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Sometimes I feel like Rapunzel or Snow White from a mythical fairytale. Only I have short white hair and never sleep less than 7 or 8 hours even if there were a pea under the mattress. There is no wolf either, nor 7 dwarfs, nor 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or even one.

The fact is though, I may have kissed a frog who turned into a wizard who freed me from a melancholy spell where I was comatose and jailed in a tower indefinitely (with not enough hair to weave a long braid to escape) and only one way to break the spell – a froggy/turned into a prince kiss.

Phew! Now there was a long sentence!

But all along it was the Covid-19 corona virus that sent me into solitary confinement and a stupor for over a year. Well, not entirely solitary. Bill was here trying to be the frog prince all along. But it was an evil spell for sure and much like when all the members of the kingdom were caused to fall into a deep sleep and then nothing in the kingdom worked.

Now suddenly the frog became prince and we are free! The spell seems to have been broken. I have been given a twice injected magic elixir that rendered me immune. And even Bill, the froggy prince, has had his magic elixir injections and will soon be immune too.

People are escaping,

meeting,

dining,

talking

and sharing almost like pre-cursed days in the happy kingdom.

Yes, there is joy in the kingdom but there are remnants of the spell threatening to reconstitute and reignite.

And as I jump for joy (well, not really since I have a bad hip) and begin to harbor ideas of entertaining friends and family, there is a dark foreboding that this Once-Upon-a-Time fairytale story may not be over until it is well, over.

Thus, since he is handy and immune, I am keeping the froggy prince around to guarantee awakening.

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My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

Life and Death

Bill and I are finally both innoculated against the nasty Covid-19 virus. Bill got his second Modurna shot this afternoon and I am almost a month since my last Pfizer shot. We are so relieved that now our son and grandgirls can come and visit and suddenly the world seems open to our presence. We are celebrating life even if we do still wear masks, keep our distance and wash and rewash hands. Life is good!

But two days ago my little brother, Steve, called to tell us the love of his life (our sister-in-law, Vivienne) had passed away. It is impossible to comprehend.

Viv was not only a relative, but a friend, and they were our eager travel companions too. Our last trip together was a river cruise through Germany. Viv was so delighted to be there and to be with us. She was so happy to be walking through the little towns where we docked, and all the cobblestone streets and exploring the old world with new eyes.

And everybody on board loved her.

Nothing new.

Everybody always loved Viv.

My heart aches for Steve and our two nieces, Judy and Christi, and David, her grandson. And although we are celebrating Life After Covid, we are also mourning the death of a beautiful warmhearted, giving sister-in-law who was a vital part of our lives.

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My Dad was Hungarian and a very good cook. I think he even had his own Hungarian restaurant once.

Mom, on the other hand, was known far and wide for her burnt porkchops and except for a few tried and true ultra-simplistic recipes, she was not considered an inspiring cook.

Maybe it is true that opposites attract.

But Mom’s brave attempts at gourmet cooking caused Dad to make a teasing proclamation he repeated often at the family dinner table. It was an anonymous quote guaranteed to make Mom angry when she had done the cooking.

And the impact of those words echo in my memory and remain a constant reminder today of what constitutes a good cook.

What did my Dad say to provide such contemplation and inspiration?

He said, “The cook is not in love!”

And that meant there was not enough salt!

Nowadays we all seem to be “watching our salt” intake. Still, there is something to be said for tasting as you go. And that was the way of the best cooks in my Dad’s experience. Poor Mom stayed quiet and just kept trying.

On occasion Dad would give me his recipes for the dishes I liked best. Here’s a good one, for the most favorite dish in my family.

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

For a family of four: 6-8 chicken pieces or more.

In large pot, melt 2 sticks of butter.

Add 2 large chopped onions and saute until onions are translucent.

Add the larger pieces of chicken (breasts) skin side down.

Spoon some of the onion over each layer.

On top of that, add the smaller pieces of chicken skin side down.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Reverse and turn everything.  Now put smaller pieces of chicken on the

bottom skin side up and the bigger pieces on top of that, skin side up.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes more.

You should now have lots of juice.  If not, add some water.

Also now add lots of paprika – 4 or 5 or 6 tablespoonsful. 

You are looking for a very orange colored gravy.

Simmer another 15 minutes.

Your Hungarian Paprikash is done!

Serve over cooked egg noodles or spaetzle.

Serve with sour cream on the side.

The odd thing about this recipe is the only spice is Paprika. NO salt or pepper are called for and in fact discouraged. Each diner can add salt or not at will. And no comments will be made about the cook not being in love.

Sunshine Coming

Born and bred in the Sunshine State of Florida I adored rainy days and loved the sound of raindrops pitter-pattering on the windows. There was joy too in the excitement generated with the onset of a tropical winter’s whistling winds and cooler temps.

I live now, in Virginia where there are actually four seasons. And sometimes winter seems extraordinarily long. This has been one of those howling unexpected seasons when Spring is a distant memory and the elderly who have been in self imposed Covid-19 isolation begin to yearn for the sun.

