Sunday, September 30, 2012

Old Road to Cordoba


Today we left Palma del Rio and biked uphill toward the mountains. Our friendly guides told us most of the day was easy biking. They did point out one uphill climb that would be quite steep. Let's just say they lied. It was one hill after another. Some were more steep than others. I was able to bike 18 miles and Don finished 27. Only the best bikers continued on the entire 38 mile trip.

It was a beautiful day! Our first since we've been here. Blue skies and 75 degrees all day. Along the road to Cordoba, we saw a few interesting things: prickly pear bushes, an 8th century castle (Castle Almodovar) and a herd of sheep and goats. We had lunch at a local farm that was the location of a factory where Romans produced amphoras (large clay pots to transport olive oil) over 2000 years ago.

Castle Almodovar
 
Pottery at Cortijo el Temple (local farm)
 
Our group at lunch
 
Goats and sheep crossing road

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spanish Vega

Our fearless leaders, Jose and Juan Carlos

Our trip guides drove us up toward the Sierra of Hornachuelos. These are the mountains that separate Andalusia from the rest of Spain. We biked back down toward the Guadalquivir plain. This would have been a scenic route of rolling farmland on a sunny day. Unfortunately, it rained and rained and rained. I could have used some windshield wipers on my sunglasses, a waterproof jacket, and some tread on my tennis shoes.

The 18-mile morning ride was full of hills. Believe it or not, the downhill runs were more scary than the uphill climbs. This was because the pavement was wet, and I was afraid my brakes were going to go out. With Don's expert navigating skills, we made it to the local bar for lunch in Penaflor. All the riders were dripping wet. A large space heater provided some relief and a way to dry some clothes.

Drying things by the large space heater at lunch.

Half the group, including us, decided not to ride the extra ten miles in the afternoon. A hot shower never felt so good. The sun came out this afternoon, so Don and I walked around the town of Palma del Rio around 3:00. Unfortunately, it was Siesta time, and all the shops were closed.

This evening the whole group walked to a local restaurant. We had wine and Tapas for appetizers and Ox Tail for dinner. After dinner, we were entertained by a local Flamenco group.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Palma del Rio

Our VBT van wasn't leaving Seville until noon, so we got up early and went out in the rain again to see a couple more sights. Don was surprised, but I really wanted to see the bull-fighting ring. I didn't want to see a bull fight, but the ring was a part of Spanish culture I didn't want to miss.

On the way to the bull-fighting ring, we passed the nautical museaum ( Museo Nautico). It was originally called the Tower of Gold because this 13th century building was covered in gold tiles. It is a 12-sided structure, and is situated on the Guadalquivir River.


Torre del Oro holds 14,000 people. I couldn't get a good picture of the entire bull-fighting ring. This is one of Spain's largest rings. It was built in 1761. Bull fights today are held on Sundays and Festival days from May to October.

This is the bull-fighter's entrance to the ring.

We arrived in Palma del Rio around 1:00, got settled into our very nice room, and got ready for our 9-mile warm-up ride.  Our hotel is Monasterio de San Francisco. It was a Franciscan convent built in 1492. About 20 years ago, it was turned into a beautiful hotel. Christopher Columbus spent time here before he set out on his journey.

Our room at the Monasterio de San Francisco.
 
 
Don getting ready for the warm-up ride. Bikes are very nice! The ride would have been really easy if it hadn't been for the wind. But...it wasn't raining.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seville

After three planes and 18 hours of travel, we made it to Seville. About that time, I was ready for a nice long siesta. Don wouldn't hear of it. He made me put on my walking shoes and head out the door. We only have so many hours to see Seville.

I thought the rain in Spain was supposed to stay mainly in the plain. Is Seville in the plain? It rained cats and dogs all day. Even with the umbrellas from our hotel, we were soaked to our skin. That didn't stop us. I found out two things today: Seville does not have a very good drainage system, and my Easy Spirit shoes, although quite comfortable, are not the least bit waterproof.

Seville is a city laid out like a maze. Even Don, who has an excellent sense of direction, was amazed by it. The buildings are so tall, and the roads are so narrow that you can't see where you are going. We both agreed it was a miracle we made it back after dinner.


How would you like to drive your car down roads like this?
 

Christopher Columbus' tomb in Seville Cathedral
 
 
King Peter I hunting courtyard. This is where he would gather his men and horses before going out for a hunt. Alcazar Palace (Moorish architecture)
 
Damsel's Courtyard in Alcazar Palace. Flooding is from today's rain.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Was it a Prairie Dog?

