Sunday, July 19, 2020

;PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (b)

How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2(b) 

As the summer gets hotter but thankfully with 'dry heat' here in Ojai, my girlfriend and I still meet to hike-walk a few mornings each week.  The bike trail or on sidewalks in the town's tony neighborhoods are our most frequent early morning walks, but during this pandemic time when we all need a bit of spirituality, even those who are not particularly spiritual, the Krotona center overlooking the Ojai Valley, has become a special morning walk.

 Ojai, famous for its new age-y vibe and Krishnamurti's home and spiritual center, recently reported UFO sightings by residents during 2020's harmonic conversion celebration.  Friday, the Ojai Valley News, our local paper, ran a story on the front page, "above the fold," the headline of which was "Mass meditation held to summon ET to Ojai."  What a town!  Probably why Frank Capra filmed exteriors for his "Lost Horizon" Shangri-La movie here in Ojai.  So you can see why the most 'jaded' among us might seek out a walk-hike in a place filled with spirituality during this period of isolation.

Krotona is just one of several spiritual venues that include Meditation Mount, which overlooks the Valley from another POV with its beautiful gardens, yoga classes and other sessions.  I'll save that one for another blog.  Here are some highlights from the Krotona website:

"Krotona is an international center where residents aspire to live in mutual helpfulness while reaching out to share the profound truths of Theosophy. These truths can change one’s direction of life, bringing about renewal and harmony. With an emphasis on meditation, earnest study, and inspired action, Krotona promotes worldwide healing through the uplifting of human consciousness."

"As a spiritual center, Krotona seeks to inspire and strengthen aspirants for the opportunities of daily life. The peacefulness of the estate, which also serves as a sanctuary for wildlife, reflects the ideals of the resident TS members as well as the aspirations of committed faculty, students and other friends."

Besides, it's really a pretty place to hike-walk.

The estate also has two rose gardens, a library, meeting rooms, and rooms to rent for short stays as well as the many permanent homes.

I can't say I find a feeling of nirvana walking there, but it is pretty and lifts my sequester spirits.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (a)

How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (a)
The Bike Trail

So, after eleven months, I had scheduled a mani-pedi for today, but - alas - my governor re-shutdown hair and nail salons, gyms, etc. yesterday because of the surging cases of Covid in California.  I shaved my legs for nothing.  But not to worry - no "woe is me" necessary as I live in the beautiful, rural valley of Ojai (Shangri-La or Oz to many residents) an artistic, mystical, spiritual, farming community an hour and a half north of LA, with residents ranging from farmers and winemakers to shopkeepers, writers, actors, directors, painters, sculptors, spiritualists, even movie stars. (How's that for a run-on description?)

Ojai is a unique valley and village which hosts a world famous classical music festival, the oldest amateur tennis competition in America... has an international film festival, a thriving theater community, and one the country's most sought-after resorts, an inn and spa with a PGA world-class golf course boasting breathtaking views.  Not to mention, Ojai is famous for its "pink moments" when the sun is setting and turns the Topa Topa mountains a gorgeous pale pink.  That spectacularly peaceful visage brought Krishnamurti to Ojai decades ago, along with Beatrice Wood, the mother of the Dada art movement.

But, like everywhere else in America that has a governor and a mayor with good sense, most all of the above activities have come to a halt once again.  But, we have trails and retreats where we can get outside and hike, or in my case hike-walk (hey, getting old with arthritis isn't always pretty), so today I'm focusing on my bike trail hike-walks that I've been doing with a friend (yes, we mask) during our sequester.

Our most frequent hike-walks is on the eleven mile bike trail from Ojai to the Pacific Ocean beaches of Ventura.  The trail used to be train track route for Ojai farmers to get their produce to market.

The part of the trail we hike-walk the most:

Ojai's original jail.  Drunk tank?
We pass Richard's athletic/tennis club
stone walls and arches from days gone by
a house on the trail from days gone by
Another section of the bike trail we frequest...

And yet another bike trail walk-hike...

One of the most beautiful places in America to take a hike...  so, we walk the walk while we talk the talk thru our masks.  Trail along with me as we leave the bike trail and head out to the Ojai nature conservancy and the Krotona spiritual retreat in my next blogs.

Y'all stay safe.  Wash your hands often.  Wear a mask in public.  Don't drink bleach. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 1

How I Spent My Sequester
Part 1

With all the negatives of sequestering, I have one positive.  Richard's doing all the dinner cooking (I didn't name my blog "My Dinners With Richard & Other Musings" for nothing).

