Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Back to the Groove and the Grind

I'm slowly getting back in the groove, although it's taking a while. Called both the new health insurance and Allstate (car insurance) with questions and got them resolved.  Transferred some dough from my vast holdings into the checking account and will pay off the Discover card, which I used for the car.
Got an e-mail from Ellen and talked to my friend.  Enjoyed lots of pictures from Mike of the family's Christmas holiday in Sydney. What beauties those little girls are--hell, I can say it, grandmother or not!
Called Aline and we had a good time sketching out our activities over the last few weeks.  We made a date for breakfast at Dockside today, so will continue to catch each other up.
Did some wash, then went to the dollar store for a few items. Paid bills on line and otherwise stuck to the grind, more or less.
High point of the day was Breakfast with Baby (sweet potato, rice gruel, spinach, and chicken) which was, of course, after dinner for me.  K. seems to me remarkably advanced for under sixteen months old.  He understands a lot of words and directions and is so curious and interested in a multitude of things.  Of course, it helps that his parents are very bright and engaged themselves.
I'm going to Tonya's and Bob's New Years Eve party tonight. Everybody brings some food to share and I've decided on little finger sandwiches with a cream cheese/pineapple/something else spread.
Continuing to read The Japanese Art...etc., I find myself often nodding in agreement.  One of her little nuggets--and this is a gem, it seems to me--is not to start with things it might be difficult to discard, such as memorabilia. Clothes should come first, as they usually have little sentimental or "rarity" value.  The key, emphasized throughout the book, is to GET RID OF THINGS, not just pack them away, no matter how tempting it is.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

License and So On

Went to the p.o. to get my mounds of held mail and spent most of the morning plowing through it.
My temporary car license had expired on Sunday, so I called car man, Chuck, and found that he had the new plates  Drove the 35 miles up there, gave him a hundred smackers, and he at least put them on for me.  Stopped at my friend's house--soon to be, we fervently hope, her former house--where she was cleaning in preparation for settlement.
It was eerie and sad to see the empty rooms, once so full of life and excitement, especially when my grandson and his gang were there. Friend had brought her lunch and I went down to Wawa for a Caesar salad; ate together, then I left.  I feel a little guilty about not staying to help, but I managed to overcome that, as it was freezing cold in there.
Meandered home, stopping at Acme for hamburger, onions, and mushrooms.  Stir-fried that for dinner, tidied up a bit, and that was my second back-home-in-the-east day.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Japanese Art

Spent virtually all day unpacking, putting away, tidying up,* and generally getting back to normal. Went to Acme for thisnthat, stir-fried shrimp for dinner, and don't recall much else of any import.
*Possible life-changing info: Mike gave me a Kindle and the first book I chose to put on it is  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing. The author, Marie Kondo, turns on their ears practically all the other de-cluttering advice I've ever heard, such as "throw one item out a day," "go room by room," "if you haven't used it in a year..." and so on.  I'm reading her ideas with relish and soon I'll follow her recommendations, starting with thanking my possessions for giving me joy.
Yes, it's that kind of book.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


El and I left for the airport in plenty of time--in act, characterically for me, so I was three hours early.  No matter; I read my new Kindle (can't remember the name, but it's Japanese-woman's-"MoriKare"-method-of-tidying-up.  Makes sense and I'm ansious to follow her anti-clutter techniques.  
Plane stayed up with no particular effort on my part, presumably because of my Ativan.  My friend picked me up right on time--actually, the plane was a little early--and took me home immediately. Set up the coffee for today, dug out pajamas, read a bit, and just got up at 9:30.  Whee!--I'm back after the best vacation ever.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Last Day

We arrived at niece Carolyn's in the early afternoon and greatly enjoyed seeing her family again.  We were even happier to see nephew Steve, his Robyn, and their 7-year-old Dexter.  Dex and his teenaged cousin, Finn, are deep into Minecraft, as is my granddaughter, Violet.  Little sister Claire, 8, got a pair of roller-derby worthy skates and her Dad, Dana, took her out for a spin.
After a glass of wine and a yummy truffle made by Dana, we left for lunch at a trendy, fresh-foods restaurant, then went to Greg's home.  We visited with his mother, and met his brother, who's an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, and family (wife, three boys).  We had a nice chat--they're very pleasant and friendly--then said goodbye.
Stopped at a few stores, then El ordered and picked up Thai for dinner.  We watched a bit of what passes for news, so directed ("that guy, Putin" said one of the moronic "commentators") and filled with schmaltzy, feel-good, meaningless crap (baby delivered by cops on subway), I wonder how those who watch regularly can react rationally.  (Answer: They can't and it's meant to be that way.)
I'm just waiting for Ellen to get up and shortly after, we'll leave for the airport.   This is my last day here and it's been my best vacation ever.  I wish I had a few more days--or weeks--to stay.  However, I'm glad I had a chance to scout out the housing market on-site, so to speak.  I'm still determined to move here, but it may be more of a stretch than I had hoped.  I'm confident, though, that I'll get here, and will work toward that goal as much as I can.     

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas, 2014

Had a lovely Christmas day.  We slept late, had a leisurely breakfast, then opened our presents.  Left for Ojai about noon, so I could check out a possible dwelling.  Hmm...maybe.  Got Christmas calls from Betty, Frank, and my friend and we pleased I was able to hear fine on my new phone.
Went back to the J. Krishnamurti Center, where we spent several hours roaming the high, green, and so serene hilltop.  I learned a lot more about K.'s life and teachings, and continue to be intrigued.
We stopped at a Vons before getting home, as Greg wanted to make a few appetizers and sides for our Christmas dinner.
I had downloaded a de-clutter book onto my new Kindle; interestingly, it's written by a Japanese de-clutter professional. It puts a new perspective on "tidying" one's life--getting rid of stuff--and I believe it's already gotten me in the mood to do so.
In my favorite mode, I did nothing except drink a glass of Chardonnay and play on the computer while the two cooks made, served, and cleaned up a superb dinner with salmon as the main dish.    
After, we put on two episodes of the British comedy Vicious, which E. had given G.  I'm not always attuned to what our English cousins think is funny (sat stony-faced at the only Keeping Up Appearances I ever saw), but this is hilarious.  It's kind of an ensemble piece featuring two gay men, one a vainglorious actor.  They have dotty friends and a long tradition of sniping and back-biting. They're vicious, all right, but still hanging in there as a couple.
We said goodbye to Greg, then E. and I watched a DVD she had rented.  It was a comedy show staged in Montreal about ten years ago and, except for Jim Gaffigan, whom we saw the other night, very dated and not very funny.  No matter; we enjoyed it to a point, then I went to bed after a happy day with my girl and her guy.
Now here I am, at the start of my last day here.  How I hate to leave, but I hope my reluctance--and my Kindle book--will spur me on to get rid of my stuff and get serious about selling the house.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Eve

