for Expo 2010 and the riverfront area is under construction. What a change from a decade ago when I visited with Eilleen! I remember her commenting to me that she felt like we were in a global race and we didn't even have our feet in the starting blocks. How right she was. Fallbrook has hardly changed in that decade...even Temecula which was the fastest growing city in the US circa 2002, has constructed little in comparison to the growth in even the smaller cities in China. Real estate values have sky-rocketed predictably although how one owns property there is a mystery to me.

The cruise was an interesting experience - better than the Princess cruise around South America last year. The ship was older and well worn - not as dazzling as the Princess, but the atmosphere was far more interesting because there were people on board from all over the globe. We had expected most of the passengers to be Asian, but surprisingly they were mostly European, with a good smattering of South Americans and a handful of Americans. Luckily we were assigned a dinner table with a delightful couple from Minneapolis and another nice pair of Cubans from Florida. The Cubans didn't speak much English - you can survive quite nicely in Miami speaking only Spanish and the husband spoke literally no English after 30 years of residence in the US. Bill and Judy the Minnesotans had great stories to tell and regaled us nightly with hilarious tales of adventure growing up on dairy farms, vacationing near Kenora and of their part-time lives in a mobile home park in Fort Meyers, Florida. We met several other nice people and toured extensively with a British couple, Karen and Maurice. The food was pretty average but beautifully served. They offered a very nice high tea two or three times during the cruise - this was nicely done. There was plenty of entertainment in the lounges, for dancing and the big show every night in the theatre. As usual, the lectures were weak, but one on the Samurai was very good. I participated in two craft classes that were just plain fun because of the Italian craft master who spoke only Italian and conducted the classes in sign language and universal sounds of appreciation - sighs, oooohs and aaaaahs. He brazenly elicited these reactions to everything he did, no matter how small or silly. The result was generally hilarious and all attendees - Asian, European and America enjoyed the experience together.

The ports were all interesting - we enjoyed Nagasaki and Kobe the most. The cruise was supposed to be restful but it was so activity filled that we rested little. In port most days, we'd bolt off the ship as early as possible and either walk or chase around all day. Highlights were the Atom Bomb museum in Nagasaki, Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, H Castle near Kobe (and the ride on the trains), ERA performance in Shanghai and the laser show in Hong Kong.

Monday, October 05, 2009


It's gray and rainy in Tokyo where we are laying over for a couple of hours between flights. Our scheduled flight to Shanghai has been delayed half hour. Our flight from LA was delayed for one hour. Today is the day of delays.

Now that Northwest has merged with Delta, chaos reigns at LAX. You check in at Delta but they are not really coordinated yet and have incessant computer problems. At the boarding gate there's a sign for almost everyone so you don't know if you're boarding United, Southwest, Northwest or Delta. As usual, LAX is worse than a third world country with speakers babbling full of undecipherable announcements. Everyone strains to hear and after one of these static filled, heavily accented rants, the passengers look blankly at each other. Even Richard with perfect hearing has no idea what they are saying, even if they are speaking English or a foreign language. The airport is dirty, disorganized and still falling apart. Bathrooms are out of order and stay that way for years (or so it seems to us). Passing through security is difficult with confusing signs and insufficient personnel. As usual they don't notice that my name on the passport is different from my ticket. This basic fact is missed by 9 out of 10 security checkpoint people.

Once on the plane everything was fine. Our first class seats in the upper deck were comfortable and the meals were good. Personnel charming and fellow passengers congenial.

Now in Tokyo at the former Northwest, now Delta lounge which has been re-decorated and is uber Modern Asian. Very sleek. The apple computers are all free and absolutely up to date - a pleasure to use. The Narita airport is very well organized and the personnel seem totally engaged with their jobs and would probably catch an irregularity.

Richard is prowling, looking for something to do for 15 minutes. He's finished his New Yorker and doesn't want to start something new. I am wonky, dizzy and more than a little tired. This next flight will be a snoozer for me

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Off to Shanghai

I woke up at 5:00 with the usual list of worries before departure. Who have I forgotten to tell that we are traveling? Did I get the ant stakes out in the front of the house? Will the cats be OK? The usual things we all agonize about when leaving home for a while.

