Tag: from the pink shed

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Politics

Memories and a Recipe for the Fourth of July

Fourth of July, Me and Hector
Me and my neighbor, Hector

Dear Reader:

On this morning last year, I was sipping mimosas, eating “breakfast crack” and mingling with friends in my neighbor Cathy‘s backyard. I hadn’t really felt good about America since the 2016 election, but I love brunch and I was wearing my protest t-shirt, so I felt okay about celebrating.

I live in a home that’s almost one hundred years old in a well-established neighborhood in East Sacramento. It’s a holiday-loving neighborhood. Real estate documents disclose this fact to anyone looking to buy a home here. Large crowds gather for Halloween, Christmas and the Fourth. Last year’s parade was the 89th annual event and it brought residents out into their yards and visitors from all over the city into the streets.

Our beloved Governor Gavin Newsom made an appearance! I was absolutely devastated that I missed him. I’d wandered off with a group of ladies to meet the former newswoman and acclaimed author who lives right around the corner from me when  my husband spotted him walking down the middle of the street.

“There must have been security,” he reported to me, “but it wasn’t obvious. And, yes, he’s just as good looking in person.”

Well, that was 2019. Today, I’m wearing my navy joggers from Target, but I’ve got a new t-shirt: Biden for President it reads. The outfit amuses my daughter, because “You don’t even like him, Mother!” Let’s just say, he’s growing on me.

I wish there was a parade this year; I’d like to visit with Gavin.  I hope that next year’s parade is just as grand as last’s years and that I’m feeling proud of my country again.

Michele

“Breakfast Crack” is slang for Creme Brûlée French Toast…you’re going to love it!

Creme Brûlée French Toast

 

Ingredients:    

                                            

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1 (8 to 9) inch round loaf Challah bread

5 large eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Cut 6 (1-inch) thick slices from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use, and trim crusts. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bring bread mixture to room temperature. Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.

 

Politics

Dear Governor Newsom …

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Governor Gavin Newsom

Dear Reader:

My dear friend, Laurie Seidler, asked me to proofread her letter to a man we both passionately admire, because it’s not everyday that you write to the governor.


 

The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Newsom,

Are you getting enough sleep? You look drawn.

That is not a criticism, Governor. Far from it. I’m a fan. I think you’re doing a wonderful job ceaselessly working to protect the 39 million Californians in your care. You have my utmost respect and admiration. I worry about you because I care. It’s as simple as that. I love you, Gavin Newsom.

To clarify, when I say that ‘I love you’ I mean it in a purely platonic/maternal way. Although, let’s face it, you are the whole package: kind, caring, easy on the eyes, and soothingly science-y. If I’m honest—and I want to be honest with you, Gavin—put me in a room with you, Justin Trudeau and Anthony Fauci and I would spin in a circle like a short-circuited Roomba. (If you could keep that last bit to yourself I’d appreciate it. The Fauci posters already have my husband a little on edge.)

Seriously though, Gavin, I worry about you. You’re greying. (It suits you, but still.) You’re pale (like a sexy vampire.) And your voice is so… so husky. Are you gargling with salt water? Have you tried Throat Coat tea? Tell me if you need some honey because I will leap into my minivan and drive straight to Sacramento. I will. I have honey, and it’s all for you.

Say the word and, according to Google, I’ll be there in one hour and fifty minutes—half of what it would have taken pre-Covid-19!—plus two to five days for the test results to come in, because I want us to be able to merge our bubbles without shame, or guilt, or 14 days of isolation. Not that I’m likely to have even a cold because I’ve been sheltering in place like it’s an Olympic event. I’ve been very, very good, Gavin. I always wear a mask in public because, to quote you: “Together we can slow the spread.”

Once our bubbles have merged we won’t have to wear masks or keep six- to ten-feet apart. We’ll be free to be ourselves. But we can take any precautions you like because I want you to feel safe, Gav. I want you to be safe. I want you to guide us through this inferno and emerge Phoenix-like to mesmerize us with your informative and factually correct press conferences for years to come.

So, drink some tea, my Governor, and get some sleep. Sweet dreams, my prince.
Respectfully yours,

Laurie


 

I think my friend speaks for so many Californians… including me!

