Monday, May 2, 2016


There are so  many reasons why this blog is a day late.  They are listed below. Which one do you like the best?

  • I spent too much time at Fred Meyer on Sunday and didn't have any writing time left.
  • We needed to watch "Duel" with our granddaughters this weekend and I stayed up too late during the time I'd set aside for blog creation.
  • Mother's Day is next weekend.  I gave a lot of writing time over to thinking about the best way to celebrate it. I should note that my own mother has been gone for ten years. (There's a lot of sub text in this one.)
  • I forgot.
  • The weekend was perfect for planting annuals so I was too tired to work at the computer.
  • Colene's job application and Greg's writing project kept me too involved with other people's writing.
  • The Blazers played during the day rather than in the evening and I had to watch even though they never really stood much of a chance against the Warriors. I could have sacrificed the second half and just gotten a report on the fourth quarter. 
  • I had a headache and I'm still recovering from my foot surgery. I needed a long nap.
Actually, they're all true and, yes, I know they're lame.  The reason I know about lame excuses is because I was an English teacher for 30+ years and I've heard every excuse you can possibly think of
for why an assignment is late. When I was in my early teaching years, I was easily swayed and would accept your paper if you promised never to do it again.  In the middle years, I would accept your paper for fewer possible points.  And, in the later years, NO LATE WORK WAS ACCEPTED. Period. This rule was always included in the syllabus and we could discuss it all you wanted to, but I won all the time.

P.S. I tried to check my spelling on this piece but the function wasn't working.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Newest New Car

My best new car so far was my 95 Toyota RAV4. She was a peppy red rolling classroom/child care center with a sporty hood scoop and an overhead ski rack.  There was plenty of room inside for stacks of student essays as well as some Dr. Seuss favorites along with small packets of jelly beans hidden in all kinds of special car pockets. It served my teacher-self and my Granny-self well until that day in early spring when Mrs. No Driver's Licence-No Insurance tried to make it to a good parking spot at the Head Start Center right through the driver's side of my beloved Salsa Linda causing her to steam, smoke, and shatter into a total loss. I really mourned that car. She was perfect and suited me just fine.

I replaced her with my worst new car - a smoky colored 2014 Mazda CX-5.  It didn't take me very long to figure out that I couldn't see very well through the peephole rear window let alone to the sides of the car around the huge frame posts. And it took forever for me to learn how to use all the modern techno-gadgets that come with new cars these days. Not long after I figured out how to use the phone and tune in the really great sounding Bose radio and christened him Thunder, I decided he was just way too big for me.  He required clever steering and reversing to get him into a parking spot at Safeway and in spite of the great tunes and lots more room for grandkids, I began to think about getting  a different car. Mind you, this one wasn't even two years old (and paid for) when I proposed downsizing to my husband after I'd done lots of research to be able to talk persuasively.  Then the deal became done when I accidentally tried to make the garage a little bigger with Thunder's right front panel.  Pat was on board for the car search.

It's not a good idea for me to share the experience of car shopping on  my own.  It makes me angry to remember how quickly I was dismissed. If that salesman had only known that I was ready to give Thunder to him and throw wads of money his way, he wouldn't have sent me to the back lot two blocks down the street.  No, "Let me drive one up here for you."  Nothin'.

So we drove out to the very friendly Subaru lot in Gresham where a welcoming young woman stood waiting for us with an encouraging smile. She was new at it and had to summon Bryce to help her out.  It was an easy sell after the five or ten minutes it took me to find Fern F. Forester only steps from the showroom door. She is a just right for me kind of car even though her technology is even trickier than Thunder's. She gets good gas mileage on my many drives back and forth to Salem, is comfortable, and has good visibility. She's smaller than my other new cars but still has room enough for grandgirls and their teen and pre-teen gear along with a good spot for TicTacs, lip gloss, and coffee credit cars and my gym pass.  (I couldn't resist adding that; yes, I have a pass to the gym, but it will take a very long time for me to wear it out.) We were quickly able to go through the torture experience of haggling the price and giving over Thunder into the hands of someone who will find a more loving garage for his bubbly-windowed self. I didn't even need to excuse myself to the restroom to take pain reliever for a headache. We weren't there long enough for me to get one.

