snowfall or sunshine – “which do you think?”

Wish the snow was still falling here in my blog, and not covering the landscape outdoors. Brrr! This Maui girl finds herself pining for the good old days on the Valley Isle. Sun, warmth, flip-flops and shorts, I could get use to those tropical mainstays very easily. I’d better have a talk with my hubby. This Pacific Northwest weather sucks! Excuse the language, but if you had to sit indoors 24/7, 365 days a year, you’d be harmonizing with me, singing my song. Yes, I exaggerate, but not by much, believe me.

My dog would probably prefer the feel of soft sand beneath her paws, rather than the grit and grime of dirty snow turned to ice. She’d probably love to jump on a surfboard in front of me, and ride the waves at Makaha. I know, I know. I don’t swim, so how can I even contemplate surfing. I did once, when I was in high school and the guy I was dating tried to teach me. I think I tried to stand up facing the horizon, preparing to ride the wave backwards. I didn’t get far, but I did end up dating the guy for a year or so, captain of the football and basketball teams, you know. So I scored, even if I never learned to surf.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah, frolicking in the blue, Pacific Ocean. I can wade, and so can Mocha. We’re also great at lying around, soaking up the UV rays. No more oiling myself with Johnson’s Baby Oil though, as I did when I was an exotic coed attending the University of Hawaii in the late 60s. I remember baking in the Hawaiian sun alongside a couple of my sisters-in-law who were then in high school. While I turned a molten gray, their skin glistened like freshly polished copper. I always wished I’d had some “hauole” blood. “Hapa-hauole’s” (half-whites) always tanned a golden bronze. My skin tone skipped tan, going straight to black.

But at 61 I don’t care what shade my skin color turns, as long as it’s feeling the heat. Give me the heat! And Mocha knows that if hugmamma’s happy, everybody’s happy. So I know she’d like to get me where the sun is shining and the temperature hovers around the 70s. If I’m outdoors, she’s outdoors. Let’s face it, she hasn’t seen a whole lot of the doggie world lately, especially since I’ve been “under the weather” myself.

Until we find ourselves stretched out on Waikiki beach, do you think you could send some sunshine and warm weather, if you’ve even a smidgen to spare? Mocha and I would be much obliged, and forever in your debt.

for your generosity, sending you huge hugs in advance…hugmamma, and mocha too.

blogging, still mind-boggling

With our recent spate of inclement weather, blogging has not been smooth. My Comcast connection has been operating in “fits and starts.” Is that the right cliché? I can never nail those. One minute I’m typing away, churning out the words, then “poof,” I get kicked off the internet.

Lately I’ve been running between my laptop upstairs, and the household computer down here in the “bowels of the earth.” You’d think the exercise up and down stairs would’ve lost me a few pounds. But no luck, with the holidays comfortably ensconced upon me, there’s no let up in shoveling tasty morsels into my eager mouth throughout the day. Frustration only increases the number of times, and the portion sizes.

I’m writing to forewarn you about the regularity with which my posts may appear. I’m still here, but most of the time I seem to be blogging in isolation, that is until Comcast gets me back out into cyberspace. I do plan to call them today, and ask if there might be a problem. I wonder how many buttons I’ll have to press to get through their programmed customer service menu, to actually ask my question? I just wish the darned computer would work without any hitches. At times like this is when I feel like flinging it through the nearest window.

The other item I wanted to mention is the modification in my blog’s title. For regular readers who know that my site was known as “Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail,” you might have wondered “Whaaas up?” My lovely daughter and I put our pretty, little heads together is “whaaa happened.”

Maintaining a blog is an ongoing challenge, especially if I want to continue attracting readers. All bloggers face this dilemma. While remaining true to its core message, I must tweak my site every now and then, until it finally evolves into a product with which I’m fully satisfied.  I’m not there yet. Much of it is to do with my limited computer skills, like uploading photos and videos. Yes, I can learn; but no, I haven’t the patience. I simply want to write. So as soon as I established the basic platform from which to launch my passion, I stopped wanting to learn. And so it’s my fault that all the “neat stuff” still eludes me.

While I do congratulate myself for coming this far in 4 short months, I’m itching to go farther. Long story short, I felt that the previous title of my blog was not helping to get my “voice” further out into the internet community. The title needed words which were more likely to be “clicked on.” But I didn’t think too hard upon the subject, only mentioning it to my daughter in passing.

As if waving a magic wand, my daughter immediately proclaimed that the title of my blog should be “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul.” She explained, very eloquently, that my posts already fell under these 3 categories. Pet topics like Alzheimer’s and bananagrams involve the mind; food, and all its subcategories, as well as alternative health practices involve the body; and my travel commentaries and philosophical ramblings are “food” for the soul.

Like me, “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul,” continues to evolve. I hope you’ll stay with me as I continue sharing my thoughts and feelings about the minutiae of every day life, mine…and hopefully, yours. 

huge hugs as we head toward 2011, when we’ll all bloom…hugmamma.  

