…Beet Salad…

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INGREDIENTS:
3 each medium beets or 6 smaller red/yellow beets
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 pinches brown sugar
2 pinches Kosher salt
1 pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic finely chopped
3/4 cup Olive oil
Gorgonzola cheese
1 scallion, chopped
1 pinch dried fennel seed
2 leaves chiffonade of fresh basil
3-4 leaves of the heart of Romaine lettuce

Instructions:
1.) Preheat oven to 375F and bake beets for about 1 1/2 hours or until done. Set aside to cool completely.
2.) While the beets are cooking, you may wash lettuce leaves, place in plastic container and put into refrigerator to crisp. Then move onto making dressing.
3.) In a jar, with a screw top lid, place vinegar, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil. Place lid tightly onto jar, and shake the mixture. You may add more brown sugar to vinaigrette to make sweeter, add to taste, and shake. Place in fridge to chill.
4.)Once the beets are cooled, peel and cut into about 1/2 inch cubes and place into bowl. Add scallion, fennel and basil, and toss.
5.)Place beet mixture onto the lettuce that you have plated. Sprinkle the amount of cheese that you prefer and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Bon Appetite!!!

Chances ~ Second or Third or Fourth…

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This past week has been a very sad one for me… And today, the inevitable happened. My chances ran out! You see my cousin, Karen, pronounced CarIn’, lost her very brave struggle to overcome and beat Leukemia even after a bone marrow transplant last fall!! I have lived here in Florida almost 8 years, and she lived a very short hour away from me in Orlando. And even though that is a short distance to travel we never visited face to face. Occasionally we chatted on FaceBook, but never got together to share a meal, go to a movie or chat over a cocktail or coffee. We never shared stories of our parents, our children and grandchildren, our grandparents or just the day to day things we had experienced in each of our lives… And now, I will never have THAT chance!

What does this have to do with “A Pinch of This & A Dash of That” or “The Kitchen Diaries II?’ I have been woefully absent from both! I went to Seattle for 2+ weeks to see and be with family and friends. I had some wonderful experiences I want to share with you. All I could do is cry on the plane home here to Tampa, missing Seattle the whole way. Then when I got home to having no internet service for nearly 3 days, that just set me off.. Then I had re-occurring dental issues which sent me into an abyss of I don’t know… It has been difficult for me to find the energy or where with all to write or share or do anything for that matter… And then I learned of my Karen’s continued struggle… I felt such shame and regret because of what I shared with you above. And in the whole of the ‘meanwhile’ I kept thinking get onto ‘The Kitchen Diaries II,’ you need to be connecting with people, you have a responsibility of a commitment that you have made… But I just couldn’t; I couldn’t find my voice; I couldn’t find or I didn’t have the energy. Until, this very moment.

This morning, a short hour ago, I received a post from a friend on FaceBook, and it says “The trouble is, you think you have time. ~ Buddha” And then I received the post that said that Karen had lost her battle with Leukemia! It made very sad, and it also made me realize that I must take THIS chance to get out of myself and this ‘funk’ and grab the chance or opportunity to hopefully rebuild that which I may have lost… I can’t have that chance with Karen but I can with that side of my family. And hopefully, with your help, I can grab the chance of trust from you and your support with “The Kitchen Diaries II,” also.

I have learned a very important lesson today, one that I hope none of you will have to learn the way I have… I have learned that we do not always have the time. I have learned that sometimes your chances run out on you… I have learned that if you don’t take the time and a chance or THE chance, you will never know what could have been if you don’t take that chance… Or you may learn what you have missed out on if that chance was never taken, and then all you feel is regret for what could have been. And I don’t want to feel that.

Today is a new day and time for me… Sad as this is, I would never have learned this is if it had not been for my Cousin Karen… Thank you Karen for teaching me something, even in your death, that I should have known long before this… I love you Karen, and with all my heart I will miss you! At the same time, hello to all who may read this, and continue to follow me on “The Kitchen Diaries II!” I will follow through with my commitment to you, and I will be a better person for it I believe! Thank you for reading this, and look for the posts to follow, and the cookbook that is brewing now!

