Category Archives: Cooking

Here is Fall

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“Time is a storm in which we are all lost.”

~ William Carlos Williams

Finally, here is fall.

Not that I’ve been trying to rush the season. No…summer, could have stayed awhile. I am not yet tired of long, warm and sunshiny days. I could stand several more weeks of it, without complaint.

Still, this year more than others in recent memory, fall started announcing its pending arrival early. Chilly nights brought out the blankets, and warned that cold weather was coming. First, it was acknowledged as a relief:

“Great sleeping weather!”

“I’m loving these cool nights!”

Warm days at the beach followed by nights nestled under heavy quilts is how I remember August on childhood vacations on Beaver Island. Wonderful! “Chilly,” though, gave way to downright cold this year. Almost a month ago, I went around and closed every window, stored the box fan in the attic, and carried the portable heater downstairs.

For weeks, conversations have turned toward all the signs that warn of a hard winter coming. The days, which lengthen by such slow increments in the spring, seem to shorten rapidly this time of year. “Dark, already,” I observe with surprise day after day. The activity of deer and squirrels; the gathering of birds; the behavior of small rodents are all signals to watch.

The mice are unquestionably moving inside. At the hardware store, the section of the store that holds rodent-control products is depleted weekly. I’ve heard many stories of mice showing up in homes and in places where they’ve never been seen before. Too many apples? Too few coyotes? We can only speculate on the reasons.

“Are the leaves changing yet?” The questions come from other locations, from people who would happily travel north for the glory of fall colors. We watch closely, as that is another signal that fall is coming. First it’s just one branch showing red, on a whole tree of green leaves. Or one single golden leaf. Then, just overnight, it seems, the King’s highway is ablaze with color!

The cold weather continued, through August and into September. Cool night temperatures dipped to cold, and stretched into the daylight hours. We compared the readings on indoor and outdoor thermometers. We asked each other, “how cold did it get?” The farther you live from the Lake Michigan, the more vulnerable you are to early frost. When Doug Tilley reported he’d had to scrape ice from his windshield, I knew my garden was on borrowed time.

On the last day of summer, I filled one basket with spinach leaves, and another with kale. I pulled up the basil, and plucked every precious green leaf off the stems. I picked all of the tomatoes. I was merciless in discarding those with blemishes and bruises. I threw away the ones that were too immature to hold any hope of ripening, and filled one bowl with perfect green tomatoes. The red ones, I lined up on the counter near the sink.

I stacked and stored the metal tomato cages, then filled the wheelbarrow with the vines. I pulled up the cucumber plants, harvesting four that were hiding in the greenery. Squash was next. I saved every blossom. I tossed two tiny butternut squash that had no hope of ripening. The zucchini and other summer squash, which has produced spottily all summer long, served up more than a dozen new fruit, no bigger than my index finger.

I dug the shovel into the ground where my potato plants had been, then pushed my hands into the loosened soil. I was rewarded with a half dozen fist-sized potatoes. I pulled up all the bush beans plants, then yanked out the branches that formed the pole bean teepees. The tall vines yielded a handful of overripe beans that I’d missed when I last gathered them. Everything harvested at this late date seems dear: the last the garden has to offer.

On the last day of summer, I simmered peppers, basil and tomatoes with salt, pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar to make a fresh sauce that seemed to capture the essence of the season. I spooned it over diced and roasted potatoes for dinner. Before I went to bed, I put a handful each of dried black beans and great northern beans in a pot. I carefully peeled back the pods of my own pole beans, and added each bean seed to the mix, then added water to let them soak.

On the first day of fall, I made end-of-summer soup. I put the teakettle on to boil, then sliced an X into the top of each ripe tomato, and set them into the sink. When the water boiled, I poured it over the tomatoes to loosen their skins. I drained the soaking water from the bean pot and set it on the stove. As I peeled and rough chopped the tomatoes, I added them to the softened beans, and brought them to a simmer.

