Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pass the hot butter, raise a glass...

This year's crab season has already netted over 12,000 pounds of the crustaceans so far.  Last year's entire catch was 13,000 pounds. The meat is excellent, and the animals are good sized. Even with a couple of big storms that destroy traps, this harvest appears to be outstanding. Though the season lasts until June, most of the catch occurrs in December and January.

 The local economy will pick up, and it will have a domino effect.  Tourists will eat at the local eateries, sleep at the local motels, and frequent gas stations and  art galleries.  Fresh crab is one reason for driving to the coast and spend a weekend at the beach, regardless of the weather.

Crab is quickly boiled in salted water spiced with peppercorns, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and other seasonings. It is served on newspapers or paper towels, where it is cracked open and pried with special tools. Side dishes include hot melted butter, potato salad, cole slaw, and beer.  It takes patience to crack and remove the meat from the legs and body of the crustaceans.  Cartilage must be cracked and peeled off, carefully separating the chambers that contain the succulent meat. Many people are worried about making a mess. No need. You'll have fun getting your hands messy, and feeding all of your senses.

Any left-overs can be used in chowders, crab cakes, salad toppings, even tacoes and baked pasta.  My family enjoys chioppino, a fish stew with tomatoes and a variety of shell fish, including crab, enjoyed with a generous amount of crusty bread to soak up the juices. Our favorite beer for this occasion is Fat Tire. Sometimes, we'll  have a King Estate Pinot Grigio, a Willamette Valley Oregon wine as good as the best of California's Napa Valley.  Just not as expensive.

When you visit coastal towns, do partake of the local catch. You'll never have fresher fare, and you'll help the local economy, encouraging artisans and small producers to continue living in small towns.

Out of the way places teach us about the interconnectivity of all human endeavors.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Have you seen Her?

She is Kathleen McBroom..............

Missing as of October 2008......

Find out more by visiting Janna's blog linked at the end.

Spread the word.

Visit Janna and find out the details
at the link below:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sharing the Joy.

If you give a party in this town, everyone will come. Literally. Unabashedly. Enthusiastically. Especially if you cook real food. Meaning: not 1940's recession rations,  canned goods doctored with Campbell Soup and Heinz Ketchup. If you  buy your products from local ranchers, you will be assured quality and goodwill in the bargain.

If you charge nothing for your fuss, you will become an instant hero.

This town has two types of people: those who have lived here for the last one hundred years or so, and everybody else. For decades, Oregon had a saying: come and visit, but go back home. Real Estate agents, and chamber of commerce secretaries would make it clear to you that if you came from California or anyplace else, you were not welcome.  When we first moved here, my husband introduced himself first as born in Portland.  They forgave him for having left and married out of his kind.

So, newcomers have to be patient; they have to make themselves useful; they have to throw parties and cater to the local taste buds. Our first party, for the immediate neighbors, a summer bbq, became our baptism into the town's politics. Feed people, and they talk. Pass the wine, and they'll reveal where the gold is buried.  With the baby-backs and chickens raised up the river, and wine from the bigger valley, and everyone knowing everyone, the party was a huge success. People took home the leftovers and stopped by the following weeks to share some tidbit or other.

Granted, with one or two coffee shops in town serving mostly burgers and fish and chips, feeding people here is easy. Anything that simmers on the stove for a few hours, or has to marinate overnight gets rave reviews.  If it has a foreign name, it becomes mythological.

Besides, many old people don't bother with daily cooking. A stew or a soup  will last them a week. Meals-on-wheels is the highlight of their day. Conserving energy is their mantra.

Both my husband and I work/volunteer. He runs the local food bank; and I run the local school board.  When we throw a party for one or the other, we have to account for taste differences. When we invite neighbors, there is still a third group.

Regardless, nobody turns down an invitation.

For our neighbors, most of whom live far from their relatives, we're having a Christmas Day Open House. We'll prepare a buffet to bring back memories of their past. We'll have the usual, roast beef, ham and all the fixings. I'll add some pasta and pizza, all home-made and from scratch. Desserts will represent my roots and my husband's, Italy and Sweden.  Pies, strudels, panettone, and biscotti will line up together.  We'll toast with Sangria, mulled wine, Pellegrino, tea and coffee. 

In the sunroom, the Presepio will dominate the scene, the houses all lit, the manger a step away from platters of antipasto.

Food may dominate this scene, but the road signs are everywhere. Christian iconography in a new setting.

Good Will will unite us, and beautiful music will cheer us. (I'm counting on the beautiful voice of my daughter and her talented musician husband to get us into the lovely mood, the sharing of joy!)

May you feel loved and nourished on this day. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

West Coast Ecosystem-Based Management.

We're all in this together, no matter where we live, what we eat, what we see out of our windows.

POORT  Port Orford Ocean Resource Team:

Looking out for Red Fish Marine Preserve.

You might be interested in an article written in our local paper, Port Orford Today, dated Nov. 11th, page 4, titled: Local Economic Impact.

Port Orford and Newport, up the coast, have been identified as New Marine Conservation Areas, for study and preservation of marine life. As part of this identification, many agencies have a stake in maintaining this rich ecological area.

In previous posts, I wrote about the impact Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT,
link at the top of the page) is having on fishing and protecting our coastal habitats. 

Scientists are working closely with neighboring teams from Washington and California, to address needs and provide sustainable solutions.

The best way to deal with dwindling resources is to put our heads together and come up with solutions.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crab Season.

I woke early this morning. There were boats on the Ocean, working all night, their bright lights visible for miles. From our bedroom, they look like spotlights on a crime scene at night.

