Saturday, March 24, 2012

Greek Food, Scraggly Beards and Bedding

I am just back from a week in Orange County. Dad and I spent time with my brother Everest and Mrs. Everest just hanging out. They invited some friends over for a Sunday gathering which was fun. Dad made a couple of Greek main courses and an appetizer dip. 

Our family calls one dish "Stuffed Stuff" which is basically stuffed peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and/or zucchini filled with meat, rice, and spices. It is not the time of year for zucchini so Dad was going to substitute eggplant (you need to use the inside scoopings for the rice/meat mixture) but the eggplant turned out to be bad inside so he and Ev scrambled to make up the difference with other things. In any case it tasted just the same as always: delicious!

The second dish was Stefado (sometimes spelled Stifado), a Greek stew with beef, garlic, onions and spices. The garlic is separated into its individual cloves and the skin is left on. During cooking the garlic softens nicely. To eat it you pick up the clove and suck out the garlic (you don't eat the skins). You can also spread it onto your french bread.

The dip was called Skordalia, kinda pronounced like score-thall-YAH. (NOT score-DAY-lee-ya!) It is made in a mortar and pestle with potatoes and garlic (and other things). In these modern days you would use a blender or food processor but Dad has his mother's wooden mortar and pestle so they made it the old fashioned way.

When I got back home I thought it might be time to send The Boy to a photographer to get some portraits done. The yearbook had wanted portraits turned in by November 30 and he didn't get his braces off until December 15. I have no problem with braces in photographs but since these would be the ones that will stay on the wall for years I really wanted his pictures brace-less. So they had a photographer at school who did quick appointments for the formal yearbook pictures. For the casual yearbook photo I took a few pictures in the backyard. (I was not bothered that the pictures in the yearbook showed braces.) This was the best and I really love it!
But I got home and was greeted by a son with a scraggly growth of beard. He is growing it out, possibly because his best friend Ginger Sam always has a great beard going. Ginger Sam can be clean-shaven one day and practically sport a full beard the next. He is also a blond young man who grows a very red-haired beard which he calls "ginger". Now MY boy is starting to resemble Maynard G. Krebs (as played by a pre-"Gilligan's Island" Bob Denver) in the "Dobie Gillis" show from the late 50s/early 60s! Except it may be a while before his beard reaches Maynard's beatnik goatee!

Therefore portraits are now on hold. Guh.

And apparently my son also shares Maynard G. Krebs' fear of "work": whenever the word was mentioned Maynard would freak out and start hiccuping the word in a high pitched voice: "Work!" I found this clip on YouTube that demonstrates:

In the meantime I am trying to catch up on TV I recorded while I was gone as well as continuing work (work!) on my pile of library books.

Ooh, and the only thing I bought in So Cal was this:

It's what we have been looking for for years! A red and black reversible coverlet. The red side is embroidered with black thread that looks really cool.

We have the house decorated in black, red and white so I have been searching for something for the bedroom in red and black and it seemed that everything red on one side was always navy blue on the other. Ugh. I accompanied Mrs. Ev to Kohl's where she was looking at bedspreads and I saw this new pattern, yay! And it was on sale (you don't want to buy any other way at Kohl's!). The comforter looks like this but I am still undecided:

I just noticed today that there is a matching shower curtain too! And of course this means it may be time to buy some new towels. And sheets. And a new bedroom set. (CPA Boy is already fatigued just thinking about all the money I plan to spend! Work harder, Husband! Hey, at least I don't plan to get a new husband!)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

To SoCal in 4 Days...and I'm Not Ready!!

On Thursday I am driving to Southern California to stay with my brother Everest and his wife, Mrs. Ev. Dad is coming with me and we will be gone a week. The Evs live in Huntington Beach, Orange County, which means they are approximately on the left side of the "O" in the map above.

As I really only have 3 days left before I leave, it now being 8 p.m. on Sunday night, I am starting my usual pre-travel freakout. There are so many things to get done before I leave: laundry, shopping (a Target run for household staples, my prescriptions and "rat veggies"), one more physical therapy appointment, another library trip for more books, a stop at Goodwill and the recycle center (all the stuff is already loaded in my car), clean up my office, finish repairing the afghan I made for Ev so I can return it to him, charge my iPod and camera, pay some medical bills, make dinners for the next three nights, straighten the house, and pack!

I know everything will get done but I tend to get overwrought anyway. After all, I am the woman who, on leaving Chico, California on my way to San Francisco, decided to get her bridge toll money ready within 20 minutes of leaving. Yes, the bridge in question was still about THREE HOURS AWAY but I am like that. And as it turned out, I had forgotten my purse in Chico and had to go back for it. So if I had not been so anal about the toll I wouldn't have realized I was missing my purse until I was in the toll booth line. And I would have REALLY FREAKED OUT.