As the day progressed, the dry beans softened and took on the flavor of the tomatoes they were stewing in. I cut up the spinach, kale and squash blossoms, and added them to the pot. I chopped up a green pepper, a half head of cauliflower, two stalks of celery and three carrots that were in the vegetable compartment of my refrigerator. I diced an onion, and the last of the potatoes. I washed and sliced each tiny, seedless zucchini, letting their fluted edges dress up the mixture. To finish, I tossed in a slight handful of barley, and sprinkled some salt and pepper.

When it was done, I filled a bowl with soup. I carried it outside into a day – the first day in more than a week – that felt like summer. Warm enough to sit outside without a sweater. Warm enough to think, if it weren’t for the calendar, and the fall colors, and the now barren garden spot, that summer was still with us.

We all mark the changing seasons in ways large and small. In my house, warm soup made from the last of the garden’s offerings is a good way to welcome the beginning of fall.

Can I Ever Catch Up?

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Two weeks ago, I was on top of things. At least that’s how it seems, looking back from my present situation, which is polar opposite of “on top of things.” Today, it seems like I’m on the bottom of a very large pile of things, scrambling to get my footing. What happened?

It was just about two weeks ago when my sisters started arriving for their week-long Beaver Island vacation. I’d had a good summer up to that point, both relaxing and productive. My garden was doing well, the house was in order, and work was progressing nicely in the studio. I was working a few days a week, but was looking forward to more time than usual with my family.

Cheryl arrived on Saturday. I stopped at the family farmhouse after work to say hello. We made plans to meet later for dinner and a trip to the cemetery to plant flowers, and I went home to take care of my dogs. They met me at the kitchen door. I gave them a good greeting, and we went for a long walk. I wandered through the garden to pull a few weeds and pick what was ripe. Inside, I packaged up my contribution to dinner, and started to fill the dog’s dishes for their evening meal.

It was only then that I glanced into the front room. What in the world?!

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My bookshelves had given way, spilling their contents all over the room. My little television was dangling by its electrical cord. The stereo was face down on the floor. Books were strewn over every surface. Baskets, once filled with yarn, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs and assorted on-going projects, had been relieved of their contents, too. I was thankful that the dogs, often sleeping right in the path of all of the destruction, had not been hurt. I assessed the damage, made a few necessary adjustments, fed the dogs, and went out the door to keep my plans.

So, it was several hours later when I sifted through the mess to make some sense of it, and cleared enough of a path through the room to make it usable. Cheryl had offered several times to come and help me, but I declined. The room is small, and the mess was huge. Even alone, I often had difficulty finding a place to step; there was no room for a second person.

Books had to be picked from the shelves before the shelves could be moved. Sometimes, removing the books caused a shelf to slide away in an unexpected direction. It was a long, tedious process. By the time I went to bed, I had a huge pile of books in a corner, and a stack of shelves against one wall. The supports were in a mound on the dining room floor, and the TV was on the table. And, my back was out.

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And, two weeks later, that’s exactly where everything still is. Because, the next day, I worked eight hours. And my back was still causing problems. And, three more sisters arrived, along with husbands, friends and one niece. My brother-in-law, Keith, brought up my shelves more than once; if I’d asked, I’m sure he would have helped me tackle the project. I didn’t ask. One week is a short time to visit with loved ones that I see only a few times in an entire year. That was my priority.

Meals together; game nights; beach time; catching up on family happenings, mutual acquaintances, general news and health updates after months apart: that was most important to me. That’s how my time was best spent, and I don’t regret it a bit. I took time away from work last Sunday to – sadly – see the last of my family off on the ferry boat.

Monday, I went back to work at the hardware store, after a four-month hiatus. Many of the summer workers my boss had hired are going back to college, so my job was available again. Continuing to honor commitments I took on in the meantime, I am now suddenly working six days a week. And, boy, am I out of practice! This is exhausting! In addition, over the course of the last two weeks, weeds have taken over my garden and the grass needs to be mowed.

