A Day in the Life: Reflections on Apartment Life

first snow November 18

View from my front door. Heavenly.

A little more than eight months ago, I packed up and left my home town of the previous 36 years to move closer to my younger son and daughter-in-law. I was happy to go, but I knew I’d miss the many friends I’d made in all that time. The months have passed quickly, I’ve made new friends…and in a peculiar twist in life, lost the two closest to me for the longest time, neither of whom lived there!

As I reflect on my time in my new apartment, I’m happy. I love living alone, I’m happily all on one floor, and I have a beautiful view from my front door! All summer long, flowers bloomed in pots on the patio. I spent many a lazy morning drinking my coffee out there just listening to the birds—redwing blackbirds, robins, cardinals and others, and watching the resident herons and egrets, ducks and Canada geese that graced the pond.

Before I ever moved in, I had the apartment painted a very pale, soft, minty green—cool and relaxing. For the first time in many years, I sit in my living room and say, “I love it here”—and mean it. The only thing to mar my apartment life has been the Thumpty Dumpties upstairs—three very heavy adult walkers and a toddler who thunders around, plus a dog who barks incessantly—who make my windows rattle in their frames, and have caused a new crack to appear in the ceiling. Today, they moved out and into a first-floor apartment across the way. I’m hoping the next tenant is as quiet as I am!

Aside from being closer to my son and his wife, the best part of living here is the pond. In summer, its banks are cloaked in green with cattails, long grasses, shrubs, and more than a few trees. Some days, it’s so still the reflection is perfect, others the wind churns up small whitecaps, and on others, when the sun peeks out of the clouds, the water turns to thousands of sparking diamonds. I feel a sense of peace and relaxation as I look outside.

Tonight, as I wrap this up, I am treasuring the bliss of silence overhead and looking to a very quiet weekend of work.

 

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A Day in the Life: Yum! Rum!

rum raisin custard bread pudding

Rum raisin custard bread pudding. Yum!

Before I moved from my house with a small, but usable kitchen to an apartment with a teeny-weeny, difficult kitchen, I cooked or baked nearly every day, mostly for other people. Lately, as the weather has grown colder with the not-so-distant approach of winter, I’ve been in a cooking/baking mood again. It started with the chocolate zucchini bread made with zucchini from a wonderful friend’s garden, shredded and frozen for the someday I’d bake again. Then came the Italian style meatloaf, made the way Mom used to—enough for an army. Day before yesterday, I made split pea soup, and yesterday evening, I baked one of my favorite desserts, rum raisin custard bread pudding. Keep in mind that I consume neither gluten nor dairy products, and you’ll understand why my neighbors are worried about gaining weight!

There is something comforting to me about feeding other people I care about. For the few months before I moved away from my house, I’d been cooking for my neighbor, who had been very ill, and needed desperately to gain weight. She asked for comfort food—shepherd’s pie, pasta, Quiche, soups, stews, and especially desserts. I experimented with all sorts of microwave cakes in a mug, creating luscious, fruity or chocolatey concoctions. Cobblers are so easy and quick to make—blueberry, rhubarb, or peach. For a change of pace, I’d throw in a caramel apple pie once in a while. And every other week, I’d experiment with some variation of bread pudding. I enjoyed every minute of my cooking adventures right up until the week I moved away.

So, while bread pudding was originally a way to use up stale bread, it’s no longer reserved for the days when you must use your bread or lose it to mold. When I first started making bread pudding years ago, I used whatever I had on hand. One rainy day , I decided to make some, but as I searched the refrigerator and freezer, I found only a frozen cinnamon raisin loaf I’d bought on sale a while back. The rest is history. The first pans were a bit too dry, so I subsequently added a few more eggs and a couple more cups of half & half (instead of milk) as an experiment. The extra eggs and half & half made a very tasty, moist, rich, custardy pudding. It was good! But it wasn’t as delicious as I knew it would be if, in addition to the almond and vanilla extracts, I threw in some rum. The next batch, I added a quarter cup of rum, and it was out of this world!

Herewith, my recipe.

Rum Raisin Custard Bread Pudding

Ingredients
1 loaf stale (or not) raisin bread (14-16 slices)
1 cup raisins (golden or regular)
3/4 cup of sugar
6 eggs
5 cups half & half
1/4 cup rum
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions (Preheat oven to 350°)
1. Cut bread slices into 16 cubes each and place in large bowl.
2. Add raisins and cinnamon to bread and mix to distribute.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and half & half.
4. Add rum, vanilla and almond and stir until thoroughly mixed.
5. Pour over bread cubes and mix throughly to make sure all the cubes will absorb the wet mixture. Let sit for half an hour, stirring from the bottom occasionally.
6. Use baking spray to coat 2 large loaf pans, or three smaller foil pans, and then pour mixture into each pan. Try to make them even.
7. Place pans in a larger baking pan filled an inch high with water.
8. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 350° or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool on rack before enjoying, or cover with foil, refrigerate and save for later.

