Recipes and Garden Parts

Here are the Noncation recipes for Lemon-Sage Roasted Chicken and Warm Eggplant and Goat Cheese Sandwiches.  I made Broccoli Slaw, too, but that was a cheat:  1 bag of ready-made broccoli slaw, 1 cup of prepared cole slaw dressing, ½ cup of raisins, and 1 small package chopped peanuts billed as desert topping.  Mix, eat, love.

Guess what I found this morning?  Seedlings!  Four hollyhocks and three sunflowers.  The peat pots were nice and soaked, and a little bumble bee was having a grand time slurping the extra water off of them.  My pictures of all this were abysmal.

My fancy water pail

But here’s my fancy water pail for your amusement.

Sometime last Tuesday, while I was gone to The Sing-Off again (which was much shorter this time, and Daddy treated me to dinner after!), my spearmint plant fell over and the whole thing slid out of the pot.  By the time I found it the plant was completely dried out, crunchy leaves and all.  The stems and smallest leaves closest to the soil were still somewhat succulent, so I cut it back hard and brought it inside to convalesce at the kitchen window.

Spearmint before

Spearmint before

Spearmint after

Spearmint after

The rest of my beautiful plant fit into one small teabag.

The rest of the spearmint plant in one tiny teabag.

Spearmint tea

Honestly I wanted peppermint anyway, not spearmint, so I picked up this lovely



along with another spearmint for Jess, to help repel the aphids attacking her garden.  And I moved everything to an east-facing porch so they won’t scorch in the fierce sun and heat pounding down on us.

Aw, so perty

Aw, so perty

The east porch is also adjacent to the site of their future permanent home

Dirt and waning tomatoes today, herb garden eventually.

Dirt and waning tomatoes today, herb garden eventually.

School started for Drew last week.  A smooth transition into freshman year of high school.  He is going to start a club…I told you guys about that already, yes?  The Nerdist Club?  He’s ready to go with a faculty advisor, officers, members, a first activity/ fundraiser, even an endorsement from the creator of The Nerdist!  Now he just has to wait for the paperwork to become available, get 50 signatures (which will be super-easy, he says), and off he goes.

School starts for me tomorrow. I don’t want to goooo!  Technically school starts Tuesday, because all of the classes I registered for are on Tuesdays and Thursdays:  English Lit, Modern Drama, and Short Story Writing.  However, only English Lit is required; the rest of the classes I actually need were full, so I picked up Modern Drama and Short Story Writing as fillers.  I will attempt to add Biology and Cultural Anthropology by showing up to the first class meeting and hope that that teacher lets me in.  I have a list of 8 class meetings to try throughout the week.  If I get into any of them I will drop one or both of the fillers.  Ugh, what an ordeal.  Last year this was all very exciting, but this year I’m over it.  I’m sure once school starts and I’m into my routine, meeting new teachers and new classmates,  I’ll be fine, but today it’s hot and sticky and I’m being a cry baby.

One more load of laundry into the dryer, then it’s off to bed.  Good night, blogosphere!

Noncation 2013: Day 3

7:00 am:   What am I doing up?  My room never properly cooled off, so I didn’t sleep well.  And at some point the rubber band fell out of my hair, so I spent the last hour or two of semi-sleep flipping my whole head whenever I changed position.  I know I should stay awake but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  One of my eyes feels swollen.  I’m whiny and cranky.

7:15 am:  Andrew is up.  Guess he doesn’t need to change his schedule after all.

8:00 am:  Feed animals.  Start feeding Sprite half of a tiny can of food twice a day.  She eats it with her body as far away from the bowl as possible like she’s stealing it.

Pilot, Sprite, and Sahara.  Missing the fish and a turtle.

Pilot, Sprite, and Sahara. Missing the fish and a turtle.

It’s hotter downstairs than upstairs, which actually feels pretty good now.  I find another rubber band and pile my hair on top of my head.  Screw this noise, I’m going back to bed.  I’ll start changing my schedule tomorrow.

11:45 am:  Wake up permanently.  I am ashamed.   What time should I tell the blogosphere I woke up?  11:00?  10:30?

12:15 pm:  Call Jessica to arrange pick-up.  I tell her about the nightmare I had that her dad started a Nazi-like religious cult and locked a couple hundred people inside, including his family and me.

12:30 pm:  Shelly calls.  She had been looking forward to seeing the San Diego Mission, but her parents got into a big fight so they are coming home instead.  At some point, though, they calmed down and decided to make it up to her, so now she’s calling from the Mission San Luis Rey.  Next stop is Mission San Juan Capistrano.  That’s the one the swallows come back to.  Bug Bunny said so all the time, remember?

1:00 pm:  Shelly calls three times in a row while I’m in the bathroom.  I call her back and get voicemail.  I call Mom.  “Why did you call Janine?”  she asks Shelly.

“To complain!”  I hear her say.

“Oh.”  I can hear my mom roll her eyes.  Shelly put her purse down to take a picture and forgot about it.   She didn’t realize it was missing until they had toured the whole mission.  She and Mom scour the place, but it’s gone.  Shelly wants to come home right now.

