A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

We recently went to a to-remain-unnamed Italian restaurant near our home. The waitress was pleasant and the food was adequate to the task of making us no longer hungry, but that’s about all I can say to recommend it. As I thought about what kind of review I might give it, I realized that I don’t have the streak of meanness necessary to be a good food critic, or really a critic of anything. It was not horrible, there might be other things to recommend the restaurant that we didn’t sample (although we did have the night’s specials – one would think they would have something to recommend them, but I digress), and it is someone’s livelihood and perhaps even pride and joy. So, I’ve decided that unless a restaurant is truly horrible in some way, I will not post negative reviews of merely disappointing dining experiences.

Which brings me 180 degrees to City Fish Grill in Oldsmar. A co-worker recommended this restaurant almost two years ago, and even though it’s only a few blocks from our home, we had never been, mostly because it’s packed on Friday and Saturday nights and we never plan ahead well enough to remember to make reservations. Last weekend, though, we were at a nearby hotel attending a conference and knew in advance we’d want to eat somewhere very nearby. We reserved a table for 10 early in the evening and when we arrived were greeted by very friendly staff and shown immediately to our table even though our party was incomplete.

I wish I had thought to photograph everyone’s dinners, especially the Seafood Tower, an appetizer one of our group ordered as his main meal. The first thing on our table was the hot bread served with dishes of olive oil swirled with a balsamic reduction and a little shredded parmesan. I had a cup of she-crab bisque (served in a good-sized bowl – I don’t know how big the bowl of soup would have been) that was delicious. I guess the bisque satisfied my craving for seafood, because I then ordered their special filet mignon topped with a blueberry/balsamic reduction glaze. The feta au gratin potatoes were not as tasty as I might have liked, but then I had already had she-crab soup and a 9-oz filet to tackle.

The finishing touch, though, was the vanilla crème brûlée. I love crème brûlée. And although I am always on the quest for the perfect crème brûlée, I have only a vague memory of perhaps having once had a mediocre crème brûlée – never a bad one. City Fish’s crème brûlée, though, definitely falls into the delicious category. A generous portion of wonderfully rich and creamy vanilla custard topped with beautiful, crisp caramel that made a delightful crunch as I broke through it with my spoon (fans of Amelie will appreciate that reference), and garnished with blueberries and whipped cream. It was beautiful and delicious.



We will definitely be going there again. It’s good enough to remember to make reservations for.

I was at a presentation over the weekend about Native American music. One of the presenters mentioned having had a DNA profile done a few years back by Ancestry.com for about $200. I came home and looked it up and now it’s only $89!

Mom has always talked about how much her dad showed his Indian blood and how she inherited his olive complexion and brown eyes, while both of her sisters had blue eyes like their mother, and I’ve always wondered about my possible Native American background.

He looks Indian, right?

Mott Moore c. 1950s – He looks like he could have been in one of those old westerns, right?

But now, as I’m typing this, I realize that the story I heard from my mother’s uncle about his grandmother, who would have been Mother’s great-grandmother, being full-blood Cherokee, was on her mother’s side of the family!

Okay, now I’m REALLY interested in checking out this DNA test thing. Order the kit for $89, spit in a tube and send it back, and get a breakdown of your ethnic heritage. This has now taken a spot on the WANT! list above those bright-and-shiny earrings I’ve been eyeing.


Busy Saturday with Mom

I told Mom we’d leave for the bank around 10:00 or 11:00. But since I didn’t get up until almost 10:00, my leisurely coffee drinking and morning surfing delayed our departure until around 11:30. And Mother only told me about three times that she was ready to go whenever I was, and just when was I planning on leaving. When we arrived at the bank, there was a bit of a line, about four people ahead of us. After a couple of minutes, Mom had to maneuver her walker over so that she could lean against one of the cabinets.

When we got back to the car, I told Mom we were going to have lunch before going to Fantastic Sams. She was underwhelmed and said that she wasn’t really hungry, but if I was we could do that. Then she asked me if I needed any money. I told her that I didn’t offer to take her to lunch expecting her to pay for it.

We went around the corner to Nosh! and split one of their breakfast sandwiches they press on Cuban bread. Very yummy. Mom ate every bite of hers, plus a bag of chips. Their special coffee flavor of the day was Honey Almond, which I had iced. Because you can never have too much coffee. Or at least I can’t. Especially not on perm day.

