Thursday, January 04, 2018

Don't try this at home

Having discovered that the nearly full bottle of cayenne pepper was ruined by mold or mildew or ?, and having gotten confirmation that it was not fit to eat from my dearly beloved, and being unwilling to hop in the car and drive to town pick up some more, I tossed it in the trash and decided to grind up red pepper flakes in my coffee bean grinder as a substitute.


Very bad mistake.

The fumes were immediate and powerful. I am relieved that I did not cough up part of my lung.

I will drive to town tomorrow and buy a new container of cayenne.

Monday, January 01, 2018

To resolve or not to resolve?

My kitchen window faces due East, and in the winter, this is the view I have at about 6:45 every morning.

On this first morning of the New Year it was –1°F when daylight broke.

Yup, it was cold all right when I ventured out to feed the birds. But, it wasn’t too bad compared to other places North and East of here. It could be worse.

I have thought a bit about making some resolutions to put into practice this year. I’ve thought about spending 15 minutes every day cleaning something in the house besides the usual mess in the kitchen. I have thought about making a list of people that I need to pray for and then actually praying for them.

I intend to do both of these things. I feel very motivated to succeed, possibly because these are reasonable goals – small steps – rather than high and lofty goals or resolutions that mean a total upheaval in lifestyle that are unrealistic and that almost always fail. I’ll have to see how it goes…

Our pastor gave a thought-provoking sermon yesterday about the New Year. She adapted three suggestions from Father Rudolph Novecosky’s book Homilies for Everyday Life:

Pull Back: choose 1 day a month to start with to pull back from judging and criticism and send out love instead.

Pick Up: pick up a worthwhile value others have started

Put Down: put down last year’s emotional garbage – hurts, disappoints -- and leave them behind.

Sounds like a plan...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Keeping Quiet

How often have you invited someone over for a meal or to visit and immediately begin apologizing for the condition of the house or the food or…? Or perhaps someone drops in unexpectedly and the house isn’t looking its best.

Well, to quote the end of the Ogden Nash poem "Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice" about this very topic:
I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep…on a handy shelf,
Which is, don’t spoil the denouement by telling guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themself.
Which brings me to yesterday.

Earlier in the week I bought a whole chicken and roasted it in the oven. After I picked the meat off the bones, I boiled the bones and made chicken broth. Well, what does one do with nearly a quart of wonderfully flavorful chicken broth?

One makes soup, in this case Golden Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup, and then I remembered my best friend telling me how much she enjoys eating soup, and so I got the brainstorm idea to invite her over for lunch. Before I could talk myself out of it, I called her and invited her. Done deal.

And then what do you do? You panic.

The house is a wreck. So you apply yourself to wiping the grime off the appliances and the kitchen cupboards, you get as close to the kitchen floor as you are physically able (which involves sitting on a fold-up metal “church chair” because the knees aren’t cooperating very much these days) and scrub certain really nasty spots with a stiff wire brush. You sweep down a few noticeable cobwebs and dust a little, which ends up being a “lick and a promise” because you have gotten distracted by something else and fail to finish. Out comes the vacuum.

(Did I ever tell you the story of how I was sweeping the kitchen floor and saw something else that needed to be done and wandered off and about an hour later I came back to find the pile of debris still sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor?)

I had recently read the poem “Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice,” in my Pocket Book of Ogden Nash that I thought deserved a Post-it note for further review. Before my friend arrived, I read it again and reminded myself to keep my mouth shut if I happened to see something I should have taken care of but unfortunately missed…

Everything was fine until she arrived and said, “Can I use your bathroom.” And then I wished I could have dug a hole and crawled in, because although the inside of the toilet bowl was clean and I did sort of wipe down the sink the night before when I took my shower, the bathroom was really not very clean.

Oh well.

The soup was wonderful and the cornbread I made (from scratch) was good, which pleased me a great deal because frequently things I bake in the oven do not turn out very well. We had a lovely visit and we talked about the poem. She said she has told guests “don’t look in the corners…” as a way of apologizing when she thinks her house could be cleaner.

She is such a good friend and has been in my house many times, She has seen it when it was a total disaster… so I know she isn’t there to see my house.

