Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stuffing and Stuff

Thanksgiving’s over. By now the turkey soup and the turkey sandwiches and the turkey fricassee and the turkey hash and the turkey pan dowdy and the turkey chow mien have all been stuffed into bellies or freezers. 

So, perhaps, it’s time for a little turkey day reflection.

We spent Thanksgiving day with family, Jim (son) and Bonnie (daughter-in-law) were the hosts. They made two perfect turkeys…brined and roasted to a succulent golden brown. Two delicious birds, seventeen beautiful guests. Days of cleaning and shopping and brining and mashing and boiling went into this delicious feast. It was fun—even when the eating was done, it was joyous in the kitchen helping pack leftovers and wash dishes. Fun and happy. Everyone behaving—keeping their disparate political and religious views to themselves on this special day when in-laws, old folks and sweet children come together.

Okay, I confess...
I found this photo on google. 
It's a google gobbler.

Around 7:00 two of the guests left to go shopping. I could go into a rant here about stores being opened on Thanksgiving. Bartering their stuff, filling their coffers, making hay while the sun shines or after it sets on the day devoted to thankfulness and stuffing. But you know—it sucks.

And I confess here—I’m a Black Friday shopper. By the time I get to the stores, the craziness has slowed down, the early birds are running out of steam and heading out to breakfast somewhere when I mosey in around 9:00. People aren’t rude. No one dies over a flat screen TV, they just shop and stand in long, long lines and chat with each other. It’s nice. Really.

But back to my Thanksgiving story. The two shoppers (actually one was the shopper and one was the helper) went to separate Dunham stores and would commune via cell phone to see who found the prize first. The quest was for guns. Guns on sale on Thanksgiving. The helper hunts deer. The gun buyer doesn’t, not really…besides hunters don’t need assault rifles, and that’s what he was after.

My brother Tom and lots of people I know hunt. They eat the venison.  My brother-in-law Walt shoots muskrats (rats that live in water) that invade the pond at the farm in Wisconsin (he doesn’t eat them.)

But assault rifles are another story or at least a question. Why? Does having an assault rifle make you bigger? Yes, it does. An eight-year-old with a gun is huge and dangerous. A crippled old man in a wheelchair is the Hulk or Rambo. Do people buy people-killing guns so they’ll feel big and powerful and dangerous? Without a doubt.

Even as I write this I’m afraid of them. Don’t cross someone with a gun. Keep your mouth shut and your keyboard quiet. Cower.
What stuff will our future Thanksgivings be made of? Thankful feasts with our families and/or  a shopping day when we can buy a bargain priced assault rifle?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Liberty and Justice for All

By the time I was a junior at Groves High School in Birmingham, Michigan, I had been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance from the day I started kindergarten in Detroit. Every morning for nearly every school day of my young life, I had proudly put my hand over my heart and said,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation, under God, 
with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1961 my American History class was immersed in learning about the Civil War. Gone With The Wind was required reading—which my Grandmother thought was too risqué for a young girl, so I had to hide my paperback copy behind a Seventeen magazine.

United We Stand, Divided We...
Oil on Canvas 36"x36"
One day I was sitting in my history class in all my patriotic innocence, when the teacher, Mr. Nunn, digressed from the past and moved into the 60's present. He told us that in the southern United States of America black people had to pass literacy tests and pay poll taxes in order to vote.

I remember feeling a pain in the place where my hand had rested when I said the words, “With liberty and justice for all.” Stunned. Disillusioned. Dismayed. My wonderful country that welcomed all (it says so on the Statue of Liberty), the country with words to cherish and be proud of, didn’t allow some people to vote? 