I was happy to get another Skype call from Sydney--where it was December 25 already--and to be told what we thought was for Christmas was actually my birthday present.  It's a Kindle, with which I was thrilled.  I'm still going to use the tablet for other Internet purposes, but this is incredibly thin and light, I know I'll carry it with me.  I've already bought a book with it, in fact, and will read on my way home.
Ellen made a lovely loaf of banana bread for Christmas dinner, from the recipe I've been using for years; it made the whole house smell wonderful.  Later, she cut white meat from the chicken she had bought the day before and made us chicken salad, with tomatoes on good coarse bread.  I poured myself a Corona with lime to go with it, and we had a luscious lunch.
Later in the afternoon, we went to the Ventura Harbor, walked about a mile along the edge, then crossed the boulevard to view the open ocean.  The waves were wildly pounding the shore--what a sight, especially with the mountains and Channel Islands far in the distance.
Stopped at the video store for DVDs, had Thai and leftovers for dinner, then settled down to watch one of my all-time favorites, Chinatown.  This cinematic gem only gets better with age: sophisticated story line, superb acting, elegant setting, and an absolutely flawless recreation of nineteen thirties L.A.
Shortly after, Gregg arrived to spend Christmas Eve with us and here we are on Christmas Day. Have a good one, everyone, and if 2014 was good, may 2015 be better.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Day

We were so pleased to get a Skype call from Mike and the girls in Sydney.  Had a great time virtually visiting with them and having precious little Violet explain Minecraft, a mystery to me, but well known to Ellen, as her third-grade students are heavily into it.
Went to the supermarket for Christmas dinner goodies--salmon, yams, broccoli, and so on--then home for a quick dinner of odds and ends.  Ellen had taken out the DVD of the comedian, Jim Galligan, in his Boston show, and we watched that, me with a nice glass of Chardonney by my side.   He was hysterically funny, and clean, too.
Received a "Happy Christmas" e-mail from long-ago, longtime, Ewing neighbors, Chau and Teresa (Phuong-Mai) Phan.  My Japanese daughter-in-law's parents sent one, too, and I wrote back to both.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

King City

Had a fine time up in King City with brother Frank yesterday; just got home to Ellen's an hour ago. He was already there when we arrived about 2:30 and we sat and chatted for a bit, then drove into town to stroll.
King City isn't a terribly impressive place.  "Downtown" consists mainly of little stores with signs in Spanish.  In fact, there seems little to do there in the way of museums or other places of interest. However, it was good to walk and we continued our congenial family conversation.
Went to the local Denny's--as ever, I amazed that I could get a cold Bud with dinner--which was hardly gourmet fare, but not bad. After, we went to Frank's room and played gin rummy.  Frank needed a bit of tutoring, but showed himself to be an exceedingly quick learner and won several hands through crafty moves and connivance. However, Ellen was the overall winner and we had a hilarious time.
Went to our respective rooms and turned in early.  Frank had thought he'd leave very early, but actually didn't.  When we were ready to check out, though, he already had, so I simply left him a phone message with love and goodbye.
Had breakfast at the same Denny's, then drove home through what seems to me some of the most beautiful landscape--mountains upon mountains, plus green grass and morning fog, with the Pacific Ocean just over the ridge--in the world.
Now we're back, Ellen having lunch which I will soon and still having one of the best vacations ever.

Monday, December 22, 2014


What a great birthday!  Early on, Ellen finished decorating the tree and house, while I lazed around watching her--ha!  Greg arrived about 11:30 and shortly after, took us to Ojai in his spiffy (brand new) Honda.  On the way, son Mike called from Sydney to wish me a happy and I was able to hear the same from barely awake (it was 9 am) sweet granddaughters.  Shortly after, my friend called and we had a good, birthday-y chat.  E. and G. took me to The Farmer and the Cook, one of the multitude of healthy food restaurant in this health-conscious state and we had a good, fresh, organic, and very tasty lunch.
I've been to Ojai many times with Ellen and last year, with her and Greg, but yesterday, they treated me to terrific sites off the beaten path.  After lunch, we went to a small church-turned-bookstore and spent an enjoyable hour or so just sitting and reading, something that would drive a lot of people I know bonkers, but we like it.  I quickly skimmed a history of the medieval spice trade, which concentrated on Vienna, Lisbon, and Amsterdam.  I'll request it from the library when I get home.
After that, we drove up into the hills to the Krishtnamurti Center.
We spent about two hours at this lovely retreat, the former home of J. Kristnamuti, whose teachings--but he didn't want to  be regarded as a teacher--resonated so much with me that I bought two of his books. I'll elaborate more on him another time, but for now, am enthralled by what he wrote.
Far from the maddening crowd, this serene place includes a large building with a "quiet room"--two people were meditating there--and a large, comfortably furnished meeting room with a fireplace, large windows, and very high, arched ceilings. It's surrounded by orange trees, all heavy with fruit.
I asked what was done with the oranges and we were invited to take as many as we wanted.  We got a bag full, stopping to pull off the skin of two, and shared it on the spot.
Back in two, we went for coffee to little luncheonette on the main drag.  Betty called for our mutual birthday and I talked to her.  We then went to "The Rainbow Bridge,"* a natural foods supermarket and got some unusual take-out dishes to eat at home. After, Ellen brought out the chocolate "Sacher Torte" cake and whipped cream Linda C. had given her and held one little candle while I was sung the old song.
I was sorry to get a call from brother Frank to the effect that his Marybeth had fallen shortly before and he didn't think she was up to our reunion in King City this afternoon.  Their daughter, Maureen, will take the day off to be with her, so Frank can still meet us, but we'll miss M.
Opened my presents,which include a carryall, a magnifying glass, a gift car, and a lovely picture of my older son and his precious wife and baby boy.  I was thrilled with the whole day, but also tired, and went to bed early.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Busy Bees

