Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd...

And they did…

I am married to and related to people who take great delight in arranging surprise birthday celebrations. Knowing this, I decided to head them off, this year, by saying I wanted to go to a baseball game – the local High A team The Hillsboro Hops.

As per usual, the joke was on me… My thought was we’d buy the tickets and whatever food and beverages the folks wanted. Simple and basic.

Victor, of course, had other plans…

He took care of the arrangements and decided to go for the MVP Birthday Package. Okay, it’s my birthday… go for it.  It sounded great until I heard him discussing it on the phone with the event coordinator…

It came with:

  • Food and Beverage Credits for each ticket
  • Birthday Cake
  • Ball signed by the Team
  • Name on the message board…

all of which was fine. And then I heard:

  • Throw out the first pitch.

My first reaction was – loudly, while he was on the phone – I’m not throwing out a [insert expletive here] ball.

My second reaction – when I realized I was throwing out the first pitch – was despair. I really hate being the center of attention – and throwing out a first pitch is pretty much the ultimate in being center of attention.

Give me a hole, let me crawl in and die.

Fortunately, my nephew, Bill, took pity on me and we did some practicing. Let’s face it – star athlete, I am not.

So… out to the mound we went. Standing there, I hear “Let’s give it up for Viet Nam Veteran Tim Dineen celebrating his 69th birthday with us, today.”

There was the roar of the crowd, and I prayed for the earth to open and swallow me. It didn’t happen, so I threw the damned ball.

It was painful, but I got through it. And the rest of the day was pure fun.

We had the new twins show up for their very first baseball game and the Hops beat the Tri City Dust Devils 10 – 2. It was pretty sweet.

Another cool thing was we were there for one of several “Soñadores de Hillsboro” games, where the team sports a different logo representing the Hispanic community. It’s great to see real outreach into the community.

First pitches, aside, it was a great day. We all had a total blast and a fun day in the sun.

And if you have a minor league team near by, I highly recommend going to a few games. They are fun.

And next year?!? I could see us at the ballpark with the family, again… But I think I’ll pass on the MVP Package…

KitchenAid mixer

Fixing The KitchenAid

I bought this KitchenAid mixer 32 or 33 years ago. It's always run well - but it has always run fast. The Stir/1 speed has always been like 3  on other KitchenAid's I have used.

It's never been a huge issue - obviously I've dealt with it for more than 30 years - but recently, I bought a new paddle - one that scrapes the side of the bowl as it mixes - and every time I turned on the mixer, flour went flying.

I was making a cake this morning and... it did it again. For the last time.

I finally decided I needed to deal with it, and went to look for a KitchenAid repair service nearby. On a lark, I typed in Adjust KitchenAid mixer speed into Google. The first thing that came up was a YouTube video from a woman showing how to adjust the speed. The second video was from KitchenAid explaining how to install a new speed control and adjust the speed!

Both videos stated that the mixer should rotate at 60 revolutions per minute. Mine was spinning at 160. A simple adjustment with a philips head screwdriver has it back to the optimum 60 RPM.

30+ years and all it took was literally a minute and a screwdriver.

Needless to say, I am psyched! The timing is perfect, too. I was beginning to get a bit of KitchenAid Envy because friends of ours just updated theirs. I was vacillating between I don't really need a new one and new, shiny, and bigger - I can make double batches of things. Not needing a new one has won out!

YouTube. Gotta love it.


KitchenAid mixer

The Oregon Trail

We have made it to Oregon.

It was a pretty uneventful trek across the country. We made the drive in 5 nights and 6 days. Back in our youth, we could have made it quicker. At our ages, 8-9 hours in a car with a dog was more than enough.

Blanche handled the trip like a trooper. It was a concern because she had never really spent long periods of time in a car and we really didn't know what to expect.

We rented the SUV because we thought we could put down seats and she could have lots of space.

She wouldn't get into the back.

Plan Two was to lay her bed on the back seat, propping it up to give her lots of space.

She couldn't really maneuver around.

Plan Three was to shove the bed into the area in front of the back seat to level off the area and let her have free rein of the back seat.

This, she liked.

All learning experiences.

We were really pleased to see that almost everyone, everywhere wore masks in stores, gas stations, etc. The lone exception was a Truck Stop in Sydney, Nebraska next to the huge Cabela's store. I don't think 20% of the folks there had masks.  Lots of swagger.

The most difficult thing about crossing the country in the time of covid was meals. Neither of us were going into a restaurant to sit down and eat, so most of what we ate was drive-thru. And that stuff gets old after Day One. But... ya do what ya have to do.

And that's what we're going to be doing with our Extended Stay kitchen. You'll notice the lack of oven, for starters. Two burners. A skillet, a saucepan, and a baby refrigerator. Primitive doesn't begin to describe it - but we shall prevail.


We've already made a really good risotto...

This was just mushrooms and a grilled chicken breast. Simple but delicious! With our limited cooking facilities, we took over my sister's kitchen and cooked up a storm - sauce, meatballs, grilled chicken and flank steak... We're lucky we have a real kitchen to invade now and again. Everything is doable...

It's been great seeing family and spending time with them. - the reason we moved here in the first place.

We got to celebrate my SILs birthday and their anniversary on our second night back here.

It's good to be back.

Furniture arrived and went into storage. Our car arrived and we turned in the SUV. We now know for certain we don't want a standard SUV. Too damned big. We will probably remain a one car family for a while. Maybe a smaller SUV in the future. We'll see...

In the meantime, we found a house!

It's in Beaverton, minutes from my sister, and in the exact area we wanted to live. The housing gods smiled down upon us. We probably won't be moving in until mid-December... The paperwork involved with buying a house is unbelievable. The financing aspect is actually pretty good because it is all done online. But then it's the inspections, insurance... Oy... I was 20 years younger the last time we did this!