Our port is busy day and night, especially during crab season. Though Pacific storms will be blustering for weeks keeping small boats in the harbor, they will not keep local fishermen from dropping their crab traps at the beginning of December when crab season begins.

 Day and night, boats will drop and retrieve traps, check their catch, move a few miles up and down the coast to find fertile territory, and collect enough cargo of this delicacy to provide every supermarket and restaurant with fresh catch for weeks.

Dungeness Crab is my favorite crab. I've eaten Blue Crab and Alaska King Crab. Nothing tastes better than freshly prepared Dungeness, boiled in salted water for twenty minutes with a few spices, and served on newsprint paper, to catch the liquid that will squirt when we pound and claw the meat out. On the side, there will be hot butter to dip the morsels in,  and Fat Tire Beer to keep us going in this tormentous task of cracking, picking, slowly separating cartilage and bone from the soft and tender meat.  I've served individual whole crabs with sides of potato salad, corn, and a green salad at our Christmas Eve Meal that can last for hours, depending on how dexterous we are.

Our fishermen deliver fresh catch to Pacific Fisheries, which purchase the live catch, and ship it all over the nation.

When you purchase your crab you will be tasting food that was dangerous to catch. 

The price fishermen will receive for live crab this year: $1.75 a pound. The price supermarkets are charging for the same: $4-7 a pound.

When you sit down for your Christmas meal of fresh crab, remember that earning a living on the high seas is dangerous all the time, especially at this time.

 Winter storms can snuff out a life in a second. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

The tastes and smells of Christmas.

(A little town in Southern Italy, circa 1946. War was ending. Allied Forces occupied the surrounding region, and many houses were without utilities. )

It was a cold night, snow had fallen for hours, and I was tired yet determined to remain awake in order to attend my first Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

I was four years old. My plan was to join my parents and my big brother for this special Mass, though by now  grandmother and I would be in dreamland, hugging each other to stay cozy and warm.  On this eve, the family was preparing  the sweet pastries called panzotti, traditionally eaten on Christmas Day.

Mamma had mixed the yeast dough early in the day, had waited for it to rise as she cooked and chopped chestnuts, adding sugar, chocolate, cinammon and vermouth to make the filling, and had solicited  Pa`pa and To`ni, my big brother, to shape  and stuff these concoctions.  Pa`pa had the task of  frying them in a big iron cauldron, hung from a hook in the fireplace that was our only mode of cooking and heating in those days.

The room was dark and cold,  except for the light and warmth cast by the fire.  I could be spooked easily, and often, as I dozed off, I woke to see long shadows dancing in the corner, looking like a devil in hell. It took a few minutes to realize the image  was just  my Pa`pa at the fireplace.

My brother To`ni waited  for  the sizzling  pastries draining on kitchen towels to cool just enough to be rolled in the sugar mixture.  I wanted that job. But I was told to watch Gatto,  our cat, which grabbed food whenever she could. I kept busy chasing her off the table.

Now and then, she wanted to be let out. That's when everyone would shout at once: "CHIUDI LA PORTA!",  "shut the door!", as though it was my fault that Cat needed to do her thing. I was actually relieved that for a few minutes I didn't have to watch her and could help my brother sugar the pastries. After rolling a few, I stuffed one in my pocket, against  the rules.

Though I had never been at a Midnight Mass, I knew everything about it.  My cousin Maria, who was four years older had been an  angel for years. She bragged that she was the tallest and the holiest of angels. For weeks she pointed out the sins I was committing that would exclude me from the pageant. I had no idea I had committed a sin until Maria pointed it out to me. Did you know that it is a sin to wish for something too badly? That's what Maria said when I told her how much I wanted to play that part in the pageant.

The part of the Archangel was assigned the last minute and only to the holiest among angels.

Just before Midnight, the family bundled up in scarves, mittens and  woolen socks , and joined the neighbors through darkened streets making their way to the Church of Santa Maria.

With each step, I reviewed the pageant in my head, how costumes would be assigned, angels or shepperd, how the Archangel had to carry Baby Jesus to the manger the very last minute.  The first song would be, Tu scendi dalle stelle, O Re de Cielo.  I visualized very movement, every pose, every word. At one point, I slowed down to tie a shoe lace and took a furtive bite of the panzotto in my pocket.

 Sister Caterina spoke to me as I got in line with the other angels, asked why I hadn't changed into the Archangel's costume. I mumbled something back.  She looked distracted and preoccupied and  pointed to someone to take me.  I was then ushered  into the costume room and told to change into the Archangel's. I worried about what to do with my scarf and my mittens. I worried about  dropping Baby Jesus as I managed to put my costume on without any help.  I remained in that room, not knowing what to do next.

After a while, Maria came in. " The trumpet sound it's your cue," she said,"walk over to the manger, put Baby Jesus down, and stand behind the Holy Family. Just the way we practised."

Something in me so wanted to be The Archangel, that I swallowed my fear and nodded as though I knew what to do. When I heard the sound of the trumpet, I walked  to the designated place, a made-up village with life sized statues of Mary and Joseph , deposited a tiny statue of Bambino Ge`su in a cradle, and noticed he was wearing just a cloth diaper.  Under my costume, I still had  my scarf, which I took  off and wrapped all around him. Then, I fished out the rest of the panzotto for Bambino Ge`su,  and out came a sprinkling of sugar. I had finished not a crumb of panzotto left.

I burst out in tears, not knowing what to do next until Maria walked up to me, took my hand, and walked me over to where my parents were sitting, as the rest of the angels continued  their singing. 

"I'm sorry, Pa`pa. I only took one bite, only one bite. Will Baby Jesus forgive me? " I kept wailing, before Pa`pa wrapped me under his coat, and told me to shush.

