Monday, December 28, 2009


New Years Eve 1973, Mike and I were in Madras, India. We decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner even though we had very little money. We got on a city bus to ride to the restaurant on the edge of town. When we got there, I realized I had been pick- pocketed on the bus and was broke. Mike had some money so we were very careful with what we ordered so that we would have the funds to cover it. We nearly died when we got the bill because the restaurant charged for each piece of bread that was eaten from the bread basket and we had eaten two. We covered our bill but we didn’t have enough to get back to the hotel. I still remember begging a taxi driver in the dark to discount his fare. He did.

Lesson learned, I have never been pick-pocketed since. I wear a small lightweight wallet/purse with a long cord around my neck (REI) with passport, drivers license, credit card and cell phone in it. I put nothing else in it to keep it light as possible. If it is too heavy, I will be tempted to take it off and I NEVER TAKE IT OFF. NEVER,NEVER,NEVER. Not to hang on a chair, stuff in an airplane pocket, lay on a table or put on the counter in the toilet. NEVER. When I sleep, I put it in the room safe or under my pillow. Mike carries his stuff in zippered pocket on the legs of his pants. (Cargo pants) Very difficult to get robbed with those babies.

I travel all over the globe all the time and I haven’t gotten sick for ages even with all the weird flu out there. I took a hint from the crew on the cruise ships – NO MORE HAND SHAKING. In fact, I touch NOTHING with my bare skin if it can be avoided. I use paper towels, tissue, my elbow whatever to open bathroom doors, for example. I don’t even touch the cup of water the stewardess hands me (think of where her hands have been) I use the napkin she provides. Do I sound like Howard Hughes? Not really, most all the other travelers out there take the same precautions. Touch nothing and wash hands frequently with hot water. I don’t use sanitizer ever - not a fan. One problem. My travel partner, who shall remain nameless, touches all the railings in all the buildings in all the countries on earth. And then, he touches me. Bad man! By the way, sometimes he catches something.

Lastly, have a plan where to meet or what to do if you get separated from your travel partner. (Besides using your cell phone which may be super expensive overseas.) Last July Mike nearly lost me at the Amsterdam airport. I went to the ladies room and it was hidden behind a small door on a stair landing – totally weird. He was looking in the hallways like in USA. Our plan was to go back to the last place we had face time and don’t move until we are happily reunited.

This blog is dedicated to Scott and Destiny who are gearing up for Bali. Happy travels my little bunnies everywhere. And remember, travel light!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I love giving presents to young people because they NEED things. My husband and I will be married 40 years next month and we have long ago tapped out he same-o same-o gifts of robes, slippers, jewelry, tools and blah blah so the gift giving thing to each other has lost its luster.

Every time, I think of something that he might want he turns it down, except for another tool- a stud finder – but he wants to pick it out for himself. So today, three days before Christmas, we came up with this: No hollering at him for six days for any reason and more kissing during that same period.

For my gift, he fought with the people in India for hours and hours to get them to give him a number to call a woman in Canada to beg her to fix my new computer that isn’t working AGAIN. He convinced her to replace it with an upgrade. It is being built in China as I write this. My heart beats with happiness.

I also have two more surprises for my husband. I found a recipe for snickerdoodles – his favorite childhood cookies which I am going to bake for him on the sly. And I bought a Calvin Klein push-up bra on the sale table at Macys. I am going to wear it Christmas morning. Trust me, he’ll love it!

Friday, December 18, 2009


The food section of the Denver Post, Dec. 16 was the fourth in their “Start to Finish” series in which they follow local ingredients from production to the table Well, in many ways it told me more about the production of eggs in our country than I really felt comfortable with. Then again, it helped me decide which eggs to buy when standing in front of the refrigerator case offering way too many choices.

In order to be labeled “cage free”, the chicken must not be shut up in a cage. So the chicken is squeezed (crammed) into a warehouse with twenty thousand other birds. The photo showed them pressed together so tightly that it would be a major undertaking to turn around. Regulations for this labeling by American Humane require that the birds have a place to scratch the earth. The person interviewed said that only a couple of hundred birds use this area. We’ll, I wonder how a foot high chicken can find this scratching area without a GPS unit and a bevy of bodyguards to push a wake through the crush of chickens between her and the bare earth. By the way cage free chickens never go outside.