The new place is a downsize from the house in Pennsylvania. It's the perfect size for us and Blanche.

And it has a deck and a great backyard.

Puppydog has her outdoor space - all fenced in. We have options for seating, grilling, and gardening. It's perfect.

While we wait for closing, it's finding Doctors, getting a new Vet for Blanche, car insurance, drivers licenses, car registration... and then it will be setting up utilities, cable, trash pickup... learning a new recycling system...

And figuring out a new kitchen! We've been cooking on autopilot for years, now... It's going to be interesting...

And fun.



Heading West...

I haven't written a blog post since my birthday. It's not like we haven't been eating... one look at us confirms that we have. A bit too much in these days of pandemic...

Meals have been nothing noteworthy... mainly grills and throw-togethers. It's just been about using up stuff and getting ready for the big move west!

Nineteen years and eight months. That's how long we have lived in Pennsylvania. We never planned for it to be this long. When Victor was transferred back here in 2001, we thought it would be for a few years and we'd be back west. Funny how life has a habit of getting in the way of things...

We were the relative youngsters when we moved into the neighborhood back in 2001. It was mostly empty-nesters and grandparents back then. The only kids in the neighborhood were the twin boys next door. Now, we're the old farts with babies and toddlers and kids everywhere. The neighborhood has come full circle.

I had been working in Nutrition and Dietetics for about 13 years when we moved here and figured I could get a job anywhere - even if I went back to hotel F&B management. Victor was in corporate travel - and we had some great perks. Life was definitely good.

I had been denied unemployment, originally, because it was determined I had quit my job without reason. Even though we lived together and owned a home together, we weren't 'married' in the eyes of the California Unemployment Office, so quitting to move with Victor was considered different than a spouse quitting for the exact same reason. I appealed and a judge ruled in my favor with a pretty scathing court order. It was awesome. Thirteen weeks of checks arrived in one day.

In the meantime, we were remodeling our kitchen, so I stayed at home to manage that - looking for work, of course...

After our kitchen remodel and my California unemployment was coming to an end, I took a job at Trader Joe's just for something to do until a real job came along.

After about six months at Trader Joe's, I found a job as a Nutrition Services Director - and lasted three weeks. I hated the job, I hated the commute, I hated everything about it. I quit, went back to Trader Joe's, and my temporary job lasted almost 17 years. I have some great memories of Store #632.

19 2/3 years. It's longer than either of us have ever lived, anywhere - including with our parents and the ancestral homes. I led a pretty nomadic life for years in the hotel business. Victor moved from east to west to east to west to east a few times, himself. Somewhere along the line, we just settled in...

We travelled. London and Paris and Italy and Sicily... One year, we went to The Cayman Islands, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Rochester. Up to Boston and across the country to Las Vegas. To Los Angeles...

I really can't count the treks to New York City on Amtrak - or the treks to Washington, DC. The number of Broadway shows... I think we still have some serious Amtrak miles accumulated.

Through it all, we got comfortable. We got fat and lazy. But comfort or not, the call to the west coast was always there. Sometimes louder, sometimes softer - but pretty much always there.

We had started seriously talking about moving back west right before Victor's mom had a stroke. We thought moving her in with us would be for a few months at most and we'd be on our way. Those few months morphed into seven years.

Everything works out for a reason and we were both able to retire, relax a bit, and plan a move a bit more carefully. And then a pandemic hit and threw everything into another uproar. We went from thinking about Clear Lake, California to Vancouver, Washington, and, finally, Portland, Oregon. Contrary to what you see on the news or what the occupant of the Oval Office says, Portland is a great city and ANTIFA hasn't burned it down. On a side note, the first time I was teargassed, I was 16. I don't really remember the last time, but I know it's been more than 35 years.

And now we do the divesting... We sold the truck. I bought it brand new in the fall of 1992. We gave away our huge kitchen table and lots of kitchen utensils, plates, pots, pans... Donated tons of clothes and books,.. It's ridiculous the amount of stuff we have accumulated over the years. Totally ridiculous.

I have excel spreadsheets about what is going where - what's in the car we drive, what's in the car we ship, what's dropped off at my sister's house with the dresser we're giving our niece... My brain is a sieve. It has to be written down.

We've been asked what we're going to miss about the east coast...

Not the weather. The heat and humidity of summer and the freezing winters are going to be a thing of the past. I am going to miss how pretty our area is. The trees, the 2-lane roads leading to shopping... the changing colors and the fresh buds of Spring.

And I'm going to miss a lot of people. Family, definitely, but also some neighbors - and the totally awesome people I worked with at Trader Joe's for so many years. Fortunately, the online world means we'll still be able to keep in touch.

We're in the calm before the storm... Thursday we sign the final papers on the house. Friday we pick up the rental car and the junk haulers arrive. Monday, the packers arrive and Tuesday everything is loaded onto the Bekins Truck and we head west.

We've been in serious purge mode for months, now, but it's really hitting the fan this week. The kitchen cabinets are empty - old herbs and spices tossed. 12 kinds of vinegars dumped. The liquor cabinet dumped - a collection of practically empty bottles of creme de menthe, Sweet Iced Tea Vodka, Anisette, Apricot Brandy - all the things I used for cooking and baking... Marsala - sweet and dry - sherry, port...

Anything unopened will be packed. Anything opened is trash - and there's not a lot opened. We've been planning this and using things up, accordingly.

