Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Grateful Day

Fabulous breakfast fixed by dear Peggy

I used occasionally to have patients who had fractured a bone somewhere, usually either a hip or a bone their foot, and who had walked around on it for a week or more before finally going to the doctor.  I was always astonished by this and wondered what sort of nitwits they were, and how this could possibly happen.  Now I know.  There is a big element of denial.  “It doesn’t hurt THAT much.  It can’t possibly get broken.  Give it a day or two and it will be better.”  Then there is, “I don’t want to bother the doctor about what is probably nothing.  It would waste her time, and embarrass me.”   Sigh! 

I fell down my icy stairs on Friday, and gave myself a very sore foot.  I thought of going to the doctor, but convinced myself that that would be a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time, and a squandering of limited medical resources, and besides, I was too busy getting ready for Christmas.  As long as I had my tough manly boots on, it felt okay.  And it remained pretty okay until on the way home from Midnight Mass, when, as I was making my way to my friend’s car, I felt a horrible “pop,” and suddenly had a big, unignorable twinge in my tootsie. So on Christmas morning, I was whining about it to Ana, who said, “We will be there in twenty minutes to take you to the emergency room.”  I didn’t argue.  And I was soooooo grateful.  I did want to go there, because I could now see that my footie wasn’t going to get better on its own, and  I had been stewing about how to get there.  I knew that Dakki would be sound asleep for hours and there is no rousing her when she is snoozing. The obvious answer would be to call a cab, but (can you believe this?) I have never called a cab in my life, and was sort of nervous about doing it now.  I have ridden in them often, of course, but someone else had always been in charge of summoning them.  I am such a wimp about some things.  Well, the emergency doc said that it was fractured, and gave me a nice plastic boot which was supposed to give immediate relief, but didn’t.  (By the next day though, it was doing its appointed job well.)  Dakki, finally out of bed, brought me home and saw me settled, and Rachael came over later to nurse me.  We watched a horrible movie together, but that was okay because I was so grateful to have her there, and to be watching a movie with her at all. The next day, Michelle fixed me dinner, as did Ana on the subsequent day.  Then my pal Peggy brought me a lovely breakfast this morning and we had a fun little knitalong. 

I feel so blessed in having such wonderful and generous friends, and am grateful for their help.  Others, who couldn’t come to my house in the last few days (work, etc.) have said they would be by in the next day or two to see what I need.  I feel quite cosseted! 

My poor appendage and my holey mukluk!

A Remembering Day

Thanks so much to everyone who has sent kind and loving thoughts about my poor little Margaret.  Having so many understanding friends takes off some of the bitter sting.

Margaret in Mummie's arms

Margaret and her squirrel

Margaret helping with sweater blocking.

Margaret and her brother Tobias snoosing

G'bye, Mom! Hurry home from work!

Here is yet another failed attempt to teach Margaret to play fetch!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Happy and Blessed Christmas

I'm wishing a Happy and Blessed Christmas to all my wonderful blogfriends!  And incidentally, a Happy New Year too.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Very Sad Day

Mary Margaret Ryan
1995 - 2013
Requiescat in Pace, dear Margaret

This morning the sweetest, kindest, most joyful little doggie who ever lived went to the Rainbow Bridge.  We miss her terribly.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Most Exciting Day!

Nipper overseeings the job.

Several years ago, I read an article about Oma bicycles, and I desperately wanted one.  But they are oh so expensive!  Rebecca was against the idea altogether, and carried on a perpetual anti-Oma lobby  whenever my thoughts drifted again in that direction – they cost waaaay too much, are probably too heavy, are made for the flat Netherlands and not for hilly Seattle. While I still desired one of those lovely bicycles, I had to admit that she was correct on every point.  She was supportive in that she agreed to go with me to the Dutch Bike shop to look at them, but kept reaffirming her view that getting one would be a foolish purchase.  The day we tried to go to the bike shop, we were (or at least I was,) disappointed to find that it was in the midst of moving to a new location, and hence, not open for a week of two. A sign, she said.  I conceded that an Oma was not in the cards for me, and got another bicycle (pre-owned) which was about a tenth the price.  A smart move on my part. My trusty little cheapo bike served me well.  My thoughts, however occasionally drifted towards the Oma. Then a few weeks ago, I looked at a blog that I usually find irritating (query to self: why do I even look at it?  Just to be annoyed? Probably.)  There I saw a beautiful, exquisite, gleaming bicycle that had Dutch bicycle features, but was not Dutch.  It was native of San Francisco and was a far more reasonable price.  What to do??????  The bicycle I had was perfectly adequate.  The real advantage, in my view, of the faux Oma was that it would be easier to get on and off of – especially for an old lady whose hips are not as flexible as they once were.  Also, it was designed so that one could ride it in a skirt without having to hike the skirt up around those inflexible hips in order to avoid getting it caught in the chain.  

