526,600 Minutes ~

It’s January and like almost everyone else, I’ve been thinking about the year ahead.   All day the song 526,600 minutes from the musical Rent has been playing in my head.  That’s a whole lot of minutes – a whole year’s worth to be exact.  What a gift.  And an awesome responsibility as well – to make the most of each and every one of those 526,600 minutes.

Every January I like to take a walk down memory lane, review the previous year (the good and bad and the I can’t believe that really happened) and then set my my intention for the year ahead.  I’ve given up making new years resolutions, but I do like to have a goal or two and a bit of a road map.   I chose  RISK as my guiding word for this year.   As hubs and I continue to move deeper into uncharted waters, my willingness to embrace risk will be key to the success of our backpack and rollie retirement adventures.  I’ve never been a big risk taker.  It’s time.  I’m going for it.

Here’s my 2013 Wordle.   I know it will be a great visual reminder of where I want to keep my focus and intention as I move through the year.
l3A1NQ

If you want to play with your own Wordle, check out their website.  it’s easy and lots of fun.

Advertisements

Whirled Peas ~

Why can’t we all just get along?

Unless you have your head buried firmly in deep sand, it’s hard to miss the sad fact that in this season of Peace and Love to All Mankind, our World is one giant mass of violence, greed and dysfunction.  It’s a mess and it seems that even the smartest minds in the free world have not been able to come up with a solution.  IMG_1003

Until now.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a fun and fabulous winter concert put on each year by the Seattle Men’s Chorus.  It was the perfect entry into this season of joy for much of the world.  This year’s theme – Baby its Cold Outside.  It was solemn. It was joyful. It was whacky fun and it was almost three hours of pure musical magic.  Loved. Every. Minute.

So what could a gay men’s concert possibly have to do with world peace?  Funny you should ask.  Toward the end of the show, after shedding their black suits and ties for Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops, we arrived at the audience participation part of the show.  Let me set the stage:  Benaroya Hall is a magnificent concert hall.  Large and  sedate.  The audience covered the full social spectrum – parents with kids, hipsters, grannies in Christmas sweaters and hats to match, couples of every strip and dot.   Most of these folks would not mingle on the street.   The conductor set about dividing the huge concert hall into sections for the singing of their tropical version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and everyone happily participated.   When the conductor pointed to a group, these folks – young, old, gay, straight, every shade of skin, leaped from their seats and joyfully (at the top of their lungs) sang their chorus and the refrain “a pineapple in a pear tree”.  Up-Sing-Down. Up-Sing-Down.  Like a well-oiled machine.  Everybody knew their line and valued everyone else’s contribution.  We each became an integral part of the whole.  Something bigger and better than each of us could be individually.  For ten minutes on the afternoon of December 1st we were ONE.  We shone brightly and all was right with the World.  Sounds like the makings of world peace to me.

Blessings for joy and peace and love and lots of home baked goodies.

And here’s a peak at their 2009 Christmas Show. 

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?

Write something dammit! ~

I’ve got nothing to say.  Really.  I’ve been trying to think of something brilliant, witty, inspiring, informational, heart warming to post for days. But…I’ve got nothing.  I’d call it writer’s block, but that would mean I’d have to call myself a writer.   Which I definitely am not able to do.  I have a blog in which I share a few of my random thoughts… but, I am not a writer.   I am SO sure of this it’s crazy.   I know writers.  Some very good ones.  I am in awe of people who have their magic way with a word or a phrase. Those folks WRITE.  Me, I blog.   Works for me. I never thought of myself as a writer and honestly as I was as surprised as anyone when I went home one afternoon after lunch with a couple of friends (thanks again Ingrid and Lois!), settled into my chair and set up Just a Backpack.  Ideas flowed and words appeared on the page.  The Force was with me.  And so it’s probably as natural as the ebb and flow of the tides, that eventually I would find myself staring at a blank screen and think “This it.  I’ve had my last idea.  Written my last post.  It was fun while it lasted.  I’ve been expecting it.”

Last night I had a girl’s date with a friend and we went to hear Cheryl Strayed speak and read from her new bestselling book Wild – from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail.   She was warm and funny and brilliant.  And, she has known she was a writer since she was eight years old.  And, still it took her 20 years to write this book.   Because, sometimes…she had nothing.  But she kept on writing.   Picking it up, letting it go until she had completed her life changing story.  Cheryl Stayed found herself again through an 1,100 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail.  She had lost her way, but not her compass – writing.  And through her writing I felt her loss, her fear, her pain and her joy.  For a few minutes as she read, I was right there with her.  That’s what a writer does.  Shares herself.  And her stories.

So, I’m not a writer…or maybe I am.  Maybe I never will be.  Or maybe I will.  I don’t really care.  I’m just me and for whatever reason, at this moment as I’m trying to navigate the waters of change at 64, I do have a few stories to share and thoughts to explore.   I think we’re all in this together.   We all have stories and it’s in the sharing that we connect and learn and explore new ideas.  So, let’s get on with it shall we?

Turns out I did have something left to say.  And one more thing.  Buy this book.  I bought it last night and I’m only on page 30, but I am hooked already.  Thank you Cheryl for sharing your story.  I’m sure it will help me understand my own just a wee bit better.