“Organic eggs” sound the best to me. These chickens get to go outside. However, my daughter told me that she heard that some companies allow the chickens to go outside only a few minutes a day to satisfy the requirement s to get this label. Then it is back to prison.

Anyway, the whole thing of big business agriculture smacks of animal abuse to me. All I know is that the cheapest eggs have thin, uneven, grayish shells and the pricey eggs look and taste so, so much better. Also, I do not want to support abusing animals with my grocery dollar. Eggs are a bargain even at the higher price.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I am no fan of the senseless killing of trees in any form. I turned in my ax years ago and no longer butcher a beautiful tree and watch it rot in my living room for two weeks before dragging it to the curb the day after Christmas. There are probably dumber traditions that pop up during the holidays – but, at the moment, I can’t think of any.

In my last neighborhood, I was appalled at the mountains of packaging and wrapping paper heaped on the curb waiting for the garbage truck after the gift opening frenzy on Christmas morning. Add to that the ton of mailers, catalogues and junk mail we receive and Americans must be the world leaders in manufacturing paper waste, hands down!

According to the January issue of Better Homes and Garden magazine, one of the two top resolutions people make as they look ahead to the New Year is to get organized. So why not start with cutting down on the amount of paper that flows through your home? Call the companies that mail you junk and ask them to stop. Don’t buy anything from anybody who sells your name to mailing services. Get your bills on-line. Cut way back on subscriptions – unless you’re faithfully reading them. Don’t buy over-packaged crap. The list goes on and on. Go online or check your library for books on simple solutions to conquering paper clutter.

I make it a game to generate as little waste as possible. I love wheeling my massive garbage can to the curb each week when it has hardly anything in it and is as light as a feather.

Oh, and the answer to “Paper or plastic?”

“Neither, thank-you!” Keep bags in your trunk and reuse them over and over. Give the trees a break. They are busy providing habitat, bearing nuts and fruit, producing oxygen, providing shade, beauty and stabilizing the topsoil.

Thursday, December 10, 2009



Do I like to cook? It depends. In the summer, I would rather be gardening, painting, hiking or writing. If I miss a meal - no problem - I can stand in my garden and munch like a bunny or live on watermelon. This month, however, is a different story; ambrosia has been rolling out of my kitchen. Because the weather has been so frigid, filling my house with scents of roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary and other wonderful smells (homemade oatmeal cookies with cinnamon, homemade chai with cardamom) is necessary to keep up the will to live. It is just too cold not to be eating grounding, nurturing meals.

My cooking style can be described as COOKING FROM THE PANTRY. I look in my refrigerator and pantry to see what I have and use it to create something nurturing. There is no following recipes which demand ingredients like watercress or gorgonzola which I do not keep around. But I may have buffalo mozzarella that is approaching its expiration date and so I conjure up something toothsome featuring the cheese. I learned to cook this way because I live so, so far away from a grocery store and I don’t believe in adding to greenhouse gases to “run to the store for a small carton of sour cream.”

I’ve had great times watching people’s eyes roll up into their head in orgasmic pleasure as they enter my kitchen and its enticing smells and bite into something I have made. Time seemed to stand still when my brother tasted the cream I had whipped and flavored to perfection for his pie. Another grown man nearly wept as he tasted my humble homemade chocolate cake made from scratch. I didn’t have any cocoa powder in my pantry so I melted an expensive bar of European chocolate and used that. After a freezing afternoon outside with his snow blower, my cobbled-together cake was his fantasy of what is best about life.

I am (for this cold month only) turning into a blend of my Norwegian grandmother who could bake anything and my Italian grandmother who cooked food from real ingredients, and Merlin the Magician who conjured up delights from twigs and smoke.

You are what you eat, so eat well

Monday, December 7, 2009


My son will not be celebrating Christmas with us. He lives too far away. This will be our third holiday season without him since he graduated from college and took a job in Alaska. I cope by chatting with him on the phone about his plans: Where he is going for dinner, what will they eat, who will be there, what he will bring, have I met any of these people…. I use my imagination to visualize him laughing, happy and enjoying himself with someone else’s family.

Last month, I missed his twenty-fifth birthday celebration and sharing Thanksgiving Day with him. In the next four weeks, he will not be with us at Christmas, or at his father and my 40th wedding anniversary party or at my birthday dinner. It seems like a lot of occasions to celebrate without him.