I've heard rumors about the kind of people who drive Subarus but will let that subject slide for now. Fern fits our garage to a tee and I think she'll be with me for a long time. She's my newest and I hope my new best car. . .and she's paid for.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chocolate Porn

If you are as serious about chocolate as I am, you might see yourself in this post.  Or you might find a new way to enjoy the experience. Be aware, though, this article is intended for mature readers only and shouldn't be shared with the children in your home unless you have already identified them as junior chocoholics.

You began your addiction at an early age when you ate 12 Hershey's Kisses one right after another and stopped only because you realized that you'd get caught and would have to confess when the question "Who ate all the Kisses?" was asked.  Later you learned how to make up a decent lie before you indulged. You graduated to the Gourmet level when you began to understand the difference between m&ms and boutique chocolate including samples at See's Candy Stores. You have almost arrived at the Master level which will be attained as soon as you cannot be in your own home if no chocolate is present, you are reduced to tearing open the bag of chocolate chips you've been saving for cookie baking, and/or you have no qualms about asking little kids to share the Cadburys in their Easter baskets.

Those are the "general audience" appropriate ways to eat chocolate even though they might seem a little weird. The true way to determine if eating chocolate has become like a pornographic act for you is when you stud a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips and eat it in the bathroom. This becomes a wild and private experience of attaining a fix in a hurry with a quick sense of satisfaction and no guilt.

Another good way to enjoy the porn experience of chocolate is to go into a See's Candy Store for a free sample as many times as you think you can get away with it during one mall visit. If you sense that the thrill of it is becoming dangerous, then buy a chocolate Bordeaux bar and retreat to a quiet bench and count how many bites you can divide the eating process into.  This is a peak moment of indulgence and with care you can achieve the high of it gradually and powerfully. Bordeaux bars are truly wonderful and can provide any number of chocolate highs in varying approaches.

Now you are beginning to understand that your addiction is not something to laugh about. You have no pride when it comes to achieving maximum enjoyment of chocolate. And the final test: you will no longer eat Tootsie Rolls because they do not really qualify as chocolate.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reader Suggestions

I came up short of a topic for February. I gave some thought to writing about food again since it's one of my favorite things to write about.  If I wrote about it, I would probably comment on some of the things I learned from watching "In Defense Of Food," another masterly piece of writing by Michael Pollan.  He has enlightening things to say about the Western diet and if you want to learn a bit more about why you like french fries, google him. Here's one of his famous quotes:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plant based.
That's not exactly how he says it, but those words work. What he means is that we should eat mostly fruits and vegetables.

There's nothing new about eating fruits and vegetables. But there's a lot new about the relationship of our bodies and the consumption of natural foods.  The biggest new thing is that we should really eat MOSTLY fruits and vegetables, very little red meat, and as little sugar as possible. He asks us to take a careful look at what we eat in the USA. Uh-oh. Lots of sugar (as in high fructose corn syrup which is nothing more than another way to say "sugar"), lots of processed foods that contain sugar, fat, and way too many calories. That last sentence pretty much sums up what the Western diet consists of. Because we consume many of the wrong things, we get diabetes which is starting to show up in children at an alarming rate.  We also develop heart disease earlier than we used to.  Other scary health things happen when we eat too much of the wrong things.  We should only eat things our grandmothers would recognize.

That all makes some sense but its application is not simple for me.  I am addicted to sugar, mostly in the form of chocolate.  I eat other awful things but I think if I could get clean and sober of sugar, I might take more pleasure in eating fruit. Some people think fruit is a dessert which I think is ridiculous even though we were served fruit as a dessert item in the school cafeteria when I was a kid. Fruit is definitely not dessert.  Hershey bars, fudge cake, See's Candy (Bordeaux Bars are my absolute best favorite next to my mom's birthday cake) or any kind of ice cream that features chocolate make up real desserts.