Don’t you just love it? ~

It really tickles me when a lovely moment of serendipity strikes. You never know when you go out the door for a bite of lunch who you might meet.  Well, that moment of serendipity struck today when I slipped down to Nordstrom Cafe for a quick mid-day break from the office.  It was noon and the place was packed.  I ordered my half salad – chicken/apple/walnut/feta – yum! and had to squeeze myself into a tiny table along the wall between two other tables.  I settled in, put on my reading glasses and pulled out my current lunch time companion – 65 Things to do When You Retire. It’s a compilation of essays from people like Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem and many lesser known but still very interesting and inspiring folks.  They are true stories of people in retirement who found meaningful new opportunities.  It’s sort of a user’s manual for making the most of your retirement.   A few moments later, the lovely woman on my left (I believe her name was Carol) tapped my arm and asked “May I take a look at your book?  I’ve just retired.”   “Of course” I said and I passed the book over to her table.  I then took the opportunity to introduce myself and share my newly acquired knowledge about retirement and traveling on the cheap. Carol was interested, excited and open to all of the possibilities and adventures ahead.  I told her about the backpack and rollie plan and how I had come to be a blogger.  I learned about her career as a teacher and her recent trip through Spain, Italy and France with her daughter who was sitting across the table.  We chatted for quite a while about home exchange, house sitting opportunities and even WWOOFing.   She was a sponge for information and I was thrilled that I had lots of ideas to share!

It was a lovely exchange with a truly lovely woman who, like so many of us, is excited and eager to get on with her new life.  Carol, it was a true pleasure to have met you.  I’m glad fate guided me to that tiny table in the middle.  You brought a spark of joy to my afternoon.  I hope we meet again somewhere out on the road.  I’ll be the one with the backpack and the rollie.

Oysters and Pearls ~

Want to hear a secret?  I love to rock out in my car.  CD blasting, hands drumming, head bopping and lips moving in an all out sing-along.  And I know all the words too.  Tune?  Well let’s just say people prefer that I sing alone.  Yep, I’m that crazy old lady singing to herself in her SUV.  You know the one.  Oh, I know what they’re thinking when they pull up beside me at a stoplight and I do not care.  I’m in my own little sound booth on wheels and laissez le bon temps rouler.

Today it’s warm and sunny.  The sky is a brilliant blue and when I went out at lunch it just felt like a Jimmy Buffet kind of day.   I slipped Beach House on the Moon into the CD player, turned the sound waaay up and we were rocking it all the way to the post office.  Its been a while since Jimmy and I shared a song and I had forgotten that the old guy really is a poet – with his crazy lyrics that speak right your heart.  Just when you need to hear them.   The song Oysters and Pearls is one of my all time favorites. Thanks Jimmy for reminding me to get out there and go for all the gusto this Life has to offer.  “Some make the world go round.  Others watch it turn.”  Guess which one I’d rather be.  You too, I’m thinking.

* * * * *

Some people love to lead
Some refuse to dance
Some people play it safe
Others take a chance

It’s something more than DNA
That tells us who we are
Its method and magic
We are of the stars

Some never fade away
Some crash and burn
Some make the world go round
Others watch it turn

Still, it’s all a mystery,
This place we call the world
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

I chopped the song up a bit to shorten it for this post. (sorry Jimmy) But, here’s the music and all the lyrics if you want to pour yourself a margarita and sing along. 

Zucchini-tini ~

Yes, it’s finally summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.   Community gardens, urban farm plots and farmer’s markets are bursting with delicious bounty.  It’s my absolute favorite time of year.  Berries of all kind, cherries sweet and tart.  My fingertips are stained a dark purplish hue from July through August.  I always have big plans for the box loads of berries I buy every week, but mostly I eat them all by myself before they make it into a pie or cobbler or jam.  Last year the hubs and I did manage to distill a very tasty Framboise.  A liqueur made with vodka and fresh raspberries.  This year we’re going big and bottling it for Christmas gifts.  Way better than jam!

But, summer also brings on zucchini.  Lots and lots and lots of zucchini.  Oh, its fun at first, but pretty soon zucchini starts to take over.  You’ve eaten it every day for weeks and frankly, enough already with the zucchini – but it just keeps coming.  Now you start giving it away to your friends and family who don’t have gardens of their own – the pastie-white apartment and condo dwellers with no hint of a farmers tan or dirt under their nails.  At first they’re excited, grateful even, for this unexpected gift.  But it doesn’t take long and soon even these folks are dodging you and your gifts from the garden.  It’s been said that zucchini is the gifted fruitcake of vegetables.

So, with my new frugal retiree outlook on life, I’ve been on the hunt for new ways to use this little over achiever (besides trying to give a bag of it to the gas station attendant for filling up the gas tank).   Interesting side note:  August 8th is officially Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.

Why not plan an entire meal around zucchini?   With all of the fabulous food blogs out there, it wasn’t hard to come up with a whole bunch of creative recipes.  Here’s my menu plan.  Sounds like a dinner party’s in the works at Casa Sims in the next couple of weeks.

Start with a pitcher of zucchini martinis and spicy zucchini chips, and you’ve got cocktail hour covered.  For the main course, I’m thinking this zucchini bread pudding looks absolutely delish.  Pair it with a zucchini carpaccio salad and this whole menu plan just keeps getting better.  Finish it all off with a scoop of zucchini ice cream. I’m thinking a few raspberries on top cuz I’m pretty sure even zucchini goes better with raspberries.  Call me crazy (you won’t be the first) but this sounds like a deliciously fun dinner to me.  Summer’s better tasting version of when we used to make the entirely green dinner on St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve book-marked the recipes and I’m going for it.  Who wants to join us?

Now, if you still have more zukes than you know what to do with, here are a couple of other interesting ideas.

Yes, folks, its the Zukapult Competition.  Really, what’s better than flying zucchinis?

Zuke Art?  Sure, why not…but would anybody really buy this for $200?

Disclaimer:  I’m one of the pastie condo dwellers and all of my garden bounty including the zukes are gifts from the beautiful gardens of my son and his farmgirl.  Thanks for sharing your bounty with us.