Today is my only day off. The electric screwdriver is on the charger; if it charges, I’ll be able to tackle the bookshelves. I bought gas for the lawnmower. Bed linens are in the washer; I plan to hang them on the line to dry. I’m going to take all the rugs outside to shake them, and sweep through the house. I intend to make some salads to carry for my lunches this week. Big plans…if I ever find the energy to get out of this chair!

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a sunset shared with my sisters

Monday, Monday…

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We are awfully close to halfway through summer. In some ways, it seems to be flying by. In others, this has been the summer of my dreams, and distant memories. I’ve probably already mentioned that I haven’t had a summer off, on Beaver Island, since I first moved here in 1978, until now. I always worked hard, too: busy days; long hours. Summers are the busiest season here.

This year, though, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc everywhere. Though this island remains, at this time, free of the virus, we still have all the usual misgivings about how to stay safe. We need the business, but it’s scary to think of crowds of people coming here from areas where the virus is prevalent. Fortunately or not, many usual summer visitors have not come. The Corona Virus has taken a big bite out of our tourist industry, and left me temporarily out of work.

I watch with sadness and horror as other communities deal with overwhelming sickness and death. I’m very aware that my age puts in in a “high risk” group. There is still some trepidation whenever I have to be in public. I cancelled a planned trip to attend my grandson’s high school graduation party downstate, due to fears about being exposed. And I’m still second guessing myself over that decision. I don’t want to be ruled by fear, but I absolutely want to be safe.

Beyond all that, though, I’m having a wonderful time! I am kind of a loner, and definitely an introvert. I have house, garden and studio to keep me busy, dogs to keep me entertained, and a regular routine to provide some structure to my days. I have a little one-day-a-week volunteer position, and a new part-time job on the week-ends. I get a little Social Security check each month, and a little unemployment to supplement that. This is a lovely summer!

Mondays, though! When I worked at the hardware store, and before that when I worked at the Shamrock Restaurant and Pub, I almost always worked Saturday and Sunday. My “week-end” is Monday and Tuesday. So, even now when I mostly don’t work, I wake up on Monday with a sense of urgency, a feeling of near panic, at all the things I need to do. Today was no different.

I got up early and got going right away. First my morning routine: meditate; write; draw; yoga.  Then I spent about an hour studying. I am working my way through an embarrassingly large collection of self-help books, with topics ranging from art techniques to exercise to how to stop procrastinating or become a better listener, writer, cook or general human being. If nothing else comes of this time off, I will have at the very least made every effort to better myself!

I took a shower and dressed, then took the dogs on their first walk of the day. Garden, next, to water and weed. Then on to one of the flower beds It’s hot out there, though! Especially in that flower bed, against the south wall of my house. There was no breeze, and the heat was magnified by the white siding. When I was driven inside, I’d start a load of wash, dust a surface, or sweep something. Then back at it. When I cleaned up for lunch, I made a pot of chicken soup. Always, with the idea that I’d better keep busy. No time to waste. Lots of things to get done.

As I was working at filling the wheelbarrow with crab grass and bladder wort that has taken over among the day lilies, my mind was racing ahead to the next thing to do. The rugs need to be shaken out and washed. I have two paintings underway in the studio. Windows show patterns of dog nose and dog paw. Before long, the yard will need to be mowed again.

After my third long bout of weeding, while wiping the sweat from my brow, it occurred to me: what I don’t get done today, I can do tomorrow. Or the next day,Or the day after that! I broke into a big grin. I love this summer! Mondays do not have to be filled to the brim with urgent tasks. Mondays can be just another normal day. As long as I remember!

Dear Mom…

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When my mother was alive, I missed a thousand opportunities to have a chat with her. I could have easily picked up the telephone, but didn’t. My letter writing was pretty hit or miss: I’d write pretty regularly for a while, then neglect the practice for months at a time. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes, arriving in my home town, I’d deliberately drive past my parent’s house, waiting until I felt “more prepared” for a visit.

