Thursday, January 27, 2011

Valley Fog

In the very early hours of the morning, I sometimes take the dog into the back yard.  Here the weather is predictably either rainy or sunny; but in the early morning, there is usually a low fog that settles all around.  In the northeast—area of my childhood—where it snows relentlessly throughout the winter, the roads are often slick with ice making driving treacherous; in California’s central valley, it is the fog that causes accidents, shuts down the airport and suffocates people.  It hovers close around us.  I worked high up in a downtown building where the visibility was zero and the fog was ubiquitous.  Even on the inside of those thick windows, there was a sense of uncomfortable closeness to the air.  In the back yard, though, it feels cozy.  I can’t see clearly more than 20 feet into the yard, so I stay close to the house with the dog.  The trees are gauzy and romantic. 

It’s the end of January, and spring is palpable.  While New Englanders are struggling with the snow in their overheated houses, we are beginning to open ours up to the sun.  These days are rejuvenating—as spring should be—made all the more so by the contrast of the early morning damp to the sunny midday.  Each February, I marvel again at the timing of the wintery slide into spring.  The fog wanes and is replaced with early morning dew, but clear skies. 

My thoughts have turned to preparation for my vegetable garden—an adventure for me as I have not yet experienced a serious garden.  My tomatoes have always come from puny plants plopped into an old oak barrel or trapped in the original pots from Home Depot.  Each year the plants produce delicious “sweet one hundreds” by the threes and fours.  Friends share bags full of produce from their fertile gardens.  I have never had enough to share with my own family, let alone my friends.  The tomatoes are popped immediately into my own mouth and rarely make it into the kitchen.  Luckily, my children like tomato products but will not eat the actual fruit. 

This year—in my retirement--I will construct a raised-bed garden with the help of my son who shares my enthusiasm.  He’s the son who likes to cook and with whom I will share my riches.  Stay tuned for more on the garden. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011


We acquired a puppy a few months ago.  Still working through those puppy habits.  Early morning elimination excursions, multiple false alarms.  We have turned into doting doggie parents, the likes of which I never thought I would become.  He’s a fussy eater, so we’ve purchased and offered endless different kinds of kibble and wet food.  We’ve been told that small dogs have deficient taste buds, so they’re much pickier about what they eat—unlike large dogs that would eat scrap metal if it were available.   He has grown despite our failure as canine restaurateurs, so something is working. 

Walks have been something the dog has grown to enjoy—most of the time.  He still reverts to the occasional dead-in-his-tracks method of perambulating.  We walk a little, he stops and holds his ground, I cajole and pull—sometimes have to pick him up, and we move a little farther.  Eventually, he moves along at quite a pace, with his ears dancing in the wind and his proud little trot, looking up at me once in a while for a little reassurance.  Yesterday, we approached a woman with a leaf blower.  She stopped while we walked by, and once we were about a house away, she turned it on again, and the dog lifted off the ground in search of a landing strip far from the noise.  He landed prematurely when he reached the length of his leash.  I’m sure he was traumatized.  I was grateful the leash was around my wrist and not loose in my hands or I would have lost him for sure.

We have a temporary plywood barrier between the living room and family room so the cats can seek shelter as necessary and where the dog is barred access to the culinary morsels found in the cat litter—a tasty treat that is beyond my comprehension.  We hope he will grow out of that habit—perhaps in the summer when the cats spend most of their time outside. 

He sleeps with us.  He began his tenure with us barricaded in the kitchen at night, but he has somehow managed to persuade us that our bed is a more appropriate venue for his nightly nap.  We heard on the news that pets shouldn’t sleep with their owners for fear of contracting any of the variety of parasites they haul around on their bodies.  (I need to wrap this up.  My hacking cough is getting worse.)  The news, however, may have arrived a little too late for us.  We’ll try to persuade him to sleep in a bed on the floor. 

All told, he is a squirmy and irresistible creature of white fuzz with the temperament of a docile child—eager to please.  We relish the new experience--and so what if we’re foolishly overindulgent?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Family Food

On the inside of my kitchen cupboard, I have lists of foods that my husband and sons--and their girlfriends--like and/or dislike.  Some might consider that overly indulgent and would run their culinary regimen differently, serving food that the cook likes and letting sons and girlfriends eat or not eat.  Much to my husband's dismay--though he has his own likes, dislikes and allergies--I go to great lengths to make sure that the people who sit at my table enjoy the food available.  That means I don't serve salmon, avocado, mushrooms to my youngest, or asparagus and risotto to his girlfriend; milk products to my middle child or raw onion and peppers to his girlfriend; shrimp or eggplant to my oldest (who doesn't have a girlfriend but whose daughter eats no grains, no color, no crunch--only pasta, butter, cheese, bread--without seeds of course); and no beets, asparagus, red meat, or milk fat to my husband.  So despite the fact that I love almost all food and enjoy cooking it as well, I adjust accordingly.

