Saturday, December 25, 2004

Would you like a hockey puck, or perhaps a baseball?

Although I enjoy cooking and have been known, on occasion, to make something that tastes really good, I also have quite a history for culinary disasters. And being that I am extremely thrifty and conscientious about not wasting food, I usually always attempt to recycle the disasters. Earlier in the fall a batch of cinnamon rolls I made came out of the oven over-baked and burnt on the bottom and, indeed, did resemble hockey pucks. I put them all in the freezer to give me time to think about how they could be salvaged. Eventually I hit upon the idea of using them for bread pudding. I scraped off as much of the burnt part as I could, found a bread pudding recipe, and worked my magic on them. Unfortunately, the result was burnt-tasting bread pudding. I made two batches of it before I admitted it didn’t taste very good and threw the rest of the hockey pucks away (but on the compost heap so the freeloaders who cruise through at 3 in the morning could have them). I was curious to see what sort of disaster I’d have today as I put together Christmas dinner. And now that the meal is over, my husband has strict orders to stop me the next time I attempt to make a pie crust. I dropped one cooked, peeled potato down the garbage disposal, so that delayed the mashed potatoes while I ran another one through the microwave. The most interesting failure was yesterday, when I decided to get a head start and made the “quick yeast muffins” as our dinner bread. I misread the recipe and put in less than half the amount of water. So instead of a nice muffin-type batter, I had very dry bread dough that I formed into balls and put in the giant muffin tray to see what would happen. What happened was I had baseballs after 20 minutes of baking, so I redid the recipe. This morning I eyeballed the rock hard lumps while the mental wheels turned and while the sweet potato pie with its horrific crust was baking, I thinly sliced them and made “melba toast.” Turned out pretty good, too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Bring us some figgy pudding; we won’t go until we get some

Well okay then. Step right up and have yourself a piece, and take a spoon of the hard sauce as well. It has a bit brandy in it (but it’s made by the Christian Brothers, so that makes it ok) and it tastes really great. It was fun making this. I got the recipe off the first Google hit (http://www.whitington.com/unclebubba/wing/figgy/) and divided it in half (there are only 2 of us, afterall). The dried figs have lots of little seeds that are kind of disconcerting to eat (R thinks prunes would taste even better) but I think it worked out well.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Not that I like Martha Stewart, nobody likes Martha Stewart, I don’t think even Martha Stewart likes Martha Stewart. Which actually makes me like her…” so says the main character in the first chapter of Elizabeth Berg’s novel Open House.

Some years ago I cleaned a dental office, which had eclectic assortment of magazines for the long-suffering patients to read. Martha Stewart’s Living magazine was among them. I always took a minute or two to thumb through the newest issue as I cleaned the waiting room, or even actually read the articles as I waited for the dentist to fix my teeth, as I was also his patient.

Not that I am Suzy Homemaker or care about decorating or crafts, which brings to mind the hilarious segment by Bill Geist on the Sunday Morning program in which he creates a “Martha Stewart Christmas Wreath" with beer cans and Cheese Whiz.

I do like to cook, however, and the magazine is so beautiful with its gorgeous photography and clean, crisp layouts. It’s a feast for the eyes. Her suggestion that one cook a goose for Christmas caught my interest. She gave very detailed instructions about the stuffing and how important it was to save the goose fat. So I decided to stuff a goose for Christmas dinner.

The goose was expensive -- very expensive -- and not much bigger than one of the Muscovy ducks we used to raise. The stuffing required expensive things like dried apricots and a bundle of fresh sage. By the time I got the thing assembled and in the oven, the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off. I cleaned up that mess.

At the appointed time, I removed the goose from the oven and siphoned off more than 2 cups of fat. Almost immediately, I spilled it all over the floor. Dog (that was his name), always lurked in the kitchen when I was cooking because good things to eat would magically appear on the floor. So, naturally, he was right there and began lapping up this grease as I frantically tried to get it up without smearing it everywhere.

Finally, we sat down to eat the goose and it was terrible. Tough and stringy. The dressing was nasty. It was the worst dinner I had ever made. Things got even better.

Dog got very sick from eating the fat and threw up, and then had an attack of pancreatitis, and I had to take him to the vet the next day. That was not cheap either. So it was a disaster all the way around. Thanks Martha, but I’ll stick to turkey.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Woudja like a cuppa coffee?