It turns out that I cannot contain myself when faced with a big pile of library books and I will finish 3 of 7 before Thursday, hence the extra library run. (Note to CPA Boy: NO Star Trek: Voyager jokes, please!)

And today I somehow tweaked my lower back when loading the car with Goodwill donations. Grrrr. What with my shoulder issues it really is the icing on the (painful-and-creeping-into-old-age) cake. Double grrrr.

And don't even get me started on the switch to Daylight Savings Time. HOW, exactly, are we SAVING DAYLIGHT?!

So back to the So Cal trip: some people have asked me what I'll be doing when I'm there. And the answer is pretty much, hang out with my family with one exception: I need to drive to Disneyland to take pictures of the commemorative stone from the Smith Family Trip (my father- and mother-in-law took CPA BOY and all his siblings, their spouses and their kids to Disneyland in 2009). Luckily the stone is located in the entrance area so I don't need to pay to get to it.

I will be without my computer however so there will be no blog updates. I will have a week without e-mail, comic strips, Facebook or anything else! It is always nice to have a little break from the digital world.

Full disclosure: I bought a new iPad and it will be delivered on Friday, the day after I leave. My intention was to HAVE access to the digital world on the trip! Oh well. More time to chat with my family and more time to read my library books!

Meanwhile, it's now 8:25 p.m. and my teenage son has still to emerge from his room. (He was supposed to help me with the Goodwill car-packing so I've decided to blame him for my back pain.)

Off to afghan repair work!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Political Girl?

In most cases I am not one who shares her personal political views. I discuss politics with a small select few (mainly my husband, with whom I can talk about any issue without fear of ridicule or an attempt to change my mind). I like the idea of an occasional intellectual debate on issues but today everything is SO politicized that I would not care to risk it anymore.

There seems to be no middle ground. Or compromise. And that's too bad.

I don't spend much time watching the news networks nor do I like talk radio. I watch CNN when there is a breaking news story (say, a tsunami or an earthquake) or to get a quick update on political results. I DO watch Jon Stewart's show so perhaps from this fact only you would peg me as a liberal. I read Time Magazine every week. I read lots of various news articles on the Internet. So yes, I am a liberal. Deal with it!

One of our family jokes is that my son and I are the ONLY liberals in a sea of conservatives. In large family gatherings where political topics come up, I stay silent. Coward? Perhaps, but in today's political climate no one seems to ever change his or her mind just because someone offers an opposing viewpoint. It's scary out there!

But the latest hot button issue is contraception. I would like to offer my experience in that area.

I became sexually active in college and even then I was rather late to the game as compared with most of my peers! My college boyfriend was someone I had already known for about one and a half years. We had unsafe sex once, the first time (which was dumb, of course). And then we didn't for several months because I had no way to ensure I didn't get pregnant. It took me a while to discover that Planned Parenthood existed for women like me: not ready to get pregnant and in need of contraceptive help.

My opinion on abortion is this: that is a decision each person must make for herself. Except for that one dumb time I opted to try to make sure that I never NEEDED to make this choice for myself. (My only pregnancy was planned with my husband and it resulted in our son.)

Anyway, back to Planned Parenthood: I found the address of the Santa Cruz branch and made an appointment. They gave me an exam and a prescription for the Pill (I may have even gotten the Pill straight from PP rather than a pharmacy but I don't remember for sure). Very kind, no judgement. I used PP for years. I think there was a sliding pay scale and depending on my current job situation I must have paid some token amount.

In those college days we had not yet really heard of AIDS/HIV and the biggest risk was an STD. But I had the same boyfriend off and on for almost 4 years so that never was a problem for me. Luckily.

Later when I had my first job and a real honest-to-goodness health plan most things were covered; birth control was not. A four week supply cost $20 so I paid a total of $260 extra each year. I did that until 1992 when we decided to have a child and then I used birth control again after my son was born.

At some point I was prescribed some medication for my rosacea and it turned out that it could possibly counteract the Pill so I had to do something else. I got a different birth control device that lasted for 10 years which it cost $400. Again, not covered by my insurance.

Interestingly, the only form of contraception that my insurance plan would cover was sterilization! For a woman that means a minor operation performed at a hospital (the male version of sterilization requires a relatively simple procedure during an office visit).

Also interestingly, I added up all the bills from when my son was born via caesarian section: approximately $13,000, all of which insurance paid except for our portion of 20% (which was a LOT to pay off in 1993, lemme tell ya!).

Comparing the costs of one hospital birth (and the "well child" care that follows for several years) to the costs of several years of contraception, it makes you wonder WHY more insurance companies didn't cover it in those days!