Scene of the crime:  cemetary at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

Scene of the crime: cemetery at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

An old friend of Shelly’s, Janice (rhymes with Bernice), shows up with her mini offspring while I’m on the phone.  They are 2 and 5, and tiny even for their ages.  They’ve had a long day already.  Janice makes them lunch then pulls out her cell phone to make some calls.  The kids bring a bowl of Cheetos upstairs to my room, exploring and chatting while I type. One of them finds a purple plastic Easter egg and oh, it is on and crackin’ now!

They also find my Thinking Cap.

They also find my Thinking Cap.

Our stairs are steep and treacherous, so the five-year-old bounces down them on her tush for safety.  She starts playing one-man fetch:  she throws the egg down the stairs as hard as she can to break it in half, then retrieves it.  Each time she descends, she tries to muster the courage to walk it.  Eventually she gets it.  “Look!  Come quick!”  she calls.  “I can use my feet now!”

2:30 pm:  Make the Friday Night Switch:  Drive to Monrovia, pick up Jess, drop off Drew.  The drive makes me extremely nervous considering my illegal car, but Drew’s face would probably melt off if he missed a Friday night at the weekly street fair.  I leave a pile of picture books for Janice and the kids.

Finally stop at the market for the odds and ends I really need now.  I feel so accomplished.

4:00 pm:  Wipe spilled juice and unidentifiable sticky off the books while the kids are still napping.

There’s never a wrong time for a Christmas story, especially when you’re small.

When they wake up they end up back in my room.  I bring out my wooden treasure chest for them to scrounge through, a leftover from the pirate-themed surprise party my family threw for me a few years ago.  I let them each keep a plastic gemstone ring, a string of party beads, and a plastic cocktail pick shaped like a sword.  They try to con me out of more.  I make a mental note to stock it with more give-away trinkets.

5:30 pm:  Shelly posts on Facebook that they are at her aunt’s house.  They are definitely on their way home.

7:00 pm:  Warm eggplant and goat cheese sandwiches with broccoli slaw for dinner.  Jess posts on Facebook that it’s the best vegetarian meal she’s ever had, EVER!

7:15 pm:  Shelly calls.  They’re in Arcadia, one city away.

8:00 pm:  The intrepid vacationers arrive home.  They’ve tied their record for shortest summer vacation ever.  Mom still has another week off of work.

10:00 pm:  Reverse the Friday Night Switch:  drop off Jess, pick up Drew.

And thus ends Noncation 2013.

Noncation 2013: Day 2

8:45 am: Wake up.  Wonder why I’m awake before 9 am.  Stumble downstairs for some water.  Put the bird out and offer to feed Sahara.  She’s not interested.  Stumble back upstairs to check email and Facebook. 

9:45 am:  Still can’t keep my eyes open.  Can’t remember what time I went to bed last night (okay, this morning).  Go back to bed.

Everyone's bed should be a comfy mess.

Everyone’s bed should be a comfy mess.

11:30 am:  Wake up again feeling better.  I really need to change my schedule back to my non-summer, non-lazy routine.  Maybe tomorrow.

12:00 pm:  Read part of a book.  Play part of a game.  Stare at part of a wall.  Contemplate dinner.  Do absolutely nothing.

1:00 pm:  Receive an email saying one of my Sing-Off ticket requests is now available, but they’re still first come, first serve.  I stub my fingers trying to get to the website quick-like.

1:20 pm:  Got the tickets!  I’m not as excited this time because I’m still recovering from the last taping, but I am excited to take my daddy.  Our call time is much earlier, so even if they run over we’ll be out well before midnight.

2:20 pm:  Decide to stop typing and maybe get on with the rest of my day.  But I start listening to this, and it’s hard to tear myself away:

2:40 pm:  Actually get up and get on with the rest of my day.

3:30 pm:  Take a shower and I’m still sweaty.  Decide that ice cream is in order before I go to market.  Make myself a sundae with marble fudge ice cream, homemade cinnamon whipped cream, and maraschino cherries.

4:00 pm: Realize that I don’t have to go to the market today!  I have everything I need for the lemon-sage chicken if I use dried sage.

4:01 pm:  Grab the chicken from the fridge in the garage, and lemons from the tree.  Survey the yard for my herb garden project.  Fail to find a good spot.

5:00 pm:  Get the chicken in the oven.  It’s too hot to roast anything today, but the last time I made this recipe I tried to crock-pot it.  Huge mistake.  Of course I also replaced several ingredients.  This time I’m sticking closer to the recipe.  It will be good, so help me…

5:15 pm:  Can’t find another roasting pan for the veggies.  I’ll have to use the 12” cast iron skillet, but it needs washing.

5:16 pm:  There are too many dishes in the sink: the skillet won’t fit.

5:17 pm:  Wash most of the dishes.

5:27 pm:  Wash the skillet.

5:50 pm:  Finish cutting up the veggies: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and turnips tossed with thyme.  I’ve used parsnips before, but I’ve never even tasted a turnip.  I try a little piece and it’s fantastic!  Why don’t people use these things anymore?

The chicken will be done way before the veggies.  I’ll have to pan-roast them on the stove top.  More heat my kitchen doesn’t need.  Great.

Save my vegetable scraps and freeze them for stock.  Anyone know how to jar stock?

7:00 pm:  The chicken is amazing!  Goes especially well with the turnips.

