April 29, 2015

Numinous Moments

Our little commune is blossoming.

If you drive by the house, you might observe little bubbles of joy popping out of the chimney or escaping from open windows. The laughter is contagious and inspiring.

There seems to be a subtle contest being waged on who can create the tastiest dessert. It started with my husband sneaking into the kitchen one evening after NCIS and baking the absolute best brownies in the world (no, not that kind of brownie!). He mixed peanut butter in the batter and OMG....yummy!

Sadly for me I am trying to stay to juices and low carb/low cholesterol foods so I only had a small piece. I went to bed and prayed with all my might that the brownies would be consumed before morning!

The next night, sister and grandson decided to 'build' a cake that could compete with Tuesday evening's brownies. The conversation between the two was hilarious as they cracked eggs, debated which type of oil to use and which pan to use.  After the batter was spread out in the pan, grandson spot-poured caramel sauce and fudge sauce (leftovers from last weeks sundaes) over the batter. He than swirled the sauces throughout.

After harassing each other about the oven buzzer over and over, the cake was brought out. The great debate, To Frost Warm vs To Cool Before Frosting begin. Short lived as 'To Frost Warm (NOW) won out! Chocolate frosting was added.

Now, I am not a fan of chocolate, although I do make exceptions for Almond Joys. This cake was a hint of what heaven may hold for us. (I promise, God, to be a good girl from here on).

One evening the Food Channel had a 'upside down cake' competition!  Not to be outdone, sister and grandson decided on a peach upside down cake for dessert. Again, the laughter and joking from the kitchen was infectious. The debates and teasing included who is going to break the eggs and possibly if a couple of pieces of egg shell would corrupt the final product. The egg shells were removed.

Great deliberation was conducted regarding the viscosity of the batter! Should it be thinned with a little juice from the can, should 8 pats of butter, 1 more than the recipe called for, ruin or improve the taste. The extra pat was lovingly placed in the pan with the mutual decision that 'rich is better'!

The house was filled with a heavenly scent (still trying to be a good girl, Heavenly Father). 

Again, the great 'that's the buzzer' teasing and their masterpiece was done. Perfection!

But wait! Can upside down cake be served from the pan 'as is' or should it be flipped upside down on a serving platter? (Serving platter! PLATTER! P-L-A-T-T-E-R).

Flipping the cake won out....yes, we are enablers to grandson....get over it!

A platter was not found but a long oval serving bowl was located. This may be an opportune time to advise you, the reader, to not attempt tricky maneuvers while laughing so hard the tears are running down your face and your bladder is chuckling uncontrollably!

1....2....3.....Flip.....Fly....miss the not-platter and land across the counter in many, many pieces followed by hysterical laughter.

Yes! It was consumed and it was delicious!

Next day! Pineapple upside down cake....and that, my friends is a whole other story!

I love our little family! I do have heaven on earth.

April 09, 2015

Chasing Photo Opportunities

Photo by Toni Tona

My husband has been snapping photos of this tree on Millville Plains for about 20 years. Most photographers in the area call it "Frank's Tree" and have started gathering at the spot for sunrises and sunsets, lightening and moon rises.

Our Easter picnic was snatched from us by thunder, lightening and a torrential downpour a half hour before the picnic was to begin....'best laid plans'!  We watched the storm though until about 6:00 when we saw the clouds breaking up. My husband ran into the house, "Grab your camera, I think this is going to be good!"

We dropped Easter baskets off to two of our granddaughters then bee-lined it to Millville Plains. As we turned the last curve before 'his' tree we spotted six vehicles, six tripods and cameras and six shivering photographers standing behind their cameras! 

"Hey, Frank!" everyone yelled. "We were wondering if you'd show up!"

"Did you bring a Lightening Detector?"

"Two are expected at the store tomorrow!"

A chorus of boos was accompanied by smiles and laughter.

I usually jump out of the car and take my share of photos but this group of photographers clearly intimidated me.  They are some of the best on the west coast. I stayed in the car reading my Kindle, observing the sky with an occasional head swivel.

The sky was dramatic. The thunder and lightening did not disappoint. Every now and then I would jump out of the car and snap a photo or two, then jump back in out of the wind (and competition).
I did capture the photo above but it is definitely sub-par from the photos the camera jocks posted the next day; my husband's being the best (in my humble opinion).

Wednesday was the first day the storm was expected to break up. Frank was chomping at the bit to get a fresh-snow-on-Lassen pic. We checked the weather and road conditions for Lassen Park. Roads clear, temperature 29 degrees! 

We packed up the cameras, lenses, tripods, gloves, hats, blankets and  Chex Mix (Bold) to nourish us in case we get snowed in!

The beauty of the park was amazing. Fresh snow everywhere; only our footprints on the paths around Manzanita Lake. I stopped at my favorite spot and Frank hiked a half mile past me. We snapped pictures and waited patiently for the clouds to clear around Lassen Peak.

