Ridgecrest Diaries

One of my first impressions of the town of Ridgecrest took place at the Post Office. When we moved from the city to the desert one of the first things I did in town was to familiarize myself with the library and the Post Office.

The building itself is small but modern. It looks like any other post office built in the last few years. It is what takes place inside that distinguishes it from other Post Offices . The postal employees actually know their customers. The first time I stood in line to buy stamps (pretty ones, of course!) I noticed the employees asking their customers about their lives–not too personal, but personal enough to indicate that they knew them and were genuinely interested in them as people. They knew what was going on in each other’s lives.  Wow. This was not an isolated incident.  It was typical of conversations at the counter.  I noticed that the people in line knew each other, too. Holy cow!  We’re not in the big city anymore, Dorothy!

Then there are the Navy personnel and their wives.  It is easy to tell which customers are Navy, either by uniform, haircut, or demeanor and carriage.  Most of them are young.  The enlisted men and women typically   stay for 2 years then move on.

It was one particular postal employee who particularly delighted me.  Not particularly pretty, plain even, she was genuinely friendly and, well, folksy.  She cared about the details of my large manila envelope decorated with stickers.  Without my asking,  she went out of her way to find clear packing tape and cover the stickers so that they would not come off in transit.  Another time she took my postcard and literally ran it to the back so that it would be posted immediately.

A pleasant introduction to small town life.

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Buckawk! Soup Style

Yesterday I made chicken soup, with brown rice and fresh vegetables, from scratch. It took me all day. It did not disappoint. AND it was gluten-free. Bam!

It was a luxury to have all day to create the soup. Yesterday was one of the first days that it actually felt like fall. Well, fall in the desert, that is. It was actually chilly in the morning. There was a slight breeze and the sky was blue and clear. The temperature was mild all day. It was wonderful.

I”m writing down what I did to create this delectable concoction so that I can refer to it later.

About 3 cups cooked, diced chicken (from 4+ # of bone-in chicken)
Homemade chicken broth, about 2 qts.
1-1/2 cans of Swanson chk broth (no msg)
Mirepoix (1:1:1 ratio), sauteed with a little garlic
About 1 cup cooked brown rice
2 or 3 handfuls of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
Juice from a fresh lemon wedge
About 9 baby carrots, cut into coins

To cook the chicken:
Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces, and place them in a shallow baking dish.  Mix 1 Tbl unfiltered apple cider vinegar wih 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil and brush it generously on the chicken.  Cover and bake at 350 for 30 min.  Baste the chicken with the pan juices and sprinkle with sweet hungarian paprika.   Bake 30 min. more.  Baste and lower  temp to 325 or even 300.  Bake a total of 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.  Allow chicken to cool a little and remove the skin and the bones.

Place the skin, bones and some of the fat in a stockpot and cover generously with water.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for as long as you have time, min. of 1-1/2 hrs, longer if possible.  Strain the broth and skim the fat.

Assemble the soup:
Place the broth and about 1 can of Swanson’s natural chicken broth in a large pot.  Add the chicken, mirepoix, rice and the carrots.  Add the lemon juice and a little salt.  Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer 30 min.  Add the green beans and bring the soup back to a simmer.  Continue simmering until the green beans are cooked through.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the soup is ready.

The brown rice and the mirepoix were frozen, which was helpful.

Now that I have written this down, it seems a little silly because it’s so basic, and this is not the only way to make chicken soup.  It just tasted so good it seemed like I should write this all down.

Chicken soup. The ultimate comfort food.


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A random memory from several years ago. This took place on a breezy, sunny California day.

Gayla: Calls Corie from her cell ph: “Corie, I’m at Taco Bell. Would you like me to bring you something?”

Corie: [Indistinguishable]

Gayla: What?

Corie: [Indistinguishable]

Gayla: (Realizes that Corie is speaking English and is entirely lucid, but she just can’t seem to get what she’s saying.) I’m so sorry Corie. Will you please repeat that?