At some point I'll muse about other things, but right now I'll focus on the food I've been eating and cocktails I've been drinking (and so far, weeks into the 2020 Pandemic, I've gained only two pounds... and I did NOTHING to the bathroom scale... nothing!) 

We've been starting our evenings with a cocktail - When we have one in a restaurant, it's a vodka martini (hold the vermouth) for me and single malt for Richard.  Normally we're not mixed-drink cocktail people, but hey, we're not going anywhere and neither is the liquor, so why not?  Especially after I dragged out from our cookbook closet/pantry an old (30's/40's) wooden cocktail recipe book and a 'drinks' pamphlet from the forties that I had inherited from my parents - We looked at the whiskeys in our drinks cupboard and shook up a new drink each night.  We hit new shaker heights!

Here are top favorites so far. 

Gin Fizz
Gin Orange Blossoms
Pixie Tangerine & Bourbon Sours
Scotch sours

"Penicillin" - Scotch rocks w/ Ginger Honey
Some of the sequester dinners Richard has made in our very own sequester kitchen:
Richard dishing out his shrimp scampi risotto
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese  w/ Bacon - a dish made in keto heaven
Chicken in a Tarragon(Richard added fennel) cream sauce + zucchini - divine
Crispy Frico Chicken Breast w// Mushrooms & Thyme + green beans - a freaky good frico!
Roasted Salmon w/ Peas & Radishes - a Rad dish!  (sorry)
Sauteed Salmon in Lime Butter Sauce + Corn & Broccoli - citrus-y succulent!
Sole Almondine (an all-time favorite) + summer squash & asparagus. O Sole Mio!
Korean Meatballs w/ Mashed Carrots & Peas - Seoul Food!
But, after scouring all our cook books, Richard dragged out our old Weight Watchers "123 Success Recipe Collection" and made my favorite pork chops which he hadn't made in years --- so, so good.



4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Four 4-oz boneless, lean center-cut pork chops
1 apple peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 - 1/2 cup bourbon


Spray a large nonstick skillet w/ nonstick cooking spray;  heat.  On a large sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge the pork chops in the flour mix on all sides, then saute until browned, about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate/platter.

Spray the skillet w/ more nonstick cooking spray; cook the apple, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and slightly softened.  About 2 minutes.  Transfer to the plate/platter with the pork chops.

Pour the maple syrup into the skillet, then add 1/3 cup of bourbon; stir to combine thoroughly.  Return the pork chops and apple to the skillet; reduce the heat and cook until the chops are cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the chops and apple to a new platter.

If pan juices are too thick to stir, add the remaining bourbon.  Increase the heat to high and boil  the pan juices, stirring constantly, until thick and syrupy, 1-2 minutes.  Serve on the side.

4 servings

Per serving:
301 calories
ll g total fat
4 g saturated fat
54 mg cholesterol
322 mg sodium
13 g carbohydrate
1 g dietary fiber
25 g protein
41 mg calcium

WW points per serving:  7

Bon Appetit!

However you're passing your sequester time, please be safe and well.  Wear a mask for your neighbor and stay out of crowds.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019



Over the meadow and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go...  That may be true for a lot of families in America in the 1950's as they made their way to grandma's for Thanksgiving, but not my family.  We had another route.  Dressed in our Sunday best (it was the fifties) my brother and I would climb into the backseat of my father's Ford, my mom nestled in the front passenger seat holding her onions au gratin casserole on her lap as my dad got behind the driver's wheel and drove us over the streets of Queens and through the Belt Parkway to grandma's house in Brooklyn.

Mumu and Poppy, as Robert and I were taught to call them (maybe that's what Finn children called their grandparents in Finland, I never knew for sure), lived in a brownstone a couple of blocks from Sunset Park.  We arrived at their top floor, spacious and gracious apartment, around eleven in the morning so that my mother could help Mumu prepare the Thanksgiving meal, including mom's onions au gratin that went into the oven as soon as the turkey came out to "sit" for awhile.  Poppy and my dad talked politics (argued is more accurate) and we kids were left to fend for ourselves.  Well, there wasn't much for young kids to fend for in a game-less (except cards) apartment filled with Victorian antiques and Persian carpets, so we wheedled our dad to leave politics in the living room, and take us to the park.  Poppy never joined us.