9:00 pm:  Mom calls.  They visited the town of Julian today, and are staying in El Cajon (pronounced el kuh-HONE) tonight.  Shelly wants to swim but the pool is closed.  The motel gives her free wi-fi.

10:00 pm:  Catch my cat, Sprite, trying to eat Sahara’s food.  She has gotten very skinny since we moved here.  I talk to Joe about starting her on canned food again.

Sprite, Queen of the Pixie Cats.

Sprite, Queen of the Pixie Cats.

10:30 pm:  Catch Sprite outside. She’s an indoor cat.   I had hoped her skittishness would keep her that way; otherwise it will be damn near impossible to keep her inside while we’re here.  Clearly she’s not skittish enough.

Sometime after 2:00 am:  Go to bed.

Noncation 2013: Day 1

Sometime before 9:00 am:  Mom wakes me up and tells me they are leaving.  I cannot fathom how she managed to get up so early and sound completely awake.  I briefly wonder how Joe’s holding up.  I fall back asleep before Mom reaches the stairs on the other side of the room.

9:00 am:  Wake up.  Still feeling worn out from the Sing-Off taping, but I’m starting to get one of those you’ve-been-in-bed-too-long headaches.  Andrew starts school on the 21st, and I start on the 26th, so I really need to start waking up earlier.  Maybe tomorrow.

9:15 am:  Start typing up a blog post about the taping.  I have every opening number from last season, as well as compilations of my favorite groups from the last two seasons, saved on a playlist on You Tube.

Stuff like this:

(Be careful, the volume is a little low)

And this:

(The song starts at about 1:34)

I pull them up in another tab for fact-checking purposes.

11:00 am:  Stop watching You Tube videos and take Andrew to register for his freshman year of high school.  He seems so big and grown-up until he’s around other high school kids; then he seems like my little Nanu again.

1:00 pm:  Return home and finish my blog post.  Ever since I hit that bad spot in June I haven’t been writing much at all.  I feel so out of practice.  I proofread three times as often as usual and hope I’m making sense.

3:00 pm:  Contemplate dinner.  I still need to hit the market for some odds and ends.  My recipe for lemon sage roasted chicken calls for fresh sage leaves.  I think I should buy a whole sage plant because 1) a whole plant is the same price as a super market sprig, 2) I use sage all the time, and 3) I want an herb garden, and sage needs to be there.

4:00 pm: Get an email that Daddy commented on my Sing-Off blog post, saying he’d go with me to another taping.  I decide that needs to happen.  I go to the website and try to snag a couple tickets for us.  Five Sing-Off tapings pop up, but they’re all currently waitlisted.    I put us on the waitlist for all five.

6:00 pm: Realize I haven’t gone to the store yet, or actually made a decision about dinner.  So I decide:  I’m not cooking.  It’s too hot.  There is plenty for each of us to scrounge a meal out of, bachelor-style.

6:30 pm:  Plop down with a microwave pizza and catch up on the shows I missed last night:  Who Do You Think You Are, So You Think You Can Dance, and Face-Off.

Sometime after midnight:  Turn off the lights over Shelly’s fish and turtle tanks.  Wake up Shelly’s cat, Sahara, and ask if she’s hungry.  She lifts her head but doesn’t answer, and she’s not sitting at her food dish, so I take that as a no.  She puts her head back down and wriggles into sleep.

Sometime after that:  Go to bed.

Sometime after that even:  Andrew goes to bed.  We should change his schedule, too.

Pre-Noncation 2013: The Sing-Off

It’s that time of year again, my friends!  The folks are off on another road trippin’ adventure, this time South toward San Diego and its environs, while I hold down the fort.  This year’s twist is that rather than merely house-sitting, I actually live here again.  Blerg.

But are we going to let that ruin our Noncation?  No way!  We are going to have a perfectly average time just like last year.

Noncation officially starts today, but the night before Noncation (i.e. last night) deserves its own post because Mom, Joe and I went to a taping of



The Sing-Off is a competition show for a cappella singing groups.  Each week there is a theme of either a song style or a song type, and one group is eliminated by the three judges.  I love it because no one’s a jerk, there’s no backstage drama, and the singing is awesome.  And it’s a cappella!  Who doesn’t love a cappella?  Like the movie Pitch Perfect but with less insanity.

Here is one of the first opening numbers from last season.  It’s not one of the best, but I want you to see the lighted tunnel that the Dartmouth Aires comes through, at about 1:48:

When we got to the sound stage we walked through that tunnel onto the set.  That was my fan girl moment, when I realized this was THE tunnel and I could see the Sing-Off stage at the other end.  I played it cool but I fought back excited tears.

We weren’t at the end of the line, but we’re old and slow so people passed us when we walked from the holding queue to the stage.  As we were being seated, I noticed with a twinge of panic that these were not chairs, but bleacher-style benches.  OMG, we can’t sit that long on glorified stairs!   But those people who walked around us did us a favor.  The audience wranglers cut the line right in front of us, and we and everyone behind us were moved to a section with real chairs.  Score!

When the show airs it’ll go like this:  a big group number with all the contestants; one performance from each group, including a short intro and ending critiques from the three judges;  the announcement of the two bottom groups; a sing-off between those two groups (one song that they sing together throw-down style); and the elimination of one group.  And of course the host’s banter in between.  Very simple show.  Filming it, not so much.