 

“rain, rain go away,” and don’t come back another day!

You know you live in Seattle when the skies are gray, all day, and when you’ve got more water outdoors, than is running through your pipes indoors! I’m not certain anyone acclimates to the Pacific Northwest’s lackluster weather, but I know for sure Hawaiians don’t. I’ll bet if a poll was taken of the ethnicity of most travelers to the Aloha State during the rainy season, the biggest number would be locals returning home for a “shot of sunshine.” Maybe not so much in this economy, however, where passengers are having to pay extra for a lot more than we did in the “good old days.” Fun-loving, we Hawaiians can still be practical.

When my husband and I attended the Human Rights Campaign fundraiser a few weeks ago, we successfully bid on tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Twyla Tharp Performance,” for this weekend. So tonight my daughter and I found our way into the city, where we met my husband, who was joining us after work.

I’ve never been keen on driving in the rain, in the dark, especially in heavy traffic. Of course the skies opened up, as we left the house minutes before 5 p.m. We were heading out right in the midst of “rush hour.” Already dealing with a slight headache from neck and shoulder tension, I looked like a deer caught in headlights, as I sat straight as a ramrod behind the wheel. I’m pretty sure I didn’t draw a deep breath until we got to our destination, an hour later.

My daughter knew my stress level was high; it was oozing from my pores. Normally happy to be nodding my head back and forth to Michael Jackson on  DVD, I asked her to find something calmer on the radio. She fumbled with the switches, unfamiliar with the area stations. I couldn’t even speak to help her. ALL my attention was on driving in the rain, cars flying by me on the freeway.

In the past there’s been a couple of instances when other drivers have caught my attention, not easily I might add, letting me know that my headlights were not turned on. I remembered this as I was stepping on the gas pedal, working my way up to the 60 mile-an-hour speed limit. Speaking in clipped phrases, my daughter and I tried to figure out if, in fact, I had the parking lights, or the head lights, on. I never yell, but my voice did go up several octaves, almost to a shrill. I decided they were on; my daughter wasn’t certain, but she thought they weren’t. I overruled her, since I had to return to focusing upon my driving. If this was another instance when a passing car had to tell me I was the one who was wrong, then so be it.

Thankfully, traffic moved along, me with it. Making it to Mercer Island, the exit just before crossing Lake Washington to enter Seattle, without any glitches, like an accident, was a huge relief. But the trip was only half-finished. I still had to get through the traffic in town, on a Friday evening, in the pouring rain.

Once I was out of the second tunnel, it was clear sailing until I reached the  beginning of the “bottleneck” on 4th avenue. Patience, and braking, saved the night. Passing through the Westlake Center area of town, I was well on my way until I reached another “bottleneck” near our destination.

My wonderful daughter reached over to pat me on the back as I parked, expressing her thanks for a “job well done.” Where she lives the freeways, and the in-town roads are wider than they are here in Seattle. She felt our roads, by comparison, were pretty cramped, making it seem like we were sandwiched in by cars on all sides, during the entire ride. Talk about making me feel better.

Compared to friends of mine, back East, and here, I’m a “wuss” of a driver. They will drive inter-state without any qualms. When I decided to make the trip with my daughter’s car from Atlanta, Georgia to Chautauqua, New York, where she was dancing for several weeks one summer, my girlfriend Becky drove the 13 hours. We did overnite in West Virginia, halfway through our trek. She didn’t mind, preferring to drive than be a passenger. Hey, that was just fine with me.

When “push comes to shove,” someone pushing AND shoving me, I’ll drive where necessary. It might take me longer than someonelse, and I might make a couple of unexpected detours, like to a state other than the one I’d had in mind.  I think that’s why my husband has always preferred to do all the driving. He likes to get where he’s going, without any detours, or any “pit stops,” for that matter. When it comes to driving, he definitely likes to be in control.

So you see, I’m a “shrinking violet” when it comes to driving. And I’m at the age, where I’m already beginning to think I might have to give up my driver’s license soon. I don’t think anyone will have to convince me that it’s time  I get off the road. I’ll probably make the suggestion myself. I’m a wimp compared to my mother-in-law who’s only now wondering if she should stop driving, at 85 years of age. God bless her!

I congratulate all the women who drive like men, fearlessly! You go, girlfriend!

driving like i’m still in maui…hugmamma

gray skies above, warm hearts below

Our “signature” weather here in the Pacific Northwest never goes out of style. So it’s with little fanfare that we welcome the return of menacing gray skies, upon whose heels arrive the downpour of “angels’ tears.” Our family has learned to take it all in stride.

The dismal weather gives us a chance to burrow under blankets, read a mountain of books, piled high magazines and Wall Street Journals, sup on homemade soups, play endless rounds of Bananagrams, and just recently, cribbage.

