Category Archives: Family

As the Seasons Turn

My father’s extended family hails from the north woods, so even though I grew up in St. Louis, I experienced the Minnesota/Wisconsin climate from an early age. When it was time to look at colleges I announced to my parents that I would only go to a college in Minnesota or Wisconsin.  When college/grad school was over for me and wasband, we hightailed it to the Twin Cities.  I’ve been here every since.

This morning, I noticed it was snowing at about 8 a.m. and my mood jumped up a couple of notches just seeing it. I love snow and cold.  Spring, summer and autumn are nice but winter is my season of choice.  I love visiting tropical locales but I don’t think I would happy in a place that didn’t have winter.

I took pictures all morning and even though I knew that snow in mid-October wouldn’t last, I was a little wistful when it stopped around noon.

Of course, this is seriously early for snow, so I didn’t start pulling out big sweaters and coats just yet. And I still wore my zorries to the gym and the grocery store!

What is your favorite seasonal transition? Have you transitioned to your winter clothes yet?

Techno Shock

Daughter has been on our phone plan until now, and is taking a step toward independence and is getting her own phone plan. It has been four years since we upgraded our phones. We are helping  her financially with the transition. After reviving from the sticker shock of how much a new iPhone costs, I thought about my own experiences in elementary school getting trained by Ma Bell in proper phone use.

Does anyone else remember phone company reps coming to school and teaching phone etiquette and how to operate rotary phones? I remember it happened in about Grade 3.  The phones were tan and were desk models. They even brought in a slimline phone.  I was green with envy. I thought the technology was cool, since the only phone we had hung on the  kitchen wall.  I can’t imagine such training in the schools these days.

How do you learn how to use new technology?  How did you learn to use phones and  computers?  Where do you think this technology is going?  

I Enjoy Being a Cat

Husband and I often spend our evenings pondering deep subjects, like our cats.  Here is what we came up with last night.  We were thinking mainly about our youngest cat, Millie,  who loves her life and is so joyous.  Think I Enjoy Being a Girl.

I’m a cat and by me that is only great!  I am proud that my tail is swishy.  That I walk with a panther-like grace and charm, and my cat toys are soft and squishy.

When I have a brand new grocery bag, that I hide in and lie real flat,  Then I swipe at their feet and bite their toes.  I enjoy being a cat. 

I  sharpen my claws on Mom’s new purse, Then she tells me to run and scat. So I knock all the pens down on the floor. I enjoy being a cat.

I’m strictly a long haired tortoiseshell,  and my future I hope will be,  on a cushion upon the window seat, with some nice cat nip to smell, cat nip to chew, catnip to eat, for me. 

Who have you  known who totally enjoyed being themselves. Tell some stories about animals or people you have known.

 

Borscht Closure and Cabbage Tiffs

We grew a short row of beets this year.  Husband started to talk about making borscht in June. He is an incredibly obsessive person who loves to compare and contrast recipes.  Borscht recipes started to appear on the lamp table near his chair in the living room, and with difficulty he finally settled on one recipe a week or so ago.  He had, of course, annotated it with suggestions from other recipes. It was a complex recipe with twenty-one steps.

Last Friday he started to make the borscht, beginning with a beef stock.  That took all Friday afternoon and evening, with Husband fussing over the vegetables and herbs  that were to go into the stock, and how long the stock was to cook.  It was finally finished at 3:00 am Saturday morning. I strained it for him later in the morning. He fussed and fussed, asking if I should skim off all that fat, was the beef tender,  and was it enough?  I reassured him it was. Then the real hysteria began, with the twenty one steps.

The vegetables had to be julienned in a specific way.  It was a clear borscht with beets, cabbage, onions, celeriac, carrots, potatoes, and our home grown fresh Vermont Cranberry beans.  Only he could assemble the soup.  I don’t quite know what the other steps were, but I went to bed at  9:00, and he finished the soup just before midnight. It made two gallons. The kitchen was in a state of continual mess and uproar the whole time the soup was in preparation. I became increasingly irritated with him. I started to argue with him over what to do with the leftover cabbage he didn’t need in the soup, a half head of  savoy cabbage we had grown last year and blanched and frozen. He was going to throw it away. When I heard myself saying  “You can’t throw out the rest of that cabbage! It worked really hard to grow for us!”  I knew I was completely around the bend. I don’t even like cabbage. Then Husband got stuck at Step 20-correct for seasoning.

He ate some of the soup for breakfast on Sunday. He was pensive and broody all morning after that.  We went to church, and as we were driving home he said we had to go to the store to get a cruet. He explained that he was disappointed in his soup because it needed more acid and herbs, and he wanted a cruet to infuse herbs and vinegar to add to the soup. No, he said, he couldn’t just use a pint jar.  After a great deal of indecision on his part, we found just the right cruet to match his expectations. We went home, and he proceeded to turn the kitchen upside down (again), chopping all these herbs and figuring  out what he wanted in his soup.

I had finally had it with all this obsession and brooding, and asked if I could taste the soup. It was wonderful. I told him that if he thought it needed more acid,  to squeeze a God damned lemon into it and just add some fresh dill, but what ever he did he needed to be done with the soup!!!  He looked stunned and seemed to come back to reality. He sheepishly agreed that I was correct, and filled up the cruet with vinegar and the herbs and put it in the fridge. I have no idea what we will do with it.