Taping was scheduled from 7:00 pm-10:30 pm.  This episode will only be the second of the season, so nine groups were still in the competition.  That’s eleven singing performances.  In theory that sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?  But it translated to 2 extra hours of taping.  5 ½ hours of roof-shattering cheering for damn near everything.  We cheered after every performance, before and after every commercial break, before and after every group intro, at the end of every judge’s critique, as each group left the stage, and after every elimination announcement.   Every re-take started with us cheering. Many re-takes were shot two, three, four times.   If we failed to cheer at the right time or with enough enthusiasm, it was a re-take.  As if that wasn’t enough, it was Party Anthem week.  They didn’t want mere applause; they wanted us to bring the entire sound stage crashing down.

The opening group number was shot in its entirety 3 times (which was cool, actually).  The final singing battle was shot twice.  (Not so cool, because we were tired by then.)  It took 40 minutes for the judges to make a decision.  (REALLY not appreciated!)  The audience wranglers wished us a good morning as we dragged ourselves out at 12:30 am.  Our fingers and hands were sore from all the clapping.  We were completely exhausted.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  My hands would’ve hurt less if I hadn’t worn rings, so that was my fault.  We knew that our cheering wasn’t just for TV, but to boost up the very real people who were competing, which made it a little easier to keep going when we were worn out.   And oh, my friends, the singing!  Here are two of my favorite groups, Home Free and Street Corner Renaissance:

I had two other favorites, but I cannot for the life of me find them on the Interwebs anywhere.

Interesting things happen when they film this show.  When it came time to announce the bottom two groups, the crew took “beauty shots” of the contestants waiting to hear the results.  The groups were all placed on stage atop portable stairs, like little individual class pictures.  During set-up the contestants chatted and laughed, but when tape rolled they had to stare at the judge’s table without smiling, while two cameramen whirled around them.  If the table was empty, the footage was called “worried shots,” but if the judges were there it was called “tense shots.”  And there was nothing else going on: the host wasn’t talking ,the judges weren’t deliberating, we weren’t even cheering.  So on TV, when they cut away to close-ups of the contestants looking anxious, those are the beauty shots. 

Another eye-opening moment came when the host announced elimination results.  For most of the show he reads from a teleprompter, but to reveal the bottom two groups he reads the results off of a card.  Or does he?   When the time came, he opened a card and started ticking off the names of groups that were safe.  That’s when my radar went up:  there wasn’t enough room on that little card for all of that!  They stopped taping briefly to reset camera angles, and during this time the host refolded the card.  He opened it again and pretended to read it when he announced the first group in danger of elimination.   Another reset, and he folded the same card again!  And opened the same card again to announce the other group in danger!  The same blank card!

And all that tension while everyone is waiting to get the results?  Fake.  Sure, everyone wants to hear who stays and who goes, but there was so much time between those particular takes that the contestants goofed around with each other, one of the engineers played party music, our warm-up guy threw candy at us and led us in sing-alongs…by the time they finally started taping those segments, the announcements were little more than cues for the contestants and the audience to react for the cameras.  The host (or in one case a judge) just pauses for about 15 seconds to heighten the suspense.  Even that dramatic anticipatory music isn’t there; it’s added in later.

My favorite part of the night came while the judges were deliberating.  According to a former contestant sitting nearby, they usually don’t take longer than 10 minutes or so to made a decision.  They came back, sat down, cameras had just started to roll on the final segment… when the director cut, two producers approached the judges, and then the judges, producers, and director all left again.  They were gone for 40 minutes!  Uuuuuugh!  Maybe if they had come back with burgers for us we wouldn’t have minded so much, but it was already late and we were running on fumes.

In the meantime the show’s host went back to his trailer, too, the bottom two groups were stuck standing on-stage (chatting and laughing as usual…no tension), and our warm-up guy ran out of candy. The party songs were getting old, so Mr. Warm-Up wracked his brain for some good sing-along songs.  Eventually he tried Blurred Lines, a current pop song.  Turns out it was in the repertoire of one of the groups standing on stage!  So when we started singing they started beat-boxing and filling in the background with their version.  We all stopped to listen, but then the other group on stage joined in with improvised backgrounds, so we took the hint to keep singing.  Some of the other contestants joined in, too.  We didn’t get very far, but it was still frickin’ amazing!   We sang with the Sing-Off people!

Electronic devices of any kind were prohibited, including cell phones, so we couldn’t call home to let them know the taping ran late.  My step-dad gets panicky over this type of thing, so of course when we got back to the car Joe and my mom had a bunch of missed calls.  My sister, Shelly, left a message on Joe’s voicemail, so he called her back and explained what happened.  Not two minutes after hanging up, my step-dad called my mom!  Shelly had relayed the message but it wasn’t enough.   He’s getting crankier and more anxious in his old age.  Anyway, I drove home at what felt like warp speed.  My bed was calling to me, but perhaps not as loudly as Mom and Joe’s beds were calling to them.

Still, I’d do it again.  Anyone else up for it?