A Bit of “Downton Abbey”

I had a lovely weekend! I hope you did too! My weekend actually began on Friday with preparing a dinner for two lovely couples ~ Barry & Linda we have known for a long while and are our family. Carole & Larry I met in the past few months and we really hit it off as they say! Both are very dear to me.

For me, to entertain means pulling out all the stops… You could say it’s a bit like ‘doing the “Downton Abbey”!’ The BIG difference is, I am both the upstairs and the downstairs staff with the occasional assist of one, Eb… Yes, I am happy to do it all! Very content, in fact! I want my guests to always enjoy themselves ~ to have an experience as near as I can remember to when growing up and celebrating a special occasion! A ‘Downton Abbey’ experience…

A special occasion in the Keehn household meant a flurry of activity… There was the silver to polish, and washing the ‘good’ dishes and stemware… All done with glee, pride and anticipation that it was not just an everyday meal ~ Nanny would be in the kitchen with my mother cooking, and Dad would be tending to the cleaning in the house and polishing shoes and making sure that our ‘outfits’ were ready for my seven siblings and me. We were always “nattily” attired! Yes, even Dad participated! Actually, he would do a great deal in keeping the household in order, it didn’t matter to him what the ‘traditional’ male was in the 50’s and 60’s! And if you were old enough, you participated in any or all that needed being done.

Friday began with going over the menu, planning a table and all that ‘that’ means… The menu turned out to be Wedge Salad with from scratch Gorganzola dressing and fresh crumbled bacon, Hungarian Goulash with Porcini & Parsley homemade pasta served with fresh Green Beans and dessert of Meringue Cups with Fresh Whipped Cream and Strawberries. The wine choice was Malbec and with dessert Bailey’s cordials. All well and good, right? Well, there were a few glitches…

With the plan in place, the activity began… I indeed polished the silver, washed dishes and stemware and ironed the tablecloth along with the napkins. Meal prep for my ‘assistant’ began with cutting up the meat, vegetables and gathering the ingredients of his family’s recipe of Hungarian Goulash. To have a very mouth watering, delicious goulash it really needs to be made the day before, and so it was done! The aromas began swirling around the house! My oh my!  And the visions of years ago ghosted around in my mind and my heart… They always do when preparing for an ‘occasion’ in my home! The rest is to be done on Saturday! But it was time to go get purty… off to get my hair done!

Saturday… I can’t wait to get started, and I’m up early! First things first, a French Press of coffee and I mull over the recipe again and again… It’s not that I’ve never made pasta or the meringue cups before, it’s just that I wanted it to be perfect… So over and over again it goes in my head – the steps and the ingredients… But this time, to save some time, I chose to mix the dough in my Cuisinart. Usually I make the dough the old fashion way – flour on counter top, a well for the eggs, oil and water and mix by hand. The processor was great but I must admit I missed the sensation of working it by hand. The other thing I did differently with this recipe was I used semolina flour… And then a light bulb went off in my head! When I go home to Seattle in a couple of weeks, I can actually make pasta for my Mom who is gluten intolerant ~ I digress a bit, but it made me even more happy!!!

While the dough was resting, I prepped the beans and moved onto dessert… THE MERINGUE CUPS! So very excited! I hadn’t made these in years, and I knew my guests would be just WOWed! Well… Not so much! The batter appeared to be perfecto! The peaks were thick, and high and I JUST knew I had done it! I placed them in the oven, and they looked beautiful… I was so proud of myself, I hadn’t forgotten how to make them; I was so very pleased with myself! But not so fast… Not exactly sure what happened, I followed the my instructions to the letter; somehow it was not meant to be. They were a wet, sticky, hot mess! They had fallen. AND, it was just not meant to be… Good thing I had bought shortcakes, you see my ‘assistant’ would not have eaten the meringue cups, so I had bought them for him ~ and fortunately six come to a package. Backup Plan in place ~ Strawberry Shortcake!

I moved on to finishing the pasta, beautiful! Set up the table and finishing touches and I had a couple hours to spare… I couldn’t wait for my friends to arrive! It was like being a kid again in our family home, and waiting to have a wonderful meal and time with family and guests! I couldn’t wait to see my friends.