Aaaaaargh!  I had managed to get over my Oma-lust, but here was a whole new excruciating dilemma!  I stewed for several days.  Rebecca, this time, was encouraging, and so was my little Rachael.  I needed to give myself a retirement present!  So, with doubts and trepidation, I sent for a Public bike. As it was due to come on Monday, I scheduled waiting by the door all day so as not to miss the FedX person. I was so excited.  And best of luck, both Michelle and Samos visited that day.  Michelle was there when the bicycle arrived, and Samos came shortly after and helped me put it together.  I think that pleasure shared is far more pleasurable, and so it was another gift that they happened to be there.  Also, it was supposed to come 99% assembled, which it did, but I thought that the 1% probably would be beyond me.  Samos had it together in a flash.  I am lucky to have such good friends – friends who were there at just the right time. 

My alter ego

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Another Fun Day

Yesterday was the first day that the joys of my new phase in life really set in. Actually, I was feeling a little ambivalent about the day, for while I had lots of fun events scheduled, I feared that maybe I had too many fun events scheduled, in which case, they would cease to be fun.

To begin the day, Rachael and Lillian came for breakfast.  Breakfast is one of the many perfect times to have company over for a meal, and Rachael and Lillian were delightful guests.  Lillian and Tobias bonded immediately and got on wonderfully.

The March of the Parols
For the last bunch of years, I have wanted to go to Simbang Gabi, but have always been working.  This year, I would have been working, but – wasn’t!  Yay!  Simbang Gabi for me – and even better, Rachael and Lillian coming too! In the Philippines, a novena, the nine days preceding Christmas, is celebrated with Masses at dawn each day. 

Fortunately, Mass was not at dawn in the Cathedral, or it might not have been quite so well attended.  The service was beautiful, both visually and every other way. And such fun!  Rousing music, glowing lights, gleaming color, and joyful people everywhere!  I was soooo glad to be able to attend this year. You can see some really good pictures here.

A very appreciative audience at Mount St. Vincent
Immediately after Mass, off to Mount St. Vincent for a little Christmas Concert for the residents.  This is always a moving event, as the residents are the most appreciative audience.  Many who have not said a word all year, suddenly come to life and sing, and even the most apathetic seem to sparkle. 

Then home to collapse.  I was eating my dinner and thinking, “This would be the perfect time for a bike ride.  The weather is fine, and I feel like a bit of exercise.  What was I dreading about this day?  It hasn’t been too busy at all.  Now I can settle down and have a nice relaxing read.  But wait!  Aren’t I scheduled to usher at a concert this evening?  Oh dear!  The weather is freezing and I so don’t want to go out again.  I’m too tired to ride anywhere.”  Ah the complexities of our lives, with the weather suddenly changing from quite perfect to so very imperfect for a bicycle ride, and all in an instant – and with no change whatever in the thermometer or barometer!  But it was worth it.  The Opus 7 concert was preternaturally beautiful, and intensely moving, especially John Meuhleisen's Requiem in honor of the people murdered at Newtown. This wonderful piece was like a cold blast of horror tempered with hope for the living whose lives must go on. Music really does have the power to heal.

Martha and Joe

Monday, December 9, 2013

An Anxious Day

Lillian and Rachael looking (and being) adorable!

