Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yes, we have bananas

Before Richard goes shopping, he surveys the occupants of the house and asks, “do you need anything," and if so, "how many do you want.” And he makes a list. And he buys according to what everybody has told him.

It drives him absolutely bananas (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) when certain people tell him they want something and then change their mind. Or, even worse,  or don’t tell him they want something, and change their mind and start eating something that he didn’t buy enough of for them to eat.

Bananas are a big problem in this house. 

Tuesday is banana day at the local market, and bananas are 19-cents a pound, which is cheap compared to what they usually are. If not enough bananas are bought on banana day, then we run out before next Tuesday. If too many bananas are bought, then they become overripe and nobody -- except me -- will eat them.

The last time he bought bananas, N ate R’s bananas, which caused a problem, and loud words were heard. So today when R was preparing his list, he asked everybody if they wanted bananas. Everybody did.

When Richard came home with the bananas, he held up three and said, “These are my bananas.”

Having grown somewhat tired of loud conversations about who has accidently eaten whose bananas, I decided to mark the bananas so there would be no questions asked.

“Aren’t you being a little obsessive?” he wants to know. 

There was a collective pause as two pairs of eyes focused on me.

ME! ME being obsessive?!?..."

And then we all laughed and…

Once more, the world was spinning in greased grooves

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 2: In which we see rainbows

Everyone moves with grace if they are in their proper element, says a character in the novel Water Dancer by Jennifer Levin.

I conclude that moving through air, on land, is not my proper element. I do not move with grace. Not too long after we woke up Tuesday morning, I fumbled around with the container of my homemade yogurt that I brought to eat for breakfast and managed to knock it off the counter where it was sitting. Being somewhat less “solid” than store-bought yogurt, it splattered and landed upside down all over the carpet.

Fortunately, the carpet was treated and the yogurt was easily wiped up and was washed down the drain.

I was going to eat a peach with it, so instead I ate the peach with the peanut butter sandwich I had also brought along “just in case” (for some reason, I tend to get really hungry when we drive any distance the car) made with the salt-free bread I baked on Sunday, which I wouldn’t offer to company but doesn’t taste too terribly bad.

As we pulled out of the parking lot of the motel at 7 am, we talked about what we were going to. Drive straight home? I said I wanted to see what Branson looked like. He said OK.

We never got to Branson, however. We were sidetracked by signs for Table Rock Lake, which was created by a US Army Corp of Engineers dam across the White River back in the late 1950s. So we stopped at the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed those exhibits, and walked down to the shore of the lake, where we were captivated by an old sycamore tree with its roots exposed....

struggling to stay alive...

and met an interesting man who told us about the fish hatchery at the base of the dam. So we drove there, and were very amused by this planter...

 wondering how many people might actually touch these plants just because they were told not to...

And then we went inside, and there were the rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout are not native to Missouri or Arkansas...

and the Departments of Conservation of both states are busy raising these lovely fish so people can catch them. And not just the state, there is a private trout hatchery about 20 miles from our house.

Once upon a time when I was 8, 9, or maybe 10 years old, our family went on a camping trip in the mountains of California. One morning, very early, before anybody else was awake, Dad and I got our fishing poles and sat for a while on the bank of a small river near the campsite. I caught a trout – and probably my dad did too. My dad cleaned them and cooked them in a skillet. It was one of the best breakfasts I ever ate. It was certainly a lot better than a peanut butter sandwich on salt-free bread.

Friday, August 27, 2010

In which we take overnight trip, or can we get there from here?

Along time ago Richard got a brochure for Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and it looked like a fun place to visit. So we, finally, did plan an overnight trip there earlier in the week. We got out the maps and looked at where we were, and looked at where Eureka Springs is – 165 miles way -- and concluded that we couldn’t get there from here.