When Mom gets her hair permed, it looks kinda like this (except not blonde):

She’s worn this hairstyle since the early ’80’s. It’s easy for her to care for and she believes it hides that fact that she has a funny-shaped head. (I have never noticed that her head is shaped oddly – must be one of those childhood-anchored self-image things.) The hair stylists tell me that getting her hair trimmed a couple of times in between perms will keep it looking nice, because the weight of the hair that has grown out is what pulls  the curl out. But she won’t believe this, from me or the salon ladies, and so she just waits until it’s time for another perm before going back, which means that by the time I can get her to the salon, she has begun to look an awful lot like Brian May:


Wilma has been giving Mom her perms since we moved here over five years ago, but when we went today, we found that Wilma was no longer there. I thought this might be a problem, but Mother didn’t seem concerned and the owner assured us he could instruct the stylist on mom’s preferences. Her perms take about an hour-and-a-half (it takes awhile to roll up all those little blue rods), so I took myself across the street to Serenity Now to hang out with the very upbeat ladies always womanning the shop, look at all their colorful and bright-and-shiny objects, and try not to spend too much money (successful with #1 and #2, not so much with #3). After hanging out there for what seemed like enough time, I went back across the street to find that Mom still had about a half-hour to go. More waiting. Bummer.

I went next door to Gino’s NY Style Pizzeria, bought a large soda (Coca-Cola, with about 20% root beer – try it, really), and finally did my morning journaling at 2:30 in the afternoon. I grabbed one of their take-away menus to look over for our next “Try A New Restaurant Night”, since everything on the menu looked great, and the manager was very attentive, even though I was just having a soda and taking up space while waiting for Mom to be done.

When she was finally ready, we made our one last stop at the drug store to pick up her scripts and headed home, four hours after we had started out.




My Brain at Night

Brain at Night

I don’t know who to credit for this memecard that found its way to my Facebook page, but it so perfectly captured my experience that I not only shared it there, but felt compelled to bring it forward here to share last night’s brainshower.

A group that popped up on Facebook at the beginning of Lent, “40 Bags in 40 Days”, is a mutual-cheer group for people working toward decluttering, giving up for Lent not just one thing, but a portion of the mass of things that reflects, constitutes, and exacerbates the feelings of not being in control of our lives.

Last night, in one of those moments I often have where I am partially awake but know it isn’t time to really wake up, my mind paralleled body fat with house clutter. When you eat more calories than you need, your body pulls the extra glucose out of your blood and converts it to fat storage (somehow, I don’t know the actual mechanics) for when you might need it later. In our society, food is so plentiful that the later never comes and so we just continue to accumulate the fat that slows us down and wears us out.

Our society also has such a surplus of material goods that producers constantly vie for our attention, hoping to persuade us to purchase their things, whether we need them or not. And hunter-gatherers that we are, when we find a spiffy-cool, bright-and-shiny object that is either unlike anything we have or somehow perceived as better than all the other ones we already own, we grab it and take it back to the cave to save for when we might need it later. Except that, like the fat in our bodies, later may never come and we just continue to accumulate things that slow us down and wear us out mentally and emotionally.

Just as the fat accumulating inside our arteries can constrict and slow down the blood flow, the clutter in our homes constricts the energy flow, making moving through our living space feel like struggling through invisible quicksand.

To my middle-of-the-night brain, it was all so clear, and reinforced my plan to continue to work on letting go of things. 

Lunch With Mom




Me: Okay, Mom! We’re through with our Saturday errands. What do you want to have for lunch? Mexican? Chinese? A sandwich?

Mom: I’ll just decided when I look at the menu.

Me: But if we want Mexican or Chinese we have to decide to go to that restaurant.

Mom: I don’t care. Anything’s fine.

(After our arrival at Daddy’s Grill)

Me: Oh, good – we can choose between the breakfast or lunch menus. I think I’m going to have breakfast. What about you?

Mom: Do they have Mexican food?

Grooming Sophie

Yorkies are known for their long, silky hair. And when Yorkies are groomed for show, they look like this:

Show Yorkie

It occurred to me that Yorkies are the grown-up equivalent of this:

Big Barbie Head

When I was a kid, I did not have the ability to sit still long enough to play with something like this. As an adult, the idea of holding down a squirming dog who didn’t want to be brushed and combed any more than I wanted to be doing it, would probably leave Sophie looking much like this poor puppy:

Cookie’s before picture

However, since I am not a cruel doggie mistress, I took Sophie to the groomer today. Our groomer has this poster on the wall so those of us unfamiliar with grooming terms can merely point and grunt at the style we desire.

Grooming poster


Last time at the groomer , we had her do something similar to 3rd row, 4th photo (not exactly, because they left her side fringe a little longer), only to find that the grass in our backyard has seeds that have some kind of sticky adhesive properties that allowed Sophie to collect them all along her legs and sides, and then deposit them on the couch and our laps. This time, I told them I wanted the Body Contour cut (3rd row, 1st photo) – to just make her look like a short-hair dog except for her little face ruff and eyebrows.

