Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blowin' Like Stink

A storm has come in this evening.  This is kind of a bummer for me because I don't know how to use Chuck's snow plow, and he is in California.  I will park out by the main road and walk in, I guess.  The wind was gusting so hard that it blew the cover off the hot tub.  There was a series of thumps and bumps and scraping sounds that I didn't recognize; and I called Chuck to have his company while I walked around to the different porches, finding toppled items. 

So, how did I amuse myself this evening after work?

First, I did a few chores outside.  Since the wind was blowing so hard, I tied my (rather voluminous) skirt in a knot in front of me, so I wouldn't trip on it.  I took a metal washtub full of ash from the stove and dumped it in the creek bottom; I filled the same tub with wood that is cut to fit the cook stove and took it inside.  I rescued a few things from the yard that I didn't think should get wet or buried:  the bags of rock salt Chuck bought a few days ago, and his car roof rack.

I had a glass of wine and made myself same pho.  Actually, it was just instant ramen.  But instead of using the nasty little flavor packet, I happened to have some special instant pho broth and a couple of pho spice packets.  Those went into the pot; and I added frozen peas and corn, and cracked an egg into it.  Chuck called me while I was eating.  I told him I was eating pho, but not real pho.  "Oh!"  he said.  "Feaux pho."

I concocted a crock pot stew of chicken and Lima beans and put it on to simmer. 

I dusted the upstairs, then cleaned off my closet shelf. 

I spent some time sorting out family photos.  I have become the keeper of the photos, it seems.  I keep finding envelopes of them in boxes and the trunk I acquired after Dad died. 

My reverie was interrupted by a commotion downstairs.  I had opened Jack's cage door in case he wanted to fly around the house a little.  He took a lengthy flight and wound up on a high windowsill over a ledge, then apparently decided he could get himself down.  I was scared to clamber out on the ledge and get hmi, but I did.  He thanked me by shitting on my shoulder.  Thanks, Jack.  Time for bed. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


The house is silent and cognac tickles the back of my throat: a gentle burn all the way to my inner ear.  I can hear the drier tumbling away downstairs, and the constant white noise of the blower in the wood stove.  But the place is too quiet in Chuck's absence.

His step-father is ill, out in Santa Barbara.  I kissed him goodbye when I left the house this morning, thinking that he would be here when I got home; he called me at about 9:30AM, though, and told me that Papa had spent the night in the hospital, and that he was thinking of going out there.  By ten, his bag was packed and by eleven, he was driving to California.  Maybe he will stay there for a week.  It's so odd to be with a man who is self-employed.  He doesn't need to get time off or decide when he will return.  He can just go.  It fills me with admiration that he loves his family as much as he does.  And, if you are a long term reader of my blog, you may know that I waited too long to go home, and my dad died before I was able to get there.  I'm glad he could go.  Not that I think Papa is going to die.  I'm just appreciative that Chuck is able to make his own decisions about his time.

I miss him, though.  I like to have a long chat with him after I get home from work.  If he were here, I would tell him that we had the first meeting of the Furnishings Task Force today.  I'm on it:  huzzah!  My school is relocating to a brand new building, currently under construction, in August; and the preparations for moving  are already under way.  The task force has to figure out stuff like:  what is built-in versus modular versus a furnishing; what is worth taking with us when we move; whether other items can be sold; what furnishings we need and how many?  Attendees spent part of the time peering at a vast spreadsheet itemizing every possible furnishing from chairs to an ice machine; and part of the time gazing at detailed floor plans depicting cupboards, shelves, counters with cupboards below; cupboards above, etc..etc..

Tonight's big story at school was Adriana R.'s bloody nose.  I noticed that Adriana was contending with a small nosebleed not long after she arrived for classes at 7 PM.  It got worse.  One of the other students took her to the cafeteria where she could get more paper towels when it started to flow pretty fast.  I found her there, applied pressure to the bridge of her nose and put a bag of ice on her neck, then her forehead.  At about 7:45 it stopped bleeding and she decided to go back to her class.

