Monday, August 31, 2009

Italian Purse

My mom's asked for pictures of my Italian Goldenrod purse. Happy to oblige.

I took it to school today, just to try it out (and show my friend Judy), and all went fine until I went to pick it up after teaching and noticed my hands covered with the black dust from the whiteboard markers. I didn't pick up my purse until I'd cleaned my hands.

I love my purse, but I'm trading it out for the cowboy purse next time I go to school. That one's dark green.

Dave wonders why someone would have a purse that required such babying.
He's a guy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


In spite of the picture above, I believe it's easier to adjust to jetlag when I'm heading out on a visit to Europe, excited about finally seeing all those sights I've noted in my guidebooks. I swallow a melatonin on the plane, skip their meal, set my watch ahead and try to adjust quickly. Of course, I've not gone to India or Hong Kong lately, which is completely inverted from our day.

We arrived home Friday. The plane arrived at 1 p.m. Our luggage arrived at the carousel at around 2 p.m. and we were through customs about 5 minutes later, even in spite of my candied citrus peel and wrapped Italian candies for my classes. We arrived at home at 4 p.m. after enduring LA traffic. I was at the grocery store at 4:15 p.m.

I stared at the meat counter. I was jetlagging, seriously jetlagging. I looked at the chicken breasts and didn't think I could remember how to cook those. The fish looked too complicated too. Definitely couldn't face crab, real or fake. The man behind the counter looked at me. I looked at him. I shrugged my shoulders, smiled wanly, and moved on. We had pasta that night, a pale imitation of what we'd had in Montepulciano for lunch, even though I'd bought the expensive, imported pasta in the store that day.

Last night was worse than the night before. I'd taken my melatonin, but the weird thing is that even though my mind insists that it's dark and I should be sleeping, I awake at midnight, hungry or something, or at 3 and find my way to the bathroom, or 5 and decide I'd better give up. I finally got up at 7:30 a.m. groggy as I was when I turned in at 9:30 the previous night.

The worst thing is I can't seem to get traction in my own life, the teaching/grading life that begins again tomorrow full bore. It's going to be an interesting week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Do They Have in Common?

San Lorenzo cloisters

San Miniato church

Luccheti d'amore

They're all in Florence. Follow our travels on

The Traveled Mind blog.


For the record, I'm sitting here in Pienza in the downstairs breakfast area, as rolling thunder and gray clouds are all around me. Occasionally, the sun breaks through, showing off the golden hills and green vineyards. The young woman behind the desk has finished her soda (giving a tiny little burp at its conclusion) and she now tells me our reservations have been accepted for dinner at Da Fiorella in town. Dave's upstairs either napping or reading. Life is good here. I hope it's good with you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looking at a Big Picture

At a dinner in the canyon last Thursday night with my husband's family, it began to rain, so a few of us adults gathered under some trees and talked and laughed and told jokes and stories and waited out the inclement weather.

The next evening, at another reunion with my side of the family, the wind picked up after dinner and the children, some in pajamas, ran around tossing Frisbees, eating round tortilla chips, climbing on the rocks while the adults milled around, talking and chatting about nothing in particular, moving from group to group as people went in for their sweaters, then returned. We were all making memories in the stiff canyon breezes that presaged that night's thunderstorms. When those storms finally arrived in the early morning, my husband and I, fit together like spoons under the quilt, watched the lightning through our window and listened to the rolling thunder until we fell back asleep.

I love all my family--aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, in-laws, grandchildren and so on--in an easy way, yet with an intensity that can sometimes catch me unawares. I know that earthly relationships can fray, fracture and break. I could drop a grandchild in a fall--would the daughter or daughter-in-law ever forgive me? I could say a harsh word when tired, offend someone. I could move far away and lose touch, or might not return a phone call or answer a letter. I could be human.

In our religion, getting married--not just in a church, but in the temple where we are sealed together for eternity--was always put out as One of the Goals--a hoop to jump through, an act of obedience. However, as I have aged, I have come to see the promises and covenants made in the temple with a new perspective. We mortals are so frail in our relationships. Father in Heaven says go forward in faith and love and give it all a try and risk and take care of each other, because if you are sealed together, it's a guarantee that you'll see each other again--even after anger, after sorrow and misunderstanding, after death. Temple sealings are evidence of the Lord's complete and enduring compassion for his children.