Everyone is asking me “How is retirement going?”  Well, pretty much the same, except that I haven’t been to work.  Last week was a marathon of feeling busy and a little overwhelmed by life.  When Rachael asked what I was doing to keep myself so busy, I really couldn’t say.  Basically, not much! At least nothing noteworthy. Besides whinging about the weather, of course!  On Saturday, the Ross/Ryan/Warner group took me out to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. We walked through frigid climes, through the Denny Woo Gardens to Chinatown.  This is a pleasant walk at nearly any weather, rain and sleet excepted.  We stopped to view the chickens, who seemed happy to see us and to not be minding the freezing temperatures.  At the restaurant, I was complaining about the stressful demanding evening coming up. Rachael explained to Lillian – “Of all the traumatic things that happen in a year, Annie’s (that’s me) top stress event is preparing choir treats.” And that’s true.  I generally put it off till it can be put off no longer, and then freak out. Then I knuckle down, cook till midnight, get up at four and freak some more.  This year was no exception, especially when the yeast on my little pita breads failed, turning them into things which resembled leather more than breads.  “Call them crackers,” Rebecca advised when I frantically called her. The morning of, my partner, my wonderful friend John of JohnandPeggy, came to fetch me and my food.  I was not ready, of course, but with his soothing calm and his efficient help, we got everything done and transported in time.

I did make cookies well in advance.  They are both from recipes I hadn’t made in years, but used to make when Rebecca was wee.  We lived in the middle of an almond orchard which had one persimmon tree, so I made lots of persimmon desserts. These cookies were a favorite.

Persimmon Cookies

1 cup persimmon pulp*
1 tsp soda
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp each, cloves, nutmeg, and salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nutmeats (I use walnuts which I toast a bit first)

Cream the first four ingredients. Add the egg and mix it in well.  Whisk together the flour and spices, and stir them in. Stir in the raisins and nuts.
Bake on a greased (or use your silpat) cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. 

Marcia’s Ginger Cakes (from my friend Marcia Bates)

2 cups flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup butter

Mix the dry ingredients well, then, using your hands, combine in the butter until it is well distributed and the whole is crumbly.  Pat down into a 9” square cake pan, and bake at 325 for 45-60 minutes.  While still warm, cut the ginger cakes into finger shaped pieces.  Carefully remove the pieces from the pan and store in a covered tin.

I recalled that this recipe was really quick and easy, but it seemed way less quick this time.  I think that in the past, I must have mixed in the butter with my food processer.  I didn’t do this today because (a) the recipe said use your hands, and (b) – the main reason – the food processer is heavy and hard to get out of the cupboard where I keep it.  So, if you have a food processer – use it.

*Use very ripe hachiya persimmons. These are best for baking, while fuyu are ready to eat.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Bittersweet Day

Ron and Liz greet me every day as I arrive!  

At last, a day long in coming, and both eagerly anticipated and dreaded at the same time.  Just as the day I graduated from nursing school was end of an long arduous slog - the closing of a chapter and the opening of a wonderful and exciting new one - and held a mixture of relief at a job done along with sorrow about the parting of so many colleagues, Saturday marked another chapter drawing to a close. And a closing which created similar feelings.  Nursing is difficult and stressful at times, but at all times, it is rewarding, giving one a sense of having a place in the world and of being able to improve the lives and well being of others. And Virginia Mason is, I think, one of the best places to be a nurse.

Darling Vinita was the first one to greet me when I first started as a unit secretary!

I will always remember Mary as being a big part of one of my happiest work days ever.

I don’t really enjoy being in the spotlight, and in groups, am usually striving to keep myself in the sidelines as an observer – “like a giant white mouse, creeping along the periphery” – as my husband used to say.  (I might add that we are both quite fond of small rodents, mice and rats in addition to the usual guinea pigs and gerbils, and so this was not the insult you might imagine.) Anyhow, in order to avoid attention, I refused to have a party, and had planned to just creep off, mouse like, into the work-world sunset.  But then, I could not do it.  So I made some cookies (a mini-party) and said goodbye to folks one at a time.  I had planned to take pictures of my dear fellow nursing staffers, but somehow, I ended up in most of them.  So this really must seem like a vanity photo shoot.  (As Karma, after the first batch, I dropped my camera and broke it, so some of the pics are from friend’s cell phones.)   I will miss seeing all these wonderful people every day, but I hope to see them occasionally in the future!    

