Monday, November 30, 2020

A Social Bubble Adventure

The new 2020 rubric for family visits: 

1. Quarantine for two weeks 
2. Get negative Covid test 
3. Fly (masked) to San Jose 

Waiting for a ride to the airport
4. Spend two weeks in a social bubble with family members 
5. Put mask back on to fly home 
6. Plan on another two weeks of quarantine

Back before the world turned upside down Hubby Tony and I had planned on flying out to California in May to babysit the (then) three year old Jay and nine-month old twins Ell and Dee so Son Brian and DIL Nicole could celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Plane tickets were bought, but then cancelled and the idea of a trip turned into wishful thinking

Brian and Nicole are very careful to limit their interactions with the outside world, so I was surprised when Nicole broached the subject of a visit again in early September. Tony and I said we were comfortable with the idea if they were, so the tickets were re-booked. This time there would be no couple's getaway, just an extended visit.

The family had outgrown their small bungalow and last month purchased a larger four-bedroom ranch. They hadn't had time to furnish the guest room yet, so Tony and I stayed at an AirBnb a mile away. Using Brian's car, each day we would drive to their house after breakfast and stay until bath time at night. We figured out it was nice to have a quiet enclave to retreat to after a busy day.

The family hadn't been together since last Christmas, so the twins took a while to warm up to us. (As a matter of fact, the only people they'd seen on a regular basis since March was their parents and the nanny that comes in each day.)  However, on the third morning when Tony and I walked up to the front door they were both standing there waiting for us, and came running when we walked in.

What did we do in California? Not much, but everything. We helped out where we could with projects around the house, got down on the floor to play, mediated a few spats, and took morning and afternoon family walks,. While out walking, we taught the twins Grandma's favorite activity of crunching through leaves,

and for the rest of the visit they would do an adorable little dance in the piles with a smile on their face.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Brian and Nicole for the first time since they moved out to California five years ago, and the day after helped them put up their Christmas tree.

 All good things have to come to an end, though, and today it was time to come home. After an extra-early breakfast we drove to the house and said our last goodbyes, then Brian drove us to the airport. Covid experts say we should quarantine for two weeks, so now we will hunker down to make sure we didn't bring the virus home with us along with our suitcases.

Five years ago today: Nothing But The Best Deals (Or So They Say)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

How To Make Turkey Stuffing

Thanksgiving is not my holiday to host the big family group, so I rarely cook a stuffed turkey. Pretty sure this is not the best way to do it, though.

Five years ago today: Gratitude

Monday, November 23, 2020

Helping Yourself Out

Today I:

  • Chose to live in the moment instead of worrying about the future
  • Chose to eat healthy
  • Chose to go on a walk instead of sitting in front of the television
  • Chose to bite my tongue when someone said something rude
  • Chose to read something uplifting instead of zoning out with social media

What about you? Did you do anything that you will be glad you did down the line?

Thursday, November 19, 2020


Did you know that if you use the Google Maps app it can tell you when a particular business is most popular? For example, a typical Thursday at my local Walmart is the busiest between 4 pm and 6 pm.

 After the Google people gather all of the Maps data they compile it into trends, one of which is by the type of store. That turns out to be very helpful in figuring out what places to avoid if you want to stay away from crowds.

Google Map Trends

Five years ago today: A Tiny New Angel

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"The Sweetest Dragon You'll Ever Meet"

I'm always on the lookout for new and different foods to try, so I was excited to get a package of yellow dragon fruit in a bag of goodies.

 I've seen the fruit at the Asian market, but it was always a little intimidating looking. These packaged ones were a little friendlier looking. I learned that the easiest way to peel a dragon fruit was to cut off the ends, slice shallowly through the skin from top to bottom, then take the skin off in one piece.

 The white fruit pulp was almost translucent, and the black seeds gave it an exotic look. I chopped it, then added it to my bowl of breakfast cereal. It tasted like a cross between kiwi and watermelon. Quite yummy.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Why Didn't I Think Of This Before?

Hubby Tony and I are trying to distance ourselves from the ever-expanding COVID infections in our area, so we decided to 'attend' Mass virtually tonight. 