Of course we did. It just took a bit of careful plotting on the map. One leaves highway 65, the 4-lane near Branson, and gets off on 2-lane Missouri 86 and then the fun begins. One turns left and right a couple times to stay on Missouri 86, and blesses God that the stop sign one’s husband totally does not see is a 4-way and no other cars happened to be stopped (especially one of those with a light on top of the roof), and then there is a left turn on Missouri P and then a right turn on Arkansas 23 and as the narrow highway leads one farther into the countryside, one realizes that one does not need to pay big bucks to go to an amusement park and be hurled along a metal track for a thrill a minute. No indeed. It would not surprise me at all if the designers of thrill rides had not at one time been driven very fast over the old roads that wind their way through the Ozark mountains.

We enjoyed our mini-vacation. Eureka Springs is an artsy place, and here and there is public art. I am especially fond sculpture that is created from junk.

And I sat down in front of these gentlemen to have my picture taken but they got left out of the picture.

Normally he does not agree to let me take his picture. But he was agreeable on this trip.

The town is filled with lots of interesting little shops and galleries, and I saw a poster that brought back amazing memories. I graduated from high school in June 1967, and these were the bands that were beginning to make music history that year.

 Monterey was a few hours up the coast from where we lived. An aunt who I loved very much lived near Monterey, and I think she went to that festival.

We did not take in any of the tourist attractions, but had a very good time walking around and gawking and eating interesting food. We bought passes on the trolly that drives around the town.

And relaxing. Both of us have been so focused on work – especially Richard – that we have forgotten how to relax together as a couple. And we don’t do spontaneous very well either.

But this time we had almost two full days of being spontaneous and not working. It was like a switch was flipped in the back of Richard’s head. We actually did things that were not planned. If we passed something interesting, we stopped and turned around and drove back to look at it. It was quite a lot of fun.

We were going to drive straight back home in the morning after our night in the quietest motel I believe I have ever slept in...

but we did not drive straight back. In a day or two, I will write about day 2, which was just about as much fun as day 1.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adventures in dining

About 3 months ago, 2 women and I decided to have lunch at the bar-b-que restaurant in town (featuring prime Angus beef, doncha know) that had been reopened for 6 weeks or so after having been closed for a while.

Walking into the restaurant, one faces a long counter and behind it sees the kitchen, which is separated from the restaurant by a mid-chest-high partition and a door. So, one can see the people working busily in there even if one can’t actually seeing what they are doing.

Keep in mind, this is the beginning of what passes as the lunch rush hour in our little down.

We are seated at a table at the front of the restaurant, with a full view of the door and the counter and the kitchen. We are handed menus, we think a while about it, and then we all order bar-b-que sandwiches, with various sides -- coleslaw, baked beans.

Keep in mind that the meat we ordered had gone through the bar-b-que process. The meat was to be placed on buns. No “short order” cooking was required. About 10 minutes after we placed our orders, I happened to glance over at the counter--and the kitchen--and noticed the kitchen was empty. All the busy people who had been there when we walked in were suddenly gone.

I just about got a crick in my neck watching the empty kitchen. One of the women mentioned to the host that it was taking “an awful long time….”

“Oh,” he said, “it will be ready soon.”

“Soon” stretched to a 30-minute wait before someone finally brought our sandwiches. We were not happy. The sandwiches were OK, but not that great. I doubt that I will ever go back to that restaurant. 

Fast forward to Tuesday noon. Richard and I have entered a small restaurant in a touristy town 170 miles away where two other couples are sitting at small tables, waiting to be served. Against the wall, closest to the kitchen area, is a table where the waiter has laid out a game of solitaire. Other personal items and cigarettes sit on the table. A woman is in the small kitchen area, working behind a waist-high partition with wire racks and shelves serving as the walls.

This restaurant has been recommended to us by someone who says it is very unique and very good. We can see at once that it is unique, and we are prepared to believe it is very good.

We are given menus and we place our orders. We are given a basket of chips and some green salsa. We wait a while. The cook is cooking, the waiter resumes his solitaire game.

The salsa we have been given to eat with our chips is amazingly good. I mention to Richard how good I think the salsa is. Apparently we are not the only ones to think so. A woman comes in and buys some salsa, which they are happy to sell her. The waiter puts some into a couple of small jars with lids and off she goes.

