our local strawberry stand

I complain that we don’t have an independent, locally-owned grocery store with a full-service meat department where we can chat with the owners, as we did in Gilroy with Rocca’s Market. I bemoan the fact that we don’t have an independent produce market, as we did with Kachy’s in Gilroy.

strawberriesWhat we do have is a small strawberry stand just outside of town. Their hours are irregular. You never know when they are going to open, close for lunch, or shut down for the day. But they have the sweetest, most moist, tasty strawberries that you will find anywhere. And it’s not possible to get strawberries any fresher. If they’re busy you may have to wait while the ladies pick more and bring them over to the stand in their golf cart. There is a strawberry stand closer in to town that is easier to get to, but their strawberries just don’t compare.

And our strawberry stand just introduced a new high-tech innovation. They had business cards printed up that include the owner’s cell phone number so you can call and see if they’re open before driving out there. How amazing is that?

They are only there for a couple of months each year, but when they are there we are delighted to have them.

blog break

It’s time for a short blog hiatus. I am having surgery on Wednesday for an object on my intestinal tract that should not be there and needs to be removed. I expect to be back blogging in a couple of weeks, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, along with your prayers and good thoughts, of course.

laptopThat may well be all you care to know, and that makes perfect sense. If you choose to keep reading, however, I can fill you in with a little more background, but I will endeavor to avoid the slippery slope of TMI.

It’s been quite a journey, going back nearly a year. After my annual physical last year my primary care physician ordered a blood cell count, presumably because I told the medical student who saw me before he came into the exam room that I had lost weight for no apparent reason. My white count came back high, which resulted in an ultrasound and a referral to urology as the issue appeared to be kidney-related. A CT scan followed, with the urologist saying, “You don’t need me” and referring me to gastroenterology. Those folks told me that I had a GIST, a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. The medical team ordered two different endoscopic procedures to confirm that it was only that. The gastrointestinal surgeon partnered with the oncologist (head of oncology at Kaiser Riverside, by the way!) who prescribed a medication to shrink the GIST. No effect, the second CT scan revealed. Bad news: larger rather than smaller is harder to remove. Good news: the medication not shrinking it means it’s probably not cancerous.

So here we are. Think of me (as the song from Phantom of the Opera says), and my intent is to be back with you soon. I have cleared out my queue of backlogged blog entries and will be starting fresh when I return. Once restarted, this blog may take a slightly different approach or focus but I do plan to keep blogging. Writing is central to who I am, and I have much to write about.

Stay tuned.

grocery shopping habits

Our grocery shopping options around here are limited. We have Sprouts for our deli meats and specialty items. Stater Bros. is our go-to store, where they have a full-service meat department and quality produce. Then there is WinCo with its warehouse environment and low prices where you bag your own groceries. (As far as we’re concerned, Walmart does not exist, even though we have two full-sized stores and one Neighborhood Market in the valley.)

Winco storefrontThere are a number of Staters stores in the San Jacinto valley, but the one near us is the newest and the nicest. It’s only three years old, but even so they just did a mini-remodel, adding faux-wood floors. It makes for a very pleasant shopping environment and is a much more enjoyable shopping experience than the other Staters stores in the valley. Not that they’re bad, it’s just that ours is a lot nicer.

When I compare prices, however, WinCo is much cheaper. So we’ve been adjusting our routine. We go to Staters for produce and fresh meat. We tackle WinCo for the grocery aisles, as well as the refrigerated section and frozen foods.

It takes a little more time, but the cost savings make it worthwhile.

an old sound returns

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I began attending Pitzer College in Claremont in the fall of 1971 and graduated in the spring of 1975. I hung around Claremont for another two years before leaving California to open a new B. Dalton Bookseller in Laredo, Texas in June of 1977.

The radio station KNX-FM had a mellow rock format throughout the 1970s, and I was a regular listener until I hit the road for Texas. I have often thought about that station and reflected on how I’ve missed it, even after all these years.

KNX-FM logoI was surprised and delighted, then, when Richard Wagoner’s radio column, which appears in Southern California News Group newspapers, announced that KNX-FM has been reincarnated in an online form. You can find it at https://www.knxfm93.com. The stream is available in a variety of formats, so there should be a format available for whatever device you use.