Noncation, Day 6

This is way late, because frankly I got sick of it.  Recording every day was like being on a vegetable soup diet.  Day one is, “Yay!  Vegetable soup!  Skinny me!”  Day six is, “%^&* this %^&*ing soup and the $%^&ing idiot that came up with it and %^&* it I like being fat anyway.”  Okay not that extreme but you get the idea.  This blogging stuff is hard work.

Day 6

7:30 am:  Wake up for no good reason.  I decide I should clean up a little:  do the dishes, take out the trash.  I turn on the water in the kitchen to let the hot water warm up.  I decide it’s too early for such nonsense.  I turn it off.

8:30 am:  Put the last two farmer’s market eggs on the stove to boil.  Jess calls.  She and John are back on dry land.  Dry land is moving.  She caught five fish:  two dorado, two yellowtail, and one bluefin.  John caught a bluefin.

Fishie fishies

Jess’s catch

There are people at the dock who will process the fish and ship them to you.  Jess and John are having the bluefins made into jerky and the rest fileted.  Jess says that each fish took about 15-20 minutes to pull in.  She caught two more, but lost them when their lines snapped.  Her hands are bruised.  She’s exhausted.  Everything smells like fish.  She hopes  they can take the 5-day trip someday.

9:30 am:  Hear a squeaky pop from the kitchen.  I was so excited about the fishing trip that I forgot about my eggs!  Nothing burnt or ruined, but the eggs might be a little over-cooked.  I fill the pan with cold water and set it aside.  I toast a couple slices of the garlic sourdough.  One of them contains a whole clove of sweet roasted garlic.  Divine.  The eggs aren’t too bad either.

9:45 am:  Hit the Internet for information about these fish Jess caught.  I learn that Bluefin are tuna; yellowtails are jack fish, which are similar to tuna; and dorado is another name for mahi-mahi.  I foresee Jessica’s mother eating very well in the near future.  Perhaps I should look up some recipes.

11:45 am:  Drew sends a text, asks if I’ll pick him up and bring him back here.

1:00 pm:  Drive home.  Seeing the inside of my own home for the first time in days seems surreal.   It’s such a luxury to take a shower with my own soap, dry off with my own towel, and have all the beauty products I want at my disposal.  Being home means not having to go without or make due.  What an epiphany:  to truly appreciate what I have.

Drew tells me all about how he spent last evening.  He donned a fez and technicolor suit, which were recent birthday presents, and met some friends at the weekly street fair down the street.  He bought himself a Dr. Who mug.  He wants to be the next Dr. Who and will wear a colorful suit.  His friends have nicknamed him The Doctor.  He’s thrilled.

Someone recently accused him of being influenced by a “fallen angel” and even asked Jess, “He’s getting darker, isn’t he?”  Here’s my answer to that:

Suit and Fez

The future, multi-hued Dr. Who.

Enough said.

3:00 pm:  Drew is craving McDonald’s fries.  I treat us to the drive-thru.  Tasty, but that’s it:  I’m officially declaring my intention to cook real food again, good readers.

3:30 pm:  Shelly and the folks tumble through the front door.  Mom and Rob collapse into chairs.  Shelly empties the car with a look on her face that says she’s the only one who does anything around here.  Mom says unpacking can wait.  Shelly won’t hear of it and pretends to be annoyed.  I think it’s just excited energy.

Last night they discovered a place about a block away from their hotel called the Forestiere Underground Gardens.  In the early 1900s an Italian immigrant bought a chunk of land in Fresno, CA, intending to grow grapes.  Alas, the climate was too hot and the ground too clay.  He dug through the clay and built himself a cellar to escape the heat and plan his next move.  He discovered that the soil under the clay was rich and fertile.  He planted trees and vines in open subterranean rooms and created a whole complex of underground caverns.  It was one of the highlights of their trip.  If they had come home last night they would have missed it.  I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so.

The kids and I, even Joe, score all manner of souvenirs:  mugs, teas, trinkets, t-shirts, jewelry, and a fat wad of cash for my trouble, which was no trouble at all.

(Don’t get excited: it’s already gone.)

And with that, Noncation 2012 comes to an end, while my humble little life goes back to normal.

Noncation, Day 5

Day 5

6:15 am:  Wake up against my will.  I refuse to acknowledge that I’m awake.  I go back to sleep.

8:45 am: Much better.  Shall I do the Reyn for breakfast?  I’m not awake enough to make a decision.  I turn on the computer and conduct morning house-sitting duties.

9:00 am:  Check email, catch up on blogs, and pretend to ignore the nearly-empty Famous Amos cookie bag, that devil.

9:45 am: Edit “Noncation, Day 3.” I read about my leftover veggie burger and remember that I have leftovers from last night in the fridge!  Score!  Maybe I’ll do the Reyn for lunch, if I feel up to eating out alone.

12:30 pm: Really want the Reyn; really don’t want to eat alone.  I used to have a friend I’d lunch with all the time, but I had to cut her loose.  It would be nice to call her today.  Then I remember why I fired her and the feeling passes.  I think my former sister-in-law (FSIL) might be home today, so I text her and ask if she’s free.  She’s currently waiting for her husband (HH) to pick her up from work, otherwise she’s available.  I invite them both to lunch.  Yay!

1:00 pm:  Meet FSIL & HH at the Reyn.  We have a most enjoyable lunch.  They’re adorable.