She is really quite adorable and as soon as I find the little cord that lets me transfer pictures from my camera to my computer (I know it’s around here somewhere on my desk, under some of this very important stuff I have yet to sort through and file), I will post a photo of her amazing cuteness.


Plastic Mitigation

I’ve cleaned out the cabinets of most of the plastic foodware. I’m ordering a glass cookie jar for Mom and a ceramic coffee jar, both to replace the I-don’t-know-how-many-years-old Rubbermaid canisters. The sugar and brown sugar that have been in the smaller canisters is just going down the sink and their canisters won’t be replaced, at least not immediately, because I can’t remember the last time I used either one. I have quite a collection of Mason jars that the rice can be stored in. Operation Plastic Purge is well underway.

Unfortunately, I’m having problems in a couple of areas. One is that a great deal of our food products that used to come in glass now are packaged in plastic. The entire condiment aisle used to be glass jars and bottles, but now ketchup, mayo, salad dressing – all plastic. The only jars in our fridge that are consistently glass are those holding jam or relish. I think I’ll be able to find a version of most things offered in glass, except when I get to the dairy case. Yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, cheese – all in plastic of some kind. I’ve been thinking that perhaps the way to deal with that is to put that stuff into glass containers as soon after I purchase it as possible. Mitigation, if not elimination.

But I haven’t yet been able to figure out  this thing:

Mr. Coffee

Not only does it have a plastic reservoir into which we pour cold water for it to sit for hours overnight, but it also has a plastic filter bowl, over which very hot water pours as the coffee is made. As best I can tell, there are few, if any, automatic coffee makers without plastic innards. When I surfed for “plastic-free coffee pots”, I got pictures of large and small manual types – old-fashioned drip pots, stove-top percolators, very cute single-serving ceramic drip cups, sleek glass coffee presses – but nothing that would allow me to set up coffee to be ready for my mother on the days she gets up an hour or more earlier than I do.

This sleek fellow calls himself stainless, but I see plastic across the bottom and the details don’t tell me if the insides are also stainless.

This one appears to be all-steel construction, probably because plastic would not withstand the heat of percolation, but alas, it is not programmable. It might work for us if it has a time-off switch, which is actually the main reason we bought a programmable one in the first place, after I came home and found that Mother had poured herself the last cup of coffee and then left the burner on the entire day. If it will turn itself off, then I could set it up the night before so all she’d have to do would be to hit the “on” switch. Of course, she’d also have to be able to lift the pot to pour it, and it looks like it might be a little heavy.

I guess until we get a new one, I’ll continue to make coffee in our almost-totally-plastic coffee maker. And worry about it.

How To Avoid Plastics?

A couple of days ago, I saw a link to a Mother Jones article regarding plastics which leach estrogen mimicking chemicals into any food contained within them. Not just the ones with BPA, but a vast array of plastics. And how the plastics companies had hired the same legal firms used by Big Tobacco in the past.

The following day, a follow-up article showed the handy chart below. The percentages shown below indicate how many of the samples tested showed estrogen activity (EA).

So, during the day yesterday, I’m thinking about all the food-holding plastic in my kitchen. Not just the Rubbermaid containers that have leftovers (that I sometimes heat in the microwave at work, which evidently makes the leaching worse), but the long-term storage of coffee, sugar, flour, rice, etc., in those nice, clear plastic canisters that keep me from having to remember (or just guessing) what any given container might be holding. And those handy clear plastic pint freezer jars I just put 20+ pints of (hot!) broth in before stocking the freezer with what I considered to be a much healthier alternative to the canned broth with all the added salt and other preservatives. And I’m thinking how I may be using all those glass Mason jars (thank you, Classico) I’ve got stashed around the house and garage as alternate food storage until I figure out something better.

I shared this info on Facebook with my kids and extended family members who have young children, and also printed the two articles out for a young mother co-worker. She asked for the URL to send her husband so he wouldn’t think she’d lost her mind when she started throwing out all the plastic in the kitchen.

Last night, I started looking on Amazon for glass or stainless canisters. And as I cooked dinner, I eyed the plastic spoons and ladles in the tool crock. When I put dinner away, I used a lidded glass bowl I normally only use to microwave food. It’s round, and the lid doesn’t fit tightly, and it takes up more room in the fridge than the handy square, stackable Rubbermaid ones that now I’m wondering if Hubby should even be using for his salad lunches anymore. Last night, I tossed and turned as I wondered if I’d be able to find a wooden ladle, then thought about how that wouldn’t look good with a punchbowl, but I wouldn’t want to use the plastic ladle anymore, but glass ladles are just so fragile, and on and on and on.

