Monday, April 23, 2012

Promises kept...

It was one of those odd coincidences that you can hardly believe is happening, but there it is.

Last week, at about 1 p.m., we arrived at the City Park where one of the city workers had arranged to meet us so we could watch him plant the tree that we promised our son we would plant for him along the walking path.

Well, that isn’t quite accurate. He wanted a pine tree planted, but unfortunately, the tree he wanted was not among the memorial trees offered for planting by the city. Even though it a tree native to Missouri, none of the nurseries we contacted in this area in an effort to get the tree ourselves had that variety of tree for sale in the right size. 

At the edge of a vacant lot on a road into town stands a beautiful tulip poplar tree
and since that variety happens to be one that the city did offer, we said our apologies in the Spirit to our son for not quite keeping our promise, and picked it to be planted.

Perhaps if we are still around 15 to 20 years from now, and I suspect it might take at least that long for the tree to mature enough to bloom, and if we able to hobble out to park, we might see it bloom.

The older areas of the park where memorial trees are planted has been filled up,  so the new trees are being planted in a recently cleared area of the park. It's sort of muddy and not very attractive right now, but it will be beautiful in years to come...

The man had already dug the hole, so as we watched he put the tree in and began to fill in...  

 and he pushed in the plaque on its steel post, and then, slowly…. slowly…. slowly…

two Burlington Northern-Santa Fe engines pulling a train crept down the track past the park. The men operating the train were likely not the railroad men who had befriended our boy over the years but… but the train appearing when it did could not have been more perfect if it had been arranged. 

Perhaps it was.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A bit of whimsy

We decided to visit some friends who we had not seen in a long time. In a conversation I had with the wife some time ago, after I told her that Richard had brought me a bouquet of flowers he had picked along side the road, she had complained in a funny way that nobody ever brought her flowers, so Richard decided to pick her a Spring bouquet.

At the time there were not a huge assortment of flowers to be had (I have fallen a bit behind on my blog) – dogwoods, some yellow flowers (mustard?), and the first of the tall purple flowers that bloom wild in the yard, but it was pretty enough.

She was tickled, I think as much because he remembered to pick them as she was that she actually had flowers sitting on her counter. She especially enjoyed the special vase we used to transport the flowers to her.

And then a few days later, Richard came back from his walk and carefully sets this down on my desk.

It is a blessing to be married to man who tries to figure out ways to make me laugh. And fortunately for him, it doesn't take much.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Olly olly oxen free

My husband has a fondness for bottles made of cobalt blue glass. Fortunately, he has not yet bitten by the bug to collect them -- we have little space here anymore for collections -- but occasionally he finds one. The other day while on a trash pick-up detail we found a blue beer bottle on the side of the road. He brought it back and admired it and then washed it out and tossed it into recycling. But then a few days later he found much larger cobalt blue vodka bottle, also discarded on the side of the road, with a peel off label. That one he is “going to do something with” but is not sure what. Perhaps he’ll use it to store olive oil or find a practical use for it. If not, it will simply sit someplace where he can see it and enjoy its beauty.

His pleasure at finding the bottles reminded me of a wonderful Ray Bradbury story “The Blue Bottle” in a book of his short stories Long After Midnight, which I have written about before here, and so I thought it would be good to read it to him the next time we drove someplace. And so I did.

We were still riding along when I finished the story, and so I turned the page to see what was next. "One Timeless Spring" was the title and as I skimmed through the opening paragraph my eye caught the words “olly olly oxen free…”
I am now of an age when I can actually sit down with the microfiche of my memories and roll through them, much as I did in the spring of 1970 for a report for a history class that led me to sit for several hours in the microfiche collection at the University of Southern California, looking at editions of the Los Angeles Times detailing the beginning of the roundup of some 120,000 Japanese Americans -- many of them who had been born in this country -- who were shipped off to interment camps in late March of 1942 for no other reason than because they were Japanese.  

As we motored down the highway, I traveled back another 10 years or so, back to the years when I was in elementary school, when I was 8... 9...10 years old, years when in the early evenings in the summer, after daylight savings time had advanced the clock, that the band of kids that lived in on our block would come to my house and we would play kick the can.