I must have fallen asleep because I do not remember anything else until the next morning, when Nonna kicked me out of bed at the usual time, and woke me up with a cold wash cloth over my face.

As we sat to a proper breakfast of panzotti and hot milk, pa`pa noticed a letter under his bowl. He picked it up and read it.  " Caro Pa`pa e Mamma, Buon Natale."  It was the letter I penciled in with the help of my big brother.  Then, To`ni got up and read his letter. I listened to him read many words,  lovely sentiments that must have taken him months to paste down neatly on that special paper.

I wondered if Cat wrote a letter too when Nonna asked  if I had remained awake at the Midnight Mass, Pa`pa told her:

"She was awake. And she was the Archangel this year. From now on, there will be scarves on the Baby, and stardust sprinkled from pockets." He told her what happened, how I burst out in tears after my performance. Nonna looked at my worried face and said, "You got your wish, then!"  I had not told Nonna about wanting to be The Archangel.

Then Nonna yelled at Gatto, saying  "Baby Jesus must have returned your scarf!" putting the cat out and hanging the scarf  where Gatto couldn't reach it again. The house was warm, smelling of sugar and cinammon. Everyone was talking.

I slipped back in bed, to dream about panzotti and Bambino Ge`su.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Launching into the Christmas season.

It's time to launch the CHRISTMAS boat. The season of buying has begun.  We don't want to be late. Besides, the weather is frightful, and could get worse. If we don't get out and buy now, the streets could be flooded, iced over, detoured, or impassable in some ways.

Something in me wants inspiration, counting on sights, sounds, smells and tastes to  bring the magic back each year. Baking and decorating the house might propell me into action.


Christmas  is a big baggage I carry.

I have this idea that it has to be surprisingly fulfilling;  it has to make everybody’s secret wish come true. Not just any old wish, but the wish we did not know we had, a wish we made out loud only to ourselves, burying it so it did not continue to take up space on the shelf of wishes. If That wish stayed on the shelf, never fulfilled, it would be a sorry reminder, year after year that our lives were not magical, but ordinary and insignificant.

Wishes must be fulfilled at Christmas.

Christmas comes only once, and it is ok to have wishes out of the ordinary, special, expensive. Deep down, our job as parents, wives, sisters,  is to make magic dreams come true. We must become extra-ordinary and whip up that magic wand. Even if our finances are meager.

I assemble many lists to get me started,  the obvious needs and the practical solutions, sweaters, socks, gloves. Only once, we all  wanted gloves, the ones we could stuff in coat pockets and have on hand as we rode up to the mountains for the day, after a snowstorm had powdered the local San Gabriels. None of us remember what we did with those gloves after the first outing. 

Most people I know  buy with confidence, stick to their lists, in and out of the malls, bags full of clothes or toys. Everyone is happy in their families.

What does my husband crave that he doesn't already have or couldn’t purchase himself?  I have paid no attention.

How do people get ahead of the season by buying off season?

I need to discover what everyone wishes. Something in me wants to be a fulfiller of unknown dreams, every year.  I picture that blessed morning, eyes sparkling, voices  squealing, arms bouncing up and down, and then the rush to hug, call, find the giver of that secret wish.

 “Oh Mom, how did you know?”

My husband is a confident shopper. If  he likes something, the children too would like it. “Look, isn’t that fabulous. I am getting that for her!” he says when he shops, and wraps the present without giving it a second thought. .

 I'm never sure.

There were years with pre-lists, years with no lists; years with themes; years with gift certificates; years with cash; years with fruit baskets and special wines.

This Christmas will be different.  I will give away something I love to someone I love. This Christmas my daughter will get my crystal water pitchers and my boys will get my books, the ones I suggested they read, and the ones I have wanted them to read. Isn’t this like forcing my taste on them? After all, they are adult, adult by day and children when they visit each other, stirring the dust of memories of Christmas past all over the living area. Before long, we’ll all remember who got the biggest stuffed animal, and who never wanted the skating lessons.

Yes, this Christmas will be different.

Now, don't hold me to this.

I might get inspired as I prepare the panettone.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Gourmet Magazine took me back home.

I live on Garrison lake, by the Pacific, in Oregon.
For Christmas, we hang around the dock and catch ourselves a trout or bass or perch.
Our holidays are simple and easy going.

But I long for things I had when I was a child in Italy.  At Christmas, more than at any other time. So, when I opened the December issue of Gourmet, last year,  there was an article about making PANETTONE at home. Panettone is the traditional Christmas bread in Italy.

The two page step-by step instructions provided by Jim Lahey of Sullivan St. Bakery in New York City made the process look simple and doable.

Now, I don't  do much baking.
I do bake a pear tart, as the yummy one above using our harvest pears in September.

Making panettone was never on my list of things to try. But making something that you had as a child, something your mother and grandmother were fond of serving back in the old country, became an irrestible urge.

I had time.
I had the ingredients.
I just had to send for the special paper molds  with a phone call to Sir Arthur Flour.

So, following Jim Lahey, this is how to make panettone. Active time: 20 minutes. Start to finish, two whole days.