Whipped cream or rum sauce adds another dimension to this [carb, dairy and gluten-laden] once-in-a-while treat.

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A Day in the Life: Creativity Loves Misery

After the loss of two long-time friendships, I felt positively miserable, even though it seems a positive step in reclaiming the real me. Rather than sit around like a potato (no offense to potatoes), I went into my studio and started making things. Creating something beautiful always lifts my spirits, which certainly needed a boost.

I make most of my jewelry with vintage or antique parts—findings, chain or beads. I haunt ebay and the vintage and antique shops looking for possible items to take apart and repurpose. Murano sommerso beads have always been a favorite, and my collection is rather large and still growing. Actually, the same goes for the entire bead collection, which takes up an entire 6′ closet and numerous other drawers and containers. I can no longer even begin to estimate the number of beads and stones of all types. Add in all the findings, doodads, stringing materials, tools, etc., and you have an addiction out of control.

The time spent in my studio hiding turned out to be rather productive. I generally post my work to several Facebook pages, which results in sales I would not otherwise enjoy. Today, I’m posting the fruits of my misery here. Some are still for sale, so feel free to leave a comment if you see something you like, or if you’d like me to create something special just for you, and I’ll get back to you.

colors of fall pearl necklace lr

Colors of fall pearl necklace

citrine, purple, clear necklace bling lr

citrine, purple and lavender crystal necklace

Red Brecciated Jasper copper necklace LR

brecciated jasper and copper necklace

purple flower jasper necklace for eileen LR

Purple flower jasper necklace SOLD

purple flower jasper bracelet LR

purple flower jasper bracelet

pink swar soccer ball, crystal and opal necklace LR

pink Swarovski soccer ball, crystal and opal necklace

pink rose murano necklace LR

pink rose murano necklace SOLD

picasso jasper pendant necklace LR

picasso jasper pendant necklace

murano turq copper pendant necklace LR

Murano sommerso turquoise copper pendant necklace

lampwork disc bead lavender necklace LR

lampwork disc bead lavender necklace

green lavender crystal silver chain LR

green and lavender crystal with silver-colored chain

chinese bead pendant necklace LR

chinese bead pendant necklace SOLD. Also has bracelet and earrings to match.

blue druzy agate with bronze leaf LR

blue druzy agate with bronze leaf

aqua Murano disc beads necklace LR

aqua Murano disc beads necklace

Lots more of my jewelry, glassware and digital collage are available here.

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Taking Stock and Moving On

Early this fall, I went on a road trip with a woman with whom I’d been best friends for 24 years. I felt somewhat apprehensive about going, even considered canceling due to the number of little red flags waving. But I didn’t, and that’s how I am now without the two people, outside my family, to whom I’ve been closest for many years. (Once before I didn’t listen to that little voice in the back of my head, said yes instead of no, and spent the next 14 years in a miserable marriage. You’d think I’d have learned a lesson from that…but alas.)

Predictably, the trip was a disaster, and now my hosts, he a very close friend of 15+ years and his new-ish wife, have tossed all those years out the window because of nine days in which I felt every bit as uncomfortable as they did.

When I sat back afterward and took stock of my relationship with my [former] friend, I realized that I felt used and disrespected by her—and my boundaries repeatedly trampled from early in the friendship. I had gone over and above for her too many times to count, putting my own life on hold for days at a time to assure her comfort, without regard for my own feelings. Worse, I allowed that behavior through all the years. As Ann Landers used to say, “No one can take advantage of you unless you let them.” Guilty as charged.

I long ago forgave myself for ignoring the little voice in the back of my head for saying yes when it was screaming at me, “Say NO! Say NO!” Now I’m working on forgiving myself for not asserting my boundaries, and for not listening to that little voice when it told me to cancel the trip. I hope I’m learning.

So, I’ve taken stock and I’m moving on.

I chose to end my relationship with the woman who I thought had been my best friend for so many years. Perhaps another time I’ll go into more detail, but not now.

Sadly, there will be no forgiveness for having made my hosts uncomfortable. I won’t lie—the loss of this friend is particularly painful, but it’s time to move on. I’m too old for all the drama.

