… and, by “new year” I don’t mean 2023, I mean “new year” as in embarking on my latest year-long journey around the sun. I turned another year older a few days ago.
Birthday celebrations now are very different than they were when I was younger. I don’t want to open gifts or go out to a fancy dinner. I’d much rather spend the day exploring someplace interesting, enjoying a home-cooked meal, and, of course, consuming a piece of the delectable Caramelized Orange Cheesecake my husband makes me every year (happy wife, happy life).
Check, check, and check.
You may have read about all the rain California has been experiencing lately. Gosh knows we need it, but maybe not all at once. Here in the southern part of the state, the weather has been milder, but the king tides and stormy surf have brought big waves and some flooding to our coastal areas.
On my birthday, following a day of especially high tides, my husband and I drove to a local beach to watch the pounding surf and see the aftermath of surging water, seaweed, and sand.
Although we missed all the excitement, we heard tales of waves plunging over the seawall, leaving a thick layer of sand that will have to be shoveled back onto the beach.
Our walk also took us to Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park built in 1925.
When I was very young, our parents often took my brothers and me swimming at The Plunge, a huge indoor pool located in the park. The building and pool have recently been renovated, but the sound of kids playing, and the smell of chlorine still brought back many happy memories.
After visiting the pool, we walked around the arcade and midway area for a bit of people watching. That’s when I decided I had to ride the Giant Dipper—the historical wooden roller coaster that was also a part of my childhood—again. Although the roller coaster has been refurbished since I last rode it, it still had the bone-rattling twists, turns and downhill plunges I remembered from my youth.
Topping off the first day of my latest journey around the sun, I dug into a yummy husband-cooked meal before plunging into my favorite birthday treat: Caramelized Orange Cheesecake.
It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
This week’s Sunday Stills prompt is Plunge. Please visit Terri’s site to see how other bloggers took the challenge.
It’s hard to believe that I last posted this back in 2017 because, clearly, the last five years have shown little improvement. We still have issues… big issues. Here it is again with a few updates… I hope it works this time.
I gave up writing New Year’s resolutions for myself years ago. As a kid, it was kind of fun to put together a list every year but, as I got older, I came to realize that they never amounted to much. In the end, and despite my good intentions, there were few pounds lost and no better habits gained. Yep, I was pretty much the same old me after a month or two into the new year.
So, rather than come up with resolutions just for myself, I have decided to make one big resolution for EVERYONE to share. I figure that, with us all working together, supporting each other, and gently nudging those that falter back on track, maybe, just maybe, we can succeed.
My resolution for the masses:
Don’t be Stupid
The best thing about this resolution for you is, like me, you aren’t stupid at all, so your part will be easy. Just make sure that everyone else doesn’t mess up.
Here is a list of 10 ways your fellow humans can avoid being stupid. It’s far from complete.
Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving. Competent multi-tasking is a myth. Even if it wasn’t, the task of piloting a vehicle that weighs over 3,000 pounds requires complete attention. This level of stupid could end up killing someone.
Same goes for drinking and driving.
Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see on the Internet – check things out (and not only with your favorite confirmation bias source). Develop a healthy skepticism. Believing that a microchip would be inserted into our bodies while receiving a vaccination was stupid. In fact, anti-science conspiracy theories floating around in the midst of a pandemic are not only stupid, but they are also dangerous and, in many cases, deadly. Reposting questionable stories (even with the caveat “this could be a hoax, but I’m posting it just in case”) makes the poster’s stupidity evident to all 1,000 of their closest friends. Snopes.com and Factcheck.com are your friends. So are critical thinking skills.
Don’t equate the accumulation of things with the building of happiness. We all like a certain amount of stuff, but chances are the good feeling we get from acquiring something new will not last. Think about acquiring experiences and accumulating memories instead. Travel, spend time with family and friends, learn a new skill.
Don’t over-inflate. I’m not talking about weight here (although, it could be argued that not properly nourishing and caring for the only body we have is kind of stupid); I mean the tendency to take a small incident and inflate it into something much greater. The outrage du jour on cable news (remember when Starbucks issued – gasp! – all-red holiday cups?) and many Facebook rants come to mind, but faux outrages are everywhere if you look for them. Don’t look for them. Over-inflating creates cultural distortion and promotes misinformation.