Still buzzing around, we got to Linda P.'s new digs in Santa Barbara about noon.  It's in a gated community right across from the ocean and hey Nellie, the whole complex is just quintessential California--on the high end.  The common areas are all fountains and palm trees and birds of paradise, groomed to perfection and all adobe-type material that I've always loved.
Linda showed us around her apartment (some of the units are condos, but she's renting), which is attractive enough, but really just basic: small living room and kitchen, smaller bedroom, and bath, plus small balcony.  In fact, it's remarkably similar to my friend, Bobbi's, who lives in Shalom House in Ventnor, which is controlled rent housing.  However, at Bobbi's, you can't walk a few yards to the Pacific Ocean, so I suspect Linda's is a tad pricier--maybe five times as much.
We ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant and had a fine time together, then said goodbye to Linda and visited Greg at his work.  Chatted for just a few minutes, then headed over to niece Carolyn's. I always love seeing her and Dana, plus their sweet Finn and Claire, and we reunited with pleasure. The children gave me a birthday card with notes they had written, plus pictures of both of them; they're wonderful kids.  Carolyn invited us and Greg over for Christmas dinner, but we're not sure, at this point, if we might be going to Greg's (whose brother and family will be in from Minnesota), so have to let her know.  
I expressed my sudden urgent desire to see that c. 1943 classic, Double Indemnity, and Ellen kindly stopped to get a DVD of it.  I actually stayed up late (to at least 9:30) to see Fred, Barbara, their illicit love affair, and that gem, Edward G. Robinson, and it was a treat.
Today is my birthday and it sure ain't the twenty-fifth.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

More Fun With Ellen

We continued our busy pace, going here and there on various errands.  Took the phone back and got another.  I still haven't activated it, but there's no rush, as Ellen was able to charge my current phone through her computer.
First, we had breakfast at Carl, Jr.'s and it was truly dreadful.  Their stuff is billed as being "cooked on demand"--or command or something, that is, to order.  I asked for an egg, cheese, and sausage sandwich on a biscuit, Ellen the same, but with bacon.  They came in a kind of barely warm, consolidated square type of thing and we started eating.  Halfway through, Ellen realized there was no egg on hers. She took it back, got another, then it finally occurred to me (I'm a little slow on the uptake) to check and I discovered mine had no egg, either.  By the time I got another, we were ready to leave, so I took it home and had it for dinner that night.
We stopped at Sprint so El could get a rep to synchronize her phone GPS with her car radio, so the latter would announce direction info.  This took an age and finally, the guy came out to get in her car and it was finished.  Got home in late afternoon and Ellen wrapped presents while I continued reading the marvelous new book of Alice Munroe's short stories, My Life, which Aline had given me for my birthday.      
We were invited to Ellen's friend, Linda C.'s house "after dinner" and drove over about 7:00.  I've met Linda before and enjoy her--uh, unusual hobby.  She searches out and buys antiques, "collectibles," and all manner of artifacts, from the rare and valuable to the junky.  She showed us one of her recent finds, a truly hideous table lamp from the late eighteen nineties that set her back 200 bucks.  Her entire large--and surely pricey--house is filled, so she's kind of a high-class hoarder, I guess, but it's wonderful to see the European, Asian, and American items, many of which are surely museum quality.
We enjoyed a glass of Amaretto--well, I enjoyed it; Ellen gave me most of hers--then Linda took us into the enormous room, which is filled with her acquisitions, and gave Ellen her choice of three antique screens for a Christmas present.  She chose a beautiful, large (about three by six feet, I think) Chinese one of a flower-filled cart.
Today, we're meeting the other Linda, Linda P., for lunch in Santa Barbara.  This Linda had rented Ellen's two rooms and bath for a year and became a good friend.  She was recently able to get her own apartment in SB, where she works, so no longer has the lengthy commute.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmasy Stuff

We went all around town doing last-minute Christmas shopping and otherwise preparing for the season.  I got a scarf for Greg's mother; wonder what I can pick up for him.  Town is bustling, although these are weekdays, but this time of year, that's to be expected, of course.
Talked to brother Frank in Alameda and made plans to meet him and Marybeth on Monday in King City.  It's about three and a half hours from here, slightly less for F.and M., and we'll all stay over.
I bought a new TracFon, but had all kinds of problems trying to activate it.  Finally, the company determined somebody had stolen the SIM card in it.  They could send a new one in my mail, but no, I'll take this back and get another.
Ellen continued to add to the lovely little tree, which we've now determined looks a little goofy blinking on and off, so have made steady.  We found at the door a beautiful floral arrangement from Mike, with a Merry Christmas note to both of us--very festive and pretty.  I also received a sealed card from my friend, with a note on the envelope to open on December 21, my birthday--yes!
Today, we plan to check out some possible apartments for me, in anticipation of my future move out here, although it's early, of course.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Day

We buzzed busily around town on our first full day.  Went to Kohl's where El got a jacket and Brita water filter, then to various other places for this and that.  Home, she made me a nice chicken sandwich, accompanied by a full-bodied IPA. She then brought in the beautiful tree, a Frasier pine, not huge--maybe six feet with the stand--but so full and fragrant, you'd swear you were in a forest.  A real one? But of course!  And just to get it over with, here's my rant from seven years ago:

--Yes, yes, most (artificial Christmas trees) are very attractive, look very natural, are so easy to put up and take down, don't shed needles all over the place, can be used year after year...I don't care! They just seem so...well, artificial. I love the idea that a live tree grew from a tiny seed and that 150 years ago, people hung their ornaments and lights and popcorn strings on one like ours. I don't want a perfect, machine-made, already lighted pyramid of plastic, the product of some ambitious young designer who graduated from the Parson's School of Design.... 
Incidentally, aside from my own children, I don't even know anybody else who puts up a live tree, but so what? 
I read that live trees are actually better for the environment and they smell good, too. 
Okay, that's the end of my spouting off about Christmas trees. Now about the Easter bunny...

