Friday, August 31, 2007

Best Cake Recipe Ever

1 or 2 quarts of Rum 1 cup butter 1 tsp. sugar 2 large eggs 1 cup dried fruit baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda lemon juice brown sugar nuts Before you start, sample the rum to check for quality. Good isn't it? Select a large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc. . . . Check the rum again. It must be just right. To be sure the rum is of the highest quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass a drink it as fast as you can. Repeat as necessary. With an electric mixer, beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 seaspoon of thugar and beat again. Meanwhile, make sure the rum is of the highest quality. Try another cup. Open second quart, if necessary. Add 2 arge leggs, 2 cups fried druit and beat till high. If fruit sticks to beaters, just pry loose with a drewscriver. Sample the rum again, checking for tonscisticity. Next, swift 3 cups of pepper or salt (it really doesn't matter). Sample the rim again. Sift 1/2 pint of lemon juice. Fold into chopped butter and strained nuts. Add a babblespoon of brown thugar or whatever color you find. Wix mell. Grease oven and turn cake pan to 350 gedrees. Now pour the whold mess into the boven and ake. Chek the rum for thickness and consistennessee and bo to ged.
Happy Labor Day!

Home again

[I just realized I neglected to post this right after we came home. We had such a marvelous time with my sister, her family and Tucker that I decided to post it now -- just a month late.] Spouse and I returned home yesterday evening, narrowly escaping the worst of the evening rush hour. My bravado in driving 1800 miles round-trip to visit family in the midwest vanished when reality set in. That's a lotta mileage -- especially with a spouse who didn't want to drive in the first place. I did all the driving and think it's gonna take a while to recuperate. Still . . . it was worth it! We first crashed quite comfortably at my sister's house in Libertyville, Illinois and I finally got to meet Tucker in person/dog. I was so busy just being with him and observing his charming ways that I totally forgot to photograph him. The good news is that my sister and her family have already captured him on film. Spouse and I felt so at home and so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with nieces and nephews and inlaws, we didn't want to leave. Bro-in-law, Tom took spouse to a Cubs game (which they lost)but quality time was much enjoyed. Patty and I had make-overs done in a department store and walked out looking like slightly greasy ladies of the evening. The night we arrived was a planned joint birthday party for Patty and our sister-in-law at Pete and Phil's gorgeous home. Chef Pierre outdid himself as usual, preparing an extraordinary feast for all 20 of us. I was slap-happy to begin with from driving for two days and got even more so with my wacky family at the party. Slept like a rock that night! I feel so fortunate to have a family like mine. We've all grown into remarkable individuals and forged families of our own that carry on and extend the love we all share.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Simple Pleasure

Sometimes I like to do stuff simply because I know how. Take darning socks, for example. My Dad's mother taught me how when I was 11 or 12. Having survived the Great Depression, she could also darn silk stockings, but that was a skill I didn't think I'd ever need what with the availability of cheap, nylon stockings, which I was not yet wearing. Anyway, not having a darning egg, I use the handle of a particular screw driver which works just fine. There's something so satisfying about repairing something and making it useful again rather than tossing it as we are so prone to do. It took less than 5 minutes to darn holes in the toes and heels of a pair of my husband's socks. Sweet!

Think Before You Speak

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D -S.D.) made a debut speech at the Sioux Falls Convention Center yesterday following a near fatal brain bleed last fall. More power to ya', Senator!

"I believe I have an unfair edge over most of my colleagues right now. My mind works faster than my mouth does. Washington would probably be a better place if more people took a moment to think before they spoke."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I first noticed this ole boy clinging to our balcony wall this morning. He and his crew have been pretty busy these hot nights. Seeing him there all by himself made me feel a little sad for him. But then it occured to me that maybe he's recuperating for a heavy date!

Cicadas are cool critters and I love the symphony they provide at night. That, fireflies and the earthy, warm fragrance are what make summer unique. Having said that, I'm looking forward to the cool, slow-decaying fragrance of autumn.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Poppy's Birthday

Last evening we celebrated Dad's birthday. It was actually on Thursday, but since two of his daugthers were bringing the "feast," Saturday worked better for us.