The waiter says he is happy to hear I like the salsa. He made it fresh this morning.

Then there is a flurry of activity, and plates are carried to the tables of the other two couples. They begin to eat.

Oh good, I am thinking, it won’t be long now.

Then, much to our astonishment, the woman who is cooking comes out of the kitchen area, and she and the waiter whisper to each other, open the door, and leave the restaurant. The six of us are left sitting alone in the restaurant.

They are eating.

We are eating chips, but they are rapidly disappearing. We sit and wait for the waiter and the cook to come back. We wait and wait. Eventually we conclude they have gone outside to smoke cigarettes. I have forgotten how long it takes to smoke a cigarette. I don’t remember it took as long as they are taking.

I ask Richard if he wants to leave some money on the table and walk out. He says, “Yeah, if it takes too much longer….”

Eventually they do come back in and she begins preparing our food. The other two couples both finish their food and leave. We are left alone in the restaurant, and then, finally, our food comes.

Have I died and gone to Mexican food heaven? Maybe. It was very unusual, and amazingly good. If we ever went back to that town, I would go back to that restaurant.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Further adventures in cooking

We shut the house up when we left for church yesterday, and so when we arrived back home at noon, the house was really cool compared with the 90+ degrees outside. This was a good thing, because I ended up having to fire up the oven twice to make bread for Richard.

Nothing quite as good as a slice of bread, fresh out of the oven with butter (in my case, a tiny bit of butter.) Except the first batch wasn’t so good. He was in the kitchen talking to me while I was combining the ingredients and I left out the salt.

“Honey,” I said, “The bread doesn’t taste that bad—if you make a PB & J sandwich out of it you can’t hardly tell.”

He was not persuaded. I had cooked some great northern beans earlier in the day, so I guess I will be having beans on toast and PB & J myself

So, at about 3 p.m., I started over and made another batch of bread, and remembered the salt, and fired up the oven again.  

Backtracking to Saturday, I got an e-mail from friend who was very happy because her husband had finally shot a groundhog that was tearing up their yard – and for those who feel sorry for the groundhog (and I admit I feel a bit sorry for it myself), one must remember that they dig huge holes and they can wreck havoc in the garden.

So I sent her an e-mail with a recipe on how to cook a groundhog and told her we would be over for dinner at about 5 pm (just joking of course).

I received an e-mail from her this morning:
Just for the record, I ain't cooking no groundhog! I'm not against sampling one if someone else cooks it, but don't give me one to cook. That’s right up there with cooking kidneys -- yes, I’ve tried that! I know what you are thinking, “are some people just born stupid?!" While they were simmering, I stepped out of the house for a minute and when I came back in it smelled like someone had peed all over the house. I grabbed the kidneys, pan and all, marched directly out the back door, and threw it in the yard. Let the neighbors cat sink his teeth into that!!!
I think this woman needs to write a blog.

I too cooked kidneys once upon a time. We had bought a couple of sheep from a friend and had them butchered, and I asked for the kidneys, along with the heart and the liver. I had been reading too many British novels where steak and kidney pie was being eaten by the characters, so I decided I had to try it. I got a bit farther than she did. Richard refused outright to sample it, but I actually ate a couple of bites before I threw the whole mess away.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rooting for rutabagas, or does this look good enough to eat?

Some vegetables – or things we call vegetables which may actually be fruit -- are truly beautiful to behold, in my opinion at least, and most of them taste just as wonderful.

If someone were to hold a gun to my head and demand that I announce my favorite vegetable, I probably would say squash. There are so many different kinds..

and I think each one is good in its own right.

This carnival squash is bright and cheerful and is aptly named...

 and was wonderfully sweet... 

and then there are glossy, deep purple eggplant...

and bright tomatoes that you can pop in your mouth like candy...

and peppers in all colors…

 and then comes the lowly rutabaga….