Having poked fun at R for compulsive shopping, I guess I need to examine my own compulsive behavior about being thrifty and not throwing anything away. A couple of weeks ago we bought a new chest freezer. When we transferred the food from the old freezer into the new one, we didn’t cull the mystery packages (mostly jars and old peanut butter containers), we just loaded everything in and shut the lid. But I decided that anytime I put anything new in the freezer, I needed to take a few of the mystery containers out and find out what they contained. So today, I put in 2 dozen doughnuts (our Sunday morning treat) and took out three jars. When they thawed, I found a half cup of cooked hamburger meat, a peanut butter jar of pumpkin or squash puree, and about 2 cups of a brown liquid in a quart jar. I thought it might be beef broth or perhaps a marinade. It was none of these things. When it finally thawed, I took a taste of it. Coffee. COFFEE! For some weird and totally bizarre reason, I froze 2 cups of coffee, and it was in the freezer for a very long time. I can't imagine why I did that. R has been sniggering under his breath all day. I don't blame him. I'm sniggering too.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Gotcha! The triumph of technology

The little furry creature that had set up housekeeping behind the headboard of our bed is now outside where he/she belongs. And I figured out how to catch it. Unlike the mousie in the earlier post, this chipmunk could leap in and out of the 5-gallon pail of sunflower seeds with ease. But I figured if it had to leap up through a small hole then maybe we could hold it long enough so it could be turned outside. So, l got a newspaper, cut a small hole out of the middle, and spread it over top of the bucket and weighed down the edges with a few pieces of wood. Sure enough, it scurried across the paper at about 12:30 a.m. and jumped in, but then could not get back out. We won, we won, we won. Unless it comes back.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Chipmunks roasting on an open fire. . .

This is a mondegreen for “chestnuts roasting on the open fire” (see http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/humor/mondegreens.asp) and rather humorous I think, especially when one considers how tiny chipmunks are. We now have a chipmunk in the house. R saw it in the kitchen yesterday and the night before the cat was chasing it all over the bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. This morning there was a small pile of sunflower hulls on the propane heater (it's sitting on the propane heater eating sunflower seeds???) I am not sure what we are going to do about it, either. Glue traps, poison, and spring traps are out of the question. We think it is probably way too small to trip the live-animal trap we use for squirrels and rats. We haven’t figure out a plan B except to hope that maybe it will end up in the bottom of the bucket of sunflower seeds and we can let it go. This is not the first time we have had chipmunks in the house. When we still had the homemade doggy door (a wood insert into the bottom section of the storm door with a hole cut out and a piece of cloth stapled over the opening), the cat would bring them in on occasion and let them go, and toward the end of summer, a chipmunk had figured out that it could come in anytime it wanted, help itself to the sunflower seeds that were sitting by the back door, and leave. Things got interesting when the cat and the chipmunk both decided to use the doggy door at the same time. The last straw with the doggy door occurred when the cat brought in a rat and let it go, and it got up inside our propane heater. We had to dismantle the heater and take it outside so the rat would leave. But in the meantime, what are we going to do with the chipmunk?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Wee timorous beastie . . .

The guerilla warfare has been ongoing for thousands of years, and probably started soon after humankind first began to live together in small groups, first in temporary settlements that eventually became permanent villages and later, cities. One wonders how long it took before rats and mice discovered that humans in dwellings meant an easy source of food and relative protection from natural predators. Something to ponder, I suppose. But whenever it began, the battle skirmishes continue. My uncle, who was a zoologist, did a study on rat eradication for the Army during WW II. He discovered that when rat populations were being extensively exterminated, the fertility of the females increased: they gave birth to larger litters and had more litters per year. I wonder if that is happening around our home place here, where we have been exterminating rats and mice since we took up occupancy in 1981. These rats are not the scroungy, ugly animals associated with the city, living in filth and rummaging in the garbage). No, our rats are a variety of Neotoma albigula— the pack rat—a beautiful animal (except for that nasty tail), light fawn in color with a creamy throat and underside. The beauty ends there though. They are as fully capable of spreading plague and other diseases via their fleas as their citified cousins and they are extremely destructive. Their obsession with chewing on electrical wiring ruined our 1978 Volvo, which is now beyond repair and rusting away in the side yard, disrupted phone service when our phone lines were chewed through, and almost caused a house fire (now all of our electrical wiring is in metal conduit). Smaller, but no less destructive and no less capable of spreading disease (remember Hanta virus?), are the two main varieties of mice that run through the silverware and kitchen towel drawers, leaving poop and spots of urine behind, and who shred clothes and/or papers in my husband’s files to make nests: the “house mouse” and the beautiful little Peromyscus leucopus, or white-footed deer mouse, which is what was staring up at us from the bottom of a 5-gallon pail of sunflower seeds in R’s office other morning. “Look what I have,” he says. “What shall I do with it?” We have killed hundreds of them over the years (I am frequently the executioner if no gun is involved) so it was a stupid question. Maybe he asked it because he didn’t want to kill it himself and he thought maybe I would say “I’ll take care of it.” Only somehow I just didn’t feel like killing anything either and it seemed a better idea to take it far away from the house and let it go, which is what he did when he left for town. Later he said, in reference to the mouse, “you know something, we are weird!” Yes honey, I know. We are weird…