Corie: BEEF [indistinguishable]!

Gayla: (Gives up entirely.) BEEFCAKE? You want BEEFCAKE?


Gayla: You want a beef chalupa delivered by BEEFCAKE?


Gayla: OOOHHHHH! Got it. Sure you don’t want it delivered by Beefcake?

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Congratulations to Kelly Slater!

Today Kelly Slater won his eleventh Association of Professional Surfers World Championship. Having lived in Southern California for 26 years, I recognized the name but I couldn’t have told you what sport he was known for. Now I will remember.

This is a remarkable accomplishment. Even though I don’t follow sports, the fact that Kelly just won his eleventh world championship caught my interest. Even I know that very few athletes, if any, dominate their sport for twenty years.

Way to go, Kelly Slater!

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Searching for inspiration, I googled “blog prompt.” That is how I found The One-Minute Writer. I scrolled down until I found the writing prompt for Monday, October 17, 2011:
“Write about a time you were the center of attention, and how you felt about it.”

That one’s easy! It was two days ago, Sunday Oct. 30. At the end of the College/Young Adult Women’s Bible Study, I realized I had forgotten to tell them that I had gotten the job at JoAnn’s Fabric and Crafts. I blurted it out, and the entire group burst into cheers and applause.

I was humbled, grateful, and encouraged by their response. My soul was nourished by their care and concern. A good example of Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”

It made me want to reciprocate and to renew my committment to pray for their hearts concerns, care for them, and encourage them.

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Five Things I’ve Learned From NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs

5. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
Semper Fi.

4. Working with your hands is therapeutic. Gibbs does not watch tv. He is constantly in the process of building a boat–by hand, no power tools–in his basement.   This is his therapy as well as his entertainment. Gibbs’ team knows where to find him when he is upset, stressed or needs time to himself.

3. Don’t waste words–get right to the point.

2. Surround yourself with the best. Pick people for your team who can be trusted to pack your parachute and who will go to the mat for you.

1. Trust your gut. To quote Abs,  NCIS forensic scientist: “Never question the gut.”  Gibbs rivals Athanasius of Alexandria in his ability to stand his ground against EVERYONE ELSE.  Ooo-rah.

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Eureka! I Have Found It!

The Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach. Word on the street has it that this is where to go for breakfast.  The locals eat there.  According to our server, customers start arriving around 5:00 am every day.

I have always liked the idea of going out for breakfast more than the actual experience, much to Tori’s chagrin. Once, on a rare early morning drive on PCH we found a place in Sunset Beach (at least I think it was Sunset Beach) where I actually, truly, enjoyed my breakfast.  I still remember the exquisite hollandaise sauce.  With this rare exception–well, ok, breakfast at Denny’s on the way to LAX in Jan. was fairly decent, along with breakfast at that one place in Spokane that used to be a train–I am usually disappointed w/ my food.

Until my kindred spirit Beverlee took me to the Sugar Shack. First of all, it’s at the beach–on Main Street at PCH and a very short walk to the pier. This alone would have made me agree to go there. Second, they are locally owned, affordable and known for their breakfast and lunch. Third, the locals eat there. Triple threat!

Where the surfers all go

On Thursday, May 5, 2011, The Sugar Shack nailed it for me.  I ordered the half Keppler’s, which is basically scrambled eggs benedict with avocado, bacon and tomato accompanied by hash browns.  Here’s the catch: I asked for a poached egg, hold the English muffin, and extra crispy hash browns. THEY GOT IT RIGHT AND IT WAS PERFECTLY COOKED!!! Perfectly cooked and delivered hot to my table in a timely manner!!! It was the most delicious restaurant breakfast I have ever eaten. I am still dreaming about that breakfast.

The Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach.  It’s where to go for breakfast.

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E.B. White Said That?

E.B. White, Cornell University Senior Photograph

Today I came across this quote:

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgement and education–sometimes it’s sheer luck, like getting across the street.

E.B. White

E.B. White said that?   Whaddya know.  His pedastal just got a little higher.