It takes courage to eat some vegetables.

In our goal to add 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables to our diet every day, we took a chance on the rutabaga about a year ago. It did not look very appetizing, especially with the thick coating of wax that is applied before it is displayed in the produce department. But it wasn't very expensive either, so we figured if we tossed it, the loss wouldn't be too great.

I don’t think many people here eat them. In fact, they are not even offered for sale at the two local markets.
We bought some from the store we love to hate. We found rutabaga makes a very nice addition to the meal.

It has a delicate, sweet flavor -- not like a turnip at all. Try it, you might like it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aren''t we lucky

Last night I read this in the book A Thread of Blue Denim by Patricia Leimbach, which you might be able to find in your public library. She puts a slightly different spin on what I was trying to say in my last post, but does it a bit better, I think….

At the end of the pea patch where I pass it on the tractor, another blossom stands out against the sand like a lonely exclamation point. Beautiful dandelion, flower of childhood! Beautiful in the meadows and the laws and along the roadside; beautiful in the sight of children and of God.

My little neighbor asks me, “Do you have to plant dandelions, Aunt Pat, or do they just grow?” My heart trembles in the realization that on my answer hangs one of those value judgments by which adults destroy the free acceptance and appreciation of many things beautiful. I could have given her a lesson about weeds, but I have learned that some of the rankest weeds are planted by adults in childish minds to stifle their native inclination to the truth.

“No Lynn, you don’t have to plant dandelions. Aren’t we lucky they just grow.”

Yes indeed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A helping hand..

I am so thankful that my parents did not train me to be afraid of nature. There were only a few “animal fears” that I remember having as a child. The woman across the street kept banty chickens – little, tiny things, and those little roosters were ferocious. I remember one chasing me and pecking my legs. I remember being chased by large, booming tom turkey on the farm of mother’s childhood friend in northern California.

Worst of all was the my fear of Weimaraner dogs, which came about because there were several behind a chain-liked fence that I had to pass every day on my way to school, and they seemed to wait for me, charging the fence with apoplectic fury, hatred in their creepy yellowish eyes, as I walked by, cringing away from them. I have never really gotten over my dislike for those dogs. There was man who became quite famous taking pictures of his Weimaraner dogs dressed up in clothes. I was never fond of those pictures.

Mothers have such an influence over how their children view the world. My mom kept her opinions about snakes and lizards and frogs and those things to her self. She encouraged us to be curious and interested in nature and the creatures that live in with us.

So, when we were bringing up our son, I tried very hard not to train him to be afraid of things that were not harmful and to instill in him a respect for life so he just didn’t automatically kill some wild creature he “didn’t like.” A lot of people in this area have the attitude: if it moves, shoot it; if it is in the road, run over it. Especially if it is a snake. We did not want him to become that sort of a person. And he hasn’t.

He has become my eyes and ears outside these days. We send him out early in the morning to do odd jobs in the yard before it becomes too hot. And he sees things.

A week or so ago, he came in my office and said “Mom. There is a speckled king snake outside. It is really cool.” So I leaped up and grabbed the camera and out the door I went.

Sure enough…. 

There was a really cool snake outside.

A few days ago, we put him to work tearing out the old, rotten lumber we had used to make in a raised bed for our vegetable garden years ago. A little while later he came in with a big grin on his face, gently cradling something in his “I-don’t-have-an-office-job” hand. Mom, look what I found while I was digging out the wood!

It was very calm in his hand….

And then it began to slither off...

and so he let it down near where he had been working and off it went.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A page-turner

On the day of our son’s second operation on July 19, in a moment of reckless abandon, I plonked down the green plus a 33% discount coupon for a hardback book at the Big Name bookstore. I refused to think about how many used books I could have bought for the same amount of money. I did not talk myself out of buying the book. I walked out of the store carrying the book.

My sister had told me about The Help some time ago and said I should read it. So I decided I would.

I was already reading another book at the time, so I read maybe 30 page and then put it on the shelf where it sat for several weeks while I slowly worked my way through the other book.