Michele

P.S. Can you spell S-A-T-I-R-E?!

Pandemic Prose

I’m Just Not Sorted…Are You?

This is how I feel. How about you?

Dear Reader:

I’m an unapologetic Anglophile. Love all things English, especially the cream in all its many forms. In America, we have cream, whipped cream and half and half. In jolly old England, the options include all of the above as well as single cream, double cream, clotted cream and extra thick double cream.

I have had the distinct pleasure of traveling across the pond several times. I’m very grateful for that now as I shelter at home and ponder how long it may be before I travel again. London, I believe, is always a good idea. Not so much, Paris, but that’s another post.

Second only to my passion for the creams of the UK is my amusement and pleasure at the native language. English, you say?! Well, yes…kind of.

In the U.S. we don’t “pop” over to friend’s homes. We don’t “potter about.” We hardly ever  use the words “lovely, proper and brilliant.” Nor do we “sort” in the same way as they do in the U.K.

Sort- British informal. organized, arranged, or dealt with satisfactorily. Sorted can also be said of a person.

Americans sort closets, drawers, papers and mail. But, we don’t talk about sorting ourselves. We might say: I’m thinking or contemplating or meditating. But, we don’t refer to a state of peace or contentment as being “sorted.”

But, that seems the perfect word for what I’m trying to do lately. My mind is in a jumble and I’m trying to sort it all out. It’s just a mess. I wake up thinking how many more days until the election? Is the covid 19 trend line going up or down in my county? Will we finally address systematic racism in this country? When will the people I care about who’ve lost jobs, find employment? Will the small businesses I love so much survive? When will I be able to pop the corks and throw a big party? 

My mind continues to wander aimlessly. I’m eating a piece of  Victoria Sponge at the Fortnum and Mason Tea Salon in London. I’m walking barefoot on the beach in Maui feeling my muscles work against the moving grains of sand. I’m ducking, out of the fog, into a coffee shop in Carmel to visit with a friend. I’m on my favorite ride in Disneyland, singing…”it’s a small world after all.” I’m feeling like a giddy teenager having my picture taken with Chris Isaak before his concert in Reno.

Then I remember the Instacart shopper forgot to deliver the milk from my last order. Must buy milk. 

It’s been five days since I’ve posted anything despite the fact that I’ve got ten drafts in progress. I’ve asked my daughter to read for me. I know something’s wrong but I’m not sure what.

“This is two or three separate posts, Mom!”

She’s told me this three times, and each time, I start another draft. Finishing things is so hard right now. It requires concentration and focus. That’s not easy. 

I will endeavor to persevere* to achieve a sorted state! We must try to try…in these unprecedented times.

Michele

P.S. Ali, The Mindful Gardener, are you listening? Have I got the Queen’s English correct?!

* As a reader and writer, I’ve always appreciated Chief Dan George’s words from the classic movie The Outlaw Josey Wales!

Pandemic Prose

Thor and I Are Socially Distancing

THOR
Those eyes!

Dear Reader:

Meet Thor, a five pound Yorkshire Terrier, and one of the most popular residents here in East Sacramento. (Shhhh…I like him even more than I like some of my neighbors who walk on two feet!) It simply must be said, even though it is completely unnecessary since I’ve included a photo, that he’s darling! He’s also quite friendly.

I’m lucky that he lives only two doors down with his dads, Hector and Ralph. We met him shortly after we moved in. Ralph stopped by one night to welcome us to the neighborhood and to ask if he could spend some time on our porch and in our front yard so that he could acclimate his dog to our dog statuary. Seems Thor felt a bit intimidated on his daily walks past our pack of metal and terra cotta dachshunds. Funny that he had no problems with our real dogs. It didn’t take long for all of us, the people and the dogs, to become best of friends.

IMG_3526
One of many dachshund shaped garden statuary in our front yard

This is where my story becomes sad. You see, for a year and a half now, I’ve looked forward to running into Thor on his daily walks. Sometimes I would encounter him by chance, but often I’d spy him from one of my windows and rush outside for a quick visit.  I’d call out to him just after greeting his dad and he’d pull at his leash, sometimes so hard that he’d be standing up on his back feet straining to get to me.