Don’t miss out on glorious vistas or the witnessing of actual events because it seemed more important to take and post selfies. The magnificence of the Grand Canyon isn’t improved with duck-lipped faces in front of it.
Don’t compare yourself physically to models, celebrities and “internet influencers”. Chances are that they don’t even really look like that. Photoshop and good lighting can do wonders. In fact, don’t compare yourself at all; no one’s life is perfect. Find things about yours to be grateful for.
Don’t dig your own grave. You’ll get there soon enough as it is. Stop maintaining habits that are self-destructive, staying in relationships that are toxic, and dwelling on negative thoughts. If you like digging around in the dirt, better to plant a garden.
Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to pay a sincere compliment or tell someone that you love them.
Don’t forget to live your best life. Always. It’s the only one you’ll get.
Have a wonderful, safe New Year’s celebration! And, please, watch out for stupid people (especially those mentioned in #1 and #2).
This short story was written for Donna and Deb’sWhat’s On Your Plate? monthly food fest. Although the story is fiction, the relish is not… and it’s pretty darn good!
Nancy arrived at her aunt’s house, clutching her Thanksgiving offering to her chest. As soon as she opened the front door and crossed the threshold, she could smell the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen. To her right was her aunt’s living room, where she could see her extended family gathered for pre-dinner appetizers.
Before anyone noticed her arrival, Nancy dipped into the dining room to deposit her bowl onto the buffet table. Looking at the side dishes other guests had brought, she again felt uneasy about her recipe choice. She suspected that it was her tiny kitchen and questionable cooking skills that prompted Aunt Trish to ask her to bring cranberry sauce, a recipe that would be difficult to mess up. All she had to do was to follow the instructions on the package. Few ingredients, easy recipe, crowd favorite – what could go wrong?
The answer would have been nothing, had she not been listening to the radio Monday morning and heard NPR’s Susan Stamberg’s rich, dulcet voice describing her mother-in-law’s cranberry relish. Her recipe sounded simple enough and nothing like traditional cranberry sauce. Nancy thought it might be just the thing to impress her family. All she needed to do was to purchase a few additional ingredients: a small onion, sour cream, and horseradish.
Looking back, she realized she should have reconsidered when she read the first step: grind the raw berries and onion together. When she scanned the rest of the recipe for cooking instructions she found none. Odd, she thought. But Ms. Stamberg wouldn’t steer me wrong.
The night before, Nancy pulled out her little-used mini-chopper, cutting board, kitchen knife, mixing spoon, and her one serving bowl that had a plastic lid. Seeing everything laid out on her counter had been both scary and exhilarating. I can do this.
Since her chopper was small, she had to work in batches. As soon as one batch was reduced to chunks (do not puree, the recipe warned), she dumped it in the serving bowl and added more berries and onion to the chopper. When she finished, she admired the confetti of red and white bits for a moment before moving on to the next step.
She added the sour cream, sugar, and horseradish to the bowl and started to mix everything with her spoon. That’s when it hit her that she may have made a huge mistake. The more she blended, the more the mixture took on a bright pink hue. Oh my god, it looks like I’ve made a big bowl of Pepto Bismol.
She glanced at her watch and realized that it was too late to go back to the store and start over. She was going to have to push on. Following the directions, she covered the bowl and put it in the freezer to freeze overnight.
An hour before she was expected at her aunt’s house, she moved the bowl from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw. The overnight miracle she hoped for hadn’t happened: the concoction was just as pink as it was the night before. I will never hear the end of this.
The buffet table was crowded with the usual side dishes expected at Thanksgiving dinner, including—to Nancy’s relief—a few bowls of traditional cranberry sauce. Sitting among the other dishes, her chunky pink goo looked like a drunken harlot had appeared, uninvited, at a black-tie affair.