Why do I put myself through this? Good question that deserves an answer. I don't know. I am thinking that it would be such a good idea to set aside some time each week to do routine cleaning instead of waiting until the condition of the house gets too bad. My track record of keeping New Year’s resolutions is terrible, but perhaps I can manage it for 2018.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Recipe for... What???

I am periodically reminded of my mother’s rather quirky sense of humor, and it happened again today.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving meal and fellowship with our friends, and we came home with turkey and some dressing. I thought I had a recipe for leftover turkey that my mother had sent me, so I started looking through the old recipe box for it. And when I say “old recipe box,” I really do mean “old.”

Once when we were there on vacation, my mother decided to go through her recipes and get rid of the ones she no longer wanted. She also decided to replace the old metal recipe box that she had used for years and years with a new and improved model.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that old recipe box go out with the trash, so I rescued it and brought it home.

Now it really did need to be thrown out. It was in bad shape then and it is in even worse shape now...

with lots of rust spots and flaking paint, but it is one of those things inexorably linked to my mom and adventures with her in the kitchen. It is precious to me, and so it stays and I use it.

I have quite a few recipes from her, written in her beautiful handwriting, and so I started
trolling through these recipe cards looking for the turkey recipe, and to my surprise, I found a recipe for Stuffed Roast Raccoon. I am almost positive she sent it to me as a joke.
Stuffed Roast Raccoon
1 lb sweet potatoes, mashed
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup bread crumbs
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted;
Salt and pepper
4-5 pound young raccoon

Mix stuffing and set aside. Wash raccoon, dry, cut off extra fat, stuff, and sew opening shut. Bake 325 for 3-4 hours.

Here are some young raccoons getting into trouble.

They are very cute when they are little, but we have had some unhappy experiences with adult raccoons, and it wouldn’t bother me if Richard were to shoot one. I’m not sure I would want to eat it though.

Now on the other side of the raccoon recipe is a recipe for stewed squirrel. I did cook a squirrel once, and it was good, if one doesn’t mind picking through tiny bones and is careful not to bite into the bullet. But getting the skin off was so hard that I never wanted to do it again. I have since learned there is an easy way to get the skin off – if I can believe the You-Tube video I saw. We are overrun with squirrels this year, so I just may try that recipe.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.― Melody Beattie
With the approach of Thanksgiving, our pastor’s sermon not unexpectedly touched on being thankful and the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit, and about how important gratitude and thanksgiving are in our relationship with God. She also talked briefly about the remarkable story of John Kralik, who, in the midst of a life that seemed to be falling apart, resolved to write 365 thank you notes–one a day for a year. It took him a little more than a year to actually accomplish this, but he did, and it changed his life.

She gave us a homework assignment at the end of the service. She asked us to choose a thank you note from an assortment in a basket and use it to thank someone.

During the 5 years that the Mollywog was an integral part of in our lives, I regularly took her to the aerobics class with me (if I was able to go), which meets 3 times a week, and I took her for a walk during the first part of the class.

Shortly after she died in early September, I went to California, and when I came home, I decided I was not going back to the aerobics class. I had weights, I was already walking for exercise, and I thought I could do without going.

In October I went to the County Health Department’s satellite clinic to get a flu shot, and I saw Kathleen, a woman who is also in the class. “Oh,” she said, “We miss you so much. Please come back to the class!”

What she said touched my heart. So I did. And I am glad I did. I seem to have gotten over whatever it was that made me not want to go to the class after the dog died, and I am once again enjoying the hour I spend there 3 times a week.

I am very grateful to Kathleen for that word of encouragement, and so she got the thank you note. I have also sent cards to a few other people thanking them for their involvement in my life.

I believe this might be a very good habit to keep.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Light Shining Bright

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Our pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about saints. She quoted the story, of which there are several versions (which leads me to think that perhaps the story was created to prove a point), about the little boy (or girl) who explains that a saint is “someone who the light shines through” after seeing beautiful stained glass windows in a cathedral.

Even if the story is not a true story, it is true. That is exactly what a saint is--someone who the light of God shines through--and it could be the man next door, or the Sunday School teacher you had as a child, or your very own father.