The people who couldn't vote were the same ones whose ancestors had been stolen from their homes and made into slaves. People who had been the slave labor force that built the White House. People who had finally become free because of the civil war. How could that be? recently dug up Louisiana voter challenges from our shameful past. Literacy tests don’t sound so unreasonable in order to vote. I mean, you shouldn’t be stupid, right? Well, here are some sample questions you might be asked if you wanted to vote back then (only if you were black):

• Recite the Preamble to the constitution.
• Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.
• Print the word vote upside down, but in the correct order.
• Spell backwards, forwards.

Could you pass?

In 1965 the Voters Rights Act stopped literacy tests and poll taxes.
In 2013 the Supreme Court dumped important parts of the Voters Rights Act.

As soon as the Supremes new rules for voting passed, the governors and legislators of several states began creating another bad dream from an ugly history. This time the discrimination isn't just based on race, but who you might vote for. Documentation that you never had to show before will be required. Students can’t register to vote at their colleges. 

Here’s the obvious motive behind the new rules: if you can’t win elections honestly, based on policy, then stack the deck; make it harder for the people to vote who probably wouldn’t vote for you.


If Democrats tried to make it hard or impossible for wealthy old white men to vote, that would be offensive too.

In some countries everyone is required to vote. It’s a civic duty. In the United States in 2013 your lucky (or white or not in college) if you can vote. 

And then there’s voting districts. Districts wrangled and contorted to look like nasty worms or dragons, making congressional voting skewed in favor of one party. Should there be a law that says districts can’t have more than four corners, unless one edge borders a lake or ocean? Would old white men pass such a law? 

So what do we do besides sit crying for our country? How can this be made right? Ideas?

To see more of the tests, copy and paste the link below into your browser:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rude Applesauce

I was just standing there stirring up trouble, when suddenly the rude applesauce spit at me. But let me back up and tell you this story from the beginning…

Espaliered apple trees
Ten or twelve or thirteen years—oh, who cares, it was a LONG time ago—John built a ginormous wood frame with horizontal wires beside the old patio in our backyard. We planted three apple trees: a dwarf Jonafree (that’s a Jonathan that’s supposed to be disease resistant), a mutsu, and a dwarf something else. We pruned the trees and tied their branches to the wires with rings cut from old panty hose. Eventually espalier happened! 

Be warned, if you start an espaliered tree, you are obligated to maintain it. Every week or two (depending on rain) you have to get out there with the Fiskers and prune the damn things. This is especially true of the mutsu—who wasn’t a dwarf and wants to be a real tree and I won’t let it—so it speedily grows long shoots.

After a few years we had apples. Awful apples. One year I tried a non-poisonous bug deterrent—garlic, cayenne pepper and olive oil (I could have been dressing a salad). I’d have to spray again every time it rained, and the oil got sticky in the sprayer, so I gave up and let the bugs eat all the apples that they wanted. Most years the apples were no bigger than a grape and wormy. They fell quickly off the trees to the delight of the bees and squirrels and chipmunks. All was well with nature. Everyone ate apples except us.

Apple tree with APPLES!

This year something happened. Maybe climate change—last years drought and high heat followed by this years rainy June and July—sent the trees into survival mode. We have REAL apples. Big ones. Red ones. They’re still beloved by the insect world, but those little vegans never eat the whole apple. We cut away the bad parts of a good apple, and taste tested what was left. It was delicious.

So this morning John and I picked apples and sat together on the screened porch cutting them up and putting the good parts in a pot of water with some lemon juice. I washed them, then cooked them down (peels too) with a little sugar, cinnamon and a hit of cayenne. Batches went through the food processor, then back into a clean pot.

The directions for canning applesauce said I had to boil the sauce to 212 degrees. Stir and cook, stir and cook. I stopped stirring for a moment and suddenly the whole mass of sauce lifted in the pan, I shouted to John, “Hey, it’s alive, come see.” He was watching football, so ignored me. But seriously, the applesauce was rising up and down like a beating heart. I stirred quickly, resuscitating it, or killing it. That’s when it started spitting at me. Great spurts and blurps shot to the surface. Sauce flew in the air and it was only 175 degrees. At 190 degrees I put a lid on it and every few seconds poked in with the stirring spoon. Still it leap out at me scorching me through double rubber gloves. Applesauce is totally unruly and violent! 