Aren’t they too cute?

2:00 pm: HH goes to work, which is only a few blocks away.  He’ll pick up FSIL at my parents’ house after work.  FSIL asks for help with a quick school paper.  I happily oblige.

3:30 pm:  Chat for several hours with FSIL.  I’ve known her since she was 4; she is now 26.  She’s been married for a year and is expecting her first child in January.  She works part-time at a preschool and attends Pacific Oaks College, a very prestigious private teaching college.  I’m so proud of her.

My favorite part of our chat starts with, “If I have a girl you’ll have to teach me how to braid!”  I had the same dilemma with my first pregnancy.  The fanciest thing I did with my hair was pull it into a ponytail, and I was having a biracial child:  what was I going to do if I had a girl?  FSIL isn’t exactly a hair wizard either.  Fortunately I did have a girl, and I’ve learned a few tricks in the 19 years since she was born.  Plus there are plenty of other women in FSIL’s life who can help.  She’ll know for sure if she needs hair-wrangling lessons next month when she has her ultrasound.  It’s scheduled for the day of her first wedding anniversary.  How precious is that!

5:00 pm:  Mom calls.  They are in Chowchilla, CA, about 275 miles away.  They’ll be home tonight around 11pm, so I can go home whenever I’m ready.  Are you kidding me?!  They’re going to drive 6 hours after a full day of driving and walking and sight-seeing? I strongly urge them to reconsider, and assure Mom I won’t leave until they’re home.  FSIL shakes her head and laughs at my parents, the intrepid road warriors.

8:00 pm:  I bring home dinner from Bobby’s, a small burger stand a few blocks away.  Their tacos and fries are amazing.  FSIL, HH, Joe, and I watch the Olympic opening ceremonies together.  Mom calls again.  Rob says they’ll stay another night if I’m willing to stay another night.  Of course!  Please don’t drive home tonight!

11:30 pm:  Opening ceremonies are over.  Everyone is gone.  Nighttime house-sitting chores are done.  Kitchen light is on.  Nightie-night!

Noncation, Day 4

Day 4

7:00 am: Wake up against my will.  No one has called.  It’s freezing!  These mornings sure are cold for summer.  The weatherman assures me temperatures will be up in the 100’s (Fahrenheit, upper 30’s Celsius) by next week.  Yuck.  I’d rather have the cold mornings.

8:30 am:  Actually get out of bed.  I need to eat and take supplements before I get dopey again.  I remember some multicolored eggs in the fridge that I purchased at a farmer’s market last week.

Thursday eggs

Multicolored eggs.

Waffles sound good, too, but cleaning a waffle iron does not.  Thin crepe-like pancakes it is.  I use a 1/4 cup scoop because I can’t find the 1/2 cup scoop.  I open the box of pancake mix and find the 1/2 cup scoop.  Oh look!  Some small moths found it first!  Clever little turds  So much for pancakes.  Fortunately I also bought a loaf of garlic sourdough bread from the farmer’s market.  Toast it is!

9:00 am:  Check Facebook and email while I eat.  The garlic sourdough is strong.  Good thing I’m alone.

10:00 am:  Post “Noncation, Day 2” blog.  I try to fix the glaring hot spot in the picture of my parents.  It doesn’t work.  I search the internet for a picture of my laptop skin.  No luck.  I manage to take a decent one myself for the first time ever.

Thursday laptop

Laptop skin: Xmas present from Shelly.

Pictures from John’s prom and cherry picking last month distract me.  I have the prom photos edited and saved,

Jess B4 Prom

(Actually, I stole this one from someone else)

but not cherry picking.  It must be done immediately.  There is no good reason for this but I give in to my ADOS anyway and work on the pictures.

ADOS – Attention Deficit Ooo Shiny

12:20 pm: Memory card is cleared.  All pictures have been edited and saved elsewhere.  I feel better now.


Bing and Rainier cherries

1:20 pm:  Famous Amos cookies and milk for lunch.  I find an email from Esther about a guy who needs editors for an on-line literary review he’s launching, called the museum of americana.  He’s looking for slave labor.  I’m so on it.

2:30 pm:  Sahara is sitting on the chair in front of my computer.  She meows at me when I approach.  I lift her up and put her on the floor.  She jumps on the table and walks on my laptop keys, trying to destroy my latest blog post, still meowing.  I put her on the floor again.  She jumps on my lap, still meowing.  I’ve never seen her so vocal.  I start to stand up, but she refuses to jump down.  What is wrong with this cat?  She finally jumps down, only to spring right back up onto my newly vacated chair and  start meow again.  Okay okay, I know when I’m beat.  I clean off another chair containing my purse and laptop case to pull up to the table, but no sooner is the chair clear than Sahara jumps from her chair to this one and proceeds to bathe herself, purring away, completely satisfied.  Unbelievable.  I text Shelly:  “Your crazy cat just asked me for a chair!”

3:00 pm:  Succumb to a sugar coma.

6:30 pm: Wake up from my sugar coma.  I flip on the computer and read an article about how sugar ages your skin.  I swear off sugar.

7:25 pm:  Realize I forgot to feed Shelly’s fish.  It’s the first thing on my list of morning house-sitting duties.  Fail!

