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My Thanksgiving Nightmare

Jennifer Ronda

This is my recollection of my Thanksgiving nightmare. Here's how it all went down:


My father-in-law arrives to pick up me and my husband in his "vintage" sky-blue Buick Regal. We crawl into the back seat, then head off for my parents' house where the big Thanksgiving feast will be held. With this huge family gathering before us, my nerves are already piqued. Having my father-in-law drive us to the event does not help one bit in calming my nerves.

First off, this is an old, unreliable car. The kind that stays covered in the garage and is only used on "special occasions" (my father-in-law believes wholeheartedly this car will only increase in value and become a classic). I'm not even certain we'll make it to my parents' house.

Second, my father-in-law never, EVER drives. Any other day of the year, he is escorted around town by his own personal chauffer. I can't even tell you the last time he actually drove a car.

In an attempt to distract myself and keep calm, I strike up a conversation with my father-in-law.

"Hey, you know what I just realized?" I ask. "You've never met my brother. Could you please introduce yourself to him today?" In response to my comment, he turns around to face me, and gives me that big smile of his, where his grin stretches from ear to ear, exposing all his pearly-white teeth. It's the smile that everyone who knows him recognizes. Okay, I'll take that as I yes.

Yep, total mayhem is unleashed. We arrive and there's like a long receiving line of family members to greet us as we walk through the door. (Please let me remember everyone's name.) Food smells meet our noses (should I be nervous that I don't smell turkey yet?). High-pitched shrills of little nieces, nephews, cousins and I'm pretty sure neighborhood kids pierce our ears. I say hi to aunts, uncles, distant relatives, and some folks who I don't even recognize and I'm quite sure are of no relation to us. 

My mom introduces me to the young lady currently renting the downstairs suite of their house. Meeting her in person only solidifies my earlier impressions I had of her. And I don't like her. Not one bit. Getting bad vibes from this one, alright. I'm convinced more than ever that she's only taking advantage of my parent's generosity and is going to rob them for all their worth. 

And this young lady does nothing to help win me over as she takes me on a guided tour of the private suite where she's residing, and points out all the expensive remodeling, newly appointed appliances, and paint projects my parents are funding at her request. Note to self: Must talk to parents about my skepticism of this so-called renter and her intentions. And also need to ensure mom and pop are saving up properly for their retirement.

I head for one of the staircases leading back upstairs, but stop when I hear clanging sounds coming from the garage. I never liked this part of the house and it gives me the creeps. Our garage was built over an old burial ground of some sort. It may or may not be haunted. 

I slowly open the door leading to the garage and meekly call out (so as to not upset any spirits, just in case, you never know), "Anyone in here?" 

"Hello!" replies a man who's laying on the ground, working on some pipes, and appears to be very pale, very white, and covered in what I only hope and pray is dust and plaster, lest he be an apparition or some incorporeal being. "I'm the handyman!" he yells out, before I can let out a scream.

Of course you are, I say to myself. On Thanksgiving Day. Why, oh, why, would my parents have a handyman over on Thanksgiving?!? Things are crazy enough here today, why would they introduce a handyman to the mix? I leave the handyman to work in peace. He's already charging double I'm sure for working on a holiday, so let's not delay him. Again, reminder to talk to my parents about the importance of retirement savings and OH, MY, WORD...

WHY DO I NOT HAVE A GLASS OF WINE IN MY HAND??? This is very unlike me. I've already been here almost AN HOUR, and I still have yet to pour myself a glass of wine.

It also occurs to me that I've blurted this statement out loud, right in front of two aunts, both of whom give me a nasty glare and I'm quite certain begin planning how they can do an intervention before the evening is over. I quickly walk away in search of the wine bar.

Okay, much better now. Big glass of red wine in hand. 

I walk up the semi-circular staircase, past all the kiddies throwing stuffed animals and bouncy-balls over the side of the railings (the house has a big, grand entrance room where the staircase and second landing is open and looks down upon the floor below), when I overhear one of the kids say something about eating FROZEN STEAK today?? Ha-ha-ha! I laugh to myself. Silly kid, it's Turkey Day! Surely, this is not a relative from my side of the family.

Yep, it's that one day of the year when we all sit around and carve the Big Bird. All year long, I patiently wait for this one November day when I feast upon a large gallinaceous bird: Meleagris gallopavo. Preferably one that's been soaking in a homemade brine for at least 6-8 hours prior to roasting. Also, strongly preferable that it's free-range, grass-fed, and has not been bloated with hormones or water.

But that's not what's important here, it's that we're all gathered together, the whole family, thankful for all we.....WAIT!!! Hold ON!!! WTF?! Why is there no aroma of turkey emanating from the kitchen???? (All these preceding thoughts I say to myself; there are little kids standing around me, after all!). 

My mom and mom-in-law are in the kitchen, laughing and talking and stirring bowls of something. My eyes do a quick scan of the counter top, and UGHHHHH! NOOOOOO!!!