Liz and sweet Apple

A gift from my dear Lovable Lizzy
As you can see, I work with a divine and divinely diverse of people.  These are only the last two days worth.  I'm sorry I missed saying goodbye (and getting photos) of so many others.  This is the first job I have ever had where one can truly say that there is not a single annoying one in the group.  I love them all!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Fun (and a tiny bit triumphant) Day

Pasta is pretty in pink!

I saw this recipe in the New York Times, and really, really wanted to make it.  It looked sooo delightfully pink and jovial, and I love beets.  I felt that its uniqueness would most appeal to daring eaters, so this eliminated my aunties – both incredible food wimps – as potential guests.  It had to be adventurers who love beets.  All this pointed directly to The Twins.  We decided to have it at their house, so I prepared the sauce and they prepared everything else.  And indeed, it was très yummy! And the evening was très, très fun.  Usually when we play Skat, I am a chronic loser, but the first hand was one of the best I have ever had.  Ever! In my entire Skat life!  This made me pretty cheery, but I tried to restrain my gleeful smirks.  I find gloating winners even more annoying than pouting losers.  (Usually however, these two traits are combined in the same person.)  I hope I managed. 

I recommend this recipe, both because it is very tasty, and visually impressive, but also it is pretty quick to make – provided you have a food processor to grate the beets.  The beet sauce and ricotta topping can all be done ahead, and then the pasta cooked at the last minute.  Try it and amaze your non-wimpy friends!

The table looked colorful and festive. In short - exquisite!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Sisyphean Day

They just keep coming down!

But there is the occasional bright spot!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Birthday

A mish mash of Christmas decor  preparations

Actually, it’s not a birthday - or I should say not my birthday - but on my real one, Samos and I, although we tried, did not manage to get together and have been unable to until now.  So we celebrated it with a lovely lunch at a new-to-us vegetarian restaurant and some fun shopping.  He knew that Rebecca and I would not have been to this restaurant, as it required a long drive and some tricky navigation, neither of which are my special enthusiasms.  Au contraire!  I loathe both of them.  So it was a fun treat, with good company and delicious food.  Then we went plant shopping (for him – although I could not resist getting at least one.)  I thought that the nursery was unusual in that it combined a Christmas store and a nursery.  However, when I tried to google it, I discovered that this is not unusual at all, au contraire again – it is très ordinaire! There are lots of them.  The folks at Rosso’s do the Christmas décor for many local stores and business, including some pretty big names – store-wise.

Then we went to an antique mall that we like, and I got some soup spoons, my lack of which has been highlighted by several recent winter meals.  Samos made a new friend.  Don’t they seem to be smiling at one another?

This second one seems not quite so charmed by him.

My birthday gift made me shriek with joy!  There it is on the very left.  A Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee commemorative tea caddy.  Yay! Why do I love these Royal Family tchotchkes?  I can’t say.  My personal connection with them is pretty minimal.  In fact, non-existent, but nonetheless, I adore them all, along with all the related memorabilia.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Banner Day

Happy Birthday to Dakki!  It’s the fiftieth anniversary of her thirty-ninth birthday.  Imagine being the same age for fifty years.  It seems impossible, but Dakki has done it.  I recall once, years ago, when Dakki had been thirty-nine for several decades, the two of us were in a bank setting up a new account, or some such thing.  The bank clerk asked Dakki how old she was, and she promptly replied, “Thirty-nine.”  Then, he asked for her date of birth.  Not being in the least adept at quick mental math, she simply gaped at him.  As I promptly supplied the appropriate date, Dakki looked relieved, and I believe that the bank man was relieved as well. 

So once again, Happy Birthday to my darling and adored Auntie!

She seems to be quite the party animal!  Some of Dakki’s friends gave her a party earlier in the day, and she is getting another party on the weekend, as everyone was going to work today.  But alas, I was ill and couldn’t go. I managed to pull myself together enough to heat up some leftovers and make my superior five minute lemon cake so that we could have a tiny party on the proper day – just the two of us.  After our dinner and cake, we watched an episode of The Irish RM – one of my favorite Masterpiece Theaters from about the time that Dakki had been thirty-nine for only about thirty years. It was a nice birthday for Dakki and a nice sick day for me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Energetic Morning

Amanitas make me happy - looking at them, I mean - not tasting them. 

