Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Just down the road from us are baby albatrosses getting ready to fly. They are fiercely protected by the people whose yards they inhabit.

The single baby of each couple (who are together for life) is born in February. The parents take turns going off for food to feed the young chick, often traveling as far as 5,000 miles each way to the Arctic Circle.

By this time of the year the baby birds are almost fully grown. The baby above was named Andy by the family in whose yard he is living. While we were looking at him, his mother returned to feed him. She preened his feathers and clicked her beak, reminding me of a parent giving a teenager marching orders. Andy spread his wings, which will eventually measure 6 or 7 feet.

Our morning with a local naturalist introduced us to most of the birds of the north shore of Kauai. We learned a lot about the history of the island. He extolled the virtues of the people of Kauai who treat their fellow man with kindness.

Secret Beach as seen from the Kilauea lighthouse

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paradise Found

This is the monk Satyanatha, who sat next to me on the flight from LA. He was coming home to the Hindu monastery on Kauai. His bird, Tigerfoot, is a 30-year-old macaw.

He just exuded serenity and peacefulness. The 6 hours of flying time passed quickly as he told me story after story about his life as a monk in the Garden of Eden.

When we finally arrived at our destination some 20+ hours later, it was pitch black. It rained on and off during the night.

But this morning, we were greeted by a rainbow and a cool breeze coming up from the lush vegetation of our back yard. My initial exploration turned up an herb garden, a ripe pineapple, papayas, and guava with a variety of birds providing the music.

We just had another brief shower, but now the sun is shining brightly. This afternoon we are off to the local farmers' market.

Tomorrow we meet up with Carl Berg, a local naturalist, at 7:45 am. He will introduce us to the things that grow on the island, hopefully giving us names for the many birds we see and hear.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Princeville, Kauai

Monday, June 27, 2011

iPads Everywhere

On our flight from Dulles to LA, we saw iPads everywhere. There were 3 in our row. The person behind me reading an actual book looked quite out of place.

It is really amazing what a culture shift there has been. We are truly becoming an electronic society.

I am glad I gave up the notion that I liked to touch and smell the pages.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leaving for Paradise

Tomorrow we leave for 2 weeks in Kauai. We were there 12 years ago as a family and loved it. I’m glad we have a reason to go back.

Our long-time neighborhood friends’ daughter is getting married there on Thursday. We probably would have gone to her wedding wherever she decided to have it, but it was really nice of her to pick such a gorgeous destination.

In addition to the wedding, we will be spending 4 hours or so with a naturalist who will give us a quick lesson on the flora and fauna of the island, with an emphasis on the many birds. He was referred to us by my friend Deborah, who was in Kauai just this spring.

We will also take an hour-long helicopter ride with the doors removed. They let us know that we can’t carry anything loose -- nothing in our pockets, cameras only fastened on to our wrist, etc. The temperature will drop significantly, so we need warm clothes.

And of course we will be doing lots of snorkeling, taking in the coral reefs with their myriad of colorful fishes. I will miss my children, who were always my best snorkeling buddies.

I realized a couple of days ago that the tiny carry-on just wasn’t going to do it this time. So I have a rolling duffle filled with all the things I need for this 2-week adventure. If for some reason it doesn’t make it, I will be in serious trouble.

We’re staying in a friend’s condo with the couple who accompanied us to France and Italy. We travel well together, so it will be an easy time of living away from home. I purchased a beautiful 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle entitled Kauai Moonrise based on a painting by Al Hogue (below). In the event of rain, we will still have plenty to do.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Moving on up in the world of blenders

How many times have you walked past one of those Vitamix demos at Costco and said to yourself, “Who in the world would spend all that money on a blender?” It was always a very attractive young woman with a hands-free microphone doing the demo. I never pushed my way through the crowd to get a sample.

But the other day as I was shopping in Whole Foods, I noticed a Vitamix demo in front of the fish counter and there was no crowd. So I drank a little cup of their smoothie and listened to the spiel. I was instantly hooked but sure I could go on Amazon and get a better price.

Not so. Amazon does not carry the Vitamix 5200 for some strange reason. And no other source online had a comparable price to the “sale” at Whole Foods.

So I went back today and bought one -- undoubtedly the largest amount I will ever pay checking out of Whole Foods. The cute girl doing the demo told me there were three things I should do after opening the box -- watch the video, watch the video, watch the video. I’m always a little put off by that sort of advice, but I suppose I will watch the video before turning on my 2-HP blender, the Cadillac of food processors.