With my husband Dave traveling on the other side of the world, I can all too easily slide into fear or worry. There are other reminders of mortality as well, some as innocuous as declining vision, reminding me that we all are moving toward some sort of painful separation from each other. Once I asked my mother what she would do if Dad died. "Why, it's the unthinkable," she said. I don't spend every day with a long face, moping around, anticipating the worst. But I am aware that I'm in a personal golden age that could quickly crumble into a hollow. In order to press forward I remember that because His love, we are sealed.

Because of His love, we are family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Treats from the Anniversary

While I was out getting the car serviced, then doing errands and a run to the grocery store, Dave was busy yesterday morning. He went and bought me roses to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

We'd read the notes from our wedding, transcribed for us and taped in the back of our photo album (the honeymoon scrapbook is what you see with all the hearts on the cover). One piece of advice we'd been given by Joe Whitesides (who married us) was to do the little things for each other: like bring flowers and make a cake.

So, while Dave was getting me flowers, I was buying the ingredients for this cake: Torta di Whatever (recipe found at Elizabeth's Kitchen). We both remembered!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recipes in the Cloud

I just think I ought to do one more blog.
But this one really isn't.
It's just recipes in the cloud, for safekeeping and for access.
Click on the picture above or head to
If you would a particular recipe up there, send me an email (or leave a comment). It has to be one I've already cooked, or one you need right now so you can take it to the ward dinner.

(Yes, it's a wordpress blog. Peter's teaching me, little by little.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Celebrating 20 Years

So we started here, some twenty years ago, one of the real successes of our church's Single Adult social program. This was the photo we sent out in our wedding invitations.

Dave's parents are on the left, mine on the right, and our family in the middle. What a journey we started, all of us, all together, the parents flanking us, the wedding covenants in the temple giving us a sure start and we pushed on into the newness of it all: Dave, me, Chad, Matthew (on his tiptoes so he could be taller than Chad), Barbara (one of my junior bridesmaids that day) and Peter, who held my hand in every photo but one. And in that one, he's scowling fiercely.

We've talked about our marriage a lot this past week--I guess I should say I've brought it up a lot on our walks--and we shake our heads at our dumb luck at having made this enterprise get off the runway and sail into the air.

We're thicker through the middle, one of us is thinner through the hairline, we both have more wrinkles, and sag a little more through the shoulders, but the children have grown and married and have brought a new generation for us to love in our eight grandchildren.

To provide evidence that we're celebrating our twentieth, I'll be at an orientation meeting where I teach and Dave will be honing his talk to give next week at a conference. Romance? We've got it. In fact we've postponed celebrating our Big Day until next week, when he'll take me out to dinner in one of my favorite places: Pienza, Italy. I'll splurge and order the Panna Cotta (we'll share) and then we'll walk along the city wall, looking over in the countryside. Maybe we'll hold hands, occasionally I'll steal a kiss from my handsome fellow by my side, and then, like any good middle-aged couple, we'll turn in by 10 p.m.

Happy Twentieth Anniversary, Dave. I love you.

Trip Preparations

It's always fun to look at the weather in a place you plan to travel to. Either you cheer (beautiful weather) or groan (I'm gonna roast).

I noticed that Florence has a range of 17C minima to 31 maxima.

That noise you hear is a groan, because it mirrors what we have here--and I try to stay out of the heat and stay in my A/C house. This is the main reason why gelato is such a big seller in Italy during summer. That and quiet, dark churches, which I noticed now charge for admission.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Last night Dave and I went to see the movie Julie and Julia. I'd read all the pre-event publicity--the interview in the NYTimes with Nora Ephron and the reporter making an apple tart, press about the food stylists, press about the preparation of the food, director's musings (that would be Nora Ephron again), analysis by Julia Child's friends and relatives--and I was ready.

We stood in a line at our theater, while the local oldies station was having a Spin the Dial and DJ event to publicize the opening. While standing there, thinking how nice this was that they'd publicize the opening, a couple approached us and asked us if we'd like two free tickets. Sure, we said. They slipped in line in front of us--seems they got them from the oldies radio station--and they'd get the tickets then give the two free ones to us. We chatted for a bit, then she said, "You are in line for the GI Joe opening, right?"

My first thought was "Do we look like the type that goes to GI Joe movies?"
But I said, "No, we're here for the Julie/Julia movie. " Dave added, "At 7 p.m."