Once-in-awhile, my daughter and I settle in to watch old films on DVD, like “Anna and the King of Siam,” starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunn. Totally different from “The King and I,” the colorized version with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, my daughter was enthralled with the more serious story told in the older version. Unlike its successor, it was a drama, not a musical. In it the king does not dance with the teacher, nor does Tuptim stage the story of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

After Mass yesterday we decided to drive out to Snohomish, where antique stores abound. Enroute we stopped at a favorite haunt, Maltby Cafe. It’s not a restaurant we frequent because of its distance, and because the meals taste like mom’s cooking, which means lo-cal is not a high priority. The few times we’ve driven to partake of this gastronomical feast, there has always been a lineup of hungry customers. But everyone minds their manners. We put our names on a list, and wait patiently, the cafe’s “monster” cinnamon roll making me salivate at the thought of biting into it, melted icing escaping out the corners of my grinning lips.

The Cafe is cozily ensconced in the basement of a building. After 20 minutes or so of eager anticipation,  we were comfortably seated at a table. We took our time looking through the menu, deciding what to eat. My husband is always the first to make a selection. His pick was some gigantic omelet, whose name  escapes me. Meanwhile, my daughter and I read the menu as though it were a novel, poring over each page from top to bottom.

I started with “desserts” on the back of the menu. The “melted caramel sundae” sounded divine, and loaded with calories! Coming to my senses, I chose French toast with marionberries and creme fraiche on the side. With it I ordered a dish of red, fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms and diced ham. Of course, half of it came home in a “doggie bag.” The same was true of my daughter’s meal, homemade Italian sausages with  scrambled eggs, and biscuits with gravy.

While awaiting our main courses, we began with an appetizer. We sliced the long-awaited cinnamon roll 4 ways. We still brought home half of it. As we “oohed and aahed” and hungrily devoured morsels of the heavenly pastry, our eyes wandered around the spacious dining room. Devotees of HGTV, we agreed that the Cafe could easily be transformed into a basement apartment. The long breakfast bar along one side of the room could serve as informal family dining, while the main room could easily house a living space, office space, dining space, and perhaps spare sleeping area. Through a door towards the back would probably be a bedroom. At the very back of the restaurant were a men’s and women’s restroom. And, of course, there was a kitchen through a door behind the breakfast bar. Beams running the length of the ceiling added to the warmth and charm of the room. I think our family qualifies for its own designer show on HGTV. My husband and daughter would probably say “Yeah, right.” They’re not as full of ideas as I am. Or am I… just full of it? Hmmm. Whatever…

Tummies full, we drove on to our final destination. Hunting for bargains in antique shops is a “high” for me. Most dealers, if not all, thrive on finding treasures for unbelievably fabulous prices, in other words, cheap. Once upon a time it was possible, and it may be again, given the current economy. But the difficulty now is that while something may be a bargain, how much of a markup can the market bear? Where nearly 2 decades ago I could double the price of what I paid for an item, I’m no longer able to do so in most cases. So the profit margin has shrunk considerably. Why remain in the business?

All antique dealers are passionate about “old” stuff, their history, their  craftsmanship, and the idea that these items are very much relics of the past. Walking through aisles of artifacts usually stirs up memories of bygone days, before all the modern conveniences like dishwashers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, computers. Instead, my eyes linger over dishracks and colorful dish towels, vintage clothes drying racks or clothes lines that unwind from a green or blue tin box, pie safes that use to store perishable foods from pesky flies, and typewriters, Royals and Underwoods.

With the holidays approaching, I opted to purchase several silver plated serving platters of various shapes and sizes. The prices were reasonable, most $12, a couple $16. They’re not in mint condition, but for the right price, customers will purchase them as beautiful accents for festive celebrations. Shabby chic is in these days, especially at stores like Crate and Barrel. Why pay their exorbitant prices for “knock-offs,” when the real thing can be bought for half the price or less? “Used” means it’s been loved in its former life.

Meandering the back roads under a threatening, gray sky in verdant Washington State, is as special as lazing under the tropical sun, on a white sand beach in Maui. 

found anywhere, blessings…hugmamma.

portuguese bean soup, recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest autumn doesn’t sneak up on us, it merely takes a coffee break letting summer step in for a quick 15 minutes. So while elsewhere around the country citizens were barbecuing for months, we never once took the cover off our grill. And regardless what month of the year, I’m always perusing cookbooks and magazines for cold weather recipes, especially soups and stews. Because some of my relatives are faithful readers I decided to share the following recipe, which is a staple of some Hawaiian families. Having said that, I can’t explain why our family ate such hearty fare in the hot tropics. Never thought of it until now. But there’s really no rhyme or reason to why island locals eat what they eat. If it’s “ono,” (tasty) it’s a no-brainer, we’ll eat it.

