They’re Coming to Take Me Away

I’ve been aware for some time that nothing I do online is really private.  If I look at some clothing website on Tuesday, by Wednesday, I’m getting sidebar ads for that same clothing company.  If I watch a Paws for Hope video on YouTube, suddenly lots of their videos pop to the top of my feed.  Same with Facebook.  Not too irritating although it makes me wonder if cyberspace is smart enough to know what I’m looking at, why isn’t it smart enough to know when I’ve made a purchase so they can stop showing me the ads for what I’ve bought?

I have a “color-by-number” app on my phone – it’s a mindless game that I often play if I have the tv on or am listening to a book on tape.  It only takes up about ¼ of my brain (if that).  It has a function that offers me “hints” if I watch the occasional ad.  Most of the time I ignore that function, but occasionally the puzzles have little bits that are almost impossible to see, so I like to have a couple of hints available.  About a month ago I noticed that the ads on this game were aligning with stuff that I was searching for online using my phone.  Not 100% but close enough.  So now my game is paying attention to what I’m up to when I’m not playing.   I wasn’t sure if I should worry about this or not.

Then yesterday I had the tv on while I was working in my studio.  One of the interminably long Cindy Crawford ads came on – the ones in which they talk about the special melons in the south of France.  I flipped on mute and waited it out.  While I was watching out of the corner of my eye for the commercial to end, I thought to myself “Well, at least they don’t run those Crepe Erase ads anymore.”  I’m not sure why I don’t like these ads, but I don’t even like to say the words “crepe” and “erase” together.  I have nothing against Jane Seymour, their spokeswoman, but I just don’t like the ads.  So imagine my shock when about 20 minutes later, there was Jane Seymour hawking Crepe Erase!  Honestly, I haven’t seen one of these ads for a couple of years at least.  It’s clear they’re reading my mind – this crosses the line!

Do you have a favorite hat?

Spoiled

I have been frustrated the past several months over the unavailability of Italian Parmesan cheese in our town. Wisconsin Parmesan is readily available, but the authentic stuff from Italy is nowhere to be found. (Isn’t that the most pathetic and self-absorbed sentence you have read lately?) I confess a sort of snobbery about cheese, but I blame it on living with someone from Wisconsin. Even he admits true Italian Parmesan is the best.

I got sort of impulsive a week ago and found this fancy-shmancy source for real Parmesan, and I ordered a 10 lb. slab. It arrived last week. I was surprised at just how much cheese this was. I warned our children and our daughter’s best friend that they would be receiving large chunks of Parmesan. It is truly wonderful, and nothing like the stuff from Wisconsin. I cut the slab into wedges, sealed them in our food sealer, and figured out the most expedient way to ship it. I have freezer packs and insulated wrappers for it, and will send it off on Friday.

I am an only child, and I always resented it when people said I must be spoiled. Well, I suppose that getting this cheese is pretty self-indulgent, but at least I am sharing it.

When have you been spoiled? How do you spoil yourself?  Who do you like to spoil?  What is your favorite cheese?

Dusting off the dress shoes

The week leading up to Easter was a busy one for us, as we sang in a cantata on Wednesday evening, and also sang in the choir on Easter Sunday. I typically wear corduroy pants and sweaters along with Keene’s that look like bowling shoes. I decided I had to step it up a little, and dug out a long, black, formal skirt for the cantata and a springy dress for Sunday. I was rather shocked to find that my black dress shoes were covered with dust. In fact, all my dress shoes were full of dust as they sat, undisturbed, at the bottom of my closet. There was also a fine layer of dust on my skirt and dress, as my dressier outfits don’t get worn very often. I figured I hadn’t worn a dress for about two years. I hadn’t worn my shoes for Sunday since our son’s wedding in 2009. I also realized the entire hem on the skirt had come loose, and I spent the hour before the concert hurriedly hemming it back up.

We sang the cantata in the front of the church, and I am surprised I didn’t trip as we maneuvered up and down the steps. The shoes pinched my toes. My feet were used to the bowling shoes. I was the assisting minister for the Sunday service, but I managed to navigate that and get over to the choir to sing when I needed to.

The shoes and fancy duds are back in the closet, and I know I have some serious vacuuming to do. I don’t plan on getting really dressed up again for a while. I honestly don’t know why we even bother.

When was the last time you got really dressed up? What is the most formal attire you ever wore? Any dress up disasters?

