Thursday, September 30, 2010

Having a little whine with breakfast

Warning: Not a Funny Post.

I don
't like whiny people. 
And yet, here I am.
I think I have too many people in my life.
I can't seem to keep them all happy all the time.
If you know me, you know I am prone to unsubtlety, much as I try to be otherwise.
So, inevitably, I upset some of those people occasionally.
And then I stress over what I should have said, what I didn't say, how I could have done it better.
Or about how dastardly they are!

I've been thinking about all the disparate lists of people with whom I am in contact almost daily.
Piano students and their Moms and Dads and siblings.
Preschool owners, activity directors, and other workers at my music therapy sites.
Facebook friends.
Choir members.
Husband and kids.
Real-life friends.
And now, apparently, since I was made activities chairperson, the whole congregation at church.

Not that I aspire to the hermitage (you know I love to be sociable), but I feel like I've been losing my savoir faire lately. 
What little I had to start with. 
I'm not sure if it's because my grey cells are dying and I can't think fast enough, or whether the list has just become too long and I can't keep up. 
Social networking at its worst.

I come home from church on Sundays and think Ack, all I did was run myself ragged and say things I wish I hadn't.
At the end of my work days, I wonder if anyone still thinks I'm an awesome music therapist and piano teacher or if they all think I'm becoming senile.
I edit and re-edit every blog post and facebook comment in order to not offend, but sometimes it still comes out wrong.
And who knows what my family thinks of me half of the time. Those cross-eyed looks and comparisons to Great-Nana give me a fair idea!

So, what to do, what to do?

I guess everyone has their periods of self-doubt. I have had them before, but not quite as pervasive as this one. I feel out of sorts and at odds with the world. I think I inherited my Dad's boundless optimism in possibilities and so a gloomy disposition feels foreign to me. 
I know.
Lucky me.
If I really had anything to complain about in my life maybe I wouldn't feel so unreasonable.
But I don't.

I shall have to come up with a cunning plan.
I just don't know what it is yet.

Suggestions from my lovely readers will be gratefully considered.

And now, a final word from our sponsor.
Listen for the hidden message...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cute baby fix

If you were needing one, here it is.
And I was needing one.
Apologies to my Facebook friends, who have already been inundated with a gazillion gratuitous Elsie photos.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cotton Jenny

Sue: Today, you are privileged to hear from my Southern friend, Jenny. 
Only two things you need to know about Jenny:
1. She is never short of entertaining words. You would love her blog. Because you love me. And we are peas in a pod.
2. She loves Johnny Depp. Inordinately.
I've been a fan ever since I first read her blog a few months ago. When I went to visit Annie, I took a little trip down to South Carolina to visit my new buddy.
Jenny, this is for you. 
I think you should make it your ringtone!

Jenny: I've learned the hard way that friendships formed and maintained primarily via Internet, no matter how much they may be based on common interests, don't always work out when they move from the cyber-realm to "real life." 

Whatever that is.

After all, there are those who misrepresent themselves on their blogs and on web sites. I guess it's easy to do when you figure the chances of a reader meeting you in person are relatively small.

But from the first time Sue Osborne commented on my blog -- just this past summer -- and I consequently became a regular reader of Nostalgic Nana, I discovered to my delight that her blog writing was unfailingly and refreshingly honest.

There is sentiment and patriotism and obvious love of the things that truly matter, but without the sugar-coating that besets so many home- and family-oriented blogs.

Because its multi-talented author is a fellow conservative and patriot, well-educated and a God-fearing lady, I found Nostalgic Nana to be a fun-loving but practical blog I could enjoy without worrying I'd wander in one day and stumble over a big pile of smarm left smack-dab in the middle of the virtual floor.

Sue is not smarmy and neither am I. At the same time, her wit is sharp and her eye is keen and her instincts finely honed. She has something I value highly: a genuine sense of humor. Like me, she loves books and music and is interested in photography, architecture, and history.

(Unlike me, Sue is an accomplished musician in her own right. The only thing I can play is a compact disc ... but in my own defense, I do it very well. I've been told I have excellent pitch.)

We're from the same generation and that's nice because we don't have to waste time explaining various and sundry things. We both were there.

We were married within a few months of one another and are both still married to the same person. Wait ... we are not married to the same person. That would be illegal. We are each married to a different person, but it's the same person we -- each of us, but separately -- married in the first place.