In the last few months of Mom’s life, when I knew the end was imminent, I regretted each one of those missed opportunities, and cherished every chance I had to speak with her. Though she’s been gone almost nine years now, there are still things I wish I could talk to her about.

Dear Mom, the pussy willows are blooming, now, off the King’s Highway. They always make me think of you. I first noticed them growing there more than thirty years ago, when I saw Madonna McCafferty, parked at the side of the road and trying to navigate the ditch to cut some of them. You always had a big bouquet of pussy willows every spring. I wish I knew where you got them. You put them in a glossy, mottled gray ceramic vase. The vase sat in the back room, on top of the clothes dryer. The blossoms seemed to last for months.

The few times I’ve followed in Madonna’s path and waded into the ditch to cut them, they seemed hardly worth the effort. After only a few days, each gray fluff would  send out a myriad of tiny threads with yellow ends, that would drop in a powdery mess all over the table. How did you make yours last so long? How did you keep them from going to seed?

Dear Mom, the snowball bush is in bloom in my front flower bed. Mine is much more upright in habit than the one that grew beside the cinder driveway in your parent’s yard, but the blossoms are the same. Their’s grew rounded, like an igloo, with each of the branches tipping over to the ground. It left a hollow space underneath. You’d walk us on the path from our house to theirs, then go inside to visit with Grandma, while Brenda, Ted and I, tiny children, played in the cool shade under the snowball bush. I wonder if Grandpa Ted pruned it to make it grow that way. I wish I’d thought to ask you.

Dear Mom, after working in the yard and garden for most of yesterday afternoon, I was ready for a simple summer supper. Grilled kielbasa and potato salad was my plan. I always use your recipe for potato salad: potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, radishes and cucumber. Cooking for your big family, you always made two large dishes of potato salad: one with onion; one without. Most of the time, I don’t bother with the onion, though I like it both ways. The dressing is mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. I’m a little more generous with the mustard, but otherwise, just like yours.

When making pasta or potato salad, I always make a big batch so that I can eat it all week. Not a “big batch” by your standards, mind you, but enough to fill my two-quart covered bowl. So, I set the potatoes and eggs to boil while I cleaned up and changed out of my gardening clothes. Then, as you well know, it took a concentrated effort to drain, cool, peel, slice and dice all the ingredients. By the time I mixed it all together and put in in the refrigerator while I grilled the meat, it was almost 7:30! Not such an “easy summer supper,” after all! I blame you for that, Mom. You always made it seem so effortless.

Dear Mom, my rhubarb is doing well this year. I’ve given quite a bit of it away and, three times this spring, pulled out your recipe for rhubarb crisp. It’s a nice dessert when it’s warm, fresh out of oven and topped with milk, the way you used to serve it to us. After that, I’ll eat it for breakfast, cold, until it’s gone. I was still in high school when you gave me the recipe. I wrote it right inside the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that you’d gotten me for Christmas, on the contents page for the chapter on desserts.

Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup flour, 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 stick of butter

Mix together until crumbly. Put half of mixture in a buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Top with three cups of diced rhubarb. Cover with remaining crumble. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and two tablespoons of water. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.

The ingredients were written at a forward slant; I hadn’t yet gotten in the habit of writing with the upright letters that I was certain looked more creative. Oh, and that reminds me, your beautiful handwriting…

I could go on and on.

 

 

 

That’s One Good Thing!

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My friend, Linda, who puts out a wonderful food blog (https://mrsportlyskitchen.com/) from her home in England, wrote today about frustrations of this situation we’re in. Lock-down, isolation, quarantine: by any name, it is frustrating. Different for each one of us, I’m sure.

The “normal life” things that I miss are based on what I’m used to; I suppose that’s true for each of us. Also, like me, many may be finding things they like very much about this slower world. It’s an opportunity to experience a whole different lifestyle. Though I feel guilty acknowledging benefits to a crisis that has caused so much pain, and even death, there are good things going on.