Then came the pandemic. I’m not sure exactly how long it took for Thor to understand that I’d no longer run to greet him. But, I can remember the site of him trying to get close to me in the early days of the shelter in place order. I wanted to pet him and hug him and talk to him just as I’d always done. (I talk to dogs.)

Thor has been trained to social distance. Now he continues walking with his master as they pass and are met with quick hellos. Or, he stands by waiting while the humans speak to each other from a safe distance. I miss him.

Hector and Thor
Hector and Thor

Of course I miss his dads even more. I miss the 5 p.m. cocktail hours that always stretched to 8 p.m. because the conversation was so good. I miss the hugs and the fashion advice. I miss the every day exchanges that make life interesting and pleasant.

Someday, we’ll party again and hug again. Dogs don’t hold grudges so I’ll anticipate a warm greeting from my four-legged friend, too.

Michele

Creativity, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Inspirational Women

Bloggers Make the Best Friends!

 

IMG_3523
Art by Tamara Jare

 

Dear Reader:

I made the decision to start my blog after reading Joy Cho’s book, Blog Inc., on vacation over three years ago. One of the many things the author promised I’d discover as a blogger was a thriving, creative, supportive community. The thought of that warmed my heart.

I have been blessed to find many friends in the blogosphere. My first friend, Tamara Jare of My Botanical Garden, visited my site when it was only two days old and became one of my first subscribers and a loyal reader.

But, beyond that, we became pen pals. I’ve never met Tamara, but I’m sure I’d recognize her if she came walking into my living room right now. We’d hug and I’d ask her to sit down in my incredibly comfy velvet club chair while I poured her a glass of champagne. And, then you’d know what would happen? We’d talk for hours.

First, I’d thank her for the incredibly generous gift she sent to my home. It was just another day, until I heard the dogs announce a delivery truck and then my daughter called upstairs to me.

“Mom, you’ve got an envelope from your friend in Slovenia!”

I have a friend who lives 6,000 miles away! That delights me so much!

Thank you Tamara for the lovely gift. The watercolor is simply exquisite. It will be a delight to take it to the frame shop…someday. I’ll frame it in gold to complement my first piece of your art. You’ve made my life and my space fuller and more beautiful.

Michele

Politics

Quit Facebook…NOW!

Quit-Facebook
There’s never been a better time to quit Facebook.

Dear Reader:

With a bit of assistance from my in-house tech support person, my daughter, I quit* Facebook last night and I’d like you to consider doing the same. I should have done this immediately following the 2016 election. Why would I want to remain on a platform that allowed Russian agents to buy ads designed to subvert American democracy? Why would I associate with any entity that demonstrably helped to elect a man clearly devoid of any qualifications to be president?

I’m new to all social media. I opened my Facebook account only three years ago when I started my blog. My tech consultant suggested that it would be a good way to let people know that I was blogging and that I might enjoy the experience of connecting with old friends. I didn’t find the site inherently appealing or pleasing, but it was a novelty. I received generous support from friends who used it to connect to my blog posts. I loved the baby photos and the puppy photos. I liked to “like” my friends posts and support their causes through birthday fundraisers. And, speaking of birthdays, I loved getting reminders so I could extend best wishes to my friends.

With every negative story about Facebook (and there have been so many) I thought about leaving.  But I have friends who love Facebook and use it as their primary communication tool. I haven’t wanted to desert them. Not without good reason. I now believe there are many good reasons to leave:

Despite being the largest media company in the world, Facebook refuses to fact check political ads or regulate its content.

Just think POTUS here! Beyond that think of the risks associated for thousands or millions of followers given false information about vaccinations or coronavirus. False information can be deadly.

CEO Mark Zucherburg has sided with our belligerent, ignorant, cowardly president to allow his site to be used to incite further violence.

He’s allowed a post to remain untouched that Twitter marked with a disclaimer for “glorifying violence.” Zuckerberg has come down on the wrong side of history. His employees are protesting his inaction with some resigning this week.

We have the ability to make a difference even if we are not part of the protests rocking America and the world.

I’m staying at home to protect myself and my family from the risk of contracting corona-virus. I disabled my account from my couch. I’m no longer contributing to a business that generates billions of dollars for a few and political opportunities for others at the expense of truth.

