Too much stuff

This is stuff I’m lining up for my husband to pack in the car. Missing in the photo are our two suitcases, mesh swim bags, laptop computers and all my husband’s work monitors and computers.

Just a bit of the stuff we’re taking on vacation. I miss the days when we first got married. We’d throw our sleeping bags in the car and take off.

Now we bring half the kitchen with us. That includes our small Keurig because hubby drinks decaf and I like caf. A pot of coffee doesn’t work for us and we both like just one cup each.

One of the biggest things taking up space is vitamins. We are hefty consumers of anything that promises a return to youth and the end to pain.

I also take fruit, a cooler full of condiments, frozen steak and chicken to cook in the airbnb — and sandwiches for the road. Cheese and crackers and a bottle of wine. I have to take a jug or two of water. We are traveling through the desert.

Then there’s the swim gear, hiking sticks, hiking boots, hats, sunscreen etc.

My husband likes his own pillows. So why not take four?

The computer is packed, so I’m trying to write this on my phone.

When you travel do you pack light or full on Clampetts like us?

What odd foods did you grow up with?

oxtail soup on the stove
My mom cooked oxtail soup. Now it’s one of my specialties. I cooked these two pots of soup for Christmas week when we had our son’s girlfriend’s family stay with us.

My mother had a few recipes that I couldn’t stomach. Mom loved the odd cuts of meat (like organs) and learned how to cook them from her mother and grandmother. I don’t remember many of our neighborhood moms cooking the same things.

I liked her chicken hearts that were dusted in flour and fried. But I passed on gizzards.

Beef tongue was a hard pass.

Mom’s beef heart I could handle. She’d stuff the heart and bake it in the oven. Then she sliced it and I’d have a thin ring of heart around delicious stuffing.

The oxtail soup I shied away from until I hit junior high. Then I discovered oxtails were the most tender delicious meat I’d ever eaten and the broth was rich but so flavorful. Years later, I made oxtail soup for my “at the time boyfriend.” I overheard him telling a friend that he had to marry me because of my oxtail soup.

“How can she make something so amazing out of !!#!??”

I discovered this recipe in one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks that she published in the early 1900s and sold to Ladies’ church auxiliaries across the country. It’s my dream to bring the little cookbooks back to life. Great-grandmother Nellie’s recipe is not how I cook oxtail soup, but it’s the same general principle.

My dad’s side of the family had some oddball dishes too. Christmas meant Lutefisk and fish head stew. I could not get myself to stop staring at the eyeballs staring up at me from the stew. It definitely killed my appetite.

If you haven’t heard of Lutefisk this is from Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

 Finnishlipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally “lye fish”) is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

Besides the recipes I mentioned, my mom also served us canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, Swanson’s TV dinners, Space Food Sticks and Tang.

What are some of the foods you grew up with? Did your family cook anything odd?

Be worthy

US Flag
This is the flag a the entrance to our neighborhood. It was donated by one of the residents.

Memorial Weekend I heard the phrase “Be worthy” repeated several times. It was in response to those who have sacrificed for our freedom. That hit a note with me. Am I worthy?

When my son was in eighth grade, his class traveled to Washington D.C. I was lucky to get one of the chaperone spots. I had never been to D.C. and felt so much emotion visiting the War Memorials and the Arlington Cemetery. If you’ve been there, you’ll understand. If you haven’t been there, you should plan a trip.

I wondered. Am I worthy? I try to be a kind person. I help my neighbors and volunteer in the community. I have for decades. I try to be a parent and wife who is supportive and understanding. I have my shortcomings. But have I done anything worthy of someone sacrificing their life for my freedom?

What do you think the phrase “Be worthy” means? How do you try to be worthy?

The shelves are bare

empty produce shelves at big name grocery store
Empty shelves at the chain grocery store.

The shelves were bare in our pantry and fridge because I packed up a ton of stuff and hauled it to California for Christmas week. I made a trip this morning to the Farmer’s Market and a grocery store only to be disappointed.

At the Farmer’s Market there were only two stands. One for prickly pear jellies and the other for power greens. I wanted my chips and dips plus the veggie guy who also sells homemade tortillas. I’m sure it was because it’s New Year’s Eve, plus it’s supposed to rain.

On to a locally-owned grocery store where they were out of lots of stuff on my list. I backed out without a purchase and drove down the street to a major chain-owned store. I thought to myself, this store is huge and always has everything in stock.

Nope. Not today. I managed to grab the last spinach. Then I found myself not quite in a panic, but feeling this need to buy more than what I had intended. I think this is what is causing the shelves to be bare.

When you see empty shelves, you think you better buy NOW or you’ll be out of some much needed TP. allergy meds, or milk. Also, with inflation raging, I told myself I had better buy now because it will be more expensive next week.