At last, Barry and Linda arrive and I poured glasses of wine to sip that we ate with a bit of cheese and crackers and caught up. Carole and Larry weren’t far behind, more wine poured. We chatted, and got to know one another ~ Barry & Linda and Carole & Larry had never met, but it didn’t take long for them to know each other. Success on the guest front! While we chatted, I put together the salads, cooked the pasta and beans.

With the dinner plated, we moved into the dinning room, shared a wonderful meal and had great conversation – food, Chicago, children and giraffes, yes giraffes! Eventually I plated the Strawberry Shortcake along with the Bailey’s cordials! I sat back and thought about how happy I was, and again it took me back to another time! What a wonderful evening! It wasn’t THE ‘Downton Abbey,’ but it was my Downton Abbey, if you know what I mean.

NEW BEGINNINGS

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”

YES, this IS the first day of the rest of my life… Every day is. And, it has been coming for some time. Today is a new beginning for this blog too… Today is a new beginning for what I ponder to write… Today is a new beginning of many things yet not spoken…

While it has been some time since my last posting, it has not been because I did not have anything to say. It was because I was uncertain as to how to say it. My blog used to be tag lined  “…Not Another Food Blog.” It was so titled because it did not center on food. I wanted it to be more about observations in my life… “A Pinch of This, and A Dash of That” was about the measurement of my life in experiences, thoughts and observations ~ a smathering.

The new tagline is now “…Not Just Another Food Blog.” It will still be a smathering of life experiences, but now it will be about my experience & relationship with food. It will include recipes for sure; it will be about how it affects me, and what food means to me. It will be about experiences in the sharing of a meal with friends and family. It will be about how I’m feeling preparing perhaps something new – maybe a new ingredient or doing something different in the process or about a new tool.

Yesterday, I began working with a life coach. I am doing it because I was feeling stuck; I felt like I was in a box that I could not get out of and I didn’t know how I could do what I want to do with that feeling… I don’t have all the answers yet, I will never have the answers to a lot of things…

But one thing that was said by my Coach struck a cord with me… She talked about how it took her 3 tries, writing and re-writing her book. With the final edition, the one that got published, she realized she had to write from her heart.

When she said that, a light bulb went off in my head. The book, and especially this blog, HAVE to be from my heart and my feelings ~ that’s how I have written all previous posts, and that’s how I will continue to write. I HAVE to write about food that same way! I love food! But my experiences about that has to come from my heart. It can’t just be about a recipe with ingredients and directions on how to prepare it. So this blog will have the same ‘feel,’ the same ‘tone’ and the same ‘voice’ to it.

That having been said, I hope you will enjoy my offerings in my blog, “A Pinch of This, and A Dash of That …Not Just Another Food Blog.”

Funny Thing – Words, words, words….

“HANDLE THEM CAREFULLY, FOR WORDS HAVE MORE POWER THAN ATOM BOMBS.” Pearl Stachan

I am not sure exactly when it happened for me, but I know it happened kind of in a split second. WORDS! They are fascinating to me. How wonderful they are! They can express so many things – love, sadness, joy, anger, thoughtlessness, idiocy or ignorance – especially when words are not used correctly or properly, bliss and sooo much more. We are all familiar with words, we use them everyday to convey a thought when used in a sentence or when an individual word is used to punctuate an immediate feeling or emotion – you know which ones they are! I love them!!

I often wonder what life would be like if we didn’t have words. How would we be able to effectively communicate with others? I kind of know – we would be like nature’s animals… Using grunts, whistles or gestures just somehow doesn’t seem to have the same incredible dynamics that I believe words have. Drawing a picture can convey some ideas but not all people can draw. Communication would be rather one or two dimensional, quite different from the array of words we have to express ourselves. It conjures, in my mind, a third or even the possibility of fourth dimension of communication. Words, especially when used in combination of gestures or tone or volume of one’s voice or other means of expression, are so incredibly amazing to me!