Nancy quickly forgot about her culinary catastrophe when she entered the living room and was immediately engulfed by her relatives. She loved this time of year when holiday celebrations brought everyone together. After greeting her aunts, uncles, and cousins, Nancy made a beeline for her older sister and brother-in-law.
Seven Thanksgivings ago, when her sister, Anne, brought Marty home from college and introduced him as her boyfriend, Nancy was smitten. She loved how Marty could energize a room just by being there and envied his self-confidence. He expected people to like him, and they did. That he was funny, kind, and good to Anne, made Nancy love him even more. When Anne and Marty announced their engagement a few years later, Nancy knew that she was about to gain the big brother she had always wished for.
Soon, everyone was called into the dining room and took their traditional places at the large table. Aunt Trish placed a huge platter of sliced turkey in the middle, then distributed the side dishes to be passed around. Murmurs of anticipatory pleasure could be heard as the bowls moved from hand to hand, at least until Cousin Ned was passed the bright pink concoction.
“What the heck is this?”
“It’s cranberry relish,” Nancy said. “It has horseradish in it,” she added, hoping that piece of information would make the dish sound more enticing.
“Hmmm,” Ned responded, spooning out a tiny bit of the relish and depositing it on the very edge of his plate.
Nancy could feel her face grow hot as she watched her bowl move around the table. Some took a small amount, but most passed the bowl on without comment. Why did I have to try something different? When the bowl reached Marty, he looked straight at her, gave her a wink, and took a large scoop.
“This looks great,” he said loud enough for everyone to hear. “I bet it would be really good on the turkey.”
Nancy gave him a grateful smile and was pleased to see several people taking larger scoops as the bowl continued to be passed around.
After everyone had helped themselves to turkey and sides, the dining room filled with lively conversation and the sounds of utensils clinking against plates.
Amid a friendly debate with her uncle about who was going to win the World Cup, Nancy’s attention was distracted when she heard, “This pink stuff is really good. Have you tried it?” She looked to her left and saw that Cousin Judy’s turkey slices were covered with her relish. Glancing around the table, she noticed bright pink scoops on almost all of the plates. Suddenly, her embarrassment from bringing a dish no one wanted was replaced by a feeling of pride. Her cranberry relish was a hit.
Of all the Thanksgiving traditions she enjoyed, one of Nancy’s favorites was helping her aunt clean up after the guests were gone. It gave them some quiet time to talk about the evening and share family updates the other might have missed. Standing at the sink, Nancy picked up her bowl from the stack of dishes waiting to be washed and was happy to find most of the relish gone. After she washed the bowl, she handed it over to her aunt for drying.
“Thank you for bringing your relish,” Aunt Trish said, smiling. “It was really different, but in a good way. Can I ask you to bring it again for Christmas dinner? I think it would be perfect with the roast I’ll be serving. You just may have started a new family tradition.”
Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish
2 cups raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
½ cup sugar
¾ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons horseradish
Grind cranberries and onion together until chunky (not pureed). Add everything else. Mix. Put in a container and freeze. An hour or so before serving, move the relish from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw.
Like so many changes we experience as we age, this one occurred slowly, over time. I’ve worn corrective lenses for distance vision since I was in my twenties but was able to read even the tiniest fonts close-up, without glasses. Several years ago, I became aware that my corrected distance vision was becoming less clear. Driving at night, I saw starbursts from the lights of oncoming traffic and, even during the day, road signs were harder to read. I also started to have problems reading print. Type that had always been crisp and clear was now blurry. I tried cheaters but they just magnified the blurs.
A visit to my eye doctor confirmed my suspicions: like so many people of a certain age, I was developing cataracts. He said that there wasn’t much he could do by adjusting my prescription, but the cataracts weren’t quite bad enough to warrant surgery… yet.
Surgery isn’t normally something I look forward to—I’ve had a few and none have been voluntary or enjoyable—but I was anxious for my vision to get bad enough to have my cataracts removed. I knew several people who had the surgery, and they told me it was no big deal. Painless. Almost instant improvement.
Finally, earlier this year, my sight was deemed sufficiently deficient. In late October, I had surgery on my right eye and, two weeks later, my left. Just like I was told, the surgery was quick and easy, and the results were immediate. My foggy vision was gone.