Likewise, I hate to grumble. There are things that I miss, and things that are more difficult now, at least for the time being. Like Linda, I feel like I should just be quiet about inconveniences, and disruptions of normal activities. Many folks are enduring much worse. This is serious stuff. We all know that.

Still, it’s human nature, isn’t it, to make comparisons, for better or worse? So I appreciate the almost total lack of traffic as I walk my dogs down the Fox Lake Road; I worry that I’m down to three rolls of toilet paper; and I whine to myself about changes in my routine. Sometimes, I’m bored.

These are things I was thinking about while mulling over Linda’s [much more articulate] blog on this topic. She mentioned the urge to fall back on dinners of beans on toast when cooking for just herself and her husband. Then the realization struck me: I don’t have a husband!

Right away, I felt a wave of relief that I am not contending with relationship issues, or even simple “man-in-the-house” issues during this time. Now, I know nothing about Linda’s husband; I’m sure he’s a very nice man. I can, however, conjure up extremely clear images of my own ex-husband, and a few other men that I kept company with over the years. They all had their good points. Being confined in quarantine with any one of them? A nightmare!

Terry hated to play games. He despised being stuck at home. He would have broken quarantine, I’m sure, just to get away from me. Or, he would be sleeping. He slept when he was bored; he snored when he slept. Others watched too much TV, or cheated at games, or talked too much, or never wanted to talk. It’s clear that, if I had company here, I’d be miserable

Hearing about efforts at home-schooling, I already thought to be glad that I no longer have small children at home. Until today, I hadn’t thought to be grateful that I am single! In all of this madness, that’s one good thing!

Yeast

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Yesterday was cool and drizzly. Today, it rained. All day. It was a day for fleecy, warm pajamas, a comfortable chair and a good book. Not for me, though.

Yesterday, for my first trip to town in fourteen days, I dressed up: nice jeans, a clean shirt, leather shoes, and a knit blazer. Nothing too fancy, except in comparison to my in-house wardrobe. Today, I pulled warm sweats on over my pajamas, slid into canvas shoes, and threw on my parka to pull it all together.

After walking the dogs through the pouring rain, I made several trips to the car. I loaded one large bag of trash, and several smaller bags of recyclables, into the back seat. It had been collected over the last two weeks, and was more than due to be taken to the transfer station.

Besides the transfer station, I had to make stops at the Post Office and the hardware store. By the time I got home, I was damp, tired, and cranky. I had letters to write, and phone calls to make. The dogs needed another walk before I could stay in. At some point, I decided that the comfort I was craving would take some effort.

I decided that stew would be a good meal for a wet day. And, to go with it, yeast bread! I chose the recipe for french loaves from my Mediterranean Heart Diet cookbook. Three risings give this bread a wonderful texture. The ball of dough expanding in its bowl, and scent of yeast filled my afternoon with promise.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is tend to something else. It takes my mind away from my own worries or discomfort. When homemade bread is what I choose to tend to, there is a big reward at the end!

Some Days

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Some days, the sun shining through the windows lets me know it’s time to get up. Other mornings, I don’t know the time until I check the clock. In the winter, when days are short here in northern Michigan, I get up in the dark. Even this time of year, clouds sometimes darken the sky.

Some days, I feel strong and capable. I stick to my routines, and take pride in what I accomplish. Other days, I look at all the things that I haven’t gotten done. I see the clutter, and the unfinished projects. I dwell on all the things I want to do, that I haven’t even started yet.

Some days, I congratulate myself for my stamina, my positive attitude, and my perseverance. Other days, I chastise myself for my procrastination and neglect. I call myself lazy.

Some days, I walk with enthusiasm, and fit other exercise into my day. I put good meals together. I make smoothies; I eat salads, and lots of vegetables. Other days, I begrudgingly set out for my walk; my slow pace reflects my mindset. Some days, it is cookies for breakfast, and popovers for a midnight snack.