Spouse and I were about an hour late due to heavy traffic diverted around a popular, crucial bridge under repair. In view of the Minneapolis disaster, I don't think anyone's complaining too much any more.

Anyway -- back to the birthday -- 7-year-old Alex, who had been looking forward to the event for several days could hardly wait to get through supper and on to the cake his mother baked and decorated. It was Dad's favorite; white cake with peanut butter icing. Being a creative sort, Janet made it even tastier by adding some cocoa powder -- a little like Reese's pieces.

There was no holding Alex back when the cake was served. Breaking with a long-standing family tradition that holds the first bite for the birthday boy or girl, Alex happily dug in and declared it deeeeelicious!

Anger = Wasted Energy

Since being confronted by someone who does not know me with a false claim, I spent an enormous amount of energy being angry and indignant. It was fueled by pride in a nearly spotless reputation as well as shock and disbelief. Friends told me to forget it, but the incident was like an ugly, dark cloud over my head. FINALLY, I've reached the point where I realize spending any more energy on something I cannot/could not control is pointless. I can now feel empathy for the victim of someone else's destructive act. Her behavior was reprehensible, but due to her distress and pride in her vehicle. I hope that she comes to realize that people are more important than things. With this posting, I am putting the incident out of my mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blot 56

me -- angry

(My previous post was just a little too cute, thus something not cute.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness III

During these August dog-days, I start thinking about the joys of winter. Zach was born in February and Rusty seemed enchanted by the little, sweet-smelling bundle in his Moses basket.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Home Town Part II


Small scale charm still defines the "downtown" of MHT. Market Square was and still is the heart of the shopping district. In the 1950s and 60s it was surrounded by tidy, mostly family owned shops with the Marshall Fields store anchoring the west end of the square. The train station was across the street to the east of the square, so riders had a short trip to do some shopping.

Since my family left MHT in 1968, many of the family-owned stores have been sold and some subdivided. One, the shoe store remains, but is unrecognizable from updating. When I was little, the store had a fluoroscope through which we could see our feet inside the shoes -- cool. It was the lastest tool to help properly fit shoes on children. Heaven only knows how many of us were over-exposed to its rays.

MHT still has narrow streets lined with lush landscaping and quaint gas lights. The old estates of the Schweppes, Armours, Swifts, McCormicks and more have been subdivided and the population has doubled. It has also become a town of nouveau riche, much less welcoming than it was 40 years ago. Old money families, middle and lower income families all attended church together and shopped in the same stores. African-American families lived on land purchased many years earlier by their great-great-grandparents, some of whom arrived via the Underground Railroad. MHT was a marvelous mix of grounded, fair-minded individuals who cared deeply about their community.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm Hooked!

A stitch in time saves -- absolutely nothing if you don't know how to sew. When in doubt -- don't admit it. Give a man a fish -- and he'll say "what the heck am I supposed to do with this?" Early to bed and early to rise -- makes life really boring. If you give an inch -- they'll take away your ruler before you can give away any more. It's like the blind leading a bunch of three-year-olds. Pennies wise, pounds mentally challenged. It you want to make a cake, you've got to break some boxes open. A fish out of water is like a woman without make-up. A fish out of water is like a man without a beer in one hand, scratching his butt with the other. Beauty is only skin deep -- it starts getting really yucky if you go any deeper. It's as easy as pie -- from the grocery freezer case.

Blot #59

"Fraternal Twins With Attitude, Arguing"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I need help -- I can't stop!

A bird in hand is better than a handful of manure. If, at first, you don't succeed -- move back home. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and your mascara runs. He who forgives and forgets -- keeps getting beaten up. The err is human, to forgive is really, really hard. He who laughs last, doesn't get the joke. It is better to give than to be shot for a few bucks. If, at first, you don't succeed -- fuhgedaboudit! I can't stop coming up with these things! Do you think I need help?!

Slogans that didn't quite make it. . .

If we can't the best -- we'll settle for second best! For those nights your mind won't be still -- one application of the new and improved Clubbstik and you'll be out for the count in no time flat! Romantic moments like these call for Fart-Not -- a man's best friend. When in doubt -- second guess yourself. Crotchitee -- the underwear your mother wants you to wear. If all else fails -- give up! [Yeah, maybe I DO have too much time on my hands. ; - ) ]

Monday, August 13, 2007

My First Kitchen

When I moved into my first apartment in 1971, it was in a building built in the mid-1930s. It was in a great location, low rent and within walking distance of my first job.