7:27 pm:  Find a spelling mistake on yesterday’s blog post.  Epic fail!

7:30pm:  Talk Joe into taking me to a restaurant called The Only Place in Town for dinner.  I call Drew to ask if he’s eaten.  He says he has.  I don’t believe him.  He’ll live on popcorn and birthday cake if I let him.  He says he had popcorn (see!) and Wing Stop (chicken…okay, that’s better). Now if I would please excuse him, he’s in the middle of taking out the trash.  I think I might faint.

8:30 pm:  Shelly calls.  They are in South Lake Tahoe, which is the California side of Lake Tahoe.  (Nevada is on the other side.)  Not too long before she called, she and Mom were laying on a bed in their hotel room watching TV.  Mom was propped up on pillows at the top, Shelly was laying cross-wise at the foot.  Mom got up, and the whole matress flipped up like a backwards murphy bed:  the head of the mattress was near the ceiling and Shelly was at the bottom clinging on for dear life!  They’re both still giggling as Shelly tells me the story.

I talk to Mom and ask about the rest of their day yesterday.  She says by the time the car was done they’d had just about all they could take of Reno  They headed to Virginia City, NV, an old silver mining boom town from the 1800s.  It was hot.  Uphill.  Miserable.  They walked through town, then hightailed it back their hotel in Carson City, NV, to recover in their air-conditioned room.  They spent today at Lake Tahoe, which is much cooler and beyond beautiful.  Tomorrow they’ll head to Columbia, CA, an old gold mining boom town turned tourist trap…I mean, tourist “destination.”  Sarcasm aside, it’s really a nice place to visit.

9:00 pm:  Feed Sahara.  She’s waiting for me.  She now understands that I’m here to serve her.

10:00 pm:  Joe sends me a text from home.  Drew has indeed taken out the trash AND fed the cat.  He must want something.

12:00 am:  Conduct my nightly house-sitting duties.  Leave a kitchen light on.  Go to sleep.

1:00 am:  Sahara is trying to hog the bed.  I remember a trick Rob taught me to make her go away:  pretend to sneeze.  I literally say the word, “Ah-choo!” and she bolts out of the room like a bat out of hell.  I have the room to myself for the rest of the night.

Noncation, Day 3

Day 3

8:20 am:  Wake up against my will.  First the house phone rings, now my cell phone is ringing.  It’s Shelly.  Shocker.  “Dad wants to know if you felt the earthquake?”

“When was it?”

“I don’t know.”


“Well, okay then, I’ll let you go back to sleep.”

I drag myself out of bed and turn on the computer.  There was a 3.0 magnitude earthquake in Marina del Rey around 3am this morning.  Can you even feel a 3.0 magnitude?  Apparently so, because my friend and former coworker, Kelly, is complaining on Facebook about all the stupid phone calls she got at work.  Better you than me, my friend!

8:30 am:  Notice a new voice mail message from Jess.  She and John left for their fishing trip today.  She just called to say good-bye and she loves me, and she can’t say more because she’ll start crying.  Oh brother.

8:35 am: Perform my morning house-sitting duties.  I unblock and unlock the cat door, then check Sahara’s water.  The food is gone.  You’ll recall that she didn’t show up when I fed her last night, nor did she come in for the night…where the hell did her food go?!  Maybe a window upstairs is open where she can sneak in.

9:00 am: Can’t decide if I want to walk down to the Reyn this morning or not.  I’m hungry now, so I heat up half of a veggie burger leftover from last night.  I read through my email, check Facebook, and catch up on blogs that I follow.  I notice my toes are frozen, which is strange because my feet are never cold.  I don’t even remember the last time I wore socks, but I happen to have a pair so I pull them on.  I can’t walk across the kitchen floor in them.

9:10 am:  Shelly calls on the house phone again.  They’re at a Nissan dealership in Reno, NV, because their fuel pump died.  It’s difficult to get to:  their whole back seat has been removed and all of their luggage and assorted trunk crap are piled next to the car.  They have at least two hours to kill until the car is ready.  This isn’t the first time they’ve had to take their car in for work on vacation.  It might not even be the second.

I tell Mom about the cat food.  She asks Rob if there’s a window open upstairs.  Yes, he says, but there’s a screen on it.  I check it myself.  The screen’s intact.  What manner of rabid critter came in and ate the cat’s food?  And how?  Am I lucky to be alive? It’s too much for my brain to comprehend right now.

9:30 am:  The veggie burger was insufficient.  I need to go to the Reyn.  Since it’s so close I really should walk.  I even have new sneakers.  And socks!

Wednesday foot

New shoes! New socks!

I can’t convincing myself to walk.  I’m can’t even convince myself to go, really.  I should take a shower.  I can’t convince myself to take a shower.  WTH is going on with me this morning?  It’s too cold for a shower.  There’s a heater in the bathroom.  I need my laptop.  I need water.  Walking back-and-forth through the house has me warmed up.  I finally take a shower.