Some days, I know that I am healthy, and I’m proud of myself for the care that I have taken. Other days, I interpret every crick, throb or tingle as a dread disease. And, since I traveled to Hawaii even after the corona virus made the news, of course I could only blame myself if I were sick. Sometimes, I take my temperature several times throughout the day.

Some days, I just feel like crying. Other days, most days, I am content, even happy. I have time and privilege to pick up a book, or head into the studio, or dig in to any number of other projects.

Most days, I’m able to laugh at myself. I see the humor in my hypochondria, dietary indulgences and lethargy. Every day, I know how lucky I am. And, when the sun is shining, it’s always a wonderful day!

Lifelong Learning

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I remember trying to read when I was five years old. I couldn’t wait to learn! One after another, I figured out the sounds of the letters. I begged for information, and received it from anyone that would offer it: parents, grandparents, and my sister, Brenda, who was just one year older than me. Once, my mother found me weeping in frustration as I struggled through a book. “This doesn’t make any sense,” I told her. I was sounding out the word K-N-E-W, and it sounded, to me, like “canoe.” I knew what a canoe was, at whatever young age I was, but I did not understand how it fit in that sentence!

I have almost always loved to learn. I went through just a moment in kindergarten when I deliberately colored outside of the lines, as that’s what the little girl sitting next to me was doing. There were a few of my teen years when it was much more fun to make trouble than to make good grades. It seemed appropriate, at that time, to “play dumb” in front of boys. And I have to admit, by the time I got out of high school, I thought I’d learned all I wanted or needed to.

That didn’t last long. When school learning bored me, I read. When I’d gone through all of our bookshelves, and didn’t have a library book at hand, I’d page through the encyclopedias, and the annual editions that came as a bonus with the set of encyclopedias, and Mom’s old collection of Books of Knowledge.

I taught myself to knit and crochet. I made crude attempts at quilting and embroidery. I learned several card and board games. I wrote [bad] poetry. I drew. As a young mother, I often had craft projects going. I learned to cook. I took a vegetarian cooking class with my mother-in-law. Then, a girlfriend and I took an evening art class at the high school.

When my second daughter was four months old, I enrolled at the junior college. That did it! College was a thousand times better than high school. I loved it! I studied Art, but also Literature, Poetry, and Writing. I took a few swimming classes, then a self defense class and a circuit training class. I studied Geology, Biology, Astronomy and Physical Science. I loved Art History. Never again did I think I’d had my fill of learning.

Raising a family, starting a business, several moves…these things sometimes slowed me down, but never stopped me. I earned an Associate’s Degree, then a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and, when I was forty years old, a Master of Fine Arts Degree. I had a minor in English Literature, a certificate in Women’s Studies and another in Creative Writing. I was done with school, but I wasn’t finished learning. I don’t think I ever will be!

It was never about the credentials, or the degrees. It was the knowledge I was after. I still prefer books, whether fiction or non-fiction, that have something to teach me. I am still hungry for new ideas, and new ways of doing things. I’ve become a [slightly] better quilter; I love trying out new crochet patterns. I am continually trying out new methods of art-making.

I have, sometimes, a hard time sticking with a project, and I get easily bored. I’ve figured out that I like the learning much better than the follow-through. I’ve resigned myself to that, just as I’ve accepted the boxes and totes filled with unfinished projects

Most recently, I filled several pages with notes on the Hawaiian language. I’ve become familiar with their alphabet, and how words are divided into syllables, which is key to correct pronunciation. That might be enough; it’s not as enticing when I’m not presented with road signs to practice on. That’s okay. There will always be something else I can learn.

Home Again

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I am home! Late yesterday afternoon, after more than ten days away and long rides on several large planes, I got on one of the small “eight-seater” airplanes in Charlevoix, and twenty minutes later was back on Beaver Island.

The entire trip was wonderful. It started on Friday, the 21st of February. It was a little hectic getting away. I had to get my dogs in to the vet, who had just arrived the previous afternoon, for a couple vaccinations first thing in the morning. Next, I took them to the kennel for a sad good-bye. Then, I ran back home to complete a few last minute tasks before going to the airport. The flight was on time, but the car was not there waiting for me. A couple phone calls revealed that a flat tire caused the delay. So, I was late getting on the road.