Note the size of the kitchen. It may have been an afterthought because the floor was roughly the size of a small trunk. The sink could hold a pair of shoes and the stove was about half the size of today's models. If you look closely near the bottom of the frame, you will see my antique refrigerator. Yes, it had a wooden door and a center freezer about the size of a lunchbox. The freezer never froze ice or anything intended to be frozen, but it did freeze milk and any fruits stored in close proximity -- which was the entire frig!

Note the stylish color choices -- harvest gold, sunset orange and avocado green. I lived in that apartment for 12 years. I don't know what possessed me to take this picture, but it sure brought on some guffaws when I recently found it!

"The Heart is the Seat of the Soul"

A gentleman in the UK had an artificial heart installed several years ago and has since noticed unpleasant changes in his personality. Since the mechanical heart was installed --saving his life-- he has lost empathy and a sense of caring for others. He lost many of the heart-feelings of affection and love he once had. The late, young Mattie Stepanek, wise well beyond his years, reaffirmed the heart/soul connection for me with his "Heart Songs." He had a contented soul despite having a progressive illness that took away his physical strength, mobility and eventually his life. This man, who lost his heart to save his life, has my sympathies. I'd rather suffer a broken heart or feel a heart flooded with emotions of any sort than not.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
Omar N. Bradley

Brilliant Idea!

For several generations, Congo, formerly known as Zaire, suffered under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu encouraged corruption by his government favorites making himself and them very wealthy at the expense of the Congolese. When he was overthrown in 1997, Congo was once again thrown into upheaval with various factions vying for power. Back in 2002, the United Nations recruited teens, nominated by classroom teachers, to be trained for a special parliament aimed at serving the needs of children in Congo. Daily, children or parents appear before members of the teen parliament to be adjudicated in cases of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Sometimes a mother will complain that her husband is not providing support for her and their children, or a child will ask for help in correcting poor parenting skills. Invitations are sent to offending parties rather than subpoenas inasmuch as the teen-run institution does not carry the authority of law. It is an enforcer of moral law and adults are listening. Members of the parliament now nominate and vote for new members and need very little if any adult supervision as they deal with real-life cases. They are professional and serious about their work and adults are listening to them. I salute these teens and admire their dignity, good sense and the positive example they are setting for young and old. The U.N. got it RIGHT on this one!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Leave her alone! She's my Mom, too!


I just love the little black paw raised to smack her sib and Mom looks totally worn out. No wonder, she had a litter of 14!!

Ah, to be four again. . . .


Oy Vey!!

Now I'm really starting to feel like a cloistered nun. First it was the 100F degree/poor air quality days that kept me indoors, now I can't take the car out, even if I want or need to. Part of the ceiling over the driveway that carries a street under and through our complex collapsed yesterday afternoon and now the street and both garage entrances are off-limits! If we get mail that won't fit into our tiny mail boxes, I'll have to walk three blocks instead of two to retrieve it. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it irks me that our mail boxes are so small that they can't handle a CD, much less most magazines! My cabin fever is getting truly ugly these days!! . . . ...*sigh*. . . . ... .

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's Still My Body, Right?

If I had a terminal illness and my last chance at a possibly successful treatment was denied to me by court decision, couldn't that be considered endangerment or attempted murder on the part of the courts? OK, having limited knowledge of the law, I let common sense guide me. I still think I have a constitutional right to choose. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit just overturned a decision made by a panel selected by the same court to deal with the issue last year. As simple sense might indicate, this panel determined that terminally ill patients may not be denied access to potentially lifesaving drugs. Not denying access leaves the decision in the patient's hands. Hey, if a dying person wants to participate in an experimental treatment that may or may not work, I say Thank You for helping to further medical science. Of course the decision rests solely in the hands of the patient and should not be coerced either way. If said patient is made aware of all anticipated reactions and possible outcomes and still wants to give it a try, it should be allowed. I leave the legal-eez to those who know about liability and all that. My concern is giving the terminally ill patient a choice, thus a chance.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"The United States seems to have become the superpower that can't tie it's own shoes."
-- John McQuaid commenting on the Minneapolis bridge collapse and how we have allowed our national infrastructures -- dams, bridges, levees and roads to disintegrate.