The first time I can recall eating Portuguese bean soup was at the monthly “Hui Akoni Hemolele” meeting. As the name implies, it was a club to which native Hawaiians belonged, although there were members of other ethnicities, like Japanese and Portuguese. A few men belonged, but the majority were women. My mom had served as an officer a couple of times. Once a month they would all attend a particular Mass to worship. Immediately afterwards they would gather at the church hall, where everyone would be updated on the club’s current affairs. My brother and I would accompany my mom, waiting impatiently until the breakfast of Portuguese bean soup and Portuguese sweet, or white, bread, with butter, would be served. I can still picture the huge steaming pots, from which the serving women would ladle spoonfuls of the thick, homemade soup, heavily laden with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was heaven on earth to eat food that even God would want served at His table. I exaggerate, but that’s how wonderful it tasted, especially for my brother and I who weren’t use to eating an abundance of red meat in those days. I think we thought ourselves extremely lucky if we ate hamburgers.

When the talking finally ceased, members seconding the motion to adjourn, and the short capes of yellow and red bird feathers removed from around their shoulders, we knew that signaled “Let’s eat!” My brother and I didn’t need to be asked twice. We made a beeline for the food. I think my mom would bring up the rear, because she’d always get sidetracked talking with this person, and that person. But the soup never seemed to run out before everyone got their helping. Sometimes there was enough leftover, so we took a potful home. Lucky, lucky us!

I have several recipes for this soup, this being one of the simplest. I’ve not made Portuguese bean soup since Christmas, so I’m starting slow. At some point I may cook the version that has many more ingredients, including papaya which is a natural meat tenderizer. So as the cold season unfolds, I’ll post one or more recipes for this delicious concoction. If you’re wondering why Hawaiians cooked a food traditional to the Portuguese, the short answer is decades ago they were brought to the islands to serve as “lunas” (bosses) on the pineapple plantations. They oversaw the laborers, first the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and finally, the Filipinos. With the influx of these nationalities, came a melting pot of foods, which became Hawaiian food as we know it today, a smorgasbord of this and that. Still my favorite, I’d easily double my body weight if I were a resident. I’d have a plate lunch of beef teriyaki, spam, portuguese sausage, macaroni salad, and rice, instead of a Big Mac and fries any day of the week. Bring it on…

Meanwhile hope you try this recipe, enjoying its hearty flavors near a blazing fire on a cold, wintry Fall evening, or on your lanai, in the shadow of the setting Hawaiian sun, the gentle ocean breezes lightly caressing your cheeks.

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP

  • 2 lb Portuguese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (if unavailable, try another sausage, like Kielbasa)
  • 1 lb ham hock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, including liquid

Put sausage, ham hock, and onion into a large pot; add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove meat from ham hock. Put meat back into soup and add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and tomato sauce; cover and continue cooking for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, including liquid, and cook a few more minutes, adding more water if necessary. Makes 12 servings.

hmmm, onolicious…hugmamma.

strategies, just in case

Returned to exercise class after being absent for 3 weeks. Luckily I can depend upon muscle memory; once the music starts it’s all about bumping and grinding to the rhythm. It takes a few minutes for my brain cells to fall in line, moving to the beat as one, with my body. But I know that in older age it’s going to take many more classes, as well as walking the track in the evenings, to peel off the pounds I put on while visiting my daughter. I made sure she ate well, unfortunately I partook of the same bounty. Because my husband and I share the same health concerns, it’s easier to return to a stricter diet, lots of veggies and fruits, much less carbs, absolutely no butter, and no snacking whatsoever. My daughter could afford to digress from her normal diet of salads, veggies, fruits and protein, because she exercises all day, every day.

I received a hearty welcome from Kristina, the instructor, as well as my exercise cronies. It’s nice to be missed. Quite a few ladies were absent from the group. But once the weather reaches down into the 40 degrees, the rest will return. Chilly weather correlates to heartier meals like soups and stews, while the holidays seem to give us carte blanche to overeat. Only when we’re sufficiently guilt-ridden, and have packed on enough extra pounds, do we make our way back to common sense, and exercise. So I’d better undo what I’ve already done, in preparation for what I’m about to do. Make sense?

After class, Kristina and I made our way to a charming coffee-house which I’d not been in before. The owners of the adjoining wine bar, Vino Bella, opened this deli which serves up breakfast and lunch sandwiches, in addition to espresso drinks. Will definitely return with my husband on the weekend to sample the food. Over lattes, Kristina and I chatted about topics ranging from politics to families. Of particular interest was her advice about bear encounters. She’s a fan of the great outdoors, having seen a fair number of wild animals while hiking. We decided that avid hikers learn not to panic, as well as what they should, and shouldn’t, do during encounters. My guess is that practice makes perfect. Problem is, I don’t want to practice meeting up with wild animals, in order to figure out how best to deal with them when I do. I would like NEVER to encounter a wild animal, period. But if I do, I’ll try to follow Kristina’s advice.