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

My Mongie…

When I was learning to talk, Mongie (hard “g” as in garage) was what came out when I tried to say the name of my mother’s mother, and that name stuck. During the recent visit to see my parents, I looked through photo albums and saw a picture of Mongie that I could not recall having seen before. I fell in love with it, and Mom sent it to me so I could copy it. The photo was taken sometime after 1906 at their old home place, which was a ranch in Elbert, Colorado (no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing) and where my mother spent her childhood. In the background are a windmill, a barn, a clothesline with long johns pegged out, a fence line. Mongie is posed at the corner of the porch, where a path has been laid out with white rocks on the bare ground; one foot is up on a rocks. She is dressed in a man’s clothes that are somewhat too big for her. She has a derby-style hat on her head, her hands are in the pockets of a suit coat, and the old-fashioned collar of a white shirt that is not fastened properly is sticking out. She wears baggy man’s pants work pants (Levi’s?). She has on pointy-toed shoes with thick heels (cowboy boots? women’s button shoes?) Her hair has been tucked up underneath the hat but a few wisps hang down. Her head is at a jaunty angle and she has a wonderful smile on her face. She looked young and carefree then, maybe early 20s, before the hard life on the ranch took its toll. What was she doing? Why was she dressed like that? I only knew Mongie as an old woman. Although she was only 63 when I was born, 63-year-old women who had been farm wives and had gone through the Depression looked OLD in the 1950s. I wish I could have known her in 1906!!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

My cup runneth over…

As I was driving out driveway with the fourth squirrel to venture into my trap, there coming around the curve in his bright red pickup was T, our nearest neighbor, who was headed to our house. We sat there for a few seconds hood to hood. At first I didn’t realize who it was--strangers often end up on our driveway because the road to our house used to also connect to the highway and many people no longer realize that it no longer does.I was wondering which of us would be the one to back up, and then he got out with a trash bag and I realized it was T and that he was bringing us some deer meat. “I got two of them” he says, “thought I’d share with you.” I was so touched by his kindness and generosity. I thought Tony was a rather scary guy when he and his girlfriend first moved in. He is big, he has tattoos, he is missing teeth, he rode a Harley (until he had to sell it to pay for cancer treatment), he looks mean, and like his huge American bulldog (who is a sweetheart and I’ll write about her eventually), he has a heart of gold. So now I have a front leg and shoulder, and some tenderloin in the freezer, and we’ve already had one meal of stew. It was delicious. Thank you, T.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Feasting at the banqueting table…

I enjoy watching birds. Today we watched a big pileated woodpecker (think Woody Woodpecker) working on a rotted limb in one of our oak trees. And a little later I had bluebirds at the birdbath that sits on our old dining room table and will later be rigged with a heat source so that it does not freeze when the temperature plummets. The birds also get sunflower seeds and homemade suet cakes. I know there is a philosophic debate among conservationists about whether bird feeding is a good idea. I compromise by feeding them much less in the late spring and early summer so that the parents of the fledglings are encouraged to teach the babies where the natural sources of food are to be found instead of training them to be dependent on me. I am also entertained by the chipmunks (they are so cute), even though I suspect they waste large amounts of seeds—I frequently find clumps of sunflowers sprouting in my houseplants that summer outdoors. Other critters that might like to join the feast are not so welcome. The suet comes in at night so the opossums and coons don’t run off with it, I don’t put any more seed out after 3 p.m. so there won’t be too much left for the pack rats and mice, and when too many squirrels show up, then out comes the live trap. In the last four days I have relocated 3 of them to a nice wooded area at the abandoned KOA campground about a half-mile away. Plenty of natural food for them there, and they can’t find their way back—they’d have to cross the 4-lane interstate to try it. They really are better off there – had I been able to get the skin off the first pesky squirrel R shot several years ago, the alternative would be the stew pot.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The guns of November…

Deer season has come to a close. It does not appear that we will have any venison for the freezer this year. The friend who used to give us the occasional shoulder, leg, or ribs in exchange for letting him butcher the deer in our barn is dying of COPD and was not even able to shoot from the car (they give special dispensation for road shooting to disabled folk). We have enough land that we are eligible for a free deer tag and I know someone who would used the tag to shoot for us on his own land (my husband does not hunt even though he is an excellent shot) but I forgot to get the tag in the confusion surrounding my trip. I did “get” a deer once. This was a large fawn that had just been hit by a car as it followed its mom across the highway. I put it in the car and brought it home and butchered it (and probably broke the law). At any event, R still fulfills that primal “hunt and gather” urge that many men have by shopping. He locates the bargains, stalks them, and closes in for the kill…err…purchase, and if we need one item, he’ll buy three. In some areas this has snowballed. At one point we had 32 tubes of toothpaste (uhh oh, we’re running low, ONLY 11 left now) and about 25 bottles of shampoo. We currently have 59 bars of unopened hand soap (there are just two us living here). I’m not really complaining though. Unlike many women, I hate to shop, so go get ‘em sweetie!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