My Hero for Today

Jeremy Hernandez is the young day camp counselor on the school bus that was caught in the Minneapolis bridge collapse. He did what most other, caring humans would have done without thinking twice; he helped the kids get out of the bus and to safety. For this he has been labeled a hero, a title that has been casually awarded these days to people who are actually survivors of dreadful things. Jeremy is a real hero because he risked is own life to help others. That's the definition of a hero! I salute Mr. Hernandez for this and perhaps a little more personally for not abandoning his respite fishing trip away from the hype when the White House requested a photo op. We have something in common. Years ago I was invited to the White House on a hot, humid summer day to witness the signing of a bill on the south lawn. I'm susceptible to heat-related illness, so I politely thanked and declined. The young staffer who phoned with the invitation was positively indignant . Tee Hee!!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My Home Town: Part I

As I recollect, my home town (MHT) was established by a group of Presbyterians looking for a more hospitable spot than downtown Chicago. Relocating onto the shores of Lake Michigan may have been a given, considering how many survived the great Chicago fire by going into the water. That's not to say the good founders anticipated another, catastrophic fire. Rather, I think they considered that it would be advantageous to live next to such a huge source of fresh water and avenue for transport. Besides, its beach was gorgeous! But I digress.

Another factor in their decision may have been the abundance of trees and spectacularly rich soil. The combination of proximity to the lake and ample trees may have signalled milder summers than in the big city and plenty of fire wood for cold, Midwestern winters.

Chicago is called the Windy City with good reason. MHT does not have the same issue. It rises at least 100 feet above the shore, so cold winds off the water are not such a problem and cool breezes, also off the water, are a blessing in the summer. Lake-effect snows that so often plague areas east of the Great Lakes are not such a problem in MHT because it is on the western shore of the lake. However, that's not to say we didn't have our share of snow and ice. We had blizzards and ice storms that cut electricity for days and sometimes even closed the schools (hurray!).

Back to the lake and beach --

Nearly every non-thunder-storming summer day of my youth was spent on the beach and in the water. Early morning was favored by our mother because it was quiet and the water was often glass smooth. It was also as clear as glass and, until mid-August, as cold as the glacier that created the lake millions of years ago.

As soon as school let out in early June, we couldn't wait to hit the water. Some fool-hardy types dove straight in and came up sputtering and shivering. I, on the other hand, favored slow immersion which could take 10 agonizing minutes. The trick was to avoid getting one's arms in the water until the rest of one's body was numb. When it finally came time to put my arms, shoulders and head in the frigid water, skin already submerged was red from the cold. Deep breathing and extreme courage were required to finish the slow immersion process. Once in, we didn't want to have anything but our heads above water because even the slightest breeze would send shivers through us.

It must have been the chattering teeth and sluggish movement that signalled the moms to call the kids out of the water. It was crucial to quickly reach the towel or blanket to wrap around myself. The sun only started warming me up full minutes later. Goose-bump-flesh only disappeared when the bathing suit was dry -- then -- it was back into the water. Summer was too short to waste time on dry land!

Large bodies of water calm and inspire me. The beach in MHT was pretty natural during my youth. A few, rusting steel break-waters helped to slow the erosion of the coarse-sand and stone beach. The lake was so wide that we couldn't see Indiana across the water. As a child, the beach seemed to go on for miles, but of course it was maybe a 1/4 mile from the water intake facility at the north, to the no-man's land near the army base, south of us. For a town of 7,000 it was plenty big enough, well loved and used.

Bad news: erosion is a fact of life on the edges of any body of water, be it a stream, river, lake or ocean. Lake Michigan regularly shifts its sand bars and beach sand. It's a natural thing and, for many years, it was accepted as such.

Worse news: someone had the grand idea of placing giant, concrete jacks along the natural shoreline and in spokes out into the water. The results are hideous to a purist like me and a bane for beach-lovers farther south that are now losing their beaches because MHT beach is snagging all of the shifting sands on the jacks-islands. My sadness over this equals my anger. It's selfishness to the extreme and I can't bear to visit MHT beach.

