Monday, June 27, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Having driven just about half of the 3600 or so miles it took to go from here to there and back again in a car with a stick shift (5 forward gears), and having driven the last 90 miles of the journey, I found myself slamming my foot down on the nonexistent clutch pedal as I left a couple of hours later to go to the kennel to pick up our cat.

I could see a storm brewing as I headed back to the house, with her meowing miserably in the cat carrier in the back seat, and within an hour or so comes

Blatt… Blatt… Blatt… The National Weather Service announces a severe thunderstorm warning….”

And the sky turns black and the wind kicks up and the rain pours for a while, and then it is over…

We spent Saturday night in a motel in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and I had totally forgotten when I woke up yesterday morning that it was our anniversary. Richard remembered later in the day, but I did not remember until I got a phone call from my sister later in the day singing a “Happy Anniversary” song.                                                                          

This morning when I stood at the bathroom sink to brush my teeth and wash my hands, I felt a tickling sensation at my ankle and looked down to see a cricket crawling up my leg. And then a little later in the day, I saw a lizard scuttle across the “porch room” floor to vanish under a pantry cabinet.

Things are just about back to normal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How the "haves" roll

Yesterday was a day of contrasts.

We left the madhouse of the Las Vegas strip area and ventured to Henderson to the Clark County Heritage Museum, a beautiful facility on the outskirts of Henderson. We arrived just after the museum opened and the curator – the lovely man who appears frequently on Pawn Stars to authenticate items of historical interest – was talking to the museum receptionist as we walked in. He was carrying a satchel under his arm full of papers and overflowing with books, and as he turned around to look at us when we walked in, several of them dropped on the ground, which I picked up for him.

The price of fame. Instead of trundling along through life as an unknown and unrecognized museum curator, he can barely go out in public without being recognized and bothered.

It was peaceful and quiet at the museum, with interesting artifacts and items showing the life of the Native Americans who lived in the area, and the early days of Las Vegas. And outside, various historic houses and buildings have been moved onto the grounds and restored and are open for people to walk-through.

A batch of very young rabbits had apparently just left the nest and several of them were playing on the lawns of these houses, and funny little ground squirrels were scampering everywhere. A Gambel’s quail scurried away from us -- top knot bobbing - as we came out of one of the houses and vanished into the scrub.

We were not prepared for strolling in the heat and sunlight, so we did not go on the nature trail. In any event, it was a lovely, relaxing couple of hours and the price of admission: $1.00 each.

We stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall for lunch. The dining area was filled with several large groups of Vietnamese, and we were the only white folk. We suspect that some of the people were kin to the owner or the chef because people sort of got up and wandered back into the kitchen and out again. There were a number of children running around and laughing (and also going in and out of the kitchen) and playing some sort of table game.

One little old man appeared to be the waiter and he hustled around trying to take care of everyone. It was loud and noisy and fun and the food was very good. One of the ingredients in the soup we had resembled cubes of reddish colored tofu. I happily ate it, and I ate Richard’s too, before Richard told he thought it was congealed pork blood. 

The bill for lunch was $22.

Richard attended the afternoon session of the convention and when he returned, he said the editor of the trade magazine he writes for had invited us out to dinner and we would meet her at the Bellagio. So we got ready and drove to the Bellagio, assuming I think that we would pile into her car and go somewhere else.

But no, she had made reservations for us at Circo, an upscale restaurant in the hotel serving Tuscan-style cuisine.

The dining area was very quiet. There was army of men dressed in black suits waiting on the tables, as many as two or three at a time bringing food. There was a “wine guy” who did nothing but present bottles of wine to diners.

Both of us were trying to figure out if there was something “light” on the menu, and while I was mentally gasping at the prices of the food, she announced that we should have the “tasting menu.”

So we did.  And they brought small courses of food – amazing food -- with fairly long gaps between each course. We were there at least 3 hours.

Richard has this habit of snatching the check when other people have invited us out to dinner and paying for it. This time, however, when the waiter appeared at our table and handed the check to Richard, he passed it to our host. Fortunately. The price of the meal was $450.

We walked out of there stuffed and stunned and more than a bit overwhelmed.

And now I am happily pounding away on the keyboard in our $30-a-night hotel room, which has served our middle-class needs very well, and very shortly Richard will arrive back from the morning session, and we will load the car and drive off across the desert to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Easily confused and easily amused

Somehow in the rush to get ready for our trip, I got very mixed up about when Father's Day occurs. It wasn't until late last night, after we finally managed to arrive at the Bellagio to see the fountain show (the pedestrian bridge to cross the street in front of the Bellagio was broken, which resulted in a rather circuitous route to get there) and then walked back to the motel to get something to drink that I realized I had made a mistake.