Here’s what they didn’t tell me: as my eyesight had gradually gotten more and more blurry, cataracts also impacted my perception of colors. Over the years, so slowly I didn’t even notice it, my world had taken on a yellowish hue.
After my initial surgery, the colors I saw through my corrected eye were much brighter and more vivid than what I saw through my other eye. The blues were bluer, the greens, greener. The white walls of our living room no longer looked like they needed re-painting. When I looked at the view from our back deck, it sparkled, just like it used to. Suddenly, I was seeing things as they are, not as they appeared through a dingy lens.
During the two weeks in between surgeries, I kept shutting one eye, then the other, marveling at the difference in color perception. I felt a bit like Dorothy opening the door in her sepia world and entering a technicolor Oz (okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but…wow!).
Prior to my second surgery, I thought it would be interesting to document the before and after as best as I could so I wouldn’t forget what my washed-out vision looked like:
Thanks to the miracle of cataract surgery, my world is vivid again.
Check out other examples of Vivid at Terri’s weekly Sunday Stills challenge.
This post was inspired by a recent article by historian, author, and Boston College professor, Heather Cox Richardson. My blog title reflects Terri Webster’s Sunday Stills theme this week, Paths and Trails.
The path towards the right to vote in the United States has not been a straight one, nor without dangerous twists and turns along the way. But, like with so many of this country’s struggles, there were many brave advocates who risked their reputations, their freedom, and even their lives to secure the ability to have a say in how the government was run.
The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States—including former enslaved people—and guaranteed all citizens the right to vote. Except, “all citizens” didn’t include women, in fact the amendment was the first time the Constitution included the word “male.”
Again, in 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, there was still no mention of women’s suffrage. The Amendment which states: “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” didn’t include a woman’s right to vote.
After years of advocating for their rights unsuccessfully, women suffragists attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment recognized their citizenship. In fact, Susan B. Anthony was able to cast her vote but, three weeks later, she was arrested for voter fraud.
Not as well known as Anthony, but just as important to women’s suffrage, was Virginia Minor of St. Louis, Missouri. When she tried to register to vote in 1872, a registrar by the name of Reese Happersett refused because of her gender. As a woman, Minor was not able to sue, so her husband sued in the case (Minor v. Happersett) that eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court’s decision, handed down in 1875, acknowledged that women were citizens, but that fact didn’t mean they had the right to vote. According to the Supreme Court, state governments could discriminate against their citizens so long as that discrimination was not on the grounds of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
That ruling helped to usher in a multitude of voter eligibility limitations that skirted the Fourteenth Amendment, by imposing requirements like education, proof of tax payments, etc. As long as it could be demonstrated that the requirements weren’t based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, they were allowed.
It wasn’t until 1920—just over 100 years ago—that the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the constitutional right to vote. Sadly, it was another forty years before voting requirements such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and other rules designed to keep Black people from voting were found unconstitutional. The Supreme Court finally decided that voting was a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The fight for suffrage did not follow a path that was easy or smooth and this right should never be taken lightly. I sometimes wonder if I would have been as brave as those who struggled so many years ago. Would I risk going to jail to have my voice heard? I hope so but I don’t know. What I do know is that I will always value this fundamental right and never miss the opportunity to cast my ballot.
The final installment of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 here).
When we first planned our road trip, we weren’t quite sure which route we’d take back home. Because of the possibility of excessive heat and unpredictable wildfires, we left that decision open until it was time to head south. The coastal route is interesting and cooler, but we drove up that way. There are a couple of north/south freeways that offer the shortest and quickest drive, but they are mind-numbingly boring. If we drove further east before heading south, we could visit Mono Lake, something that I’ve always wanted to see.
When it was time to start home, the temperatures had dropped a bit and there weren’t any active fires, so we decided to head east, then south. This route required some additional planning because, unlike the state’s western corridor, the eastern areas aren’t as populated, and superchargers aren’t as available.