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I Guess I Have The Ants To Thank

There is a reason chefs are taught mis en place. I would do well to practice this.  I get excited to begin my culinary confections and plungle right in, neglecting to check my supply of each ingredient.  This old habit, combined with a slight case of brain fog (it’s the gluten’s fault!  A minute amount, but it tasted so good. . .) almost ruined my afternoon.

My gf version of Pioneer Woman’s *Best Chocolate Sheet Cake.  Ever. was in the oven and I had a little less than 20 minutes to make the frosting.  Then it hit me–I did not buy powdered sugar!  Aaugh!  This morning before I went to the store I went to PW’s website and clicked on the recipe tab, but I got so sidetracked reading her current recipes I completely forgot to check the recipe for the cake!  In the car I mentally reviewed the ingredients for the cake, not remembering to think about the frosting.

Fortunately, the brain fog abated, and–aha!  Sometime last year I bought powdered sugar at Costco, and put what I did not use in the freezer to protect it from the ants!!  Sure enough, it was still there.

I never thought I would be thanking the ants.

*She speaks the truth.

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Christmas Tree Lighting 2010: A Happy Ending

For 24 hours our tree was dark, valiantly gracing our living room with it’s natural beauty.  I carefully watered it and wondered how we we were going to get those tiny fuses out of the plug on the first strand of lights at the bottom of the tree.

It turns out that there is a little, tiny, door in the plug on each strand of lights, which opens to reveal two even tinier fuses which can be removed and replaced.  Who knew?  I had seen the replacement fuses when I opened the boxes of lights and wondered what they were.  I thought, well, they must be in there for a reason, so I put them in a baggie with the replacement bulbs.

Yesterday was a busy day.  I kept my morning appointment to go shopping with a friend, since I do not have access to our car right now.  When I got home around noon, I tried to remove the fuses from the very first strand of lights, at the base of the tree, but was not successful.  Not only are those fuses tiny, they are tightly wedged in their little compartment.  I gave up.

I spent the afternoon de-cluttering the kitchen and getting ready for two of the post-college girls from church to come over to bake gluten-free cookies.  The kitchen table once again became visible and the hand-made  table runner and the cut-glass bowl of shiny ornaments dressed it up for Christmas.  The counters and the sink were cleaned and cleared of clutter and became ready for our baking session.  Things were looking up.  I began to look forward to the evening, all the while wondering if I was going to have to locate all those green plugs I had so carefully hidden in the branches of the tree; or, worst case scenario, if I was going to have to take all of those lights off of the tree and buy new lights and start all over again.  This is a very full Douglas Fir and it had been no easy task to individually wrap each branch with lights.  1,150 lights.

Stephanie was the first to arrive.  I told her of our dilemma and she willingly accepted the challenge.  I showed her the plug and the fuses, and gave her toothpicks and tweezers.  I left her alone to work and went in the kitchen to begin making gf waffle batter.  Stephanie requested a knife.  I willing gave her my brand new paring knife, which I carefully guard, always putting the cardboard sheath on it and storing it in it’s box so that it can always be located.  A few minutes later . . . success!  Stephanie had removed the fuses.  We replaced the fuses, closed the tiny door in the plug, found the opposite end of the strand of lights and unplugged it, plugged it into the wall . . . and there was light!  What a beautiful sight!  My stress level was coming way down.  I still did not know if we were going to have to locate more plugs on the tree.  Stephanie, who was not as invested in this situation as I was, quickly located a plug in the middle of the tree, separated it from the strands below it and plugged it into the extension cord . . . more light!  Hooray!  Only the fuses on the first strand of lights had blown.  Steph quickly separated the strands into two sections and plugged them into the extension cord separately.  Our lovely tree was once again ablaze with lights!

If I remember correctly, I might have literally jumped up and down, exclaiming, “Stephanie!  You saved Christmas! We should make a Christmas television special and make lots of money!”  I may or may not have said that.

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