Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Upstairs at the White House"

I have just finished the most fascinating book: "Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies" by J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz. Mr. West was the chief usher of the White House, that is the executive director of the executive mansion and grounds. He retired in 1969 and this book was published in 1973 so it is new only to me. 

Mr. West joined the White House Usher staff during the Roosevelt administration and retired shortly after the Nixons came to live there. His memories are warm, humorous, gentle and loving. His love was for the House itself as he served Presidents and First Ladies from both political parties. He is always respectful of the women who held the unelected, un-appointed, and untrained for highest volunteer position in the nation. 

Much of the book is about the refurbishing and redecorating that each woman did to the family rooms of the White House. I was interested in the turn my thoughts took while reading about that. I found myself looking at my own home, my own style, and wondering what I would do, what colors would I pick, what would I choose to make a very formal, national monument into my home for a period of time?

I am ready for the next book in the series, ready to hear about the next set of ladies who lived in and decorated that house. I don’t know if the next chief usher has written yet. Maybe he won’t. I wish he would and with the same care and love of his subject that Mr. West shows in Upstairs at the White House. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Bit of Feminine History

A friend in Virginia, died yesterday. She was in her 90s and had been sick for a while so it was not really a surprise. Nonetheless, she will definitely be missed. She was a delight, “forever young”, and one classy lady. She was also intelligent and deeply spiritual. Of all the things I remember and will miss about her, one story is standing out in my mind this morning. 

She may have been the first woman elder at First Christian Church in Lynchburg. And I followed close behind. So one Sunday we were both serving at the communion table and we both had on black suits with white blouses. After the service, as was the custom in that church, we were standing at the back with the pastor to greet people, welcome new folks, and in general be elders. One person came to us and said, “Did you two plan your matching outfits for this morning?” She and I were stunned, looked at each other and burst out laughing. How many years had men stood at that Table in dark suits and ties, at First Christian in Lynchburg the ties were often the red of Lynchburg College, and no one, No One, in the history of this church or any other had Ever asked that question of the two male elders!!! We bonded over that question and remembered it long after women elders ceased to be a novelty. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Taco Flavored Filling

As promised (or threatened?) here is another recipe straight from Tahoe Mom's "what can we possibly have for dinner tonight?" file. We had just gotten home from camping. I had spent all day - literally - doing laundry. Dean had unloaded the camper and then gone to Reno for a meeting that didn't even start until 4. We had no idea when he would be home. When he called though, I had had an idea which he liked so I prepared it.

some ground meat (because you have some left over that needs using)
an ear of corn
a can of diced tomatoes
(optional: black beans)

Scramble the meat. Add corn and tomatoes and season with taco seasoning to taste.
Let cook on low until the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed. You can make guacamole while this is going on.

Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese

The first night I thought it would be a nacho topping but we ended up dipping chips into it. Then Dean decided it reminded him of the texture of corn beef hash and he thought it would be good with poached eggs on top. So the next time I made it, I rolled mine in a tortilla and he had his with poached eggs. I had wanted the picture to show two pristine poached eggs on top - oh, well. We both loved what we had. I think you can do almost anything with this basic blending of good ingredients.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lazy Random Thoughts

I'm avoiding moving too fast this morning. To keep from that, I am sitting on my window seat thinking about nothing in particular.

1) I "bought" a new mystery on Kindle. It combines mystery with crossword puzzles, one of my other favorite pastimes. Sweet. Except - oops. It's on Kindle. I don't know if I can do the puzzles or not. Well, it was free so no harm done I guess. I'll enjoy the mystery unless I have to work the puzzle to solve it.

2) How does the transition between elementary and middle school and between middle and high school cause young people to suddenly look years older? When my grands called after the first day of school, they both looked different, just a bit more mature, older, like something had already changed.

3) Why do new shoes make me so happy? Last time I ordered sneakers, I forgot to order Wide. I have spent some time in thinner socks and occasionally achy feet. Finally, finally I found the shoes I wanted, on sale!, and now have my wide sneakers. I am So Happy!!!

4) I am reading a book on medieval family life. If I had any specialty in history, it was the Middle Ages because I did a lot of work on the cycle plays. This is the first time in a long time however, I have read anything factual about that time period. It is fascinating ~ both the information and the fact that I am enjoying it again. 

5) And finally of course, my tea is gone, it really is time to put on those new shoes and move! First I will put on hiking boots which are better in the woods (at least until I am ready to allow my new shoes to get dirty on the trail). OK - here goes my day! ~ blessings on your way 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Squash Pie

Recently I have had some success in the kitchen throwing together a dish made from whatever was there and needed to be eaten. I'm a good cook if I follow the recipe. These couple of dishes had no recipe and still came together easily and well. I decided to be just egotistical enough to share my ideas with you. Today's recipe: Squash Pie.

