Category Archives: home

Death in a Jar of Salsa

I gave one of the nurses at my office a about 40 lbs. of tomatoes this year, since she wanted to make salsa. We had an abundance and I was glad to get rid of them. She said she got other tomatoes, too, and canned 60 jars of salsa. She gave me a jar earlier this week, and it was all I could do to smile and thank her when she handed it to me.  Once I got up to my floor, I flushed it down the toilet.

Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I would never can and process anything in a used Hormel ham hock jar using the original cap.  She hadn’t even removed the ham hock label.  I know that salsa has lots of acid in it from the vinegar, and that her salsa will probably be fine, but, still, this person is a nurse and there are some basic rules of hygienic food preservation that you just never violate. There was a story in the Fargo Forum a few years back about some well meaning woman in the eastern part of the state who invited people for Sunday dinner, fed them home canned peas, and killed half of the guests with botulism.  Those stories  stick with a person who does any home canning.

Tell about some gifts you would have rather not received.  Got any canning or food preservation disasters or horror stories? Am I being alarmist?

Pick Your Mural

ND Highway 22 runs through our town north and south. In the middle of town there is a very old, ugly, railroad bridge which allows trains to travel above the highway so emergency vehicles can go under the bridge from the south side of town to the north side of town when there is a train.  It is a very low underpass that invariably floods and is impassable during rain storms.

One of our friends who is a community organizer sort of person got funding for a mural to be painted on the railroad bridge. It took all sorts of Federal and State hoops to be jumped through to get the approval, and this week the mural painter arrived from California.  He has done several murals in our town and our State.  The local paper described the project thus:

The four underpass wall panels will comprise one large mural, more than 400 feet in length, celebrating North Dakota.The walls north of the underpass will depict the landscape of the Badlands.The east wall will show immigrating Ukrainians and the west wall will show cowboys, Native Americans and buffalo. South of the underpass, the west wall will depict Dickinson State University’s May Hall and the east wall will show historic downtown Dickinson and a modern pump-jack. (Dickinson Press, October 2, 2018).

The mural artist is enlisting local students and adults to assist with the painting. I think it is a wonderful project.  How often do we get to legally spray paint on bridges?!! I just hope the Czechs and Germans from Russian don’t feel slighted that he chose Ukrainians instead of them.

Where in your community would you like to see an outdoor mural, and what would you like depicted on it?

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?

 

Happy Anniversary!

Sept. 10 was our 35th wedding anniversary.  Husband, that romantic devil, got me exactly what I wanted: a meat saw, the one featured in the header photo.  It was even on sale!

I also splurged on new throw rugs, and a Pendleton blanket that we picked up at a Pow Wow on Sunday.  I don’t expect much in the way of romantic gifts.  Husband didn’t want anything, as he feels our trip to Tacoma in August was gift enough for him.  The meat saw looks like it will last a long time, maybe for 35 exciting more years.

Are you romantic or practical in what you like to give and what you like to receive?

For a Very Important Date

I’ve bitten off quite a bit to chew for Solstice this year; my card design is quite…um, robust, shall we say. No other word for the situation.  I’ve been having dreams about being late to places recently and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m feeling behind schedule.  I’ve decided I need to do at least an hour a day in my studio for the next few weeks to try to get on track.  As I’ve said here before, this is difficult because once I get home from work, I’m basically worthless without a looming deadline.  I’m hoping that saying to myself “you have to do an hour a day” will make it seem like a looming deadline!

When was the last time you bit off more than you could chew?

Destructo Kitty

The younger of our kitties, Nimue, came into the household 9 years ago like a whirlwind. She was into everything and the number of items that she wrecked was legion.  Everyone told me that she would eventually settle down.  Can somebody tell me WHEN?

I like to display my birthday cards along the top of the built-in buffet in the dining room. The picture above is what it looks like.

The picture below is what I came home to this afternoon. Nimue has lots of nicknames, but now she has another – DESTRUCTO KITTY.

What do you think makes a grown-up?