When have you got so close to something that you couldn’t see it for what it truly was anymore?  How do you choose recipes? What is your favorite beet recipe?

Me and the Movies

Today’s post comes to use from Steve.  Photo credit:  CNN.com

I fell in love with movies when I was a kid. Every Saturday I’d walk six blocks to the Capitol Theater, a dime and a nickel in my jeans pocket. The dime bought a ticket good for two movies, usually two cowboy movies or two Tarzans. The nickel got me a box of Mason Dots. When empty, the Dots box functioned as a rude sort of horn so I could signal my disgust when a cowboy hero smooched his girl.

In 1953 our family got a television set so we could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We went on to fulfill that classic Fifties cliché: we bought TV trays so we could eat TV Dinners while watching TV shows. But nobody in our family cared much for television. The programming back then was limited and lame. I much preferred movies.

I saw several wonderful films in the years just before and after graduating from high school. A short list from that time would include: The Apartment, Tunes of Glory, Lolita, Wild Strawberries, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Seven Samurai, The African Queen, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, Wild River, The Miracle Worker and Tom Jones. Those movies convinced me film-making at its best can work wonders.

Decades later I mostly gave up going to movie theaters because by then I had a superb home theater in my basement. I compiled a library of films on tape or DVD disks. In the 1980s movie rental shops suddenly sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. I welcomed them because I loved watching films in the comfort of my own home. At the checkout counter at Blockbuster a clerk once mused, “You’re a good customer. You’ve rented over 200 films from us this year.” I gulped. Blockbuster was one of three rental shops I was using that year.

All of that has changed. I now struggle to find one film a week worth viewing. In the past I waited impatiently for each week’s new rental offerings. When I joined Netflix I had nearly two dozen films on my queue. Today my queue has only three movies, and my expectations are low for two of them. The irony of this is that I have more free time now than at any time in my life, and yet I struggle to find films worth watching. I wonder how things came to this.

Perhaps watching several hundred movies has spoiled me. After seeing so many films they begin to look the same. Plots become formulaic. Dialogue becomes predictable. As a writer I can see how film writers manipulate plot lines and character to produce crises that feel phony or forced. Actors who once seemed fresh can become boring after you’ve seen them in similar roles several times. Maybe I’m jaded.

Or maybe Hollywood has mostly stopped making films that could interest me. I want to blame Star Wars. Ever since Star Wars rewarded its makers with incredible ticket sales, movie companies have struggled to produce a few incredibly expensive movies. It now costs between 200 and 300 million dollars to make a summer hit film. Production houses concentrate on films that appeal to teen boys, including teen boys all around the world. And movies seem obsessed with zombies, spacemen, dinosaurs and superheroes. Any good idea for a movie is sure to be franchised . . . and quite a few bad ideas, too.

Last week I read an article celebrating “the new canon,” the twenty-three best films made since 2000. I hoped the article would point to promising new films for me. Instead, the list was filled with films I had seen and didn’t enjoy. Most film on the list struck me as bleak, cynical and violent. I was startled by how differently the author of that article and I felt about these films. For him they were modern cinematic classics. For me most of the new classics were unacceptably gloomy and ugly.

In spite of efforts to avoid gory movies, I sometimes goof. A positive review caused me to rent a film called John Wick. I’ve never seen anything so bloody. Wick kills 77 people. Of course, there will be a sequel. I just read that the body count in John Wick 2 is 128, which is just what I would have predicted. Any guesses on the body count for John Wick 3?

Has your taste in films evolved over time? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

 

I Scream, You Scream

Over the weekend, PJ got me going when she said “I can think of worse ways to go than death by ice cream.” It reminded me of the time we had talked about death by rhubarb and Clyde actually found a book entitled exactly that. (It was awful!)

So I went looking for death by ice cream titles. Didn’t find exactly that, but found plenty that were close enough.  Here are a few:

Ice Cream Murder (A Sprinkles Cozy Mystery) by Jennifer Martin
Death with a Cherry on Top by Molly Dox
Chunky Raspberry Fudge Murder by Penelope Manzone
Death by Chocolate Sundae by Constance Barker
Triple Dipped Murder by Gretchen Allen
Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake by Sarah Graves

I requested a couple from the library – you never know, maybe I’ll find a new author I need to follow.

But while I was searching around, I found this:

National Ice Cream Death Museum, Derbyshire
Perhaps the most unusual display anywhere in Britain, this small but lively museum is devoted to major accidents, deaths and disasters caused by ice cream, from the great M65 pile-up of 1981 (caused by a discarded vanilla tub, on which a lorry skidded) to the case of the Sussex child who swallowed a wooden ice cream spoon in 1967 and still walks around happily with it inside. Anyone who has any new ice cream disaster to report should ring their Cones Hot Line (sic).
(Independent.co.uk 1998)

I couldn’t find any indication that the museum is still open. I can’t even confirm that there was a great M65 pile-up of 1981 or that a Sussex child swallowed a wooden ice cream spoon in 1967. But it’s fun to think about.

What’s the most interesting museum you’ve ever been to?