This was the last photo I took just before the mountain momentarily cleared. As the final clouds begin to clear, a huge bald eagle flew above me. It soared across the lake and circled several times, then flew off.

I stood with my camera at my side, mesmerized. No photo of eagle, no photo of cleared mountain top, no reflection of cleared peak in the lake...but the majesty of the eagles flight was worth it.

Photo by Toni Tona

April 07, 2015

I Love Your Mug

One of my special friends is starting up a new business creating inspirational mugs that hold a substantial amount of liquid and the handle can take three large fingers. Nothing dainty about these cups. Each mug will nourish the spirit, one sip at a time.

Mugs, cups and certain pieces of glassware are very vital instruments of life, a tool for daily rituals. I have several mugs that are favorites, depending on the mood, the weather and the drink, in other words, which ritual is at hand. I am not much of a dainty cup person..hands are big, fingers are long and dainty isn't my forte.

For a cold, winter's afternoon of reading there is my hand-crafted mermaid mug. It is no less than 4 inches across.  It holds a considerable amount of hot ginger-green tea so that refills are few which makes for more pages read under my blanket curled up in my favorite chair. The mug is thick walled so the tea remains hot for chapters and chapters of erudition.

Two of my granddaughter's, Alli and Katie, gave me my next favorite cup. The interior is pink; the handle is striped white and pink. The whimsical font on the sides reads: "Fairy Grandmother. She grants wishes and gives kisses." It is a tall-ish cup, wide diameter but thinner walls. It is great for sitting at the table on a cold morning. I wrap my hands around it and I am warmed from finger tips to  heart. It can be used for coffee or tea, mood can start out in any of my vast dispositions but I always end up feeling blessed.

Another granddaughter, Haley, gave me my next treasured favorite. It is a tall latte mug, also has a striped handle though this one is white and purple (one of Haley's favorite colors). She hand-painted it herself, inside and out; and in my favorite colors (purple being one of them). My favorite part of the cup is that she painted a peace sign on it. Does she know me or what?

We all have auspicious memories that were accompanied by a hot cup of coffee. An early morning discussion with a loved one or spouse (not that a spouse isn't a loved one but you know what I mean!).  Making some big decision or sharing earnest emotions.

Coffee is a very meaningful ritual for most of us. Henning Mankell in his book One Step Behind said it quite succinctly:

"“Police work wouldn't be possible without coffee," Wallander said.
  "No work would be possible without coffee."
  They pondered the importance of coffee in silence.”"

"“Coffee first. Schemes later.”" is how Leanna Hieber states it in her book, Darker Still.

We know, however, that cups and mugs are not for coffee alone. We do need our teas on occasion!

Monty Python always says, "Make tea, not war!"

In Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett says it best, at least in a way that I can relate to. She states,
"Writing is a job, a talent, but it's also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

Let's see; coffee; tea, oh, don't forget those cold mornings around the campfire with your big-handled cup filled to the brim with open-fire percolated coffee and Irish Cream. The smell of smoke in your hair and clothes. That's the best.

April 02, 2015

When Does It Stop?

Ever have those periods when life just dumps a huge bucket of 'stuff' on you and no matter how you dodge and duck every single drop hits it's mark?

The lyrics of an Anna Nalick song, Wreck Of The Day, has a line that goes a little like this: "driving away from the wreck of the day....and I'm thinkin' 'bout calling on Jesus."

Those lyrics have been going through my head for about 3 years now. Typically, just before I call on Jesus.

He (Jesus) has been real busy lately and has me on hold. I don't know if you've ever called heaven on a cell or landline but the wait-for-the-next-operator music is extremely tinny and a little on the flat side; must be an early 1900's recording of Amazing Grace. The only words that are clear is the phrase about a 'wretch like me'!

Apparently there is a lot of shit going down for a lot of people. A recording, that I could swear is the voice of Sister Marie Claire, my fifth grade catechism teacher, frequently disrupts the incommodious music to repeat, "We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls, please be patient and an angel will be with be you shortly."

If I get to the pearly gates...which will probably happen before I get off 'hold', I will definitely inquire of St. Peter to define "shortly".

Now is the part where I could list all of the events that have motivated me to make this call to Jesus, but with the "high volume" of calls, it sounds like a bunch of you are probably up to your knees, if not neck, in your own detritus of life.  I'm not sure any of you would be interested in the details. Let's just leave it at 'this sucks' and I'm a little worn out.

If any of you get your call through to Jesus or even his assistant can you relay the message that I'm about done...having to put down my puppies took the last ounce of reserve. I have the energy left for two, maybe three red lights on my drive to Red Bluff to see my parents and possibly the Raisin Bran box being empty...

No More, Can't Do It!