A Cinnamon Roll In The Hand

A “good plain cook.” It’s a description you might see in an old-fashioned or historical novel, and at first glance it doesn’t sound flattering.

But in this case, “plain” doesn’t have anything to do with the appearance of either the cook or the food, but simply means this person is a practical, everyday cook. Not the one who makes exotic sauces or elaborate dishes or elegant pastries. The one who does the breakfast eggs, lunchtime soups, and dinner roasts and vegetables, capably and reliably, day after day after day.

That’s the kind of cook I am. Though, to be honest, “adequate plain cook” would be closer to the truth. I can—and have, for years—consistently put nutritious, edible, and occasionally even delicious family meals on the table. But just because I know how to have everything ready to eat at the same time doesn’t mean I love to cook. My goal is to keep the cooking part simple so I can more quickly get to the part I do love—the eating. Continue reading

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The Undocumented Auto and the Naked Refrigerator

Every time I move from one house to another, I remember why it’s so stressful. Moving is like childbirth—between one time and the next you forget that it’s an endeavor with long-term consequences, it takes longer than you hope it will, and it involves a lot of hard work and a certain amount of pain.

There are two approaches to moving, which are driven more by circumstances than by choice. One is the “get everything out of the old house and into the new house on the same day” method. You pack ahead of time everything you think you can do without, subsequently unpack the things you realize you can’t do without, at the last minute frantically throw everything remaining into whatever containers you can find, haul everything to the new house, and finish the day at the old house around 2:00 a.m., scrubbing floors and vanquishing dust bunnies.

The other method—which I used this time—is the “take things over a few at a time and unpack as you go” approach. You close on the new house, schedule the movers for a week or two later, paint a couple of rooms, and move smaller things a carload at a time. It sounds less stressful than the other style. It isn’t. It merely stretches out the stress. Continue reading

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ABC Gum

The other little girl and I were related—something on the order of second cousins once or twice removed—though we’d never seen each other until this visit my family was making to hers. We eyed each other with the caution of two children whose parents, assuming because they are the same age they have things in common, have told them to go play.

Then she broke the ice with an overture of friendship. “Would you like some gum?”

“Sure,” I said, assuming we would head for the kitchen or wherever her mother kept the stash of Doublemint and Juicy Fruit.

Instead, she reached into her mouth with a grubby finger, extracted the gum she was chewing, pulled it in half, and held one piece out to me. Continue reading

Categories: Food and Drink | 1 Comment

Bug A, Bug B, and Insect Inequality

Bug A was the tiniest ladybug I’ve ever seen. A little-girl bug, really. Or even a toddlerbug or a babybug.

How do ladybugs come into the world, anyway? I don’t know and don’t care enough at the moment to look it up, but I vaguely assume they hatch from eggs. This unscientific conclusion is mostly because they usually show up in the kitchen during the winter, when they certainly haven’t come in from outside. I just figure their mothers must have laid eggs inside the window frames or under the leaves of the house plants.

The ones I see around the kitchen sink just appear. I’ll notice one crawling along the faucet or the counter or the window. Or I fish one out of the dish water—still alive if it’s lucky, belly-up if it’s not. To my uneducated eye, they all look like fully functional adults.

But this teeny tiny ladybug was certainly small enough to seem newly hatched. Its arrival also tends to support the house plant theory, because it appeared inside a vase on the dining room table. I figured it must have come in with the bouquet of tulips I had put into the vase.

It was on top of the water, and I figured it was a goner until I realized it was swimming. (“Waiter, what’s this ladybug doing inside my vase?” “Looks like the Australian crawl to me.”) Continue reading

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TheRobo-Call Selfie

It’s a new low in the world of robo-calling—the Scamming Selfie. As far as I can tell, it works like this:

The telephone of an Innocent Random Person (IRP) rings. The IRP, knowing the game by now, looks at the caller ID before she answers. She has learned not to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers, especially not those from places, like Ipswich, SD, or Tallahassee, FL, where she has no known friends or family.

This time, a bit oddly, the caller ID shows her own name and phone number. However, she is expecting an important return call from someone in a city government agency. It’s faintly possible that this could be that call.

Plus, to be honest, she’s a little bit curious. What happens if someone answers the phone when a call purports to be from the same number it is calling? Maybe she’ll hear an echo of herself. Maybe the caller will get a busy signal and go bother somebody else. Maybe the computer at the other end will get stuck in an endless loop and crash its own hard drive.

Anyway, the IRP answers the phone. She hears a recorded voice: “Hello, this is Kathleen from Microsoft. (Yeah, right. And I’m the makeup artist in charge of gore for Game of Thrones.) We have been trying to reach you. (I just bet you have. Those last dozen scamming calls I ignored? Seven of them were probably from you.) We will be forced to disconnect your license within 24 hours—”

The IRP will never know which license (computer operating system? driver’s? fishing?) she’s about to lose, because at this point she hangs up.

All in all, the IRP found her first Robo-call Selfie quite disappointing. She was hoping somebody’s automated spam factory had finally overreached. It would have been so satisfying to hear a robo caller confusing itself right out of commission.

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Bunnies, Eggs, and Earth Day

Among the dozens of Easter eggs that were decorated this past weekend, one of my talented progeny painted the planet. Very well, too. It was an instantly recognizable, if slightly pointy at the North and South Poles, miniature version of the Earth.

This, of course, is not a bad metaphor on Earth Day. One could point out all sorts of appropriate comparisons about this planet’s fragility and the superficial (to it, if not to those of us who populate it) political and racial divisions we overlay on its surface. Feel free to come up with your own; I’m not going to belabor the point.