So now it’s all been processed (canned) and the kitchen’s clean. Whew! I have eleven pint jars of applesauce to sit on a shelf in the basement. I’m thinking about buying a pork roast. Hmmm, what do you think? Doesn't that sound like autumn?

So was it worth all the trouble? 
Yep. I’ve conquered the applesauce. 


Spoils of the fight!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Give us this day our daily cucumber

Day one of August. We had breakfast on the screened porch and my feet were freezing—turning blue. This is August, Dear Ones. What will happen to the dog days of summer? Last year the temperature in July was in the hundreds, this year we ended the month in the fifties and sixties. Where's my sweater, socks, jeans, afghan? 

When we were at the farm in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, the humidity was so high it plumped up all the wrinkles in my face. I sweated and whined. Now it's so cold the wrinkles are back. I shiver and whine.

In spite of climate weirdness, the tomatoes and cucumbers seem happy. In fact, the cukes are enjoying an out of control orgy. Bees are buzzing. Vines are tangling. Those busy bees are impregnating little yellow flowers, consummating their relationships—baby cucumbers are bursting out all over the place. Adult cukes are pressed lovingly against each other in our vegetable crisper. Some cucumbers are being handed over the fence to the neighbors. 

"So, John, what would you like for dinner? Cucumbers, you say?
Perfect. A cucumber a day keeps the doctor away."

My friend Pat Burke is inundated with cucumbers too. She's making pickles. That sounds like work to me.

I always thought this mass abundance of a vegetable was zucchini's job. We have a plant, but it's choosing to defy the laws of zucchini-dom. The only zucchini we've eaten came from the farmers market.

So, knowing that I like to throw in a little politics, did you wonder if—in this blog about cucumbers and zucchini—I'd mention Anthony Weiner (alias Carlos Danger)?  Naa, that would just gross us all out.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Poetic License

Okay, so here’s the problem, occasionally I make up words. John’s been reading some chapters in my novel. Last night he got to the part where I described the slanted ceiling in an attic bedroom. Slopey, I called it. 

He said, “What’s this? Are you making up words? Do you have a poetic license? Where is it? Show me your Poetic License!” Yes, friends, he was yelling. Hence, the exclamation point. 

So I said, “It's in my wallet with my Creative License and Drivers License!” 

We both enjoy being loud. 

He suggested that I use sloped or sloping. How boring. You’d think he was an architect or something.

Spelling is not my strong suit, nor is punctuation. My spelling problem is helped by Google. I type in my word with bad spelling—up pops the correct spelling. Very helpful. However, sometimes my aging brain forgets the word I was trying to spell before Google opens.

My book club, Potpourri Book Club, (I just Googled potpourri for the spelling) read The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin last month. It’s a wonderful novel. Amanda Coplin used her creative license, and wrote the book without any quotation marks. Intentionally. It makes the book quiet. Voices whisper when they aren’t surrounded by quote marks.

In 2005, the late Shel Silverstein wrote a children’t book, Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. John’s been switching the beginnings of words since I met him. Intentionally. It's called Spoonerisms after William Archibald Spooner. Here’s one John found on line: Let me show you to your seat,  would read as Let me sew you to your sheet.

Examples of John's spoonerisms: 

  • he wants a new Sable Taw for his workshop, 
  • he likes Dot Hogs for dinner,
  • when warm weather finally comes, he’ll Wake a Talk around the neighborhood. 

I want to see his Poetic License!

I just checked the Urban Dictionary. You should always check the Urban Dictionary when you think you’ve created a new word. “Slopey” means a protruding mass of flesh, like droopy male breasts. They can also be described as slopies. Guess I won’t use that to describe the attic ceiling.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Whiter Whites

When we stopped at the red light there was a panel truck in front of us. Its rear end was a big white square in the afternoon sun. Very white. I shut my right eye. The truck was white. I opened the right and shut the left eye. Same. The truck was white.

