Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the cat next door and--oh, deer

Although I keep myself busy trying to get settled into our new home, I have to admit that the days can get a little lonely here. Todd has been swamped at work, so I rarely see him Monday through Friday. And it's always a challenge to start over again in a new city, but in my past moves I have has always been starting a new school or a new job--some new social situation to force interactions with the local crowd. Let's just say that I haven't reached out to my local community yet. I have, however, seem to have bonded with my neighbor's cat.

I call her (or him) Kitty. When I open my windows in the afternoons, I often see Kitty playing around. She always stops and stares at me. First, she would run away. Now she sticks around for a while. One day, I even sang to her. Cats usually find music soothing. And she curled up in a ball on the sidewalk, almost ready for a nap. But then she ran away again.

I thought marriage would save me a future as the crazy cat woman. I guess I was wrong.

At least Kitty keeps me company. My Mom helps, too. I call her every day, which helps me feel like I still exist in the real world of people instead of my world with Kitty. As I was chatting with Mom about the day's events, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Something moving outside my glass front door. It vaguely resembled . . . a horse's butt.

I ran to the window but didn't see anything. I really am going CRAZY. Mom kind of thought so too, and I can't blame her for that. I decided I needed to get out of the house for a bit before I went completely insane.

I walked over to the original Peet's Coffee & Tea, which is only a few blocks from my apartment. Treated myself to a fabulous decaf soy latte. Coffee is often the best medicine. I picked up a few supplies at CVS. A new hairbrush, so I can finally toss out my brush with a handle I reattached with packing tape. I swung by the grocery store too. My hands were pretty full.

I got back to the apartment and this was waiting outside my door. Oh, deer.

That ain't no horse. Whew. Maybe I'm not going crazy. Maybe. But I was so nervous I could barely get through my front door. Thankfully, I was able to make it in without too much commotion. I have never seen a deer that close before, much less a buck. Would a buck ever charge a person? Those antlers seemed so big. And way too close to my glass front door. I don't think the security system would help here.

I guess a deer is pretty harmless. I think, like me, he was a little lonely too because as I was typing this the deer nearly knocked on my front door. Unfortunately, the new place isn't quite ready for guests so I had to send him home.

But thanks for stopping by, Bucko.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I love granola. It's how I start every day. It's comforting to have a morning routine that nourishes you and gives you the energy you need to face the day. I have purchased many granolas over the years but when I went gluten free in April and couldn't find any packaged gluten free granola in my local grocery store, I decided to make my own. It not only tastes better, but you can control the ingredients and make a healthier version, free of preservatives. For a recipe I turned to one of my favorite food bloggers, Heidi Swanson, the voice behind She has so many wonderful recipes and such a fresh and friendly approach to cooking. Her blog helped me overcome my fear of the kitchen and inspired me to be more creative with my food.

My granola recipe is a hybrid of two granola recipes by Ms. Swanson--the "granola" recipe in her most recent cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, and the "grain-ola" recipe in her first cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. The version below is my favorite at the moment now but you can always adjust the ingredients to your taste. One note of caution, though: If you like chewy things in your granola, I would recommend adding them in the last 10 minutes of baking time or even when you are finished baking. (I tried adding dates once and they were so hard after baking that I nearly broke a tooth.)

(adapted from Heidi Swanson's "Granola" and "Grain-ola")

4 cups rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2/3 cup banana chips (chopped, or slightly crushed to bite-size pieces)
grated zest of 2 oranges
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F / 150 degrees C. (If you are using a dark baking sheet, preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.) Mix the oats, walnuts, coconut, sea salt, banana chips, and orange zest together in a large mixing bowl. In a small sauce pan, mix the coconut oil and maple syrup together over low heat, stirring continuously, until the coconut oil is melted. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix together until everything is coated. Transfer the mix to a baking sheet in an even layer and pop it in the oven. Stir the mix every 10 minutes until the granola is golden brown. It should take about 40 to 50 minutes. Allow the granola to cool completely then store it in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the quake

Most of the boxes are finally unpacked. Most. And I was just starting to feel settled in to our new home in Berkeley, California. I will admit, I have been homesick for the Midwest--even though their temperatures are dipping well below zero overnight and it's only October. But I love mitten weather and cozy sweaters, and we have summer weather over here! However, I am slowly getting over the homesickness and am starting to enjoy the daily sunshine with no jacket necessary and the fabulous farmer's market that happens every Thursday, just a block from my house. And the beautiful park right across the street, where families and puppies are always playing. But just when I started to feel settled in, the world began to shake . . . literally.

During my first earthquake, I was driving home from a doctor's appointment, proud that I had finally mustered up the courage to drive through Berkeley. (Pedestrians and cyclists darting onto the street from every direction! So scary.) I parked the car, came into the house, and called my mom, as promised, to let her know how everything went. Then I noticed a text from Todd. He wanted to know if I was OK, if I was frightened from the earthquake. Earthquake?

Earthquakes were my biggest fear when we moved here. I grew up in the Midwest and earthquakes are so foreign. You only hear about the worst ones and the photos look like Armageddon. And after all, it was Thursday, October 20, 2011, only one day before the end of the world--for the second time--according to Harold Camping. Or was it his third ending? I can't keep track. Anyway, I called Todd to tell him I was OK. I hadn't even felt the quake because I was in the car. He felt relieved but said that he had to attend and afterwork function and would be home later than usual.

Knowing I would be home alone, I ate an early dinner and retired to the sofa to watch TV. (Yes, we finally have television installed!) Then at 8:17pm, everything started shaking. The windows were rattling and the rumbling was growing. At first I thought it was just the little kid who lives above us, going through his usual 9pm stomping routine, but then it started to shake more. It sounded like a high-speed train pounding toward our house. Then, it stopped. I didn't know what to think. Was that another earthquake? The house stopped shaking but my bones continued to tremble. I checked the Web to see if another earthquake had been reported. Nothing. Then I checked Twitter and there were already accounts from UC-Berkeley students about the second earthquake, or aftershock, as they say. Perhaps that is why this area is the incubator for social media. It's how we get our news.

Thankfully we are all safe and Todd make it home about an hour later. It was quite the welcome, California. Thanks.