  • It’s her opinion, and others, that black bears are not as inclined as grizzlies to attack humans. In the rare case that a black bear does harm a person, there’s probably an extenuating circumstance. In the recent case reported on the local news, it was found that the bear was malnourished, and afflicted with parasites.
  • If I encounter a black bear (Kristina assures me there are no grizzlies in the area), I should not look it in the eye, I should not run. Both responses will trigger the bear’s defensive and predatory instincts. Instead she recommends I go limp, and “play dead,” covering my vital organs and head. I’ve seen this recommendation enacted in a TV documentary where the speaker slumped to the ground in a fetal position, hands cradling the back of his head, fingers intertwined. Kristina related the recent Yellowstone incident where 3 people were attacked by a bear. A woman who was bitten, screamed. The bear responded by biting harder; the woman screamed louder, and so on. Realizing she needed to change her strategy, she went limp, playing dead. The bear ceased biting her and, unfortunately, went after another person.
  • Kristina and I also discussed what I should do if I came across a cougar (or mountain lion), because they’ve also been seen in neighboring backyards. She enlightened me to the fact that, unlike black bears who subsist primarily on grass and berries, cougars are predators. Because they fear other predators, my best defense is to present myself as one, by making noise, swinging a rake or some other weapon, and even pulling my jacket or shirt up over my head to appear larger.

We hadn’t planned on discussing defense strategies should I come face-to-face with black bears or cougars, but I can never arm myself with too much information, just in case. I just hope  my brain’s muscle memory will go into automatic cruise control. It’s little consolation that while assuring me black bears don’t attack humans, Kristina admitted that on the rare occasion one does then, unfortunately, it must be that victim’s destiny. Okay…

A cousin of Kristina’s is here in the U.S. from his home in the UK. Like her, he’s an avid outdoors person. Since mid-July he has been hiking mountain ranges, making his way through  several western states. Kristina and her daughter have joined her cousin on some of his treks. He told them of 3 encounters he’d had with black bears, who all took flight at the sight of him. The speed with which they turned and ran, confirmed his knowledge that a human could never outrun a bear, so best not try. Through his binoculars he saw a grizzly with 2 cubs in a field, some distance away. That would still be too close for me, unless I was safely ensconced in a huge tour bus, surrounded by fellow travelers.

Like you I think bears and wild cats are cute, when they’re behind glass or across moats, in a zoo, or on the African plains, but not roaming around my neighborhood. And if you live where there isn’t the slightest  possibility that you’ll come eye to eye with a wild animal, then thank your lucky stars. I don’t mind co-habitation, as long as we’re not doing it in the same spot, at the same time.   

you never know, you just never know…hugmamma. (local news just reported black bear seen “hanging out in a grassy area” down the road from our neighborhood, same place where another one was hit and killed by a car last week. hmmm…we may have to build mocha an indoor bathroom. not sure i’ll be walking her anymore, unless it’s around the track in the gym.)

my minutiae, an update

As in the past, here’s another post to update some of the minute details that make my life, mine. We all have them, some are commonplace, some are unique. If you’re ever inclined, feel free to share some of yours.

  • While I was visiting my daughter, a huge tree fell in our back yard, landing precariously close to our house, perhaps 20 feet away. The top branches lay across the arbor that serves as an overhead roof to the back deck. A “chunk of change” later, a local tree service removed the precariously perched tree right down to its trunk, leaving our house intact. An act of Mother Nature, from which we were spared catastrophic damage by the hand of God. Thank goodness I wasn’t on hand to witness the event. Might have been too much for my heart. Something to ponder.
  • Yesterday was the first day of Fall. The season usually portends of rain, chilly weather, gray skies. So I guess those of us in the Pacific Northwest had exactly one month of summer, August. Retiring to Hawaii or Florida sounds really enticing. Also something to ponder.
  • On the local news yesterday they reported that a man returning home from walking his 2 dogs, was attacked by a black bear at the foot of his driveway. His wife could be heard on a 911 call, pleading for help. Because black bears have been sighted in our neighborhood, I’m very fearful of encountering one. In addition to the one bear bell attached to my dog’s leash, I may have to sew a whole bunch to my jacket. Who cares if I sound like the “Good Humor” man selling ice cream from a truck. I may look like “princess pupule” (Hawaiian for “crazy princess), but I’m sure the bears will avoid me, but so might the neighbors. Hmmm, something else to ponder.
  • The other night my husband announced that we’d been invited to his boss’s home to dine, one of the other guests being the new bishop of our diocese. It always surprises me when we’re asked to socialize with the CEO/President and his wife, because they “run” in such different circles from us. I love them dearly, having told them once that they bring out my maternal instincts. A decade younger, I look upon them like my other children. I’ve met both their parents, whom I also find enchanting. What surprises me is that my candidness seems to endear me to them. I do tread carefully, however, because my husband hovers nearby making sure I don’t say something too outrageous. But what do I chat about with a Catholic bishop? Hmmm…even more to ponder. One thing’s for sure, I’d better not have a lemon-drop martini. You know what they say, “Loose lips sinks ships.” And if I get too loose, oh my goodness…
  • A dance career can be an obstacle course because of the “detours” that unexpectedly present themselves. The last week I was with my daughter, she was unable to dance. Towards the end of the previous week, her male partner had brought her down from an overhead lift too quickly. Caught off guard, my daughter’s pointe shoe hit the ground hard, probably exacerbating an already tentative ankle. As a preventive measure from further injury, her foot is in an orthopedic boot, awaiting a doctor’s diagnosis. She’s hoping it’s not serious enough to sideline her from performing in Swan Lake. As a professional she knows such mishaps are part of the job. All she can do is seek resolution so that she can move forward. We can all learn something from these young folk, I know I can, and am.
  • Dr. Oz’ show shared some good information today. It included a discussion of “obesogens.” From what I gathered, since I tuned in late, environmental factors may contribute to our obesity, from plastics and canned foods that leach chemicals into our food, to farmed-fish, like salmon, whose pesticides and coloring agent also promote obesity. One tip, among several suggested, is not to microwave foods in plastic containers because of the leaching effect. Better to cook or reheat in glass containers. Another topic was dehydration, which many of us fail to recognize until we head to the emergency room for resuscitation. Drinking plenty of water to maintain our body’s 60% composition, is essential to keeping our cells, and the surrounding areas, hydrated. One tip was specifically helpful since I consume a lot of green tea daily. Coffee and tea are diuretics which cause us to lose water. Because of this, we need to replenish the loss by drinking 8 ozs. of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage we consume. Years ago when I followed the Weight Watcher’s Diet, I understood that coffee and tea would count towards the required amount of water consumption. Perhaps their information has been adjusted to reflect more current data.
  • My husband and I are starting our Fall weather regime this evening, going to our community center to walk the track and use the fitness equipment. Wish us luck, for the long haul.