Also we have four children apiece. Her eldest, a daughter, is a month younger than my eldest (also a daughter), and her youngest, a son, is a year younger than my youngest (also a son). Sue's baby son is a Marine and my baby son is an Airman, and her son-in-law is in the Army, so I do believe we have the air and land and water covered. 

You may sleep safely tonight.

Between us we have nine grandchildren and I am sorry to say that seven of those are hers. But my two are worth at least five more; don't you think? So that makes fourteen and now ... ta dah! We're even.

Did you get all that? Read it again ... slowly. We'll wait.

Suffice it to say I've learned a lot from Sue already, and my guess is I'll learn a lot more before it's over. And I don't just mean great recipes, although I will say I've sampled a few and you can't go wrong there.

So naturally I was thrilled and honored when Sue, headed east from Oregon for a visit with her new grandbaby, said she'd like to venture down into "the other Carolina" and have a brief visit with me.

I already wrote about this part on my blog so I won't repeat all the stuff we did because you can read about it here.

All I will add is that I've been thinking a lot about our visit and I was so impressed with how interested Sue is in simply everything. I took her to our magnificent State House and, because I love it so much, it was fun to share it with someone who didn't have to feign appreciation of its special charm.

Here's a picture of Sue, walking into the State House:
Also I promised I'd tell you about how I fell down and hurt myself and was obliged to spend Monday evening being examined by medical professionals, so here goes.
Sue's and my next-to-last stop, in the early afternoon, was Finlay Park. This special place offers a gorgeous fountain, huge inviting swings, and a perfectly marvelous view of the Columbia skyline. 
Even though it was broiling outside by then, we decided to park and walk up to where the view is most impressive. I was carrying my car keys, my camera, and a large soft drink. 

On my feet were my beloved green-and-pink beaded White Mountain platform-wedge thong shoes that, despite being slip-ons, are very solid and very comfortable. I got them totally on sale at Marshalls early in the summer.
Also they twinkle and I'm all about that.

The last thing I remember before ignominiously meeting the ground at Finlay Park is looking down at the walkway, which is made up of 24-inch by 24-inch square paving stones.

Sue was over at the railing, taking pictures. I was walking toward the steps that lead up to the fountain level when the outside part of my left heel suddenly had nothing to step on. 

It was like stepping right off a ledge into thin air.

I went down hard on my left knee at first. My Coke and my keys went flying. I think my camera was hanging from my right wrist and it only got wet with Coke. Then with the force of falling so suddenly and having nothing to hold onto, I pitched over onto my left side.

I told you I had perfect pitch! But I regret to say I do not believe the judges granted me any style points. It was not pretty in the least.

Sue heard me cry out and she rushed toward me, appropriately horrified, and tried to help me up. My knee was shredded and I was shaking all over but I could tell nothing was broken.

It was Sue who pointed out what had tripped me. One of the 24x24 paving stones, gradually being lifted by tree roots, was two inches higher than all the other stones. My foot caught it on the high edge and that was that.

Of course my fragile ego took quite a hit but it wasn't too bad because, thankfully, nobody but Sue was there and she didn't even see me fall. She only saw the chaotic aftermath. It could have been much worse, as in, what if fifty people had been standing around? 

What if Johnny Depp had been walking through there at that very moment? Put your mind in that place with me. I know; it's unthinkable. 

I would have died of embarrassment and Sue would've had to notify my next of kin and maybe even cart my carcass over to the funeral home. I would hate to have burdened her with such details when we'd only met the night before and she needed to get back to North Carolina.

So anyway, after Sue left later that day, I went to Doctors Care and was there for nearly three hours. I had to get a tetanus shot and lots of x-rays. I had contusions but nothing was broken.

And I'm fine now, thank you. None the worse for wear. Ready for the next adventure. Looking over the crowd for volunteers. Anyone? 

Where did Sue Osborne go? Sue? Sue? Sue ...

I think she's hiding from me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Tail of Woe

This morning, a sad face was surveying the back garden from behind bars.

He/she would appear to be a juvenile, so I'm sure the tale is not complete.

But this one is on his/her way up the mountain in the boot of Jeff's car, to be introduced to a new and more liberated way of life. Namely, not in our woodshed.
Neighbour Jim said he caught one a while ago and disposed of it with a baseball bat.
I drew the line at possum carnage.
You'll be glad to know.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vanquishing the weekend

I keep a mental tally of life's little triumphs.
The balance sheet of fate requires a steady supply of such things, I think, in order to counteract the (pardon me) crap that happens to all of us. 
So here, then, are the serendipitous events of today, Saturday the 25th of September, two thousand and ten.