West With the Night

I used to clean house for a woman who had once been very poor. Then she married a man with a lot of money, and frugality went out the window. She spent lavishly and wastefully and frequently discarded expensive clothing and books (which I fished out of the trash -- I inherited a Dumpster diving gene from my father), among them Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Night. As Ernest Hemingway is quoted on the jacket notes “it is really a bloody wonderful book.” But beyond admiring the writing is my admiration of her bravery. She became a pilot and had many adventures flying mail, passengers, and supplies all over Africa. She was the first person to fly across the Atlantic from East to West. I admire brave women. I admire JF, my cousin’s SO, who flew from Hawaii to New York to pick up the bright pink Corvette she purchased over the Internet, embarked from there on a road trip to visit relatives and friends and have some repairs made (cheaper here than in Hawaii), and then meandered West through the Rockies on her way to the West Coast. She drove 7,000 miles by herself before she finally arrived at San Diego to put the car on the barge for its trip across the water. Hats off to her and others who aren’t afraid to take chances.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I know what I saw…

This morning my dad and mom and I drove to the Manhattan Beach pier. The weather was more beautiful than it was in June when we went for a vacation. There was a one-legged surfer headed down the sand and we watched him from the pier. The ocean was very flat and he was the only one on a board. He caught a few waves, sort of kneeling on the board and then finally gave up. The most interesting thing occurred this evening when we were discussing our day with my brother who showed up. My dad saw a one-legged young man with a metal prothesis. I saw an older guy – he had white hair and a white beard--with two metal crutches. I know that he had crutches because I was watching the muscles in his back and shoulders ripple as he made his difficult way across the sand with them, and I also watched as he dug a hole and buried them in such a way that they were standing upright. My dad saw something totally different. If the police had questioned us about what we had seen, our “eyewitness” testimony would have definitely conflicted. I have read of studies showing that eyewitness testimony is very unreliable, now I know it. We were able, however, to agree that we did indeed see a small pod of porpoise.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hooray for Hollywood

And so there we were, zipping down the Harbor Freeway (yes, we actually were zipping) toward downtown Los Angeles, headed for Forest Lawn Cemetery so my half-cousin from Pennsylvania, who had never met our grandpa, could see his grave. My sister was driving and doing her part as tour guide. She says “see that white thing there at the top of hills up ahead?” We all dutifully looked at the white thing there at the top of the hill, and we all agreed that yes, we could see it. “That’s the Hollywood sign,” she said. And my cousin and her husband were dutifully impressed. And so was I. I was more than impressed, I was stunned. True, at first it was just a white blob, but as we got closer to it – and before we lost sight of it as the freeway dipped and we went through an interchange and a couple of tunnels and went around behind Griffith Park--the letters became more evident and it was obviously The Sign. I had lived in LA until I was 27 years old and I had never “seen” the sign, even though I must have made hundreds of trips down the Harbor Freeway and looked right at it without realizing what I was looking at. Made me wonder what else I have “looked at” and not seen.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Leavin’ on a jet plane. . .

Yes indeedy. I am leavin’, but I do know when I will be back again. For one week, I get to return to the family bosom and rejoice with them that he has reached his 80th year. For one week, I don’t have to be the wife. I don’t have to be the mother (and frankly, I am weary of being the mother--one of our favorite movie lines is from Middle Age Crazy, in which Bruce Dern, in a delightful performance, yells at Ann-Margaret, his long-suffering wife “I don’t want to be the Daddy anymore.”) For one week, I get to return to being just the daughter. For one week, I can take a trip back through time and be Daddy’s little girl in bib overalls sitting on the stream bank with a fishing pole. I can be the little girl who watched Daddy clean the trout we caught before breakfast and dusting it in cornmeal and frying it over the campfire. I can be a little girl at the beach with a hula skirt that Daddy made of kelp. I can be the little girl perched on the bicycle bar as he peddled me to school. I can be the little girl floating on an air mattress on the Merced River in Yosemite National Park while he walked alongside and sang Up the lazy river, by an old mill stream. Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Well, I dreamed. . .