Hey, but each to his own, kids.
Called back and forth to brother Frank and firmed up a plan:  We'll meet him and Marybeth on Monday in King City, where we'll stay over at a Days Inn and have a lovely sibling visit.  
We had great fun while Ellen put up the tree--with some difficulty, I'm afraid, as she had to go out twice for longer screws for the base--and it looks beautiful, in a minimal way.  She put lovely little lights on, then we had a debate--which continues--on whether they should blink or not.  She added a string of beads and three ornaments; possibly, she'll put more on later , but no matter, it looks fine as it is. She also strung lights over the front door and windows--very festive and Christmasy.
We started watching Hitchcock, which I found mildly interesting, but heavy-handed, and I went to bed after less than an hour of it.  Slept like a babe and got up at my usual east coast time of 5:15, feeling tip top.       

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On the Left Coast

Yay, yay, here I am at Ellen's. Reasonably smooth flight, but I took a tad too much Ativan and the ride home was strange.  Fell asleep on couch and slept there all night.  However, I'll have my own room and bath hereafter, as Ellen's tenant, Linda, has gotten her own apartment in Santa Barbara.
Brother Frank called and we made arrangements to meet on Monday with him and Marybeth about a three hour drive away.  We have dinner, then all atay over.  I'm greatly looking forward to seeing my bro.
El made us a great breakfast of fried eggs, then we went to Kohl's and Bed and Bath and got few things.  Right now she's preparing lunch of chicken salad and I'll have a yummy IPA beer with him. She'll set up the Christmas tree while I write out some cards--what fun to be with my girl!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting Ready

Another day from--if not hell, than maybe a minor purgatory.  Took my car into Acura at 10 and didn't get back on the road for three hours. At my request, I was shuttled to Boscov's. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the rest of the mall was closed some time ago, so I wandered--bored out of my skull--around B.'s the whole time.
I guess it was worth it, though: They not only reprogrammed me a new set of keys and remotes, they replaced the air bag and gave me a list after checking various systems of the rest of the car.  All got checks in the "green" or "good" column, so that's gratifying.  But here's an example of "you hear what you want to hear" (see post below):  I was sure Gabe had told me the new remote would cost $19.98, but he had actually said "ninety-eight," meaning dollars. But okay, it's worth it to have dups of both.
On the way back, I stopped into the library to say hello and goodbye to Aline. She had a lovely time with Wagner and The Nutcracker in Manhattan over the weekend and when I get back, we'll catch up more fully with each other.
Finally home after getting cash at the bank, I did several loads of wash, packed my suitcase, changed pocketbooks, watered the flowers, assembled various and sundry, and otherwise prepared for my trip.      
Got a lovely Skype call from sweet K. in Tokyo; had breakfast with him and enjoyed it.  My friend called to say godspeed and--assuming Walter stays on the road (never a certainty with him)-- my next stop will be Absecon station.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Party and Pills

Puttered around with this and that before showering and dressing after lunch for caroling.  I donned the full regalia this time: long black dress, black lace over-skirt, black net top over white blouse, and of course, the jaunty Hedda Hat.
I went with Frank and Barbara from next door, about ten of us assembling at Seacrest--specifically, the Alzheimer's unit--and we sang for more than an hour.  This wasn't terribly stimulating; most of the audience were in wheelchairs or rolling lounges and virtually all were out of it, although some sang along and even applauded. Most dozed or were dazed.  Depressing?  Yes, it was.
After that, we sang at The Terraces, a few miles away.  This is owned by the same family, but is an independent living facility and the differences are striking.  The residents are ambulatory and all, it's pretty evident, were as lucid as I am (yoicks--maybe that's faint praise!).  We chatted with them after, then strolled around a bit, admiring the elegant decor and beautiful Christmas decorations. Ah-h-h, but after that, we all drove over to Jim and Mary's for hot buttered rum, cheese soup, pulled pork, and an array of luscious desserts.  
I had never had hot buttered rum before and oh, mama!  It immediately became my new favorite drink (although in warm weather, that may be a bit problematic).  I like the taste of rum and, in my book, butter combined with cream and cinnamon proves this is the best of all possible worlds.  They were so good I had two, along with an initial Corona with lime.
Somehow, the talk got around to drugs and I casually mentioned that my obstetrician wasn't happy with the few pounds I had gained early in my second pregnancy and had prescribed "diet pills," which are amphetamines, of course.  I was supposed to take half of one in the morning, but--as I innocently explained--after a time it didn't seem to have an effect, so I increased the dosage.  By the time I was ready to deliver, I was taking six at a time--hey, they were very tiny--which was certainly effective.  (In truth, I weighed less when I was nine months along than I did when I became pregnant.)  I had no problem obtaining them, as it was an open-ended prescription.
Now, Jim is a physician and while I was recounting this, I thought he'd explode.  "W-h-h-a-a-t?" he cried, his eyes almost popping out of his head.  One of his charms (to me, that is; it may not be so for everybody), is his open, exuberant, not to say boisterous, personality, and he exhibited every facet of it last night.  The rest of the company chimed in with both horror and amusement and--slightly propelled by alcohol, I guess--we discussed my fifty-three-year-old transgressions for some time.  Jim had plenty to say and Mary, who teaches nursing at Penn, chimed in with the rest of the group.  Instead of being embarrassed, I found it a lot of fun.
I was home before 8:00, as we had started out early, and skipped my wine (the hot buttered rum was enough) for iced tea, then went early to bed.
Going to Acura in Egg Harbor this morning, then home to pack.      