Back when we used to participate virtually on a regular basis, the biggest issue was getting the angle of the laptop screen correct....and then adjusting it again each time we stood up, sat down, or knelt. Ten minutes before the livestream was going to start I had a brainstorm. There was an HDMI cable in my office left over from another project. Would it work to connect the laptop to the TV in the living room?

It only took a couple of minutes to figure out that the answer to my question was yes. When pulled up the church's website there was a message saying the stream would start in five minutes. I used that time to check out the volume level, clear up some clutter that was in my field of vision, and meditate. 

The Mass started right on time. It was so nice to be able to watch on a large (40 inch) screen instead of a tiny (14 inch) computer screen. I almost felt like I was there in person.

Five years ago today: Good Enough!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Pumpkin Polenta With Chipotle Pintos And Roasted Vegetables

I was looking for something to make for dinner, but the pantry and refrigerator were pretty empty and I couldn't get to the store. The one thing there was a lot of was pumpkin puree (the result of processing the Halloween pumpkin), so I started a Google search for recipes with that as my inspiration ingredient. 

After discarding all of the sweet recipes, side dishes, and those that called for ingredients I didn't have there were two possibilities. Both of them mixed pumpkin puree into a basic polenta. One called for spooning chipotle-spiced pinto beans on top. The other was topped with roasted vegetables. I took the best of both recipes, added a sprinkle of cheddar, and called it dinner.

Polenta is very easy to make. You mix corn meal with water or broth (for four servings I used a cup of corn meal, two cups of broth, and a half teaspoon of salt), heat it till simmering, then turn the heat down very low and cook it for 40-45 minutes, stirring several times so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Polenta is done when the mixture is thick and smooth, with no corn meal graininess left. Some recipes call for adding butter, cream, or cheese at this point. I mixed in two cups of pumpkin puree and a tablespoon of butter.

For the beans, I sauteed two cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, then added three cups of pinto beans along with their juice, a teaspoon of cumin, a little salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of chipotle in adobo and simmered them until the liquid was almost gone.

The vegetables were a mixture of onion, garlic, and Normandy blend of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots roasted at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. (Most recipes call for oil, but I don't think it's necessary and left it out).

The recipe made four servings. Since there were only two of us eating dinner, it lasted for two meals.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Just In The Nick Of Time

For the past week the temperature has been about ten degrees above average. It got so warm that I switched from jeans and long sleeved shirts to capris and tees. According to the nightly news and the weather app on my phone, though, a change was coming. Today was forecast to be rainy and tomorrow 20 degrees cooler.

First thing in the morning my app said the rain would start at noon, but as the day wore on the precipitation start kept getting pushed back. At 3 pm the sun was shining, the app said that the first substantial chance of rain was two hours away, and I decided I would take advantage of it while I could. Hubby Tony was working, but when I suggested he take a break and go out with me it didn't take him long to agree. Ten minutes later we were locking the front door on our way out.

Our area's COVID numbers are going through the roof, and because of that we've been trying to avoid people whenever possible. Tony suggested that if we drove to a parking lot a half mile from the house we could walk on a scenic road--up one side and then down the other. The road has a wide shoulder on each side instead of a sidewalk, and because of that not much foot traffic. There was an excellent chance we would be the only ones there.

We walked for about 30 minutes, then turned around. The first leg featured a combination of sun mixed with puffy clouds and a nice warm breeze. However, shortly after we started the trip back the sky turned ominous. The wind began gusting, the gusts were cooler, and they caused the leaves on the ground to fly though the sky.

Three blocks away from the car big fat drops of rain started falling. We picked up the pace to a slow jog and made it back to the car without getting too wet. Ten minutes later, we were back at home and picking up the projects we had abandoned when the skies opened up. The rain was blowing in through the windows and I had to hustle to get them closed. As I did I thanked my lucky stars that we had turned around when we did.

Five years ago today: Secret Stairs

Sunday, November 8, 2020


 I wonder if it's a cosmic coincidence that this was my thought for the day calendar page one day after President-elect Biden gave his victory speech.

Five years ago today: Have You Seen Any Of These?