All I really have the energy for is paying minimal attention to my own little portion of the planet. After a cold and bitter winter, the yard is looking ragged. Last year’s stalks still cover the flower beds. Scatters of gravel—collateral damage from shoveling the driveway—litter the grass. It all looks neglected and unkempt.

But that’s not all. Tulips and daffodils are not blooming yet, but the plants are several inches tall and growing fast. Irregular spikes of bright green grass are prompting me to wonder whether the lawn mower will start. The buffalo grass is beginning to show a dignified soft green beneath last year’s dried curls. I saw two blooming dandelions yesterday. I suspect the thistles are limbering their muscles and polishing their brass knuckles, preparing for another season of bullying their way in where they aren’t wanted. And in the warren under the bushes, where one stout cottontail rabbit spent the winter, now there are three. This morning, after yesterday’s rain, the outdoors smells like growing things and earthworms.

Speaking of growing things, yesterday I got to help a couple of grandchildren color eggs. They took this task quite seriously, and we managed to accomplish it with minimal conflict and no spilled bowls of dye. When we were done, we had several hands full of blue and purple fingers, but there were no stains on the new shirt I unwisely wore, and the dog was the same color he was when we started.

We enjoyed the process. We admired the finished eggs in all their colorful glory. Then, in the spirit of spring, resurrection, and Earth Day (reduce, reuse, recycle), we peeled several and ate them for lunch. Because a boiled egg, no matter how beautifully decorated, is still an egg.

Categories: Family, Living Consciously | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Biohacking? Life is too short.

Dave Asprey, who apparently is another of those well-known people with a well-known company that I have never heard of, has a goal. He is passionate about it, and he is working hard and spending a fortune to achieve it. His aspiration? To live to be 180.

According to a January article by Rachel Munroe in Men’s Health, this is what he’s doing to reach that goal:

  • He eats a diet that includes no gluten and is 50 to 70 percent fat.
  • He takes 100 supplements a day.
  • He regularly uses a hyperbaric oxygen chamber or immerses himself in ice water.
  • He exercises, but not by going to an ordinary gym. His home office includes an array of high-tech exercise machines, one of which “promises to deliver two and a half hours of exercise in 21 minutes.”
  • Every six months, he has half a liter of his own bone marrow harvested, then has the stem cells from it injected into various parts of his body, including his spinal cord.

All this is based on something called “biohacking.” Continue reading

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Runaway St. Patrick’s Pancakes

Sourdough pancakes are a tradition in my family. They’re almost always on the menu when the kids and grandkids come over for Sunday breakfast, as they did this weekend.

To make the pancakes, you mix the starter—flour, water, yeast, and sugar—the night before. You let it work and raise and bubble overnight, then in the morning add the rest of the ingredients and cook your pancakes. So on Saturday night, I set out to make starter for a triple batch.

Remembering that the next day would be St. Patrick’s Day, I dumped in some green food coloring. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun to make shamrock-shaped pancakes, and I started considering the easiest ways to flip them. Maybe I was thinking too much about these things, because before I knew it I hadn’t just made starter, but had mixed in all the ingredients for finished pancakes.

Drat. Oh, well; if I let it set overnight it should still be okay. Just to be sure, I dumped in an extra tablespoon or three of yeast. Then I left the big stainless steel bowl of batter on the counter to work its magic.

It worked, all right. The next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw: Continue reading

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Paper Reindeer at the Ladies’ Aid

One of the skills in the “things I never particularly wanted to know” category that I’ve learned over this cold, snowy winter is the art of building fires in the wood-burning stove. Among the refinements I’ve figured out is that when you use old paper bags, tax returns, and bank statements for fire-starting, they ignite more readily if you first tear them into pieces.

The other day, as I squatted in front of the stove solemnly tearing paper with utterly irrelevant precision into halves and quarters and eighths, I was reminded of my mother.

What I remembered was a specific occasion, possibly a baby shower but more likely a meeting of our Methodist Church Ladies’ Aid Society. In either case, it was a sedate afternoon party for women, with a few little girls along by default. We were expected to remain quiet, well-behaved, and in the background. In exchange we got refreshments—most likely watery punch and homemade cake—and the chance to listen in on grownup conversations. Continue reading

Categories: Family, Living Consciously, Remembering When | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Heart Rate-Boosting Exercise of Tidying Up

Tidying up. It’s a concept I strongly favor—well, at least theoretically. I have to admit I haven’t gotten around to reading Marie Kondo’s book yet, though I do practice a couple of ideas gleaned from it in a second-hand way.

One of the reasons I haven’t read it yet, I suspect, is the title. Oh, don’t get me wrong—I think The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a terrific title. “Magic,” of course, implies that change might be as easy as waving your wand or wiggling your nose. Then there’s “tidying up,” which is such a non-threatening concept. It sounds so doable, so manageable, so much less overwhelming than the huge, where-do-I-start tasks implied by “cleaning up” or “clearing out.” I’m just afraid that the process actually described inside the book might not be so simple and might involve actual effort.

I like the idea of “tidying up” as a dainty, leisurely, lady-of-the-manor phrase. It implies merely a little adjusting or patting into place. Just straighten a couple of pillows over here, pick up a coffee cup (Limoges or Wedgewood, presumably) over there, pinch the dried blossoms off of the begonia, and all is order and serenity.

In reality, of course, “tidying up” is what you suddenly feel a need to do if you get a text from a friend: “On my way, 10 min?”, or you suddenly realize you invited people for dinner at 6:00 rather than 6:30, or you glance out the window and see your in-laws’ car in the driveway.

The ensuing process is something like this:

Cram dirty dishes into the dishwasher, regardless of whether the ones already in there are dirty or clean. Continue reading

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: | 2 Comments

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