This year I am struggling with his absence a bit more than I have done the past two years. Yesterday, when I unpacked the Christmas decorations, I came across a red satin ball with his name written in glue and sprinkled with silver glitter. It was given to him in 1989 when he was five years old and signed by someone I no longer remember. I held the ball, tempted to mail it to him to put in his own home in Anchorage. Instead, I wrapped it in tissue and put it back in the box.

I join countless other empty nesters who will celebrate the holidays without their sons and daughters who are in the military, overseas, or working at jobs far away. We will be saddened by the lack of their presence next to us at the dinner table, but at the same time gladdened that they are in our hearts and in our lives.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


My husband and I popped into the Loveland Museum Gallery to have a peek at the new exhibit. I took a quick look at the watercolors and left to explore other parts of the museum because the watercolors didn’t interest me – they looked “weird.” But when my husband talked me into
giving it another look, I was blown away. Turns out the watercolors were illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Salvador Dali (1904-1989). No wonder they were weird – Dali is the foremost artist of the Surrealist movement! It seems that 100 watercolors were commissioned by the Italian government in 1957 to celebrate the 700th birthday of Dante Alighieri. Talk about a world class exhibit right in our backyard. Not only can one park for free right in front of the museum but there is no admission to the exhibit!! It reminds me of the three years I lived in Carson City, Nevada – then a small town of 35,000 people. I loved pulling up to the city Post Office and running in and out without hassling traffic, parking spaces, meters or long lines. Small town living can offer no hassle living.

Today, I took my friend to our Habitat for Humanity thrift shop in Berthoud. Berthoud is so small that the thrift shop is the only clothing store in town. She scored two vintage coats and a vintage cocktail dress at their half price sale. (She dropped less than $20.00) and we had a ball! She can’t wait to go out in the cold in her grey, wool trench coat or her faux fur that suits her perfectly. Because she has no place to wear her strapless cocktail dress with the fake pearls sprinkled down the front, I may have to throw a cocktail party so she can dazzle us.

Don’t underestimate the attractions small towns have to offer - one can have a great time!

- Quinn

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday Edition of the Denver Post ran a story – “A Simple Life” about a man who lives in a cave near Moab.  He relies on discards, Dumpsters for food and clothes, never uses money and is very happy with his simple life.
I get it.  The older I become, the more I crave simplicity and the peacefulness that accompanies it.  When I turned forty, I decided to simplify the holidays by eliminating a number of chores, traditions and choices that were stressful and time eaters.   When each holiday season rolled around, I’d let something else go and each year my enjoyment of the holidays increased and our family celebrations grew richer and more meaningful.  The first year, I stopped baking 13 dozen cookies for the neighborhood cookie exchange; not only did I free up my Sat. afternoon, I  felt so much better without the load of butter and sugar in my system.  Next, I stopped sending out Christmas cards; instead I sat down in February and wrote notes to friends and loved-ones around Valentine ’s Day.  I took my time and the people who received them enjoyed leisurely reading them after the Holiday rush.  Eventually, my husband took over; he writes a newsletter and sends it out ‘whenever’ and I enjoy reading his take on the past year.
 I stopped wrapping presents, and instead, drop them in the same gift bags that I reuse every year.  I stopped killing trees and hanging ornaments on them.  Now, I arrange my favorite ornaments in beautiful glass bowls which I set around the house.  I never enter a store or a parking lot crowded with Christmas shoppers or the Post Office during lunch hour.  I never give presents that may have to be returned and my loved ones know that if I can’t eat it, drink it or it requires dusting: I don’t need it.  Instead, they bless me with experiences like tickets to a show or a museum.
Last year, I received a phone call from a friend who lives in New Jersey.  She was in tears; exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed with holiday chores.  Her ‘to do’ list was a mile long and because of family expectations, she wouldn’t make changes to ease up for fear of letting them down.  Or even worse, put up with the resistance that would be heaped upon her as she rewrote the rule book of what she was supposed to do each and every holiday season.
Instead, she chose to fall to pieces.
 Contrast this with a story I heard about another family.  Every Christmas the parents gave each child a new pair of pajamas which they wore and a board game which they played while drinking cocoa on Christmas...  Wow!!!!  Simple, beautiful and fun.   This, in my opinion, is how the holidays in particular and life in general should be celebrated.
Happy, peaceful Holidays.