I thought Father's Day was June 12. So I wrote a Father's Day card to my dad and put that with the weekly letter I write him, and then added one more stop on my morning trip to town on Friday to buy a card for Richard. Richard was amazing -- truly amazing -- in all of the things he did for Nathaniel when our terrible journey began this time last year, and I intend to honor him for that for as long as we both shall live...

And I was so proud of myself when I got the card mailed off to my Dad (feeling not too bad that it would be a day late) and had the card for Richard ready to go to give to him on Sunday.

I had called my dad on Sunday when we were having dinner in Flagstaff, asking how he was and hoping he had had a nice day, and although he is always happy to hear from me, I imagine he was a bit confused about why I had called....

As we were meandering through the casino last night headed for the cafe, I noted a placard announcing "FREE for Fathers on Fathers Day, June 19...."

I will have to call him today and explain that I have lost my mind.

And then this morning, around 9 a.m. we suddenly heard quite rapid banging. Richard went to the door and looked out in the hall but all was quiet. There is some refurbishing going on in the motel--when we read a review of the motel, someone had complained that there was a lot of noise--and then I thought it might be kids running down the hall or something. But then Richard realized it was the bed in the next room banging against the wall. It didn't last very long, and we sort of giggled about that for a minute or two...

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Woman of TomTom

The day before we left on our road trip -- from rural Missouri to the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles --  I received an e-mail notice that the writer of a favorite blog, The Reluctant Memsahib, was embarking with her husband on their own road trip.

I think perhaps she has the potential to see much more exciting things than we saw on the first leg of our trip. So far, the only really interesting thing we have seen from the windows of the car as we motored at a sedate 65 mph down I-40 (which follows the old Route 66) was a small herd of pronghorn antelope grazing in a field in northern New Mexico.

This trip requires a few days' stay in Lost Wages so Richard can attend a convention. We arrived here this morning in a rather more leisurely fashion than we have done in previous trips. We decided to take an extra traveling day -- our grief counselor urged us to do this when she spotted us early last week on our morning walk as she pulled off the highway at the Willow Springs exit just as we were crossing the overpass. 
"You two are exhausted," she said. "You just don't know it. Take your time."

 I could relate to Memsahib's post of today, where she describes them being stopped by a policeman and being fined for speeding and other infractions. I remember quite vividly about 7 years ago when Richard was driving and blew right past the sign that said

Construction Zone
Reduced Speed
Fines Doubled in Construction Area

and there was a Arizona highway patrol car sitting there to see us do it, and she stopped us. We spent a hour or so in Winslow, Arizona, and I actually got to "stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" while he was paying the $220 fine. We were somewhat poorer and much wiser after that episode.

A new companion with us on this trip has been our handy TomTom device with the pleasant female voice advising us how to get where we want to go. We don't actually need her while we are on the road, but she was very helpful today directing us from the Interstate to our motel, and from there to the location of the pawn shop that is featured on the "Pawn Stars" program. As we drove by the pawnshop and saw the line of people standing outside in the hot sun waiting to get in, I concluded that I did not really want to stand in line for the chance to see the interior of the shop, and so we drove on by and made a couple of right hand turns and then headed back to the motel.

We are somewhat nostalgic for the "old Las Vegas" that we remember from the 1970s. The "new and improved" Las Vegas is overwhelming. In the old days, one could walk down the strip and enjoy the lights and the sights -- now everything has gotten so huge and so grand that it is no longer very walkable -- the casinos are simply too far apart.

But except for a stroll last night and early this morning down the quaint streets of Williams, Arizona, we have mostly been sitting on our behinds since Saturday morning and so we will put our shoes on, head on out for some Indian food, and perhaps walk as far as the fountains at the Bellagio...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Amaretto sauce-covered ants…

We heard an interesting thing on a nature program recently: In parts of Africa where humans coexist with army ants, when word comes that the ants--which are known to eat anything and everything in their path--are headed for the village, everybody grabs their babies and the chickens and they vacate the village. The invading ants thoroughly clean the huts of any organic matter, and then the people come back. Works out well for both.

Ants are described in admirable terms in the Bible…

Take a lesson from the ants… learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.

And indeed, they do labor hard.

The ants that live with us are consummate scavengers, and I can relate.

I got a strong dose of the “scavenger” gene from my dad – I can hardly resist looking into a dumpster or a trash can; within recent memory, for example, I found a really nice bucket and some other good stuff in a trash can in the park. I don’t go as far as a friend of mine, who regularly ate produce she found in the dumpster in back of the supermarket, but I have found some cool stuff on occasion.

At any rate, this is about ants. Within 15 minutes or so of a cockroach being smashed (and unfortunately for us, there are quite a few cockroaches who seem to want to be in the house with us...)

they have found it...

and are busy recycling it.

I think it is interesting that nowhere does Franz Kafka say that poor Gregor Samsa woke up one morning to discover he was a cockroach, but I think just about everybody who has read The Metamorphosis  assumes that is the insect he was. I mean, he could have been a June bug -- which can be annoying, but most people don't hate them and don’t think them “vermin.” 