I used to spend several hours a day reading books, but that sort of fell by the wayside as June commenced and I somehow couldn’t settle my mind to concentrate on reading, so I read sporadically a few books here and there, but mostly I sat in front of the TV watching the slop being served up.

Until I came across this quote by Alice Walter...

I'm always amazed that people will actually choose to sit in front of the television and just be savaged by stuff that belittles their intelligence.

I read the book over the weekend. And then I handed it off to my friend Judy on Monday, and when she finishes with it and gives it back, I will donate it to the library in the event it does not have a copy.

And then yesterday Judy handed me this book…

She said she thought I would really like this book. It is such an amazing thing when one meets a kindred spirit. I immediately recognized the name of this author. I belonged to a book-of-the-month club shortly after we moved here and one of the first selections I bought was the second book she had written.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about this woman and her book, which I had not touched for years and years except to move it to a new place in the bookshelf, and I found it and began thumbing through it and realized I was reading what now would be considered a “blog.” Back then, before the advent of the Internet and the creation of the blog, women who had interesting things to say about their lives wrote interesting letters to their families or, if they were lucky, they had a weekly column in the local newspaper. And sometimes these newspaper columns became books. Books filled with wonderful stories about every day life.

So tonight, I will exercise my option to turn the off the TV and I will read.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the proper way to fold a towel

I used to clean house for a family who operated a dairy farm. They had 5 children and she taught them at home. Great kids. Great family. Often when I came to clean their house, the kids were outside messing about with their horses or helping dad with chores, or just playing. But not always. Occasionally, she allowed them to watch VeggieTales videos to help keep them out of the way as I went about my work. For the initiated, these videos feature talking vegetables. One video, which I began enjoying very much, featured Larry the Cucumber singing “silly songs.”

Every time my beloved and I have what seems to me to be a silly conversation, I think of this video, for some reason. The lovely woman who writes Still Waters blogged about a conversation she had with her husband when he helped out but didn’t do it quite right.

I helped my husband with the laundry the other day and also did not do it quite right. Just like there is a right way and a wrong way to hang the toilet paper – and I, of course, have always hung it the wrong way says my father and my husband – I have now learned there is also a right and a wrong way to fold a kitchen hand towel.

He came in my office as I was working away on the computer to carefully explain to me that if one first folds the towel in half by bringing the edges of the “long side” together, and then folds it in half at the middle, all one has to do is unfold it once, and it is ready to hang over the oven door handle, which is where all of the kitchen hand towels hang because our kitchen is too small to have proper hangers for the towels.

I, of course had not folded it that way. I brought the short ends together first and then folded it over, which meant he had to unfold the entire towel and refold it in order to hang it.

I thought very carefully for a second or two before I said the first 10 thoughts that popped into my mind to this sweet man who has done such a wonderful job helping with the housework.

I took a very deep breath.

I can see why folding it your way is a good idea. I will try to remember that the next time I fold the clothes.

And I smiled and went back to work.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Falling leaves

Appropriate background music for this post would be the song "Autumn Leaves," which I used to have the piano sheet music for and which was playing in my head for the past few days as I watched the leaf drop in the front yard from the kitchen window.
We arrived here in the Spring of 1981, and over the next few years we began planting trees like crazy. Trees from the Arbor Day Foundation, tree bundles from the Missouri Department of Conservation, bundles of various species of pine trees from a local flooring mill. Some lived… some died.

Among the first trees we planted were cottonwood, and one lives on in our front yard. Had we paid more attention to the requirements of the tree we would have seen that they do better when they have a nearly constant supply of water, such as along a stream by a pond.

In every other way the tree has done well, but it is not a happy camper during the late summer.

As summer advances and we hit the normal droughty period in August, the tree begins to suffer and as a protective mechanism, its leaves turn yellow and they fall, and now the front yard is a carpet of dead leaves.