Fortunately, at this point in our trip, we had become comfortable with the apps that located the chargers and with our car’s ability to predict the level of charge we’d need at each one. As we headed east, we drove through mountain passes and pine forests – away from any population centers – but our car told us that we’d reach the next charging station with plenty of juice to spare. Although it can be anxiety-producing to watch the car’s range shrink when climbing hills, regenerative breaking adds most of that range back when driving downhill.
When we came around a bend in the road and first caught a glimpse of the lake from a view turnout, I was in awe. I had seen pictures of Mono Lake but was thrilled to now see it for myself.
Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located at the eastern edge of the California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is home to trillions of brine shrimp, millions of birds, and the world-famous tufa towers. The lake was nearly destroyed when, in 1941, water was diverted from the lake’s tributary streams and sent 350 miles south to meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles. Fortunately, because of the work of dedicated activists, this practice was stopped, and the lake’s water level is slowly being restored.
The Final Stretch Home
When we got on the road the next morning, our plan was to recharge twice along the way before stopping for the night about halfway home. During the drive, we continued to find charging stations available with no wait, as well as places to eat and “refresh” close by. As we approached the half-way point, we were feeling pretty good, so we decided to continue driving after charging.
This decision is not unusual for us; we often choose to power through the last stretch because we are anxious to get home and sleep in our own bed again. What was different was how good we felt after driving for over 7 hours. Stopping every couple of hours for a quick charge (charge time averaged 10 – 15 minutes each) made us get out of the car and stretch our legs. When we arrived home after 8 pm that night, we both felt good.
So, not to get too wonky on you, here’s our final thoughts about our 1300+ mile EV trip:
What we liked:
Charging more often but to lower levels not only makes the trip more enjoyable but the total charging time is actually less.
EV owners are nice and full of information so good conversations happen while charging.
Our car had plenty of power, the cabin comfort was outstanding, and we had more than enough storage space for our luggage.
Although it wasn’t our intention, we saved money. Gas prices are high but so are electricity rates at superchargers. Even so, we spent about half as much as we would have at the gas pump (and no stinky hands).
What could be improved:
Because charging stations aren’t as prevalent as gas stations, the trip took extra planning, and we had a bit of a learning curve on how to use the tools available. Next time, we’ll be better at it.
California has good charging infrastructure, so we had no trouble finding stations. Although more public chargers are being added all the time, for now, we might need to stick to the main freeways when traveling in certain states.
The biggest negative for us is the car’s single large screen located in the middle of the dashboard. Although this is a trend for a lot of cars – even gas-powered ones – we don’t like it. We prefer not to have to take our eyes off the road to perform some of the car’s functions or to see how fast we are driving vs. the speed limit. Without a co-pilot, I’m not sure either of us could comfortably drive unfamiliar roads and read the tiny print on the screen, especially with our older eyes.
Now that we’ve been home for a while, we are already thinking about our next EV adventure.
Continuing the story of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 & Part 2 here).
Somewhere east of Sacramento – the city where the reunion was held – we passed the halfway point of our trip, miles-wise. So far, we were pleased with the EV’s performance, comfort, and the availability of superchargers.
Amador County, California
We were looking forward to spending the next several days with my brother and sister-in-law exploring Amador County – an area famous for gold mining in the 1800s, and now known for producing wine. The fact that we would also be celebrating both our anniversary and my brother’s birthday while there, was a bonus. Besides visiting a few wineries, our plans included taking a tour of an abandoned gold mine operation, exploring a deep cave, and wandering around several gold rush-era towns and historical cemeteries.
Like many retirees, we prefer to travel in the off-season. After Labor Day, the summer crowds have dispersed, and reservations often aren’t necessary. That’s the good news. Traveling after Labor Day, especially mid-week to smaller towns, can also mean facing “Sorry, we are closed” signs in shop and restaurant windows. More about that later.
Kennedy Gold Mine
On our first day in Amador County, we took a tour of the Kennedy Gold Mine, one of the deepest mines in the world. Part of the tour included viewing old black and white films that showed the mine in operation. The mostly immigrant labor worked long hours in dangerous conditions. Despite the mine producing over $34 million (not adjusted for current prices) until it was closed in 1942, there was little indication that much of the wealth trickled down into the pockets of the laborers.