We'll be moving into an Extended Stay while we house-hunt. Great location - 2 miles from Trader Joe's 5 miles from Zapans where my nephew and niece work, a few miles from Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer. And 4 miles from a huge Asian grocer and less than 5 miles from 6 Mexican grocers. And a few blocks from an Italian Deli.

You notice the priorities - good groceries! Real ethnic foods.

My stomach is smiling...


To all of our family and friends along the way - don't take it personal, but we're not stopping to say Hi. We have a time crunch and are driving straight through. We'll wave out the window as we speed by on the interstate! And do know that we want to do a leisurely drive one of these days... We'll catch up!!

We'll definitely do pictures along the way...


It's easy to shine when you're surrounded by stars...

And that, boys and girls, sums up my almost 17 years at Trader Joe's. They made it easy. Until the last day.

Thursday, before opening, we were listening to showtunes when One Day More from Les Miserables came on. Someone cranked it up and I was belting it out, channeling my inner Ethel Merman. And then it hit me that I should be taping it, so got the last 50 or so seconds of it on tape...

Right after we opened, my coworkers did a conga line around the store with cutout pictures of me as their heads. I knew at that point I was in serious trouble. I want a picture of that, please... But all and all, it was a more or less a regular day, for me... I was still being bossy and telling people what to do. Just because I'm not going to be there doesn't mean I don't have an opinion of what they should be doing and what should be happening...

They humored me.

And then it was Friday.

I've had jobs that I have danced out, slid out, and stormed out. Never have I had tears streaming down my face. But tears were there - OMG were there tears...

I've spent the better part of the past 17 years embarrassing my coworkers, and they spent the better part of the last month paying me back. There has been a picture of me with a guest book for customers to sign for several weeks with a countdown clock on it. I knew that the last day was going to be excruciating, but, one does what one has to do. I didn't expect it to be so much fun - and so emotional.

The day started out fairly normally. Ryan filled out the Daily Log - our job assignments for our shift - and had me listed as "Anything You Want To Do" for the entire day - not exactly how it was normally written for me, but, what the heck. I knew I had to keep busy even if I wasn't being officially scheduled, so I headed back to the Demo Station.

A dozen bees were hanging from the ceiling and this was on the wall. Okay. I can handle it. But it's also a reminder to never be friends on Facebook with your coworkers. They have access to photographs... Diane was scheduled to work over there but I knew she had a million and one evil things up her sleeves, so I started the coffee, set out the morning treat, and went about things like it was just any other day. I figured I needed to be nice to the woman who was going to be humiliating me later...

The first crack in my defenses came during our Morning Huddle - the time we go over what's happening, share information, eat... Mostly eat... We went through the morning notes and everyone was laughing and congratulating me, when they asked me if I had any final words. The voice cracked and the tears started. So much for my macho cover... Fran got me a box of tissues and marked my name on it - in really big letters.

As blustery and boisterous as I can be, I really, really hate being the center of attention. I've never liked it and I doubt I even will. That, of course, didn't stop anyone...

The morning was running relatively smoothly. I had originally been told that the festivities would begin about 2pm. I was told it was now 11am. A quick text to Victor, because he, Phoebe, and Nancy were going to come up and witness...

It's 11am and the four of us are being shuttled around the store - making sure I couldn't see what was going on. Diane and Sandy called me over to the Demo Station - and it began.

Jen brought over a Depends Retirement Cake she had made.

I then received my retirement apron that Barb handmade. Awesome, or what?!?

I was then given a requisite floppy retirement hat and told to sit in the rocker - with a blanket over my knees. And so it began...

It was a live version of This Is Your Life. Evidently, I have shared a lot of my youth - and youthful indiscretions - with my coworkers over the years. Who knew they were paying attention?!?

Inwardly, I want to crawl into a hole. Outwardly I took turns laughing and trying to dry my eyes. Diane did a fantastic job playing hostess with the mostess and she had me in tears - literally. It really was fun, in a masochistic sort of way.

And then it was schmooze time with customers reminiscing about this and that, kids who I remember as toddlers now off to college, marriages and divorces, cooking tips and cooking philosophies... The same stuff I've been talking about for years - but a lot more political in my waning moments...

And then I escaped to the back room where the food was being set up. It was Pot Luck Heaven with a score of dishes created by the creative crew! The cake that Garvey made was out of this world and it's the only picture of food that I actually got. if any of y'all did, send them to me!

Awesome. Totally awesome.

  • Maria made Spanakopita
  • Liz made Ceviche de Cameron
  • Mariah made Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding
  • Susan made Pineapple Cake
  • Lauren made Veggie Stromboli
  • Barb made Eggplant Parmesan Non-Meatballs
  • Elizabeth made Romesco Sauce
  • Jeff brought Pizza
  • Ryan made Eggrolls in a Bowl
  • Garvey made that cake

I will eventually have all of these recipes online.

Back out into the store...

Sandy made a playlist of music and it was just blasting away... She nailed me with her choices. We were up in the front of the store singing I left My heart in San Francisco, and both of us were crying! Customers were applauding our efforts!

It's now a bit after one and I am emotionally drained - I'm ready to go home. I'm scheduled until 3:30pm, but the Log does say "Anything I want." I figure that means go home. As I start to make my choice known, Sandy tells me I can't leave until 1:30. No explanation, just that I can't leave until at least 1:30. I have worked with Sandy for almost 16 years. if she says I'm staying - I'm staying.

At 1:30, I found out why I couldn't leave... It seems my in-laws planned a little surprise of their own - except they hadn't told Victor - or anyone at the store. Victor had sent a picture to his sister when he got home earlier, and immediately received a panic phone call telling him what was happening! He then called the store, spoke with Sandy, who then, flat-out told me I wasn't leaving.

Over The Top.

