Sunday, December 08, 2019

Breaking the rules

For bloggers, there is one cardinal rule: avoid religion and politics. Tonight I am breaking that rule because those two subjects are what’s on my mind, so closely intertwined that I cannot separate them. As I have often said, my faith dictates my politics. And roughly quoted from Richard Rohr, my faith compels me to speak out.

Our minister’s sermon this morning took as text the words of the angel to Mary, from the Book of Luke: “Be not afraid.” It is so easy in these trouble times to be governed by fear. Indeed, fear is a tool used by others to shape our lives, from the politician’s mouth to the commercial world. We are afraid of change, of wars with which we are continually threated, of climate change which surrounds us, of disease, of immigrants. For heaven’s sake, in this age, I am afraid of traffickers who kidnap innocent teenagers. There is plenty in today’s world to fear.

Perhaps it is because of that fear that the underlying message of Christmas resonates with me particularly this year. Christians have heard all their lives that God’s gift to us of his son brings hope. And in spite of the fearful world we live in, I find that I am filled with hope. I am sure that we are going through our own Dark Ages but will emerge triumphant on the other side. Rohr says that the dark is necessary to the light—we must know fear to recognize hope.

For me, hope has a particular meaning tonight—or target, if you will. I hope for the preservation of our democracy, the defense of our Constitution. For that hope to become a reality, some false gods—read Republicans—are going to have to topple. And it may take every American to make that happen.

As the Congress moves forward with impeachment proceedings, I am baffled by the Republicans and the cult followers who defend Mr. trump. It seems to clear to me that the House Committee, under Adam Schiff, has proven his culpability beyond a doubt. His defenders have no defense so they resort to empty arguments, like ignoring the will of the people who elected trump. As Stephen King points out, he lost the popular vote by some three million and is only president because of the antiquated electoral college, which King likened to a one-mule wagon in an age of jet transport.

Because they have no solid defense, Republicans resort to several empty arguments, among them the accusation that the impeachment proceedings are illegal, a witch hunt, a politically motivated attempt to remove the president. The proceedings, however, are following the dictates of the Constitution and are, far from a witch hunt, a legal proceeding. As someone pointed out this morning, trump is not being impeached because most Americans hate him—he’s being impeached because he has violated his oath of office and abused the power of his office. Whether or not obstruction of justice is part of the final articles of impeachment remains to be seen, but he is also clearly guilty of it. But it is not hate—being booed at a ball game is hate.

If the Senate votes to acquit, as they may well—another thing that boggles my mind—we will have no recourse except the voting booth, and a fervent prayer that the elections are not so corrupted as to sweep trump and his henchmen into office for another term.

Another thing that is not mentioned on either side of the aisle but seems increasingly clear to all who will recognize it: the president’s mental state is rapidly deteriorating, a judgment confirmed by mental health professionals. But that’s a whole other bag of worms.

I guess this is where hope comes in—hope backed by faith and supported by the actions of every American. Time to be proactive.

Forgive me for breaking the rules. I don’t do it often. Usually I am Pollyanna.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

A day of domestic disasters

Diner tonight: lamb meatballs from the freezer, with an
impromptu tzatziki sauce, and fresh 
beets and greens with butter and lemon
Only thing that went right all day

Ever have a day when everything seems to go wrong? Nothing big, just little stuff. Today was such a day for me.

It started with wrapping Christmas gifts. I targeted four large, heavy gifts that would be my goal for the day. Too big for bags, each required wrapping the old-fashioned way.  I thought it would be a relief to get them done, but whatever could go wrong did. I dropped the scissors or Scotch tape repeatedly--bending down to get them from a seated walker is sometimes an iffy experience. I had to cut the paper on the coffee table, the only surface I have that is large enough, except maybe my kitchen cutting board, and I was afraid that would get the paper greasy. But the paper, too long wrapped around a cardboard tube, had a life of its own and rolled up and fought back as I tried to cut it. The result was uneven jagged edges—not pretty on a wrapped package. For at least one package, I cut the paper and then realized I had not measured correctly--a wasted piece of paper unless I find small packages that need to be wrapped.

Bending over the coffee table from my Rollator made my back ache, so when I got the paper cut, wrapped around the package and secured, I moved it to my desk where I can work more comfortably. Except the one breakable package slipped out of its wrappings and crashed onto the floor—I didn’t hear the tinkling of something broken, so I just went ahead and rewrapped it. We’ll see on Christmas morning if it’s intact.

Inevitably the scissors and tape would be on the coffee table when I needed them on the desk, and vice versa. It took me an extraordinarily long time to wrap four gifts. Then I decided I would wrap a fifth one—lightweight but an odd shape, as tall as it is wide. My best effort, after three or four tries, was a mess. I gave up and put it aside for Jordan.