I flipped through the voluminous cookbook that comes with the machine and determined we could give away all our appliances and just prepare our meals with the Vitamix.

One not-so-good thing is it is so tall that it doesn’t fit in the space between my kitchen counter and cabinets when fully assembled. Oh well…

I tell myself it was worth the price so I no longer have to smell the motor in my Kitchenaid blender slowly burning up as I make smoothies. When the cute young girl smiled and told me this machine would probably outlive me, I winced and secretly hoped she would not be right!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who's there?

I’m feeling a little creeped out by how much someone out there in cyberspace knows about me. I’m finally starting to understand the threat of Big Brother.

At first those pop-up ads for things I might like to buy intrigued me. But I quickly realized that they were being customized by my Google searches and recent purchases. Much of the time they had it right about what I might like to buy.

Today as I was writing an email message to my piano teacher, a suggestion popped up to include another person in my message. That person also takes piano lessons from the same teacher. How could Google possibly know that? I would love to know the chain of logic that prompted the cc: suggestion, which I did not take.

I get the impression that the world has been reduced to one big database, where there are no more secrets. I’m now starting to wonder if this cyber intelligence actually knows what I am going to do before I do.

Yikes! Life was a lot simpler before the Internet made all these connections possible.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


My father was a man who loved money. That is, he loved to save it. To his dying day he never experienced the joy of buying something frivolous just because he wanted it.

He grew up during The Depression when money was tight. His father made bad investments and liked to drink, so there was never any extra. His mother took in boarders to make ends meet.

As a result, he must have determined never to be in such a position. He was so frugal he squeaked. We never hired repair men to do the odd jobs that my father took on. Sometimes he didn’t know what he was doing -- like attempting for years to fix a leak in the roof. But most of the time he succeeded, often without spending a cent.

He was actually quite good at electrical work since he had an EE degree. We would save up all sorts of small jobs for him to do when he came to visit. Young Daniel followed him around watching and helping “Mapa” as he called him when he was little.

Sadly when my father died at the age of 86, he had been existing on 99-cent TV dinners for years and the plumbing in his house no longer worked. While his penchant for saving money was still alive and well, his will to fix things had expired.

My father’s frugality allowed us to enjoy spending his money after his death. I can just see him wince every time we call a repair man or buy something he would consider unnecessary.

I do miss him, especially on Father’s Day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wondering Why

I’ve never lived alone, so being in the house with just the dog is a relatively different experience. It has caused me to think about why I do some of the things I do.

Like make the bed each day. Like make sure all the dishes are washed and put away before I go to bed. Like not leave piles of clutter.

I had always assumed I did those things because they mattered to me. But when I got out of bed yesterday and contemplated leaving the bed unmade because I was just going to get back in it later that night, I wondered whether I was doing them more to preserve my image among those with whom I lived.

Sort of reminds me of the old question about the tree falling in an empty forest with no one to hear it. Did any of those things really matter if I was the only one affected?

Either they did or I am a creature of habit because I didn’t allow myself to become a slob for 2 days even though Jake would have been my only witness.

How about you? What motivates your behavior when it comes to these pesky little details?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When the Cat's Away...

I eat treif! And other things that are not usually a part of our diet. It seems the perfect time to get my fill of those forbidden foods.

We actually never have attempted to keep kosher. But my husband has an aversion to pork and shellfish. And he is lactose intolerant. So I usually try to make things he can and will eat.

A beautiful yellow crookneck squash was part of today’s CSA offering. I suddenly remembered making such squash with bacon and a cheese sauce baked in a casserole with buttery croutons on top (about 40 years ago before I even knew what treif was). It seemed the perfect way to prepare the little squash and it made just enough for one big serving with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

To round out the meal, I boiled some shrimp in a lemon-onion stock. Just as they turned bright pink, I threw them into a colander to stop the cooking. A little lime juice sprinkled over top was the only seasoning they needed.

I enjoyed every bite as I ate my dinner solo and Jake slept at my feet. By the time my husband returns from a quick trip to Detroit, I will have exhausted all my cravings for food we usually don’t eat!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creativity Lost

I feel like my creativity may be drying up. I don’t Blog so much any more. I don’t sew or make quilts. I don’t make cards. My creative side seems to be slipping away.