At this point, it really was time for me to get the hell out of Dodge. I was your basic mess. I had so many gifts and cards I needed a shopping cart to get them all out.

It's difficult to explain just how much fun I've had over the years, and the awesome people I have had the pleasure of working with.

I have met so many fun people - the customers completely filled my Retirement Book. The comments are heartwarming and humbling. Who knew that simple acts of kindness, a smile, or a snarky-fun comment would really have an impact on someone's day?

The company has changed a lot from the 110 stores they had when I started to the almost 500 today. But what hasn't changed is the love and caring of the people who work at store #632.

We still live 2 miles from the store and we'll still be shopping there. The only thing that's going away is my employee discount.

And having to get up in the morning.

What to do with all the China

Uncle Tommy - husband of Aunt Dolores of Rum Ball fame - was a Trainmaster for the Southern Pacific Railroad back in the glory days of rail travel. As such, he had the opportunity to buy or otherwise procure unclaimed and damaged freight and baggage. One of the things he procured was a set of china. One of those old-fashioned complete sets - with plates and platters, bouillon cups, fruit cups, soup plates, demitasse cups and saucers... all of those things genteel hostesses used to have their servants place on the table and clean up for those simple midweek dinners.

Over the years many pieces have gone missing and by the time I got it when my father was cleaning out his garage, it - like my grandmother's china I also have - was missing too much to set a complete table. I have a few pieces that I've used regularly - like the platters - and several pieces on display in the hutch, but most of it has just sat downstairs in the basement collecting dust. I finally decided it's time to start using it. It's doing nobody any good sitting down there and I actually like it. It's time for it to see the light of day, again!

I don't know the actual age of the china, but it's German porcelain. The mark on the back was used between 1925 and 1945.

There's lots of random pieces... demitasse cups and saucers...

Bouillon cups and saucers - because everyone sets a table with bouillon cups and demitasse cups, right?!?

And then there's Grandma's china. Grandma was more practical. She had Homer Laughlin china made in the USofA. Lady Greenbriar. This pattern came about around 1951.

Creamer and sugar bowl, covered vegetable bowl...

An awesome teapot...

And cups and saucers, dessert plates, salad plates...

This was the stuff I remember eating from for most holidays of my youth when the folks would pack up the station wagon and haul us down to Bakersfield. Grandma had a lot of everyday dishware, as well. I especially remember the Anchor Hocking Ruby Red - so much so that I went out and bought some. It was a totally impractical purchase, but... what the hell.

Grandma also had Franciscan Desert Rose. We found some at an antique mall and it has pretty much become our everyday china, knocking the Cost Plus china down a notch. Or up a shelf, as the case may be.

It was pretty inexpensive. I also ended up getting the divided vegetable dish and a platter on Etsy for a few bucks.

And then we have Victor's Mom's china...

A complete service for 8 - and it is complete with serving pieces, creamer, sugar bowl, platter... It's Towne China - the Sydelle pattern - made in Japan and classic mid-century. Japanese china was all the rage - elegant, delicate.. and reasonably affordable.

This was supposed to go to Victor's niece, but she has conveniently not had room for it.

And then we have our Mikasa service for 8 - along with just about every side dish and serving piece they ever made. We started buying this when we first got together and for every gift-giving occasion, we'd get another footed bowl, square bowl, platter, compote... I think we have just about everything they ever made in this pattern.

And once we go through the china - and this isn't all of it by any stretch of the imagination - we have the glassware and the unique little things...

My mom always called these Hot Chocolate Cups. They're old but not marked. And delicate. I do not know their provenance.

We have pressed glass Christmas dishes downstairs - service for 32, I believe... 

I bought it at Kmart when we lived in San Leandro - $4.95 per service for 4. Less than $40 for the lot. I keep thinking we're going to have Christmas Dinner one of these years so I hold onto it. You never know... It was almost sold at a neighborhood garage sale a few years ago but since it wasn't, I decided I'm keeping it.

I suppose that one of these days we're going to have to actually deal with all of this stuff, but in the meantime, it can sit and collect dust. Bits and pieces do come out to be used now and again and it really wouldn't hurt to use more of it more often.

Stay tuned...












California Dreamin'

Yes, we did. We rented a convertible. Fire engine red. It's fun to be in your '60s.

One of the many many fun things we did in California these past two weeks. And it really was a fun time. Family weddings are always a blast - and my family really does know how to have a good time. No angst, so drama, just lots of laughter. And alcohol. And food. And fun.

We took an early flight out of PHL and arrived in SFO at 9:30am. A full day to play after a long flight. And play, we did. First stop, Ocean Beach.


I grew up two blocks from here. I really do miss it - even the damp. cold fog. It's a local thing. We headed down to Pacifica with my brother and took a hike along the ocean there - and then drove through the new Devils Slide tunnels and stopped at the old highway that is now a hiking path. More great ocean views.


But we weren't out here to see the ocean, we were here for a wedding. It was off to Clear Lake.

Clear Lake is a couple of hours north of San Francisco. Lots of roads with 15mph hairpin turns. Great in a Mustang.


I hadn't been up to the lake in years but my sister has been going up there with her husband's family forever. They just bought a house on the lake a couple of years ago. It's also where Maggie is from and where Sean and she met. It's stunningly beautiful.

Their house is great. It looks like a Tuscan Villa out of Architectural Digest, but it's a cozy, comfortable place built for relaxing and having fun.


Modern kitchen with all the amenities...


A dining table to die for...


Little details...


And an a backyard to end all backyards...


A really fun thing about the house is the Guest House - a cabin that was brought down from the Sierras.


It's rumored to have been built with wood from one of the Donner party cabins, but there's no official documentation. It doesn't matter. It's really cool.