We're all packed up, loaded with books and too much clothing. Richard inventoried his watches last night preparatory to his usual
watch shopping expedition in Hong Kong. Eyeglasses will be purchased in Shanghai at the store under the main railroad station. In Shanghai we are prepared for plenty of walking which we love. Living in the sticks, we experience little of urban life on an everyday basis. We love a shot of the city once in a while for shopping and people watching. After a few days of it, we are usually sick of it and looking forward to the peace and quiet of home.

No more posts until we are back.

Am I an old fogie?

Today marked the transition in my life from aging to old fogie. I bought a folding cane...albeit a bright red cane, it's symbolic, like first bra, drivers license, aarp card, first social security check - of a new stage of life. In my everyday life at home and around Fallbrook and Temecula, I don't need walking assistance. However, the crowds on the streets in Asia scare me a little as I can recall being in mobs in various places. Our plans include a lot of walking in Shanghai and I thought the extra aid to balance would be a good idea.

I tried it out yesterday in the Target store. First, I noticed that people seemed more friendly which could be entirely my imagination. Second and most important, they tend to give you a wider berth - this is important in crowds because when my tinnitus gets very loud and I'm disoriented and then jostled, I become very dizzy. If I get a little clearance I should be OK.

James told me that his doctor told him to wear a sling in public to keep people from banging him in the shoulder while he was recovering from surgery. It worked for him.

Richard was surprised that I did this. He thinks I might get dependent on it which would be a bad deal. My intention is to only use it on this trip if I need it.

We had a almost perfect day here yesterday - warm but not hot, air as clear as a bell and a full moon last night.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Left-over macaroni and cheese

At Barnes and Noble today buying a book on Shanghai, I noticed an entire cookbook dedicated to macaroni and cheese - about 200 recipes which are really just variations on a theme. The book was on the bargain table so I doubt it was ever a best seller.

Macaroni and cheese will be center stage today up at Doug and Jan's. Their grand daughter is having a tea party with one of their friends grand daughters and mac and cheese is the main dish. The girls will likely have a wonderful time.

Eilleen loved Kraft mac and cheese and whenever Jim was away, she'd make a box for herself. Richard and I tried it not long ago and thought it was horrible. I seem to remember it being much better than it is now. I also tried the microwave version which is downright vile.

My mac and cheese from yesterday is quite good today. A little dry, but with excellent flavor and a nice crunch developing from heated and reheated cheese plus once-crispy bread crumbs. It's much better fresh, unlike most comfort foods which seem to benefit from a reheat, but has a flavor profile all it's own - one I like.

We're not sure if we'll get over loaded with pasta on a Italian cruise ship. I sort of think so - but the Asian ports will allow us to intersperse some yummy noodles, dim sum and dumplings - the good street food we both enjoy.

Hearing preserved

Had a hearing evaluation today - the official post CK test and the results are....that my hearing has remained the same. I thought that I was hearing better than before which would have been very unusual. As it is, my results are good - that is, no change.

On the AN forum someone wrote in about feeling foolish sitting in a dark booth yelling out "card shark", "oblivion" and other words they ask you to repeat during the speech recognition test. The most interesting part for me is when they measure the tympanometry bit. My left ear has a lazy drum and so it is very hard to achieve the pressure necessary for the test. Most of our time is spent trying to get the ear to respond.

My audiologist doesn't really think even the BAHA is worth going through for my lifestyle. If you're not working and can handle the social aspect of hearing loss, he feels you are better off to just adjust rather than deal with all the hardware and maintenance of that kind of aid. He doesn't sell them, fit them or maintain them so I guess he doesn't care about them.

I'm finding that objective information about many medical procedures, devices etc. is almost impossible because people have money invested in certain things that they want to promote. They have no objectivity left and just blatantly push their own thing. All the AN patients complain about this. It's very frustrating.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Dr. Singh was Barbaras doctor here in Fallbrook. She told me a story about seeing him when she broke a bone in her shoulder. Dr. Singh (complete with turban) ordered an X-ray. Barbara thought she would be sent to one of the X-ray facilities in the area but instead Dr. Singh opened an old closet and revealed his ancient machine. Before he took the X-ray he called someone whom he used on a free lance basis to operate the machine and read the film. Barbara said that some old hippie showed up.