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lots More

More busy.  After breakfast, I made a batch of Nana Mix to send up north.  Packed it in the Post Office's "anything you can get in there, regardless of weight" boxes, which cost $12.65 within the U.S. Wrote out Christmas cards for immediate and birth family, arranged for an Amazon certain something, consolidated my multitude of notes (do this, pack that, don't forget these), and got a few things in the suitcase.
There are a slew of things I have to take care of when I get back, especially change of health insurance and new car stuff.  For some ungodly reason, Allstate is raising my premium by $46.20 a year. Why? Oh, yes, I'm going to call them Monday and chew them out.
Called Chuck, who sold me the car and he agreed to pay half the cost for a new wiper switch, although I have to take it to his mechanic.  Hey, fine by me, I'm sure it's cheaper than Acura.
Frank-Next-Door and Barbara are back. Today, they're carol with the rest of us in LETCO, so I'm pleased about that.  Don't know if they'll go to the Henry's after for the hot buttered rum, but you can bet I will.
I was pleased to get a call from my dear friend, Marge, and we had a good talk.  Marge is almost exactly then years older than I am and has a number of physical problems.  She and Fred are two of the major reasons I'll be sorry to leave here.
Finally got to Kohl's--a madhouse, of course--and bought shoes; hope they're as comfy as they look.  Dropped a blank check off for Mary S.; she'll pay the exercise person who will conduct weight training at the clubhouse, starting in January.  
Ellen Skyped me and we were happy to chat.  Linda, her tenant, has gotten an apartment in Santa Barbara, which means I'll have my own room and bath again.  Much as I hate to see Linda go, that will be refreshing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lots of Stuff and Nonsense

Busy with getting ready for my trip.  Went over to the doctor's office to get a refill for Ativan.  Simple, huh?  Hardly.  New regs: You have to actually see the medical person (Dawn, in this case) and, of course, pay the $20 co-pay.  Even though I've been taking this stuff when I fly for twenty years and never had to before?  Yes, sure, whatever the powers that be can do to drive you crazy and to the poor house, they'll do.
However, I had a nice chat with Dawn, who told me her group, the Margate Players, will do Chicago next summer.  Wow, that's a coup; hope I have a chance to see it.
I also learned that my cholesterol is much, much better--bad down, good up--and my blood pressure is fine.  That on top of the stress test news: "no significant blockage," set me up for the day.
I asked to have Wal-Green's be sent the order, as I didn't think I'd get to Wal-Mart yesterday. Turns out I did, but it couldn't have been much less expensive there: ten anti-anxiety beauties cost me a whopping $2.04.
Talked to my new pal, Gabe, the Acura guy, and we made a date for me to go over on Monday to have the new key, plus a remote, made. Called Chuck, who sold me the car, and he agreed to pay half of what it will cost to fix the wipers, but his mechanic has to do it.  Will contact him after I get back.
My friend came for lunch and to say goodbye. She took the wicker chest I'm giving to granddaughter-in-law, Noelle, plus the three poinsettias I had, and a bag of onions.
Shortly after, Susan called to ask me for lunch, but I had already eaten.  She was having her lunch group (I went to dinner with mine last week) and one person cancelled.  I did go over later for a glass of champagne and what turned out to be a rather heated exchange about "terrorists" and the outrageous violations of travelers' rights at airports.  Oh, yes, they all thought it was "keeping us safe"; I was the only one who vehemently rejected that cockamamie idea.
Left to drive to Manahawkin after all.  Got a gift card from Pizza Hut for the gang in Wellsboro, then stopped at Wal-mart for a few things.
Home, I fried up the last of the bacon, then threw onions and garlic into the hot grease.  Walter came over with a bowl of lovely lentil soup and a big sandwich from Susan's little gathering and I had them for dinner.  Yum.
I was taken aback to see on Facebook that my granddaughter-in-law has written a book, which is coming out shortly.  She lists me as "editor," although I remember only going over a story of hers; didn't know she was planning a book.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lovely Day and Torture

Lovely day, albeit with snow flurries.  Went to the P.O. to have them hold my mail while I'm gone.  Called A.C. Press to have them suspend.  Called Acura to ask them to make a new key.
Picked up Aline and told her where I'd like to have my birthday (her treat) lunch: The Old Causeway.  That was a great choice, as I had the best burger (Agus beef) I ever tasted and a Stella beer--yum.  Aline insisted we share a dessert and it was a crepe filled with vanilla creamy stuff, sprinkled with almond bits and drizzled with a clear--I think, maple-infused--syrup.  Truly a delicious meal.
After, we stopped at motor vehicle (haven't gotten my license plates yet, so I'll call Chuck); the consignment shop (no, they can't use any more Christmas stuff, but I'll go back about other things after the new year); and Walmart (got my meds and A. and I picked up a few other items).
Dropped my buddy off about 3:30, went home and found messages from Gabe at Acura (new remote will be only $19.98, so I'll get one) and my friend (she'll come over at lunch time tomorrow to say goodbye).  Betty called from brother, Larry's, in Florida (not really warm, in the sixties) and I called brother Jim in Virginia just to chat.  My friend called and she'll bring her lunch over to have it with me, so she can say goodbye before my trip.
Enjoyed new videos and still pics of precious baby, now 15 months old, in the far east on Google +.  
WIDER:  Does anybody in his or her right mind think that the big brouhaha, all the posturing and shaking of heads, all the sanctimonious reactions of either "how terrible because it doesn't work" or "well, it works, so we gotta be okay with it" will make the slightest difference in this sorry country's downward trajectory to utter depravity?  In other words, think we'll quit torturing folks? Not only is there a bridge in Brooklyn, there's a whole swath of Antarctica for sale...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Women's Club and the Marines

Woman's Club luncheon at SeaOaks, which I like, and it was pretty fun.  I told Susan I'd drive myself, as I wanted to go to Kohl' for shoes after.  Sat with her, Bessie, Carol, Pat H., Mary-Jo, and Iris, with Eleanor and Julie L. on either side of me.
Eleanor is somewhat restrained or withdrawn; or maybe she's just a bore.  She didn't say much except that she had lost eleven pounds. Julie and I, though, had a good time together.  I was on the outs with her for some time, but no longer.  I think she and I are quite a bit alike: opinionated, self-righteous, and acerbic, but coming from me, it's droll and witty, from Julie, it's offensive.  (Su-r-r-e...)
Anyway, it was funner than Tuesday's lunch with the Catholic Crowd, although it dragged on pretty long.  Started at noon and we didn't get out of there until 3:30, due to long waits between courses and the interminable "prizes" handed out.  I did win a thirty-dollar (unusually generous) gift certificate to Calloway's, a restaurant I like.
WIDER:  This time, at least we weren't subjected to one of our "heroes" extolling the Marine Corps Toys for Tots abomination.  From last year's Christmas luncheon entry:
--There was a large pile of donated toys in the upstairs room where   the event was held.  The club president got on the microphone     and "proudly" introduced a young woman "who has three children herself" and was--the heart swells with awe--both a marine veteran and a present member of the National Guard.  The woman, dressed sloppily in jeans and a pilly sweater, got on the mike and treated us to a talk on how wonderful it was that needy local children will get these gifts  That elicited applause and oddly, nobody asked, "Do you think the children in Iraq and Afghanistan are needy?"  (No, because they're dead.)--
There was a similar pile yesterday, so I guess this will be one of those tiresome annual events that make the sleepwalkers feel they're doing something good. I had taken a toy to Ocean County's "Toys for Tots," so if I don't feel particularly virtuous, at least I didn't join in the whitewash of those licensed to kill.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Class,Lunch, and Bookcase