And with all the modern conveniences...


Plenty of room to cook...


And roomy enough for two... We stayed in the main house but I could move in here in a heartbeat!


There are other really cool things on the property, including a little Hobbit Tree. There had been a fire in the base many years ago and a previous owner decided something whimsical was needed.


And then there's the lake.


The views constantly change, the colors constantly change. The only thing that doesn't change is the comfort.


Looking straight out the back at dusk.


That's Mount Konocti. It's a volcano that hasn't erupted in a few thousand years and is a part of the Clear Lake Volcanic Fields. It could happen.

But while I could wax poetically about Clear Lake for hours, the reason we were there was for a wedding. Little baby Sean - now 30 years of age - got married to one of the sweetest girls on the planet.

Maggie is from Middletown which is on Cobb Mountain - the largest of the two local peaks. The area has been devastated by fires - an arsonist was finally caught after setting at least 17 different fires and causing millions upon millions of dollars in damage. This is just outside of Middletown.


And this is on the main street of the town of Lower Lake - not far from my sister's home. This was an auto repair shop. It's a miracle - and a testament to the people who fought these fires - that the entire town wasn't devastated. My brother-in-law and nephews were up here fighting the fires.


But this wasn't about fires, it was about love - and the wedding was perfect.

My bother-in-law, Mike - the father of the groom - officiated. Here's Mike with the groom, Sean, and big brother and Best Man, Michael.


Maggie and her dad... a totally stunning bride!


And Sean with his mom - my sister, Eileen.


The reception was a blast and went on until 10pm - and then it was back to the Twin Pine Casino for more outrageous fun. We all stayed at Twin Pine because it's the only hotel in the area large enough to handle all of us.

One fun tradition in our family is no one is officially married until YMCA is played. This wedding was no exception. I could post lots of blurry dancing pictures or just post the video of YMCA. And here it is:



That pretty much is my family in a nutshell.

And here's a flyover video of the wedding!

We spent the next few days on the lake - and some of it, literally.


Mike took us out and we completely circumnavigated the lake. It's the largest natural lake in California and geologists think it may be the oldest lake in North America - more than 480,000 years old.


Much of the shoreline is built up. Boat docks everywhere. But then there's just water for as far as the eyes can see.


It truly is beautiful. Mike got the boat up to 65 mph at one point. We were flying across that water! It was insanely fun


At some point, all good things must come to an end. Back to San Francisco and the ridiculous traffic.

Traffic. OMFG Traffic. It was bad 15 years ago when we left. It's gotten a thousand times worse. I wrote this on a San Francisco board I frequent - Western Neighborhoods Project:

Just got back from The City By The Bay...

We flew in September 20th, picked up our 2016 bright red Mustang Convertible, and headed right over to my brother's on 31st & Santiago.

We had landed by 9:30am and at 10 were on the road. 380 /280 /Brotherhood/ Lake Merced Blvd /Sunset. The traffic was horrendous.

Stayed local until Friday when we headed up to Clear Lake for the wedding. Traffic. Freakin' ridiculous.

Stayed with one of my sister's in Clearlake. They have a nice little lakeside place. Came back down Wednesday. Flippin' gawd-awful traffic.

Wednesday evening went down to The Old Clam House for dinner. Another sister works there as bartender. Traffic everywhere.

Thursday, headed over to Oakland to see an old friend. Ridiculous traffic.

Friday morning, headed to the airport. Flippin' cars everywhere.

In every traffic scenario, almost every car was a single driver. Ludicrous traffic.

Bumper-to-flippin'-bumper-traffic everywhere we went. The avenues, Sunset, in the Park. Bumper-to-flippin'-bumper-traffic.

Looking at the monstrosities being built on Brotherhood, counting no less than 20 tower cranes downtown, and hearing about plans to redevelop some retail parcels with shopping on the bottom and multi-story housing on top left me dumbfounded. The streets can no longer handle the traffic that is there right this minute. Adding thousands of more units of housing and millions of square feet of office space is only exacerbating the situation.

This trip finally cured me of missing San Francisco. The city of my youth no longer exists and I finally had to admit to myself that nostalgia is great - but longing for what once was is a losing proposition.

Of course, the irony of being a part of the traffic mess was not lost on us. We definitely would have taken MUNI/BART to Oakland,for instance, but we wanted to stop on Treasure Island on the way home to take pictures. There's no way to get to Treasure Island from Oakland. If we lived there, we'd do things differently, but with limited time, it was out into the foray.

Fortunately, I was able to keep my humor, take my time, and act like a civilized human being behind the wheel - being in a cop-magnet car helped.

But geeze, louise - traffic is bad.

But for every bad traffic day, we had great food days! I was seriously remiss in food-photography. In fact, the only picture I took was in a small restaurant called Mary's Place in Novato on the way to the lake.

It was a California Crepe - Bacon, Avocado, Green Onions, Scrambled Eggs, and Jack Cheese. I ate a lot of avocados while I was home.


The whole trip was wonderful - traffic, aside. The downside was not being able to see any friends or family other than the immediate ones. We get our Facebook time and get to keep up with what's going on, but damn, I'd love to be able to sit down and really have some fun talks over dinner.

I keep saying "next time" and really hope next time becomes a reality.


This is a poster by cartoonist Bill Bates who died in 2009. I'd love to have a copy - so keep your eyes out! This copy is at The Parkside Tavern.


Dixie Chicks, Chocolate, and What If...

Last summer we learned that The Dixie Chicks were going to be touring - and they had a show planned for Hershey. Tickets wouldn't go on sale until November, so we set a reminder and bought them the first day we could. We printed them out and put them away.