Even assuming I took the Pill for 15 years (which I didn't, more like 6 or 7 total) that's less than $4,000. So if I DIDN'T use contraception, whether as an unmarried college student or a married woman, I probably would have gotten pregnant several times! Let's say 4: a total of at least $50,000 and no additional "well child" care costs!

And THAT's the point I don't get: $4,000 is so much less than $50,000 that it doesn't seem to make sense NOT to cover contraception. And now, when it no longer matters to me, contraception IS covered by many insurance plans. Guh.

Of course, the current argument relates to institutions who morally oppose contraception and whether they should be compelled to include coverage or not. I'm not even sure where that stands anymore what with all the brouhaha lately.

So again I say, there seems to be no middle ground. Or compromise. And that's too bad.

(Note: I am a little nervous posting this. As I said, I usually shy away from politics, but I really wanted to put out a real story about a real woman who happily used contraception to manage her reproductive life. I think that has a valid place in today's world. Don't flame me!)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zombies, Lawrence, Zhivago, Library & Outback

I've been wanting to post something, anything really, but life has been quiet in the last week. But here's an update because even a quiet week is vastly entertaining, no? No.

I got the game Plants vs. Zombies from my hubby for my birthday (it was on my wish list), which I play on my Nintendo DS. I have been a bit addicted to it. So that accounts for a small chunk of time.

I recorded "Lawrence of Arabia" from TCM and watched it over a 2 day period. I kind of love movies with musical overtures and entr'actes. The entr'acte especially helps in cutting a film into more easily digested pieces because they seem to come at a mini-climax. I immediately recognized the music from the movie even though I had never seen it before. It really is beautiful. As is the cinematography.

The film, despite the presence of a hot, young Peter O'Toole (SUCH blue eyes! SUCH blond hair!) and an equally young and hot Omar Sharif (just wow!), was disappointing. It sometimes made no sense and it really didn't have an ending. I'm still not sure if Lawrence was a good guy or kind of a bad guy! And lots of desert crossing which will never really make for interesting watching.

I have no real goal to see all the Best Picture Oscar winners (that's more Lady Chardonnay's thing) but I try to see as many overall classic films as I can. And since "Lawrence" was a 1962 film as well as an Oscar winner, I thought I would check it out. I'm glad I did but I will never watch it again!

  • Fun fact: The ONLY year for which I have watched ALL the Best Picture nominees is 1981, probably my biggest film-going year. "Chariots of Fire", "Reds", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "On Golden Pond", "Atlantic City". "Chariots" won but I think "Reds" or "Raiders" would be better choices.

While watching the movie I wondered how much audiences understood of the Arab situation in 1962. I mean, I'm not even sure I knew there was another major religion called Islam until I was well into adulthood. This seems terribly ignorant of me and I've been trying to puzzle out why. In the 1960s and '70s it seemed that Black Muslims were in the news a lot. Perhaps growing up in the Deep South meant that any reference to those who identified as Black Muslims was mainly pejorative. As a child I never connected it to religion, just that some men changed their names, notably Mohammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. In any case, I did not know that Muslims equated to those who espoused Islam. I remember the term "Moslem" but it was used mainly in connotation with the Crusades, which in the Catholic school history books meant they were the enemy.

So were people in 1962 less ignorant in religious history and "Lawrence of Arabia" made complete sense to them?

Meanwhile I have begun reading Dr. Zhivago but it's rough going. It's kind of cliche but good grief, those Russian names and all the accompanying nicknames make it hard to tell who's who! I am only about 4 chapters in and it seems a good story so I think I will sort everyone out as the book goes on. I would really like to see the movie though (also starring Omar Sharif).

I am going to Southern California a week from Thursday so in anticipation I have requested a bunch of books from the library. For the record, the above photo is of Petaluma's original library, funded by Andrew Carnegie. It's now the Petaluma Historic Museum. At first I could not find a picture of the current library but I persevered and found this:

Yep, it's not very pretty AT ALL. Very utilitarian I suppose. There ARE nice parts: the copper siding (you can see a bit to the right - surprised it hasn't been stolen yet) and the wooden beam interior. I'll be there later this week picking up at least 8 books!

For lunch/dinner today we went to Outback. We have several gift cards to use so it cost us NOTHING! There was a new dessert on the menu --- chocolate waffles --- and we tried it. Oh my, it was SO yummy! I will need to walk a LOT more this week! And eat a LOT less. The whole birthday thing turned into a complete food fest and I will need to make up for it going forward. Sadly these pounds won't be lost without some major effort from me! (But the waffles were REALLY good!)

The week going forward will include:
  • More physical therapy: I'm making progress but it's slow.
  • Visiting the DMV to change the license plates on CPA Boy's and The Boy's cars.
  • Continue working on my current project: organizing my CDs and DVDs. I refer to the ones for the computer not the television. I have old computer games, software for equipment I no longer have (those have been tossed) and my favorite: a computer backup from 2004. 
    • This involves transferring files to new DVDs that will go into the safe deposit box. It's just a dull, dull, necessary task.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February 2012 Books Read

I read 16 books in January but only 8 in February. I watched more TV in February so that cut down on reading time. I was also a bit burned out at the end of January, because I crammed in so many books that I didn't read anything much during the first week of February.