Yes indeedy. No, this wasn't "of Africa"*, or knights in shining armor or silver space ships flying in the yellow haze of the sun**. This was about sitting in a church service next to the novelist William Saroyan. A person's dreams are usually of no interest to anyone else (unless, of course, a psychiatrist is involved), as I have found on many an occasion when I have attempted to tell my long-suffering husband about my latest dream and he says "Just STOP! I don't want to hear anymore." William Saroyan. To the best of my knowledge, I have never read anything that William Saroyan wrote unless it was a short story in a college literature class. I went on a website and read about him. Some famous movies were made from his plays, but I don't recall having seen any of them. There was nothing in that website that gave me even a clue as to how he was even there in first place for my subconscious to find and inject into the dream. Indeed, it did not sound as though he spent too much time sitting in church. What a mystery. So I went to the public library and, amazingly enough, found a novel by William Saroyan The Laughing Matter. Someone had written in pencil on the flyleaf "This is a very good book!". I read it last night. It was good, but it was really depressing -- not a happy story. The library has one more of his My Name is Aram (or something like that). I'll try it next. (Do I have to tell you everything? *Movie title; **lyrics from the Neal Young song After the Goldrush)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Awesome

N has managed to get another job. What a relief -- even if it is only temporary.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Here we go again Thymie

Ahh me. N called to say he got fired. I don't know if this is a hired/fired record for him -- he did lose another job just about as quickly. He will probably have to move back home by the end of the month because he has no cushion in the bank. And what will we do with him then? I'm thinking how pleasant it would be to come down with garden variety of senile dementia (not Alzheimers though), just one of those benign states where the person just sort of goes off into their own little world that only periodically touches base with reality. Sometimes I feel like I can't cope one more minute and yet, somehow, I manage. I saw a long V of geese flying South today. I wanted to sprout wings and fly with them. I once went to a big Catholic meeting with a friend and the priest who spoke taught us a simple prayer when we can't think of how to pray: breathe in (Jesus), breathe out (mercy). Have mercy on me. His grace is sufficient.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Halloween hijinks

A costumed child has never knocked on our door on Halloween in the 24 years we have lived here. We're just too out of the way, I guess and parents don't think to bring their children here. The teenagers head for downtown and throw biscuit dough at each other and the cars so that the next morning the streets are littered with glops of dough. Toilet paper magically appears in trees and shaving cream on store windows. Mostly it is just simple acts of vandalism -- nothing too destructive. Its fun to turn on the scanner and listen to the radio traffic as the town's vigilant public servants patrol for roaming gangs of biscuit-dough throwers. I think back with fondness on one of the letter carriers at the post office. He had lost an eye in a carpentry accident. On Halloween he would appear on his route, mail bag over his shoulder, with the most gruesome getup. He had an old pair of glasses into which he had hammered a nail so that it went into an old glass eye. And there would be a single trickle of dried blood trailing down across his cheek. Older patrons on his route got quite a shock from itt...one concerned lady even tried to get him situated on her porch so she could run inside and call 911. My dad made Halloween a wonderful time for his children. He had a rubber mask that looked very much like a Neanderthal and he would put it on, drape himself with burlap, and go out with us from house to house. Later, when we were all grown up, one brother took him to the corporate Halloween party, where he scared the women and was a big hit. My Grandpa lived a few blocks from our house and one Halloween he invited us over for hot chocolate after we finished trick-or-treating. That was quite a surprise, because Grandma had died and Grandpa didn't "do much" with us kids. Poor man. He mistook salt for the sugar (this was REAL hot chocolate, not a premixed product). It was horrible and we couldn't drink it, but we loved him for it all the more. It was the thought that counted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Time-sweetened honey

Yesterday afternoon I sent to see a friend I used to work with --she's my age or a little younger. Her husband worked there too until he had to quit because of worsening COPD, and then she had to quit to stay home and take care of him. He died over the weekend -- he was my husband's age. All this sort of thing always happened to "older people," but suddenly it seems the future is the here and now! As I started the car, I heard the exquisite harmony of the Eagles singing live: There are stars in the Southern sky/Southward as you go/There is moonlight and moss in the trees/Down the Seven Bridges Road and suddenly it was May 1981 again and that song was playing constantly on the radio as we trekked out here from Oregon by way of Los Angeles. What a trip that was, caravanning, with R driving the U-Haul, me in the car with a squirrly 4-year-old (although he took turns riding in the various vehicles, thank God), and my parents pulling a pop-up camper trailer. How stunningly beautiful it was coming into Albuquerque at dusk with the hills in the background lit up with the setting sun. And the scary time trying to find fuel for the gas-guzzling U-haul in a little town in Oklahoma that had rolled up the sidewalk at 7 p.m. And what a surprise Oklahoma was -- so green and beautiful and so many trees. And then the first night we were here, pulling in at dusk, exhausted and exhilarated and happy to have finally arrived and then... and then... just before we left to find some food in town and to sleep at the small motel, the fireflies came out. Oh my. Our jaws dropped. It took our breath away. None of us native California folk had ever seen real fireflies (Disney tried at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride). We had no idea. Whew. The motel has been torn down and is now a Sonic. A Korean couple owns the A&W where we ate dinner and serves Chinese food. We told everybody in Oregon we we were moving to the South. We were wrong. This is most definitely the Mid-West. The South is about an hour's drive away.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Happy birthday. . .