Friday, November 6, 2020

Saxy Time

 Today's fun holiday is National Saxophone Day, which commemorates the birth of Adolphe Sax, the woodwind’s inventor.

 In Adolphe's honor I wanted to share one of my favorite saxophone songs with you, Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto's version of The Girl From Ipanema. Each time a sax solo starts I'm in heaven.

Five years ago today: Little Rolls Of Pumpkin Goodness

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Leaf Walking

Last week I stepped outside to get the newspaper and noticed that the pots of annuals outside the front door were a mass of drooping stems and wilted leaves, signs that we had the first hard frost of the season. But then the temperatures popped back up for Second Summer, with balmy daytime temperatures and less than frigid overnights.

I know the beautiful weather won't last long, so I've been trying to take advantage of it. This morning I incorporated a walk along with my errands, and after Hubby Tony finished work today I took another walk with him through the neighborhood.

The established neighborhood we live in has large, mature trees. There are enough sidewalks with substantial lifted edges that I pay more attention to where I'm walking (so I don't trip) than I do looking up into the tree canopies. Now that the leaves have fallen on the ground, though, they reveal the types of trees I'm going past.

Many of the sidewalks had dead leaves piled along the sides. In a few places the leaves covered the entire sidewalk. Those fallen leaves are an invitation to crunch through them, one of my favorite things to do at this time of the year. I zigzagged from one pile to the next, trying to make it through as many as possible.

Five years ago today: Mower Movement

Monday, November 2, 2020

Stop, Please

Election Day 2020 is tomorrow, which means the onslaught of political ads, mail, and texts will stop. (Thank goodness!)

The ads and mail aren't new, but before this political cycle I can't remember getting political texts. This time around they're coming from campaigns. political parties, and advocacy groups. Sometimes they tout the accomplishments of one candidate, sometimes they bash that candidate's opponent. Sometimes they just want to remind you to get out and vote. I suspect they're trying to reach out any  way they can because of COVID, but that doesn't make them any less annoying.

Every time I get one of the political texts I respond with the word STOP. Sometimes if I'm in a good mood I add a polite 'please". That usually brings that thread to a screeching halt, but today I received a considerate response back from a volunteer trying to make sure I didn't have any trouble doing my civic duty:

"No problem, we'll remove you from our texting list. It's possible other groups may still have you on their lists. If that happens, just reply STOP to be removed automatically. If you or friends or family have any voting questions now through Election Day, you can call or text the MO voter info hotline. Have a great day!"
Five years ago today: Sometimes There's No Deep Meaning

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Rambling Around

The time changed from Daylight back to Standard overnight. It was already bright when I got up, which automatically put me in a good mood. Today was forecast to be sunny but brisk, with a high about 50° F. Hubby Tony suggested we take a drive to see the last of the fall leaf colors. I countered with a suggestion that we drive to the Historic Main Street area of St. Charles, where we could shop for a present we needed and walk on the Katy Trail. Tony decided that was a great idea. 

Our area had a dry summer, which made for mostly subdued leaf color, but the trees that were close to sprinkler systems and got sufficient water put on quite a display. The 20-minute drive went quickly. We got to Main Street right after most of the stores opened and easily found a parking space. Our first stop was our friends Dave and Sally's store Baubles, Bites, and Boots where we found the present we were looking for...and a couple of extra things.

We put the bag in the car, then started walking. The Katy Trail parallels the Missouri River. About a quarter mile down, there was a cross street that led to a riverside park. A parade of cars with large red-and-white striped flags sticking out their front windows drove from the park past us. We learned that they were in parading in solidarity with the protests in Belarus, which started after the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, (widely believed to be rigged).

Flag of Republic of Belarus 1991-1995

We continued down the trail. Shortly after we crossed under the highway we came to a nature area and decided it would be fun to explore. The trail was covered with a thick layer of leaves in some places and hard to follow. After a while we figured out it was better to just follow the pieces of pink marking tape tied to the trees. The trail eventually looped around and we made it back to the trailhead.

Instead of taking the Katy Trail back we walked on street. At this point it was about 90 minutes later, and the sidewalk was crowded. I was glad when we arrived back at Tony's car.