small stuff, that’s life…hugmamma.

cetaphil, “if it ain’t broke”

A good lesson for all ages, but especially for those getting along in years, like me. I’m sure we all have our beauty secrets, ones that are tried and true and work for us. Why then do we stray, dabbling in the newly touted, the “latest” and “greatest?”

For a few years now I’ve used Cetaphil, purchased at any number of drugstores and large, budget-conscious retail chains, like Costco. I think what steered me towards the product was that it’s “fragrance free.” For some reason I developed a sensitivity to additives. Cetaphil boasts that it’s “non-comedogenic/fragrance free/dermatologist recommended.” It’s not without other “stuff,” but evidently they’re non-detrimental to my skin type. So I cleanse my face with Cetaphil, using a pump dispenser or a soap bar (best for travel),  as well as moisturize with Cetaphil products like 

  • Moisturizing Lotion for All Skin Types – lightweight hydration for everyday use 
  • Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15 for All Skin Types – lightweight, non-greasy formula – UVA/UVB protection
  • UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50 Facial Moisturizer for All Skin Types
  • Daily Advance Ultra Hydrating Lotion for Dry, Sensitive Skin – clinically proven to hydrate and protect dry skin for 24 hours

Which moisturizer I use depends upon the level of dryness I’m experiencing, which may be affected by the season, or by the weather in a locale I might be visiting, like Hawaii where it’s humid. Regardless of conditions, whether environmental or health related, Cetaphil has remained constant in keeping my skin soft and appearing youthful. Why then did I decide to try a new product? 

Perhaps the praises rendered by a drugstore clerk, or the desire to “change it up,” or knowing that grapeseed supplements and red wine were healthy, or that the product was developed by a dermatologist, led me to believe that “Merlot” might be even better than Cetaphil. I mean doesn’t it even sound better? “Merlot” conjuring up the image of sultry, smooth, velvety skin; where Cetaphil envisions a scrubbed face, devoid of color and character. Plunking down my money, I took my package of jars home, feeling like a kid at Christmas.

Months later, and skin looking somewhat “leathery” and splotchy, with dry spots on my eyelid, neck and chin, I slowly became disenchanted with “Merlot.” I say slowly, because initially I attributed my problems to eczema from which I’ve suffered most of my life. So I kept piling on the new moisturizer, morning and night. But I couldn’t seem to return to the smooth, even facial appearance of my Cetaphil days. I’d view myself in the mirror, trying to imagine what my skin once looked like. Finally coming out of the “fog,” I turned to Cetaphil for resolution.

Between “cortisone one” to correct the patches of dryness, and a daily Cetaphil regimen, I’m looking like my old, young self again. Hurrah! Lesson learned. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Now perhaps I can return the partially (more like minuscule-y) used jars of “Merlot,” for a refund, or if Walgreen’s resists, I may just give the items to the salesclerk who so loved it, that I believed her.

hugs for Cetaphil…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.

bump and grind

Returned to exercise class this morning after weeks of sporadic attendance. At 8:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it’s a real challenge for me to get myself up and primed for moving. I’m an habitual night owl, never have been the early bird, at least not willingly. I’ve long since chucked the routine of rising at 4:30 to dress and breakfast before schlepping to the office to make a buck. I’ve tremendous respect for my husband who goes to work like the mailman, in rain, snow, hail and thunderstorm. Regardless of how he may feel, though I’ve never known him to be anything less than passionate about work, his mantra is “The show must go on!” I guess it’s true what they say. Introverts blossom on stage, and my husband’s job is definitely where he takes to the spotlight, and shines.

