A Pair of Classics ~

Meet Margaret Dunning, at 102 years very young, I’d say she’s definitely a classic and so is her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster.  Yes, Margaret still drives and in fact she is still showing her classic beauty at concours d’elegance.  In a recent appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, she told the audience that she changes her own oil and spark plugs and that “Before old age overtook me, I could scoot under the car very nicely.”  Margaret owns several classic vehicles.  The Packard may be her favorite, but these days you’re like to  see Margaret driving around her hometown of Plymouth, Michigan in a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.  It’s her “everyday car”.

Margaret, you are an inspiration to us youngsters in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  A true classic.  Keep on driving!

Both videos are from Utube.

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Mama Mia and Luigi the Linguine Maker

Luigi

In times past birthday celebrations always involved expensive restaurants.  We enjoyed the luxury of a good meal while someone else cooked, cleaned and served.  I loved it then and when the time is right I still do.  But, as we pare down to the essentials of what makes us happy, we’re circling back to the old joys of coming together in the new/old ways I mentioned in my previous post.

Last week we celebrated our special birthday girl’s 29th year in grand style.  Not in a 4 star restaurant, but gathered around the kitchen island – laughing, sharing, cooking, sipping, eating, eating, eating and talking about important issues.  Wow!  If we’d had time to throw in a board game, it would have been perfect.

How great is it when you go to the mailbox and mixed in with the bills, political ads and offers for credit cards you find THE KEY.  The key means you have a box waiting.  In this case, the box held a bright shiny new pasta maker.  I can’t begin to say how tickled I was – still am actually, by this lovely little guy.  We call him Luigi the Linguine Maker and this guy is good.   Ok, I have to admit that if you are simplifying and reducing, a pasta maker is not going to fit in the backpack and rollie.  I know that and still, I wanted him.  What could be better than making pasta from scratch to go with the luscious tomato sauce my friend and I spent so many hours canning over the summer and the fresh parsley/walnut pesto I made from the dark green Italian parsley the hubs grew in pots on our back deck.

Hand pressing the raviolis – not as easy as your Italian grandma makes it look.

I wanted to test this baby out right away, so I invited our son and the birthday girl over to make their own birthday dinner.  I’m thinking home-made spaghetti with tomato sauce.  They say “Okay, let’s make ravioli”.  Oh to be 29 and fearless in the kitchen.  So, of course, we made it all.   We started at 3 o’clock, stopped to taste a bowl of our fresh fettucine at around 5 o’clock and finally sat down to our birthday feast at 7:30.

The final menu?  Fresh garden salad, freshly baked foccacia bread, cheese ravioli, delicata squash ravioli, mushroom ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce, tomato sauce, parsley pesto sauce and an olive oil/walnut/fresh parm sauce.  “This is the best pasta I have ever eaten!” said my husband, his cheeks bright red from the warm kitchen and two hours cranking the pasta maker.  I couldn’t agree more.  Four cooks in the kitchen was a crazy dance.   Two dogs snoozed just far enough away to keep an eye out for anything tasty that might hit the floor.  I was pooped beyond belief.  I think we used every pot, pan and dish we owned, but we mastered the art of pasta rolling, sort of mastered ravioli and created a birthday dinner we will always remember.

The birthday girl finally sits down to enjoy her favorite – Mushroom ravioli in a mushroom cream sauce and she made it all herself. Yum-o!

So, who’s up next for Pasta Night at Casa Sims?

New Old Ways ~

The hubs and I have been talking quite a bit lately about eating healthy on a budget.   We live in a country with an abundance of cheap, manufactured food of questionable quality and nutritional value.  If you like your veggies fresh, not pesticide laden or genetically modified – sorry, but that will hit your pocket big time.  Maybe you are lucky enough to have a plot of soil and the willingness to put in the time and effort to exercise your green thumbs.  Unfortunately we’re condo dwellers.  And that’s why we love living in the Pacific Northwest where we take advantage of the farm fresh bounty.  Yes, we pay more.  We call it health insurance.  But what do you do when you retire and live on a (much) smaller  budget and still want to eat well?  We’ve been exploring the new/old ways.  You know, how people prepared food in the old days before they worked 10 hours a day and drove through McDonald’s on the way home because they had to be somewhere at 7pm.  These days it has a hip, trendy name – Slow Food.  It’s a movement and apparently we’ve become part of it.  

We’re suddenly cool because we are doing the things our mothers and grandmothers did every day until General Electric decided that they were wasting time and started creating gadgets to take over their work.  Women who spent all of their time working at home were suddenly free!  What did they do with all that free time?  They went outside of the home to work.  This work brought in more money so they could buy more time saving gadgets and because now they didn’t have time to cook an actual meal, they stopped for a pizza.  Many of us know how to “heat” or “nuke” but have forgotten how to cook.  I had.  Of course I married a guy who cooks, but even that was slowly being replaced by eating out or take-out eaten in front of the TV.  Slap me silly, but it’s the truth.

