Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Hike

My bestie Kristen and I spent yesterday morning hiking the William S. Hart Park trail.  William S. Hart was a silent film and then western film star.  He retired to a large ranch and left the estate to the county when he died.   The walk is only a couple of miles through the Santa Susana Mountains, but most of it is straight up and straight down.  We have had a couple of overnight rainstorms this month so the color was amazing.  It doesn't take much to get things green.  It's been a few years since we've seen it like this.
We had had some rain early that morning and the storm clouds keep things cool and crisp.  A great day for a hike.  At the bottom of the trail, you are rewarded with a herd of bison to greet you.  Hart had been given this herd from Walt Disney over 60 years ago.
 After we visited with the bison a bit and Rigby stood on guard quite concerned about these giant snorting beasts, we didn't finish the loop which heads back to the parking lot via the street.  Instead, we turned around and went back the way we came.
While I have been to Hart Park before (it's a common place to take school groups), this was the first time I've walked it.  It was a good one, and Rigby slept the rest of the day.  I may take her back next week.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This Salad Makes Me Happy!

It's always hit and miss trying new recipes.  Since I'm usually just cooking for myself, a recipe's leftovers and its portability (for school lunches) are pretty much just as important as the original outcome. Often, a recipe, even a good one, isn't made again if the leftovers are lousy or too complicated to reheat or pack in a lunch bag.  This Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad checks off the boxes on all of my requirements, and I've already made it three times this month.
Not only is this quinoa salad a breeze to make, it only gets better sitting in the fridge waiting to be leftovers as all the yummy citrusy dressing gets sucked up by the quinoa and chicken.  Plus it's good warm after being prepared but also delicious as a cold meal.  My final glowing endorsement for this salad is that it is easy to change up the ingredients as you like.  I don't like avocado so removed that without changing the integrity of the recipe.  Broccoli or the "Cruciferous Crunch" salad (kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage) from Trader Joe's make great add-ins.  I've made the chicken as prepared in the recipe, but have also just thrown it on the grill with garlic pepper.  And it would still be good without the chicken.  I know that cilantro is not loved by everyone as much as I love it.  I put an entire bunch of cilantro in the salad, but the salad would work without it.  See, it's SO versatile.
I whipped up a giant bowl of the stuff this afternoon to serve as a quick lunch or dinner during the first week of spring break.  My schedule is a bit less defined during break, so this is a great last minute meal.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Saturday 9

This week's Sat 9 inspiration is I Don't Know How to Love Him.
1) This song is from Jesus Christ, Superstar. Though now a beloved classic, the play was controversial when it first premiered. Can you think of something else that originally made people uncomfortable, but went on to be accepted?  Oh, most issues and thought-provoking work that challenge people's ideas or intellect are often considered controversial.  And once accepted there is a new wave of the controversial.  Although more recently with social media, EVERYTHING sparks controversy and outrage.  That makes me uncomfortable.  
2) Jesus Christ, Superstar was originally developed as a "concept album," a collection of songs written to sequentially tell the story of The Crucifixion and Resurrection. Do you remember the first album you bought? Did you download it, listen to it on a CD player, your cassette deck, or record player?  Yes, I do!  It was Depeche Mode's "Construction Time" and Tears for Fears "Songs From the Big Chair".  They were both records purchased at the local record store played on a record player.  Hours and hours were spent listening to my very own records!
3) When the album's songs were performed live in concert at the Pennsylvania Civic Arena, producers decided to stage it as a play and the rest, as they say, is history. Tell us about a really good idea you've had recently.  All of my good ideas are school related.  They probably wouldn't sound that good to anyone outside of education.
4) Jesus Christ, Superstar is a truly international phenomenon. During a revival tour that began in 2011, it's been a hit with audiences in the United States, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Brazil, Hungary, India, New Zealand, Italy, France, Mexico, Chile, Bulgaria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Australia, The Philippines, South Africa, Panama, Colombia, Croatia, Bolivia, The Netherlands and Portugal. Besides the United States, which of those countries have you visited?  I've visited Canada, England, Ireland, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico, Czech, South Africa, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Iceland (but just a stop at the airport due to an illness on the airplane).  It would seem I'm only a few countries away from the Jesus Christ, Superstar world tour!
5) Peeps are big sellers every Easter. Would you rather have yellow chicks or pink bunnies?  Peeps are cute, but I don't eat them.  They remind me of what sweet styrofoam might taste like.
6) Jelly beans are also popular this time of year. One theory says they were introduced in Boston during the 19th century. What else comes to mind when you think of Boston?  I used to live in Boston, so a lot of things - The Bruins, The T (subway), the little dive bars, fall leaves, The North End...a great city!
7) We've been talking a lot about sweets this morning. The only holiday that generates more candy sales is Halloween. When do you eat more candy: Easter or Halloween?  I don't eat a lot of candy, but when I do, it is Reeses PB eggs that are out around Easter.  That reminds me, there is one in the fridge calling my name.
8) Easter lilies will adorn many churches this Sunday. What's your favorite flower?  Hydrangeas, gerbera daisies, and tulips are all faves. I've recently become a fan of ranunculus as well.   
9) Easter is considered the season of rebirth. What makes you feel refreshed or rejuvenated?  Spring break, which started TODAY!  Yay!
Several years ago, my school's assistant principal was in a local theater's production of Jesus Christ, Superstar.  Since, I can only think of that version of the show, and it makes me chuckle.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

She's Out!