TV watching is great for getting a crochet project done though! The only drawback to the DVR: I skip most commercials, rarely watching TV "live" anymore, and that cuts out time for reading during commercial breaks.


  • Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan
    • In the mid-1970s a book called Sybil came out. Sitcom star Sally Field took the lead role in the miniseries and she moved into the realm of "serious" actresses.
    • Sybil was a pseudonym for a woman named Shirley with 16 multiple personalities. She had endured abuse and torture from her schizophrenic mother and disassociated to withstand the abuse.
      • Before Sybil there were barely a dozen cases of multiple personality disorder. After Sybil there were thousands.
    • All the principals of Sybil are now dead: Sybil herself, her doctor Cornelia Wilbur and the writer Flora Schreiber. Debbie Nathan uses the archives of Schreiber and puts together a compelling case that Sybil did NOT suffer from multiple personalities, nor was her mother abusive. 
    • Dr. Wilbur violated all sorts of ethical standards as a psychiatrist (she married one of her patients for example) and she comes off as quite a fame whore.
      • She used the technique of "recovered memories" which really took off in the 1980s (all the children in the daycare scandals and the people who "remembered" abuse). This technique involves drugs, hypnosis and very leading questions to elicit details to support multiple personalities/abuse.
    • The book was really interesting. I had read Sybil many years ago and seen the miniseries.
    • B+

  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
    • A book of 5 short stories (I think the hardcover included only 4; the paperback included a bonus story) about some pretty creepy subjects.
    • I have been a King fan since I read Carrie in high school. I adore The Stand and It especially. But The Tommyknockers really put me off him for a while. HATED that book. Lately I have been reading him again: The Cell, Under the Dome (good but for a poor ending) and this one.
    • One story, "Big Driver", concerns a writer who is raped and left for dead. Her survival tale is tension-filled. I also liked "A Good Marriage" where a woman married to a serial killer finds out about her husband's activities.
    • A-
  • Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
  • Specials by Scott Westerfeld
    • Books 2 and 3 of the Uglies trilogy.
    • I read Uglies last month and was irritated by the premise that every girl-based dystopian series features a main character trying to dismantle her society but is still torn between two boys. Will Tally end up with Zane or David? That's really the only question to be answered because the heroine ALWAYS ends up dismantling her society.
    • In each of the books Tally gets surgery to alter her memories and her body. We spend the first third of each book waiting for her to regain her old memories so the plot will move along. Besides the "which guy" plot the other main character is a girl named Shay. She is always angry at Tally because all the guys keep falling for Tally instead of Shay.
      • How about a book where both girls get along and the boys are not the driving force of the girls' actions? If I ever write a book this will be my goal!
    • The characters use the societal slang which gets old fast. And they call each other Tally-wa and Shay-la and that also gets old fast.
    • C, C
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society & the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society & the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
    • A book series for the 9-12 year old age group. These 3 books were really good and I can't really classify them in a simple manner. Some people say they have a Lemony Snicket vibe to them and they do but that's not the whole story.
    • Mr. Benedict organizes some tests and four children pass them all and are sent on a spy mission at a boarding school in the first book. The children, Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance, are all gifted in different ways and they spend time deciphering clues to figure out the story's mystery.
    • The next two books chronicle further adventures.
    • I read the first 6 or 7 Lemony Snicket books (A Series of Unfortunate Events) but I finally gave up because each book was EXACTLY THE SAME. The orphans are left to the care of some new person to keep them safe from Count Olaf but Count Olaf shows up in disguise. The children know it's Olaf but the adults are oblivious and it's up to the children to get themselves out of a jam. And there were 13 books in the series. Ugh.
    • The Benedict Society books are all have different story lines so you never know how the problems will be solved until they are.
    • A-, B+, B+
  • One Day by David Nicholls
    • The two main characters, Emma and Dexter, spend one night together on July 15, 1988 and the novel covers their lives on that day for the next 20 years.
    • Emma starts out slowly in life, taking a crummy waitress job before finding success while Dexter starts out successfully and then goes downhill.
    • I really liked the book but I only liked Emma; Dex was kind of an ass.
    • I would like to see the Anne Hathaway movie to see how they transferred the story to the screen.
    • B+
  • 8 books read
  • 1 non-fiction
    • 1 biography
  • 7 fiction
    • 5 children/young adult
    • 2 general
  • Grades
    • A: 2 (2 A-)
    • B: 4 (4 B+)
    • C: (2 C)