In my recent blog post Ready for Spain I listed a number of animals Don and I came across on our bike paths this summer. Among those animals was the prairie dog.

My friend, Becky, called me on that statement. She questioned whether or not prairie dogs can be found in Ohio. She thought I confused the prairie dog with the ground hog. I've always thought they were the same thing.

I put on my investigative hat to find out the truth in the matter. Here's what I found.


The prairie dog is smaller than a ground hog. It weighs on average 3 lb. They live in large colonies requiring at least 100 acres. They are only found in the western half of North America.


The ground hog is found all over the United States. It weighs on average 9 lb. Only three or four ground hogs live together. They don't need the same space requirements as prairie dogs.

Conclusion: I stand corrected. What we actually saw was a ground hog. And add to the list a wild turkey which we spotted last Friday.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Raccoons


We've known for awhile that raccoons are living under the Indiana house. They moved in before we did. There were multiple sightings of the bandits on the porch this summer and traces of their footprints in the shed. This never gave me the creeps until last night.

Don and I delivered our Riley boy to Katherine for safe keeping during our bike trip. We spent the night and drove back today. Katherine offered to let us sleep in her bed, but since she was all settled there with her sheets and comforter, Don said he'd sleep on the couch, and I agreed to sleep on the air mattress in the front room. Riley was on the air mattress with me in three seconds flat.

We were all settled in when Riley heard a noise in the kitchen. He jumped over me, flew into the kitchen and  started snorting like a steed.  I got up to see what was the matter. He had his nose to the air vent in the middle of the kitchen floor. His tail was wagging back and forth in a similar fashion to when he has a chipmunk cornered in the drain pipe in our backyard. This was no chipmunk, I can guarantee you.

The air vents under the house are in the crawl space. You can look down and practically see the ground. Those raccoons were under there, alright. Riley would not stop snorting, and I couldn't drag him back to bed. Pretty soon, he ran to the air vent at the foot of my air mattress. Then he ran back to the kitchen. He went back and forth just as if he were chasing the rascal.

Such commotion did not wake my snoozing husband in the next room. I didn't fall asleep even after Riley gave up and nestled next to me until morning. The raccoons will be evening entertainment for Riley for the next 17 days.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

DIY Trail Mix


For years, we have been making our own trail mix. It tastes much better than the trail mix you can buy at the store.


Store-bought trail mix has fake M & M's, really salty peanuts and stale raisins among other things.

Here's how you can make it too:

Trail Mix

1 can lightly salted cocktail peanuts
1 bag M & M's
1/2 container Raisins

Mix together in a bowl. Store at room temperature in a sealed container. Great for long car rides, long bike rides and long hikes or for everyday snacking. Just be careful not to eat too much as this snack is very high in calories.

* Adjust the amount of each ingredient to your taste.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Stuff I Like

 
Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils (not the crayons). You never have to sharpen the tips, just twist the pen and more pencil appears. I use these for highlighting, especially in my Bible, because they don't bleed through. Put them in a pretty glass and they make a nice centerpiece for a casual table.


Ziploc Perfect Portions! These are perfect for the cooking for two (or one) family. Buy your regular six pack of chicken breasts. When you get them home, use one Perfect Portions thin bag per breast, then insert into a regular freezer bag. Take out only the number of chicken breasts you need without any sticking.


Logo pens. These are the pens you find in churches, at doctor's offices, on bank counters, etc. Peter and I steal them all the time. I finally found them online at Discount Pens. Would make a good stocking stuffer. Think up a fun logo for the family.



Paper Pro Stapler. Once you use this stapler, you will never go back to the old clunky kind. It is light at a feather, and it never gets jammed.


Dean Jacob's Bread Dipping Seasonings. We use these seasonings all the time at the dinner table. It comes with four sections containing Sicilian Blend, Parmesan Blend, Rosa Maria, and Tuscany Blend. Pour a couple tablespoons of good quality olive oil in a small dish. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of seasoning on top and mix with a spoon. Dip some good bread in the oil. Much better than butter.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pork Chops and Potatoes

This is a recipe from my growing up years. I loved this one. My mom made it all the time. I can remember making this when Daniel was a baby, and grinding it up in a small food processor so he could eat it too.