The History of everything

I had a four day weekend over Easter, and I spent it cooking and reading, both real treats for me. The gift of goat meat sent us on a Mediterranean cooking binge, and made me get out a cookbook I had neglected for some time, A Mediterranean Feast, by Clifford Wright. It is 815 pages of the history of Mediterranean food from Spain to Turkey, and all the countries in between. There are hundreds of recipes as well as references. He writes extremely detailed information about each of the recipes and the history of this food and the people who ate it from the Middle Ages to the present. His main emphasis is that the Mediterranean food that we know today is very strongly influenced by the Arabs, and that many food writers of the past have ignored that fact.

One of my favorite comments is in the section devoted to the history Greek and Turkish food, and the stubbornness of Greek food writers and historians to acknowledge the influence of the Ottomans on Greek cuisine,  “Unfortunately, there are no comparative historical studies of Greek and Turkish food by disinterested third-party scholars. In any case, all claims regarding the heritage of Greek food must by taken with a grain of salt….” (p. 219).  Wouldn’t it by fun to be such a disinterested third-party scholar?

It is hard to decide if this book is more of a cook book or a history book. I think it succeeds at both. I would love to write such a book, although I am not sure what I would write about. I suppose a history of children’s play would be fun, as I am a play therapist.

What kind of  history book would you like to write?   What Mediterranean countries have you visited?

Organizing a Salon

I read an interesting review the other day a of new Classical CD, “Music in Proust’s Salons”, in which Steven Isserlis, the cellist, recorded pieces written by contemporaries of Marcel Proust. Proust loved organizing small concerts following fancy meals at elegant Paris restaurants. Pieces by Faure, Franck, Hahn, and Chabrier figure prominently in Proust’s selections for his guests. I thought what fun that must have been for all concerned, and I began imagining what sort of salon I would organize. We have many musical friends, so I would invite them to perform. Some are more classically trained, some are Native friends who play a variety of instruments. The guests would be a hodge-podge of coworkers, church friends, and professional friends. We could have dessert and coffee, finger foods, and snacks. Our living room is pretty small, so we would have to find a community room somewhere so we could have enough space as well as a kitchen. I think it would be lovely.

If money wasn’t a problem, who would you invite to play at a salon you organized?  What would you want them to play? what food would you serve?  Have you read much by Proust?

Olives

Husband really likes vegetables. He also really likes olives and preserved /pickled peppers and tomatoes. For some reason last weekend, he decided he was going to make an olive salad, and proceeded to buy six kinds of olives.  He ran short of the olives with smoked paprika, which is why I was running around in the big wind on Monday to score a jar for him while he was at his private practice.  The header photo is the olive mélange he concocted. 

I like vegetables well enough, and probably eat more because I have been married to Husband all these years. I don’t crave vegetables. He really does, and says he feels ill when he doesn’t eat enough of them.  I would probably feel the same way if I couldn’t have cheese and dairy products.  I could live the rest of my life and never eat another pickle or olive. 

Husband considers olives a free food for him as a diabetic.  He also loves green salads, which I could take or leave. I just hope he can eat that huge container of olives. They are taking up a lot of room in the fridge and not leaving much room for my skyr!

What is your favorite kind of salad or vegetable?  What do you tend to buy too much of when you go grocery shopping?

You Can’t know the wind

Last Monday was a wild weather day here, with sustained West winds all day of up to 47 mph, and prolonged gusts of up to 67 mph.  There were periods of whiteout from snow squalls intermingled with sunny periods and dust.  There were some things we needed at the store, so I hazarded a trip to Walmart at about 5:00, just when the wind was at its peak. I saw traffic lights that had come loose from their supports, dangling over intersections. I waited at a red light on the interstate bridge and the van took the full broadside brunt of the wind. I felt the van rock, and I was worried I might get tipped over. 

The wind was cold and horrible, full of dust as I ran into the store.  Of course, I left the grocery list in the van.  I wasn’t about to run back out to the van to get it, so I tried as best I could to remember what Husband had written .  I forgot only one thing, a jar of olives seasoned with smoked paprika. I had to stop at another grocery store anyway, so I thought I could probably get the olives there. Well, there were no such olives there, so I journeyed back to Walmart and struggled yet again in the wind, and I found the olives.  Husband was really hoping I could get these olives (more on the olives in another post). He was grateful, and I was really glad to be home. 

There is dirt from our front yard vegetable garden blown all over our front stoep and front door.  I have lived on the Great Plains most of my life and I don’t think I have been in wind like we had on Monday.  There is a lovely children’s book If You’re Not From the Prairie,  written by a Saskatchewan author, David Bouchard. (What we call the Plains Canadians call the Prairie.)  Here he is reading  it. It really captures life out here. 