Over the years, there are words that have caught my eye, so to speak. Recently I watched the movie “Love Happens.” You know the one with Jennifer Anniston, the vibrant and sassy Seattle flower shop owner who meets a widower, Aaron Eckhart, who is a dynamic life coach dealing with the issue of coping with loss. I’ve digressed a bit, the point is he finds her in the hall of the hotel he is staying and thinks she is up to no good, and in fact, she is a bit… But what he discovers is that she is writing words on the wall under paintings… Not ‘everyday’ words, some pretty obscure words that I had never heard of and had to ‘rewind’ the movie so I could write them down and eventually find their meaning… These words were quindunc which means busy person or body, and the other poppysmic meaning the sound of smacking lips together! I loved the movie because I was tickled to have found two new words, not that I have been able to use them in a conversation; nonetheless, I was ecstatically happy! What a wonderful thing! Two new words!!!

A few years ago when I went back to college, I had to take a creative writing class. And believe me I do not think of myself in terms of a creative writer! Anywho, one assignment was to write a very descriptive piece and I almost freaked out! Then I thought – I can do this! So, I wrote about my Nanny, my maternal grandmother, of whom I have many, very fond memories! I was able to describe with words the smell of the old, musty building she lived in and when it came to describing her physical stance I came across a word that was just awesome and still tickles me to this day. AKIMBO – WOW! What a word!!! It’s not a powerful word, but it is accurate – it described her to a ‘T’! I don’t even remember how I came across that word, but I do remember how fun it was to have discovered it!!! Incidently, it means to stand with hands on your hips with your elbows sticking out to the side.

Gobsmacked makes me laugh!!! It means to be utterly astounded; it’s British. And I do not remember a word we have that we use that has that same meaning. This word makes me smile. Not only does it sound fun or funny, but it takes me to another place in this world where the word is used -England. I have never been there but I hope to sometime… It would be incredibly wonderful to hear, see and feel the essence of another way of speaking and using words!

I used a word the other night when conveying a thought to a friend of mine. After the message was sent I began to wonder if she thought I was crazy or stupid. I told her I thought she was a peculiar woman. There was a time when the word meant to be queer or as we would say today – gay, as in having a different sexual orientation. Over the years it has had many different meanings such as distinctive, odd, and even exclusivity. Also, at one time it meant  to be special, which was how I had learned the word to mean and was exactly what I meant.

There are words that either don’t exist. It really bugs me! The word irregardless is one such word. Then there are the words that are overly used, raise your hand Louise – guilty as charged, for instance the word awesome. I actually have been trying to find other words that mean awesome and incredible; I’m trying to break myself of that habit and it’s not always that easy. And then there are the words used inaccurately, devastated is one that comes to mind – it is often used to describe how one may feel when losing a shoe or a fingernail – are you really, really devastated? I think not! The word I have given some thought to lately is the word handsome  –  a word that is generally used to describe how a man looks – pleasing to the eye, good-looking, McDreamy… While it may be true that a man is handsome, really it just generally means beautiful, lovely, pretty or fair. Women can be handsome too, as well as a horse or a tree.

I love people who are good wordsmiths! I’m not a wordsmith; not even close. But new words and how they are used turns me on! I really appreciate great writing, and crave surrounding myself with people who can convert words – ideas, thoughts or circumstances into creating a vision in my head! It’s a special gift to do so I think.

I’m not a snob about words. But I do like it best when words are used properly and correctly. When I hear a new word, it’s like finding a treasure! Sometimes a new word takes me back to another time, sometimes a new word is like a secret that I have been holding in my heart or head for a while and rediscover a memory or thought or a feeling I had at one time. Words are so lovely!

Part Deux – I’m Not Finished

Yesterday I wrote a piece that was definitely not finished… I did the unthinkable, I mistakenly chose “Publish” when I meant to choose “Save Draft”… A major faux pas for writers, especially in this viral medium! I was not quite done with “WOW, Not Sure What the Title Is.

In that posting, I implied that I could identify with that sole, lonely Sand Hill Crane… Today, I want you to know that only on some level, I believe, that I do identify with that sad, wailing crane.