An almost new jogging stroller for Annie, $30, and a bike for Thomy, $10, happened upon at a garage sale on our walking route this morning.

Tomatoes gathered, in spite of all odds (namely, the weather), and subsequently roasted and frozen.

A nice little crop of fingerling potatoes gathered from two clay pots.

Jeff, having an industrious day, putting a front and a door on the woodshed.
Note the baggy jeans.
He's lost some weight lately.

He has to bend over to fill out those jeans now. 8-D
We think we have possums living in the woodshed.
They leave little presents all over the lawns.
And they nibbled one of my tomatoes.
Tonight, the shed is sealed and Jeff set a trap on the lawn.

I am determined to win against the weather, so Jeff covered the tomato patch with plastic.
Instant greenhouse.

Jeff mowed and edged the lawns.
He is quite an enthusiastic edger since he acquired his new Weedeater. 
The old one was in sad shape, mostly due, I'm pretty sure, to Charlie's mistreatment. His philosophy was, if you don't want to do a chore, wreck the equipment. It seemed to work rather well for him. 
One day, halfway through the job, Jeff just put the old one away and refused to use it any more. 
So I bought him a new one.
And he was happy.

Behold, the leaning tower of pasta!
I bought a box of Barilla pasta at Freddie's tonight and was given a coupon for $1 off two boxes.
So I went back through with two boxes.
And was given a coupon for $2 off three.
So, I went back through again.
And again.
And again.
Who knows how long I would have kept at it if the supply of coupons had been endless.
But, sadly, there came a time when I paid for my three boxes and no coupon was issued.
Eighteen boxes of Barilla for $7.

Dinner tonight, except for the lettuce and fish, was all from our garden.

Here's to winning the fight!
One day at a time.

P.S. Hope the ka-ching thing wasn't too annoying. 
P.P.S. I know I've pretty much ignored my trip so far. Don't worry, THERE WILL BE POSTS!
P.P.P.S. You wouldn't believe how many times I unsuccessfully tried to catch that pile of pasta boxes on camera before they fell over! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trailing clouds of glory do we come

My Mum loves clouds.
She comments on them regularly, until you could cheerfully consign the whole cloud genre to oblivion.
It is both endearing and maddening.
But the fact remains that a never-ending blue sky is the stuff of which nightmares are made.

I've been thinking about that lately, about the beauty that clouds bring to the sky. 
Without clouds, there would be no colour in the sunset.
No silver linings.
No cleansing and nourishing rain to fall from the sky.
No respite from the sun's glare on a summer day.
No weather.
No life.

So I shall take my clouds with a side of silver and crimson, thank you very much.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.
Psalms 19:1

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fantastic vines

I've been fascinated for many years with the kudzu vine. Almost any novel written in the South describes the way kudzu, when left unfettered, will smother areas of land or structures in no time at all. One gets the feeling you could almost see it grow. In fact, some of its nicknames are "foot-a-night vine", "mile-a-minute vine", and "the vine that ate the South".

Japanese in origin, kudzu was introduced to Florida in 1876 as a forage crop. It is spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually. According to one website, instructions for planting kudzu back in the Depression went like this: Dump the shot out of a shotgun shell and replace with kudzu seed. Go out in your field and fire the shotgun. Run for your life and try to beat the kudzu back to the house. 
Imagine my delight when, on walking down the road to church on Sunday, this sight met my eyes. I knew instantly that it must be the mysterious kudzu.
When the vines get a good hold, as they often do, the scene takes on an other-worldly appearance. Trees become strange apparitions that look like crowds of portly, primeval, hominids or herds of  monsters, a la Maurice Sendak.
In spite of its proclivity for dominance in the southeastern American climate, kudzu has possibilities. Scientists are researching the use of an extract from the vine for curbing alcoholic cravings. It also has many medicinal applications already in use. The kudzu flower is sweetly scented and used to perfume soaps and lotions.

Like so many things in life, kudzu is both a curse and a blessing.

And down here in the South, I look for it where'er I wander.

Monday, September 13, 2010

These boots are made for walkin'

I didn't know that I needed some cowboy boots....