I had arranged to stop in St. Helen for a short visit with a long-time friend (doesn’t that sound better than saying “old friend,” now that we are all pretty old?). On the way, I stopped and purchased a cell phone – my first! With the flat tire weighing on my mind (what if it went flat again, when I was on the road? How would I get help?), I thought it was a good idea. Plus, I was able to call my friend, Donna, to let her know I was running late. It was an unexpected expense, and something I’ve avoided having, but in this day and age, a cell phone is probably a good idea.

St. Helen is right off I-75, so not out of my way at all, and it’s a nice break in a long drive. We had a good dinner, and found plenty to talk and giggle about over too many glasses of chocolate wine. After breakfast the next morning, I got back on the road.

My next stop was Lapeer, the town where I grew up. My sister, Brenda, and her husband, Keith, were graciously putting me up in their guest room for the two days until five of us sisters flew out to Florida. That night, we joined my sister, Cheryl and our good friend, Joel for a night out. We met for dinner, in a nice new restaurant where the old Villa restaurant used to be.

From there, across the street and down the block, where the Lyons & Smith clothing store (where my mother worked, as a teen-ager) and the Pix Theater (where I saw Babes in Toyland about a hundred years ago, and many other memorable movies over the years) have been converted to an art complex, with gallery space, and changing entertainment offerings.

Our tickets were for a show based on the lives and music of “the Carpenters.” It was fantastic! The musicians were all multi-talented, changing out instruments throughout the show. The singer’s voice was spot-on; if I closed my eyes, I’d be sure I was listening to Karen Carpenter. She was also very knowledgeable about the lives and music of the brother-and-sister duo, and peppered the evening with bits of fascinating information. I loved it, from start to finish!

Sunday, after breakfast, I did a little shopping, and went to visit my brother, Ted. Monday, we got up early to head for the airport. Five sisters, Brenda, Cindy, Cheryl, Robin and Amy gathered at Brenda’s house, and our friend, Dick, drove us to the airport. Flint to Atlanta to Panama City Beach, Florida, where our wonderful accommodations were waiting. Because we had started out so early, and gained an hour due to a different time zone, Monday was a very long day!

There was time to check out our living spaces, unpack, and become familiar with the resort and it’s offerings. We got groceries, as the generous kitchen would make it easy for us to prepare some of our meals each day. We were right on the Gulf coast, with a view of the ocean out the window, and a beautiful beach right below. Also right beneath our fourth-floor apartment was a heated pool and a large hot tub.

The resort stood on both sides of the street, joined by a bridge. On the bridge was the SkyBar, where we spent a few fun evenings. One day, our sisters team competed (and won, by one point) in ’50s Trivia. In the area were excellent restaurants, fun shops and outdoor marketplaces. Inside, we had games, jig-saw puzzles and books. Outside, the water, white sand, bright sky. All of that, with my sisters as the very best travelling companions, made it a perfect get-away!

On March 1st, we packed up and headed out. With several hours before our flight, we managed to find a fun breakfast spot, then an “endless mimosa” bar. Next, my sister, Amy, treated us all to an “Escape Room” experience which was a great way to finish off the vacation!

We re-traced our flight on the way home, and got into Flint just before midnight. I had a bowl of cereal, then went right to bed. Yesterday, I got up early, and packed up all my belongings: Florida suitcase (already loaded), two small suitcases with clothes for Michigan weather, a tote of Christmas gifts and other things I accumulated in my travels, and got on the road.

Roads were clear, and traffic was not bad; I made good time. I picked up a few groceries before checking in for my four-thirty flight. Home to Beaver Island, where the warmer temperatures has caused significant melting. The parking lot where my car was parked was ankle-deep in mud. My car had a dead battery. Finally getting it running, I nearly buried it in muck on the way out of the lot! There were plenty of puddles on the way to pick up the dogs, and plenty more on the drive home.