Recently, after posting something on my Facebook (FB) wall, a friend of mine stated that “you have been cranky lately!” And she was SO right!! I have been cranky and so many other things lately… I have been frustrated, lonely, sad, irritated and irritating, sulky, weepy, felt insecure and so much more. And, like that crane, I feel as though I have many reasons for those emotions. But for me I would like to believe  it is a temporary condition. Unlike the crane, I believe I can change the way I am feeling… I can come “out of my box!”

Like many Americans, I am a statistic of unemployment. And while this ought not to be an excuse or define me – it is my reality! Most, if not all, of my friends and family will tell you I am optimistic -even to a fault, I am very social, happy, hospitable, loving, kind, sometimes funny, cute, sweet and maybe even a lovely sort of person… But lately, looking at the same four walls; going stir crazy and feeling as though I have nothing to offer, for the lack of response to the oh so many jobs I have applied for since February – I have just been plain worn down… I feel like wailing!

Right now, this very second, I have decided that I will not allow those feelings to usurp my power – like starting a fire with a flint and kindling, I will become a roaring fire! With the help of my own breath and the breath of my friends and my family, I will not be exstinguished! I am coming out of that box and I am going to create an opportunity for myself, and I will succeed!

I am working on a project, a business of my own, that will serve small businesses. I believe that I have much to give because of what I have so recently been feeling and experiencing. I won’t be cheap, but I will be reasonable.. I won’t be piggy, but I will be worth more than they possibly will be able to afford… I will be worth more than any and every penny they will invest in me because I have the empathy and experience that is required to succeed! I have done this before AND I will do it again! I am thinking and going out of the box for me!

“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina!”* I AM NOT YET FINISHED! After all, “It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.” Confucius

*From “Evita” by Andrew Lloyd Weber & Tim Rice

WOW, Not Sure What the Title Is!

It’s been some time since I last wrote a post… It’s not because I don’t and haven’t had anything to say – it’s just that there is so, so much to say and I’ve been having trouble putting it together or sorting it out and getting it coherent!

Life has been so crazy over these past months… life changing actually. Or as a friend of my friend told me… “I’m living life.” And for me, several of the things I am about to embark on are way “out of the box” for me…

These past few months I have been feeling out of sorts, antsy, melancholy, lonesome, lonely and not knowing how to move from that to some thing that is a direct opposite… I’ve tried journaling, painting… anything that did not involve popping a pill to make me or it better and go away… And stop doing things like riding my bike.

In the neighborhood in which I live, we have these incredible, huge birds… Sand Hill Cranes! They mate for life, and their young stay with the parents till the following spring when they eventually mate themselves. There is a sole, lone Crane in the neighborhood populated with 3 families, and he/she wanders the empty lots, flies away when approached and always stays by itself… And, I wonder how or why this has happened to such a beautiful, familial and social bird…

About a month ago, while in my family room feeling sorry for myself, I heard this huge, high pitched, sorrowful sound – almost like crying. I ran outside in my pool cage and saw my lone Sand Hill Crane, on top on a hill of sand, its head reaching for the sky, and just screeching – wailing its heart out – not the usual cawing sound one hears from these beautiful creatures. The sound I know carried for a great distance because it was that loud and piercing!  And I began to weep. It made me so sad…

I realized, later not then, that the poor creature may not be able to change its status, though I still wonder how it could have happened! But, I do now realize that I can change my sense of loneliness… I’m working on getting myself out of the box!

Life, Love, Sadness… With or Without

My heart is heavy and it hurts!

I had a conversation with a friend just yesterday about the state of affairs about how life seemed so icky to me lately…  I am, and I suppose not alone in this, surrounded by loss and love.  In the past year I can count a numbers of losses.  Some are very personal and others have happened to those I hold dear to me – my family and my friends – which have just seemed to be even more painful than I ever could have imagined!

If it seems that I may be sad today, while writing this blog, I am…  I found or find myself in a continual state of grief.  I don’t know if it is because of age, or is it because there are more things in life to feel or be sad about ?  All I know is this, I am sad for the losses that surround me.  But don’t feel sorry for me, because this is something each of us has to go through and this is what defines me as a human.  My ability to feel pain strengthens me  and it is who I am…  To not feel the pain of loss is not an option for me!