Unfortunately for them, the ants don’t know the difference between a smashed cockroach and $4.99-per-pound rainbow trout that has been set out to thaw on a rack. I guess they must have thought they hit the Mother Load -- quite a group of them ended up getting washed down the drain the other night.

Richard decided a few weeks ago that I deserved a special treat. The trout were on sale and so he bought four of them. And then he splurged even more and bought me a small bottle of medium-expensive amaretto so I could make amaretto sauce to go on them.

To make a wonderful sauce for trout or other mild-flavored fish (and this is OK for nondrinkers because all the alcohol evaporates off), and I think it would be wonderful on warm rice…

Take about 2 ounces of slivered almonds or whole almonds that have been chopped up a bit, and toast them in a 1 tbsp of melted butter, but don’t burn them (like I did the first time) ….

Then add 1/4 cup of amaretto…

Then add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I don’t have heavy cream, so I put twice as much powdered milk as needed in 1/2 cup of water and added that, and then let it simmer a bit and reduce down….

Then, you can add some chopped grapes, or diced peaches, or other sweet fruit.

Very tasty. Unlike ants which live with us, which don’t taste good at all (has anyone ever actually eaten chocolate-covered ants?)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Gettin’ gussied up…

A big event in the family is coming up in a couple of weeks – my sister’s youngest daughter is getting married, and we will be leaving soon to drive on out there to the Left Coast and have us a party.

Which means we have to organize ourselves and figure out what we are going to wear. We have been living a long time in an area where Ozark Casual is the rule – people have a tendency to show up at weddings and funerals too, wearing their everyday clothes, which for quite a few is bib overalls or their work clothes. At the last wedding I attended, the grandfather of the bride did indeed show up in Dickie pants and a work shirt.

I have had a lot of fun teasing my sister about what we may or may not be wearing. I sent her an e-mail in which I said “Richard wants to know if he can wear his bib overalls” to the wedding…”

I have reassured her several times that I am just kidding. But when I talked to her on Saturday Richard reminded to tell her that he would be add a flower in the buttonhole to give his Ozark tuxedo a bit of class.

I really am just kidding.

We discovered that Richard has two suits in the closet. They have been kept secure in a garment bag and there are no holes in them from the moths. We don’t remember buying two suits, but there they are.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A rose by any other name…

I think one of the signs that recovery is moving forward, even if there are a few backward steps along the way, is a renewed interest in reading the blogs that have given me so much pleasure in the past.

I read two blogs written by Australians, including the one by Cathy. I enjoyed so much seeing the beautiful pictures of her roses in a recent post.

My mother loved roses, but I do not remember seeing rosebushes in the yard until we moved to the second house we lived in – and where my father still lives – in the early 1960s. Then many rosebushes began appearing in the flowerbeds as the years passed. One of the few presents that I actually remember giving my mother was a rosebush with lavender-colored blooms for her birthday or maybe Mother's Day.

When we moved here, I did not attempt to plant a rosebush at our house, but I didn’t need to.

A previous owner had planted a climbing rose – an old fashioned “heirloom” type, on the wooden fence that used to separate the “yard” from the “pasture.”

It has come back year after year after year, even though the fence, and the trellis we later put up, disintegrated years ago. Now it climbs up into the sumac bushes.

I had totally forgotten about this old faithful friend until I happened to read Cathy’s blog, and so I thought I would check to see if it was blooming this year.

And indeed it is.

It is not big and bold and brassy, it has a very small,

unassuming flower...

but it is sweet and I love it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

We are spared the cacophony

I started to title this post Do you hear what I hear?” but the fact is, we are not hearing it, and I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the song lyric work.

What is the it?

The deafening calls of these bulgy orange-eyed insects –

the periodical cicadas -- that merge once every 13 or 17 years (I think this year it is supposed to be the 13-year eruption) in these here parts to engage in a frenzied mating orgy for a short period and then disappear again for another 13 (or 17) years.

I first time I heard these creatures was well… 13 years ago (or maybe 17) when I cleaned a house out in the country that was surrounded by woods. I came home very relieved that we did not have any of them at our house – or at least not enough of them to just about drown out the sound of a lawnmower busy in the next yard.

I have been two places in the past few days where there were so many of them that they made enough noise that one had to “speak up” if one wanted to talk outside and be heard. And even though it may not sound that loud on the You-Tube link there -- they really are quite loud.

Again, I came home to blissful silence – well, not quite blissful because the trucks are still roaring past -- but at least not any noisier than usual. Which is why I was very surprised to see this one on the back porch.

I am wondering why no one has thought to make one of those campy “B” horror movies with giant insects featuring this guy (or gal).

I mean, it looks like it could be an alien from outer space.