The park was expansive and quite beautiful, with gorgeous views and many places to explore, but what I remember most is the old men scattered around the park's many acres, sitting at cement tables playing chess or checkers.  I wondered if, like us, they'd had to escape their apartments for a bit til Thanksgiving dinner was ready (men who weren't chefs in restaurants rarely cooked, or even helped, back then - it was women's work).  By the time we got back to the brownstone, dinner was ready... Robert and I would wash our hands and take our assigned seats as the turkey was brought out and we all ooh-ed and ah-ed.  The table always looked splendid with Mumu's finest china and shiniest sterling silver place settings displayed on top of a white damask tablecloth.  Each of the linen napkins was fanned into silver napkin rings.  White tapered candles in silver candlesticks were lighted and dad would begin his 'carving the turkey' ritual.

The aromas of the meal made the apartment smell heavenly.  Mom would take off her apron and serve the mashed potatoes, stuffing, Mumu's cranberry sauce and string bean casserole. But, for me, it was my mom's onions au gratin that always won  the day.  It's a dish she only made three times a year... Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  Sometimes with roast beef.  Sometimes with ham or pork roast.  And, like Thanksgiving, sometimes with turkey.  A meat lover as a kid, onions au gratin was the only vegetable I really liked.  Of course, if she left out the onions and served only the 'au gratin,' I would have been a happy girl.  She had me at melted cheese. I devoured my turkey, the mashed potatoes, stuffing and dinner roll (or those carbs!) and managed to get through the string beans (I think it was the added mushroom soup and crunchy onions that did it), but I savored those onions and often had seconds.  It's amazing that I was a skinny child.

After mince meat and pumpkin pies, mom and Mumu spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening cleaning up and doing dishes as Poppy and my dad retired to the living room.  Poppy was not a verbose kind of fellow except when arguing politics.  He'd lived in America since he was 18, but still preferred to speak Finnish.  He wasn't affectionate and rarely talked to my brother or me when we were little, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought to make a connection with us.   An hour or two after dinner and Robert and I began to get bored (they didn't have a TV), Poppy would lie on his stomach on living room carpet and ask us to take turns walking on his back. Though he was a builder, he still did a lot of carpentry work and lifting on job sites, and walking on his back was comparable to getting a massage - besides, we didn't weigh all that much.  By the time we were finish and Poppy was back in his comfy easy chair, mom would be done in the kitchen.  It was time to go home.  As we left, Poppy would hand Robert and me each a shiny half dollar for relieving the soreness in his back.

By the time I was in high school, our Thanksgiving family had dwindled down to four.  Mom, Robert, Poppy and me.  Poppy moved in with us after Mumu died.  My dad was already gone. But mom eventually remarried and moved to Connecticut.  Poppy moved back to Brooklyn and I rarely saw him.  I was out of college and living on my own when he finally joined Mumu and his son, but I still have such clear memories of their apartment in Brooklyn when I was a little girl, my sleepovers there, scattered throughout the year, going to Flatbush so she could buy fabric (she was an amazing dressmaker), the beautiful Christmas and Easter outfits she would make for me in velvet and dotted swiss, but the most vivid memories of my early Thanksgivings are of walking on my grandfather's back and mom's onions au gratin.

My mom died over a decade ago and I haven't had that dish since.  This year we were invited to friends for Thanksgiving and Richard made the casserole for the gathering.  Reading my mom's handwritten recipe she had given me years ago, Richard did a little online sleuthing and found out that the ingredients used were popular for such dishes during the Depression and WWII because of rationing in America.  He made the onions au gratin true to that recipe.  It still tasted as I remembered.



2 cans of pearl onions (drained) - (today's recipes say frozen or fresh pearl onions)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2/3rd cup of evaporated milk undiluted (today's recipes say cream)

2 cups of grated processed cheddar cheese


If you're using fresh pearl onions, boil them with the skins on as it's easier to remove the skin after their cooked. Defrost frozen onions.

Preheat oven at 350 degrees (tho some online recipes say 375)

Put the drained pearl onions (canned, frozen or freshly cooked) in a greased casserole dish. 

Simmer the evaporated milk (or cream) in a sauce pan w/ salt over low heat - just below boiling (about 2-3 minutes)

Slowly add the 2 cups of grated cheese.  Stir over low heat til completely melted. 

Pour over the onions ...

and bake in the oven for about a half-hour or until bubbly and slightly brown on top.

My mom would have been so proud!!!