Personally, in the past year, I have lost two jobs…  One which I really loved because of being with people who really, truly appreciated the kindnesses I was able to show them during a very confusing and uncertain time in their lives.  The other job I came to like even though it was gained on some very unscrupulous terms… not mine!  I loved that job as much as the first for the very same reasons.

With that has come a loss of income…  Also, with that has come the loss of my ability to do what I am good at and what I love to do – to be with people, to be kind to them and just sometimes really make them feel better; to in some small way “have a nice day.”  It’s not tangible, I know, but not all gifts are something we can really, physically touch, hold in our hands or wrap our arms around or our minds, for that matter!

I am sad for the loss of those jobs because of the loss of income – the loss of my ability to contribute to this household, to be able to buy something that I may ‘love’ to have and to be able to do some of the things I would still love to do in my life like travel.  But I have also gained some things.  I am now riding my bike nearly everyday; I am journaling and now writing this blog; I am now playing with watercolors, and I am for the first time in my life seeing the beauty of the things that surround me like frogs, toads, butterflies and yes, even creepy things like snakes and alligators!

I have friends who are living with the eminent loss of loved ones – a husband, a father, a grandfather…  For them time is like sand falling through their fingers and they can’t hang onto it, as one of them wrote me today…  I have a friend who recently lost her brother…  I have a friend who also lost her job and so many other things in the process like a relationship and her sense of who she is…  I have someone in my life who has also lost a job, but bigger than that he has lost what he loves to do and in the process his self worth…  Another person in my life literally sits in the ‘balance of a budget’, not knowing what her future holds and looses on a daily basis her sense of security…  Recently, I have the sense that I lost a very dear friend, and not sure if I will ever have that back…

Currently we are loosing our sense of stability in our country – too many people loosing their livelihoods, homes and identities…  Not long ago Norway lost too many people due to a senseless act of violence!

The circle of loss, seems to me, is becoming bigger and bigger, and more daunting as each day passes…  And in all of these losses is love…  I love these people!  And all of these people love life!  To them there is no other option either than to feel the sadness that goes with loss.  Though sometimes in the midst of loss we are not able to ‘feel the love,’ I believe love from our friends and family helps us move through the sadness…  Perhaps one could say the circle of love is even bigger than loss or sadness.

Recently I wrote about the “butterfly who came to visit.”  When I told the story of this butterfly to a friend of mine, she said someone is watching over me…  Now I’m not sure if that is true but for me there is some kind of meaning to that visit…  What I know is that life is fragile like the life of that butterfly! Life is lovely even in the event of loss.

What am I trying to say?  I don’t know!  I just know that as I stated before to not feel the fullness of these losses in the form of sadness is not an option…  I would not want to, and cannot, go ‘thru’ life not feeling any thing…  I can’t even imagine that!  What would be the purpose of life as a human if you could not feel, take life in, in every sense of the word including feeling it with whatever emotion is available to us as humans…  I love life, it’s just that there are times when I like it less!    Loss IS sad!    Life IS beautiful.    AND, Love IS awesome and much needed


The End of the Road…

Just recently I have taken up bike riding for the umpteenth time.  What I find most interesting about this are the observations with which I am ‘gifted’ on my rides.  Most are visual while others are from sounds, and odors, scents or smells.  There is one such observation that really has upset me, but not necessarily surprised me because I have seen this scene over and over again.  However often I see this scene, I find it makes sad commentary on human behavior.

What is that scene you ask… it is dumping!  Yes, dumping.  It takes several different forms, from throwing trash out the window of one’s car, to taking personal items from one’s home and leaving it on another’s private or public property, to the accident scene that hasn’t been completely cleaned.

About a year and a half ago we built a home in a new development.  Originally when we arrived here, our backdoor neighbors were a herd of cattle, and as progress expanded those cows were moved further behind us… beyond the tree line.  And with that expansion brought more roads, and a larger area to ride… So, with my bike sitting in the garage for nearly that same length of time and my looking at it nearly every day as I go off to work or do errands, I finally decided it was time for me to take up riding that bike again!