My shining moment is in the gym during exercise class. When the music starts, so do I. My surroundings are transformed into an imaginary club, and I become a dancing fool. When my daughter’s been home and accompanied me, she lovingly recaps my butterfly arm movements as I move from side to side. She’s just jealous, I think. Her career has already caused the beginnings of arthritis, so she can be as stiff as me sometimes. So she might be wishing she could move like her 61-year-old mom. Although I don’t think that’s really the case. She just thinks I’m goofy,loveable, but goofy.

Thank goodness our class is comprised of mostly seniors like me. Nobody competes; we just try to survive. The instructor, a Brit in her 50’s, is a dynamo. She’s a role model for all of us, but we could never be her equal. She’s been teaching classes for 20+ years, and was a student herself before that. She also subs for the senior center classes, and is a personal trainer as well. I believe she also works with a trainer, and attends refresher classes. Her life is exercising; mine is avoiding it whenever I can.

Thankfully, my mind has been dragging my body to exercise class for several years now. My body would rather remain on the memory foam mattress; my mind wants to harness the sun and be up and at ’em. Unless I’m suffering with allergies, a sore ankle, aching back, sleep deprivation, or the day is overcast or rain is threatening, you get the drift, I drag myself to the gym. Once there, I have a blast bumping and grinding with my fellow weight conscious friends.

There are 2 very important benefits to be reaped from sweating until it hurts, it counteracts the effects of Alzheimer’s and the camaraderie is priceless. Doing step on Wednesdays must stave off the disease that robs one’s memory. (Back from a time out. Sitka, my mixed-breed Maine Coone, wanted to give me hugs and kisses.)  My brain cannot wander for a second, otherwise I’m completely out of sync with everyonelse. And I have to bring my entire focus to bear to get back into moving with the group, for they, of course, continued without me. Fortunately no one laughs; they’re too busy making sure they keep up. However, I do chuckle at my own mistakes. It’s either laugh or cry. I’m way too old to cry over “spilled milk,” or a misstep. Besides it’d take up precious seconds which I desperately  need to get my groove back again.

Coffee with the ladies afterwards is always fun. Conversation runs the gamut from talking about deadbeat husbands or kids, to sagging body parts. We’re not brutal, just honest. Venting with others going through similar experiences helps us realize that we’re living in the same world. We’re all trying to get through the day, the week, the month, the year, and the rest of our lives with as much vim and vigor as possible. We all get a good dose of positive reinforcement while sipping a cup of flavored coffee, soy latte, or green tea. “Sisters” in exercise; “sisters” in life.

take a “step”, and sip some coffee…hugmamma

not so friendly skies

 Hearing about a Delta Airline flight whose passengers were closeted in a plane for 3 hours on the tarmac, inspired me to write this post. An engine problem was said to be the culprit, but upon close inspection nothing was found to be amiss. To Delta’s chagrin, the event was broadcast worldwide on YouTube. A very resourceful passenger captured his image with the camera on his cell phone.  Beads of sweat were shown cascading down his bald scalp, over his brows, and onto his cheekbones. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I can’t imagine that it felt any better than it looked. This picture ran countless times throughout the newscast. The Network drove home its point, and then some. Of course they included snippets of an interview with the passenger. In it he underscored how awful the situation was by explaining, that as a soldier, he’d served in Africa where temperatures soared well over 100 degrees. He’d also endured grueling conditions as a navy Seal. But nothing, he said, NOTHING could compare with the abhorrent conditions he experienced onboard Delta’s “flight from Hell.”  

Pictures of fellow passengers showed their disgruntled faces. Children’s cheeks were flushed from the heat. The air-conditioning was left off because of the supposed engine problem. A lone flight attendant finally took it upon herself to distribute bottles of water. Meanwhile, no announcements were made to explain the situation to the passengers. And according to the man in the picture, no apology was extended by Delta. I don’t remember what was contained in a formal letter sent by the airline. But judging from the man’s demeanor, it didn’t contain the mea culpa he expected. My husband and I experienced a similar situation on a USAirways flight leaving Philadelphia, but the outcome was considerably different.

Taxiing out on the runway, we were lined up with other outbound flights. It wasn’t clear if a passenger forced the captain to relinquish his place in line when she went to the bathroom, ignoring the “fasten your seat belt ” sign. I gathered that’s what happened because announcements were made to that effect. Pulling out of position, the plane went to the back of the line. Then Mother Nature stepped in, and “leveled the playing field.” All flights were delayed indefinitely because of bad weather in the Midwest. 