1C raisins
2Tbsp light rum
2/3C tepid water plus 2Tbsp hot water, divided
3 3/4 C all purpose flour
2/3 C sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t active dry yeast
1/4 t lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise
3 large eggs at room temp.
1Tbsp mild honey
12 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter ( 10  1/2 Tbsp cut into tablespoons and well softened; 1Tbsp melted, 1 T chilled
2/3 C candied citron, small pieces

a heavy duty stand mixer with paddle attachment; a panettone paper mold; 2 metal skewers, long

-Soak raisins in rum and 2 Tbsp of hot water, preferably overnight.
-Mix flour, sugar, salt, yeast, zest and vanilla bean at low speed until combined
-Whisk together eggs, , 2/3 C of tepid water, honey.
-With mixer at low, pour egg mixture into flour mixture until combined. Increase speed to medium.
-Add 10 1/2 Tabsp of butter, one T at a time. When all butter added, increase speed to medium-high until dough is smooth and elastic. About 8 minutes.
-Drain raisins, add citron pieces and 1Tbsp of melter butter. Stir into dough with wooden spoon.
-Place dough in a large bowl , cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven for 15 hours.
-Discard vanilla bean and sprinkle dough with some flour before you  fold seams down and fit in the panettone mold*
-Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for 5 hours.
-Preheat oven to 370 F with rack in lower third.
-Place mold on a baking sheet and score a big X across the entire top, with a serrated knife.
-Add a Tbsp of butter on the X
-Bake 1-1 1/2 hour, or until a wooden skewer comes out slightly moist. Panettone will be very dark.

-Use the big skewers and pierce the panettone including the paper mold 1 inch from the bottom, so skewers are parallel and the panettone can hang upside down over a large stockpot and cool completely.

Panettone keeps , wrapped tightly in foil in a sealable bag, for a week or two at room temperature.

I made a dozen of these, and gave them away to friends and family members.

We ate Panettone for breakfast on Christmas morning, and it felt as though we were sitting at the table with Mamma e Nonna in sunny Italy.

p.s. If you want to learn about Christmas traditions in Italy, check these other blogs:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tell your story.

As we age, we look back at  places, people, skills and accomplishments that belonged to us and gave us identity and purpose.

We miss people.
We miss work.
More than we know.

We remember longingly our childhood days,  family members, celebrations, trips to the beach, the mountains, the city.
Many things have changed.
Our lives are finite.
We are coming to the end of this journey. Everything we do and we think about, may be for the last time.

I get these feelings quite often.
I'm constantly reminded that what's ahead is the end.

We can preserve these memories by writing them down, cherishing them properly, putting a ribbon around them and presenting them to our children and grandchildren, and generations still to come. Our humanity will be reflected in our stories and our words.

I teach a college class in Memoir Writing every winter or so.  (It all depends on funding!) I too reminisce and share my written pieces with the class, and so, lovingly and deliberately, I'm preserving  my gold pieces. 

Have you thought about writing your memoir?

Who will tell your story?

p.s. if you have not discovered my other blog, stop by, learn something new:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A jump on Christmas.

This town
will celebrate Christmas
through Giving Trees, baskets give-a-way, can drives
residents to shop locally
the hardware shop, the movie theater
the art council, restaurants
the flower shop
the grocery store.

We'll all do our part to share what we have
to help and to care.

I thought about
what to give my grandchild
who needs nothing.

So, I did one thing just for her:
I started a blog to teach her what I know
in Italian.

You may remember that I grew up in Italy.
She is interested in learning Italian
and I can help.

If you too want to learn Italian with J.
hop along and check the new blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


L.A. is all about getting around, bypassing traffic, and not getting lost too badly.  On the way to the Palos Verdes Botanical Gardens we crossed the Vincent Bridge connecting Long Beach to San Pedro, and we got to see miles and miles of shipping vessels, containers and rigs. I had never seen so much commerce in any one place.  The bins are color coded, blue and red, one for sending, one for receiving.  Just a quick look tells me that we get most of our merchandise from China.

Our visit to the gardens was meant to fulfill a need my youngest son has to re-landscape his yard with native vegetation and water-wise methods.  The Palos Verdes Gardens provided inspiration.  We took dozens of pictures depicting various gardens, from all grasses, to a mixture of edibles and ornamental, as in the Mediterranean garden, full of herbs and fruit trees, my preference.

Our son will do all the work, has actually started the removal of the front lawn, and was waiting for his mom to give him some hints.  I had lots of ideas; but seeing the gardens in Palos Verdes cemented our thoughts.  I reminded him that his young lab will have to be trained or provided with his own play area, or everyone will be frustrated in no time. I discovered that plants in L.A. cost less than in Oregon. I purchased some citrus trees at half price to take home with me.  The sales tax in California is almost ten percent. Fruit trees as all food are not taxed. Lucky me.  We have no sales taxes in Oregon, but our property taxes and income taxes are comparable.

ANOTHER ANNOYANCE:  At a gas station in California, you have to pump your own gas!

When we left California last Saturday, we had only one thing still to do: eat at a fancy restaurant in wine country.  So, we planned to be in Healdsburg, north of San Francisco for lunch on Sunday.  We ate at the Healdsburg Hotel, whose restaurant is run by Charlie Parker.  Healdsburg and all of wine country shops and restaurants are to California as Provence is to France. Wineries and famous restaurants dot the countryside. At a very leisurely pace, with wine to match each course, we indulged and admired the beautiful people sitting next to us and strolling by.  The weather was a balmy 70+ degrees, out on the patio.

By Monday evening when we pulled into our driveway, we had time to stroll down to our waterfront garden, pick some arugula and watercress for dinner, admire the sunset, and finish our day with a Thanksgiving sigh.  We were back to normal.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

LA hot days, cool nights, animals optional...

We're in L.A. to spend time with our family. What do you do in a big city?


No matter where you want to go, you better check your GPS in advance and plot your route.  You can get lost in L.A., in your own neighborhood.

You can go shopping for hours.

You can get consultations for everything.

You can spend more than your mortgage payment on a modest bag. 

And when you sit down for a small meal, prepare to exchange your 401K.

We return to L.A. during cool months, to soak up the sun, and to remember why we left it.