Many of you know how much I love and how much I use my internet radio. Very shortly after reading Richard’s column, I added the Windows Media Player URL to the My Streams folder on my internet radio and then booted off the SiriusXM Coffee House preset to make room for the new KNX-FM stream.

It’s nice to have that familiar sound at the touch of a button.

repairing my favorite jacket (and remembering a getaway)

Somehow it seems that most of the jackets that I own my marvelous wife Terry bought for me. But one is my favorite. It is a Pendleton. I love it.

The jacket has quite the history. Back in December 2010 Terry and I headed up to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for her birthday. It was mid-afternoon on our way into the town of Sonoma and I was in one of those need-food-now low blood sugar states (these days the word is “hangry”). We therefore stopped at the first restaurant we saw, which was Pizzeria Capri Ristorante. (I didn’t actually remember that. I’m referring back to my account of the trip on this blog.) It was a cold, rainy day. The pizza was delicious and the place was playing acoustic music from the Coffee House channel on SiriusXM. We checked in at the resort and did very little the rest of the day except for enjoying the fire in the fireplace and some wine. We likely had cheese and crackers or something similar as well.

Pendleton jacketThe next morning we had breakfast at the coffee shop affiliated with the resort but facing out on the main street of town. Terry did a spa treatment in the afternoon and I did some writing in our room while it rained. We had dinner at the Santé Restaurant, which was relaxed and leisurely with marvelous food and impeccable service. It was a marvelous weekend.

It was that morning, however, after breakfast at the coffee shop that we went across the street to a local espresso shop. Next door was a Western shop. In the window was a beautiful Pendleton jacket. I asked Terry if that could be my Christmas present rather than the new jeans jacket I had originally asked for. She liked the jacket as well and was quite agreeable. Thank you, Terry!

The jacket is very well made, except for the pockets, which quickly wore through. This was a problem, as I would take Tasha for her walks on cold mornings and I would have to dig into the jacket lining to retrieve Tasha’s pickup bags. I kept thinking that I needed to get that fixed, but never did.

Earlier this month Terry went to a local tailor shop to have an outfit of hers repaired. When she was going to pick it up I asked her to take the jacket in. She did and the pockets are now repaired.

I only regret that I took so long to have that done.

thinking about pancakes (and then…)

pancakesI was thinking about pancakes recently.

We have an electric waffle iron and we make waffles for breakfast periodically. I have never really made pancakes, however. I thought that would be fun, but I didn’t want to buy an electric pancake grill when we had the electric waffle iron. I thought a stovetop grill would be a good idea so I checked with Terry. She agreed, but for a different reason. She had been looking at them and thought it would be great to grill chicken, fish, and beef inside when it was too cold, too wet, or even too hot outside.

I turned to Amazon (of course) and found an economical reversible grill thatburgers was just about the right size for our stove, and much less expensive than the ones that were a bit larger and would have probably been too big for our stove anyway. I ordered it.

I was a bit concerned about the pancake side of things (pun intended) as one of the Amazon reviews said the flat side was rough. I made pancakes the day after the grill arrived, however, and I was absolutely delighted with the result. That evening I made hamburgers on the side with ridges and they were marvelous as well.

The grill is cast iron, so with proper care it will last forever. It is a bit hard to clean, as is most cast iron, but for the cooking that we can do on the grill it is well worth the effort.

We made a great addition to our kitchen at a very reasonable price.

telling myself to get over it

grocerybagsIn the November elections of 2106 Californians did a number of good things despite the horrific result of the presidential race. One thing we did was to vote to ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and large drug stores like CVS. That didn’t have a direct impact on Terry and me as we were already using reusable bags. But I was delighted to see this and kept an eye on how this played out.

Despite some initial confusion most California consumers took to the new requirement and began bringing their own bags rather than paying a nickel per reusable plastic bag. I found myself playing my own private bag police, however. I watched to see if people in the store were bringing their own bags and if someone in line in front of me hadn’t I would try to discretely catch a glimpse of the cash register display to see if they were actually being charged for their bags.

Recently it hit me that’s it’s been over two years. The law is largely working well. I don’t need to be grocery bag monitor. It’s time for me to get over it.