Tonight I wanted to bake brownies for Jacob, so I asked for an eight- or nine-inch square pan from the kitchen. Jacob arrived with an oblong glass pan, and when I laughed and said, “That’s not a square pan,” he replied, “You don’t have to be mean about it.” Made me feel guilty but didn’t stop me from asking if he’s taken geometry yet. The answer was a mumbled “No.” He didn’t get my joke. I guess thirteen-year-olds are not tuned to grandparents’ humor. Eventually he came back with a nine-inch pan, and I mixed the batter.

Here’s where I’ll whine about aging. I have no strength in my left hand, the hand with a slight tremor. So when I held the mixing bowl in that hand and tried to scrape batter into the baking pan with my right hand, I dropped the mixing bowl into the baking pan, getting a good schmear of batter on the outside of the bowl. With patience and small steps I finally got most of the batter into the baking pan, but it was a chore. The reward was that the brownies are delicious—I’ve had two and had to restrain myself from having a third. I told Jordan she better come get some for Jacob before I eat them all, but she’s gone gallivanting with neighbors and Jacob is at a buddy’s house. Brownies are all mine.

In between my domestic disasters, I finished a mystery I was deep into, had a nap, and fixed myself a good dinner. The day was by no means a loss, but I’ll be grateful if my world goes better tomorrow. Christmas can really be exhausting, but hey! You all know that.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Keeping Christmas

Today is St. Nicholas Day, but it still was a surprise to me to find a beautiful poinsettia, a bottle of wine, and various goodies on the front porch. We have a delightful new neighbor who had told me to be sure to put my shoes on the front porch last night for St. Nicholas to fill with treats. I laughed and assured her I was too old for his treats, but she replied, “You never know.” And sure enough, St. Nicholas apparently doesn’t discriminate by age.

My new neighbor is a busy, stay-at-home mom to four children, two of whom she home schools. She’s a terrific and inventive cook, and she’s undertaken a lot of the renovation of their new-old home herself. I’m not sure she never sleeps.

Last night, the entire family—mom, dad, and four children—went through the neighborhood, leaving Christmas bags at homes of friends. Other treats went in the mail. According to my neighbor, her kids think this is the best part of Christmas.

With  the children’s help, she filled 88 bags with treats. Each student at the small parochial school one child attends was told to put their shoes outside their classroom—sure enough, Saint Nicholas visited the school.

At home, this family keeps Christmas without the commercial aspct. The children get their gifts today, not on Christmas Day when the focus is more on the Holy Infant. This morning, stockings were all full, but she reported that the at-home kids walked by without noticing. Tonight, they’ll pull goodies out of those stockings. Each child will get pajamas, socks, books, candy, and an age-appropriate analog watch. In her words, “No flashy gifts here. That’s a no way for my kids.”

Her whole approach to Christmas gave me pause as I considered the rapidly growing pile of gifts in my bedroom and the time and money I’ve spent figuring out what each of the sixteen might want. Or when I think back to my children’s early years when plenitude was the code of the day. My children’s father was Jewish, so we celebrated Hanukah and Christmas both. The religious celebration got lost in the logistics. I actually had charts—not smart enough for a database—for what each child got on each of the eight days of Hanukah and on Christmas Day. And Christmas morning was liable to be something elaborate, like the set of over-size Tinker Toys that Santa had made into a house big enough for all four of my angels.

And then there was the memorable year they found my stash in the guest room closet Ruined Christmas for them, they admitted.

My anticipation for this Christmas is high—we will all sixteen be together, and Christmas morning we’ll rip through a mountain of gifts with lightning speed. Gone is the lovely, drawn-out tradition of my childhood where we had a big breakfast before opening gifts and then opened one at a time, each person respectfully watching to see what someone else got. Of course, there were only four of us—not sixteen. I barely succeed in keeping them from opening everything on Christmas Eve. If you did that, what would you do Christmas morning?

But as we race through the present opening, I will be thinking of the way my new neighbors keep Christmas. May your Christmas be blessed with love that outweighs the commercialism.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Gearing up for the holidys—and a sour note

“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December/A magical thing. And sweet to remember/We are nearer to Spring than we were in September/I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”

― Oliver Herford

One of my favorite lines of poetry. Thanks to “Texas Booklover” on Facebook for bringing it to attention this holiday season.

I have a friend who spent Thanksgiving in Santa Fe. When someone asked what they did there, the reply was, “Well, we pretty much eat a meal and then sit around and talk about where we’re going to the eat the next meal.” To me, that’s pretty much what happens in the holiday season as well as in Santa Fe.