L.A. is too hot, too cool and too distant.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Oregon beaches on a calm day: Bandon

Bandon is the town north of us, about twenty-three miles up Pacific Coast Highway.  We do this trip whenever possible, to walk on the beach, admire beautiful homes on the bluff, and end up having a fish meal at Tony's Crab Shack whenever we can sit outdoors.

Just north is Bandon Dunes Resort, with these views greeting the lucky golfers.
We don't golf. Yet. We are tempted. Especially on such a glorious day.

This is another typical day after a heavy storm that dropped inches of rain, and deposited driftwood all over the place. The sunshine was enough to coax us outdoors.

It will be weeks before I can return to these beaches.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Banking Time: neighbors helping neighbors

You might have heard about Time Banks. Our town has begun to talk about creating one. Not the whole town, but a group of us, four women, one man. We met at the library, a central meeting point, a clean, well-lighted place.

The five of us are all retired, living far from our extended families. Some still travel a lot. Some  are still  in great health. But, we know neighbors who need help getting to doctors or pharmacies out of town.  We have had our share of emergencies, and were it not for a good samaritan, we could not survive.

The discussion went on for a couple of hours. We decided that we could run a pilot program with just the five people present, with few steps, such as  exchanging phone numbers and email, and writing down a list of jobs we were willing to do for others. The usual stuff: driving, running errands, cleaning up yards, garages, taking stuff to the dump, trimming trees.  I volunteered my gourmet cooking skills.

I bet none of you in Blogland guessed that I have such an amazing set of skills.

Neither did I.

I thought I was a normal, average cook. Who knew? A couple of parties later, I've been designated the official gourmet cook in town. They bid $60 at a library silent action, for one of my gourmet meals.  Imagine how that went to my head! I demanded Le Crouset pots in my kitchen, and a subscription to Gourmet Magazine. Now, with such a title, I feel compelled to prepare meals I only dreamed about. It does help that I'm retired, have traveled and have frequented great eating places. 

O.k. So, I'm willing to cook for others now and then, banking two hours or so for each event. (Frankly, I would do it for free, just to feel so needed!)

I'll let you know how this goes.

I'm telling my husband not to expect his jobs to be done with my banking hours. I'm trading for my self on this one.

I'm off to cook for my son(s)  down in California. For a week, my nubile son will host his mom and dad in his newly purchased house in need of a woman's touch, and I will be buzzing around making suggestions for this and that. We'll have the traditional Turkey Dinner at Thanksgiving, and the traditional Ham Dinner a couple of days later, making enough food for a crowd of friends who might come over and watch football. I will eat one serving, then rush over to my favorite digs in L.A. filling up on stuff I can't make at home.

When in California, it's In-and-Out Burgers. There is a joint every few miles. I could do a midnight run.

Forget the home-grown veggies, the freshly caught fish grilled on applewood and pearwood, gently pruned and seasoned for these meals, year after year.  Even the sage, the lavender, thyme and rosemary were picked fresh from the front yard. The lemon tree growing indoors contributed its fruit too, never sprayed, watered from the basin each time, gently nourished and appreciated.

In Oregon, we have always been GREEN.

When in Oregon, it's Fish and Chips at Crazy Norwegian's, right here in Port Orford, not a chain, a one of a kind establishment, right on the highway. You can't miss it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Public Input: Where is the public?

Our school board had a public meeting last Monday, to gather input on our yearly goals.  We met at the local library, in a big, comfortable room. The library is new and attractive, warm and airy. It sits in the middle of town, with plenty of parking and accessible to most people simply by walking. Meeting notices had been emailed, posted and publicized.

We anticipated a good crowd.  Our district had just completed a consolidation, closing one school and moving students to another, and  major renovations putting Stimulus Moneys to work in our town.  Also, just a few weeks previously, there was an incident over a weekend  involving arson and theft at the high school that had the whole community buzzing.  Over $ 4,000 dollars were raised overnight by students and community to catch the perpetrators of such acts.  Our board of directors had been busy maintaining open communication on many fronts and felt that a public meeting would allow many people to ask questions, receive answers, and feel reassured about the future of our schools.  Our goal setting protocol had not been this elaborate in the past, I might add.

Working on goals with our community would have allowed us all to clear the air, concentrate on children's future, and face our challenges together.  The specialist from Oregon School Board Association that was invited to guide us, had been briefed on what our situation was and what we might expect. We had set aside a good four hours for this task.

The day was rainy. Nothing unusual about that. I walked to the event, a mere 1/2 mile from my house.

At meeting time, we counted two community members: a parent, and a volunteer.  The rest of the group was associated with the district in some capacity or other. We explored our strenghts and challenges, identified areas of need, outlined priorities. The group worked hard and left satisfied and united in their resolve to build strong schools.

Everyone leaves politics for the politicians.  That's not how democracy works. If we don't get into the conversations, how will anyone know what's on our minds, what our needs are?

You see, politics is about the good of the many.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Bill passes one hurdle.

Key elements of the bill

The House health care bill would:

• Require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

• Expand health care coverage to 36 million more people over the next decade.

• Require employers with payrolls above $500,000 to provide insurance to their employees or pay a fine.

• Prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

• End premium disparities between men and women.

• Impose a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge on income above $500,000 annually for individuals and above $1 million annually for households.

• Establish a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers beginning in 2013.

• Cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

• Cut Medicare spending by more than $400 billion over 10 years.

The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.

A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later.

In the run-up to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.

The bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

The bill is projected to expand coverage to 36 million uninsured, resulting in 96 percent of the nation's eligible population having insurance.

The bill was estimated to reduce federal deficits by about $104 billion over a decade, although it lacked two of the key cost-cutting provisions under consideration in the Senate, and its longer-term impact on government red ink was far from clear.