Watch out what you wish for, because you might just get it.  As a child of the 50’s and 60’s and a young woman of the 1970’s I am all for equal rights and equal opportunity and I believe women (and men) should be able to work any darn place they like.  But, in our typical American way, if a little is good – a LOT must be better.   We’ve worked ourselves into a groove so deep, it’s hard to get out.   And not always for the satisfaction of a job well done, but because we needed a bigger house or another TV or (it was always something).   And so on and son on, until…something happens and you lose your job or you are forced to retire or you graduate with your fancy degrees and you can’t find a job that pays enough to cover your student loans.   You’re in deep doo doo Donald!  Like the Broadway play Stop the World I Want to Get Off, it’s all been kinda spinning beyond our control.  What seemed like such a good idea at the time has somehow morphed into Dante’s Inferno.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but as we’ve been looking at the reality of living the rest of our lives with a lot less, I’m just starting to realize that I sacrificed so much in the name of stuff.   Stuff that is now being given to the Goodwill or sold on ebay or piled into the weekly trash bin.

As far as I know, nobody get’s a do-over on their life.   I’m just glad that we have been given this opportunity to explore the other side – not just the slow food movement but the slower life movement.  We’re working less and making less, but we’re savoring it more.  We have time to cook and share food – home grown, home canned, and home-made with friends and family.   Some of you figured this out a long time ago.  We’re late bloomers.   My husband’s fondest memories are from the 1970’s when he lived in a small beach town in Massachusetts.  Life was simple – focused on family, friends and community.  Entertainment was free – a pickup baseball game or board games and they traded their homegrown harvest for fresh caught lobster.  Did we really give that up for a 45″ HD TV and think we traded up?

As I sat here writing this post, my favorite chef was downstairs making up meal sized batches of lasagna with ingredients left over from our cooking marathon, pasta making, cheese making, birthday celebration yesterday evening.  Does it get any better?  Not much!  We’re grateful for our bounty.

To be continued…

Bicycle Built For Two ~

I had never seen a bicycle built for four until a week or so ago when we stumbled upon a whole herd of them.   I’m not sure exactly what you call a whole bunch of cyclists on bicycles built for two, or three, or even four riders – whole families riding in unison on the same bike!  And everyone was smiling.  And no one was arguing or complaining.   They were happy – at least 100 of them.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  A few even stopped a minute so I could take a picture, others just whizzed on by so I had a lot of pics of rear tires and rear ends.

Of course, this prompted the conversation “We could/should do this.”  Really?  Are you nuts?   We’re a team, a pretty good team, but not one that always works in tandem.  We each dance to our own music.  Hubs is  “Meatloaf – Life’s a Lemon and I Want My Money Back” 70’s and 80’s rock and roll and I’m all Norah Jones.  You should see us dance!  It takes a considerable amount of alcohol to smooth out the differences.  And, I have that unfortunate tendency to lead.  That’s probably not going to change any time soon.  Now, picture those very same people on a tandem bike.  Scary thought.

Apparently there are names for each position.  The person in the front is the pilot and the person in back is called the stoker.   If we were to ever consider such a crazy thing, I’m calling dibs on pilot (it sounds easier and I get to be in charge, ie. lead, which we already know I have experience with).   Hubs can be the muscle in the back.I found some very helpful information from a couple who took a 3 1/2 month tour of Europe on a bicycle built-for-two pretty much on a whim and with no experience.  Sounds like a “Why Not?” to me.  Since their tips for keeping the peace in your relationship while riding tandem pretty much work for relationships in general, I thought I’d pass them along.

Pilot – Do not spit.
Stoker –  Do not be a backseat driver.
Pilot – Do not question the Stoker’s pedaling efforts.
Stoker – Do not lean.
Pilot – Communicate – do not expect the Stoker to be a mind reader.
Stoker – Do not suddenly stop pedaling
Pilot/Stoker – Do not walk away from the tandem and assume that the other person is holding it upright.

So maybe you’ll see us on the road someday.  If I don’t waive, it’s because I’m holding on for dear life with both hands.

Sneekin’ out in the middle of the week ~

Finally, summer seems to have arrived in our little piece of the Pacific Northwest.  Although the betting pool at our house this year pegged it closer to mid-July, I’m happy to say we celebrated the independence of our nation and paid homage to the Sun Gods on July 4th by taking a short trip across the river into Washington and out the Columbia Gorge to join the revelers at Skamania Lodge and watch the fireworks light up the sky above the mighty Columbia River.  It seemed like the perfect time for a spur of the moment getaway and since hubs had won a mid-week stay at this lovely lodge a while back, we threw our rollies in the car and off we went for a little fun close to home.   Fun?  On a Wednesday?  Wow!  For this corporate desk jockey, I have to admit it felt a little strange.  For the Old Guy, it felt like retirement – and he mentioned that several times – Him:  “This is what retirement is all about.”  Her:  “No, this is what vacation is all about.”   Whatever.  Let’s just get going and soak up every minute.  So, soak we did.  We also went on a great six mile walk going down the hill from the lodge, along the Columbia River, through the tiny town of Stevenson, and out onto the landing to watch the sail boats, windsurfers, kite boarders and jet skiers.  Lots of interesting things to see and a few that made you wonder…

Back at the lodge and with time on our hands until dusk, the appointed fireworks hour, we snagged two adirondack chairs on the lawn and camped out to eat, drink, eat, drink, talk with and watch interesting people, and play a few rousing games of croquet on the grass.  I trounced him!  Maybe that’s because hubby insisted on playing while continuing to hold on to his cocktail.  Or, maybe I’m just that good.  All in all, a great start to summer.

Returning home by midday on Thursday, I was refreshed and recharged.  Maybe we should take more middle of the week “sneek away trips”.  What’s your favorite get away within an hour or so of home?