Fast-forward seven months. Friday was the show.


All I can say is The Dixie Chicks are back with a vengeance! What a fantastic show!

Neither of us had ever been to The Sweetest Place on Earth™  so we arrived early to check out the town. First off, if you've never been to Hershey, Pennsylvania, be prepared for chocolate.


It's a company town. Chocolate Avenue, Cocoa Way, Hershey-this, and Hershey-that. Street lights downtown are shaped like Hershey Kisses. Hershey dominates. And all roads lead to Hersheypark. One word.


Not really knowing where to start, we went logical - Hershey's Chocolate World. It's a faux-factory tour and a dozen ways to get you to part with your money. My complaint is you don't actually get to see that real chocolate being made. We toured a Hershey factory in California when we lived there, but that plant is now closed and the chocolates are now being made in Mexico - thank you, NAFTA. This was a very Disney-esque ride done with props and a lot of video.


It was fun - it just wasn't seeing real chocolate being made - which really is kinda cool.

Not wanting to spend exorbitant amounts of money on Hershey-Logo'd clothes or other really dumb items, we left Chocolate World and headed up the the Hotel Hershey.

When I first started looking at where to stay, the Hotel Hershey was the first place I looked. And, at $456.00/night, I started looking elsewhere, right away. After seeing the hotel, I may have been a bit hasty. The place ain't half-bad. This is the back of the hotel. Pools, fountains, and huge expanses of green lawn abound.



The hotel was staffed. And I mean staffed. There were people everywhere to do anything for you - with smiles on their faces. We walked into a couple of the gift shops and walked out with a couple of trinkets and bottles of Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and Chocolate Raspberry Vinegar. We tasted it in the shop - both are ridiculously good!


Besides the obvious topping on ice cream, there are a few ideas floating around in my mind... Stay tuned...

We headed back to our hotel for a bit of freshening up before the concert. This is the hotel next door to us - and, yes, they were open and renting rooms.


A little rustoleum, a little paint ...

But I digress... It was off to Hersheypark Stadium for the concert!


The place is pretty big - Paul McCartney's going to be playing there in July - but not arena huge. And we had good seats - 18 rows back, center stage.


The concert was scheduled for 7pm. At 6:45pm, a few raindrops fell. At 6:50pm, the skies opened and a deluge fell from the shy. They cleared the seats and had us all under the stands.


It poured for an hour. Everyone was soaked - and after a few minutes, in ridiculously good moods. We finally were able to get back to our seats and at 9pm the concert began.

They opened with The Long Way Around and went right into Lubbock or Leave It, and  then Truth #2.


The backdrop videos were stunning.


They did a Prince cover - Nothing Compares 2 U - and the crowd went wild.


Song after song after song, the audience was on its feet. I'm glad we paid for seats - we never once sat in them.


And they got political. They had to have shot a ton of red, white, and blue confetti into the crowd. Caricatures of all the presidential contenders danced across the screen. It was a sight to behold. Goodbye Earl had a picture of Trump with devil horns. Great stuff.


My favorite song, though, was the first of their encores - I'm Not Ready to Make Nice. This has been my favorite song of theirs since the country music world vilified them for their comments about Dubya.

And while it's pretty hard to top this, their last song of the night was a dedication to the 49 victims in Orlando, played in front of a huge rainbow heart. A cover of Ben Harper's Better Way. Very moving. The crowd roared its approval. And it was an interesting crowd. All age groups, lots of folks who didn't look all that liberal on the surface - and everyone cheering the political stuff. The adage of don't judge a book by its cover was continually going through my mind.


One of the best concerts I have seen in the modern era. It had everything. I am so glad we were there! We got back to the hotel at midnight, totally wired! It was a great night - pouring rain delay, and all. I'm still singing I'm Not Ready to Make Nice!

Saturday morning arrived without a cloud in the sky. After a leisurely breakfast , we decided it was time to see Hersheypark.


We arrived just before the 10am opening and joined the queue. It went pretty quickly and in no time we were in the park and having fun.


We took a merry-go-round ride, replaying a day in Santa Cruz where we almost got arrested for throwing taffy from the alpine cars. No taffy, this time, and no police greeted us at the end of the ride.


But we did have fun.



It was hot. This fair-skinned little boy slathered on the sun screen, but after 4 hours, it was time to say goodbye. I just can't do the direct sun/water park stuff stuff, anymore. But there is a lot to do if you can take the heat and don't mind standing in lines for indeterminate amounts of time with no shade.


Back to the hotel for a regroup and we were off to an outlet mall. We need nothing. Could find nothing. Outlet Malls really are a ripoff. There was nothing that I couldn't buy online for less - from Jockey underwear to FoodSaver bags. We figured if the new stuff wasn't going to get us, maybe some old stuff would - we headed to an antique mall.

Antique malls are my kind of shopping. With no preconcieved ideas of what you're looking for, things just happen to catch your eye. And the first thing to catch my eye was some original Desert Rose china.


My grandmother had some of this when I was a kid and I thought it would be fun to have. This is the real stuff made in California - not the faux-stuff now made in China. 4 dinner plates, 4 salad/dessert plates.

We found another Santa for the collection, a tulip bowl to hold bathroom stuff... and passed on a ceramic chandelier made in Italy. It almost - almost - came home with us.


It would have been hell to keep clean.

The surprise of the trip, though was the restaurant where we had dinner Saturday night. The place is called What If... and it's in the basement of the Howard Johnson Inn where we stayed!

From an unpretentious motel lobby, one walks down a flight of steps into another world! I was really surprised. We had heard great things about the place and reviews online said not to let the outside looks sway you and to take a chance. We did. And my stomach was happy we did!