Only a short time later, though, I found her standing by the trashcan in her classroom, bleeding.  A lot.  She could barely get tissues to her nose fast enough and some of the other students and volunteers were getting nervous.  I took her down to the teachers' lounge  We have a sofa in there; so I got her to sit down with her face over a trash can, got a couple bails of napkins and more ice.  It just gushed on and on.  Another student came downstairs to check on us and before long, I was holding ice on Adriana's forehead while the other student and I each put pressure on one side of Adriana's nose.

After an hour and a half, she was dizzy and hucking big gouts of blood from the back of her throat.

No way was that nose going to stop bleeding! 
No insurance.
Husband at work in Bountiful, about 30 minutes away.
Husband with no cell phone.
No kids in the family old enough to drive.
No clinic within a half-hour that was still open. 

Ugh.  ER.

Finally, we got the name of her husband and the number for the place where he works.  I called the number and asked if someone could please go find Francisco, tell him it was a medical emergency, and he needed  to come down to Salt Lake City.  He showed up at about 9 PM with their teenage son, and they left for the ER.  I'll call her tomorrow and see how she is feeling.

It was nerve wracking.  I don't mind blood (although in this instance there was so much that I changed the trash bag in the staff lounge afterward, so as not to scare the night custodian).  I get tense when I can't decide what to do.  ER or no ER?  Will this pass or is it getting worse?  Could she actually faint?

So, I am exhausted, not because I had so many things happen tonight, but because this one big thing happened.  That was the most blood I have seen in my life.

My cognac is going to my head.  Time for bed. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Grown-Up Bullies

Bullying is something that lots of kids have to put up with.  Nathan has never complained about being tortured by a peer, but Sara has had to contend with girl-bullies.  My advice is the same that my mother told me:  get right up in her face and tell her that she is MESSING with the WRONG PERSON!  Do not back down.

It's hard, now, as an adult, to put my money where my mouth is.  I am so averse to social unpleasantness.  I'm hyper self-conscious; a people-pleaser; an overly apologetic person in some contexts.  Chuck teased me the other morning when he tipped his tea over and I said, "Sorry!".  I have a very long fuse, too.  I don't get crazy-angry very often, because when I do, it's a big explosion.  I don't like confrontation:  it makes my hands shake.

So, I was in a tough spot the other day.

The Adversary
Meet Ronnie, the neighborhood busy-body.  Lots of neighborhoods have a Ronnie, especially oddball little private neighborhoods like ours. He is short and stocky.  A Bantam rooster of a man.  He has lived here for a long time and considers himself a head master of sorts.    Ronnie likes to tell everyone what to do and how to do it.  He likes to give advice in words that he seems to have lifted straight from the curriculum of an anger management class.  If a car pulls into our road and he doesn't recognize the person in the car, he will stop the car and ask, "Who are you?  Where are you going?"  My guests sometimes complain about him  He has been in fist fights and shoving matches with people who don't appreciate his self-appointed neighborhood watch status. He makes up rules and enforces them as he sees fit.  I received a lecture from him last summer, because I did not refuse road access to a group of boy scouts on a camping trip.  I told them it was OK to use the road (what do I care?).  Ronnie very condescendingly patiently explained to me that it's not OK to let others use our road; and ("just for future reference"), I should tell them to go away. Everyone who lives in our neighborhood, when mentioning him, told me (with accompanying eye-roll) to ignore him.  Nod and smile, then do what you want.  He's a trouble maker.  He's a bully.

