Almost Like a Day at the Beach

I mentioned that my mother was always the prophet of doom every July 4 when she announced that summer was half over. For my Denver grandkids, the summer was half over way sooner than the Fourth of July. Because tick tock tick tock, some of them go back to school as early as next week.

I have been promising Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole all summer long that I would take them to Pirates Cove, a smallish water park in one of Denver’s suburbs. A few days ago, I looked at my calendar and realized that it was yesterday or never. I have plans the rest of the week. No matter what Alice Cooper says, school isn’t out forever. In fact, they go back this coming Monday. God be with the three of them and their teachers. The other four Denver grands go back the following week. The Vermont grands have a bit more time, I believe.

Anyhoo, I spent yesterday at Pirates Cove in the hot sun watching the three of them swim and play and get huge buckets of water dumped on them and eat lunch and swim some more. Even I got a bit into the action (after I recovered from stuffing myself into a swim suit).

Not being as young as I used to be, I was tired last night. Thus, you will have to look at these photos and simply imagine what we did yesterday; then you can write your own blog post in your mind…..

Early in the day, before the fun had really begun.

Cole certainly enjoyed his cheeseburger for lunch.

And then there was the mid-afternoon snack of Nutella cups. Cole has been watching Kids You Tube. Notice the leg pop. And the dirty face.

And then it was time to leave for home, though a quick stop at Sonic for a limeade was a must-do.

I don’t know if they were as tired as I, but we certainly had a fun day.

A Pickle a Day

It all started with a tall bouquet of fresh dill at the farm store. A beautiful, fragrant bouquet of dill. A big bouquet that told me there would be pickling cucumbers somewhere nearby.

Sure enough, just on the other side of the counter were stacks and stacks of pickling cucumbers, small and lumpy and ugly,  but perfect for making pickles. I bought three or four pounds of cucumbers and took them home to make and can some dill pickles.

My annual canning day is something to which I look forward every year. I used to can tomatoes and jelly and peaches and dilly beans as well as cucumber pickles, but I’m not quite the woman I used to be (in so many ways).

To illustrate my diminishing capacities, though it was the dill that set me down the pickling path, I went home without buying dill. I went back a few days later and bought the bunch of dill about which I waxed so eloquently above. It was so big, I could scarcely fit it in the back of my Yellow Bug. My car smelled like dill for two full days.

When I got home, I put it in a vase to stay fresh. It was so tall that it wouldn’t fit on my counter without hitting the ceiling. I made it work by chopping off the bottom quarter…..

Pickling Day arrived. I washed out all the glass jars I could scrounge up and found some unused bands and lids. I cut up my cukes into spears and put them in the clean jars along with the vinegar brine, the garlic, the mustard seeds, and some of the fresh dill. Alas, I had purchased only enough cucumbers for six pints of pickles, and the dill looked as big and full as ever!…..

I looked at the dill for a full day before deciding that I couldn’t throw it away. It was too beautiful. So I trekked back to the farm store and bought some more cukes, having decided to make more dill pickle, this time slices. Of course, I didn’t have any more jars, not even in the basement where I can usually find a few dusty masons. So I went to the grocery store and bought a case of canning jars.

I made and processed my dill pickle slices and they were beautiful……

Still, the dill bouquet continued to look virtually unused. I tried to talk myself into just tossing what was left, but it was so pretty.

I decided to venture into new territory and make dill pickle relish. This involved chopping. Lots of chopping. If I was a normal person, I would have used my food processor. But I wanted relish that was cut into larger chunks and cramped my hands from chopping….

I filled six jars and processed them in the water bath. Afterwards, I still had eight cucumbers left, six half pint jars, and, yes, dill. I gritted my teeth, chopped up the remaining cucumbers, and finished my day by making sweet pickle relish.

As the relish cooked in its water bath, I hollered at Bill to open the door. I ran outside and tossed the remaining dill in the trash with my eyes closed and my teeth clenched. Pickling season was over. And I am left with six jars of dill pickle spears, six jars of dill pickle slices seven jars of dill pickle relish and six jars of sweet pickle relish. Enough pickle products, my friends, to make even Caroline Ingalls proud. Little house on the prairie, indeed…..

And it all started because of a tall bouquet of fresh dill from the farm store. The dill cost me $3.99. The cucumbers, jars, spices, and time commitment cost me much more.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Sentence is Death

Author Anthony Horowitz is one of my favorite writers. He is the creator of and writer for two of my favorite Brit mystery programs: Foyle’s War and Midsommer Murder. He has also joined the legion of folks who have written Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but done a much better job of most. With his  2018 novel The Word is Murder, he came up with one of the most clever story ideas I’ve ever come across as a reader. He continues this clever idea in The Sentence is Murder.