Happy New Year! That’s my tale for New Year’s Eve. Now I’m ready to watch the Rose Bowl.

GO UTES!!!

What are your New Year’s plans? Have you made resolutions? What are they?

Empty grape case at grocery store
Grapes anyone?

VRBO views

stone lion with Christmas decorations
I saw this nicely decorated lion on a morning walk around the corner from the Christmas VRBO.

We’ve left the VRBO and we’re headed home slowly. It took a ton of energy and hard work to pack 12 people and to get the house in shape for the housekeepers. I’m waiting to hear that my son’s car has arrived safely to the Bay Area. They were the last car to leave along with us at noon.

We decided to spend the night with our dear friends who live in the Santa Barbara area and get up at dawn to make the nine-hour trek home. The packing and cleaning left us too tired and too late to make the drive. Plus, I’m hoping for better weather tomorrow. Another storm is currently walloping the coast.

I miss Olive the cat and hope she’s not too angry with me for boarding her. In our new home and her new career as an indoor cat, she’s become very affectionate. I have bonded with this lovable kitty more than ever. The goal is to stop on our way home to pick her up from cat jail before they close.

views of Santa Barbara marina from the Christmas house.
The view from the master bedroom deck in our Christmas VRBO.
View from master bedroom of Santa Barbara VRBO
The master bedroom French doors to the patio with spectacular views.
Santa Barbara sunset.
Sunset

Happy New Year! I’m ready for 2022. How about you? Are you looking forward to saying goodbye to 2021?

Views from Christmas Week

sunrise over the Pacific
Sunrise view from the VRBO deck.

We spent Christmas together with our kids and our son’s girlfriend and family. This is our third Christmas together. We missed 2020 due to COVID — or it would be number four. This year, we rented a VRBO between our home and the Bay Area (where everyone but us lives). The house was amazing and it was a wonderful few days with family. My daughter and I had a mother-daughter day while the rest went to Solvang. I absolutely loved our time alone together. We spent so much time together while she was growing up that it was taken for granted. Now it’s a huge gift.

Christmas photo in Santa Barbara
The Christmas Crew
The Anderson Bakery in Santa Barbara
One of our musts in Santa Barbara for breakfast.
Statue at the marina in Santa Barbara
Statue at the marina.
Seawall at the Santa Barbara marina.
Seawall at the marina where the ocean and seaweed splashes over the wall.
selfie of mom and daughter
Mother daughter selfie on our much needed day together.
Path over the Santa Barbara marina barrier
At the end of the seawall you can walk the plank to a small beach.
On the Alley fish tacos
Fish tacos from On the Alley in the Santa Barbara marina. The best. I’m trying to find something close in AZ.

All of my son’s girlfriend’s family play stringed instruments. Two of the seven are professional musicians and we enjoyed Christmas Eve, Christmas and post Christmas concerts in our living room. Below are two samples of the amazing music we were treated to.

Christmas Eve concert snippet.

The road to Christmas

view from Santa Barbara during rain storm
Waiting for the kids to arrive during a California storm.

We arrived at our Christmas destination amidst a rain and wind storm. I’m so thankful that our day of driving was the day before the storm. We spent the night with friends close to our airbnb. I had anxiously awaited our kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family who drove from the Bay Area as all of California was engulfed in rain, wind and flooding

In the meantime, my husband and I trekked to Costco about 15 miles away from the airbnb. I’m a nervous nelly on freeways and with the rain, visibility was zero to three feet. I white knuckled it as a passenger and thought, “I’m only doing this for my kids.”

Once at Costco, we got drenched walking from the parking lot into the store — trying to cram both of us under one small umbrella. On the way home on the 101, the rain got even heavier if that’s possible. We watched in horror as the car in front of us tapped his brakes, spun out, then headlights moved towards us in our lane. Then he stopped, thankfully, made a U-turn across the three lanes and made his exit.

I was literally shaking. My husband slowed down and we crawled at 40 mph towards our exit, only to get a google warning on maps that there was a wreck right before our exit. We got off the 101 and took surface streets and safely, thankfully, arrived at the airbnb.

Our kids’ drives should have been five and a half hours, but turned into eight. The entire 101 freeway was closed due to flooding and boulders in the highway somewhere around San Luis Obsipo.

We stayed up waiting for them all to arrive. I knew I couldn’t sleep until everyone was accounted for. I gave big hugs to each carload that arrived. My daughter’s car arrived first, and finally my son’s last. Everyone was safely tucked into their beds. I finally got a good night’s sleep. This morning the sun is shining and we’re ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Merry Christmas! Stay safe and enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Christmas Eve view from Santa Barbara. Blue skies.
This morning on Christmas Eve, the sun came out.