On Wednesday I bought a birthday card for my dad’s 93rd birthday on Monday. I thanked him for being a wonderful father and for the wonderful memories he left me. I wrote that I sometimes wished I could be daddy’s little girl again, and go fishing with him, or have him take me to school on the bicycle, or hang out with him in the garage while he worked on a car, or even making sure he had exactly 5 ice cubes in his iced tea. I put $10 in the card and sent it to my sister to buy some treats for him when she saw him on Monday. I would have told him all of that when one of my siblings called from the small party they were planning for him so I could sing Happy Birthday to him.

Yesterday morning, my youngest brother went to the group home where Dad was being cared for to wheel him to the hospital, which was within easy walking distance. Dad had an appointment with the eye doctor.  As they were getting him ready to go, my brother said Dad just stopped breathing and he died. Just like that. He died.

If he had agreed to the pacemaker the doctor wanted to implant a year ago, he probably could have lived quite a bit longer, but he refused. He had spent years visiting people in the nursing home, and he did not want to end his days as an invalid because of other medical problems but kept alive by a device. Knowing he was refusing treatment was hard to accept at the time, but now I see that it was a good decision.

I remember telling a friend in September how important it was for me to make the annual trip to California because I never knew for sure when our Dad was going to die and every visit could be the last one. This time it was the last one.

I have hundreds of picture of him at various stages of his life and with various family members, so picking a couple is rather hard.

I especially love this picture, which was taken in 1970. 

He had a very mobile face and the knack for making crazy faces and making everyone laugh. He was so much fun.  

And another side of him in a picture taken in 2008: 

He read the paper. He didn’t just skim the headlines, he actually read all of the articles and did the crossword, and although he never bet on a horse race, he loved horse racing and he picked the horses he thought might win at the area race tracks, depending on the time of year. Every day he cut out certain comics that he knew I liked. and he mailed them to me in  letter once a week.

He was the song leader at church for many years, and he loved the old hymns. And even though he could not remember what he had for breakfast, he remembered the words to those hymns.

Hey Dad, you're "gathering with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God" and it was a glad morning yesterday when this life was o'er for you and you got to "fly away to a land where joy shall never end." You're there now! Someday I'll be flying away myself and joining you and Mom and Nathaniel "in the sweet by and by..."

I love you!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No storm clouds at the moment

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay
My birthday was last week. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the date I was born to see what day of the week that was. I was born on a Monday. The nursery rhyme popped into my head, and I was disappointed when I actually looked it up that I had mixed up the characteristics that go with the specific days. I had the skeleton of a post in my head about what it meant to be “full of grace;” which is Tuesday’s child, not Monday’s.

How does one become full of grace?
Am I full of grace?
What does "grace" mean?

Okay, so Monday is "fair of face." But then I got to thinking about what “fair” means. The immediate thought that popped into my mind was that “fair of face” describes someone who is pretty or beautiful -- referring to how physically attractive their face is.

I may not be beautiful in the generally accepted sense but I am not a homely person either—I mean I do have a pleasant-appearing face—so I suppose “fair of face” does apply to me in that respect.

But I think “fair of face” does not have as much to do with the looks one is born with because of the combination of genes that have come together at their conception as it does with what one actually does with the face they are given.

I really like the analogy to weather of what the faces of us Monday folks might look like:

Fair: generally pleasant weather conditions: sunshine (perhaps a few clouds here and there) and no extremes of extremes of visibility, temperature, or wind.

I would much rather see a “plain” face with a smile or a happy expression than an “attractive” face with a snarl.

Yesterday I visited a person from our church who is recuperating in the hospital from a major abdominal operation. The surgeon removed a tumor the size of a softball from her colon. I have a feeling there may not be good news for her in the future. But, she was alert and cheerful and a pleasure to visit. As I was leaving the hospital thinking about this  marvelous 91-year-old woman and how amazing she is, I know I was smiling, Just then a man came into the lobby, looked at me, and smiled.

Fair of face is how I try to arrange the parts of me that make up my face as I go about my day. I think I do a fairly good job.