Thursday, December 31, 2015


Studies have shown the important role that imagination has in the development of children’s cognitive abilities.

I am not sure where my cognitive abilities are on the scale these days, but I am part of the generation that was raised before computer games and interactive electronic devices. There were plenty of opportunities for our imaginations to be developed. We had toys that we manipulated with our hands and we did things with them that required some imagination and creativity – Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets. Grandpa kept a big cardboard box filled with wooden blocks in the spare room and we spent hours happily creating all sorts of amazing things with the blocks and not bothering the grown-ups.

And we made regular trips to the library. Books… books… and more books. We had to imagine what the things looked like that we were reading about, there weren’t always pictures. We played role-playing games that required imagination, “Cowboys and Indians,” “Army,” and other fantasy games. I can remember lying on my back in the grass when I was a little kid and looking up and imagining I was a mackerel (my dad went ocean fishing a lot) and the sky was the “top of the water” and what would it be like to be a fish?

What I’m saying is that I’ve got very active imagination. It doesn’t take much to get me going.

Naturally, one of my favorite things to do is watch the amazing shapes form in the big white puffy clouds that sail along before the wind across a bright blue sky. Whales, pigs, elephants, bears, profiles of crones with hooked noses and jutting chins… all sorts of things and creatures that appear and then disappear as the wind shapes the clouds.

I have to be careful though doing this because I tend to fall easily if I don’t watch where my feet are going, so I have to stop walking. Of course, if I don’t keep an eye on the MollyWog, then she can get into trouble too. Usually, she'll just start trying to dig out of its hole some small furry mammal, but the last time we were out walking and I started cloud gazing and stopped paying attention to her, she managed to hop over the bottom strand of the barbed-wire fence and then left part of her hair behind when she hopped back.

So I am beginning to wonder whether I have an overactive imagination. Richard recently came home with a package of stevia sweetener. It sat on the counter for a while with some other stuff he bought. Part of the photograph on the front of the package was blocked on the right by something else, and before it was finally put way, I had plenty of time to look at it…  and pretty soon I started seeing a smiling face – somewhat distorted, but a face with a bow at the top of its head.
I finally asked Richard, “Do you see a smiling face?”No. I see cookies, a cupcake with frosting, and a cinnamon roll.”

One of my dad’s favorite sayings, was “He (or she) is nuttier than a fruitcake.”

And I’m thinking I just may be getting nuttier by the day.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Exercise and applesauce

Our Dad had lots of little sayings that we heard constantly throughout our growing-up years at home. One of the games we played last year at his big 90th birthday celebration was seeing how many of theses saying his long-time friends could remember.
Well I’ll be a suck-egg mule.
Its colder than a well-digger’s foot.

I’m busier than a one-armed paperhanger
Are just a few that we heard very frequently, but the one that sprang to mind on Christmas morning was one I knew he said all the time but I couldn't remember any of it. finally called my sister, and she talked to our Dad at the facility where he is being cared for, and he remembered it:
Exercise and applesauce helps to get the deal across.

I think is rather amazing because the fog of dementia is starting to cloud his mind and he doesn’t remember things very well now.

I’m not sure what “the deal” was but we heard “Exercise and applesauce….” a lot because when Mom served pork chops or a pork roast, we always had applesauce to go with it.

We had dinner on Christmas day with our friends from Massachusetts. She was planning lamb and she asked us to bring a vegetable and applesauce.

Why I didn’t just go to the store and buy jar of applesauce escapes me, but I did not. I bought 8 large apples (4 Jonagold and 4 Granny Smith) and I made it from scratch (cinnamon stick, lemon zest and lemon juice, brown sugar) and mashed it with a potato masher so it had little chunks of apples instead of being totally smooth. It was very good. Even though the apples cook down quite a bit, I still ended up with quite a bit more applesauce than was needed for the dinner. A lot more.

The food was delicious and even better, the fellowship was wonderful.
We are Meant to Eat Together
Eat with people whom you love and respect, who love and respect you, and who love and respect food.
Eat with people who are learning to cook, with sincerity of heart; children are a great example of this.
Eat with all your senses, masticating textures, smelling sensuous aromas, tasting luscious flavours.
Eat with people who aren’t afraid to make noises like ummm, ahhh, and oohh.
Eat with people who aren’t afraid to make a mess, lick their fingers, clean out the bowl, and eat with their hands.
Eat after the perspiration of a rigorous jog, invigorating walk, in the lusty afterglow from a roll in the hay; it’s much healthier than smoking a cigarette.
Eat with people who laugh and smile a lot, people who tell stories and spin yarns. Eat with people who are generous and share. Full stop.
Eat with all your fondest memories, triumphs through tragedy, and memories of love. Eat with people who love to cook and eat.
Eat with people who are gracious and grateful.
Eat with people who are nonjudgmental and forgiving, who can see both sides of the story and still have an opinion.
Eat with love, passion, compassion in your heart, and while searching your soul. Eat with people who love life and are genuinely interested in you and the world.
And finally, if you eat like this and with people who do and are all these things, pleeease ... invite me for dinner.
From the Return to Food book by Sherry Strong

So. What to do with all of the extra applesauce since my dearly beloved doesn’t particularly care for applesauce (he would rather eat the whole apple, and so would I, actually)? Well, every morning I eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 2 tablespoons of ground chia seed.