My days have become rather routine. I exercise and I practice the piano and I work on the trope for whatever upcoming Torah portion I am chanting. Although each of those things is productive, they are boringly repetitive and all done by myself.

My only creative activity these days seems to be cooking. Every week I deal with the challenge of using things we get in our CSA share so I don’t end up with a lot of rotting vegetables in the refrigerator. It’s a good outlet for creative juices, but once again I’m mostly on my own.

I’m certain I would be happier if I could figure out how to reclaim some other creative endeavors and find people to do them with. My whole life I’ve been fairly good at amusing myself. Being an only child gave me a lot of practice at that. But as I get older, I really want company.

I’m thinking of starting a sewing circle or an informal class in conversational Spanish or something that brings me together with like-minded people on a regular basis. I’m blessed with an abundance of time and enough money not to have to worry. It’s my own fault if I can’t figure out how to reclaim creativity!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phone Calls

A friend recently commented that I don’t much like speaking on the phone, that I say whatever I need to say and that’s mostly it. I had never thought about it, but I think she was right.

Maybe I inherited my father’s phone gene. I never remember him answering the phone if anyone else was home. His rule for long-distance calls was a three-minute limit. He was always a man of few words, but even fewer if they were costing him.

Whereas my mother carried on long, gossipy conversations with her friends, I never did. My boyfriend in 7th grade used to call every night and I found it annoying instead of endearing.

And now there are days when I never once answer the phone or make a call. And when I do call someone, it is with a purpose in mind, not just to shoot the breeze. That’s probably a sad comment on my lifestyle, but that’s just the way it is.

There are times when I long for friends that I might see or call virtually every day. But that would be a big departure from the reality of my somewhat solitary life.

The question I raise is whether these kinds of behavior are learned or inherited.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Big Finger

One night last week I looked at my left index finger knuckle and gasped. It was enlarged and lumpy. I remembered my mother’s arthritic knuckles and winced.

But this was different. It wasn’t in the joint, but rather it floated on top of the knuckle and it actually moved as I flexed my finger.

My husband quickly suggested that I go see Dr. Barth, the hand specialist who would probably have charged me $120 to walk in the door. But I was not so quick to rush off to a specialist, especially for something that didn’t hurt at all, just looked weird.

So instead I arranged to see one of the physical therapists at the place where I do personal training, suggesting it might be a ganglion cyst. I described it as something perhaps connected to the tendon sheath that runs over the top of my knuckle.

Within about 10 seconds, Lauren confirmed that I was right. She knew all about those cysts -- where they often show up, the fact that no one knows what causes them, the fact that they often simply disappear on their own, and the historical remedy of smashing them with a book (which she did not recommend). She suggested that I hold off seeing a doctor as long as my cyst was not causing me any discomfort.

So I continue to go through life -- chopping, playing the piano, doing everything I would normally do -- with my strange lumpy knuckled finger, which looks so much worse than it feels.

Friday, June 10, 2011

We love to fly. And it shows.

You couldn’t prove it by me this week. I learned a valuable lesson about never trusting the airlines to do the right thing if you don’t have a confirmation number.

I decided to go ahead and book a flight for my August trip to SF, thinking I might get a deal two months ahead. Sure enough, I found a bargain flight for $278 which was advertised to have only two seats left at that price. I used PayPal to pay for the ticket and put it out of my mind until August.

The next day my son asked for my itinerary. While wondering why he needed that information two months in advance, I went to look for my email confirmation and found none. I figured there must be a mistake -- they had probably sent it to my husband’s email address. But not there either. I logged onto Delta and realized I needed a confirmation number to go any further.

I called Delta to find out why I hadn’t gotten the standard email. Meanwhile my husband logged onto PayPal and found a charge of $278 with a note “pending”. While I was presenting my song of woe to the Delta agent, my husband learned from a PayPal representative that the session had timed out due to a glitch on Delta’s end and so nothing had actually transpired. No reservation, my payment in electronic limbo. It might have been nice if someone had told me about this.

My conversation with the surly Delta rep forced me to ask to speak to her supervisor. “You betcha,” she replied. Could it be? No, just another one like her. The supervisor tried to tell me Delta had no fare for $278 the day before, an outright lie. She claimed she could do me a favor and offer me the same itinerary for the bargain price of $331. I had to resort to some real nastiness before she decided to throw in a $50 travel voucher, making the bargain price $281. Good enough. I decided to quit while I was ahead.