Whoever said "you can't go home" was right. . .

LFHS Class of '67

A very talented classmate of mine took this recent picture of the high school from which we graduated four decades ago. She and I and about 200 other classmates recently gathered from far and near to celebrate that fact. (FYI: Actor Vince Vaughn also graduated from LFHS but years later.)
Looks like a country club, doesn't it?

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of one Biff T. and a handful of others, people who grew up together and had not seen each other in decades, spent many hours of quality time reminiscing and catching up on careers and families.

While it was pure joy to hear how classmates had succeeded in their personal and professional lives, it was comforting to know that some of us had slipped and fallen yet managed to pick ourselves up, made better choices and contributed to society. Our privileged youth now is appreciated and evidenced by how we have lived our lives. Some became doctors and lawyers; still more are educators. We have all done good work and can be proud.

Though we graduated during the so-called summer of love, war, assassinations and political upheaval soon obliterated the notion of everyone loving everyone else. Our generation has been cursed and praised for all sorts of things, yet we turned out pretty well. It will be interesting to see what we do in retirement, so: Biff -- I'm offering my help with the 50th.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Welcome

This gorgeous, fragrant lily was sacrificed to grace the guest room we enjoyed at Pete-and-Phil's. It was among dozens more equally spectacular lilies that Phil cultivates in one of their gardens. It was soon joined by a cluster of delicate, small, ruby red roses, a surprise on our second day.

In addition to being treated to fresh flowers, we enjoyed sharing their bounty of veggies which Pete puts to excellent use in his gourmet cooking.

All of these growing things added to the marvelous nighttime fragrance we enjoyed on their second floor, screened porch. The property contains a wetland, so the night was full of sounds and smells we don't get in the city -- a real treat!

Happiness Is . . . . part II

. . . when the Chicago Cubs are in first place . . . warm, earthy fragrance of a summer night . . . spotting an American flag while in a foreign country . . . a dog, curled up on my feet, gently snoring . . . finding one more bar of soap when I need it . . . being recognized by someone I haven't seen in years . . . avoiding a gigundous pothole . . . having all the ingredients on hand to try a new recipe . . . the feel and smell of crisp, clean bed linens . . . someone else to change the bed linens . . . finding that the house plants survived 12 days without watering . . . Tucker, his head in my lap, gazing into my eyes . . . George Gershwin's music played well . . . hearing the National Anthem sung, not crooned . . . receiving a hand-written letter from a friend . . . NOT getting lost

Thursday, August 2, 2007

F-16s Over Foggy Bottom -- Again

Yup, some poor pilot of a tiny Cessna inadvertently flew into restricted airspace yesterday, miles from the Capitol, but close enough to send fighter jets to intercept him. Of course by the time we hear their unmistakable roar close overhead, they've already flown over. Sometimes I instinctively duck when I hear them -- as if that would help . . . Jets also fly in tribute to fallen airmen during funerals at Arlington. Watching the lone plane soar off into the wild blue yonder still brings tears to my eyes. Living across the Potomac from the cemetery and being able to hear more frequent cannon and rifle salutes, reminds me daily of the continuing sacrifices being made by our service members and their families. Air Force jets flew high above DC for many months starting in September 2001. At first it was scary hearing them way up there day and night. Then, it became a comfort knowing they were there, keeping watch over us. I keep our military in my prayers and hope that you will too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A New Friend

Spouse and I just returned from a vacation in the midwest. We also learned that we will never, ever drive all that way again! Nevertheless, we had a marvelous time -- once we got there -- and came home with great memories; one of them a new, feathered friend.

Meet Paloma, my younger brother's parrot.

She whistles far better than any human I know, including a trill I've never been able to master. She talks up a storm and is crazy about my brother. She gets positively kittenish when he gives her a "shower". When she sees the special spray bottle come out, she gets really jazzed. I shot lots of pictures, but she was so into it, most came out blurred. She gets positively ecstatic when the hair dryer is aimed her way. She flutters and flaps her wings, tilts her head seductively and just gives in to the warmth, the whole time exclaiming her happiness in her own language. What a little flirt!