What is the idea? With a wink at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Horowitz writes himself –not a takeoff on himself, but actually his very own person — as a character in the book. In fact, he is Dr. Watson to London private investigator Daniel Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes.

London attorney Richard Pryce is found dead in his home, having been hit over the head with a bottle of expensive wine. It seems clear from the get-go that one of his clients — a famous, if odd writer is the murderer. After all, she threatened to kill him with a bottle of wine in front of a restaurant full of people. Still, just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, nothing is as it seems.

though Horowitz (the character) is getting much better at figuring out the nuances of the mystery, he still is pretty klutzy when compared to the much-more astute Hawthorne.

The mystery is good, but the real fun is reading about Horowitz’s insecurities and problems around writing and producing real-life shows like Foyle’s War as part of the story line. And it was fun to get to learn a bit more about the heretofore secret life of the brilliant detective Hawthorne.

I loved this book, and can’t wait for the next.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Pucker Up
Yesterday was my annual pickle making day. Every year about this time, I buy pickling cukes and fresh dill from the farmers’ market and make pickles. A few years ago, I forgot to put dill in my dill pickles. This year, while I remembered the dill, it took me two tries to get the brine correct. Nevertheless, they all sealed properly, and that’s a good thing. I will open them in a few weeks and give them a try. I still have dilly beans left over from last year, so they’re a no-go this year…..

Cooking Korean
Court and his family came for dinner last night. I have been dying to try the Korean-styled short ribs that our AZ neighbors made for us last winter. So when they confirmed they were coming, I drove to a nearby Asian market and bought some flanken short ribs. Those are the kind that are cut flat, as opposed to the English-styled short ribs…..

I followed our neighbors’ recipe to the T, using vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, onion, and so forth. While I didn’t have the luxury of marinating them as long as they should have marinated, they were quite delicious. I, of course, forgot to take a photo, but here is what they look like when they’re grilled (courtesy of our neighbors)…..

I made lo mein to go along with the ribs. Yes, I know I’m mixing Asian cuisines, but I got the vote of approval from my diners.

School’s So Close I Can Taste It
Yesterday, Kaiya and many others visited the middle school where she will be attending soon to get an idea of such things as the location of the lunch room and where she might find her locker. She already looks older and more mature. She was dressed in skinny jeans with a black and white shirt, black and white earrings, and black and white Chuck Taylors like these…..

She couldn’t possibly have looked any cuter. She admitted they were her mother’s shoes, at least originally. She expressed a desire for a pair of Chuck Taylors, and her mother told her to try on a pair that she owned and only wore once. Lo, and behold, they apparently now wear the same size. Stop growing please.

And it’s now August, so there’s that.


Looking Back

While Bill and I were having lunch at a neighborhood Italian restaurant yesterday, we began reminiscing about our 2008 three-month tour of Europe.

“I wonder what we were doing 11 years ago today,” I asked him. Not being a psychic, he didn’t know the answer. I started thinking out loud: we got home on August 8 of that year. We spent two or three days in Paris before we hopped on the plane for home. Therefore, I thought, we must have been making our way to Paris about this time 11 years ago. When we got home, I looked it up. In fact, we were in Brittany, and it was a day or two before we made it to Normandy.

Just for fun, I thought I would copy and paste the July 31, 2008, post from the blog I kept during our travels: The Reluctant Traveler. Enjoy my trip down Memory Lane.

Brittany Coast

Bill and I seriously packed a lot into our Thursday.

We got a fairly early start, and drove more than 500 kilometers to get to our final destination of St. Malo, in Brittany, the most northwestern region of France. Since we had driven so hard on Tuesday, we took it a bit easier Thursday, stopping every hour or so for an espresso.

Before getting to St. Malo, we decided to stop in Dinan for lunch, even though it was only a few kilometers away from our hotel. Dinan is considered by some to be the finest town in Brittany. And it is a very pretty town.

What has surprised me is how different various parts of each country can be. I know this is true also in the United States, but this uniqueness is funny when you consider how small Italy and France are in comparison to the US. During the various times we have been in France during this adventure, for example, we have been in a Riviera resort, an area that felt almost like Germany, the Pyrenees Mountains, the beautiful Province region, and now an area that feels as though we are in Great Britain.

Dinan could have been a town in Great Britain. The buildings look just like those in Wales or Scotland. The native people look very Celtic, with reddish hair. Still, despite the appearance of being in Great Britain, the language is very French.