Is a visiting Robin really a harbinger of Spring?

Today I thought I saw a Robin flitting through the barren branches of a Virginia Winter, a winter which boasted its gloomy days and featured overcast skies, ominous clouds, snow, sleet, freezing rain, and a disappearing sun.

Was my visiting Robin a mirage or the result of wishful thinking?

Oh, I am so ready to toss the fuzzy slippers and the warm-as-toast sweaters and awkward scarves and gloves and proclaim the winter “Said and Done!”

Then again, snowfalls and spring flowers are landscape reminders of times past and times to come. Tired of one season? Wait a minute. The weather will soon change.

And whether or not my rockin’ robin visitor was real or a conjured image of the imagination, he cocked his head and said, “Get ready again my friend because sunshine’s coming your way!”

Another Dog’s Tale

This is Me, Elsa

They call me a Rescue Dog but I am really just a dog, a descendent of the mighty wolves of long ago. I actually remember bits and pieces of that ancient time when we depended upon our wolf families to survive. This leftover is a dog who still thinks the family/pack is everything.

I remember my ancient mother licking my face to tell me I was safe and cared for. And I remember roughhouse playing with my siblings as practice for real hunting and fighting. But mostly I remember the “now times” and my first, second and third human families.

My name is Elsa.

I am a little rescue dog with big wolf ideas.

In this life I have some bad memories.

My first human family did not really want puppies so they gave me to a kennel where I lived in a cage. Then a mean couple finally adopted me. I had a home but it was not a happy place because the man hit the lady and made her cry. I would growl at him and bark but he hit her anyway and he hit me too. I think he broke one of my ribs because it still sticks out and I don’t like anyone touching there. I also cringe and flinch if you try to pat me on my head.

The mean couple trained me to never to “go” on the grass. They thought the neighbors would complain. To avoid getting hit or kicked I learned to always go on the edges, on the concrete or gravel even though that was uncomfortable and sometimes hot on my feet.

I never learned to play either because there were no toys in that house. As hard as I tried I suppose I never did anything right because the mean couple ended up leaving me at a kennel. Their reason given was they simply did not want me. I was back living in a cage.

The next people who adopted me gave me back too and said it was because of hospitalization. I never bit anyone but maybe they thought I did. I am not sure why they were hospitalized. Then I was put in a foster program instead of in a kennel. The foster people tried to be nice but they had too many dogs to care for. Every Saturday they took us to a pet store in Virginia where people came to meet us and maybe take us away.

How I hated Saturdays! The noise was unbearable because all the foster dogs barked and cried at once. We were all so afraid of all the strangers and there was this awful smell of fear.

But there was a lady who walked with a stick who came in that Saturday.

They brought her a chair and they took me to a cage that was right next to her. I fought with the two attendants who were trying to put me in there when the lady said, “Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.” And so I sat on-leash, next to the lady with my head on her foot, shivering and looking into her eyes to thank her in the only way I could.

That nice lady was named Dor and she was with another nice one named Emmy. They did not know me and I could not tell them how afraid I am of cars. Cars always take me to another horrible place. But Emmy and an attendant put me in the back seat of a car where I did some serious shaking and shivering. Emmy drove and Dor sat next to me. She wrapped me in her coat, held me close, and talked to me in a soft voice. She said, “It’s o.k. You are going home to a nice place where people will love you.” And she kept stroking my face and my ears like my real dog mother used to do and all the wolf mothers before her.

And I thought, “I will never forget this human. I will never forget.”

We drove for a long time to a house with other people and even a dog named Kota, who was much bigger than me and very very nervous. In fact, Kota turned out to be so nervous, she could not be still.

We went inside but I was sure they would soon take me to another kennel and another cage. I really wanted to explore but there were so many people talking at once and Kota kept running around nonstop. Finally I growled as if I were Mighty Wolf and scared Kota onto a chair with her mistress.

It was a relief to sleep that night in a dark room with Dor and Bill. I slept on a blanket at the foot of their bed and it was heavenly quiet. Everybody left in the morning except for Dor and Bill. Now we three would get to know each other and I somehow knew this would be my forever family,

I think I am as smart as any other dog, but it took a day and a night and some more experiences to believe I had a new home where the humans actually liked me.

Dor was the one human I decided to take care of.

I followed her everywhere and still do.

I sit behind her chair but if she moves I move.

I have been here two years now and all this time she thought I was the one who needed protecting. Even when I bark at strangers she thinks I am afraid for myself.

The truth is, I am protecting HER – not me. I do love all her soft words of praise and love and the gentle petting too. But I know my real purpose is to protect her and my family.

I knew this from the very first moment I heard her say,

“Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.”

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Another Valentine’s Day came and went,

The only card I received was from my oldest, longest friend, Kit the Wit. Kit knows me well since we have been friends since childhood. Anyway, she knows I married a good kind generous loving man who does not believe in Valentine’s Day.