Hey, things are looking up.  It wasn't nearly as bad driving to Margate as I had anticipated.  True, the mile stretch was flooded out, but no big deal, I just went over the Albany Avenue bridge.
Got to the library and was a tad concerned that the parking lot was cordoned off.  However, I found out later it had nothing to do with the weather; they were just re-paving.  Parked on a side street (in several inches of water) and was blown into the Library meeting room.
I was pleased to see that eight of my ten "students" showed up and, since I had known beforehand that Aline and Linda were unable to come, it was good.  Meryl and Bobbi performed Imposter and Lynne and Bernice When Cooks Confer, a comedy.  All four did pretty well--I thought Meryl, who had had no acting experience at all, was very good.  After each, we discussed the play and its characters and later, I met privately with each player to critique their performance.  Gave each a printed sheet I had devised with tips and pointers they can use to expand their acting assets.
After, I met Betty and friends of hers for lunch at Outback.  It was fun in a mild kind of way--these are all earnest Catholics--if not particularly stimulating.
Kathy DeV.  had e-mailed me that she'd like to buy one of my bookcases and she came about 6 pm. She paid the (modest) price, loaded it into her van, and mentioned she may want the other high one, too.
So that was my--happily on its way up--day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

"What Fresh Hell is This?"

That's a quote from Dorothy Parker, the twenties acerbic wit queen. It suits yesterday, which was truly lousy, to a T.
It started early, when I got an e-mail from someone in my acting class, saying she was all set to perform at our December session today. Only problem was, I had assigned her for January.  Only other problem was that she had told me she wouldn't be here in January, which I had forgotten.  I frantically called the two others who were supposed to go on today to see they would switch. Luckily, they would, then I had to contact all parties involved to tell them.
While engaged with all this, I realized my hair looked terrible, straggly and with gray showing.  My own hairdresser is closed on Monday and how would I get another place to take me within the day?  But I did, luckily: Walked into Cutaway Salon, less than two miles from my house, about 9 am and got an appointment for 2--perfect.
What wasn't perfect was what I got from HELM, an outfit in Michigan from which I had ordered--I thought--an owner's manual for the Acura I just bought.  What they sent was a "maintenance journal," absolutely useless for me, which cost me ten bucks plus $6.95 postage.  I called to find out how to return it and was told there was a $10 "re-stocking fee" and, of course, they wouldn't return the $6.95 postage cost, so it was pointless to bother.  I was so furious I screamed over the phone, then looked up Helm's site. Found a "contact us" section and wrote out my grievance, but I kept hitting the little envelope icon to send and it wouldn't go.  Aagh!  I found another number, got a person, she gave me a direct e-mail for "customer service"--I guess they maintain the fiction they have some--and I wrote them.
I then got a communication from Facebook to the effect that I owe them twenty-five bucks for "promoting" my "Mimi's Bazaar" FB page.  I barely remember telling them to do this, but I'll just pay it, damn it, and I already took the page off.
It continues today: When I got up, I saw advisory warnings for both Ocean (where I live) and Atlantic (where my acting class is) Counties.  I still intend to drive down to Margate at 9 am, convene the class at 10, then meet Betty and friends for lunch at 1:00.  Will this come to pass?  E-mailed participants just now and told them if I didn't get to them by 9, it was still on.
You know what I want?  I want to be in California at Ellen's pool in the hot tub and never get out. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thissy, Thatty, and Pearl Harbor

Sunny weather, but it was cold.  Worked on my acting class material and dealt with the great Sheila/Linda problem.
To wit: See yesterday's entry for intro.  I wrote back to Sheila, asking if she would mind if I got in touch with Linda to find out if she still wanted to do the play. Called her and Linda was furious that Sheila had told me they had a falling out; called her an idiot; said, of course, she'd still perform the role.  I reminded her that the two in the play are supposed to be loving friends; yes, she knows that.  Anyway, they're both pains in the butt and I'm annoyed that I have to deal with Kindergarten-level crap like this.
Brother Larry called and we had a good talk.  I had sent him a small notebook of our father's and he found a letter in it from 1940 or so.  I asked him to scan it and send to me.
I had intended to go with my friend and her husband to hear his brother sing with the Gay Men's Chorus at their Christmas concert. Unfortunately, friend called and she had been sick to her stomach all night, so wasn't going.  She said I could go with her husband, but I decided to just skip it myself.  I had planned to stay over with them and I didn't want to put her to that trouble.
Went to Shop-Rite for thissy and thatty.  I'm still kind of at loose ends--I keep thinking I should do things, then I don't bother.  I'm just in a slump, I guess, and I know it will pass.
What's helping bring me out of it are new videos of Mr. K., that little dynamo from the far east. Added to that happy happening was a call from darling daughter, Ellen.  She was in Ojai with her fiancee, celebrating his birthday.
WIDER:  I think it's fabulous that she was born on September 11--the most recent, hysterically hyped, "never forget" day according to the advertising hacks--and he on December 7.  That was Pearl Harbor Day, formerly regarded--by Americans--as a day that will "live in infamy," to quote FDR.  Of course, the days we invaded Iraq, extended to Afghanistan, or for that matter, slaughtered native Americans at Little Big Horn, are buried in the detritus of "our history, not yours."    