Victor started off with a Screaming OJ Martini. Vodka, prosecco, fresh orange juice, and peach schnapps. A dangerous drink, for sure.


Appetizers were Fried Calamari with Thai and Marinara Sauces and the Black Bean Margarita. It had black beans, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. It was really good. the calamari was perfectly fried and the sauces were excellent.


We both had salads with Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Excellent, although I think I would have made the vinaigrette a bit more tart. Personal preference. It was excellent the way it was.


Then it was time for the main courses. Victor went for the Lobster Ravoli - Lobster-stuffed Ravioli with a Mimosa Sauce and Parmesan. Rich without being overpowering.


I went for the Veal Frangelico - Veal Cutlets with Mango, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, and a Frangelico Sauce. This had a lot of textures and flavors going on - including a smokiness that I think came from the breading on the veal. Not a bad choice!


We were stuffed. But that didn't stop us from getting the Dessert Sampler! Turtle Brownies, Chocolate Decadence Cake with Raspberry Coulis, Titamisu, Chocolate Mousse, and an Oreo Cream Pie.

Ridiculously Good! Our server, Jenny, was charming, knowledgeable, and just fun, good people.

If you're ever in Hershey - don't judge a book by it's cover...

What If...
845 East Chocolate Avenue
Hershey, PA 17033






Birthday on the Boardwak


I think the last time we were at the Jersey Shore was a couple of years before Hurricane Sandy. Our vacations have either been Europe or West Coast - either of which is generally less expensive than renting a house at the shore for a week. I like going down to the ocean, but my Irish complexion is just not conducive to sitting on the beach hours at a time. I've had some pretty horrendous sunburns in my 63 years - I don't plan on ever having another.

So... when Victor asked if I wanted to head to Atlantic City for a few days for my birthday, I jumped at it! Walking the boards, eating salt water taffy, and pulling a few slots sounded like a lot of fun - and there's plenty to do besides sitting in the sand. The second thing I said after saying a resounding YES was we needed to drive home on the Black Horse Pike and hit some Farm Stands.


New Jersey is called The Garden State for a reason. The produce coming out of South Jersey is pretty spectacular and the Black Horse Pike runs through what was once some pretty intensive farming. Much of it has been sold off for shopping malls and sub-divisions, but there's still farmers out there growing some awesome stuff.

The farm stands - numerous even in the '90s when we would come back to visit family - have dwindled to a small handful. But what they lack in number they more than make up for in price and quality. We stopped at one quiet roadside stand and spent 30 minutes talking with the woman who ran the place. She was apologizing for not having things but giving a rundown of when different things would be coming in and lamenting the finicky customers who want perfect-looking produce over stuff that actually tastes good. We had a great time sharing stories and cooking ideas and tips.

We bought raw, unheated, unfiltered local honey.


And tomatoes, corn, blueberries, blackberries, potatoes, lots of hot peppers, plums, blackberry jelly, fig preserves, melons... And spent less than $30 for everything.


We could have easily brought home more, but reality struck. We need to be able to eat this stuff up in just a couple of days. It's fresh!

Hammonton - where Victor's cousin lives and his mom used to live - is the Blueberry Capital of the east and the blueberries are outstanding.


We bought a couple of pints and the minute we got home Victor made a huge fruit salad and a tomato salad.  I fried peppers and we had them on top of pork chops for dinner - along with tomato salad. Nonna absolutely loves tomato salad and Jersey tomatoes are her favorite - after the ones we get out of the yard.

Speaking of yard... they're not producing as we had hoped so we may be heading back down towards the end of the tomato season and pick up a bushel of tomatoes and make sauce for canning. It would be fun.

In the meantime... we're enjoying the few things we did get and contemplating another trek down September 26th for the Miss'd America Pageant. We saw the reigning Miss'd America - Honey Davenport and her first two runners-up, Holly Dae and Fifi DuBois on the boardwalk for a fun show and I'd love to see the whole pageant.

It was a great birthday, indeed...



Mom's Cook Books


We're heading off to San Francisco on Friday. I had rather hoped to have my cook book project finished before we went, but it ain't gonna happen.

When my mom gave me her cook books 20-whatever years ago, I scanned them and made copies for the siblings. When I started the recipe website, it was one of the first things that went online. It's a great resource and I have a lot of fun going through the recipes and finding strange concoctions from years past. Only problem has been it's not searchable. The pages are all .jpg's with numerous recipes on them. The best I've been able to do is separate the recipes by category and then link the recipe title to the corresponding page.  Not very user-friendly because you need to scroll through the complete recipe index to find something, click on it, and then find it on the page.


So... I've been busy cutting every recipe and making it its own .jpg and putting it on its own page, and tagging each page so - one day - they'll be better-organized and searchable.

There's only a bit over a thousand recipes...




While it is definitely taking a lot of time, I must admit it's been a blast rolling down Memory Lane! I've been getting great ideas for future meals, ideas for work, and even found the perfect recipe for sister-in-law Joanna's birthday last week!







But... a month after I started, I'm barely a third of the way through creating the pages... I'm making progress, but... not nearly fast enough to suit me. Patience is not one of my more readily-accessible virtues, so I'll dig deep and try to keep it all in perspective. Mom didn't collect them all overnight. I'm not going to get them all redone overnight.

The cover design was created by my father, the fireman. An artist, he was not, but he was a damned good cook in his own right. His veal cutlets with dirty potatoes were legendary, and his eggs fried in bacon grease until the edges were crispy... gastronomic heaven on earth.

Hopefully, the books will be completed by Easter... And y'all will be the first to know when it's done!

In the meantime, click on the link above and see what sort of things are in there... Dinner is only a click away!