There it is. That pale, pink styrofoam packaging that no decent, fresh, sustainably farm-raised meat should ever come in. Cellophane still in tact and tightly wound around the steak. And yep, the steak's frozen solid, with bits of ice crystals clinging to the inside of the cellophane. And no turkey bird in sight. I take a sip of my wine.

And then I see the mixed veggie medley cans. The ones where the carrots are cut into perfectly shaped cubes, the peas are on the edge of being neon green, and the sodium is off the charts. I turn around and make for the exit so as to avoid saying something I'd later regret, when the moms ask me over to look at something. I take another sip of my wine.

What I see: something resembling a baked potato shell, filled with some form of filling that's one-part dark liquid and one-part oily substance. I'm afraid to ask, and I don't have to: They inform me they whipped up my recipe for chocolate lava cakes for dessert. I take a very large sip of my wine. 

Trust me. This is not what my chocolate lava cakes are supposed to look like. But at this point, this is about the last thing wrong with this entire picture.

I'm out on the staircase balcony, looking down at all the stuffed toys on the ground below, when I see something out of the corner of my eye. There, down there by the garage door. Just perfect, stress-level off the charts and now I'm about to experience my first run-in with a dead person who's been buried under our garage floor.

Then I hear it. A faint, ghostly whisper over my shoulder, "Looks like you need more wine."

Of all things I could possibly imagine an ethereal being would say, this was not one of them. Yet, as I look down at my glass, they are completely and absolutely right! The bottom of my wine glass is indeed visible! 

Just to make sure I haven't totally lost it, I yell out, "Did anyone else just hear the ghost?! What did you hear it say?"

One of my relatives responds, "It said, "Looks like you're all having a good time.""

Perhaps to a spirit that ceased to exist who knows how long ago, all this might look like a good time. For me, I decide to go with my interpretation of the spirit's astute observation and head directly for the wine bar.



As the title indicates, this truly was a nightmare/dream I recently had, and does not reflect any actual Thanksgiving event.  The people, places, events, ghosts, etc presented here are fabrications of my unconscious imagination and do not represent anything based in reality. 

Oh, and my father-in-law that I reference in the beginning paragraphs, the one who has a big grin, a chauffer and doesn't ever drive himself?? As what always seems to inexplicably happen in dreams, my father-in-law was President Obama. So you see, I had to edit out some parts, otherwise you would have know from the get-go something was amiss. 

While I have wonderful memories and have spent amazing Thanksgivings with close family, relatives, good friends and neighbors, I'm very much looking forward to a quiet, cozy holiday this year with just my husband, dog, and maybe a stray friend or two. And some wine. 

Spring It On

Jennifer Ronda

Spring has sprung. And is there any place I’d rather be than Lake Tahoe to witness the metamorphosis from the winter season to the sublime summer season? For those who don’t know me very well, the answer is, “No!”

I love being at Lake Tahoe at this time of year (okay, is there really ever a time of year when I don't love being here?!).  Here are just a few of the tell-tale signs that winter is out, spring is on, and the region is gearing up for the summer months ahead:


The bright red tips of Snow Flowers can just barely be seen emerging from the fallen pine needles and forest floor. They start to appear right after the snowmelt, and are sometimes seen in unsuspecting places.


Vacancy signs everywhere. Empty hiking trails. A deserted downtown. A feeling of having this area to oneself, knowing that soon the summer crowds will be here.

Whether it's solitary daffodils popping up in random spots, or a neighbor's densely planted flower bed, these cheery flowers seem to express gratitude that the winter months are over and it's now their time to come out of hiding and shine.

Nature starts revealing vibrant colors in the landscape, but they’re often contrasted with the remnants of snow, a pale sky, and brown and budless foliage.


Silent and mostly frozen throughout the winter, the creek at the back of our property has once again resumed its constant burbling and babbling.

Today's Forecast: Liquid Sunshine

Jennifer Ronda

Raindrops keep falling on my head...It's raining cats and dogs!...Raindrops on roses...Purple rain, purple rain...Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory...Red rain is coming down, red rain....Rain, rain, go away...In the cold November rain...

When you think about it, there are a lot of sayings and songs that talk about rain. Which to me is a bit odd since most people seem to despise the rainy weather, don't like to talk about it, and want it to stop and go away. But not me. I like the rain. I welcome it. Especially when I think about how the rain often times translates to snow in the mountains! To me, the rain is Mother Nature's way of giving the earth a good cleansing. An opportunity to don my rain boots and wash away all the dust on them. A rinse-cycle for the sidewalks. Liquid therapy for all the plants and flowers that greet me on my walks. So for me, I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again!


Supperbowl Sunday XLVII

Jennifer Ronda

Since our hometown team is playing in today's SuperBowl, we decided a standard menu of chicken wings, potato chips and store-bought dips just wouldn't do. Instead, we opted to test out a few new appetizer recipes to mark this occasion and what will hopefully be a win in our Quest for Six (don't worry Steelers, you're still #1 in our hearts!). The recipes come courtesty of Caroline Fey and Meghan Ellis at the City Kitchen, which never disappoints with their menus and culinary creations. 