THEN I started thinking about all of our food items that are packaged in plastic containers – Mom’s yogurt and cottage cheese, all the cheese, really, spices, herb rubs, Mom’s cookies, the heat-it-in-its-own-plastic-bowl side dishes that are so handy. Hubby mentioned that most food cans are lined with similar material. And the frozen vegetables are packaged in plastic bags – maybe not so troublesome since the food is not hot when it’s put in them, but what about the new “steam-in” bags?

And while this feels a bit histrionic, I can’t help but think about the Ancient Romans and all the handy uses they had for lead. It looks like my spring cleaning will begin a little early this year, kicking off with The Great Plastic Purge of 2014. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tony Hillerman wrote wonderful mystery novels set in and around the Navajo reservations. I remember discovering them around the same time I discovered Native American flute music, and listening to it while reading Hillerman put me right there inside the book. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in spirituality and spirits and ghosts and all things unseen and unknowable. I was particularly interested in Hillerman’s account of the Navajo attitude regarding death, ghosts or spirits, and the afterlife. What I remember most is that when someone dies, family or friends knock a hole in the back of that person’s home in order to let the bad spirit(s) out. They believe that at death all that is good in that person travels forward to the desired afterlife, shedding all the bad parts and leaving them behind. If one encounters a loved one’s ghost, it can only bring harm, because it is made up of all the unpleasant or even nasty parts of that person’s personality that were left behind.

I occasionally visit local psychics, card readers, intuitives – whatever they might call themselves – for readings. (Not the ones at dedicated storefronts with big neon hands on display – those are generally the ones that try to convince you of a curse and sell you an egg to put under your pillow to draw away the evil or somesuch – but that’s another blog post entirely.) I take my notebook and write everything down. The few times that I remember actual predictions having been made or hinted at, nothing has come to pass, but they’ve still been entertaining. Most often, the readings are more empathic, emotional insight kinda stuff, a sort of oral, mental Rörschach that I use to gauge my mental/emotional/spiritual inner status.

In December, I visited Madelyn, a reader/medium at Celestial Circle in Palm Harbor, and while we touched on several things, the one most related to this post was about Mom. She talked about Mom spending a lot of time in the spirit world, drawing strength for a new journey. Now, Mom sleeps a lot. She goes to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 every night. If she’s going to the Senior Center, she sets her alarm to get up at 6:00 am, but if not, she is likely to sleep in until, oh, 8:30 or 9:00 – a solid twelve hours’ sleep. Plus she naps on and off throughout the day when she’s at home. That’s a lot of sleeping.

Talking with Madelyn got me thinking about the stories I’ve read from other caregivers who talk about how their loved one’s personality changes, generally for the worst, the farther the slide into dementia. Kind, loving people become hateful and mean to those who are closest to them, the caregivers trying to make them comfortable and happy. And that got me thinking about Tony Hillerman’s stories and how the Diné view death and spirits. And that got me wondering if people with dementia are maybe already spending a lot of their time “on the other side” in a very long transition process, since their synaptic connections are deteriorating more quickly than the rest of their bodies. And maybe when they’re visiting, all that’s left behind to interact on the physical plane are the yucky parts that will eventually be left completely behind.

With Mom, even if she may be visiting the other side while she’s sleeping, when she’s awake, she’s still all here, because she is still the sweetest, most loving person I’ve ever known. But I think it’s a very interesting idea. Maybe I’ll ask her to tell me about some of her dreams sometime.



Gracie and Sophie Update

Gracie & Sophie share a bed 1.31.14

Although we still don’t trust them to behave when they’re alone in the house, Gracie and Sophie are on their way to becoming fast friends. Sophie has adapted quite well to the doggie door, using it for her own purposes, but she does not yet have any idea of what MY purposes for the doggie door are, and I continue to clean up small messes, even having bought a low-end Swiffer (just the stick, no attached spray bottle) to make the clean-ups a little easier. If she were a Great Dane, I’m sure we would be more motivated to watch the Potty Training video we got from Petsmart, but last night we watched Ender’s Game instead.

Sophie Loves The Mama 2.1.14

Sophie loves The Mama and doesn’t seem to mind her new short haircut, but she really didn’t like the t-shirt. It came off shortly after her modeling session.

Sophie's hernia 2.14.14

A couple of days ago, we noticed a small bulge on her lower abdomen. Yesterday morning, the vet confirmed that she has an inguinal hernia. It is not an emergency situation, but it is something that needs to be addressed before it develops into one. We have scheduled her surgery for Monday morning. It is a relatively minor surgery and her recovery time should be no more, and perhaps even a little less, than when she was spayed.

I guess it’s not just the free dogs that turn out to be the expensive ones.

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