I’ve been dragging one foot reluctantly out of Thanksgiving, still eating turkey-and-blue cheese sandwiches, reheated potato casserole and green bean casserole. Even served a raggedy chunk of cheeseball for happy hour last night. Today, I think I’ll pretty much clean up the leftovers, except maybe for the cranberry cake that turned out to be a delightful surprise. Thanks to a neighbor for the recipe—you can watch for the recipe tomorrow in my “Gourmet on a Hot Plate” column. And yes, I baked it in my toaster oven.

But I’m also looking ahead to all food that speaks of Christmas. Spent a long, happy time last night paging through the December issue of Southern Living and cut out lots of recipes, half of which I will never make. I mean, really, who around here do I think will eat roasted oysters  with bacon-saltine topping? And do I really think I’m extravagant enough to serve beef tenderloin crostini or an eight-pound standing rib roast? Jamie, whose birthday is in January, loves prime rib but he rarely comes home for a birthday dinner. No, beer-cheese fondue is probably more my speed. Or maybe the family would like a good, old-fashioned trifle.

Meantime we have to eat until the big day—or week. Some restaurants are on my calendar—I had a lovely lunch yesterday at Nonna Tata, though my friends chided me for ordering potato salad at an Italian restaurant. “Where,” they demanded, “is the pasta?” Tonight I’ll have a low-key, early dinner with a good friend, and tomorrow night it’s a happy hour birthday celebration at a Clearfork restaurant. I’ll be ready to stay home and wrap packages this weekend. Sunday dinner? I’m thinking a Mexican casserole.

The other all-consuming December occupation of course involves gifts—buying and wrapping. It rarely makes me friends when I announce that my shopping is done, but it mostly is. I think only one grandson is a hold-out. And I have wrapped three gifts—a start. Being as compulsive as I am, I plan to spend this weekend wrapping. Trouble is that in the cottage, there’s precious little room for all those packages. I’d put them on the couch, but Sophie would bat them onto the floor when she wants to sleep there. She barely tolerates the Christmas pillow and bunny, although this morning when I got up, she was wrapped around that bunny. I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.

A decidedly un-holiday-like sour note this morning. We had a leak in our water meter box, on our side of the meter (of course! it’s never on the city side!). The plumber has “patched” it—his word—but warns that the next leak will probably mean replacing pipe (and digging up the lawn) all the way to the house. He speculates the pipe is original to the house, which makes it almost a hundred years old. As I count my blessings, I’m grateful that we can fix this without cancelling Christmas. I know that would be the choice in many households.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Brinner heralds the Christmas season

Two or three years ago a small group of friends got to talking about how good it occasionally was to have breakfast foods for dinner—pancakes, fried potatoes, bacon and sausage, and so on. The upshot was we had a pot-luck meal we christened “brinner.” Everyone brought a breakfast food to an evening gathering.

But then we all got busy, got together less, and no one mentioned brinner—until recently when someone suggested we should revive the tradition. So tonight, there was brinner with Jordan and Christian hosting.

One of the problems with such a meal is that everyone tends to bring sweet or starchy dishes. We had cinnamon rolls, that wonderful hash brown potato casserole, pancakes and syrup, carrot cake, and a cranberry cake. But one person balanced the meal by bringing bacon and sausages, and someone else contributed an egg-and-green chili casserole.

Wine flowed and so did conversation as we caught up with each other, discussed neighborhood doings, speculated about new neighbors who will be moving into our tight little area. We even spent time on changes in local traffic and parking regulations. No wonder one person, who will remain anonymous, broke into bars of “God  Bless America.”

A fitting way to mark the beginning of the holiday season. Jordan and Christian have their Christmas decorations throughout the house and a fresh green tree still in its wrappings, where it will stand in full splendor when decorated. Christian takes great care with decorating the tree, a project that sometimes takes him a week.

In the cottage of necessity I have a small artificial tree and am grateful for it, even though I have spent a long life railing against artificial trees. This year, when my tree came ou of the attic, I realized it has over the years grown scrawny, with a big gap in the middle. Plus half the lights no longer work. A new tree is on order and should be here soon.

Meantime I have touches of Christmas. When I was making the cranberry cake today, I reached for the salt on the shelf where I keep it over my work space and saw that Jordan had put a up Christmas plate, on a stand, that has special memories for me—probably at least forty years old, it pictures a family of mom, dad, three kids, and an infant in a carrier decorating a tree. It is of course me, the children’s father, and my four children. Jordan is the infant.

A glass brick with Christmas lights inside—how did they do that?—sits on an occasional table, a Christmas tree pillow and a soft, stuffed bunny in a Christmas outfit are in a chair (Sophie has a problem with that because it is her chair), and Santa Mac, a Scottish Santa, shares a bookcase top with a folk art Saint Nicolas. I feel very festive, and it’s wonderful to be surrounded with decorations that all carry fond memories.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it is Advent, a time of anticipation, of hope, of gratitude. A special times of the year.