TV newscasts showing scenes like the one described earlier, drifted through my mind. I let myself go numb, knowing there was nothing to be done but settle in for the long haul. Getting agitated wouldn’t resolve the situation, and the accompanying stress would go against my resolve to stay healthy, and avoid Alzheimer’s. You know the old saying “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” 

Unlike Delta’s indifference to its passengers, USAir kept us apprised of the status of our delay. It was like having an open phone line between the cockpit and the cabin. When the captain wasn’t on the line, the flight attendants were. At the time I was slightly annoyed. (I told you I was calm, not dead.) I just wanted them to stop talking and do something, anything, to relieve our discomfort. Even in business class, the seats were HARD. More disturbing, you’d have thought there was a party going on! (Helllooo…am I the only one wanting to get underway here?)  The  flight attendants strolled the aisle, smiling and laughing while serving up cups of water, and casually visiting with passengers who got up to remove items from overhead bins. All around me were voices chattering, while I sat with furrowed brow.

Finally, the captain announced that our plane would be returning to the terminal. Once there, the door was opened and a ticket agent came aboard. From the cockpit came a further update that our delay would depend upon reconfiguration of flight patterns due to the thunderstorms and lightning. What came next must have surprised my fellow travelers as much as it did me. We were told that, because of new government regulations, passengers were free to disembark to make other arrangements if they so chose. Now THAT caught my attention! Wow! An airline wasputting the passenger ahead of the “bottom line.” Of course they had their “neck on the block,” but no matter. While it didn’t make a loyal fan of me, USAir won my respect.

My husband and I have both worked in the airline industry, he with Pan Am, and me with Iran Air and TWA.  Airline employees enjoy very nice perks, foremost of which is traveling free or at greatly discounted rates. It does involve going “stand by,” where they literally stand around waiting to hear their names called if space is available on the aircraft. This can be nerve-wracking, especially when accompanied by young children who wonder aloud “Why can’t we get on yet?” The wait is worthwhile, however, if they’re upgraded to first class…for free.

When we flew our own airlines, we awaited takeoff, giddy and delighted at our good fortune.  Gazing out the window, we’d admire the planes bearing the company logo. We felt proud, and special. Proud to be employed by companies who transported people all over the world. Special, because we were part of what seemed a fantasy, air travel. We dressed accordingly, suit and tie for my husband, dress and heels for me. Stewardesses were fashionistas, carefully groomed from head to toe. How I admired, and wanted to be one of them. But they seemed an elite class. Pilots too seemed like mythical beings, ensconced in their private domain, the cockpit. Catching a glimpse inside was a treat, sitting in one during flight was memorable. I had that privilege once, on an Iran Air flight.  Reminiscing about air travel in decades past, makes me think how different it is today.

I’ve agreed with friends that flying today is like riding a bus. Line up; get your ticket punched; squeeze into a seat; read your book or paper; eat food you’ve brought aboard; get to your destination, deplane, and go your own way. Flight attendants are likened to waiters and waitresses, except they may, or may not, serve you something. These days, you couldn’t pay me to be one of them. I’d much rather sit in my comfy jeans, “catching 40 winks” or some part thereof. Now, passengers try to cram as much as possible into carry-on luggage, not wanting to hand over $15, $20, or $30 for checked bags.

Airline travel has certainly changed. Deregulation enabled airlines to set their own rates which allowed consumers more options in popular markets; not so much, in  less traveled markets. Big companies scrambled, some eventually closed their doors, or merged with others to survive. Small companies like Southwest and Jet Blue grew to prominence with travelers who wanted the biggest “bang” for their buck. The industry continues to expand and contract, mirroring the economy upon which it depends.

My initial experience with Southwest was terrible. Traveling with my husband and daughter, we stood in the haphazard line waiting to board. People were sitting on the floor or standing, luggage at the ready, making sure they’d get a good seat, for it was “first-come, first-serve.” Then unexpectedly a voice was heard over the loudspeaker calling out a gate change. A mad scramble ensued. Everyone made a dash for the new gate. Upon arriving there, our family was nearer the front of the line than before. Eventually we heard murmurings at the back that there was another change. Slowly the line unraveled, people running in another direction. Finally making it aboard the plane, my husband, daughter and I managed to sit together in one row. There and then, I made my husband promise never to book another Southwest flight again. He promised. 

Fast forward to now, and Southwest is my airline of choice. Management figured out that herding passengers like cattle wasn’t good for public relations. A new system was put into effect lining people up according to positions assigned upon check-in, A-1 through 30, B-1 through 30, and c-1 through 30. People are more civil; boarding runs more smoothly. Without the lengthy process inherent with other airlines, it seems Southwest is in and out of the gate more quickly. Service on board is comparable to major carriers, sometimes even besting them. Air fares are comparable or better.

Current air travel is a “free-for-all.” Passengers get, or don’t get, what they pay for; airlines make, or don’t make, a profit. Fate seems to have the upper hand these days. I’m not sure what to think.

what do you think?…hugmamma.