Pork Chops and Potatoes

4-6 pork chops (not thin sliced)
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 onion, sliced
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 soup can milk
salt and pepper

Brown pork chops in a little oil and set aside. Place onions and potatoes in bottom of a large skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork chops on top of potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Mix cream of mushroom soup with one can milk. Pour over meat. Simmer on low 1 hour.

This recipe could be cooked in a crock pot, however I have never tried it that way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ready for Spain


By the time Don and I leave for Spain next Wednesday, we will have clocked 355 miles on our bikes since May. Our legs and rear ends are in condition! We don't know what kind of routes we will encounter on the trip, but by golly, we are ready to conquer them.

This summer, on the trail, we came across all manner of animals. There were chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, deer, coyote, geese, snakes, prairie dogs, little red hens, and a smattering of insects. We dodged them all. Nothing can stop us, unless, of course, we run into a bull.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Duck Tape or Duct Tape

What home is without a roll of Duck Tape? It is the universal, fix anything tool. But is it Duck Tape, or is it Duct Tape? This question has been bothering me ever since I saw a roll of Justin Bieber Duck Tape at Target this week. Only in America could Duck Tape morph this far.

I kid you not


Just so you know, this amazing tape got its name during World War II. It was originally an army green color, and it was used to repair jeeps and guns and seal ammunition cases. Soldiers gave this special tape its name because it had waterproof qualities similar to a duck.

After the war, the housing industry grew, and Duck Tape was used to fix air ducts. That's how it started to be called Duct Tape. The color of the tape was changed to the shiny silver shade we know and love today so it would match duct work.

Apparently, the Duck Tape industry has recently crossed over into the craft world. Duck Tape is available in a plethora of colors and prints.

What can you make with Duck Tape? Flowers, beach bags, prom dresses, wallets, flip-flops, butterflies, banners, hats, book covers and many more things. The Duck Tape website has a special tab for Ducktivities.

High School students can even compete in the Stuck at Prom Duck Tape Scholarship contest. Prom clothes are made completely of Duck Tape.

As you can see, Duck Tape has many uses. Once when an unnamed child of mine had a wart, our pediatrician prescribed Duck Tape. I can testify that this works. Cover the wart with Duck Tape for a week or two, and the wart will disappear...presumably from lack of oxygen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

No Frills Lasagna


My lasagna recipe is so simple to make. It is adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend, Lisa. Her version contained cottage cheese and a homemade sauce. Cottage cheese isn't very popular among my family members. Every time I eat it, Peter says I'm eating curd. I use Little Italy pasta sauce to save time. I used Prego sauce until Peter informed it tastes like ketchup. Where would my cooking skills be without Peter?

Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles
1 jar pasta sauce (or make your own)
Lots of Mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ground beef

Get some water boiling in a large pot while you brown the ground beef in a large skillet.  Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Pour pasta sauce in with meat and let simmer while noodles are cooking. Drain noodles and you are ready to assemble lasagna.

Line a 9 x 3 pan with three lasagna noodles. Top with 1/3 of meat sauce. Cover with as much cheese as you want. Do this two more times.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Aging Gracefully

After Katherine took a course in college called "Lifespan Development" she announced that she didn't want to live past 82. I understand her point. Any development past the age of 82 is on a downhill trajectory.

We don't have much control over how long we live, but we can hope to age gracefully.

When I'm old or at the end of my days, I hope to:

1. Be humble and ask for help if I need it.
2. Be courageous in the face of being poked and prodded.
3. Be thankful for anyone who takes time to be with me.
3. Be open about discussing my death with loved ones.
4. Be patient if my health fails slowly.
5. Be confident in knowing God's promises are true.

And if I can't be all these things, please love me anyway.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wrestling

Don's sport was wrestling. He wrestled at Richmond Heights high school and Case Western Reserve University.

This is a picture of him wrestling in the state sectionals his senior year of high school (1975). He made it to the state tournament in the 155 weight class.

Weighing 155 when you are six feet tall isn't easy for a guy. That wasn't his natural weight. But all wrestlers learn how to drop the pounds fast, and they know how to put them back on during the off season.

Don hoped one of the boys would take up wrestling, and Daniel was a prime candidate. One of Don's favorite things to do was wrestle with Daniel on the family room floor, showing him all the moves he had perfected years before.

Soccer was always Daniel's favorite sport, but he tried baseball, hockey and in sixth and seventh grade, he gave wrestling a shot.