10:30 am:  Can’t seem to organize my thoughts.  Should I go to the Reyn or not?  Should I walk or not?  Of course I should walk, duh.  Should I wear a dress today?  A dress would be nice, but then oh then I can’t…I can’t…shoes.  I can’t wear sneakers.  If I wear a dress.  Jeans.  I can wear sneakers with jeans and walk.  Yes, I should walk.  Why do I feel so dopey?  Do I even

11:00 am:  want to go to the Reyn?  Yeahhhh theyhavewi-fi.  Laptop!  I should charge it.  Lay down a sec.  Gotta finish getting dressedooh I forgot to send someone my blog address walkin’ ‘cross the housez me winded…

Wait a minute…why am I winded?  Iron!  Good grief, I’ve let myself get anemic again.  No wonder I’m having issues.

11:30 am:  Drive to the Reyn for a proper breakfast. Vitamins and supplements come with me.  The eggs today remind me of my grandmother’s.  Even my coffee cup looks like something out of her house.

Wednesday breakfast

The Reyn Special (wheat toast not shown.)

Wednesday coffee

Wednesday coffee.

12:00 pm:  Publish “Noncation, Day 1.”  Compose “Noncation, Day 2.”  I wonder if I should be drinking coffee, seeing as it might block my iron absorption.  Psh!  I’m at a coffee shop; how can I not have coffee?

Something o’clock pm:  Still feeling funky, though not as bad as this morning.  I can form complete thoughts in the present, but the past looks like this:

Spinning teacups

Spinning teacup madness.

I remind myself to keep taking iron until my body says stop, which it will eventually, but has not yet.  At some point Jess texts me that John is already being an ass.  By the time I respond he’s treating her like a princess.  Gotta love young adults.  She leaves one more voice mail just before they set sail.  Joe and I have dinner at Daphne’s (Greek-ish, healthy-ish).  I catch the tail end of my favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance.  I feed the cat.  She looks startled.  Joe leaves. House-sitting duties happen.  I crash into bed.

Noncation, Day 2

7:30 am:  Wake up against my will:  Shelly is calling on the house phone.  They are at a rest stop outside of Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Their car won’t go more than 30 mph uphill, so Rob is replacing the coils.

8:00 am:  Might as well start my day.  Shelly’s shower has a neat “mist” setting, but I can’t figure out the hot water.  (Bathroom renovations were a DIY project, so the hot water situation is tricky.)  I head to my parents’ bathroom for a normal shower.  I count 4 bottles of shampoo, 3 bottles of conditioner, and a bottle of men’s 3 in 1 body wash/ shampoo/ conditioner, or /moisturizer, or /whatever.  Mom’s hair is buzz-cut and Rob’s isn’t much longer, so why they need so many wet-hair products is beyond me.

9:00 am:  Head out to breakfast with my laptop.  I try to pull yesterday’s pictures off my camera’s memory card, but I freeze my beloved computer.  I imagine that it’s saying, in a very robotic voice, “Does not compute…does not compute…”

10:00 am:  Start chatting with a friend.

1:00 pm:  Finish chatting with a friend.

2:00 pm:  Arrive at my own home to check on my offspring.  I take Jess and John to pick up some last-minute odds and ends for the fishing trip.  I invite them to dinner.  We call Drew to invite him, too.  He’ll come, but Jess and John didn’t tell him they were leaving and now he’s upset.  Normally, that would make him happy.  Looks like PMS today.

PMS: Pre-Manhood Syndrome.  It’s the same as female pre-menstrual syndrome only cheaper, cramp-free, and less predictable.

3:00 pm:  Meet with my coach, Claire.  Coaching is hard to summarize, but I’d say Claire is a mentor who helps me move forward when my life feels stuck.  An early session went something like this:

Claire – If you didn’t have any worries and could do anything in the world, what would you do?

Me – I’d go back to school and become a writer.

Claire – Go back to school.  Become a writer.

It wasn’t that simple, but you get the idea.

4:30 pm:  Compose “Noncation, Day 1” blog post.  I resolve the problem with the photos.  I realize I haven’t taken any new ones today.  Bummer.

6:30 pm.  Arrive back at my parents’ house.  Shelly sends me a picture of the folks from her phone:

The Folks

Mom and Rob on vacation.

I text back, “They’re still smiling!  Good job, Shell!”

7:30 pm.  Dinner at Robin’s BBQ.  The food is marginal and the service is worse.  I remember thinking the same thing last time we ate here.  I decide not to eat here again.  Someone at another table orders the Big Messy Sundae.  It’s a huge dessert goblet dunked in hot fudge, rolled in pecans, and filled with a half quart of ice cream, more fudge, and whipped cream.  John’s jaw drops to the floor.  I decide I might come back, but only for dessert.

9:45 pm:  Braid Jess’s hair into two tight French braids so she won’t have to bother with it on the trip.  I haven’t fed the cat yet.  Usually she’s at her dish crying by now.

10:30 pm:  Joe takes everyone home.  Peace and quiet at last!

11:30 pm: Put wet food in Sahara’s dish.  I bang on it hard with the spoon so she can hear it wherever she is, but she’s a no-show.

12:00 am:  Conduct my pre-bedtime duties.  I see Sahara outside, so I try to coax her in.  She stares at me like I’m a monkey, then gracefully ducks under Rob’s car.  My instructions are to lock the cat door and block it with a huge rice container whether Sahara is in or out.  I guess she’s out tonight.

12:30 am:  Crawl into bed.  I only leave one kitchen light on this time, but I fall asleep with the TV on.