It helps to have two lovely fresh summer squash straight from the garden. Summer squash is good though from wherever. 
Chop some onion and cook in butter and water until onion is translucent.
Add sliced squash, one ear of corn and cook a while.
Add 2 chopped tomatoes and heat until tomatoes soften.
To a Cup or more of shredded cheese add 2 or 3 beaten eggs. 
Mix it all together and put in parchment paper covered pie pan.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

I got the parchment paper idea from FB. This dish works well as a side or an entree'. 

Last night it was served as a side with grilled chicken and a grilled peach with brown sugar and butter for a sweet taste. Today the leftovers will be served as a light lunch or dinner. You can also add a meat of your choice to the pie if you so desire. Very flexible and easy, and if you don't want to take time to bake, forget the eggs, stir together after adding cheese and enjoy. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Camp Dog

As I mentioned in Camping at Virginia Lakes, Oso went with us on this trip. When I first married Dean, we took our dogs camping and I did not like it. I couldn’t relax and enjoy my camping experience because I was worried about their camping experience. Although Dean liked having the dogs along, he accept my stress and we stopped taking dogs camping. 

Then at the very last minute (we were packed and ready to pull out), we had to decide to take Oso with us. I don’t know if I was easier about this trip or if Oso is just a more laid back dog (who is older now than our other dogs were then) or whatever. What I do know is that we had a great time and I think he did too. 

He gets so nervous when he sees us packing. He wants to know he won’t be left behind and as long as someone is with him when we leave or we take him to our wonderful dog sitter, he is ok letting us go. Well, this time, we threw in some food, his red pillow, a leash and food bowls, put him in the one little back seat that was left and off we went. And we all had a great time!

Dean had created a line that attached to a tree so that Oso could wander the camp site. We spent some time unwrapping him from trees, but that was ok. We had a leash for walks to the lake. There were lots of dogs at Virginia Lakes and I was so pleased to see that other campers had their dogs on leashes too. It’s a rule, but one that is often broken. 

Oso didn’t eat much while we were gone but he drank lots of water. We were at 9000 feet or more if we hiked. He had water in his bowl and in lots of lakes and streams along the way. He swam in lakes, one night chasing a beaver for a while. He led his pack on the trail up to a higher lake, checking in with me, the slow one, occasionally. I told you about his keeping guard when I had to lie down because of dizziness. He slept on his little red pillow in the camper. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and he adjusted well. 

As we were packing up to come home, he began to get restless again and sticking very close. About an hour before we were ready to leave, Dean put him in the car where he promptly fell asleep, happy in the knowledge that he had come with us and he was going to go home with us too.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Camping at Virginia Lakes

Dean is a member of the Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers and this weekend we camped with them at Virginia Lakes, about 3 plus hours from home. Dean and I had been there before and the group went a year or two ago. I was unable to go then so was glad to have the opportunity this year. 

Yes, that is Oso in the foreground. At the last minute we had to bring him along. It worked just fine. He was always just a little on edge wondering what was happening. He seemed to have a good time though.

A boy and his dog. It was kind of fun to have the dumpster on the edge of our camp site. We didn't have to go far to empty the trash. 

This was the closest lake. 

Dean split some found firewood and we had a lovely little fire the first night. The next two we were at another camp site. 

Dean out in the pontoon and Oso really, really wanting to go out with him. 
Sometimes a dog's life is unfair. I wouldn't let him chase whatever the guys on the shore next to us were throwing in the water. He gets to chase things Dean throws for him at home. And then to add insult to injury, Dean gets to go out on the water and I won't let Oso go after Dean. Pout!

Quiet time on the lake, drifting, casting, enjoying.

Saturday morning we hiked to one of the higher lakes. You can tell how far behind I am. I'm slow heading up hill these days. Friends are the first in line, Dean closer to me. Oso would come back to check on me if he and Dean had left me too far behind.

The other couple made it to the highest lake. I was slow, and along the way, there was some beautiful scenery.

At the next to the highest lake, we found a shady spot to sit and have our lunch. Dean and Oso began to fish. I sat down and suddenly had a bit of altitude or electrolyte problem. I lay down with my jacket under my head and closed my eyes. Once when I opened my eyes, Oso was lying close and on guard. Bless him! I felt strange and uneasy until about half way down and suddenly I was fine. Just tired because I had hiked a long way but otherwise just fine. In this case the "lower" altitude was over 9000 ft. It still made a difference.

One of the pleasures of this group is gathering for appetizers and then bringing our meals together at one table to talk over dinner. Later we gather around a camp fire.

A mirrored sunrise on our lake. 
It was a good trip with delightful people and dogs.