Thursday, February 21, 2013

Preserving the Season

One of our teachers at work has been bringing in fresh, homegrown oranges from her tree.  Let me tell you, they are addictive!  Thankfully they're good for me because I can't stop eating them.  I'm not sure why oranges that come from your own (or a friend's) tree taste so much better than the ones you buy in the grocery store, but they definitely do.

Last week when she stopped by the office, I thanked her for bringing them in and told her how much I'd been enjoying the oranges.  I mentioned that one of my goals this year was to learn how to make orange marmalade.  She thought that sounded fabulous and asked how many oranges I'd need.  I told her that the recipes I'd been looking at required 8 or nine oranges.  Two days later, she left a bag of oranges on my desk =)

Since I'm definitely one who is always up for a challenge, I knew that my first attempt at orange marmalade was in my very near future.  I mentioned it to Kevin and he thought it sounded like a great project for us for the long President's Day weekend.  Having given donated all of my canning jars in our move last summer (I know, I know, but honestly we were too darn tired to move and/or find a place for one more thing), I stopped at OSH one day and picked up a dozen canning jars and some paraffin.  (Yes, I know that paraffin is not 'the' standard for canning, but it's what I've always used to make jam.  If it was good enough for my grandmother, it's good enough for me!).

When the weekend finally rolled around, we were ready.  Kevin and I were both very excited to attempt something new.  Moreover, we could hardly wait to taste the end result on a warm, buttery biscuit.  Mmmmm.

What we discovered is that orange marmalade is not difficult to make.  Compared to other jams we've made in the past, it's a bit more time consuming (particularly preparing the ultra fine strips of peel that go in the marmalade), but certainly nothing prohibitive.  And with only three ingredients - oranges, sugar and water - it's an inexpensive way to preserve the bounty of the citrus season.

If you have an abundance of oranges, why not give it a try?  It's a cinch, and you'll be glad to have those gleaming jars of yummy orange marmalade lining your pantry shelves.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

(With apologies to Darius Rucker..)

We don't need no five star reservations, we got In'n'Out burgers and a cheap bottle of (root)beer.
We don't need no concert in the city, we got an iHome and the best of the Weirs.

Happy Valentine's Day, my Sweet.
I love YOU more!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

...maybe a little cottage garden

With spring just around the corner, we've decided that now is the time to start working on the back yard.  I've plotted out a little cottage garden with lots of colorful flowers, a couple of wrought iron obelisks, (hopefully!) an awesome section of wrought iron gate, bird houses on posts of varying heights, and a few stepping stones to round out the works.

For the most part, things are in really good shape back there.  However, there is plenty that needs to be done.  For instance, because Kevin's been working on his studio, we have all of the old files and things from the room when it was dad's office housed on the covered patio.  We've ... errr ... Kevin has been shredding old files here and there, but it's really an overwhelming task for a small home shredder.  We've been waiting for our credit union to host a shredding event, but in the meantime, he's been working away at taming the paper tiger.  Once this area is cleared out, I'll clean up the dining table and chairs, as well as the sideboard and wash all of the outdoors dishes housed in the sideboard.  I'm also debating the pros and cons of an outdoor rug in this area.  

Additionally, along the very back - which is the perfect spot for the cottage garden! - are several shrubs that have become overgrown and were never really all that attractive to begin with.  They've been there for years and I'm not sure why mom and dad never had them removed.  They are really rather random; with the exception of one of the plants, they don't flower, so they're not attractive in that respect.  One is a large, overgrown fern that is only green on the top half - the rest of it is brown and woody.  Two of the shrubs have housed plenty of plastic Easter eggs over the years, but really, they're all well past their prime.  Definitely time for a new, updated look.

There are also lots of random pots that are either empty or contain dead plants, an old (very old!) low voltage lighting system that hasn't worked in years, and the remaining tubes of a drip watering system dad had set up throughout the back yard.  We kept part of the watering system intact, but the portion along the back wall is not a section we'll be using.  I'd rather plant a garden in the above area than have plants in pots along the deck in back of the pool.

We have a small white cast iron bistro set that is in need of a good cleaning and a small umbrella to lend a bit of shade.  The brick patio outside the master bedroom needs some sprucing, too.  Mostly just cleaning the furniture and such, but there are a few not-so-healthy potted plants over there that need some tending as well.  Plus, we'll be working on some new outdoor lighting, in addition to the sweet little lanterns I'll be stationing throughout the patio and yard. The list just goes on and on.

...and so, the big clean-up is on.

Here's a look at what we'll be working on.  As you can see, we have our work cut out for us!

The goal is to have everything finished and in place by the time we return to work after Spring Break.  Wish us luck!  I'll keep you updated on our progress.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Grand Jury? ME?