Finally, Facebook isn’t even sexy anymore!

In a 2018 US survey , 9% of respondents said that they had recently deleted their Facebook account, while a further 35% reported that they were using the social media platform less. Young people shun Facebook. There are so many other platforms available to connect with people. Sheltering in place has led me to discover ZOOM and, indeed, to re-discover the telephone. I’ve been emailing more and putting pen to paper so my friends can discover that they’ve got mail. TikTok has provided me with some comic relief and WordPress is overflowing with beautiful and meaningful content. The list goes on…challenge yourself to discover and master another platform.

If you’re unconvinced and can’t imagine a life without Facebook, you might want to consider the results of a recent study that showed that people who left the platform were overall happier. They saved time and then put that time to better use. They even reported that their moods had improved.

Leave Facebook. It’s just one small way to make a difference in 2020.

Michele

* They don’t make it easy to opt-out and they apply a 30 day waiting period before you’re officially removed (in case you reconsider)!

Pandemic Prose

Surprise Guests!

Mother and two babies visiting my neighbor’s front yard.

Dear Reader:

On the first day of Spring, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered 40M Californians to shelter in place. And, you know what, we’ve done just that for 70 odd days now. The days running one into another. Nobody’s cars moving. Amazon and FedEX trucks screeching down the street.

We emailed our neighbors. We called, even though we hated the telephone. We sat on our porches…waiting. Walked our dogs. Took the trash out and brought the cans in. Placed our Drizly and Instacart orders and waited for them to come. Unpacked them.

Forced ourselves to finish an entire book. Discussed the book on Zoom. Occasionally showed up for a virtual training session from the garage. Made pasta. Baked the official food of the pandemic…banana bread. Washed our sweatpants so that we could wear them again.

What day is it? Wait, I know this! Today’s the day the turkeys came!

Just as my husband and I sat down on our front porch to enjoy the cocktail hour, we spied them across the street. A mother and two babies crossed the road and stopped for a visit in our next door neighbor’s yard. I called into the house for my daughter to come out as three other families joined us on the street to OOH and AH. Granted, we are easily entertained at this point in time, but it was an event.

Michele

For inquiring minds: wild turkeys can be found in about 18% of my home state in deserts, forests and cities. Two major rivers – the Sacramento and American – run through the landscape of my home town. So it’s not unusual to see varied wildlife on our trails and in our parks, but this is the first time they’ve come to roost in our neighborhood. Incidentally, baby turkeys are called “poults.”

Pandemic Prose

The Kindness of Strangers

eggs

Dear Reader:

I love to shop, for everything, including groceries. I linger in the aisles. I don’t rush the process. I read ingredient labels and check expiration dates. I sample cheese in the deli and watch sushi being rolled. I smell, thump and squeeze. Sometimes, I’m so moved by produce displays that I snap photos. I talk to strangers waiting in line and get to know the checkers at my regular stores.

In short, I enjoy the grocery store… not so much during a pandemic, though. I hopped onto Instacart the first week of our stay at home order and I haven’t looked back. I’ve now taught two neighbors how to use the site…over the phone. Imagine me as a Tech Consultant!

There’s one particular shopping experience that I’ll never forget. It came during the second week of shut down. It was 10 p.m. and I couldn’t stop worrying about one of my beloved neighbors. She is more than a decade older than me and fits firmly in the high risk category for serious illness with coronavirus. She doesn’t shop on-line much for anything and the idea of  buying groceries without leaving her house was a bit revolutionary. I’d spoken with her earlier in the day after she’d come back from the market. She couldn’t get eggs and she was planning to go out the next day and find them at another store. I didn’t want her to do that!

At that point in time, it was hard to find eggs. I was determined, though. I opened my laptop and placed an order. The website was accepting orders for 2 dozen eggs but it remained to be seen if I’d actually get them. At 10:30, I was notified that Celestial (I took her name as a good omen) would begin shopping my order. I’d kept it small, but I still reached out to her and asked that she pull the eggs first, as they were for an elderly neighbor. Her reply came back quickly, “there are no eggs!”

Twenty minutes later, I received a text saying she would drive to another store that she thought might have the eggs if I could wait. Sure…where was I going at 11 o’clock?!

