Cold, pond work, and a memorable concert!

It is cold outside.

I suppose I should expect that since it is mid-October. The sun is shining, though, and that makes all the difference.

The divots in the lawn are annoying as once again, my friend the skunk has gotten the best of me. I have three Havahart traps that I have accumulated over the years, unfortunately, the largest is not currently in my hands, nor is it readily available. It is complicated. The question is, do I buy another one or not? 

Yesterday was especially nice, although especially busy. I removed the pond filter and pump. Note to self: don’t go a whole summer without opening up the filter. It was loaded with beautiful, black sludge that is now on the lawn in its worst places. The filter was so overloaded with it that it deformed the filter material. I am sure it will be quite the improvement for that area. It was very work intensive to clean off the filter components. I still have to change out the UV filter light, which I just realized should be replaced every year. I will do that today. 

After I got all the pond stuff cleaned and dried, I put it away, got cleaned up, and we went to Ryerson Woods in nearby Riverwoods. In an estate belonging formerly to a steel magnate, a gorgeous home in the woods with a farm, next to the Des Plaines river, we had a memorable concert situation with a pianist by the name of Dr. Wael Farouk who played a number of pieces: Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Tschaikovsky, to showcase Loss and Hope. The sponsor is the Brushwood Center, which supports Nature and the Arts. We were invited to this event by Vladimir Kulenovic, the former conductor of the now, sadly defunct, Lake Forest Symphony. We were invited while on our way to Door County about a month ago when we received a phone call from him. I had reached out to him after the death of the Lake Forest Symphony. Few real explanations were given for its demise and it most assuredly appears that Vladimir was set up as a target as it fell. In my estimate, although not a musician, he is my all-time favorite conductor. I originally heard of him in a Chicago Tribune article that pointed out that everyone needed to see this up and coming young man, as he would not last long here. When they wrote that, they thought neither of the Lake Forest Symphony’s clearly bad financial moves, nor of the Pandemic. Thankfully, Vladimir is riding out the storm with some quick moves he has made and is working at Brushwood as well as in some other projects. 

It is a serious loss to the musical world without Vladimir and a baton. Charismatic, charming, musically gifted, and able to speak individually to people or to groups of people waiting to hear music, Vladimir, seemed to be able to get the most out of those he was conducting. He also was not afraid to give a quick bit of info to the audience before playing. His lack of time on the podium is a serious loss to us all.

The sun is shining, it is cold, my coffee is tepid, and I am off to Zoom. This time a meeting before my ESL group.


Posted in Life in general, Music, Thoughts and philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment




Does it exist?

As we watch Darwin’s philosophy in action, as we see the horrible occurrences in states of our union and what happens when people don’t get vaccinated, many of us sit back and try to wrap our heads around the hows and whys of that strange situation where people put their heads in the sand, hope for the best, and then get hit by the Mac truck of a virus.

Immunity exists, at least, on a certain level with that virus, but you have to be vaccinated.

I am talking about another kind of immunity.

I grew up thinking that if I behaved, if I followed the rules, if I lived a good life, that everything would fall in place. Maybe it would not be perfect, but overall, things would turn out well.

I am older and wiser and I see that my thoughts were on the edge of being almost completely off the wall.

I am seeing life as much more of a haphazard, happenstance, type of situation. It starts out with our birth. Some of us are born into extreme entitlement and with very white skin. Some of us are born into white entitlement with upper middle class situations. Some of us are born into white entitlement with working class lives. A very few of us are born as people of color and wealthy backgrounds. Some of us get the double whammy of being of color and not having either the middle class situation or wealth and are convicted to a lifetime struggle with a situation created by a white ruling class.

But none of us are immune…

Disease, mental illness, depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other life breaking situations are felt by a certain percentage of every previous group. Those of us who have great wealth and/or the means and ability to maneuver in the complicated system of inferior care that happens to exist for these things, do better, but those with less education and smaller pocketbooks suffer like crazy.

I marvel that as smart as we can be, and as simple as things could be if we put our minds to it, that we continue to disregard the simple measures that could make it better for all of us.

…and so we suffer…all of us…


Posted in Addiction, Anger, Anti-vaxers, Disabilities, Frustration, Life in general | Leave a comment

Friends, dinners, day trips, and skunks

Try as I might, I cannot get the idea of winterizing out of my head. It is as if I will just not rest until it is done. Maybe that is good; maybe that is bad.

I still have things to do, but not all that many, and it plays on me. I need to be better about realizing that it will all get done. This is something that has plagued me for a lifetime. Perhaps plagued is not how it really is, however, it has been on my mind.

Today, we are going with friends up north to Wisconsin or the day. It should be a good time. We have no major plans and the day is cool and sunny. It was actually cold enough last night to make me think that this is the weekend to pull in my citrus and hibiscus, all nicely repotted for their indoor stay. The hibiscus is blooming and will probably continue to do so for some time. My question is whether or not I shall cut it back. I am kind of thinking not, for right now, we shall see. I might just cut the tips of the tallest branches and force some growth below.