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Nada and Acting Class

Rain, drizzle, dark, and gloomy, just the kind of weather my erstwhile friend, Rosalie, calls "ugly."
And I did very little--so little I hardly remember what.  Took four fifty-year-old slides to Rite-Aid to have them made into snapshots. I'm going to send them to my sister-in-law, Regina, because they're of her children as babies; now, of course, they have grandchildren. Regina herself is 94.
Washed clothes, did a bit on the computer, and cleaned up half-heartedly.  Betty called and we talked for a few minutes.  Other than that, just about Nada.
But here's a news flash:  When I got up just now, I found an e-mail from one of my acting students, Sheila R.  She had been teamed with Linda V. to perform A Conversation in Summer, on Tuesday. I had assigned the plays last month (two characters in each) and the idea was, the duos were to rehearse in the interim, present on three succeeding sessions, then I would critique.  Sheila now informs me she and Linda have had a "falling out" and she doesn't know how--or if--Linda wants to proceed.
Great--now I have to try to decide what to do about this. Presumably, I'll have to re-shape the Tuesday class and certainly, it won't be as effective as I had originally planned.  Gr-r-r...

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Seasonal Doings

Every year, without exception, Christmas-is-coming creeps up on me.  Now I'm under the gun, especially for anything to be sent to Singapore and Tokyo.
After our walk and breakfast, I went to A.C. Moore and got modest gifts for the girls.  The family is spending Christmas in Australia, so I had to get them off shortly.  Also picked up a gift for the Ocean County Toy Collection and dropped it off at the county office.
Re the preceding: This year, as last, those attending our Women's Club luncheon--which I am--were asked to bring a toy for the Marine Corps' "Toys for Tots."  Since I can't, in good conscience, contribute to such an organization,* I decided to donate elsewhere.
Wrapped the presents for the girls and took it to the post office. Came home and dug out parts of the costumes I wore in Hedda to prepare for the carol-singing at Arcadia nursing home.
Brother Frank called and we had a nice chat.  He lives in Alameda, near San Francisco and is going to see if he can go south to see me while on the west coast.  He didn't mention it, but Jim, his Ob/Gyn son, got a major award from The March of Dimes for neonatal research (see link below).
I dressed more or less in costume and picked Aline up at 5:30. Arrived at Arcadia rehab and nursing home at the stated time of 5:45 and found it had actually started at 5:00--there was a screw-up somewhere. This included a tree-lighting ceremony and there were lots of people there from little children to the elderly residents.
Anyway, there were eight of us from LETCO and we sang the usual seasonal songs.
After, the gang was going to Mystic Casino (actually, just a neighborhood tavern), but Aline begged off, as she was tired.  Not I, so I dropped her off at home and joined them.   Just stayed for an hour or so and had a lot of laughs, along with a few glasses of dark beer, then said goodbye and left.
Turned out to be a fun day, after all, but now I'm ready for a little non-scheduled downtime.
 * I assume that years ago, some advertising hack came up with the "Toys for Tots," thing for the Marine Corps.  I find it particularly disgusting, as it suggests the Marine Corps is a benign institution--look, they gather toys for the poor little kiddies, don't they?  As in a zillion other ways, the general populace--ever ready to be hoodwinked--buys right into this, but I'll be damned if I will.
My nephew, Jim:

Friday, December 05, 2014

Antonetta's and the Fall of the Empire

Assembled the ingredients for a certain cereal mixture I traditionally make at Christmastime and my mother made before me. Hmm...I thought the first batch seemed somewhat over-buttered. I then realized I had somehow mis-read the recipe (which I've had for at least twenty years) and used about half again as much as it directed.  Immediately, I made another batch and now I don't know whether to keep the first or not.  Actually, it's not half bad.
Packed up the "good" stuff and took it to the post office--ouch! Postage was more than twenty bucks; however, considering that a certain someone had put a goodly sum in my BOA account to cover postage for the various items I send him, I paid it without a peep.
Showered, dressed, and Loretta and Bob B. picked me up at 5:00 for dinner at Antoinetta's.  This is a good (read "pricey") restaurant that's three miles down from route 9 in Eagleswood.  Practically in the bay, it can easily be reached by boat.  The only road--running straight down the middle of miles of swamp--must be underwater a lot of the time.  Don't know how it fared during the hurricanes.
It turned out, however, to be a very pleasant evening.  This is the one gathering a year of "the sparklers" (whoever came up with that name should be shot at dawn) to which husbands are allowed to attend, and those who still had 'em brought 'em. There were maybe twenty attendees all together--and we were served in a kind of enclosed porch with lovely views all around of LBI and the mainland all around.  I brought the seventeen-dollar Chardonnay I bought at Terhune Orchards during the van tour and boy, was it terrific.  I usually drink the cheap stuff and the difference is striking.
I had chicken and other stuff; food was okay, but not wonderful. We chatted and, of course, conversations got around (as they always do with this age group) to What's Wrong With The World Today.  
It's depressing to realize that, seemingly without exception, my table mates agreed that the problem was with the slugs on welfare, Obama's "socialism" (for 160-degree obtuseness, that takes the cake), and the turning away from religion and patriotism.  Here we are, besieged by idlers who "don't want to work," and with ISIS behind every hedge and fence, alone and afraid in a world we never made...
Nobody, of course, made the connection between the whores in government rolling in dough from their corporate patrons, and the sorry state of affairs we're witnessing now.  But to be fair: These are people who worked hard all their lives, raised families, paid taxes, and bought into the American dream with pride.  Now they're on their way out and they see their most fervent beliefs shaking and shattered.  They have no clue about the cynical manipulation from government and the media that sets class against class and ensures the downward spiral of the empire.
But hey, it is what it is, and it was an enjoyable evening.  Got home before 8:00 and settled in to finish my wine and contemplate today's activities.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Frustrating to Fine to Fabulous

Frustrating: Joe M. down the street came over as Susan and I started our walk. He had told me of a friend of his who teaches ceramics* and I, like a fool, volunteered to put a blurb about it in The Breeze.   He brought over two pages of closely-typed print and one of pictures. Looking them over, I realized this is a commercial enterprise, as there's a charge for materials--surely not at cost--and possibly, a fee.  I have no idea what he's expecting me to do with this--set up classes for this person?  Write an ad for her?  Ugh, I'm sorry I ever heard of it.
Continuing frustrated:  Took my car to the closest Acura place, about thirty miles away and the good news is, the guy fixed my audio system.  Bad news that my windshield wipers won't turn off because the switch is defective and it will cost $185 to fix them and another hundred bucks to have a key made.
Coming up to fine: Picked Aline up at the library and we went to Mystic Casino (just a neighborhood tavern, actually) for dinner. This lifted my mood a bit and then it was back to the library for a bagpipe and drum presentation by the "Atlantic Watch" ensemble. Wow, this was wonderful!  There were five players--three bags (heh, heh) and two drums, snare and tenor(?), the latter of which included the whirling drumsticks I always find stirring.  It was terrific and we enjoyed it immensely.
Fine: Loretta B. and her husband, my last hope for getting a ride to Antoinetta's tonight for dinner, called me back and said sure, they'd pick me up.
Even Finah: The livestream concert that allows me, right now, to see live my granddaughters' school concerts from Singapore, thousands of miles away.  Boggles the mind.
Finally Fabulous:  The new Google+ pictures and video of precious grandson, denizen of Tokyo and man of the world, so suave and sophisticated in his sweater and tie, the adorable Mr. K.
* I'd rather do ceramics than hang by my thumbs for three days, but that's about it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Rain, Lunch, and So On