...until I saw these on my favourite shoe website.
Old Gringo.
Made in the USA.
The handmade production process takes 130 steps.
Made from the finest grade of leather and a detailed tanning process.
And costing a small fortune, even on the daily special.

I'm worth it.
Don't you think?

P.S. Don't answer that, unless it is complimentary.
P.P.S. If I wear them, are they still cowboy boots?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day of what?

Certainly not a day of rest.
Sunday, that is.
Although I try, trust me, I try.

Take this morning, for example.
Ward Council at 10, which I had to leave early, at 10:30, to take a meeting with my activities committee.
Choir practice at 11 because we were singing today.
Sacrament Meeting , at 11:30, was 90 minutes today because it was Ward Conference, and it was lovely. Good speakers, good music, just what I was needing. The main message was, I think, that you can't coast along and expect to keep the fire of your testimony burning brightly. You have to be doing good things and be in the right places, or the fires dwindle. Which was a good reminder to me of why I drag myself out the door every Sunday, and several other times some weeks, to be in the right place.

While everyone else progressed to their other meetings, my committee and I were setting up for the Linger Longer that was to be held right after church. Setting tables, preparing food, nattering all the way. Then dealing with the hungry hordes, who were impressively well-behaved and had enormous appetites. Almost all the food was eaten, which is always a good sign, I think.

We arrived home, after clean-up, at about 4 o'clock.
Crikey, I don't work that hard during the week!
So I have been very lazy since then and have eaten three, yes three, slices of pear/ginger cake.
And taken a little stroll through the garden, admiring the grapevines and spots of colour.
Why, oh why, do I love grapevines so much?
A little Orton-ish, with a fade, to soothe the senses.

Nasturtiums, which are vibrant to the point of ridiculousness. 
The crepe myrtle, entering its heyday.

And this lovely heirloom rose, which was rescued from certain death by my friend Lori and is flourishing against the back fence.

Our England is a garden,
and such gardens are not made
by singing, "Oh, how beautiful!"
 and sitting in the shade.
          Rudyard Kipling, from "The Glory of the Garden."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good intentions

Today, I was going to write a nice thoughtful essay on all the ramifications of the terrorism nine years ago. 
I even thought about posing the grandchildren in front of our neighbour's flag and taking a photo, which I would then add to the post as a nice visual aid.
Instead, I spent all morning shopping for a lunch for 200 people at church tomorrow.  
Shortly after I got home,  the little darlings arrived.

These photos were taken at about eight o'clock, after they were all washed and ready for bed.
Eating popsicles made of Jello, which helps them not to drip as they melt, and strawberries and bananas.
I can't buy them (Popsicles) any more. High fructose corn syrup rears its ugly head yet again! 
Kenzie said These taste like smoothies!

They had a busy afternoon.
Playing legos.
Playing computer.
Getting along.
Going to the park with Papa while I loaded up the car and took all the food to the church.
And more eating.
Then, they watched Quest for Camelot and ate popcorn.
Natalie and Josh fell asleep during the movie and the older two just put themselves to bed.
Peace at last.

In between all this, I did laundry, dishes, fed everyone (constantly), pruned the grape vines, and made....
Just thinking about it made me go eat another piece.

This is a Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake.
Just the ticket for all those ripe pears you have sitting around.
Are you ready?

First, melt 1/3c brown sugar and about an ounce of butter in a small dish in the microwave.
Spread this over the bottom of a 9" round pan and cover it with 3 pears, peeled and sliced. 
I add some chopped crystallized ginger for a little excitement.

Cream 10 oz butter and 1 c brown sugar.

Beat in 3 eggs, 
then add 1 1/2 c flour,
2 tsp BP,
and 2-3 tsp ginger.
The ground variety.

This makes a delicious-looking batter, all golden brown and redolent of ginger.
Spread the batter onto the pears.
Slide it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, till the top springs back when you touch it.
Let it sit in the pan for 5 or 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate. Don't forget to scrape out all the bits that stick to the pan. And if you want to, you can even put them onto the cake instead of in your mouth.
But I wouldn't suggest it!

I got the original recipe from this blog, which I ran across on Next Blog one night when I was bored. The blog is written by three friends who live in New Zealand. They make a lot of traditional New Zealand recipes, so I thoroughly enjoy both reading it and making the recipes. Although I must say, they do make some pretty strange dinners. 
Go look at the original recipe and then you can feel free to thank me for simplifying it for you.