(The above information comes from The Oregonian.)

A special thanks to Rep. Peter DeFazio for voting yes on this bill. Pete DeFazio represents the Fourth Congressional District of Oregon. He is well loved in our neck of the woods.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

After every storm...

This part of the lake could use a good storm to clear the weeds.
By the end of December, this area will all be cleared.

Hubby and I walked to the beach this morning, the waves beckoning.

This was the scene this morning, twelve hours after the first big Pacific storm hit land and winds clocked in at 60+ at Cape Blanco.

This morning, the sun was shining, and we combed the beaches as the surf  pounded in the distance, collected agates, small, irridescent stones barely visible among the tiny pebbles, as  dog owners chased their pooches on the sand.

My Hubby found a good place to sit.

Tonight, there is another high wind advisory.  From November to June, we get out and walk whenever we can, whenever the rain is mild and the winds are not ferocious.

By January, cabin fever sets in. Then, we drive down to California to visit our relatives and soak up more sunshine.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Authorblog: Sunday Roast

A few months ago, David at Authorblog interviewed me. Today, Eddie at Clouds and Silver Linings is continuing David's work and has added my interview.

Please visit him to see my responses to his questions:

Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Talk to me

Are you there?

Tell me what you see, what you feel. Teach me to see with your eyes.

With our mutations and evolutions we have developed language(s).  With language, we have learned to express what we see, what we sense, what we wish.  With language, we draw maps for others to follow. With language, we construct our universe.

In Dante's time, people wrote in Latin. The official communication, especially for literate people, was Latin.  He chose to write in Italian, thus elevating street language to a new status.  That simple declaration allowed many more people to read his work, to expand their understanding of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.

We have seen a similar movement in our life time. Blogging. (I know, this is quite a stretch. Indulge me.) Blogging has become the official communication among friends and strangers, along with twitter, facebook, email, texting, mobile, and indie music.  Not a day passes that we don't get on the web and talk to someone, share recipes, products, pictures, poetry, household remedies. We can't stop talking.  We need it as much as oxigen.

In Dante's time, during a major pestilence that killed more people than most wars, minds worried about the afterlife. Daily life provided minimum subtinance without Faith and belief in an afterlife.

Today, I  consulted with Web/Md before breakfast, with my Associations' representative in another state before I had my second cup of coffee, left a text message for my son in California, reached my pharmacist with a stroke, and my investment adviser in Geneva with one click. I have one device that allows me to do many tasks no matter where I sit or stand. Instant news/chatter/information has shrink-wrapped my universe and yours.

In a few minutes, Canada, Australia, England, Africa, Philippines, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, as well as the rest of this nation will receive my blog and talk back to me. I don't worry about disturbing anybody's life.  We come and go, sleep and eat at different times.  But, we can reach each other all the time.

Columbus had no idea!

So, this was a stretch, I admit.

Set me straight, won't you. Talk me down.  Or, just talk to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love as an element.

Like the 118 elements on the periodic table, like mountains and oceans, the universe is slowly revealing itself.  Some things appear to be permanent, many appear fluid and changing.  The force we call love is such an element.  We can only understand it through its mutations,  apparitions, and the feelings we experience when we possess it.

This poem of mine is about those first encounters.



Must I tell you in Latin, or Sanskrit,

Or in ancients’ scripts of

Tombstones and moldy signs?

I know you read the news-track the story

From one end to another-

Factual slips catch your eye.

You know everything

in print, all the elements of a life time.

I sit behind you in Chemistry

My whispers too soft for you to notice.

When the 118th element was added

to the periodic table

-translucent the two times that

Ununoctium appeared-

Sounds like Nostradamus you said,


Hardly worthy of all that attention and ink

You said and turned toward me.

But you didn’t see me

My whispers were too soft.

I wrote you a note

Left among ciphers and equations:

“I weigh more than

Oxygen and Water and Ununoctium

At high temperatures

I act in unexpected ways.

Can’t you smell my scent

Heaven - Earth –Eternity?”

If you find this in time, I wrote in Italic,

turn around and call my name.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fighting for Love.

Love is a fluid thing; it becomes visible in the vessel it is in.

(This is a paraphrase from The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, a fantastic read!)

Every time life challenged us, we felt like lost children in the woods, whining, blaming, crying out loud.  We had to remember the other times when similar things happened; we had to find our way out of the woods.

I'm constantly amazed at how much investment we have in our ideas of what love is.  We form those ideas quite early, and mostly uncosciously.  We refine them as we read, experience, watch how love is portrayed in the movie, talk to others.

As our children grew, we heard our words as we counseled them on how to navigate friendships, careers, dating.  We told them that good friends must be cultivated, as we cultivate a plant that is fragile. We told them to treat others with respect, to put other's needs above self, and to walk away from toxic relationships.  Do all you can; but if he/she cannot help himself from being abusive and destructive, and what you do doesn't help, you must move on. Some things cannot be changed.

As we verbalized these beliefs, we strentghened our own resolve.

We added one more thing: Tell the truth about how you feel, and never sulk in silence.

Thank God for cars, because we took many rides, for hours and hours, hashing things out.  At times, we'd be gone half a day, children in the backseat listening to their walkmen, while we discussed things up-front. Yes, they saw us talking; they saw us angry and upset.

We kept painting our picture of Perfect Love.  We kept adding strokes and color, erasing missed marks and sloppy lines, appreciating one thing, detesting another. 

In our earlier years, I thought PL came in with flowers and gifts and sweet nothings whispered unexpectedly.

In my later years, I have seen PL wash the dishes in the middle of the night, adjust the pillows and the temperature to my liking before I go to bed, and remember that I like the fish platter at Wheelhouse on Mondays.