The Problem
Last Monday was icy and cold.  Our little road is snow-packed and slick.  I slowed down to cross the icy bridge, then turned onto our road, slowly.  I was going between 7-10 MPH when I drove past Ronnie's house.  Several vehicles were parked across the road from his house.  Skiers were getting out of the vehicles, slipping and insecure in their ski-boots.  I noted this cautiously.  Suddenly, from behind a car, a little granddaughter spied Ronnie standing on his porch and darted toward him, pigtails flying, arms outstretched.  This kid was concealed by the parked car until she was about 6 feet from my car, running pell-mell into its path.  He father was near and snatched her back out of the way.  Ronnie screamed after my car, "YOU SLOW YOUR ASS DOWN!"  I thought, "Do you not know slow when you see it?"  In my opinion an accident was averted because I was driving slowly.  Sara was with me.  She looked alarmed and turned to me.  "Mom!  That was not your fault!"  I felt offended at the way he screamed after my car like that, but Sara reminded me that he was probably just venting his relief.  I have a hard time relating, because I don't scream abuse at people when I am relieved, but I can see how a person like Ronnie might.  So, OK.  I decided that it was a fortunate thing that I was going slowly and that the child had a parent nearby; and decided to let it go.

The New Problem
Nothing more happened. I half-expected Ronnie to show up at our house to tell me off for almost hitting his grandkid, but he didn't.  After a few days, I guessed that he saw it for what it was:  an accident that didn't happen.  But yesterday when I was walking home from the mailbox, he was outside and very sweetly told me that he would like to speak with me about the incident and about the speeds that I was driving.  About how we were so lucky that nothing happened, and how he wanted me to promise that I would be more careful and drive slower.

I let him have it.

I put my mail down on the ground, balled up my fists and told him that I would promise no such thing.  That I was traveling extremely slowly, that his granddaughter came barreling out from behind a car, startled the heck out of me, and that I was offended at his screaming at me.  That is was very fortunate that I was going as slowly as I was.

He was very surprised.  He thought this was going to be an easy conversation, he said. (Why, Ronnie?  Because I'm small, female, sweet-tempered?  Easily pushed around?)  I am not the person he thought I was.  He tried telling me that I may have been going slowly this time, but that I drive past his house too fast all the time.  I raise dust!  (It's a dirt road.  Why didn't you bring that up before today, Ronnie?)  He has refrained from complaining in the past because he didn't want to seem too critical.  (Because he is well known for his restraint.) My daughter drives too fast, too.  (She doesn't know how to drive, yet, Ronnie.)  Well, Chuck's daughter drives too fast.  (She lives in LA.  Hasn't been here in a year.  What speed do you consider the right speed for this road, Ronnie?)  He isn't sure.  Just slow.  (Uh-huh.  Name your speed, Ronnie.  Tell me the speed that you think is appropriate.  Not sure?  Take it to the Homeowners Association, Ronnie.  Tell them that they need to post your preferred speed limit.)  He didn't think that would be necessary.  He just wanted to tell me to slow down.  (Slower than what, Ronnie?)  Just slow down!  I told him that it is not OK to scream abuse at me; not OK to lecture me on preventing an accident that didn't happen because I was already doing the exact thing he was currently telling me I must do!  I told him that I was not going to roll over and play dead.

He finally informed me that he had thought we were friends, but we were clearly not.  From now on, he didn't see us having a civil relationship.  He walked stiffly away.

I went home and balled my brains out.  The confrontation was exhausting for me.  And now, I feel stuck!  I have not been in this type of situation before in my life.  I no longer feel comfortable passing his house or meeting him face to face.  I can't handle that kind of awkwardness.  When I drive by and he is outside, what do I do?  How can I possibly WALK past his house?  He is often outside.  I can't get to my mailbox and get the morning paper anymore.  I told Chuck that, this and Marianne's upcoming sojourn as our neighbor has my at about the end of my rope.   I don't want to run a gauntlet every time I go on a walk or visit the mailbox.  He told me that he backed me up regarding standing up to Ronnie; but that he thought I was now allowing Ronnie too much control over me.  Doesn't the bully win if he succeeds in making me that uncomfortable?  Yes, of course; but I have no idea how to deal with that discomfort.  I do think that it was better in the long run that I didn't accept his lecture and that I responded assertively.  I have made my bed, though; and now I have to lie in it.  Not sure how.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