What are your memories of wild weather?  Know any good poems, songs, or stories about the wind or weather?

Dream State

I have very few bad dreams.  Or at least not that I remember once I’m awake.  But I had a doozy last week, the kind that leaves you wanting to stay awake so that you don’t fall back into it.  I made a trip to the bathroom, splashed my face, had a glass of water and when I got back into bed, I dreamt, but not the same nightmare scenario that had woken me.

I was starting a new job in a big business building downtown.  My new boss owned the whole floor, although his actual business only took up five or six rooms.  I don’t recall if I knew in the dream what I was supposed to be doing.  The rooms of the business were messy and it seemed clear that there wasn’t an actual office (or even desk) for me.  I had been given no direction about where I was to settle.  I was pretty well-dressed in the dream, although my dream self was a little worried that I didn’t have many nice work clothes. 

Of course, in part of the dream, I wandered out into a hallway and had trouble finding my way back.  My boss was in and out, fairly frenetic, again giving me no clue what I was supposed to be doing.  I worried about how I would get downtown every day.  I wondered if I should take matters into my own hands and order a desk.  Oh, did I mention that my new boss was Barack Obama?

I’ve probably said here before that I view dreams as a recycling of the day to day detritus in my subconscious.  Usually I can track bits of my dreams back to a waking trigger, but I’ll admit this one has my stumped.

Any dream interpretations for me?  Any good dreams you’ve had lately?

Happier

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day for walking – even if a bit windy.  I walked along Minnehaha Parkway and as I looked down at one point I saw the words “Happier” and “Ed Sheeran” written in chalk on the sidewalk.  While I know who Ed Sheeran is, I wasn’t sure if I knew the song, so I whipped out my phone and looked it up.  It was very nice:

I don’t usually listen to music or audiobooks when I walk.  I prefer being present in the outside world and I’m not so sure that earbuds are all that safe.  I also need more attention than you would imagine to make sure that the dog is staying in a good state of mind.  But it was nice to listen to the song for a bit as we walked.  It won’t make me an Ed Sheeran fan but I liked the idea that I was hearing a song that someone else thought enough of to chalk it for passers-by.  We kept going along the parkway and I didn’t see anymore song titles.  Just the one.

If I could leave just one song written on the sidewalk for others to come across, what would it be.  One of my absolute favorites is the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, especially the rendition done by Cantus.  But what message would I be sending the world with that one?  So I think I’d have to write “Everything is Holy Now” by Peter Mayer.  I think this is a song the world needs to hear.

I’ll supply the chalk.  What is the one song you want to add to the sidewalk?

RiP Beverly Cleary

One of the first books I remember reading independently was The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. I loved Ralph Mouse, and I loved his imagination and risk taking. The header photo is of my old copy of Runaway Ralph. I was sad to see that Beverly Cleary died last week at the age of 104.

We have many of our childhood books, as well as the books we got for our children. We have been eagerly waiting for our grandson to get older, and we have gradually been sending him the books we have as he gets old enough for them. Along with his Easter basket we sent a compendium of Beatrix Potter stories. Many of those stories are pretty hard for a little one to sit through, but I think The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, Two Bad Mice, and The Roly Poly Pudding could be made interesting with the right voices.

What are some books and stories you would like to share with a young person?

I Can Resist….

Yesterday Guinevere and I turned right at the bottom of the driveway instead of our normal “to the left” on our walk.  I got a really good look at my boulevard and was so surprised to see not just the daffodils starting to sprout up, but also the tulips, lilies and even a teen tiny peony tip.  And, of course, even a few creeping charlies.  Even though a few baboons have already mentioned that they’ve seen things popping up, it still surprised me to see so much this early. 

At least it still feels early to me; I can’t even keep track of the times I’ve had to cover up my plants in my straw bales after Mother’s Day due to a frost warning.  However seeing everything popping up makes me want to get out there and clear out last year’s leavings, despite knowing that it might not be safe yet.

I’m normally very good at delaying gratification.  I always eat the cake first and leave the icing for the end.  I have no trouble saving gifts until it’s the right time to open them.  Most of the time I’ll pick the ickiest chore to do first and save the things I like better for later.  But now I am itching to get out there with my grubby jeans and gardening gloves, to starting cleaning up and making way for spring.  I’m not sure how to keep myself inside this weekend.

How to you forestall temptation?

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