I normally mix the flax and chia in about 6 ounces of lemon-lime soda and drink it down as fast as I can. A delay of more than about 30 seconds means one is left with mucilaginous (gelatinous substance that is sticky and viscous) glop that is almost guaranteed to trigger the gag reflex. So, for the past few days I have instead been mixing it into the applesauce and adding a bit soda to make a little more liquid and down the hatch as fast as possible. Makes a nice change.

And before it is all gone some of it is going into the freezer so I have it on hand the next time we have pork.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Days go by like boxcars in the night…
Hobo’s Last Letter by Crazer, Hicks, Watson, and Newberry
The main Burlington Northern-Santa Fe rail line heading south/north and east/west through the state passes by our little town. Sometimes the trains come barreling through town at breakneck speeds, often with two or three engines pulling and two or three engines pushing (especially if the engines are heading west pulling hopper cars full of coal from West Virginia or Kentucky or wherever it has come from). The wheels making a cheerful clickety-clack as they roll along.

Sometimes the train creeps through the town, agonizingly slow, groaning and moaning and clanking and banging as it is shunted off on the siding to wait for a train coming in the opposite direction or a faster moving train coming up behind. This is especially a patience-builder if one has made the mistake of thinking “the train will pass before I get there” and instead of going over the viaduct turns left and right and left again to take the shortcut to the YMCA and then finds herself instead sitting at the north junction crossing gate waiting for that last car to pass (and on one horrible morning the train completely stopped on the siding with two cars left across the road and sat there for about 30 minutes).

And because we are about a mile from the train tracks, one can hear them throughout the day and during the wee hours of the morning (if one happens not to be asleep), and in those quiet early morning hours the sound of the cars moving down the tracks is very plain.

So too do the days pass—sometimes swiftly and sometimes they drag along—and suddenly one realizes certain people have been “sitting at the crossing” for 3 months waiting for something to be written here.

What in the world happened? I dunno exactly.
  • A paralyzing case of writer’s block.
  • One disaster after another happening to my best friend: her husband of 47 years died of cancer on August 21, almost exactly a month later she fell off a step ladder at her home and badly fractured her leg, spent a couple of weeks with an erector set on her leg to keep it stable and then went through 9 hours of surgery to finally fix it, and has been in the nursing home, unable to walk on it for yet another 4 weeks, although she finally gets to leave the nursing home tomorrow to be cared for by friends in their home. Even though all this happened to her and not me, trying to being a good friend and spend time with her in the nursing home and going to house (5 miles out in the country to water plants etc) has taken a lot of time and emotional energy -- which I was happy to do
  • Trying to spend more time reading books, which means I am off the computer earlier in the evening and also means I have less time while I am on the computer to write.
  • Maybe a little depressed. Moving into the fall of the year is always going to be hard for me and I expect it always will be.
Give me 5 minutes and I will think up a few more good reasons, but you get the idea.

A friend who I almost never see in person, but who keeps up with me by reading the blog, notices I haven’t written anything for a long time and sends me an e-mail wants to know if I am okay?

Yes Nancy, I think so. I happen to have a very expensive computer keyboard that sounds and feels just like an old-fashioned typewriter, and I am once again feeling the urge to do a bit of clickety-clacking myself here now and again.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Channelling Helen Mirren

Almost every beautician who has cut my hair has been frustrated with me I think because I am not very capable of doing much to style it myself.  So I get a "great hair style" and leave the beauty shop and when I next wash it... well, my hair still looks good but not like the beautician had it fixed. 

Several have told me that I have great hair. It is fairly thick, has lots of body, and if it is cut correctly, it looks pretty good without me having to fuss with it too much, and it continues to look good as it grows out. I almost never return in 2 months or 3 months or 4 months -- like I have been told to do -- to keep it looking like it did when it was first cut.

I often wait way too long between haircuts until I reach the point were it no longer looks good, and so by the time I finally can’t stand it any more, I look pretty ragged.

And last Monday I had reached that point. Now, it happened to be my good fortune that someone cancelled an appointment, so I did not have to wait an additional 2 or 3 weeks for a slot at the beauty shop.

I realize that there is no mandate that women have to have an “age-appropriate” hairstyle – whatever that means – but I do want to have hair that looks like it somewhat fits that age that is showing on my face. At any rate, I printed a picture of the lovely and elegant Helen Mirren

who is 4 years older than I am and who has a wonderful hairstyle, and I showed the picture to my dearly beloved and said...

I’m going to ask her to turn me into Helen Mirren…”
And when I got to the beauty shop, I thrust it at Amy, the woman who cuts my hair, and said “Turn me into her.”

There have been times when I have returned home from having my hair cut and cried because I didn’t like the way it was cut, but this was not one of them. She didn’t cut my hair to look exactly like Helen Mirren’s but it is close enough, and I am delighted with it.

Richard was too. When I walked in he said,

“My goodness, Helen, you look great!”
He made me feel like a million bucks and he me laugh to boot.

And the giggles continue because he has been teasing me about being Helen for the last couple of days.

I do not pay as much attention to my appearance as I could, but I definitely do feel better when I think I “look good” (or as good as it is possible for me to look) given my nose and my permanently red cheeks and chin, and...

I expect, in my own way, I am as fixated on how I look as the next person.

Anne Bernays wants to know:
“Is this fixation with our appearance wired into the human female? If so, then we don't have to feel guilty about it. If not, then why do we behave as if our appearance trumps kindness, intelligence, imagination, enthusiasm, and humor?
I don't think I behave that way, at least I hope not?