Although the actual mine was closed to visitors, we would have the opportunity to explore beneath the Earth’s surface the next day.
Black Chasm Cavern
Not for those who are prone to claustrophobia or who have a fear of heights, the Black Chasm Cavern was a dazzling experience. The deep, cool cave, with its stalactites, stalagmites, and rare crystal formations called helicites, was the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the sun.
Historical Towns – charming… and closed
When we weren’t exploring mines, caverns, cemeteries, or wineries, we spent time wandering around several small towns whose founding dated back to the gold rush days. The main streets were quaint and lined with enticing shops and tempting restaurants. Sadly, because we were there at the beginning of the week, most of them were closed. Living in a big city, when everything is always open, this hadn’t occurred to us as a possibility.
Fortunately, we were able to find a nice(ish) restaurant that was open on my brother’s birthday. The next night, though, when it was our anniversary and their turn to treat, the only thing open was the restaurant attached to our hotel:
I have to admit, although I have no recollection of what we ordered – most likely it was off their 55+ Special Savings menu – it was an anniversary celebration dinner that we won’t forget. Ever.
Continuing the story of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 here).
Before we started the trip, we knew that we’d be traveling during an especially severe heatwave here in California. Normally we might adjust our travel dates because of this, but since we were going for my husband’s high school reunion, that wasn’t possible.
What we could adjust was the first portion of our route, which is why we ended up in Morro Bay. When we were planning our trip, we saw that the expected temperature of our usual mid-way stop was over 100 degrees. Morro Bay’s high was in the 70s. That made it an easy choice. The cool, coastal temperatures allowed us to park our car at the hotel and comfortably walk everywhere, including to the pride of Morro Bay: Morro Rock.
Morro Rock was formed about 23 million years ago from a long-extinct volcano. At approximately 576 feet, it is the tallest of the nine “sister” volcanic plugs that form a chain between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. The state historic landmark is a sanctuary for the peregrine falcon and other bird species. It is also the site of the largest field of rock carins I’ve ever seen. Not everyone appreciates these balanced piles of rocks, and I can understand their objection, but seeing so many in one place was pretty impressive.
The next morning was cool and foggy, and we reluctantly loaded up the car for our drive north towards the heat. Almost immediately, we began to see these digital freeway signs:
The temps where we were headed looked brutal and we knew we’d be giving our car’s AC a workout. Fortunately, while very cold temperatures can lower an EV’s mileage, studies have shown that using the AC doesn’t impact it much more than it does in a gas car. Happily, our car’s impressive onboard computer considers AC use when figuring range, so we never had to sacrifice our comfort to eke out more mileage.
We were also careful to avoid charging between the high-demand period of 4 pm and 9 pm. Only once did we have to plug in during that timeframe when a traffic backup due to an accident delayed our arrival at a supercharger until 4:09 pm (oops). We felt a bit guilty, but we were able to get a quick charge and be on our way in a few minutes.
That charge got us to my brother and sister-in-law’s home located east of San Francisco. We were planning to meet up with them later in the trip but we always enjoy staying for free in their guest roomdrinking good wine from their extensive collection their generous hospitality.
The next day, after another quick charge, we drove to the hotel where the reunion was being held that evening. Since this was not my reunion, I got to be more of an observer. As I looked around the room, it was clear that the past 50 years had been gentler to some than others. Most appeared happy, healthy, and engaged but others seemed fragile. On one table the reunion committee had set out pictures and candles in memory of classmates who had passed away. Many of us commented on the number of pictures and how it was a sobering reminder to enjoy life while we can because there are no guarantees.
Before I end Part 2 of our electrified journey, I would like to touch on luggage storage space. There is a common misconception that EVs are small and tight on trunk space, but, since the batteries are located under the chassis, our car has plenty of room. Not only is our trunk generous, but we also have a decent-sized “frunk” under the front hood where a gas car’s engine would be. Although we aspire to be light packers, this trip required both play clothes and dress-up clothes. One large and one small suitcase, a garment bag, and several additional bags fit with room to spare.