In our younger life together I put on a brave show of agreeing with Bill.

“It’s a Hallmark Holiday,” said we.

“It’s all commercialized.”

“Yup.”

And so the years went by. When hearing about our strange family custom, some friends sent cards and even candy but those acts of sympathy never lasted long. Only Kit the Wit persisted in remembering that her old friend always spent Valentine’s Day wishing for a surprise.

This Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2021 came and went like all the others.

Until February 15, 2021 – the day after! Actually the night after.

It was already dark and a holiday (President’s Day) so we were not expecting any deliveries, but suddenly Elsa the Dog began frantic barking and the lights of a delivery truck lit up the house. It was a gift from our three grandgirls – a beautiful box of chocolates with fond wishes for our enjoyment.

How wonderful is that?

THANKYOU MY SWEET AND THOUGHTFUL GRANDDAUGHTERS FOR LITERALLY MAKING OUR DAY!

AND HAPPY BELATED VALENTINES TO YOU TOO!

We love you more than you will ever know!

Ballgame Peanuts

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Once upon a very long time ago, when I was but a wee bit of a girl, my parents took me and my little brother to semi-professional ball games at a local park. It was a way to cool off in the evenings since we lived in Florida and had no air-conditioning in those good old days.

To us kids, those parktime excursions were wondrous, not only for the star quality of the young athletes in their dashing uniforms, but for the air of excitement and the vendors who went up and down the stands hawking, “Get your hot dogs here! Get your peanuts here!”

And Dad would buy us each a bag of warm wonderful peanuts. I think they were maybe 10 cents a bag. But what I recall is the delightful aroma.

The memory of those rich fragrant little bags of nuts stayed with me for years until I found out how to make my own replica in my own kitchen. Since then I have been giving tins of them for gifts, offering them up when company comes (before and hopefully after Covid), and keeping batches of them in my freezer.

Now, if you are allergic to peanuts, feel free to burn this page. But if you are not, just follow the recipe for Dor’s Home Roasted Peanuts.

DOR’S HOME ROASTED PEANUTS

INGREDIENTS:

One pound of Raw Blanched Peanuts (I get mine at a local Farm store, but I am sure you can order them online too).

Regular salt and if you have it,

Seasoned salt (usually more powdery than regular salt so it sticks better to the peanuts)

1 1/2 teaspoons butter (I use coconut oil but butter is fine too – it’s just to give the salt something to stick to).

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Pour all the raw peanuts into a rimmed pan. I use the bottom of my broiler pan.

Put the pan full of nuts into the oven and the timer on for 6 minutes.

After 6 minutes, stir them up and move them around for more even baking.

Time them again for 6 minutes. Repeat.

Repeat the 6 minute timing and shuffling for a total of 3 or 4 times.

When the peanuts look golden and brown enough, immediately remove from oven and stir in the butter all around to give the peanuts a light coating (just enough for the salt to stick to). If you use 2 teaspoons of butter it will probably be too much.

Now simply start salting to taste. I start with the stickier Seasoned Salt, generously apply and stir around. Then the regular or sea salt – apply and stir.

Serve warm or serve right out of the freezer. Mostly, ENJOY!

The taste of these peanuts is totally different than anything store bought. They are as close to the Ballgame Peanuts of my childhood as I have ever found.

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It has been a very long year – well, almost a year – of high hopes and plans to get the much ballyhooed Covid-19 vaccination. Bill and I have followed all the rules and pretty much hunkered down and separated from family and friends.

And since I am still having trouble walking with a BigFoot that moved to the other foot and then from those two feet to the knees and then to my right hip, Bill is the “outside man” for shopping and errands and I am the “inside woman” with the chores I can handle.

We both decided months ago that we would get the vaccine ASAP! “We will be at the top of the list,” we thought, “because we are over 65!”

That was before a doctor I admire warned that if I was waiting for a vaccine, it would be a long wait. He was sure all the healthy young people would get it first. It made no sense to him but that is what he believed. “And why should I get it before you do when you are at the most risk from dying?” he asked.

Now it looks like we are actually closing in on qualifying for the arm jabs that hopefully will ward off death.

It sounds like vaccination appointments will be coming up over the next two weeks in our Central Shenandoah Health District in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Yes!

Finally there are notices that we are moving into Phase 1b in our specific district!

So why am I plagued with ongoing questions?

  • Is this cause for hope and celebration?

I have a more “believe it when I see it” attitude.

  • Will we really get the first shot?
  • And will we really then get the second one?

Somehow I am not sure of the value of our lives.

  • Will there be enough left for us after the masses of younger Essentials?
  • Will we have bad reactions?
  • How long will the protection last?
  • Will we have to get re-vaccinated every year?
  • Would it be better to wait for the one dose vaccine?

We are on the brink of beating the horrible virus that took over so many lives. At least that is what the experts keep telling us.

When we have passed the finish line and all of us have won the race for immunity, I will try to write another blog post in a real celebration for all the questions answered and all the lives saved.

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