It’s a busy week or two. We returned from a trip to Mexico. I wrote about that HERE.
My son and his girlfriend are visiting from the Bay Area. We are gong to visit Taliesin West later today. It will be a first for all of us. That’s the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. We’ll be going on a self-guided tour. A coincidence is that a friend of mine from playgroup days in Palm Springs is a director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. What a small world! I found out from a friend in Palm Springs that our mutual friend had moved to Arizona a month or two before us. I wrote about coincidences recently HERE.
Next week, I fly to Seattle to visit my 90-year-old mom. I meant to visit for her birthday last March, but we were in the throws of Omicron. Both my daughter and husband got it. What weird days those were. I was taking care of my daughter — without being near her. We would wave at each other through her apartment window. I’d go to the laundromat and grocery store for her and leave things on her front steps.
When my husband had COVID, I moved into our Casita. It has a kitchen, so I cooked him chicken soup with lots of garlic and onions. I’d leave it outside the front door and text him. I was close if he needed me, but I wasn’t in physical contact.
I now have an aversion to flying. We have taken trips by car, which I’m comfortable with, but I haven’t wanted to get on an airplane. I can’t stand the wait at the airport, the crowds, being on the plane. COVID ruined flying for me.
Did COVID change your feelings about flying, too? Or did it affect you in other ways? Did you or your family get it?
We finally made it to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s been on my list of places to explore since my daughter lived in AZ in 2019. My husband asked what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. I discovered that moms got in for free on Sunday, so that seemed like the perfect day to go. Me and thousands of other moms agreed. Despite the crowd, we found ourselves enjoying the garden so much we became members.
The Desert Botanical Garden is 140 acres of beautiful trails, labeled desert plants and currently there is a Chihuly exhibit! If you haven’t heard of Chihuly, he’s a famous glass artist who creates in Western Washington, where I grew up.
Afterwards, we went to one of my favorite restaurant’s Lure Fish House where I had Kumomoto oysters (my favorite) on the half shell and ling cod.
My kids called several times and I loved talking to them.
What is your idea of a perfect Mother’s Day? Did you do anything special?
My son introduced me to Wordle during one of my recent trips to take care of my adult children. My son had shoulder and foot surgery this year and my daughter had COVID. She needed me to grocery shop, go to the cleaners and take Waffles the pug to the vet when he was throwing up. My son needed help with everything.
Anyway, I first wrote about the game Wordle HERE. When I began playing, I found it really difficult and confusing. Then my son taught me his strategy of having starter words. Now, I never miss (knock on wood.) And sometimes, the starter word is so good that I get the answer in two, like yesterday morning. Woo Hoo!
Once, I decided against using the starter word. Big mistake! The Wordle WAS the starter word. That would have been a hole in one.
You see, my son gave me the Wordle golf analogy. Four is par. Three is birdie. Two is an Eagle. If you’re not a golfer, you may miss the correlation. If you don’t play Wordle — you probably don’t care.
Let me know if you are playing Wordle in the comments. Do you play every day? Did you stop Wordle? Did you move onto another game? If you’ve found another game, please share what it is.I may want to try it.
I was uneasy about traveling. My daughter got me a plane ticket for Seattle so I could celebrate Mother’s Day with my 89-year-old mom, who hasn’t been out of her assisted living facility for more than a year. In concept this was a lovely idea and I was so touched that my daughter would think of such a thing.
In reality, I was anxious about going to the airport, being in a crowd, getting a rental car and driving on the freeway. You see, I have extreme anxiety driving on freeways and bridges — I avoid them at all costs. Seattle to the East Side is all freeways and bridges. I was dreading it. When I lived in Palm Springs, I didn’t have to drive the freeway at all. I think I got out of practice. I saw a therapist and she told me to practice. She wanted me to get on the freeway and drive to the next exit one day, go a couple more the next. I did the one exit with sweaty palms and sweat pouring down my back. My legs were shaking and I could barely manage the accelerator or brake. That was it for me. There’s been no reason to drive the freeways since.
Back to Seattle, I asked my college best friend to pick me up at the airport and I’d get a rental car closer to my mom’s home. She agreed, because that’s the kind of friend she is. But, I soon found out that I had rented a nonrefundable car at Seatac, the airport. So, I faced my fears and strangely enough, I drove without a hitch. This happens to me whenever I get back home to where I grew up. It’s as though a different part of my brain wakes up and takes over. Also, the drivers in the Seattle area are an entirely different breed than California or Arizona drivers. You put on your turn signal and nobody steps on the gas to cut you off. In fact, they slow down and wave you over!
The other thing that was a show stopper on my trip was my mom! It’s as though she’s getting younger, more fit, and more alert. This COVID year seems to have the reverse effect on her than the general population. I was sitting in her room on my first visit and the activity director knocked on the door and asked if we wanted to join the croquet game. She said, “YES!” This is totally contrary to her usual behavior. Normally, I have to beg her to get out of her recliner and out of her room. I was quite shocked. We are big croquet players in our family, and my mom brags that she is practically a professional. She made her way with her walker outdoors to the croquet court and she played the entire game. I had to help her to each shot, where she slowly got her feet in the right position. She was so engaged and excited to play.
Each day, I took Mom out. We went for beautiful drives along Lake Sammamish, out to eat and my Aunt Linda joined us after her drive up from Portland, Ore. Here are some of the photos of our highlights of food and scenery:
First thing this morning I rushed to see my mom. I called her last night to remind her I was here. The parking lot of her retirement community was cordoned off with yellow tape to force everyone to drive to the front entrance. I parked and got soaked in the pouring rain to get my temperature check for my one-hour appointment. Then I was instructed on how to drive around the complex to get to my mom’s assisted living building. They had installed barriers so nobody can access the community without first checking in at the main entrance.
Mom was so excited to see me, but didn’t understand the one-hour rule. I told her it’s because they only allow two visitors in at once, and they want to make sure everyone has a turn. I explained that I’d be coming back each day to spend the hour with her and we could leave and go for a drive to anywhere she wants to go. Today was pouring down rain and cold. She wasn’t interested in going outside. She didn’t sound enthusiastic about the idea for tomorrow, either, but we’ll see. She looked good and it felt wonderful to be with her in person after missing her since before COVID. We were all worried about her because her home is located a few miles from the one in Kirkland, Wash. that had all the deaths early on. They had an outbreak in Mom’s home, too, but she stayed healthy through the entire year.
It’s very strange to have only one hour with her, but I’m here for several days.
Pike Place Market is one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle. I’m thankful for the chance to go today. And for my friendship with my dear friend I met in college. It’s a treasure to have a friend you can trust, count on and share your deepest secrets. We may not talk to each other for a year or see each other for several, but once together, it’s like we’re still in our 20s and no time has passed at all.
Here are a few photos from Pike Place Market today — a day of rain, sunshine, hail and friendship:
Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d see Mom before the COVID lockdown. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a trip to Seattle in March two years ago today. Mom and I share March birthdays and I try to make it a point to be with her. But last year in March they had COVID breakouts in a facility a few miles from her and then it spread to her assisted living home.
The good news is she never got it. She’s healthy and got both her shots. But I miss her. I’m hoping someday this year I’ll get to spend time with her in person.
Here’s what I wrote about my trip to visit mom in March 2019:
I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.
It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.
After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.
My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.
The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.
And to think I was going to visit her more often — and then no visits at all….
If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?
My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.
With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.
Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.
Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:
I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.
Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef
Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.
Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”
Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.
My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.
My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:
Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.
Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.
The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.
Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.
My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!
What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?