At first I was just riding around my current neighborhood, up and down the streets, in and out of cul de sacs and back home repeating the route to create a decent ride of 4 to 5 miles… then my ride expanded to my going out to the nearest busy street and down a road which is incomplete – it just ends! About 20 yards away is another road, also a dead end… But, that is a whole other story perhaps for another day…  I digress!

Anywho, it is about this dead end road of which I speak…  Shortly after moving into my home, I was curious about my surroundings and where roads went. One day instead of turning my usual left out of the development I decided to turn right. As I do on my bike, I found a half-mile stretch, two lane road divided by a 6 or maybe a 8 foot grassy median with bike paths on either side…

At the end of this stretch is a barrier with huge “Keep Out,” “No Trespassing” signs attached to the chain link fence.  Beyond the fence, I could see the road continued for as far as the eye could see.  I thought to myself this really could make a nice ride for me, and maybe there is a way I could go beyond that fence to make a longer ride…

On my first ride outside of the comfort zone of my neighborhood, I took my first turn down that road.  When I got to the end I was pleased, and chagrinned! But, how the heck… What happened to the fence?  It was gone!  No, it had in fact been knocked down! As I entered, a runner was coming toward me, it was obvious others had the same idea – an expansion to whatever exercise of choice!

It was a lovely ride. On either side are gorgeous, old growth Live Oak with sphagnum moss hanging from their branches with a dotting of Pine trees.  There are Bismarck palms growing under the safe arms of the trees, so as to somehow protect them.  But on the east side of the road, there is a more sparse type of landscape…

It is here that I find my former neighbors, my dear friends the cattle. I felt really happy to see them, it is like finding an old, dear friend!  They are scattered in the field, lazily eating. I recognize a number of them as being calves that were born last year in the pasture behind us. Some of them have calves of their own now.  Cows protecting their young!  The young calves are running, some playing tag of sorts.  And, I felt the eyes of some of those majestic species watching and following me as I rode deeper into this area!  Maybe they even remembered me as the pesky woman calling out to them last year from my picket fence… doubt it, though!

But suddenly, I was disappointed, to say the least, with what I saw.  In disbelief I saw something in the near distance.  I couldn’t exactly make out what it was, and shortly as I come onto it, I am able to make it out.  It is a 35-pound dumbbell weight!!!  I stop, I think maybe I could pick it up and take it home… I pick it up and ride with it for a short distance and realize I cannot ride the 4 miles back with it.  I hate to, but I put it back on the road.

I soon discover that the dumbbell is not the only thing that has been left on this road… A short distance away, at the end of the road is a Lazy Boy sectional that has obviously seen better days… Leaning up to it is half of what used to be a ping-pong table with the other half lying behind the reclining sofa… And there are other unrecognizable pieces of particleboard strewn at that site.  I stop; take a few pictures of what I later jokingly call my ‘Rest Stop.’  It dawns on me that I forgot to bring some essential items like a picnic lunch and skateboard!

 I also observe the “end of the road” that seems to lead to another ‘end of the road’ road.  It may be otherwise called the “road to somewhere, but where?” Here is another sad commentary, two county governments who can’t seem to agree as to who is going to finish and connect these two ends! Rubbish!  Now, not only do I discover trash BUT/AND there is also a rubbish of sorts!  Again, a topic for a later day.

So, not to bore you too much, I go around the loop in the road and continue along the other direction heading back home… I see more trash – left over remnants from someone’s private 4th of July display are scattered everywhere.  A little further down the road are three lovely specimens of trash!  There on the side of the curb, in the grass are: an upside down Phillips television, a grill minus the propane tank and an old, treadless tire!  The only thing that might have salvageable was the tire – you know, for a tree tire swing!   What a site!