So that's what I might have used as a topic for February. Special thanks to my readers who came up with good ideas to write about:  Love, Leap Year, Presidents' Day, and Carnavale around the world were some of the suggestions. I spent some time trying to come up with a way to write about all of them using a common theme, but I got stuck.  I could probably create an essay using food as a common thread tying all those topics together, but the outcome would be a big and probably unbelievable stretch.  I'll conclude by wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day.  Maybe you could celebrate that special day by eating a red pepper with someone you love.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Resolutions v. Approaches

It's the New Year so here's to a happy one for all of us.  As we merge into 2016, maybe we're thinking about resolutions in regard to the glitches in our lives.  I tend to be very suspicious about resolutions because I invariably fail at them except for the time I really did lose many pounds in order to "look good and feel better" when we took a trip to the East Coast with our friends. So, guess what? I ate everything in sight from Boston to Maine and back through several of those little states that make up the original colonies.  It took a year or so more but the pounds are back.

So instead of resolutions, I am going to take different approaches to my own life glitches.  Let me describe an example.  Take food (which I do every chance I get).  I'm going to approach the eating part of my life from a different angle.  Instead of trying to understand why my craving for chocolate has some sort of psychological connection to my relationship with my mother when I was an infant, I will approach my next encounter with chocolate by remembering the nearly unreal portion of a large holiday wrapped candy bar that I ate last night. I'll remember how I snapped it into rows of four pieces and piled them into the candy tin.  I'll recall how satisfying the rows looked as they fell into random position on top of the kettle korn pieces still left in the tin. I probably should have taken a picture of it it to help my memory.  Then I'll think about maybe allowing myself just one row per day.  I'll try to focus on how quickly I rejected that thought and plowed right into two rows to eat as I headed for the TV.

Then I concentrated on the program I was watching. It was that Bourdain man who was on a sensuous boat trip somewhere in South America where the people don't wear many clothes and the water is unbelievably clear.  The people on the sandy white beach toss cans of beer to the swimmers and they drink it while bobbing around in the warm water.  Anthony sits beneath a palm tree eating crab and describing his experience with sexual overtones no doubt induced by watching the hard brown bodies frolicking in the sand in front of him.  How could anyone resist being caught up in such a visual pleasantry?  I could and did.  That warm sea breeze that I could almost feel turned into a giant wind that blew me back into the kitchen for another row of holiday chocolate and since there was an odd row of only two pieces, I grabbed that to eat on my back to my chair before I crammed the other row into my mouth. So after two (okay, three) rows plus a partial one, I decided I could stop.

So my new approach to chocolate frenzies will involve the deciding when to stop part.  Even as write this, I am thinking about  the rows that are left in the candy tin.  I'm thinking about eating just one row after lunch.  And speaking of lunch, I wonder what's in the frig. . . . Maybe my new approach will accommodate other areas of food eating where I lack control.

See? I'm not resolving to do anything; I'm changing my approach to my shortcomings. Think it will work????

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Cooking

It's that time of year again when I find myself alone in the kitchen with recipes taped up  here and there of all the special foods that my long gone Mom passed along to me.  It's a heavy responsibility to try to keep up all the traditional food practices all by myself. I say this because my own sister and daughter are non-cooks for complicated reasons. So they're no help. Here's an example:  my sister sent me a text of an actual cake that she baked herself.  It was only the kind that takes a cake mix and one or two other ingredients but it was the first time EVER in her 57 years that she produced a cake all by herself.  See what I mean?  And, to be brief, my daughter considers her kitchen to be a rarely used portion of her house.

I am no longer permitted to host holiday meals. Apparently, my usual sunny disposition goes awry at such times and I turn into an overwrought militaristic director of who should sit where, what can be touched and not touched by grandchildren, grammar correcting monster (insert the b-word here just like my family members do). Thanksgiving is held elsewhere and the family sees my decorated house for about 20 minutes sometime or another in the month of December. And, mind you, my decorations and lights go up the day after Thanksgiving so there's plenty of time to come over and sit around admiring my festive creations.

