concrete building with tower

Check it off the list: I finally watched Casablanca. You don’t realize how many references there are to this movie until you see the movie. Something that surprised us is that one of the movie’s most enduring lines, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” is uttered more than once in the movie. Four times! 

We checked it out of the library, and the version we watched included audio commentary from the late great Roger Ebert. I never really liked Roger Ebert’s movie reviews with Gene Siskel, but I came to know and love Mr. Ebert on Twitter a few years before he passed away. It was a nice surprise to get the full context and backstory from a friend, long gone. 

Sing it with me!

Well, this was a first

white and black dice on blue textile

Birds, mice, frogs, scorpions, slugs, all kinds of spiders, ants, moths and many unidentified insects: yes.

Snakes? No. 

We had a snake in our house. A small snake, a garter snake. Quite pretty. Nonetheless, it was where it ought not be. And then, startled by an over interested cat and dog, it made its escape down an air vent. 

This is the part of the story where I reassure my dear readers that this story has a happy ending.

Still, a vent is not a good home for a snake. So we herded all the overly interested furkids out of the room. Removed the vent cover and built a barricade around the vent, making the exit out the nearby window the very best option. I had a little conversation with the snake. I’m no parselmouth, but I did my best to gently encourage her to exit the building.

Eventually, the snake made an appearance in the opening of the vent, watching carefully for the cat, no doubt. 

I took Buddy for a walk and left Robert to help the snake to make her exit. She did and stayed on the porch for a while to get her bearings before gliding off to parts unknown. 

How did she get in? I do not know and that’s a bit of a worry. Best guess is that she was coiled in a plant that I brought in earlier in the day. I hope she let the other snakes know that outside was the better option. I’ll definitely check the plants more carefully before bringing them inside.


Fun! Jim Stafford and Dolly Parton “Spiders and Snakes”

If you know, you know. Laurie Anderson “Langue D’amour”

Got the jab

Covid-19 Vaccine photo illustration by Ivan Diaz

I received my first dose of the Covid-10 vaccine (Moderna). Vaccines and flu shots are troubling to some people, but it’s always been a straightforward risk assessment to me–is going without it a bigger risk? If the answer is yes, I do it. Covid-19 has devastated communities all over the world. We’ve collectively lost too many loved ones. For me, protecting each other means doing what I can to support public health: hand washing, face coverings, social distancing, and getting the vaccine. 

I’ve also had the flu so bad that I thought I was going to die. After that, I willingly accept any and all shortcomings of the flu shot and vaccines. Any protection is better than none. Also, I’m willing to bet that anyone who uses the phrase “just the flu” has not actually had influenza.

If you have been vaccinated, yay! If you choose not to be vaccinated, I hope you will take the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I want you around for a long time. 

You can’t always get what you want

Smitten written in tiles

There is so much to love about the story behind the meme–and the mittens.

Also, I love everything about this gift made for Bernie from a friend/supporter/constituent. It was made with love and recycled/found materials: recycled sweater, fleece made from recycled bottles, second-hand thread.

I have to say that as much I would like to be as fashionably iconic as Lady Gaga, I am much more like Bernie. I would definitely prioritize being warm over being fashionable. And I admire that Bernie is always exactly who he is. WYSIWYG. And smittens, sewn knit mittens are actually in my wheelhouse, since I am much handier with a sewing machine than I am with knitting needles. And sewing with repurposed materials is good for the planet.

If sewist and creator Jen Ellis made mittens full time, she would probably have enough work to keep her busy until the summer, but mittens are an act of love for her, not a financial transaction. My favorite quote from this interview with CNN: “…sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”

But if you try, you can get what you need.

If you need a mitten pattern, check out this one from Fleece Fun: or this tutorial from Instructables:

Cover Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Spicing up weeknight dinners

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

I subscribe to the Five Weeknight Dishes email from the New York Times. I often peruse it, but we rarely make anything. Printing off – and making! – three of the five recipes in a single week is decidedly blog-worthy. 

We are vegetarians, so some modifications were needed, and I noted those below.

Here’s what we made: 

Pasta Puttanesca

The best part of this recipe is the sauce. This is the easiest sauce recipe I have ever made. It was ready before the pasta. We used Cento brand canned Italian tomatoes. These are saucy right out of the can, so no need to drain them.

A substitute for anchovies is capers, so we used more capers than called for in the recipe. 

This mushrooms-on-toast recipe was easy and delicious. No creme fraiche options in grocery store pickup, so we substituted sour cream, which worked great. Sliced baby bella mushrooms made this a quick meal, and we served it on Dave’s Killer Bread to keep it on the healthy side.

For the Sheet-Pan Scallion Chicken(less) with Bok Choy we used two bags of baby bok choy and a bag of breaded veggie chicken-less tenders from Trader Joe’s. This dish is way fancier than what we usually make for a weekday meal, but it was quick and delicious. I used less oil than the recipe called for (which is my typical practice).

All three recipes are winners and are now on the repeat list. We’ve made the pasta dish three times in the past two weeks, and I now feel like capers have become a pantry staple. I was the living embodiment of the heart eyes emoji when my beloved started making Pasta Puttanesca last night for dinner. (FYI, Trader Joe’s crushed Italian tomatoes work well, too.) 

You can sign up here to receive the weekly Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter from the New York Times. 

Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Festive backgrounds for your virtual gatherings

white ornaments on a fir Christmas tree

I am not a big fan of virtual backgrounds — they always feel a little off to me, but special occasions seem to beg for a party backdrop. ‘Tis the season for virtual decor, so here are a couple of virtual background repositories that will help you deck the halls for that holiday Zoom call:

Goldie turned 20

Gold Toyota Tacoma, AKA Goldie

I am a girl who loves pickup trucks. I drove a Volvo, Toyota Tercel, and VW Rabbit in my younger days, but now it’s all trucks all the time. My first Toyota truck, Black Beauty, is enjoying retirement in Arizona with a friend who just put classic car plates on the old girl. He hopes that will keep people from following him home to see if he wants to sell her. (She’s that great.)

My current truck, Goldie, is still a few years from those plates but that’s her future. About the time that I got Goldie, I had a herniated disk that did a number on me. One of the side effects was a loss of feeling in my left foot, something that made driving a stick shift a little nerve-wracking. So I switched to an automatic: a gold Toyota Tacoma V6 with the extended cab. The power steering, windows, and locks all felt luxurious when I first got her. Do I wish she had 4WD? Why yes, yes I do. When you live in Arizona, V6 is more helpful than 4WD (hello, drive to Flagstaff). In all my other home states, 4WD would have been more helpful.  If you have a choice, go for both 4WD ANDV6! Third option! 

The Blue Friends

Peanuts lined up on the fence for the birds.

Steller’s Jays are frequent visitors to our yard. They are large (about 12 inches) crested blue songbirds native to our region. These birds look like they are sporting mohawks, which, of course, makes me love them even more. I call them The Blue Friends.

I know from our time in Reno that they like peanuts in the shell, so I started buying peanuts. I would put them out and retreat to watch the show. One of the amazing things about Steller’s Jays is their ability to stuff many unshelled peanuts in their mouths before flying off to cache them or snack in private.

Pretty soon, I felt like I was being watched when I stepped out on to the balcony. I would hear their distinctive “Skreeka! Skreeka!”

“Hey, Lady,” they seem to say.

And I would often oblige with a bowl of peanuts.

Finally, I had to buy a gigantic bag of peanuts from the local feed store. Now, I put them out almost every morning. This morning, I started work early and forgot about the peanuts along with sunflower seeds in a bird feeder for my little bird friends. I could hear The Blue Friends outside my office and had the odd feeling that they had spotted me through the window.

“Hey, Lady! “

I jumped up to take the peanuts and bird feeder out—anything for The Blue Friends.

Steller’s Jay, photo by Douglas Robinson, Oregon State University on Flickr (CC)

Gift Ideas

Woman presenting a wrapped gift with a red bow

‘Tis the season! I read today that on top of the regular waste produced, Americans generate an additional 25% more trash Thanksgiving and New Years, about one million tons more waste per week. I think we can do better: we can reduce consumption, buy gifts that last, give gifts that are experiences, and help others. Here are some ideas to get you started. These aren’t affiliate links, just 10 my favorite things, from free to $76.00+. Add your own and remember the Earth we share in all that you do.

Gift of time: One of my all-time favorite gifts is the gift of time. Take someone out shopping, to the movies, help around the house, do some Netflix binging (The Crown, anyone?) Free or nearly so, but you can make someone feel rich.

Gift of listening: Brush up on your active listening skills and give the people you love the gift of listening this year. Everyone likes to be heard. It’s a gift that keeps giving. Free but also so valuable.

Gift of story: Record family or personal stories in writing or with a video or audio recording. Use a composition book, your smartphone, whatever you have handy. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Additional resources available at the Story Corps website. Free and also priceless.  

Cherry Republic: We have been the lucky recipient of a couple of gift boxes from Cherry Republic. The Little Six Gift Box is $65; is the Cherry Cheer Gift Box is $70.

Serrv: buy beautiful gifts from around the world that support artisans (many are women and people with disabilities who might otherwise have difficulty finding work). Delight your loved ones with fair trade, ethically made foods, home items, jewelry and more. My favorites: Divine Chocolate, including the Mini Dark Chocolate Bars, Zanzibar Island Spice, Decorative Baskets, Nativities of all kinds, and much more. I am a big fan of the Layered Peace Wreath. $3.95 and up.

One Simple Wish: Grant a wish for a kid living in foster care on behalf of someone you love. You can sort by gender and geography to make the gift as special as your recipient. For extra fun, make or buy your loved one a magic wand and grant wishes together. Every amount counts.

Splendor: This may be my most-played board game of all time. Since early April, I have played almost every day. We play asynchronously, taking a turn when we have a free moment. One turn at a time has translated into hundreds of games. Check out The Rules Girl for the 3-minute video on how to play. Splendor is available at Target, but I suggest that you pick it up at your local game store if you have one. $40

Cutco: I have had Cutco knives FOREVER. Made in the U.S. and guaranteed forever. They are still sharp, and they are still my favorites. I think the Trimmer is their most versatile knife, $76.

Art Inc: I love this book by Lisa Congdon. Let’s squash the myth of the starving artist once and for all! Signed copy for $16.95

Let’s Make Art box: These monthly art kits contain four watercolor projects and access to online paint-alongs and tutorials. Yes, you can paint a watercolor painting on your first try. Sarah Cray helps the inner artist in all of us! $45 for a single box (and even the box is fun!). I like the Butcher Tray & Brushes Bundle for $20, too.