Oh, they said, and started asking others if they wanted free tickets. Okay, I should have known that the oldies station wouldn't gear up for a movie about cooking.

I noticed that the audience in our movie was trending toward Social Security recipients, but we found our seats, and endured the endless previews (We found one we won't be seeing: "Stepfather," about a guy who's trying to marry into a family with children and turns out to be a murderer. Great.).

It was worth it. The movie is a four forks rating, two thumbs up, a veritable delight. We laughed and laughed and were pulled into the Meryl Streep magic, and empathized with the plight of Amy Adams' character (as well as her husband). We got a kick out of seeing Blogger in its infancy, and liked the fact that the movie was about the cooking and creating of the food, rather than the emphasis found in many current shows--that of the consuming of it, as well as trying to create it under manufactured false pressures. (Note to producers: I want to see a reality show of trying to fix a balanced meal, having just discovered you are missing a key ingredient, all the while answering phone calls, supervising homework, and navigating the toys strewn around the kitchen by the toddler and the baby. None of this Iron Chef stuff. I want Iron Mother.)

I went home and thought about buying Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you know, just to have the book. Actually the scene with the chocolate cake was a real motivator.
The copies I saw on Amazon were running in the fifty-buck-and-up range for a vintage book.

So, we're eating dinner tonight and I idly look over at the bookcase. There between The Naked Chef and Fannie Farmer is. . . yes! Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I recognized the cover as being similar to the one shown in the movie last night. Can't believe it.

It's got some food stains on the front, and when I opened the cover, neatly penciled in the corner is the price: $8.00.

It's a first edition, 10th printing in August of 1965. I must have purchased it at an estate sale here in Riverside. I wonder if I bought it at Norma Baricelli's sale; she was a neighbor who also taught me at RCC. I have no idea really, but I did pick up quite a few cookbooks at that sale.

So now I check Amazon since I have more specific details, in order to find out the worth of this book. I like that it has the same printed cover as the one in the movie, and see the little "Ecole des 3 Gourmands" logo facing the title page. I wonder if it's worth that 50 bucks that I'd seen before.

It's worth $149.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Is it This? Or That?

I finished the quilt top of the red, orange, pink quilt and also stitched all the squares together for the back. I think the quilter lady is out of town, but my part is done and I'll wait for her to return.

This summer I have also stitched together a totebag (had to try the pattern), a jacket, two skirts, a purse, two quilts, finished editing my father's memoir, watched my youngest son get married, taken three short trips, maintained several blogs, written up my teaching course outlines/documents/syllabus and a couple of the first assignments.

I actually made a List of Summer Goals, and was able to check off most of them, including reading the Michael Pollan books, a novel, a "reflection" (that's what the dust jacket says) and a memoir. I also planted my garden (although its performance is abysmal), had countertops put in, new windows installed, made a trip to L.A. and didn't get killed on the freeway. And while my hands were busy, I thought about the novel I began in grad school and never fleshed out, never finished. Time to think has been one of the biggest yields of this hiatus.

I need two more summers like this one in order to catch up with everything on my To Do List. But my question is, is this summer my real life, or is it that other life, the one where I'm running like a crazy person, avoiding the grading, trying to check off the list of "have-to" chores and always tired (I counted yesterday while doing errands: a total of 100% of people, when greeted by a friend or a salesclerk asking How Are You? answered "Tired.").

Is it This? Or That?

Maybe this is why I see lots of cartoons of people shackled to their desks in their cubicles, dreaming of breaking off the cuffs. Maybe that's why I hear about people quitting their jobs and trying something smaller and new (although my son will attest to the fact that if you are thinking of quitting your daytime job and starting a small business, this is NOT the year to do that).

Maybe we all dream of that Other Life, which holds our possibilities, our potentials while we trudge along in the life that pays the bills, feeds the children, wipes up the floor, watches the tomatoes shrivel in the garden, swelters in the heat and dies knowing they missed out on their Big Chance.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Orange Red Pink Zeitgeist

The zeitgeist in the online quilt world this past few weeks seems to be nine-patches framed by white sashing. I see it everywhere. Here, and . . .

. . .here, and . . .

. . . here. I've also seen a lot of pink-orange-red combos. So I looked at my stash and decided I had a few pieces that would qualify.

I laid them out on the ironing board.

I cut them into 3 1/2" squares (finished 9" blocks are planned), then randomly pieced them together in strips.

Here's a few, slapped up on the pin wall.