I am really excited to chat with Patrice this week, on her porch.  She has asked about seed catalogs.  Now, I don't do seed catalogs, per se; but I am a passionate (if clumsy) gardener.  I have already begun diagramming my garden plan for this year.  It is somewhat complicated by the relocation of Chuck's driveway, which will necessitate removing my two brand new raised beds, before I even plant anything in them!  They are built, painstakingly leveled with river rocks, and filled.  Ready for asparagus; ready for rhubarb.  But Chuck has settled his property dispute with his ex-girlfriend, who is building her dream house right next door.  She has laid claim to a new property line, which is about 8 feet over Chuck's property line.  We are going to let her have it.  We will shrug and build a new driveway.  We will relocate our gardens.  I will make the yard beautiful again.

How many seed catalogs have arrived at your home?

None.  I generally go to the nurseries and buy seeds, as well as starts.  However, I am garden scheming...

Will you be learning to do something new this year?

Oh, yes.  Let's see.  There is the ever-absorbing quilt, which is pieced together but now needs batting, backing, quilting and binding.  All new skills; and all skills that I will be trying to acquire by looking at pictures and making mistakes.  This will also be a big river-trip year.  It is looking pretty likely that we will be doing a 17-day Grand Canyon trip in September.  I may well be organizing all the food.  I also really want to row.  Can I manage a big raft full of gear in rapids?  I will practice all I can over the summer.  This winter, I am working on building the strength in my shoulders and back.  My shoulders are killing me as we speak, from the weight room.

How many pairs of boots do you own?

Huh.  Four pairs of dress boots (I love them!); a pair of Sorrels for snowy days; a pair of hiking boots... are we counting ski boots?

Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  Do you have something planned for Valentine's Day?

Well, I am a newlywed.  However,  I think Valentine's Day is kind of Hallmark-gross.  I plan to write a note to Chuck, to tell him that I love him.  I will put it in little can shaped like a mail box, and put the little flag up, then leave it on his computer keyboard.  Cute, huh?  Then I'll go buy a nice raunchy sex-toy.

Please tell me your favorite breed of dog.  If you don't like dogs, tell me something about your favorite animal.

I am not a dog lover and don't have a favorite breed.  I do love individual dogs, though.  Does that make sense?  I love Sally, a sassy little West Highland White terrier.  I love Toni, a mixed breed with a lot of Australian Shepherd.  But I am not compelled to have my own dog.  Too much work.  I would rather be a loving Aunt Kate to several dogs.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Exclamation Point

I am not a morning person. Still, on mornings when I drive my children to school, I need to be up at 6:00 AM and we need to be out the door at 7:00 AM.  It bites, especially in the winter when it is dark and cold.  Yesterday morning was particularly bad because I had had trouble sleeping the night before, so I took a single Tylenol PM.  At 6:00 AM, I was the walking dead.

We piled into the car at 7:00, and started driving to the kids' schools.  Nathan was in a good mood, as was Sara.  I hunched behind the wheel, their voices thundering in my ears.  Nathan's piping, pre-pubescent commentary on the upcoming day was seemingly at a frequency that normally only dogs can hear.  I could hear it, though.

"Whoo-hoo!  It's ice skating for gym today!  I love ice skating!  Mom, did I tell you about how I can do a cross-over, now?  I'm going to practice that again today!  Ice skating days are my favorite days!"

To me, this sounded like, "Whoo-hoo!  It's ice skating for gym today!  I love ice skating!  Mom, did I tell you about how I can do a cross-over, now?  I'm going to practice that again today!  Ice skating days are my favorite days!  

"Naaaaaaaate?  It's kind of early in the morning for me to share your enthusiasm.  It sounds like a lot of exclaiming to me."

"So, what do you want me to do, Mom?  Huh?  Just stop having enthusiasm?"

"No, of course not.  But maybe in the early mornings we could try something special, like..."

"Like what?"