A few months ago, I noted that Rebecca and I had started running together several times a week.  It would be more accurate to say that she prods me on, and I whine, trotting along at a pace barely faster than walking. One could by no stretch of the imagination actually call it running.  Meanwhile she runs circles around me just like Leslie did when we took him on country walks. And when I am not there, she runs, runs, runs.  Real running.  But about six weeks ago, we both had almost simultaneous injuries which slowed us down and necessitated a recovery period.  I did something to my hip and she did something to a tendon or two.  So it had been a goodly time since we had “run” together.  We were a little nervous about how it would go when we recommenced our regimen.  The very first time, when she finally managed to coax me into running shoes and out of the house, we went .8 mile, and I thought I was going to die.  But gradually we got better, and were going a whole 5K (sounds much more impressive than 3.5 miles, doesn’t it.)  I was afraid that after the hiatus, I would have regressed back to .8 or less, and so, she admitted, was she.  For several days, I managed to come up with (really) legitimate excuses, but finally, I had none, and we agreed on our restarting date.  The morning of, I was hoping that she wouldn’t call to roust me out of bed, and she later confessed that she was a bit hopeful that I would refuse to get up.  But I didn’t.  Both being a tiny bit anxious about our injuries, we agreed that we would not overdo it.  No problem there for me.  I never over do it, but Becca has high exercise ideals.  So, we are back in the saddle with our fun morning runs.  This time we went through Volunteer Park, saw lovely amanitas, rode the camels, and visited the Civil War Cemetery.  

I knew that there was a Civil War Cemetery, and I even knew approximately where it was.  In fact, I had gone past it many times without ever really taking in that it was there.  So I was happy to slow down, take some deep breaths and a few pictures.

Volunteer Park Camel

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Miraculous Day

Our mittis are off to a good start.  Note Peggy's special note-to-self, a useful hint when knitting.

Peggy was coming to brunch and a knitalong, and I was excited about fixing a biggish breakfast, getting together, starting our mittis, and just having a pleasant morning of food,  knitting and chatter.  The evening before, I had debated about whether to cast on the first mitti, or to wait and do it in the morning when Peggy  was there, working on hers.  This was a real decision, because on one hand, I was enmeshed in knitting a little scarf, and wanted to continue with that, but on the other hand, starting a new knitting project is sometimes both traumatic and humiliating – requiring several do-overs and a certain amount of bad language.  I decided to work on the scarf and be humble the next morning, publicly starting my mitti.  Minutes later, I came to the end of the scarf’s first ball of yarn, and looked in my knitting bag for the second.  Nothing!  It must have fallen out and be lurking somewhere in my bed, I thought.  But after taking the bed linen apart, I sadly concluded that it was not there.  I looked under the bed and sadly concluded that I had better do a much more thorough job next time I vacuumed my bedroom.  I looked in all my other knitting bags.  No yarn.  I prayed to St. Anthony, but to no avail.  So, grumbling,  I cast on the mittis and worked on them a bit to get them going, and then switched to another Long Abandoned Project. (Some good came of this, as my enthusiasm for the LAP was rekindled, and I can actually foresee finishing it in the not terribly far future.) 

In the morning, Peggy and I had a nice brunch, had fun knitting, and said some more prayers to St. Anthony.  Peggy is a particularly good pray-er, so I was confident that when she left and I went upstairs and looked again for my ball of yarn, I would find it.  But such was not the case.

Nero Wolfe biscuits

The next morning, her husband John, a fellow choir member, came up to me after practice and asked if I had lost a ball of yarn in the choir room.  There was one in the little storage shelf under his choir desk!  Well, a few days before, I had knitted there a minute or two while waiting for my pal Barbara so we could work on the choir notebooks.  It must have dropped out of my bag then.  But what a miracle – that just John would have ben assigned that choir desk, and would notice the yarn, and would think it might be mine.  Three miracle-lets! The ball had been there for days, and we had already had a practice session without anyone noticing my yarn, let alone knowing that it would be mine.  Saint Anthony has performed yet another of his many miraculous miracles.  And once again, I am ever so grateful to him.  

Becca-made jam