Celestial explained to me later in a text that she is very close to her mother, who lives in another state.  She is dependent on other people to lend a hand to keep her mom safe and so she wanted to return the kindness by helping other people keep their parents safe. She intended to pay for my items out of her own pocket. But, when she reached the checkout counter, she realized she’d left the house without her wallet. That was when the gentleman in line behind her stepped in and paid for my two dozen eggs and two bottles of precautionary cough syrup.

I owed a stranger about $30 and I reached out the next day to thank him and arrange to reimburse him.

This was his reply:

IMG_0730

Don’t you just love it?! I’ve always been a person who believes in the kindness of strangers. And, I love it when that belief is reinforced. I went to bed that night with a smile on my face.

Gotta run now, I’m placing my 10th Instacart order.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. My dear neighbor now loves Instacart as much as I do!

Creativity

3 Years of Blogging; 4 Reasons to Blog

Portrait of Katherine Mansfield by Anne Estelle Rice

Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.

–Katherine Mansfield    

Dear Reader:

I’m old. I started my blog when I was 57 and I just turned 60. I majored in journalism in college and learned to write on a typewriter. My work would come back from my professors full of comments and corrections written in red ink…the proverbial blood bath.

I so greatly anticipated receiving editorial criticism. It gave me direction. It presented a challenge and I love challenges. I’d set to work cutting and pasting, in the old-fashioned way, with scissors and tape. I did not conserve paper. The wastebasket was always full of twaddle. Final copies included a dot or two of white out to conceal typographical errors. I expected to re-write everything multiple times.

The shorter the piece, the longer it took to hone it. It’s much more difficult to communicate a clear message in a concise way. I was taught to take every piece I wrote and start by crossing out, with a pencil, every other word to get a sense of how it might be pared down. 

One did not share her work with anyone other than an instructor or editor until it had been revised and re-written numerous times. It wasn’t as simple as having a thought, writing it down and sending it out into the world.  

After my only child left the nest for college, a younger friend suggested that I start a blog, I chuckled. I’m a perfectionist. Writers should edit and re-write. How could I possibly maintain a regular blogging schedule and still turn out readable copy at a level that I felt comfortable with?

I’ve been a blogger for three years now. I’m renewing and refreshing my site with the help of a young consultant who has probably never met a typewriter. As I review the entirety of my posts to bring clarity and focus to the pink shed, I’m struck by the pride I feel for what I’ve created.

I’ve found errors …awkwardly phrased sentences, an extra space here and there and more than one grainy looking photo. But, life is like that. Imperfect. My blog is imperfect and I’m okay with that!

I’ll continue to send my letters to you dear readers for these very good reasons:

  1. Blogging gives me an emotional and creative outlet.
  2. It provides an opportunity for me to enhance my technological understanding and skills.
  3. The blogging community is great.
  4. It’s wonderfully fun!                                                                                                                         

I love discovering quotations from accomplished writers who acknowledge the difficulty of the art form. Katherine Mansfield was impressive and yet she dared to honestly talk about the craft of writing. I respect that.

We can not all be best-selling authors or famous bloggers, but that’s not an excuse. There’s no reason to hold back. Share what’s in your heart. Life is short. Life is precious. We must see that now. Have the courage to create a perfectly imperfect masterpiece in the genre of your choice. I promise, you’ll feel good about it.  

Hugs,

Michele

 
Flowers, Inspirational Women, The Color Pink

Coco Chanel’s Favorite Flower in My Favorite Color

IMG_2872

Dear Reader:

Coco Chanel loved camellias. And, so do I. She favored them in white and turned them into a recognizable branding phenomenon. The white bloom is both simple and elegant and fit her artistic aesthetic perfectly. Certainly, Coco was the ultimate arbiter of good taste, but a girl loves what a girl loves. I must humbly state my case for the pink camellia: everything is pretty in pink!

The camellia plant is an evergreen. It typically flowers late winter into early spring. So, as we approach the end of the season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gifts from the garden.

My life is a very good one. My gardener lives with me! Meet the man who brings me flowers. Up to this point, he’s only agreed to have his hand featured on my site.

IMG_6760

Tell me, dear reader, do you love the camellia? White or pink?

Hugs,

Michele