Today is my birthday and I am nowold enough for the senior ciitizen discount. A few weeks ago, a woman I knew to speak to died of Alzheimers. She was my age. Her obituary was among the increasing number that I see of women in their 40s and 50s who are now no longer among the living. I am happy to be alive. The first birthday I can remember took place at my Aunt Betty's house (she gave me the nickname Lee Lee) in Pasadena when I was 3 years old. I got a fishing pole that came apart so that it would fit in a metal tubular carrying case. One of the most memorable birthdays was a few years ago when our son arranged for a local pilot to take us for a plane ride. The fall colors such as they are with the mainly oak forests here -- and certainly nothing like what one sees in pictures of New England in the fall -- were at their heighth. The rolling hills were covered in a blanket of gold and orange and brown, with an occasional scarlet blotch of a sugar maple in someone's yard. It was just stunning. It took my breath away. Now that I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up, I have to work on becoming the old woman I want to be. As my primer, I have a marvelous little essay by Leatrice Fountain called "I Like That Old Lady I'm Growing Into" (no URL though). A friend sent me a funny jokey thing at this URL: http://members.lycos.co.uk/duamutef/jokes23.html. Heard a Bobby Darin song on the way home from work yesterday on "The Music of Your Life." Such a smooth, cool and breezy style of singing -- what an amazing talent and what a loss.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Shake it out now. . .

A hilarious time was had by all on Friday at the old lady's aerobics class (whoops, Active Older Americans, excuse me) at the Y as I took over and led the group through the routine. The instructor has been sick and we were sick of the Muscle Mile One video and the Richard Simmons video wasn't there. For some reason, the instructor had given me a copy of the routine a long time ago and it was on the clipboad that I keep in the back seat of my car. So I fetched it and suddenly there we were, laughing, stumbling around, and jerking our way through the exercises. I am not the most coordinated person to begin with so being in charge was quite a stretch. Our laugh muscles got a good workout. I love that class even if I am getting fatter and fatter.

Come into my parlor. . .

said the spider to the fly; Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy... The "parlor" is a mess -- actually the whole house is a mess and certainly not pretty. One day when I was about 4 years old I was out in the yard, and as I was looking at a spider's egg case that was attached on the board fence it burst open and hundreds of teeny tiny spiders came racing out. It was amazing. I've loved spiders ever since. So much so that I let them live in my house. R doesn't mind them either, fortunately for them, and in fact he found a cockroach last night and fed it to the spider that has spun a web close to the light by the closet. It has been there all summer, waiting patiently for a fly or moth to come to the light and get snared. He or she seemed very appreciate of the food. I've never seen anything in its web. Other insects that invade the house -- namely those that get into our food are promptly dispatched -- but we leave the spiders alone. Well, R does kill the brown recluses when he finds them (usually at the bottom of a box of papers). What in the world do they eat? I used to think the reason the cockroaches we brought with us from Oregon disappeared was becaue the brown recluses killed them, although the Roach Hotels got quite a few. We've got a cockroach problem now though either because we brought stuff into the house from someone whose house was infested with them or because of the compost heap which is not that far from the back door. One time I happened to be standing at the back door and saw a lizard rush out from nowhere and eat a cockroach. There is a place in the foundation under the back room of our house (whch used to be a screened in porch) where snakes and lizards spend the winter and hot summer days as well. What happened to "Roach Hotels?" That was one insect eradication product that actually worked and did not involve spreading poison. I always liked Kafka's Metamorphosis and have read it many times. I fear were I Gregor Samsa's mother, I would not be so very sympathetic to his plight.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Rings on her fingers...

and bells on her toes and a hole in her nose?! I want to get my nostril pierced. I seriously want to do this. A little twinkly "diamond" stud, something small and discrete. I am just not brave enough. Are older women who do the "counter culture" stuff of the teenagers and the "under-30" crowd laughed at behind their backs? I think so. I would like to think that it doesn't matter what people think -- I already don't behave like other women "my age" -- in many ways I am unconventional, but I don't know about the facial piercing. R is not enthusiastic about the idea (but "its your nose" he says), my parents would be horrified (I think), so I guess I will just try to put it out of my mind.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

An apple a day...