I enjoy the company of my family at my table to the exclusion of most other activities.  I am willing to work hard in the hopes they will stay at the table long enough to have a conversation about our mutual lives.  Some are more talkative than others.  But when the three boys are together at the table, the conversation is engaging.  The boys are separated in years as the oldest is 11 years older than his next brother who is six years older than the youngest.  Their relationships and their childhood experiences were greatly influenced by that span in years.  They are protective of one another and close in a unique way.  When they were younger, they spurred each other on to do things they would not otherwise have done if they had been only children or closer in age.  I am quick to laugh at the stories of their childhood pranks despite the horror.  In retrospect, I believe oblivion was blissful.  These meals are worth every inconvenience in the preparation. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Food sustains me. Well, food sustains all of us.  But I think about food and write about food a lot of the time.  This was made all the more clear by an event of many years ago.

On the way to the airport in Paris in 1998 with our two younger sons, we stopped at an unnamed U.S.-based fast food chain for some fuel for the boys (remember, they were just boys), and while inside, our three backpacks were stolen.  Each of the backpacks was chock full of mementos that our sons had picked up during our five-week trek; and my husband's backpack contained all the exposed film we had shot except for what was in the camera.  A very generous English-speaking off-duty manager at said establishment agreed to accompany us to the local gendarmerie where I was obligated to file a report in order to avoid the scorn and fiscal penalty of the car leasing company. Regrettably, we arrived at noon--the sacred time for the mid-day relaxing meal in France (and many other civilized countries in the world), and the manager had to cajole the only remaining gendarme to let us in as we were otherwise going to miss our return flight home.  Suffice it to say after much report filing and rushing to the airport and getting on the plane, the boys were most grumpy and unhappy about their lost treasures--and I was feeling helpless and responsible (though I didn't actually leave the car open or invite anyone to break in) as I had not parked within sight of the windows of the restaurant. 

After our endless and miserable flight home, I put together a document that all of us could enjoy that would memorialize our adventure. I gathered pictures from magazines, books and the internet and transcribed and embellished my own journal to capture the memories that we otherwise would have experienced through the actual display of the regional sew-on patches, the Mickey Mouse hat from EuroDisney, the shells gathered on the beach in the south of France, the miniature Eiffel Towers, the miniature Mercedes Benz from the M-B museum in Munich, the fuzzy little bull from Barcelona, ad infinitum. 

Lo and behold, what should emerge on the pages of the journal but food.  I wrote down every meal--mine and sometimes others' meals--from every day of the five weeks.  It was then that I realized that food is so important a part of travel for me--especially food that is unusually good or bad.  Since that time, I have noticed that my travel journals have continued to reflect my eating habits.  I have used that love of food to improve and expand my repertoire of recipes, which I serve to my mostly-willing family and friends with great satisfaction.  

More to come on food and travel. 

Sharing Stories

As this is my first blog, a little introduction seems appropriate--an introduction that will entice you rather than induce a coma.  I am the mother of three adult sons born of two different fathers. My first marriage was declared over through mutual, if not friendly agreement, on our third wedding anniversary.  My second marriage will reach its 30th year at the end of this month.  My oldest son is on the cusp of middle age, which affirms that I am well beyond that stage in my life.  He is lucky or talented enough to have been able to make a living through some artistic endeavor his whole life.  My second son is in his late 20s.  He has not yet found a career that could be described as a "living" and is always looking for something better.  My third son is in his early 20s and works at a local zoo while attending college.  He found his career long ago and will pursue it until he has succeeded.  My husband is a hard-core golfer and teacher--in that order.

I have worked in the nonprofit or government area for my entire career, which has afforded me great personal satisfaction though few luxuries.  I have a penchant for travel and food and have somehow managed to enjoy them both.  While our house has languished in disrepair, we have managed to take our two younger sons to Europe on three occasions and travel without them on several others. 

In this blog, I will share my stories about raising sons, travel, food, household pets, and other sundry items. I hope you enjoy them.