Olly olly oxen free free free…

I wonder how many 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds today have ever even hard those words, much less have played kick the can? Do groups of neighborhood children play together? I don't mean in organized sports that adults have organized, I mean outside in games they have organized themselves. What sorts of memories of childhood games will they have when they look back as 60-something-year-olds?

Now, just for fun, watch this short video (less than 2 minutes long), which is an updated version of a similar video used in a fascinating study done some years back that is detailed in quite an interesting book I have started. Follow the instructions.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Going to plan B…. and plan C….

I fairly regularly have minor disasters in the kitchen when it comes to preparing food -- it’s usually nothing very terrible, just the frustration of things not going exactly as planned.

The day before my last victim came for lunch, I found myself standing at the counter and picking out rice noodles from the vegetables of the Pad Thai dish I had made because it was only after I had put the meal together and tasted it that I realize the noddles were not quite cooked enough.

It seems intuitive that one would actually test the cooked noodles before adding them to the vegetables, but for some reason I didn’t – I had followed the cooking directions on the package and just assumed they would be done. So I had to cook them some more and then add them back. I was very glad that I had decided to make the dish a day ahead.

I had another little adventure in the kitchen recently. Having cruised by the market early Monday morning to see if there was any interesting meat marked down from not having been sold over the weekend, I found some really good deals on some steak and a very nice chuck roast.

On the way home the wheels began to spin about what I should do with this meat – all of them involving my large crock pot: Make chunks out of it and fix stew? Cover it in mushroom soup and onion soup mix? Make beef burgioni (that’s our joke pronunciation around here for boeuf bourguignon)?

I wrestled with this for a couple of more days and then realized if I didn’t do something quickly with the meat it was going to end up in the garbage, so I decided to make Willow Manor’s pot roast (which I have blogged about before).

I rubbed the spice mixture on the meat and turned the heat up under the big cast iron skillet and when it was good and hot I started to brown the meat. While that was sizzling I went in search of the raisins, which go in the sauce. I found them all right. And so had the ants. Even though the box of raisins was still wrapped in its the original cellophane packaging, the ants had found a way inside. When I opened the box I could see they had been very busy for quite a while and it wasn’t going to be a matter of simply washing the ants off and salvaging the raisins.

The raisins were ruint. Ruint, I tell you.

I tried to figure out what to do next. I stood there dithering for a bit. Do I really want to drop everything and rush into town for more raisins? No, I do not. Did we have any other raisins about, say in the refrigerator? No. We did not (I was wrong, however, because there were raisins in the refrigerator – pushed all the way to the back and behind something, which is the topic of another post I will get around to some day).

Aha. I have craisins (sweetened dried cranberries) that are in a much more secure container and so I decided to use them instead of the raisins.

Having completed the sauce and browned the meat, I went into the storage room to get the crock-pot to cook it in and realized that the crock-pot was not there.

I had loaned it to Judy a week earlier so she could use it on Saturday before to keep soup warm at the birthday party she held for her husband. As we were getting ready to leave the party, I said, “Don’t worry about rushing to get the crock pot back to me. I almost never cook in it…”

Except now.

Now what? The oven temperature for the pot roast was supposed to be 220 to 225, but I did not want to fire up the oven for 3 hours to cook it (trying to conserve electricity, doncha know). Our small convection oven has 5 preset temperatures, with the two lowest at 200-210 and 300-350, so I put it on for 30 minutes at 300 and then 30 minutes at 200 and so it went for a couple of hours, and it turned out great.
And Judy brought my crock-pot back the next day.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Seed flurry

The sound is reminiscent of small hailstones hitting the unyielding surfaces of man-made objects – the hoods of the car, the roof and skylights of the house.

Then it stops for a bit...

A breeze rustles the branches of the trees, and another flurry of maple tree seeds helicopter down spinning wildly as they fall and breaking apart when they land.

Unlike so many years since we have lived here, this year, once Spring arrived, there was no hard frost to kill off tender blossoms or interfere with the production of pollen or seeds.
It seemed to happen overnight. The tips of the trees went from this…

To this..

To this… 

and just a few days later the seeds are beginning to turn golden and fall to the ground.

Everything is on overdrive, it seems…

The joy of life of being alive… the display of nature’s fecundity (it’s not a dirty word, honest). 

No wonder people tend to want to go a little crazy at this time of year.