Last night, we had a most enjoyable day and evening as we ended up going to the local golf course for its last outdoor dinner. We were the only ones on the  covered deck. It was almost too cold, but not. We were dressed for the occasion. It was wonderful seeing our good friends and enjoying familiar banter, sharing stories, and having a good meal.

The fall is beautiful, albeit later than usual and the heat is having trouble letting go. The temperature in the house is 61 degrees Fahrenheit, about 16 degrees Celsius. I am looking out of the front window to see men at work: pickup trucks and wheelbarrows and I have not a clue as to what they are up to. The neighbors across the street have been involved in some major interior work and I know not what, other than seeing a Marvin window brought in.

The skunk visited my trap last night, I have to check my cameras to see whether or not anything was caught. Apparently, as our son said, the trap was too sensitive and our friend the skunk didn’t manage to get the prize, nor get caught in the act. That tuna fish is still there and tonight we shall make sure that the trap cannot move within the container it happens to be, I think that is what caused the trapdoor to shut, maybe not too much sensitivity.

All in a day’s work…



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Shirley’s Coffee Cake


It is called Shirley’s Coffee cake and it was originally from the Washington Post. Mindy Segal, a pastry chef and restaurateur ate this as a child and it made her think of home. It is a bundt cake with streusel (and an option that I chose to use, the streusel with ground pecans added). It uses sour cream or crème fraîche and Hungarian that I am, I added sour cream.

I had seen this the other day on Facebook. A beloved, former student who just dove into a yoga enterprise having made it for her students. It looked so good that I looked it up and made it while MK was out on Wednesday. 

I made the streusel, and put it aside. I worked on my mise en place because I have found that when I get in the kitchen, I have a tendency to jump around in the recipe. I did that yesterday in spite of myself as I neglected to read about where to place the eggs. I had done everything else perfectly and looked at the countertop and the two eggs sitting there. I figured out, at that point, that I had done everything else perfectly, so I figured out how to whip them and add them to the mixture.

Once the batter was made, I put half of it in the greased bundt pan over half of the streusel mixture and smoothed it out so as to be even. I then put the other half of the streusel over the batter, attempting to keep it even and more in the middle and not on the sides, before putting the rest of the batter on and smoothing it over so the streusel was completely covered.

I baked it for almost fifty minutes a three hundred twenty-five degree oven and set it to cool.

It is delicious.

It does make me think of home and what home should be. When MK walked in, she immediately smelled the cake. What is better than that?

We had a slice of it for dessert after dinner and for breakfast this morning.

I highly recommend it.


From the Washington Post:

JAN 9, 2018

Pastry chef-restaurateur Mindy Segal has eaten this simple cake since she was a little girl. Its sturdy-yet-tender golden crumb tastes of the Old World, with sweet, moist rings of streusel.

To read the accompanying story, see: For this acclaimed pastry chef, home tastes like a coffee cake.

SERVINGS:   6 – 8   12 – 16   24 – 32   36 – 48  

Tested size: 12-16 servings


  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, not too soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the streusel: Mix together the sugars, salt, cinnamon and pecans, if using, in a small bowl.

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking oil spray.

Combine the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt on a large sheet of wax paper or in a bowl. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream or crème fraiche, ending with the dry ingredients, to form a very thick batter. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour half the streusel into the bottom of the Bundt pan, distributing it evenly; this will give the cake a caramelized appearance. Spread half the batter in the pan evenly, then scatter the remaining streusel on top of the batter layer.

Top with the remaining batter, making sure to cover the streusel layer completely.

Bake (middle rack) for 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean (except for maybe a few streusel crumbs). Let cool completely before inverting onto a platter.

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10 degrees Celsius, dog walking, and skunks


I dressed for the weather, as I see it, running pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a baseball cap. Despite the cool, fifty degree temperature, I was right on point as I was warm and almost perspiring, but not really.

It still remains cool and I think that I may remove the pond filter and pump and clean them for the winter.

Meanwhile, skunk alert is full on. Yesterday, I found scat in the yard, today I found it right next to the foundation of our house, by the back door. That does not make me happy at all. I am trying to figure out what the next step is to be. Last night, after a morning order, I received three LED motion sensor lights that I mean to use as a deterrent. Skunks have very sensitive eyes and don’t like bright lights. I am going to readjust the lights I bought as they can be set to be different gradations of sensitivity to movement.

As I found out this morning, skunk scat is dangerous to humans and animals. I keep dog bags on the ready, I even have them hanging from the garage. We often have our sons’ dogs here so that seems to be a good move. I am planning on scoping out the areas and making sure that I have removed any that I find.

There is never a dull moment.

That is the way life is, conquer one thing and then something else comes to take its place. We need to put one foot in front of the other and plod along. I am good at that. Sometimes, however, more is put on one’s plate than one can realistically handle, but that is a moot point. 

One has to move on.

Posted in Life in general, Skunks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment