My Fourth Of July Dinner was edible


To prepare my special Fourth of July holiday meal, I started first with preparing dessert.  For this I made soda spice bread in my microwave oven.  That was not my intention.  It was supposed to have been a spice cake.  The recipe was from a page of microwave recipes a friend had fotocopied and emailed to me.  The heading of the page was “Cakes.”  The name of the recipe of interest was Early American Gingerbread.  I wanted to cook a cake in the microwave because I do not run my conventional oven during the hot months here in Phoenix, Arizona when the micro oven would be fighting against the efforts of the air conditioner to cool my condo.

I decided to turn gingerbread recipe into a spice cake.  I eliminated the half cup of molasses from the recipe and added two tablespoons more of water and added nutmeg and cloves to the mixture of spices.  When my electric mixer finished beating the batter, it had the consistency of a yeast dough.  It did not pour and it was difficult to transfer from mixing bowl to my glass bowl with tube in center (modified Bundt pan for baking in microwave).

Soon after turning the microwaves on to batter the batter I began smelling soda bread.  My brain berated me, “You forgot to delete the baking soda and use baking powder!”

When the soda bread was done and had cooled for a few minutes I ate a small slice.  The bread wanted to crumble and was almost tasteless.  While I was chewing I noticed an egg, still in its shell, sitting on the counter.  It had not made its way into the batter.  I sliced the rest of the soda bread and froze it for future purposes, then washed and dried the dishes.  The dry soda bread should make good bread crumbs for recipes that use crumbs.

The morning was still young.  Baking time had been only 5 minutes.  I adjusted the leavening to baking powder on my recipe notes, switched from all-purpose flour to cake flour, added another two tablespoons water, and of course, baked another round.  This batter had the consistency of real cake batter.

But it had too much leavening for the intense heat of the microwave oven.  The cooked cake had little holes all around inside it.



The cake was dry, altho a little less dry than the soda bread, and still had very little flavor from the spices.  The intense heat of the microwave must be causing the oils of the spices to evaporate and leave the cake.  I made a cream cheese-with-cinnamon icing.  The cinnamon gave the icing an off-white color.  I placed some red and some blue M&Ms around on the top of the cake.  Thus, my July 4th cake was topped in red, off-white, and blue.  With the thick, very sweet icing, the cake was somewhat tasty.


July 4th 2018 cake, C


Then came putting together the meal itself, a Fourth of July Vegetable Flag.  Kroger (grocery stores) had sent it to me in an email of sale items I could buy at the local Fry’s grocery stores.


July 4th Flag by Kroeger, Inc.

Last week I had copied the recipe and gone shopping.  During the weekend, while visualizing the ingredients I realized I had nothing for making red stripes.  I checked the recipe.  There were little cherry tomatoes lined up in rows.  I decided to cut the cherry tomatoes in half, but first I had to get some into the condo.  I walked the three blocks to the Safeway grocery store at 6 a.m. Sunday, before traffic was awake and clogging the streets.  At that early hour I was able to jaywalk at the “T” where my street ends when it meets the street in front of Safeway.

Safeway, Phoenix, 1july2018

I brought a container of cherry tomatoes home and put them in the refrigerator.  While again going over the flag in my head, I realized that I had bought yellow cheese instead of white cheese.  That’s why my flag has red and yellow stripes.

I had about ¾ cup dried black beans in the pantry so yesterday I cooked them to use for the stars in the flag (according to the recipe).  There were more cooked beans than I needed for the flag.  I refrigerated the beans for breakfast.  This morning I ate the black beans — all of them, unintentionally.  After some thought, I pulled from the freezer a bag of red, white, and blue M&Ms.  I sorted out a bunch of blue candies and white candies and used them to build the star area of the flag.  I didn’t have to change the name of the recipe because M&Ms are vegetables.  The sugar is made from vegetables (usually sugar cane or sugar beets) and the chocolate is made from the fruit of a cacao tree, which is vegetable matter.


July 4th Vegetable Dish





2018 Pagosa Springs

Greetings to viewers of my recent trip.

The picture on the left shows my tent at Williams Creek Campground.  The second picture is of the front of the house Fred Harman built and lived in for many years til he died a couple years ago.  For you of my age, Fred Harman wrote the Red Ryder cartoon.  Red Ryder had a sidekick Little Beaver.




Last chapter, Visiting


June 11, Monday

Low temperature was 41 degrees.  I had waked up earlier, could not go back to sleep, so got up and began breaking camp when the dawn light was still so dusky I could hardly see.  It was 7:45 a.m. when I finished slowly taking camp down and set out for Pagosa Springs.  I could smell cinders and ash.

Soon after I pulled out of the campground I began driving thru small groups of cattle.  They seemed to have been the ones that had been in the pasture adjacent to the campground but were now moving slowly downhill.  One time a young calf stood in the road, blocking me and looking at us.  All the other cattle had moved off the road for 4titude.  I have found that honking a vehicle horn does not cause cattle to move off the road; they are accustomed to the loud lowing of cows, as well as the belligerent lowing of bulls, and do not associate the car horn with danger.  Honking makes cattle more curious and they remain standing in the way longer than they would have without the car’s making a raucous noise.  So, I drove very, very slowly towards the calf and it finally decided it should move out of 4titude’s path.

DA Williams Creek CG D1, 9june2018


As I moseyed downhill, vehicles passed me going uphill in a hurry.  Water tankers passed by.  Based on the wind hitting 4titude as the vehicles sped past, the tankers appeared to be loaded, but possibly they were empty and were going to fill up at Williams Reservoir.  But they were many miles from the wildfires.  Empty cattle trucks passed me.  An old red pickup driven by a man wearing a straw hat rolled up on the two sides, passed, going very fast.  Was he going uphill to help round up the cattle I’d seen and get them on the cattle trucks?  A couple of empty horse trailers passed me.  There was a horse ranch, with signs offering horseback rides, on the edge of the forest behind me now.  People were moving out their valuable animals.  Was it because they feared the 416 Fire would reach this area, or because they did not want their animals breathing and eating cinders and ash, or because the Forest Service told them to remove their animals from the closed national forest?  A Forest Service truck with lots of equipment passed me.  What were they going to use the equipment for in this part of the San Juan National Forest?

Betty called and told me she had reserved a separate room for me at the San Juan Motel in Pagosa Springs.  I soon I was parked in front of room 45 at the motel.

Betty et al soon arrived.  Santa Fe had only been a three-mile drive away.  We ate lunch at The Thai.  The sauces (including salad dressing) were different and delicious, and the presentation of the food on plates was beautiful.  The chef was surprisingly creative.  Much more polished than the Thai restaurant near my condo in Phoenix, a restaurant whose food it tasty.

We walked the Riverwalk to allow Angel (a black, standard poodle, age 13) and us to stretch our legs.  I led them to the “mother” Hot Spring, a huge spring that fed all the spas plus the little decorative hot springs along edge of the river in town.



We were hot and Leza suggested ice cream.  Betty, a vegan, figured she could get sorbet wherever we got ice cream.  We stopped at The Malt Shoppe but the place was out of ice cream.  We stopped at the Ice Cream Shop on the west edge of town but it had closed around 2 p.m.  Apparently it produced a bunch of ice cream in the mornings and sold it all by soon after the lunch hour.  Every day.  Its scheduled closing time was 2 p.m.

We remarked that we were near McDonald’s Restaurant and Leza’s taste buds decided they wanted a hamburger.  She checked the McDonald’s app on her smart fone.  Leza and I went inside while Betty stayed outside with Angel, with the air conditioning running to keep the dog cool.  There was nothing Betty could eat.  Leza ordered a burger that, using her app, came with a free hot fudge sundae.  Hot fudge was not a flavor she cared for at the moment so she gave the little sundae to me.  Delicious.

It was now late enuf to retire to the motel.  Betty and Leza, separately, worked on making the Bluetooths in my fone and in 4titude talk to each other, and eventually they succeeded.  That was wonderful.  During the next few days we were able to discuss travel instructions while driving down the highway, with me far out of sight behind them.

There was lots of thick and thin smoke visible to the north.  Again, the sun was a deep red circle behind the smoke.  Betty took a picture.  In her foto the yellow sun did have a light red circle at its outer edge.

While watching TV (The Antique Roadshow) Betty called the front desk to report that we did not have hot water.  The man turned on the central hot water heater.  This night I got all my skin clean for the first time in over a week.  When I scrubbed my face, arms, and legs the first time a center circle of the white wash cloth turned brown.  I scrubbed the wash cloth, re-scrubbed those dirtiest areas, then scrubbed everything else.  Very little brown color on the wash cloth the second time.

At some point Leza Mesiah told me she was one of a small group of University of Buffalo (NY) students who started the radio program All Things Considered.  I listen to the program on NPR (National Public Radio) almost every day.