I think it's Debbie's fault.  Here's why:

Deb and I are talking on the phone Christmas Eve day...

  Deb:  "The Government sent me a Christmas present!"
  Me:  "Really?  What?"
  Deb:  "A summons for Jury Duty"
  Me:  (in an oh-so-snarky tone)  "Lucky you!"  which got me thinking...
  Me:  "Wow, I haven't received a Jury Duty summons in a few years.  I used to get them every year just like clock work."

The conversation continues with the details about the pending holiday, and we both go on about our merry way.

An hour later, I go out to get our mail and what do you think I found?  If you said "A Jury Duty summons", you're absolutely correct! I said, it's all Deb's fault!

When I looked at the summons, it looked different somehow.  I opened the envelope and saw that it was a summons for a Federal Grand Jury!  Huh?  Now I've served Jury Duty many, many times in the past, but I've never been called for a Grand Jury.  Not only have I never been called for a Grand Jury myself, I don't know anyone who has, so I had no idea what to expect.  The summons indicated that I needed to complete the questionnaire as soon as possible, and that I must appear on the date indicated.  It also stated that, if chosen, the jury could either be a six (6!) month or twelve (12?!!!) month term.

Holy. Smokes.


Today was my day to report for service.  Three hundred and fifty of us gathered in a Board of Supervisors building and waited to see what would happen.  After a number of people who requested to be excused went before a Magistrate Judge to plead their case, those of us left were directed to particular areas of the auditorium.  Then they began reading names from a randomly generated list.  If your name was called, you were directed to a particular seat while the rest of the list was read.  My name was the fourth one called.  I followed the directions and was seated in the first row.  After they'd read 23 names, they stopped.  Two names were called from our row - the first person called was appointed the jury Foreman; the second name called was appointed the Deputy Foreman.  Luckily (sorta), mine was the second name called, so I'm the Deputy Foreman.  The process continued for four more rounds, making a total of five Grand Jury appointments.

Our jury was named as a Tuesday Accusatory Grand Jury, which means that every Tuesday for the next six months, I'll be serving jury duty.

Oh. My. Goodness.

What happens on a Grand Jury?  Yeah, I didn't know either.  For our jury - an Accusatory (versus Investigatory), we will report each Tuesday to the same conference room to listen to cases.  We may hear anywhere from one to ten cases in one day, but each case will be concluded on that day - there will be no carryover.  The basic gist of our job is to listen to the case, listen to a Summary Witness, and decide if we feel that the case has enough substance to hand down an indictment.  If so, that means that the case will actually go to trial.  If there is no indictment, the case will not go to trial.

So...that's it in a nutshell.

I consider myself lucky  -  for a few reasons.  Number one, my employer will pay my regular salary for each day that I serve on a jury.  What a blessing!  That means we won't suffer any financial hardship - thank God.  Secondly, I am able to take public transportation, so I don't have the headache of driving in L.A.  WHEW!  Next, I think it will be really interesting! I'll learn more about the laws and our judicial system which I think will be both helpful and fascinating.  Lastly, it's kind of an honor, I think, to be chosen to serve in this way.  While the selection is completely random, I think of it as a privilege to have this opportunity.  Just one more interesting thing to add to my amazing life journey!

Whadyawannado This Year?

I know this post is a bit late, but ...

Each year early in December, I begin thinking about what goals I'd like to set for myself for the upcoming year.

Some people call them 'resolutions' but I tend to shy away from that term.  Why?  I'm not exactly sure, really, but I think it has something to do with the fact that it sounds so final.  When you say "I resolve to...", it makes it sound as though if you don't stick to the resolution, you've failed.

Conversely, when you say "My goal is..." it sounds more like something I can actually accomplish because goals have stages.  For instance, if your goal is to play the piano, you would start with baby steps.  You learn what sounds the different keys make.  When you've got that down, you begin to learn how to read music (Every Good Boy Does Fine).  Next, you begin working on playing an easy piece.  Then you practice, practice, practice.  Each step of the way, you accomplish part of the goal, but not the actual goal itself.

Make sense?

Anyway ... on to the list of goals I'd like to accomplish this year:

~  Read at least 2 books per month.
~  Learn how to make orange marmalade.
~  Plant a cottage garden.
~  Learn how to make Greek yogurt.
~  Learn how to make ricotta and mozzarella cheeses at home.
~  Participate in our city's 'One City, One Story' book event.
~  Drink more water.
~  Get more fiber in my diet by eating more fruits, veggies and beans.
~  Try more new recipes.
~  Be better about filing papers in a timely manner instead of having them stack up.
~  Make time to work on my crafts.
~  Participate more.

These are the things that come to mind, though I'm sure the actual list will grow throughout the year.

What do YOU want to do this year?