The rain, the rain, the never-ending rain--it's driving me mad! Mad, I tell you...!
It rained all day, but I managed to have a pretty good one, anyway. Met Betty for lunch to celebrate our mutual birthday, although it's weeks ahead.  She's leaving for Florida on the tenth, will be home four days, then is going to Chicago for Christmas, and California after that.  I'll be gone part of that time, too.
Anyway, drove my new car to Italian Gourmet--not one of my favorite spots, but it has the virtue of being about equidistant for us. Besides, it doesn't have a t.v. in the dining room, which would be a point in its favor even with lousy food.  Had a congenial lunch, showed Betty my car, then took off.
Aline called to ask if I wanted to go to dinner tonight, then see a musical program at the library; sounds good.  She's working until 5:00 at the same library, of course.  I'll pick her up, we'll eat at the Mystic Island Casino, then go back for the program.
My friend came after work to pick up the title for my old car and do a few little chores for me, too.  I had complained that the radio system didn't seem to work in my car, and she showed me how to get audio books on my tablet.  It never even entered my head that was an option, but I enjoyed U is for Undertow while I prepared dinner...
...which was spaghetti and meatballs with sauce.  Pretty good and I have enough left for lunch today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Errands and Chores

Completed almost all on a long list of errands and chores, unusual for me. Switched my car insurance, which necessitated a call to Chuck, who sold me the car, as I couldn't read the I.D. number he had written down.  Got the title to the old car out of my safety deposit box. Filled my tank for the first time and was pleased to hear it humming right along like--well, whatever hums right along.
At Shop-Rite, I bought a slew of eateries, including chicken drumsticks, three of which I roasted for lunch while I folded clothes.
I wanted to duplicate the car key (Chuck had only one) and went to Wal-Mart, but was unpleasantly surprised to find it can't be copied there, as it has a chip in it.  When I heard that, I acquired a chip, too--on my shoulder.  Of all the idiot ideas, this takes the cake.  The idea, I guess, is so somebody can't steal your key and have a duplicate made, but come on--it seems much more likely for people to lose it and be stuck. (Of course, a new or even semi-new car would have more than one key.)  The guy at Wal-Mart told me Acura can do it, but will charge a C-note--aagh!  Okay, I'll contact the one in Egg Harbor City today.
Chuck also didn't have an owner's manual for the car, but I was able to send away for one.  It's essential for  me to have it, as I put the windshield wipers on and then couldn't get them to turn off. There are other gadgets and doodads that are different from what I had, so I need to know.
Got the sensor candles and six wreaths out and put them in the windows.  That's all I really want to do, although I have huge box after enormous container filled with Christmas stuff, which I haven't even touched in the four years since Mike and family were here.
I suddenly conceived the notion of selling things on Facebook, so set up a page called "Mimi's Bazaar" (not very original, but I didn't want to spend much time on it).  Put on Christmas and other stuff, but I'm not sure how effective it'll be in getting rid of things.  Besides, I'm already getting a tad bored with it.
The only thing I didn't get done on my list was having the car washed.  I'm meeting Betty for lunch today and hope I can find a place open to do it this morning.  Wouldn't you know, it's raining, anyway.
As a member of "The Sparklers," I'm going to Antonietta's in West Creek for dinner on Thursday.  This place is way the hell out in the swamps, practically in the bay, in fact.  It's a once-a-year outing where husbands are invited.  (If you don't have one, you're out of luck.)  Think I'll ask Virginia H. if I can go with her and Fred.
I was delighted to get a Skype call from the little cutie, Mr. K., who looked adorable in a white shirt, striped sweater, and tie.  The occasion? His graduation from little baby to toddler section at the neighborhood playschool. This isn't, incidentally, a daycare center; parents are expected to go, too. and they interact with the children.  

Monday, December 01, 2014

Health Insurance and Religion

Well, most of yesterday was spent talking with Anne R., the health insurance agent, and not all of it was about Horizon.  That's the outfit I'm switching to, kicking and screaming, as it's more than two thou a year over what I pay now.
A lot of the time we spent talking religion, in a sideways manner, you might say.  She goes to "Living Word" church right here in Little Egg.  It--and she--are what I'd term fundamentalist Christian, although she insisted she isn't. Anyway, we had a lively discussion.
I'm sure Anne thinks of herself as open-minded and kindly and, as is so common, when it comes to individuals, she is.  She told me of a man from Texarkana, who had come to their church with his three-year-old.  Anne and her husband helped him in various ways, and finally paid his airfare back to Texas.  Certainly, they've done other such good deeds, yet later, Anne railed about "the welfare state," established because "people didn't want to work" and "we have to pay for them."  She was honestly puzzled when I mentioned the cutthroat bankers and political whores who work together to impoverish the middle class and the poor.  She seemed to think they have no connection to the current deplorable state of affairs. She also mentioned the Jews as "God's chosen," seemingly unaware of their systematic slaughter of Palestinians.  Realizing the bible is her--well, bible--I cut the conversation short, as it seems to me pointless to discuss anything on a rational level with that mindset.
But we parted in a friendly way.  I signed the papers and late in the afternoon, took the car to Manahawkin.  Thought I'd pick up some things as Shop-Rite, but realized I had left my wallet--with license, cash, and credit cards--in the studio.  Rode guiltily back home, sure I'd be picked up for not having my license.
Best news of the day:  I bought my tickets so I can spend Christmas on the west coast.   California, here I come!