June 12, Tuesday

When I first went out the door this morning, just as the sun was about to pop over the horizon, the temperature was a chilly 45 degrees.

After packing our vehicles we ate breakfast at The Rose.  I ate a huge 3-meat omelet plus hash browns.  A very, very tall, large biscuit was provided with my meal.  Altho I buttered it, there was too much bread taste for my buds.  Leza ate it with relish.  If I ever eat breakfast there again I will ask for the English muffin instead of the biscuit.  The English muffin was thin, thinner than any I’d ever seen.  It looked much tastier than the biscuit.  We finished breakfast at a quarter of noon.



In the picture above, taken inside The Rose, Leza Mesiah is on the left and Betty Chern-Hughes on the right.

Today we drove to Taos for the night, to visit one of Betty’s friends.  When we left Pagosa Springs we could see and smell smoke from the 416 Fire for many miles as we drove southwards.

While driving across the Brazos Uplift I saw a buck elk standing in a meadow near the highway.  Elk were hornless this time of year, but this one acted like a buck the way he raised and held his head in profile while watching 4titude.

A little later we came off the 10,000-foot high plateau onto the plains on which Taos sits.  We paused to take pictures of the Rio Grande Bridge at Taos.  It is the 5th highest bridge in the United States.  This foto does not give much idea of the depth of the gorge but shows the beauty of the bridge.  The fotos and article at the web site have excellent fotos and good information.



We parked at the Quality Inn in Taos, New Mexico and unloaded necessities.  I was assigned room 44.  Then Leza ferried us to the little, summer house of Mari.  She winters in California and had just arrived in Taos yesterday.  Mari had allowed friends to spend three months in the house. and she complained that they had not cleaned up hair from their large dog (2 dogs, I think) and had not dusted cabinets, etc, and had not mopped the floor when they moved out.  The upper edge of the (purposefully) bumpy paint was loaded with dog hair.  I wondered how so much dog fur had gotten that high.  Mari said it was probably lofted by the arms of the ceiling fan.

The house was one room.  Only the bathroom was partitioned off.  Mari had designed the architecture, herself.  I liked her floor plan very much.

Mari joined us for a late lunch, then we returned to her house.

Mari had fallen off a small stepladder, while cleaning her house (in California) a couple years ago and broke some bones.  Very soon afterwards she had right knee and hip replacement.  She was under orders not to climb on ladders ever again, not even to clean inside her house.  Mari was short.  She had tackled dust and dog hair at her level, but she was very upset at the dog fur (and dust) she could see higher up.

I stood on her short stepladder, stretched, and scrubbed the lovely glass of the four-light fixture over the sink and the tops of the kitchen cabinets.  It felt like good exercise.  Betty stood at hand to rinse the rag and hand it back to me.  I also wiped the top of the refrigerator.  It was not as dirty as the tops of the cabinets.  I was glad to have the exercise to help work off the calories in the huge meals being served at the restaurants.

Leza, Betty, and Mari took turns standing on the step stool to work on the ceiling light fixture.  In getting the dead bulb out, one of them had twisted the chain that held the glass fixture so it should not fall to the floor.  No one was able to re-affix the glass to the fixture on the ceiling til after the twist was discovered and eliminated.  We stood by when Mari was on the short stepladder.

We went to the KTAO Solar radio station and listened to a free performance of teachers and students of the Taos Opera Institute.  It was titled “Cantos De Taos 2018.”  Apparently this is a weekly thing during the summer.  The voices of the five teachers showed good training, except that at least three of them had difficulty putting volume into some of the notes that were below their normal vocal singing range.  The two students could not put any volume at all into the notes that were below their usual ranges.  One of the female teachers pronounced her words so strangely that I could not understand a word she sang.  However, her singing voice was lovely and I enjoyed listening to her.  One (male) teacher, Darius Thomas, not only had a very good professional voice, but his face was very, very expressive.  I enjoyed watching him as well as listening to his singing.  During the fall-winter-spring seasons the teachers all sang at various opera houses.


June 13, Wednesday

Mari joined us for (free) breakfast at the Quality Inn, then we joined her in shopping at second-hand stores.  In a consignment shop I found a lovely red vest to replace my recently-deceased one.  The new vest had embroidery on the collar.  It was made by Taos Fleece Works and was being sold for 25% off that day.  How lucky could I get?!  Even more surprising, a little hand-made Pueblo Indian pot, painted in red, black, and cream, was priced at $200.  I have an almost-exact little pot like it that mother bought in the 1960s.  The paint on the one in the consignment shop was partly worn away; the paint on mine is still fresh.