I am so disappointed… not shocked, not surprised, not even blown away!  I rode home, all the way thinking, “Why? Why? Why?” replaying in my head the screeching sounds of Nancy Kerrigan crying after she was violently attacked before the Olympic skating trials!  Why, and excuse my language here, the hell do people find it necessary to dump their shit in empty lots, abandoned houses and roads like these?!  What was probably a very pristine area at one time is now an eyesore…  I wish I knew from whence this trash came… Because if I did, I would load it up and place in the front yard of the person who is irresponsibly dumping his trash inappropriately!

So this is ‘the end of the road’ for this story… There is no moral to the story, there is no resolution to this trash in my particular neck of the woods and there is probably no end to this kind of dumping.  And, obviously someone thought this must be the “Road Less Traveled,” but it is not!

An update to this one evening ride was followed up with the same path the next night for me.  I observed the dumbbell was gone, thank God for that good Samaritan!  But it was also apparent that at least two other people had traveled down this road again in a 24 hour period… the Lazy Boy and ping-pong table had been ‘played’ with and didn’t look as organized as the previous night.  I wonder what tonight will bring for the condition of this location?

Lovely, just lovely!

The Butterfly Who Came to Visit

A couple of weeks ago I was weeding our flower beds… they had gone unattended for several weeks while Eb was in the hospital recovering from surgery. The weeding amassed several bags of yard waste. One morning, I went around the corner of the house where the bags were to tie them up and put out on the curb for pick up.

I leaned down to tie up one of the bags, and something caught my eye… A beautiful butterfly emerged from the opening of the bag!  It was black and an incredible cobalt blue in color – very eye fetching! It flew out majestically into the wild blue yonder, never to be seen again I was sure.

Then three days later, I found another butterfly in the exact same area… Perhaps it was the exact one from days previous, but a rather different looking one. It’s once lovely wings were tattered and torn. My heart sank for its condition.

This butterfly tried to ‘walk.’  As it did, often it would roll over on its back and would struggle to get back upright. There were times I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I reached down to assist it by gently turning it on its ‘legs’ and hoped that it would be okay. But, in my breaking heart I knew it wouldn’t.  So lovely, so fragile.

At one point after turning it over once again, this lovely creature flapped its wings, and while I still had my fingers on the concrete – it began to ‘walk’ up my arm… Really!  It took my breath away!  It made its way almost to my shoulder… for a moment I was sure that it was looking directly into my eyes!  It was a stunning moment in time.  Then, once again, it fell to the concrete on its back.

One more time I helped it to right itself… then it walked under me through my legs, and continued, occasionally stopping as though to catch its breath, to walk about 5 feet from me, thru the grass, around the back edge of a raised garden bed, and didn’t move… at all! I was sure it was dead. I didn’t give it another thought for the rest of the day.

The next morning I did more weeding in the beds, and was in the same area as the day before.  There it was again, I was just gobsmacked… I just could not believe my eyes… it was walking on the creek rock, and struggling as it had the day before!  I went about my business for the rest of the day, occasionally checking on its progress, or whatever one could call its situation.

For most of the day, I would find it at different stages of struggling to crawl up the cage of our pool… It would occasionally fall to the ground or into a bush, and then it would start all, over, again.  At one point during the day, I must have watched it for about 15 minutes.  It fell into a bush, made its way to the screen, take a few ‘steps,’ stop to ‘catch’ its breath and then continue its way up only to fall back off the screen.

It was too painful to watch, it broke my heart… after all, this was not a dog or cat, a four legged life partner, that one would probably have considered euthanizing.  I knew I had to just leave it alone and let it continue its own journey from life to death on its own.  Laugh as you might, at night before I went to bed, I walked out to the pool cage, placed my hand on the screen where it was and said goodnight to it like you would say goodnight to a dear friend.

I was sure that I would see it again in the same place on the screen in the morning… but as you have probably guessed, I didn’t.  It was gone!  Why I was shocked I am not sure, but I looked everywhere in the beds anyway, and it was nowhere to be found!  How naive am I?  I still look for it.

This was an incredible experience, and a byproduct of being at home, not working and having the opportunity to see things that I would not see or experience if I were.  What else of this experience? I’m not sure, I just know that in some way it impacted me.  I guess, perhaps as the current saying goes, ‘it is what it is!’ Goodnight lovely butterfly, thank you for visiting