He had to teach me about the venality of sweet nothings; I had to teach him abou the weight of dishes.
These lessons took a lifetime. We hope our children learned them too, and their journey eased as a consequence.

p.s. This post received Post of the Week for Nov. 4th. from Hillary at Smitten Image.
Thank you Hillary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Falling in Love, fighting for love, growing love.

I have earned this fair and square. I'm reminded that this blog is all about scraps that we share from our lives, past and present. Like sand on the ocean, our lives change daily. Sometimes the tides and the waves bring out more than we expect.


In the book of my youth, Love was an amazingly good looking man, athletic, smart, with money and means, dedicated to fighting evil and defend liberties.  He would find me immediately attractive and smart, and would not mind my foreignness, my inability to express my thoughts in English.  He would  see my soul, my honest upbringing, my modest ambitions.  What I wanted in a lover was defined on the silver screen, in the Charlston Heston character of Moses.  Or, the young man that fell in love with Gigi in the movie of the same name. A French Man of class.

I married a boy who had just moved next door, worked at the same place as my room mate, spent hours playing Dylan's records.  I noticed that he didn't try to get my attention; didn't try to impress me or my housemates.  He was a loner, a thinker, a lover of literature.  In few days, we found ourselves talking about this and that, running into each other for some thing or other, commenting about the neighborhood we had moved into, about the places we came from.  We played ping pong on the patio; we shared coffee and donuts at the place down the street; we walked together to the Italian restaurant at the corner.  For four weeks, we knew a lot about each other and we would be receiving that Honest Crap Award above.  ( I do appreciate that,btw.)

Six months later we were married.  I turned in my return ticket to Italy, and used that money for a small reception for the few friends and nuns I knew.  My uncle from Fresno gave me away, and my aunt and her children were the wedding party.  On my husband side, only three people, his father and stepmother, and his teen sister.  At the high mass, it dawned on me that I was marrying a non-Catholic and I asked God to forgive me. 

I knew everything that I needed to know about this man during those first six months before we married.  After that, every situation we encountered tested our appreciation for each other.  We were from two different worlds, literally and figuratively.  He came from a broken home, travelled all his life from one region to another, moved two, three times a year, and never called a place home. I wanted roots and stability; he wanted adventure and movement. I was a devout Catholic; he was an independent spirit.  I believed children needed rules and chores and achievable goals; he believed children needed freedom to explore, boundless access to resources, few rules and lots of passionate hobbies.  I believed in budgeting for tomorrow's unpredictable problems; he believed in living today to the fullest.

Our entire life together has been about compromise, adjustment.  I learned to be more adventurous and free; he has learned to settle down and put down roots.  Our retirement was no different. 

With a couple of exceptions.

(stay tuned....)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A new start in late Autumn.

Some things never change; some things are constantly changing. The sun, the ocean, the mountains appear permanent and fixed compared to the lives of crabs, birds, insects, man.  While everything around us was turning inside out and upside down, all of which was most welcome, we were changing in ways neither of us had predicted.  The "us" were my husband and I, married 43 years, almost divorced a dozen times.  We found ourselves playing at the Ocean as the girls in this picture, with  abandon and joy, feeling as though we just met, late January 1966.

With each major change in our lives, we had been bruised badly. We blamed the world and each other. Silently. I even had a few escape clauses in my pocket. If I divorced, I would move back to Italy with the children, find a job, save like heck to send them back to visit their father, and would worry. Worry that they would miss their father, their culture and their language so much that they would choose to live with him. I would then grow old and bitter and blame myself for everything. 

These thoughts were present after each argument, after each misunderstanding.

After forty years, arguments bruise less and less. We learn to predict when the other is too tired, or too worried. We learn to stay out of the wind and the rain whenever possible.  We give in to the other's need even when our need is all we could feel.

The need to be together became stronger than the need to be right. 

This new stage of life in retirement had its own brand of challenges. We were about to learn more about each other, more about habits.

Mostly, we rediscovered  Joy.

...stay tuned...more to follow... joy, pleasure, cooking from scratch........................

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adjusting: the other side of Heaven

We experience these flowers differently when up  close than when we view them from above.  When we stop working, we see the world in a new light.

I loved my work, but I didn't realize that it was killing me, slowly grinding me down to a pulp. It took all I had; it became who I was through and through, day and night, year in, year out.  In the last decade, before I retired, I was a school principal in a middle school, on the outskirts of L.A, working a seventy-hour week and loving every minute of it.

We don't realize how much a job defines us until it is behind us.  We had Sunday dinners at my house with all our children, two of whom are teachers, and the conversation usually moved to some aspect of education. My husband and the two spouses found this phenomenon tiring and boring; they intercepted conversations, interrupted with funny anectodes of something or other. But the conversation never really changed.  The educators in the room were educating everybody else about their passion. The air around us didn't smell of the lasagna or beef roast of the day; the air smelled of chalky  rooms, angry parents, maladjusted teens, victimized children, inept bureaucracies, lack of resources, abundance of violence, neglect, dirt and graffiti. We talked about our lives as though on a mission from God, and everybody else better stand back.

Suddenly without my reason for being, I had nothing to talk about. When I retired, I had nothing else. Literally. When I worked, I read newspapers and magazines just to have a brief experience with the world around me. I had no time for hobbies or interests, for reading or writing that was not related to my work. Even on vacation, I was writing lesson plans, visiting with local educators, comparing notes.

Life had been ordered, organized and precise, dictated by a school bell and a school calendar.

Now, hubby and I found ourselves together twenty-four hours a day, with nothing to talk about.

Stay tuned, our honeymoon was starting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Learning to do nothing: One lesson at a time.