Later in the year at the Fallbrook Christmas parade, Dr. Singh participate with all his office workers. That did it for Barbara...she said you don't want your doctor in a parade.

Hilarity with the Banar girls

I had one of the best lunches company-wise of my life this week with the Banar girls. These two sisters are the nexus of my book club. Last year I worked with them on a serialized cook book they produced and sold. They have run out of projects and are looking for something to do. We brainstormed about internet newsletters, creating on-line presence for companies and other subjects. It is amazing how much we have in common...they have traveled to most places I've been, our careers criss-crossed from time to time (Van de Kamps, Franks nurseries) and we were all hanging around in LA over the same years so we can remember nostalgically many restaurants, local characters etc, that are now gone. Our lifestyles were also similar..Barbara didn't have children, Nancy squeezed one in at 34.

We laughed and laughed and laughed. They told some of the funniest stories I've heard in years. I'll try to recount one on this blog although, like many funny anecdotes, they are best when told in the original voice.

Macaroni and Cheese ala Sunset Magazine

Tonight we are having Sunset Magazine's Utlimate Mac and Cheese. I made it this morning because we are having high heat later in the day and we won't want the oven on. You make a sauce out of gruyere and cheddar, white wine, shallots, dijon mustard, nutmeg and chile powder. Stir this into the macaroni and top with fresh bread crumbs. Just out of the oven, it is delicious. I added ham and it tastes like a rarebit to me.

We've been on a nostalgia food thing for a while and find ourselves longing not for the exotic but for simple foods we ate at our respective homes. Mac and Cheese is part of this harkening back to our youth.

I can also blame our sister-in-law Jan for this. She makes macaroni and cheese for the grandchildren fairly often and we hear about it via emails. The idea of it never fails to make my mouth water. It also reminds me of our high home ec classes where we learned to make a basic white sauce. I never dreamed that this knowledge could be so useful and I've applied it many, many times in my career in commercial foods as well as in my life as a home cook.

Concrete redux

Once the dust cleared, we found out the dust hadn't cleared from our concrete pour. We had the concrete stamped and a colored release agent used to add antiquing. Much to our chagrin, the stone turned out charcoal grey. They applied too much release and left it on too long. We washed it off, we used a pressure hose on it and finally we used a dilute solution of muriatic acid and got it an acceptable point. There will be one more washing at least before we are ready to seal it. Yesterday I spent all day trying out different dilutions and scrubbing with a brush. We got home at 6:30 after working from 8:30 non-stop. I was exhausted and sore, Richard was also wiped out.

Meanwhile Gail the electrician has been working like mad. He's gotten almost everything done and is totally caught up. We have lights, a steam shower, security lights outside, and power to all our outlets. Richard had to really light a fire under him to get him going...he's been installing a well on his own property and we have really lagged behind.

We're very busy now getting ready to go away. Richard has too much to do in the grove.

One less worry

Bob and I have been in agony for months with our building in Kennewick. We hold the note and the woman who purchased the building from us was making late payments every month. At one point, she had fallen behind two months. Every month there is a late fee slapped on but she would just pay this. It also cost us $175.00 every month to have the lawyer send her a threatening letter, which she ignored. We found out that she hadn't paid her taxes for 2008 or 2009 and had no insurance on the building. That did it. We moved forward with forfeiture which is a slight legal twist on foreclosure. It costs a ton in legal fees and takes so much time - filing in court, posting notices, informing people. Yesterday Terri, the purchaser, showed up in the lawyers office with all the money to pay up! We breathed a sigh of relief because taking back the building would have meant too much work for either Bob or I at this stage of life...him living in Beijing and me in Fallbrook would mean one of both of us would have had to be away from home for months.

Meanwhile, we found out the building has actually appreciated in value..obviously since Terri wants to keep it. We had three inquiries from very solvent individuals about selling it to them if the forfeiture went through. That is good news in this economy.