At one time, Brittany was independent of France. According to our guidebook, back in the 1490s, a French king married a poor, innocent 14-year-old Brittany girl, and, as a result, Brittany became part of France. But the people have maintained their independent spirit, which is why the feeling of the town is Celtic though the language is French. One of the benefits that came out of this marriage was free roads. Believe it or not, that still holds true today, with Brittany being the only part of France that doesn’t charge a toll for use of its highways. Talk about hanging onto history!

The Brittany region is reknown for its crepes and its bowls of hard cider, so that is what Bill and I had for lunch. Bill had a crepe with bacon and eggs, and I had a crepe with scallops, leeks, and cream. We each had a bowl of cider, which are actually small bowls that they fill with delicious hard apple cider. Ours had little handles, but as we shopped, I saw some for sale with no handles at all.

As we walked around a bit, we marveled at the Celtic feel of the place. The street entertainers included the performer of Celtic music pictured here, and, randomly, Peruvians singers. Go figure.

Following lunch, we checked into our hotel, and then went into the town of St. Malo for a visit. St. Malo has a very medieval feel to it, with the large wall surrounding the town. But the town sits on the banks of the Atlantic and is the most popular of the Breton seaside resorts. The beaches were appealing, sandy and large. There are old forts out in the water just outside the walls. When the tide is right, it looks like you can just walk out to those forts. At one time, the town must have been hard to penetrate.

After we walked around the wall, we went into the town to look around. They were having some sort of festival, and we watched the children having races up the wall and different musicians and dancers performing. Bill had a delicious waffle, called a gaufrey maisson, with apricots. We then split a huge dish of moule marniere (mussels with leeks and wine), and some wine…..

We will take off on Friday for our trip to Normandy.

Driving Me Crazy

I dislike driving. Well, to be perfectly honest, I hate being in a car, whether or not I’m the driver. I had a friend who loved to drive. City streets or interstate highways; it didn’t matter. She just liked being behind the wheel of a car.

Bill asked me recently what happened to make me so fearful of car travel. I pondered it for a bit, and finally reached a bizarre conclusion. I think part of my fear of car travel has to do with the fact that I was in the hospital for 30 days in 2011 because of a bowel perforation. I recognize that 30 days in the hospital has nothing to do with driving. It’s just that the experience made me realize that bad things really can happen to me. Prior to that, my brain knew that fact, but my heart didn’t.

When I was younger, driving didn’t bother me at all. I can’t say that, like my friend, I loved to drive. It’s just that I didn’t really give it a second thought. When I lived in Leadville, for example, without a second thought, I would get into my snazzy red mustang and drive over Independence Pass to Aspen for lunch. For those of you unfamiliar with Independence Pass, it is perhaps the scariest mountain pass in Colorado. The road is narrow, and there is a tiny little stone fence that theoretically prevents you from death. What’s worse, many RVs travel that pass. If you come face to face with an RV, you close your eyes and hope for the best.

But yesterday reminded me that car travel — especially in the city — is really not fun. Bill had some deliveries to make for a property tax case on which he is working. He needed to drive downtown to the office of the Board of Assessment Appeals to drop off some copies of a brief. Then he needed to drive about as far west as you can go before you run into the mountains — specifically, Golden, Colorado, to drop off copies of the same brief.

“I’ll go with you,” I told him. “It will be fun. It will be an adventure.”

Well, adventure is not quite the word I would choose. It was hot. Traffic was awful. There were accidents that slowed traffic. On two separate occasions as we were driving on busy streets, a broken stop light caused us to go a whopping 2 mph, that is, when we were moving at all.

Still, when we reached our final destination — the Jefferson County Building, which is appropriately referred to as the Taj Mahal because of its extravagance and frankly, its lovely location — I sat downstairs as Bill ran the brief up to the necessary office. I sat in the lobby and looked out the huge windows at this view…..

In my next life, that’s the building in which I want to work. Of course, I would have to live in Golden, which is far, far away from the rest of our Denver family. (But since it’s my next life, maybe they will live there too.)

While dropping off the paperwork, Bill characteristically befriended one of the support staff. He mentioned that he was hungry, and she told him about a pizza place in Golden with delicious Chicago-style pizzas.

Off we went. Unfortunately, this was one of the times that we experienced the broken stop light. A solid 20 minutes later (and it should have been a five-minute drive), we sat ourselves down at Wrigley’s Bar and Grill…..

The pizza was ordinary. But the beer was cold. And this sign indicated to us that food wasn’t the top priority at this particular watering hole…..

We survived our “adventure” with plans to spend today in the car for as little time as possible.