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A Day in the Life: Indian Vista

manzanita

Manzanita at Indian Vista 2017

High up in the San Jacinto Mountains of California, 9.5 miles west of the town of Idyllwild, lies the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook in the San Bernardino Forest. While out in Indio, California, last year, my brother and sister-in-law and I took a day trip up the mountain to visit Idyllwild, where we explored a bit and had lunch. Along the way we passed vista after beautiful vista, each more enchanting than the last.
san jacinto mtsoverlook hazy mtsnear idyllwildelevation 5000 ftmount gorgonio
When my younger brother and his wife joined us this year, we made the drive again so they could enjoy the views. When we got up to Indian Vista, we stopped and got out. There are beautiful views, an historical marker, and a few hazardous (for me) paths down toward the valley. We ventured down a little way, looking for the perfect spot to scatter my parents’ ashes together. As we stood looking out over the mountains, we reminisced and told funny stories. My father was born in the Adirondacks, my mother in a tenement in Manhattan. She adapted quickly to life outside the city. The both loved the mountains. Now they can kick one another’s little ashes into eternity.
resting together here
indian vista pathIndian vista on the way to the tree

trees at Indian Vista

Manzanita’s still there year later.

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A Day in the Life: Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus

salvation_mountain_4271531161.jpg

Salvation Mountain by taylorandayumi via Wikimedia Commons

While out in California visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I went on a few excursions with them, all of which were well worth the effort—The Living Desert, Big Bear Lake and Temeculah. By far, however, our jaunt out to the Salton Sea, followed by a visit to Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus was the most unusual. You just have to see them to believe them. You can read all about Leonard Knight-the man, the mountain, the art here. It is truly a sight to behold. As we drove up to the mountain, we passed through Slab City on the way to East Jesus. There are some very good photos of Slab City and East Jesus by Marc Cooper here.

east jesus marc cooper

East Jesus. Photo by Marc Cooper.

east jesus sculpture garden marc cooper

East Jesus sculpture garden entrance. Marc Cooper photo.

The trip out to Salvation Mountain, Slab City and East Jesus followed the highway along the Salton Sea, a once popular recreation area, now largely abandoned.

salton sea

Salton Sea. DesertUSA.com

There’s an interesting story about the Salton Sea, “Salton Sea: From Relaxing Resort to Skeleton-Filled Wasteland here.

On our way back to Indio, we had planned to stop in at the International Banana Museum, but we somehow missed it. Hard to believe.

BanaSign

International Banana Museum. Photo from Christie’s California Adventure, here.

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A Day in the Life: I paid for a whole seat.

I know, I know, it’s been a long while since I’ve written anything. There has been no lack of subject matter, but time and other commitments have gotten in the way. Today, I’m recovering from a bit of surgery, so I’m resting. Thus, time to write.

sunrise in indio with pool reflection

Sunrise in Indio, CA

After a lovely two weeks in Indio, California, visiting with my eldest brother and sister-in-law, I returned home to the frozen tundra. Unfortunately, the return flight was one of my most unpleasant ever. Here’s why. I paid for a whole, already-too-small seat on American Airlines. When I boarded and arrived at my row, a behemoth of a woman sat in the window seat, sharing half of my seat. Too large to put the armrest down, too large to buckle her seatbelt, clearly she, too, was uncomfortable. I sat squished for nearly four hours, her body leaning against me the entire flight. She was so obese that her body prevented my tray table from fully lowering. To add to my misery, she had some obvious hygiene issues. The flight was full, every seat taken; nothing could be done about it. I left the plane limping badly to where my wheelchair awaited, ready to ferry me to the bus terminal for my hour-and-a-half ride home.

By the time I arrived home around 8pm, my entire body ached and I could think only of sleep. I went to bed thinking I’d crash early, but sleep eluded me. The more I thought about it, the more disgruntled I grew. Seats are smaller than ever on airplanes. There is no way that woman did not know she needed two seats, and there is no way that the flight attendant who seated her from her wheelchair didn’t know she needed two seats. Lest I be accused of fat shaming, I don’t give a rat’s petootie how large or small, short or tall, anyone is. I care only that when I pay for a seat, I expect to sit in the entire seat, not half a seat. If you cannot sit in the seat with the armrest down, you should buy a second seat instead of taking up half of mine.

I emailed my complaint to American. Surprisingly they responded the same day, crediting my account with 7500 frequent flyer miles. I’d have preferred a refund for that part of my round trip. Adding miles to my account to placate me does nothing to address the problem created by the airlines regularly reducing the size of the seats and leg room for the explicit purpose of cramming more bodies into an aircraft. The complaints are justified, not just on American, but on all the domestic airlines.

Rant over.

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