You're welcome.

Go here to read some thought-provoking, short essays on the events of  nine years ago.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Defense of Food.

I love food. The problem is that most of the food I love is not particularly healthy, so I am on a constant quest to eat less and eat healthier.

In Defense of Food, An Eater's Manifesto, by author and journalist Michael Pollan, is eye-opening in many ways. Pollan seems to be fascinated with the topic of food and has written several books on it, along with others which dwell on our relationship with the natural world. Go here to read some pithy descriptions of his books. If you like what you read, check out the tab at the top of his website, "Today's Link". Fascinating stuff.

In today's world, but especially as Americans, we tend to live and eat by the latest findings of the scientific community. I seem to have a bit of an instinct for such things, because I never did buy into the "eggs and butter are evil" fad, nor did I ever think the Atkins diet could be a healthy way to eat. Maybe because I never fully adopted margarine as a good fat, the trans fat issue resonated with me the very first time I read about it. As Pollan illustrates many times over, science's dictates are more often proven to be wrong, as the decades go by, as they are validated.

We are also heavily influenced by labels, reading about sodium levels and fat and protein contents and all those lovely additives such as antioxidants and vitamins. With all of the science that goes into our food supply, Americans should be healthier and fitter than ever, and yet we are not. Quite the opposite.
Pollan maintains that we and the food we eat need defending from scientists on one side and food marketers on the other. They may be well-meaning, but they are prone to error. With the help of the government they have constructed an ideology of nutritionism that has convinced us of three pernicious myths:
1. What matters most is not the food but the nutrients.
2. Because nutrients are invisible and incomprehensible to everyone but scientists, we need expert help in deciding what to eat.
3. The purpose of eating is to promote a narrow concept of physical health.

Here are some things I have absorbed from the book:
There is no one right way to eat. Almost any indiginous culture's way of eating produces a healthy population, from Eskimos to Aborigines. It's when they adopt the "Western diet" that they run into trouble.
Eating should be pleasurable. It is sensual and promotes community .
It's not just about the separate nutrients that make up food, it's about the food itself. Broccoli is good for us, not just because of the anti-oxidants, but because of all the other complex chemical interactions in that green stalk of goodness. You can't add anti-oxidants to frosted flakes and expect them to do the same thing as broccoli.
We should patronize small farms and co-ops for the diversity and nutritive values of their food crops.
Our bodies have not evolved to handle the sugar in high-fructose corn syrup and we should avoid it like the plague.
If a packaged food at the supermarket contains more than five ingredients, don't buy it. Food shouldn't need added vitamins.
We need to get back to whole foods and eschew processed food.

Here are Pollan's rules of what to eat, in a nutshell:
Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
You are what what you eat eats too.
If you have the space, buy a freezer.
Eat like an omnivore.
Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.
Eat wild foods when you can.
Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks.
Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism.
Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.

Reading this book has validated a lot of my concerns about the way we eat.
It has also changed my shopping habits.
Now, if I can just learn to eat less!
In Defense of Food is easy to read and packed with good information and a steady dose of humour. I hope this little review has piqued your interest enough that you will take the time to read it.

Now, go and eat some real food.
And let's enjoy it, while we're at it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three good things

I have a day off today, so you may be inundated with new posts. I'll try to space them out, but sometimes my impetuousness gets the better of me. And I need to keep reminding myself that I also need to take care of some long procrastinated tasks today.

Way back in the beginning of my blogging career, like a whole year ago, one of my friends commented that she liked my blog, but the political stuff, not so much. Wanting to not offend (because I do try to not be like a brick) I toned down my political comments.
Well, you know what?
That particular friend quit reading me anyway.
I don't care any more.
It's time for all of us to stand up and be counted.

So here, for your edification, is a link to an awesome new website. The link will take you to an introductory article that I think is good to read before anything else
It's all about what is good in America today.

Second good thing, I wanted to remind you about FreeRice, the website that donates rice to hungry people as you increase your vocabulary. They have just upgraded and revamped their operation and it's worth a few minutes of your time.
Every day.
Their banner to the right has quit working and I'm trying to find out why. It may be a victim of the upgrade.
(Edit: It's working again, hooray!)

And third good thing, just because I can.
Because it's my blog!

Edwin, holding baby Elsie.
Me not holding baby Elsie.
Me not holding baby Elsie.
Get it?
Nine more days.
Not that I'm counting or anything.