After a month of our backyard being out of commission, Rigby was finally able to GO OUTSIDE!  And it was everything she was hoping it would be...
After a bit of playing, the pretty green grass was just too tempting, and she dropped to the ground and rolled around several times.  
Could she be any cuter?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Over the last 4-5 years, my credit card number has been twice "hacked" somehow.  The responsibility for these erroneous charges have, luckily, not fallen on my shoulders.  The credit card company was quick to recognize them and, after confirming they weren't my charges, quickly reversed them and canceled the credit card number.  Other than a few days without a credit card while a new one was issued, both incidents were relatively hassle free.  Since then, however, my spending habits are under much more scrutiny than they used to be.  I often get calls or emails "just checking in" to make sure a charge on the card is mine.  Up until most recently, the calls were a bit irritating because most of the time they left a message, and I had to take the time to call back and deal with those automated menus.  I would try to remind myself that these calls were for my protection and I needed to appreciate the service regardless of the hassle.  Over the last few months the company has made it far easier.  Now they simply send out an email address noting any questionable charges.  It says to contact them if I don't recognize the charges, and if I do, just disregard.  It couldn't be simpler.
But this week, these security measures took a seemingly unnecessary turn.  I purchased some items online from one of our department stores and ended up returning about half the order back the store.  Since we have one nearby, the items were returned to the store rather than sent back in the mail.  That same afternoon, after the return was made, one of these check-in emails arrived in my inbox.  This time, the email shared there had been a CREDIT to my account, and I was asked to contact them if I didn't recognize it.  Now, I'm no credit card thief, but I'm pretty sure a hacker isn't going to put return charges back onto my account.  Maybe they've taken their security measures just a bit too far?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

An Update

Since moving into my house several years ago, the back yard has been the bane of my home's existence.  It was ok at first, but several factors including invasive roots and my lack of a green thumb sent it on a massive decline.  Then the drought over the last couple of years moved it into eyesore territory.
While sprucing things up a bit didn't really seem all that daunting, the fact that my brick wall (also a retaining wall) was being moved around by some serious roots was my biggest concern.  In certain areas, the concrete had worn out and bricks were moving around
A couple of friends told me that to fix the situation would cost many tens of thousands due to the retaining wall.  That stalled my need to make changes because I worried that if this wall fell down I'd have to redo it all again anyways.  Another told me that I should remove the trees causing the problem and at least that would keep anymore movement from happening.  That might have been worse news than the tens of thousands of dollars because the tree causing the problem is beautiful and shades well in the hot summer.  It saddened me to think the tree need to be removed.
Then, funnily enough, El Nino is what lit a fire under me to get things done in that backyard.  Due to the drought, things were pretty much dead and it was essentially a dirt lot. So when we had a few rains over my winter break, it turned into a swampy lot and was a mess with the dog. After one too many muddy dog footprints inside the house, I marched right outside, found the gardener, and had him get started on something.  I had visions of everything floating away in the predicted onslaught of El Nino rains...that have yet to come.  
Above is the just "before" the work was done.  And below, is after the first day of work.  The yard is root free and so level. I have never seen it so flat.
Over the next week or so, the pavers were added to extend the patio, the river rock was put in, and the sod was laid.  I wanted to get the yard water-wise, but still needed the grass for the dog.  I'm glad to still have some green, but the sprinklers have been redone and along with the drip system in the beds that line the yard.  I think the water will be used more efficiently.
An odd panoramic of the whole yard.  It's a bit distorted, but you get the idea.
And the best part, he removed the roots causing the wall movement and patched it up.  It's not perfect, but at least it will keep things together for the time being.  I'm hoping at least until the big predicted earthquake, so then insurance has to repair it.  
I haven't done anything yet to the planters around the edges.  There are currently roses in them, which have not done well under my care.  We'll see how the new water system works, and if needed I will redo those with native/drought tolerant plants.
Five more days until Rigby can go out there.  Then I'll REALLY enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Single Mindedness

A couple of weeks ago, I took my friend who is fighting breast cancer to her weekly chemo appointment.  We were at the hospital for 5-6 hours, and I was able to stay with her for about half of that time.  I brought a book with me to pass the remainder of the time.  I had not realized how sitting in the waiting room would affect me.  It was very emotional, partly because my friend is fighting cancer of course, but also the number of people who came through the waiting room was overwhelming.  Tears came to my eyes multiple times, but when an older man came in for treatment and was turned away because they were TOO FULL, I almost lost it and had to leave the room to collect myself.
I brought my things and tried to head outside to get some fresh air, but this managed care hospital is like a four-story maze, and I couldn't find the exit.  Instead, I found the cafeteria; figuring an icy cold caffeinated Coke would take the edge off.  I, however, was disappointed when I got to the self-serve soda machine and realized they didn't have Coke.  They had Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Sprite, Tab (I didn't even think they made Tab anymore), and various caffeine-free versions of the above mentioned.  I walked away from the machine to the fridge holding bottles of cold drinks thinking I'd find a regular Coke in there.  No such luck.  I do not care for the taste of the diet soda products.  There's something about the sugar substitute that just tastes terrible to me.  So I ditched my icy soda plan and grabbed a cold bottle of water instead.  
Upon taking it to the cashier I asked her about the lack of regular Coke.  She chuckled, "Yes, they have us all on a diet here.  There are only diet sodas and fruit juice."  I didn't think anything about it as this managed care organization is known for its overall health PR.  I found a seat in the cafeteria, opened my bottle and read my book happy to not be breaking down every time someone walked into the room.  But while thinking about the concept of only having diet sodas in the cafeteria because they are supposedly healthier than the regular started to bother me.  I completely get that soda is not good for you, and I have no problem with a business, especially one in the health business, not to sell it.  But if we are looking at health on a wider scale like this business supposedly does,  how can one justify diet soda with all its fake sugar and chemicals as a healthy alternative.  Sure, there are less calories in it, but let's be honest, it's not any better for you.  I'd have more respect for their healthy stance if they kept all sodas out of their hospital rather than deciding one poor health option was less bad for you than another.