Our evening walk down the Fox Lake Road was a muddy one, too. We cut it a little short, as I still had at least a dozen trips to make from car to house to get everything unloaded. I turned the heat up, unpacked a suitcase and started a load of wash, fed the dogs, and started my dinner. While it cooked, I deleted about two hundred unnecessary Emails, and tidied up messes I’d left in my rush to get out of here. Early to bed, with my dogs close by. It’s good to be home!

Almost a Lousy Day

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All the contributing factors were there; everything pointed to it being a really lousy day. My little dogs were both having allergy-fueled ear issues, which kept them up scratching wildly at the itchy places, and kept me up rubbing ears and soothing them. When we slept, we didn’t sleep well. Until morning, when I slept right through the alarm.

It was a bitter-cold day: freezing temperatures with sub-zero wind chills. Too cold for our morning walk. The dogs didn’t protest when I cancelled. Frustrated already in my lack of persistence with my exercise program, this added fuel to my negative self-criticism.

I got to work late, and cranky. I’m not sure if my work partner was also in a bad mood, or if mine was enough for both of us. Usually, we get along well, and enjoy working together. On this day, all day, it seemed like we were barely avoiding conflict.

I learned, that day, of the recent death of an old friend. Though I’d seen Elaine only rarely in the last several years, we were young together once. And now she’s gone. Sad news to add to my already miserable attitude.

After work, I had to go to the grocery store. Having just paid a big bill, my checkbook had barely thirty dollars in it. I needed dog food, coffee and milk. Going up and down the necessary aisles, I was computing the cost as I went along. That old habit made me feel even more bleak. I don’t usually have to watch pennies that closely. What a crummy day!

Walking past the meat counter, I spotted a beautiful rib-eye steak in the case. Now I enjoy a steak on rare occasions, but I have never bought a piece of meat like that from our little market on Beaver Island. I’ve bought chuck steak, when the price is right, to cook like a roast and enjoy for two or three meals. Usually, I buy their good ground beef, or chicken. On this day, without a second thought to the $12.99-per-pound, I asked for that steak.

Quickly to the counter, then, before another impulse should throw my budget completely off track. As I loaded my few purchases onto the conveyor belt, I noticed bundles of cellophane wrapped miniature roses in many colors, right beside the cash register. For Valentine’s Day, of course. “How much are the flowers?” was out of my mouth before I could stop it. The price, $9.99 per bundle, did not stop me either. I chose a bouquet of deep red-orange, and dug to the back of my wallet for a hidden twenty-dollar bill.

Home, I greeted the dogs, and took them for a short walk. They felt the extreme cold, too, and were relieved when I turned around. I unloaded the car, and unpacked my groceries. I trimmed the stems of the flowers, and arranged them in a vase. I lit all the candles: the two pillars in the bathroom, the lemon-scented jar candle in the kitchen, and a half-dozen votives on the dining room table.

While the dogs ate their dinner, I prepared my own. As I cooked, I thought of Elaine. We travelled together, many years ago, Elaine, my sister Brenda, and I, to our college classes. We discussed our children, our love-lives, and our course work. We read aloud from our papers, wanting, at that point, only positive feedback before we turned them in. We reviewed our teachers, our classmates and our partners with cruel honesty that made us laugh hysterically.

I cleaned and sliced a big mound of mushrooms, and sautéed them in butter, with one small hot pepper, sliced thin. I seasoned the steak with garlic powder and lots of pepper, and put it under the broiler. When it was nearly done, I cut a large plum tomato into wedges, and added it to the pan with the mushrooms.

I lifted the steak onto my plate, and spooned the mushroom-pepper-tomato combination over the top. I pulled out my big book of modern female artists, to page through while I ate. A perfect accompaniment to an absolutely fabulous meal!

It could have been a really lousy day. It almost was. As it turned out, though, it wasn’t half bad!