"You could do it like this.  Just speak in a soft monotone and TELL me when there SHOULD be an exclamation point.  like, 'Woo. Hoo.  Exclamation point.  It's ice skating for gym today.  Exclamation point.  I love ice skating.  Exclamation point...'"

Sunday, January 12, 2014


 (Couldn't post yesterday - Internet too slow...)

"Practicing Telemark on my Christmas skis!"

An explanation for those who are unfamiliar: the Telemark turn is a technique for skiing down steep stuff when your heel is free, as it is on Cross Country skis.  In snowy places, like Utah, Telemark now has its own adherents and gear - special boots and bindings on wide, Alpine-like skis.

We call it Backcountry skiing here; because if you have the technique, know-how and equipment, including avalanche transceivers, you can ski in the back country, outside of the resorts.  You can hike up drainages in the mountains and ski down.  For those of us who can't afford the resorts, this is a way to have fun on skis without shelling out $90 for a lift-ticket.
 Here's Chuck, demonstrating the turn.  We are skiing at Alta, just up the road from our house.  They used to have a great deal called "Ski Free After Three".  You could go up there and ski a limited selection of easier runs for the last hour and a half of the day.  If you are a local family with a bunch of little kids, this is a win-win.  The family can afford to take the kids out for just a little while (before they get pooped out, cold, whiny, etc...) and the resort is building a market of new little local skiers.  It means that we adults need to share the slopes with tiny meteors, shooting past while their parents call out, "Benny, slow down!"  That's OK, I used to ski with a couple of 2-foot-tall hotshots, myself.

At any rate, we got here and found that it is now" Ski For Ten Bucks After Three".  Good thing we took some money with us.  It's easier to practice the turn on nice, easy groomed terrain, so it was worth a little money.

Here I am, looking pretty graceful.  And dignified, if you can overlook my hat, which has ears.

In other news, Jack has decided that he likes me enough that he wants to hang out on my keyboard. He is famous for only liking men.  Chuck was gone for a few hours this morning, so Jack decided my shoulder would have to do. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


 Chuck is making chairs this winter.  He hasn't tried it before, but he wants his daughter to have some, to match the table he made for her a few years ago.
 I am documenting the process, not only for fun and this blog, but also because he is using West Systems Epoxy for the gluing.  I think West Systems Epoxy is hilarious.  They have a magazine!  Epoxy World!  When we get an issue of Epoxy World, I pore over the stories of amazing projects done with West Systems Epoxy.  Boats!  Kitchen remodels!  The wonders of really good glue.  When this project is finished, I plan to submit it to Epoxy World, and I will be published for the first time ever!
 In other news, everything old is new again.  When Marianne lived here with Chuck, she had a blackboard screwed to the laundry room door, and she wrote her shopping list on it.  When she moved out (to the cabin next door), the blackboard went with her.  When she tore her cabin down, with plans to build a new one, she discarded the blackboard in the dumpster.  I saw it there and pulled it out.  The things people throw away!  Still has her shopping list on it:

Notice the last item:  new cabin.  I certainly hope that works out for her, since she has destroyed the old one.  You can't see it well anymore, because I smudged it when I put it back in its place on the door; but under the "New Cabin", she added "Septic" (hers had failed) and "Cloaking Device for Neighbors".  I guess that is a Star Trek reference.  Unfortunately for Marianne, that is a problem with her decision to continue her life as Chuck's next-door neighbor.  Chuck will be there, and so will I:  enjoying life; having parties; playing the stereo and laughing on the porch swing.  All that baggage, piled up only a few feet away.

This is what I prefer.  A clean slate.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Salmon for Supper

Otherwise known as Kate's Kitchen Kapers and Kulinary Katastrophes

This one turned out fine, though:  it's easy, so go for it!