Don loved watching him, but I couldn't take it. How can a mother watch her son get tackled, flipped, drooled on and smashed without wanting to scream, "get off of him!"

The worst part of the whole wrestling ordeal was the after practice smell in the car. If you've ever wanted to know what germs smell like, walk into a high school wrestling room at 5 p.m.

Each night after practice, before he even put his seat belt on, I reminded him to, "take those clothes off the minute you walk in the door, throw them in the laundry room, and take a shower before you touch anything!"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Dishes


I only had to run the dishwasher once this week.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Be Still


Do you ever sit and do nothing? Apparently I do, because Don will occasionally wave his hand in front of my eyes and ask me if I am here. Those are times when I start thinking about something and go into a vegetative state only to be snapped back to reality when he starts talking.

Intentionally sitting still and doing nothing is different. It's when you take a seat on the front porch, preferably in a chair that swings, and think nothing thoughts for 15 minutes or so. It lets your mind breathe fresh air. It lets you take in the beauty surrounding you. It clears the fog and refreshes brain cells.

Nonstop doing runs down mind, body and soul. Take a break each day and be still.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Absent

Two years ago, I was out of town on Election Day. I wanted to vote, so I applied for an absentee ballot. It was so nice to sit at my desk at home and fill in the little bubbles at my leisure.

Last year, I was not out of town, but I ordered an absentee ballot just the same. I realized I didn't need to be away from home to vote this way. Why stand in line to vote and feel pressured to fill in my bubbles quickly because someone is waiting behind me in line?

I highly recommend this method of voting. It is so easy to do. If you live in Ohio, you probably received a letter in the mail today from the Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted. At the bottom of the letter is an application for an absentee ballot. All you need to do is fill in the last four digits of your Social Security Number and your date of birth, then mail the form back by November 3 (the earlier the better). Or, if you prefer, you can go here for an Ohio absentee ballot application.

You will receive your ballot in the mail sometime after October 2. That gives you about a month to think over the candidates and the issues with no pressure.

Don't worry about someone changing your bubbles. The application clearly states: "Whoever commits election falsification is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree." If that doesn't deter falsifiers, I don't know what will.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Life on the Edge

Riley's leg is finally feeling better. After two trips to the vet and one trip to the orthopedic specialist, he decided to stop limping.

The x-ray didn't really show any sign of a real break, so the doctors concluded it must have been a soft tissue tear that took five months to heal.

As you can see, he likes to live dangerously. This is how he got himself into trouble in the first place. Not much I can do except lock him up, and that's not going to happen.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cooking for Two

It was just me and Don at the dinner table tonight. As we stared at each other through bites of spaghetti, we sensed something was missing. Actually, three things were missing: Katherine, Daniel and Peter. I said to him, "I guess it's just the two of us now."

Tears filled my eyes like they did this week at the grocery store when I was about to put chocolate milk in the cart for Peter and Original Goldfish in for Katherine. I stopped myself just in time.

Yes, the grocery bill will be smaller, the recipes will be lighter, but the table will be much too quiet.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Renault Alliance

By 1984, I had saved enough money to trade in my 1977 Chevy Camero. I was working at Arthur Andersen & Co. making big bucks. I wanted a car that got good gas mileage since gas was so expensive back then ($1.21/gallon). I also wanted a car with good traction in the snow since my Camero slid all over town.

After completing my research, I decided on the Renault Alliance. Why? It was the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1983, that's why. What did I know? It was a compact car, so it got good gas mileage. If I opted for the standard transmission, the gas mileage would be even better. That's what I did.

I ordered the car. In the meantime, Don, whom I was dating at the time, gave me one lesson on driving a stick shift (his car) in a parking lot after work one day. Two weeks later, my car was ready. I drove my automatic Camero to the Renault dealer to trade her in. The salesman gave me the 15 minute walk-through explaining all the features of my new automobile. When he was finished, he asked if I had any questions. I answered, "now how do you drive a stick shift, again?"

He wished me well as I stalled out of the parking lot into the street. I stalled about fifteen times on the way home. Where's Don when you need him? For about a week, I left my apartment at 5:00 a.m. to avoid traffic.

Where was I going with this story? Oh, yes. Look at the photo of this car. Is it not the ugliest car you've ever set eyes on? Don't lie. And although it was Car of the Year in 1983, it went downhill fast in 1984. It was a lemon the size of Manhattan. But it got great gas mileage.