I have been thinking about this tree and what it does to survive hard times, wondering if there is a life lesson for us. One begins to assess what is really important -- really really important when there is a crisis. In the midst of a drought, leaves are a liability, so the tree gets rid of them. I wish it was that easy for us humans to figure out what we don't need to hold on to in the midst of our own stresses....

We have so many trees in our hard that turn color in the fall and drop their leaves that we don't bother too much about raking the lawn -- there is no way to keep up with it, but  we have been finding odd jobs for our son to do around the place in the mornings before it heats up too much. I think perhaps tracking down the leaf rake will be on the schedule this week.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

One should always have a fresh whisker biscuit

I like the fact that even though I passed the far side of 50 some time ago, I am not too old to learn new things. Even when my mom was in her 80s, she talked about how she was still learning new things and how exciting life was and it kept her young at heart even as her body was slowly sliding into death. At any rate, keeping one’s mind alert and active does wonders to help us feel like we are young in our heads – even if our bodies tells us otherwise.

I learned something yesterday.

The boy went to town to buy some things he needed and when he came back he announced he had bought a new whisker biscuit for his compound bow. And he was very elated that he had managed to get the old whisker biscuit off and the new one installed correctly.

A whisker biscuit?

Between gales laughter, my beloved and I choked out the question, “What the heck is a whisker biscuit?”

Well, this is a whisker biscuit...

It is round like a biscuit and it has these whiskery things. It is an arrow rest.

And I learned something new today. I learned how to take the little memory dohickey out of my digital camera and put it in the reader and transfer the photos onto my new and improved computer. I feel like I’ve shaved 10 years off my mental age.

Richard found this little toad in the garage this morning, and he brought it to me, and I am especially pleased with how the photos turned out.

He is sitting on the edge of the concrete bird bath in our yard.

There were ants crawling on it.

I love the colors of its warty skin, which you can see if you click on the picture. A few seconds after this, it hopped in the bird bath, I fished it out and put it in a shady place by the basement. Be safe, little toad.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sutured sheets

The writer of one of the blogs I used to read regularly has 4 boys who failed to make their beds. It made her apoplectic, and she wrote about it in a very funny way, but at the time I was reading her blog I thought to myself “Lady, do you really want to invest so much emotional energy into whether they make their beds or not? Is this really that important?”

To her it was, I guess. And in modern domestic arrangements, where husbands and wives both work outside the home, a man who has been well-trained by his mother to pick up after himself is a blessing.

I knew this, and so I made sure our boy helped around the house by doing dishes, dusting, and vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom, but I never cared very much whether he made his bed or kept his room picked up on a day-to-day basis. My attitude was (right or wrong): It was his room, if he wanted to live in a messy room then he could (up to a point).

As it happened, as our son grew older he became a neat-freak in his personal space. He became obsessed with what his room looked like and would spend quite a bit of time every morning making sure his bed looked absolutely perfect, with the covers hanging exactly even and no wrinkles whatsoever — and getting extremely frustrated when blankets and bedspreads did not cooperate — and that everything in his room was arranged just so. Even now his room is perfectly organized. It is the neatest room in the house.

Not too long ago we replaced the old king-sized mattress on the bed and the elastic corners of king-sized fitted sheets we had been using for years were not quite big enough to fit around the new mattress. So we bought new king-sized sheets, which had deeper corners and gave the old sheets to our son to use on his bed. Which was fine except it was creating extra laundry.

So, I decided to convert a king-sized fitted sheet into a regular sheet for his twin bed by squaring the corners and trimming it and putting in a new hem. Yet another in a string of overzealous attempts to save money that sometimes end up costing me more money in wasted time than I could possibly have saved.

It indeed took quite a bit more time to do this than I thought it would –- several hours -- and, naturally, it did not turn out well.

Saturday when he was changing his bed he called me in his room to complain. “This looks awful,” he said. “It is crooked and uneven. You did a really bad job of suturing the sheet.”

I had to agree with him, I did do a bad job of suturing the sheet. I will dig through the linen closet and find him a properly sutured sheet to replace it.