"From the Origin/Earth comes Salvation"

I'm not sure where this quote comes from originally, but I read it lately in a book  titled, Venice is a Fish, by Tiziano Scarpa, 2008.  It talks about the city as an organic entity, embodying its past and its future, dictating how life is lived by its inhabitants.  It is a fascinating read.

I'm telling you this because my adjustment to the new life that on the surface had everything one wants in Paradise, even a walk with that name,  left me longing for something that I could not quite satisfy.

Month after month, year after year, trying different things, I found my source of peace through gardening, observing nature, accepting what was in front of me, reading,  writing, joining the Bandon Writers, the Reading Club, the SMART Program, and running for office. Most of you know that I serve as a Trustee on the local Board of Education. This year starts my second term. 

A word about Nature. I grew up in an era when most people's work was agricultural.  That work was tied to season, weather, wind patterns, natural calamities.  Our very existence depended on forces outside ourselves.  We were responsible for certain parts, at certain precise times; but, the rest was up to bigger powers.  In that setting, we took our job seriously.  When it was time to plant, we planted. When it was time to weed and till, we did those chores.  We anticipated and worked round the clock to beat rainstorms or locusts, or ...We did all we could, when we could.  The rest, we accepted.

I still feel connected to those rhythms.  Working in a garden allows you to dream big, as well as  accept the limitations of your conditions. You clear the land, work in compost, plant, water, weed, and nurture the tiny plants.  But, it is up to the sun to shine, the seeds to sprout, the insects to pollinate.  Some things take a long time.  Some things occurr so fast, they are not visible. Some things depend on dust particles on the wings of butterflies.

We are part of a bigger natural world. Fundamentally, we are 90+ similar to other mammals. Our curiosity, our imagination, our ability to invent has also separated us from our source, our world, our origins. 

When things don't feel right, we need to remember that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Learning to do nothing: A year later.

February 17, 2004

Much time has passed. Doing nothing is easier-a lot of floating through days and weeks, trying to find direction, punctuated by visits from relatives, holidays' get together, trips up and down the coast and out of state.

After Christmas, we flew to Florida with a stop in New Orleans, our Christmas gift to each other. It was good to get away in the middle of rainy season, but disappointing as well. New Orleans was too "packaged" this time. We stuck to the recommendations from the hotel concierge. The driver from the hotel seemed to be reciting well-rehearsed jokes for us tourists.  We didn't feel the excitement and raw energy of our first visit back in 77 when we walked all night, with two children in tow, visiting jazz clubs and hearing the greatest music we had ever heard.  Streets were crowded with people of all ages, and we were not worried about our safety in the least.  Even Cafe du Monde looked lame and scrubbed this time. 

Maybe it's us.

Florida too felt different. Nothing like the Florida we knew in our college days, the running around Key West at all hours, barefoot and penniless.  Now, everything was expensive; everyone, older than us.  I don't remember old people at all when we spent vacations down here in the 70's, down from Tallahassee with our two children and term papers to complete, spending time on  boats, fishing for our supper.  I loved Key West.  It didn't hurt that I was working on my thesis related to  Papa Hemingway. 

We must have clearer goals when we travel. I'm glad too that we didn't rush to buy the motor home. It would be cumbersome and cramped and totally an eye sore after a while.

Days float by.  Instead of jobs, we have appointments with doctors, dentists, surgeons and testing clinics.  How did we get these appointments in when we worked fifty hours a week and drove 120 miles a day?

Hubby has volunteered to coach baseball.  I work with a non-profit. We're meeting people and beginning to be accepted.

The best part about retirement is the feeling that your day is yours to do what you like.  We have coffee and read papers in bed for hours.  Everyday feels like a new start, full of possibilities.

One of these days, I wish to find a passion so deep that will make me jump out in the morning and dream deeply at night. For now, I'll practice patience and contentment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning to do nothing: Part Three.

Journal Entry: April, 2003

Two months into retirement. 

My youngest  child's 23th birthday coming up soon. I miss him; I miss all of them and their families.  They seem in a hurry everytime we call.
We rush through conversations; we talk about the same stuff.

I'm writing this journal as I sit  facing the water, looking up often, catching various movements, the water current, the flight of ducks and birds.  What a far cry from any vacation when we glimpsed at the world and never saw much.

I'm noticing the different birds, the curl of their tail, the coloring of the bill, the expanse of the wing. I'm trying to understand why I ignored all of this for so many years.  There is a tiny squirrel that visits on the deck, constantly scurrying off at the slightest noise, looking all stressed, all the time.

There is a constant sense of longing, and regret, like a smell of clothes after a work-out that you need to shed soon.  It's a longing for the days when you felt on top of the world, when your presence and your ideas were valued and appreciated. Nobody asks you what you do anymore.  Nobody wants to know.  Yet, everything about you is connected to the work you did. I miss my work, the routine, the excitement.

I watch too much television. I believe I am making up for the times when I was too tired to watch television or read a book.  Television is a perfect distractor.

The chores around the house seem to be all mine.  I have noticed that there are two of us eating and two of us messing the place. Yet, I'm the one cleaning and cooking. Hubby is too contented to notice that I'm annoyed.

I must confront him.

The rain has returned. Between storms, there are hours of calm and sunshine when I go on a walk, meet and talk to people. I have a pattern for each day: Monday to Paradise Point, Tuesday to Agate Beach, Wedsnday to the Port, Thursday Battle Rock, Friday The Headlands.  On Saturday and Sunday we drive to places like Cape Blanco or down to the Rogue River. 

We need hiking boots, Gore Tex clothing. After a hike,we are soaked and cold.  This is no ordinary rain.