So even though I'm no longer a holiday hostess, I am still obliged to bring certain traditional dishes to wherever the holiday meals will be served. Dressing, gravy, pies, sugar cookies are the usual requests. And they're all supposed to taste just like my Mom's.  Sadly, Mom didn't write down her recipes for these menu items.  She simply talked about how to make them while I was standing alongside her in the kitchen acting as sous chef. Chop this, slice that, boil this, roll this out, use just this brand of whatever.  I confess that many of those years spent at her side were years of daydreaming youth when I didn't really listen to much of what she said at all.

Now that Mom is longer with us, it is up to me to provide these "easy" meal additions.  So I am left literally wracking my old brain for mental visions of the two of us in her kitchen preparing those meals.  Since my memory is fuzzy about just about everything now that I'm no longer 28, the visions are blurred and lack much reason and order.  Hence, the recipes taped to my counters and kitchen cabinets.  I'm constantly on the lookout for recipes that seem to reproduce my Mom's tricks. Magazines, little seen cousins, and quiet meditation all work together to magically help me come up with the ways and means to keep the family food traditions alive.

And guess what.  I have come close.  Just close.  I get kudos for my pies and I think that's because Mom was not too good at pies.  Crust making made her nervous while I'm not bothered by that activity.  Aside from good pies, nothing else is a replica of her culinary creations.  But all the plates at the table are so loaded down with holiday food that there is little reason for the diners to notice that the traditional foods that my Mom made taste any different. But I know they do. And let me be so unpolitically correct as to say, "Merry Christmas" to all of you.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What To Do With the Pumpkin Now That Halloween Is Over

The pumpkins are drying out and the candy is almost all gone so now is the month to be thankful.I propose we spend part of our thankful money on being kind to the earth. Whether or not you believe the notion of climate change, you can still have gratitude for this gorgeous planet.  Here are a few ways we can pay back some of the stunning sunsets, sparkly rivers, fir trees swaying in the breeze, calm oceans, interesting rocks we find and every other little bit of beauty we freely enjoy in our earthly home:

1.  Stop buying water in bottles!  People, it's WATER.  You have the very same thing in your taps at home. The water manufacturers are simply using their taps to fill plastic that costs an amazing amount of money to make and is difficult to dispose of.  Buy yourself an attractive bottle that's safe for both you and the earth and fill it with water from home.  If you think your own water is not that good, then buy a big container of distilled water and use that in your attractive bottle. (Remember to recycle the big plastic jug of distilled water.)

2.  Pick up litter. If you like, you can curse whoever left it and then feel smug as you recycle it.

3.  Speaking of recycling, DO it.  If it seems awkward or hard to get used to, choose just one thing to learn on.  Try chucking junk mail into a special container and then recycle it at the most convenient place.  That might be in your very own RECYCLING BIN that you can put out with the garbage. Or maybe you could sneak it into your office and use the bin there.  Once you get used to one type of recycling, add another type and so on until you can declare your title of RECYCLER.

4.  Drive the speed limit.  This is a tough one. Lots of us feel entitled to travel at least five and maybe ten or more miles faster than the posted limit.  And people do give you nasty looks when you are in the right lane and they are zipping past you. Remember, the rule is that you're supposed to use the left lane only for passing.  I challenge you to just try this. It's not easy. But notice as you're chugging lawfully along that the red car that zoomed past you a few minutes ago is only waiting at the light longer than you are.

5.  This is a small one and is easy for women to do but men don't usually touch tissue paper so they're off the hook here. Save that colorful tissue and the cool bags that your gifts come in.  Use them again. If the tissue is all smushy and wrinkled, press it with a coolish iron.  And don't worry if you give a nice gift bag back to the original giver.  They loved it first and will be glad to see it again.

And so on.  You can pat yourself on the back every time you do something kind to the earth.  And if you teach kids to do the same thing, you get double pats.