When leaving town we drove to Ranchos de Taos see the church of St. Francis.  Betty saw people dressed in black going into the church, then the door was closed and locked.  She figured a funeral was in progress.  We entered the garden area at the front of the church and took pictures, but we were not able to see the interior of the church.



Leza, Angel, and Betty are standing beside the statue of St. Francisco of Asis.

When we were sated with fotos we took turns going into the little gift shop.  Post cards in the shop showed beautiful scenes of the inside of the church.  Unfortunately, the postcards cost $2 each so none came into my possession.

We walked towards Leza’s minivan, with me far in the lead.  Betty yelled at me.  I turned around.  She explained that she had apparently left her crutch-cane at the place where we had taken fotos inside the church’s gardens.  I hastened back and got there before Betty.  The cane was at the feet of a statue of St. Francisco de Asis.  I picked it up and carried it to Betty, remarking that people who noticed it had probably thought that someone had felt cured by St. Francisco and had left the cane there as testament.  We chuckled.

We’d had such big breakfasts that we did not need a noon meal.  Instead, we said goodbye to Mari and drove to Betty’s house in Santa Fe.  She owned two houses, side-by-side.  Mari had owned and lived in one of them and Betty bought the house as a rental when Mari sold out and moved to Taos for the warm season.  Betty rented that house out for long-term leases.  The first house she had bought was now a money-maker, being handled as a short-term rental, the kind where everything is provided.  Renters only have to bring their clothes.  She and Leza had driven to Santa Fe last week because the recent renter had just moved out.  They were joined by Kathleen Casey, a friend in Dallas who flew to Santa Fe to help out.  They began cleaning, then Betty and Leza drove to Pagosa Springs to visit me.  Kathleen stayed behind and did more cleaning plus hauling things to the dump.



I took the picture above to show case the pretty, strung-out clouds.  4titude is parked in front of Betty’s long-term rental house.  My back is towards Betty’s short-term rental.

We unloaded a few things at Betty’s currently-empty house then we all piled into Leza’s minivan.  After buying food at Whole Foods (I think it was) we took it to Diane’s house.  Kathleen was already there.  We had relaxing conversations and food.


June 14, Thursday

Betty, Angel, and I took a pre-breakfast walk to and around Las Acequias Park, which was not far from her house.  We picked up some trash and threw it in the trash cans in the park.  Betty was carrying a pooper-scooper that worked mechanically so the holder did not have to bend.  She used it to pick up trash.

We four had breakfast at the Plaza Café Southwide, a mile from Betty’s house.  State Senator Liz joined us there.  Betty and Liz had met and become friends years ago when Betty lived in Santa Fe and was active in women’s issues.

Again today, Leza expressed an interest in eating ice cream but did not stop anywhere to buy and eat a cone.  My taste buds watered at the thought.  While Kathleen and Betty continued preparing the house, Leza and I drove to a couple places and purchased items to stock the house for the renters who were arriving on Sunday.  No ice cream.

Betty and Leza had been invited to dinner at Liz’s house.  Betty felt she could not impose by asking if she could bring two more guests.  Kathleen and I were still pretty full from huge breakfasts.  Betty and Leza went to Liz’s and Kathleen drove the two of us to the plaza.

We two spent quite a bit of time exploring the outside of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis, a short block off the plaza.  Kathleen was interested because she was reading Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather and wanted to see the church Lamy had begun building when he was the archbishop.



The sign at the feet of the statue explained who she was.



Then we walked around the plaza til we found the Häagen Dazs ice cream parlor.  I ordered the “large” cup of Mint [chocolate] Chip [vanilla] ice cream.  Kathleen ordered none.  I had not realized she had no interest in ice cream at that time.  The Häagen Dazs was my other (or second) meal of the day.


June 15, Friday

Vacation time was over.  When I arose around 4:30 a.m. Betty was peeling four eggs she had just boiled.  She packaged them for me to eat as breakfast on the fly.  She had not wanted to leave the eggs in the refrigerator, not knowing if the renters would want to cook eggs.

I drove away at 5:15 a.m. (4:15 when figuring my driving time for the day).  A couple hours later Betty and Leza headed for Dallas, Texas.  Their drive took them about three hours longer than my trip.  Odometer was 64,086 when I arrived home at 2:30 p.m.  Total mileage for the trip was 1,588.  Driving time was 10¼ hours.