On the last day of the Farmer's Market, F the orchard man showed up, finally, with the Arkansas Black apples he had been promising to bring. No, they aren't black, just a very deep, dark red. So I bought a bag and then caught sight of some Golden Delicious, so I bought some of them too. It is a sad state of affairs that millions of people have never tasted a fresh-off-the-tree apple but instead must rely on store-bought apples that may have been sitting in a storage for weeks or even months. And having said that, as I picked up the sack of Arkansas Black apples. . .
F: You know, you can't eat those apples.
Me: I can't eat them?
F: They have to mellow.
Me: Mellow? (why do I keep repeating what he has said??)
F: Yes, you must put them in the refrigerator for at least a month and half or they won't be any good.
Me: Really? You're not teasing me are you? (F has been known to do that on occasion. Before he retired, he was our regular UPS delivery person.)
F: No, I'm not kidding. We usually put ours in the cooler and don't eat them until February.
Okey dokey. So yesterday I had a Golden Delicious, which truly was delicious -- sweet, crsip, a and jucy, and the bag of fresh-off-the-tree Arkansas Black apples are sitting there in the refrigerator, in storage. Go figure. . .

Sunday, October 17, 2004

That's righteous, brother (not)

I am now working on the topic of righteousness for the SS lesson. Righteousness, at its most basic level, is the fulfillment of expectations in a relationship, whether it be husband and wife, employer and employee, citizen and government, etc. It's not just a religious thing. As an example: the local market does not always have a righteous relationship with its customers. The advertising circular came out with oranges at 3 for 88 cents. So I bought 6 oranges. The clerk punched in the product number for the oranges and it rang up as 5 oranges at 2 for 79 cents and the 6th orange rang up as 98 cents a pound (or something like that). I was charged $1.97 + 55-cents when it should have been $176ish. So I said to the teenager who was at the cash register (she seemed rather brain-dead, I'm sorry to say): "These oranges rang up incorrectly. They are supposed to be 3 for 88 cents". She just stood there and looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. So I grabbed my groceries and went to the office, handed the manager the receipt, and complained that the oranges had run up incorrectly. The manger turned this over to an assistant and I got my refund. R really liked the oranges, so 2 days later I went back to the store and got 6 more. This time the manager was at the cash register. He entered the product number, and guess what? The oranges rang up as 6 oranges at 2 for 79 cents. He immediately realized that this was a mistake so he voided that sale and re-entered it correctly. But the point is, they had not changed the store computer during the two days that had elapsed between my puchases. Customers who bought oranges and did not pay attention were overcharged. I would hope that the store isn't being run by crooks, that this was just an oversight. In any event, it was totally unrighteous. . . and I don't trust them anymore.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

RIP Peter Possom...

When my nieces were little, I wrote some animal stories for them that were based on true things that had happend here. For many years, the rear entry screen door did not close all the way because the door frame was crooked (indeed, our entire house is crooked, but that's another story). The dog and the cat weren't the only creatures who had learned to come in and out at will by sticking their nose in the gap at the bottom and bullying their way in. One fall, a tree frog came in several times and I finally let it stay in the bathroom where it mostly clung to the shower curtain and the redwood paneling in the the shower, and then finally hybernated in a knothole. It got too active the next spring and we let it go. That was Freddy Frog. Peter Possom got trapped in the house one night. It had come in to eat the dog's food, which was right by the back door. It heard me coming to shut the door for the night and hid in the storage area by the back door. Later after the house had quieted down, out he came looking for a way out. He woke us up, and I caught him and let him go. There was also a Sammy Skun, who preciptated a most unpleasant encounter. We found out the hard way (3 sprayings in less than a week) about letting the dog have free access outside during the wee hours of the morning (which is why I went to shut the door for the night). The other day while I was on my way to work, I stopped to make a left onto the state highway into town and there, far off on the right shoulder, was a dead possom. Only it wasn't dead. It raised its head a little and flopped around. I felt sick inside. I turned right instead, parked on the shouler, and went over to it. Its lower face had been crushed, and possibly its front shoulders. It was very much alive but unable to move, and its dying was going to be long and cruel. So I picked it up by the tail and drove it back to the house for R to shoot and went to work. Farmers only have to go through one experience of having a black snake, possom, skunk, coon, or fox in the hen house for them to immediately adopt a kill first, ask questions later policy for these smaller predatory animals. Even worse, there is a cruel streak in some of the people who live here -- anything on the road is fair game and they deliberately run them over -- turtles, snakes, possom, skunk, raccoon, and increasingly, armadillos. This possom was so far off the road that I am almost sure this was deliberate. I felt a little better that it didn't suffer too long. RIP Peter. ..

Friday, October 15, 2004

The seasons, they go 'round and 'round

October seems to be a hard month for N -- he's gotten fired twice early in October -- and hired twice as well so as each October comes 'round again, I am reminded that the truth of his reality is in such stark contrast to what my expectations were of what I thought things were going to be like as he grew into adulthood. Hope springs eternal, and I constantly have to wrestle it back into submission. Now I look for the blessings in small victories and rejoice in the occasional biggie. Learning to be thankful in all circumstances is difficult. I still occasionally have these bouts of longing for things to be... just... normal. Like a crab seeking a safe place in which to hide, my mind tends to scuttle away from reality. At least I can take small comfort that he probably really isn't mentally ill, but he could be a poster child for Asperger's syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder: "Severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities" says the website. We get so angry at him, and deep down I have a feeling he can't help that he has no grasp of socially appropriate behavior and that there might be consequences to what he does. I thank God that he was able to get a new job within a week. Farther along, we'll know all about it/farther along we'll understand why. I don't want to wait until "farther along." I want to know why NOW! WHY? WHY? WHY? Why did God put us -- and HIM -- in htis situation??? What lessons are we supposed to be learning from this?? He probably never get married or have a family. There will be no grandchild to bounce on my knee and sing trot trot to Boston to get a loaf of bread, trot trot home again, and old trot's dead! Feeling a little sorry for myself? Yeah, I guess so. I guess I'm just having a little combination temper tantrum and pity party. I want to go outside and howl at the moon. I guess I should just snap out of it and be supremely thankful to God that he won't be needing to move back home -- at least not yet. In the meantime, however, we are hedging our bets. R has resumed working on the new office to get it finished so that his old office can be turned into a living space and bedroom area for N, if necessary.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

It's always somethin'

Last night while we were eating dinner together (at the table!!!) R says, "Do you hear that?" Well no, I didn't hear whatever it was he was hearing. "What is it that I am supposed to be hearing?" says me "Dripping water," says he. So I listened closely, and sure enough, there it was plink... plink... plink... coming from behind the refrigerator. We had a problem once before with the drain tube thingy getting plugged and pouring water through the refrigerator itself and out the front (where there is now a rotten spot in the hardwood floor), but this time it was plugged and dripping out the back. He pulled the fridge out from the wall and got the tube thingy dismantled and cleaned out and put back together, and I mopped up the water. But then there was still water on the floor. Seems there was a corroded place on the copper tubing leading to the ice maker that was squirting water. So the ice maker is shut off and I have called in the repair guy to get that fixed. I'm not sure if the tubing would be leaking if we hadn't disturbed it by pulling the fridge out and if I hadn't brushed up against it with the mop trying to get the water cleaned up. Oh well. At least we caught the leaking water problem before it rotted through the floor. The fixer-upper guy is very popular. He won't be able to get here for two weeks. Guess it's back to old-fashioned ice cube trays for us. . .

On a drizzly rainy type day that reminds me so much of Oregon I heard from a woman I was good friends with when we lived there some 24 years ago. Things are going well for them. Her daughters are married with children either here or "on the way." Normal. Happy. Well adjusted. I'm happy for them and a little sad and somewhat envious for us that we will likley never have normal. But that's a topic for another time

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Who's protecting who (or whom)

Yesterday when I was jousting with dust rhinos at work -- and flashing back on a creepy Outer Limits (weren't they ALL creepy though?) about a dust bunny (that really isn't) that gets sucked up into a vacuum cleaner and turns into something monstrous -- I heard an ad for local politician on the radio. He's running for the state legislature and is very anxious to kick out the Democratic incumbent. His qualifications? He is a family man, he is a deacon in his church, and he is an NRA member with an "A" standing. Whoa! How is that supposesd to qualify him for state office? Aaah. He will make sure that the legislature doesn't do anything to infringe on the rights of good citizens of this state to protect themselves by owning guns. Ironically, the good citizens of the state voted down a concealed gun law several years back but the Republican-controlled legislature passed one anyway. Nevermind that most burglaries here take place when the homeowner is gone and all the guns in the house for protection are stolen. But it is the "religion-gun ownership" issue that really puzzles me. Someone who is deeply enough committed that they have become a deacon in their church surely has read the passage about "we wrestle not with flesh and blood" and how about "don't fear him who can kill the body. . ." and a few other choice things our Lord had to say about loving enemies, and turning the other cheek, and. . .

I made some "bars" yesterday from some prunes that Sylvia gave me months before she died. They're good but I managed not to "eat the whole thing" and I'll take 'em into work this morning and surprise the daylights out of everybody.