Blushing Tomato Bread

I've been working on reworking my mom's cook books into something a bit more user-friendly.

The originals are two loose-leaf binders that she glued, taped, or otherwise affixed recipes she found in newspapers, magazines, from family, friends, along with many of her own hand-written creations. Over the years she added, subtracted, moved things around, crossed things out, made notes and comments... Things were spilled... They're real, working books with a lot of history.

I was always a bit curious why she gave me the books and not one of her four daughters but the answer was pretty much right there - four daughters. One recipe collection. She took the easy way out. She didn't have to choose which one of her girls got them.

The first thing I did when I got them was to scan them all and put them on discs for my siblings. I have the originals but everyone has a copy. And then when I started the recipe site, they went online, as well.

The problem with scanned images is they're not searchable. Some pages could have a dozen recipes on them but if you were to type in "chicken" in the search box, only the index would appear. And clicking on a specific recipe in the index brings up the page the recipe is on - you then have to find it on the scan.

My goal is to change that by taking every recipe and putting it on its own page and adding categories and tags. It's the perfect wintertime project.

I have already completed going through and creating the individual recipes. That was a long trip down Memory Lane! I actually went through every single recipe in the books. It gave me enough dinner and dessert ideas to last several years. Going through every recipe again and giving it its own page and tags shall take a bit longer, but as I said... it's the perfect wintertime project.

Mom baked a lot of bread and one recipe that caught my eye right off was for Blushing Tomato Bread.


In true Mom-Fashion, I didn't have all of the ingredients and I only wanted one loaf, but that didn't stop me! First, I cut the recipe in half. I didn't have tomato juice so I used tomato sauce and a squirt of catsup. I added a bit of water to thin, and then added some garlic powder and black pepper along with the salt. I mixed it in the KitchenAid for about 8 minutes.  Voila!

I have to say, it was a pretty damned good loaf of bread. Nice crust and a really soft, fine-textured crumb. I could easily see this baked in loaf pans as a sandwich bread.


So... off to toast some for breakfast... and then back to working on tags and pages and categories - and dinner ideas!



Christmas Traditions - Russian-Style


Many years ago, I got a plastic tray from my Uncle Gene who had lived in Hawai'i for many years. It was a reproduction of a mural by Eugene Savage who had been commissioned to paint nine of them for the Matson Steamship Line pre-WWII. Although completed, the war broke out and they were never installed on the ships. Reproductions of them were eventually used as used as keepsake menu covers for the SS Lurline - the flagship of the Matson Line. It probably cost him twenty bucks. It wasn't valuable, just decorative.

This is the image, although it is much brighter than the tray...

For years, the tray had sat downstairs collecting dust until one day I brought it to work with some cookies. It then sat at work until one day when I used it at the demo counter. I kinda kept thinking I would bring it home, and I kinda never did.

A regular customer came in and, speaking to another employee, asked where we had gotten the tray. He knew of Eugene Savage and liked his work. He was told it belonged to me and that was that - until one day when he came in and I was there...

Andrey is from Russia, kinda tall, quiet, and a very genuine person. We've chatted in the past, he's married, and just a nice guy.

We talked for a bit and he said if I ever wanted to part with it, he would love to buy it. I smiled, said it wasn't for sale, he said okay, and off he went to the cashier. So... a minute later, I'm looking at the tray thinking it's doing me no good, I don't have any place at home for it, and if I leave it at work it's eventually going to fall apart.

He was still at the register so I brought it over and gave it to him.

He was quite taken aback, but it was kinda like one of those Pay-It-Forward situations. So many people have done nice things for me in my life, I need to do a few in return. Besides, I tend to cash in Karma points quicker than I can receive them.

He thanked me profusely and left with a huge smile on his face.

I haven't seen him since I gave him the tray, but he's been in quite a few times and has asked a few of my coworkers what he could do to say thank you. My response was nothing, don't worry about it.  NOT the response someone wants to hear who wants to do something.

So... tonight, after a long, long day - the Sunday Before Christmas - he and his wife came in with a shopping bag. In it, were the things every Russian family has at Christmas!

He could not have come up with a better way to say thanks! What an absolute treat!

First up, is a bottle of a carbonated beverage called Kvass Ochakovskiy. It is made from rye bread and is naturally fermented. It's considered a non-alcoholic beverage, as it has an alcohol content of less that 1%. As a comparison, non-alcoholic O'Douls is 0.4. It has some unique properties. I am getting it refrigerated, as I speak. Er.. type.

Then there is a huge jar of pickled tomatoes and pickles - from Bulgaria! He said the best pickles in Russia come from Bulgaria. We laughed.

Next is a hunk of halva. Sesame and honey... It's been a while since I had any. It's going to be great on the cookie tray!

There's a can of smoked sprats from the Baltic Sea. Sprats are small fish and contains long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids. The little blighters are actually good for you!

And, finally, a Poppy Seed Rillet - a poppy seed pastry roll. Andrey said he hoped I didn't have to take any drug rests soon - so many poppy seeds will make me test positive!

Fortunately, I won't have to!

I am really thrilled beyond thrilled! It's no secret that I just love food and I have a great affinity for foods of other lands. I have always believed that food is the great equalizer, and we can learn so much from one another if we sit down to a meal together and share our foods and traditions.

A gift like this just warms my heart to no end.

I can't wait for Christmas Eve! Our Feast of the Seven Fishes will now be Eight. I'll toast with Kvass, have pickles and pickled tomatoes along with the antipasti, and halva and poppy seed roll will be out with trays of cookies and other sweets.

Thank you, Andrey and Irina!

С Рождеством! - Merry Christmas!