Our "Supperbowl" menu covers as much of the culinary field as we're hoping Colin Kaepernick will do in today's game: one healthy hummus spread, a spicy tapas dish, and a hearty sausage dip.

Go 49er's! 

Little Spanish Meatballs with Shaved Manchego Cheese & Grilled Bread: The spiced aroma coming off this dish is incredible -- cinnamon, nutmeg, smoked paprika and cumin.

Meyer Lemon Hummus with Carmelized Shallots and Homemade Pita Chips: The shallots and lemon juice add a special twist to this dip.


Warm Sausage Dip with Fire Roasted Tomatoes & Mascarpone Cheese: Sausage and cheese...'nuff said.


 And the full spread:



Baking Dog Biscuits for a Cause

Jennifer Ronda

This past weekend the annual Fillmore Jazz Street Festival was held in San Francisco, packed with arts and craft booths, food vendors, beer gardens, and lots of live music. The Pets Unlimited Shelter & Adoption Center also had a booth set up offering dog and cat treats, biscuits, and goodies to help raise funds for all the shelter animals. To help with the cause, Bear (ahem, Jen) baked up a batch of Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits to donate to the shelter's bake sale. 

Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits are pretty simple to make, and use ingredients both canines and humans alike can eat: Flour, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Bear says, "They're paw-lickin' good!!!"Organic Unsweetened Applesauce, Cheddar Cheese, Egg, and Homemade Chicken Stock.

Both Jen and Bear have done taste-tests on them; Jen likens the biscuits to bland crackers, and Bear says they're paw-lickin' good. 

Of course, it's the dog bone-shaped cookie cutter that makes all the difference! 

Biscuits, fresh out of the oven. Bear inspects to ensure they've been baked to paw-fection.

Once out of the oven and cooled off, the biscuits were packaged up and ready to go to the bake sale. A list of ingredients was included on the packaging to help out the finicky eaters.   

The Pets Unlimited Shelter & Adoption Center bake sale was a success! A little over $2000 was raised from the sale of all the baked goods! Both Bear and Jen like to think that Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits were in high demand at the sale, and are tail-wagging and smiling (respectively) knowing that some of the money raised for the shelter was a result of their contribution. 

 The Pets Unlimited Shelter and Adoption Center bake sale booth, with the shelter in the background



Out Horsing Around

Jennifer Ronda

Last week, I left the city life behind me (for several hours, anyways) and headed for the foothills of Mount Diablo for a 3+ horseback ride at Isabella Farms. It's amazing how within a one-hour drive one can completely leave the city, traffic, and freeways and find oneselve out in a rural area where two-lane roads, silence, wild turkeys, and horse farms are the norm.

Isabella Farms is a beautiful ranch, complete with a little over a dozen horses, two goats, chickens (yes, cage free!), two cats, and a young Doberman Pinscher pup named Daisy (whose job is to keep away the coyotes and bob cats; okay, as a 5 month old puppy, she has yet to grow into this role, but one day will). Once there, I headed out to the pasture to round up my trusty steed for the journey: Justice. And he was one high-spirited and magnificent horse who did justice on making me work hard on my horsemanship skills! As it turned out, I was the only one who showed up for the trail ride (how nice!). And I couldn't wait to head out on the ride with my guide, Lindsay.

The clip-clop, clip-clop of the horses' hooves on the ground, the snorting sounds coming from Justice, the swishing-sound of the horses' tails as they tried to chase away the quickly brought on a feeling of peace and tranquility. Of course, the landscape didn't hurt either. We took a trail through the foothills that first started out with a canopy of trees covering the wide path. With poison ivy and poison oak lining the path. Then, the trail significantly narrowed to a very tight line that led us through open, rolling, grassy areas dotted with low, stubby trees; this part made us feel as if we were riding through Frodo's homeland of The Shire (while dodging more poison ivy and poison oak).

But the truly breathtaking part of our journey was when we reached the ridge and had a bird's eye view of the valleys below us and Mt. Diablo in front of us. And it literally was a bird's eye view -- as I looked to my right I was level with a crow that was about 40 yards away just hovering and soaring in the wind. Speaking of wind, this was also the windiest part. And the coldest part. Sitting atop our horses, we could see the wind rippling across the tall grasses. It reminded us of big waves way out at sea moving through the ocean.

After some steep descents, more grasslands, and more poison ivy and poison oak, we were on our way back to the ranch. It was an amazing day with amazing views. And Justice was well served. And I don't know what surprised me more: waking up the next morning with no poison ivy (which I was certain I had) , or waking up with no sore bones (which I was certain I would)!

Me and Justice

Blog Entry #1: This is a Test

Jennifer Ronda

Wait. What? I have a Blog Page? I don't know what to do with this. Do I write about some innocuous event that happened to me today? Or should I instead share some of my deepest, most moving thoughts that occured to me today? This is stressing me out just trying to determine what I should write about....

Okay, let's blockquote this so it looks really important: Hello. And welcome to my first blog posting.   

Wow. Does this mean I'm now a blogger?