The lesson here is NEVER EVER to leave a session without a confirmation number and NEVER EVER to trust that the airlines will do the right thing without a lot of pressure.

Their slogan is just a bunch of empty words!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Going Back in Time

I got a call yesterday from someone I hadn’t heard from in some time.  But she then sent me a photo that went back over 4 decades.
From the time I started college in the summer of 1967, I worked in the FSU Computing Center.  It was an odd mix of people, the majority of whom were serious computer geeks.  Most everyone learned how to juggle because FSU had a circus and one of them was in it.  It was a great job and I missed many of the people who were graduating soon after I started.
Quite a few of them went to Mountain View, CA, to work for Control Data Corporation, since that was the mainframe computer we had at the time.  (It took up a large room and had a raised floor for cooling.  It was less powerful than most of the laptops we use today.)
My friend Marilyn, also in the above photo, and I have an interesting history.  She was in graduate school in math when I entered college as a freshman.  We at one point were dating the same guy, who also worked there.  We shared clothes, lived together one summer, and always got along well.  I took a computer class from her and discovered she was learning the material just days before teaching it.  (Neither of us ended up with the guy.)
She taught me how to cook.  More importantly, she taught me how to drink, making just about the best 7&7 I have ever had.  I taught her how to make men’s shirts and altered her wedding dress for her.  
We’ve stayed in touch all these years, even though she lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast.
So I wasn’t totally surprised when she contacted me.  But the photo sent me down memory lane.  It seems the old Computer Center crew is having a reunion in San Francisco in August and people are digging through memorabilia.  The funny thing is I don’t even remember being at FSU for a Computer Center tour in April of my senior year in high school.  
Of course I will go.  I was already looking for an excuse to visit my son and to see the collection of Impressionist paintings of the (Gertrude) Stein family at the SF MOMA.  So now I have yet another reason to go west in August.  It will be so interesting to find out what these people have done with their lives!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Jungle Food

At breakfast today I got Skyped by my favorite cooking teacher of all time who is halfway around the world. Brock had recently contacted me to confirm the dog food recipe since he and his partner have adopted an adorable Thai dog. We agreed to have (decaf) coffee via Skype.

After meeting the new puppy (at 35 pounds she could be hoisted up in front of the camera) and hearing about Brock’s job in a Bangkok bagel bakery and catching up on a few other people we met in Thailand, our thoughts turned to food and I learned about “jungle curry”, his latest discovery.

He gave me a very quick run-through, which left me with no quantities but enough of an idea of the ingredients to want to give it a try. The interesting thing about this curry is the lack of coconut milk, which certainly contributes a lot of calories to most Thai food and sometimes overwhelms the delicate flavors of other ingredients.

I Googled and found this recipe, which was close enough for a first attempt. To it I added Thai basil (from my deck herb garden) in the curry paste and thinly sliced beef tenderloin. I kindly reduced the number of red chilies in deference to my husband’s aversion to spicy food. (Leave them in if you make it!)

My only regret was the lack of fresh galangal (wish I had used ginger instead) and kaffir lime leaves. I can probably solve both of those for another go at this with the rest of the curry paste.

All in all, it was quite delicious and very pretty to look at. The fresh cilantro leaves used as a garnish worked well.

I suggested that Brock consider cooking instruction via Skype. If Temple Micah can teach Hebrew via Skype, why not Thai cooking from Thailand, where there is never a shortage of anything other than perhaps good dog food?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

In Search of Stay-put Socks

I’ve always hated that feeling of my sock creeping down into my shoe. Some socks just seem prone to do that.

Like the pair of footies I’m wearing today. I bought them at Nordstrom’s so I could wear closed-toe shoes in warm weather without regular socks and without having my feet sweat all over the inside of my shoes.

Unfortunately I keep having to fish out the footies that are bunched up under the instep of my feet. That not only feels bad, but it defeats the purpose. It seems the little non-slip thing at the back of each footie doesn’t do a bit of good.

I just Googled to find out what’s available out there, to see if anyone had come up with a non-slip solution that works. I happened onto the Shanghai-based company, which offers footies in a minimum order of 3,000. I don’t think I will be investing that heavily in any sort of footwear.

Has anyone out there solved what should be a relatively easy problem?