Here is the picture from Cooking Light magazine.  They have promised both simplicity and guest-pleasing WOW-ness.  For once, we have no guests, so I will just try to WOW Chuck and my kids.  The magazine is also showing vintage serving dishes, dill sprigs and attractive sides.  Forget it!  We're just doing broccoli and roasted yams tonight.  I am pretty burned out on major cooking.
1/4 C creme fraiche (I just used sour cream)
2 T finely minced shallots
1 T 2% milk
1 T chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/8 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 salmon fillet (I got about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 T chopped fresh chives

These are fairly pedestrian ingredients.  You won't have any problem finding them.  Try to ignore the picture of my lemon, which shows it to be a lime.  Not my fault!  My father-in-law brought home-grown limes from his garden in Santa Barbara (am I spoiled?), and this one had a very pale skin.  I thought is was a lemon until I cut it open and smelled it.  Oh, well.  We forge ahead.

I will cook on wood this evening, so I need to get the fire going about 40 minutes in advance.
 Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

 The red wine and caramel corn are not on the ingredient list.  Those are (let's call them...) garnish.
 Do all your chopping and mincing, so you have tidy piles of shallot, chive and dill.  Do a little extra dill, because it is so yummy.
 Combine the first five ingredients and 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Or just use a spoon, because the dill gets all caught up in the whisk.
 Place the fish, skin side down, on a parchment lined baking dish.
 Rub the fish with oil; sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.
 I put mine in the oven with four sweet potatoes that were almost finished, having roasted away during the preheat period.  Try to ignore the over-exposure of this picture - my oven doesn't have a light in it.  Also try to ignore the yam with foil wrapped around its end.  it was getting a little soft on one end, so I lopped off the soft part and covered it in foil to maintain its roasting integrity.

bake at 450 degrees F for 8 minutes.

If you have a broiler, remove he fish from the oven, preheat your broiler to HIGH, and broil the fish for four minutes, or until it's done.  When I am using the gas burner in my oven, I have broiler capability; but not when I use wood.  I'll just bake it a little longer and sacrifice that toasty brown color we saw int eh magazine photo.

Yay!  Whew, it turned out!  Sprinkle the fish with chives, cut it into portions and serve it up with the creamy sauce.  

And quick, take the foil off the one yam and slice it open and get it onto a plate before the kids notice that there is a yam that is not like the others and fight over who has to eat it.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

Well, it sounds like it is cold over at Patrice's farm.  She has called an impromptu Thursday Chat on the Farmhouse Porch, so I will mosey on over there.

Did you make any New Years resolutions?

No.  I struggle with over-resolving.  I make resolutions every day.  I write down ridiculous numbers of goals.  I sit tweaking my planner for optimal daily achievement.  I beat myself up at least five times a day for not living up to my own expectations.  It's probably better if I don't do any more with resolutions.

Are your decorations still up?

No, it's part of my New Years Day ritual to take the tree down.

What did Santa bring you?

Well, one of my little Santas gave me new measuring cups and spoons; and another little Santa gave me a new (and bedazzled!) apron.  My big Santa gave me a pair of back country skis (we just have to acquire a set of Telemark bindings) and a STAND MIXER!  RED!  Are you seeing a culinary theme?  Oh, yeah!

Do you have any special plans for 2014?

Not yet.  But, life with Chuck being what it is, I'm sure there will be adventures!

Have you had any snow yet?

Yes a couple of feet, but not enough for the skiers who come here looking for the "Greatest Snow on Earth".  We haven't had any fresh snow for about three weeks!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December Ends in Pictures

This makes me look fat!
There.  That's better.
We have people sleeping EVERYWHERE.

Hmmm... What kind if muffin is this?  Who cares? I'll eat it anyway, because it's the holidays.
I get to start a new English group this month.  I've penciled in a few possibilities.

Eating leftovers and more leftovers.

I'm having people over for dinner tomorrow.  Pierogi!  Let's check in with the ultimate Polish perfectionist.
This is how I keep track of everyone's hours.

Glenn with his purple hair and friend, Moses.
"Well, maybe we should just stay in for New Years Eve."

Being stupid with Chuck's brother, Mike.
Playing cards, but starting to yawn...

Tea from our toilet tea cup.
We were in bed by 11:30 PM.