“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself and my driver (John) for the billionth time that morning. I was about to have a cataract surgically removed from my right eye and a Toric lense put in that would reduce my astigmatism

I had already signed the lawyer induced paperwork. The night before I made the big mistake of actually reading the disclaimer form from the doctor’s office. So now I knew that possible blindness could occur immediately or at any time in the next year. 

Here I want to point out that you should never read disclaimers or listen to the disclaimers on TV commercials. First they woo you with the miraculous things some medication can do for you. Then a voice-over mumbles—at ninety words a minute—everything that can go wrong. If you have low testosterone—LOW T—the medication you roll in your armpit will give your wife pimples. That desperately needed pain killing medication for rheumatoid arthritis can cause a sore tongue, rash, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, liver problems, diarrhea and death. Do not read or listen to that stuff. The lawyers want you to know all those bad things, so if the bad thing happens they can say, “Told you so,” and you can’t sue.

My friend Pat is wintering in her condo in Florida and needs cataract surgery. Cataract and condo—a sure sign of old age, she says. Her cataract is so bad she’s having trouble reading. My glasses make a dent in my nose that will probably turn into cancer, but the cataract wasn’t affecting my reading. Why was I doing this?

For Pat and Katie and anyone else reading this who has a cataract, the surgery went fine. Easy. The anesthesiologist told me I’d be awake and comfortable during the procedure.  She put some happiness chemical into the IV in my hand. While the doctor worked on my eye, I saw two bright white spots about the size and shape of an oval pill. I felt nothing, no pain. For a while there was a tiny red dot (probably a laser). At times there were colors, pinks and yellows, it was interesting and very pretty. Someone should paint it, I thought.
When they wheeled me into the recovery room, John was waiting. The nurse explained about the drops...three drops three time a day for a week, then two drops twice a day for the rest of the month. There is an eye shield (clear plastic with holes) that you wear at night for a week to keep from rubbing or scratching your eye.

After the surgery the only discomfort I had was a growling stomach, since I’d had no food or water since midnight and it was nearly four o’clock. The nurse gave me a cookie and juice and even brewed a fresh pot of decaf coffee. Then John took me out to eat spaghetti.

The next morning I was still questioning—did I really need to have this done? I went down to our living room and was startled. Our walls are white, bright white. Hey, we don’t need to paint these walls after all. 

I went into the bathroom to put the drops in my eye and looked in the mirror. My hair was WHITE! Wow. I shut my left eye (the one that didn’t have surgery), my hair was brilliant white! I shut my right eye and looked at myself with eye that still needs cataract surgery...beige hair. Several years ago my hair was bright white, but gradually it had been getting dingy looking. My hair was getting so dull, I thought I should change shampoo. 

Then I started to put on some lipstick, and there I was—prune face. Deep wrinkles around my mouth, a hundred tiny lines in my cheeks when I smile. I didn’t know it was that bad. I stared at my face for a long time. Shutting one eye and then the other. Winking at me. 

Next August I will turn seventy. Seventy. Yikes! I have wrinkles. I earned them. They are mine. Now I can see them, own them. For my friends who will have their cataracts removed, I’m glad that your whites will be whiter, and it’s okay if you suddenly notice my wrinkles.

It’s been thirteen days since the surgery. Because of the Toric lense, I’m writing this blog without glasses. In mid-March I’ll get the other eye done. 

Note: Last week on 60 minutes there was a segment called Africa Mercy: Hospital of Hope. Watch it here: 

Near the end of this segment you’ll see blind people boarding the hospital ship. They were cured in half an hour by the simple procedure of removing cataracts. I wonder if they signed a disclaimer? This surgery could cause blindness...but without it, you could eventually become blind. Hmm.

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