“God bless us, every one.” With a tip of the hat to Tiny Tim.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Sophie and I are settled back in the cottage, after our adventure in Tomball. Colin, Morgan, and I set out this morning before nine o’clock under gray, drizzling skies. The drive offered another nice chance for me to visit with Colin. Morgan had her Air Buds or whatever in her ears, listening to music. It didn’t seem like a long drive, but it was—we were eleven minutes late to meet Jordan, Christian, and Jacob at the Health Camp in Waco.

Do not be misled. The Health Camp is anything but a health food restaurant—the menu is limited to various forms of burgers, a grilled chicken sandwich, Frito pie, and Frito pie salad. The last item puzzled us—Morgan and I could not envision adding lettuce to Frito pie. We all had burgers, but poor Jacob ate his (and a rich chocolate milkshake) in the car, babysitting Sophie. We would have chosen a patio table, but the skies were still threatening.

My kids are beyond good to ferry me back and forth as they do. Colin was expecting to drive me all the way to Fort Worth, but Jordan volunteered to meet him in Waco—about two and a half hours from Tomball and an hour and a half from Fort Worth, Christian and Jacob, hardcore Baylor fans, make the drive fairly frequently for football games.

Just as I was basking in the glow of how good they are to me, I realized everyone had a hamburger but me. Jordan and Colin each thought the other had ordered it. So that got straightened out, and I had my very own greasy cheeseburger—not usually my choice, but the kids love that place.

We were back in Fort Worth by a little before two, and by five-thirty I was unpacked, everything put away, and I’d had a nap. It’s called being compulsive. Jordan brought out some of the cheeseball she’d made for Thanksgiving dinner, and we had a delightful happy hour.

I would call the trip to Tomball a rousing success—I enjoyed it a lot, got some work done, ate more than I usually do, and slept a lot. Visited with people I enjoyed, got to sit by the lake, did a good bit of reading. Colin and Lisa and the grandkids waited on me to the point I felt over-indulged, but they were sweet and kind about it.

Every trip has its hitch—this time it is that my car and house keys are still in Tomball. I remember saying to Colin, “I’m putting my keys in the side pocket of the car. Don’t let me forget.” Of course, we both forgot until I got home and couldn’t find them. As Jordan pointed out, I never should have taken them in the first place—obviously, I didn’t need them.

Sometimes there’s a letdown coming back from even a short vacation, but none such here because I had such a warm welcome. Jordan had Christmas decorations up in the cottage and fed me a great dinner—yeah, you got it: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole.

I had a great time, but it’s good time, but it’s good to be home.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The morning after

I love that morning-after-the-holiday feeling. The pressure is off, though I readily admit with Lisa preparing the feast, I was under little pressure. Maybe it’s anticipation that adds a bit of spice to the holiday—waiting for company, waiting for the meal. Anyway, that feeling is gone by morning, and I feel free to sleep late and sort of float through the day.  Early this morning, a dense fog contributed to the lazy atmosphere. It has gone now, but the day is cloudy and uninspiring.

I may not have had the hostess pressure yesterday, but I do want to protest that I did my part for the meal. Because I asked how I could help from a sitting position, I got the great privilege of peeling apples and potatoes. When Lisa plunked the bag of apples down in front of me, I asked weakly, “All those apples?” She smiled (a bit mischievously) and said, ‘Yep.” And do realize how many potatoes it takes for mashed potatoes for thirteen? I’m now even more in favor of mashing red potatoes with the skins on!

Dinner was traditional and so good—I think I forget from holiday to holiday how much I like turkey and gravy. And Lisa, despite being a Texan, made ‘northern” white-bread stuffing—my favorite dish perhaps of the whole meal. An updated version of green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, pistachio salad, and rolls. All wonderful. And of course it had been preceded by bountiful appetizers—a vegetable platter, a sausage-and-cheese platter, a French onion dip, hummus, guacamole—need I go on?

I haven’t yet had a piece of apple pie. After dinner, which we ate about 3:30, I suddenly found myself alone in the dining room—I think boys had gone to watch football and the ladies to see Lisa’s parents’ new house. Turkey had worked its proverbial effect, aided by a bit of wine, and made me sleepy. Plus the a/c was running full steam, and I was freezing—my internal thermometer does not sync with the rest of this family. So, full and sleepy, I snuck off for a nap. After a bit, I was vaguely aware of the hum of conversation of many voices but too comfortable and cozy to rouse myself. Two hours later, I joined everyone, just as some guests were leaving. I’d totally missed dessert.

Among the guests was a longtime friend of Colin’s—they tended bar together in their salad days—and his wife and two teenage sons. Alirio, a native of Colombia, just retired after twenty-two years with the Border Patrol. Somehow, after my nap, I ended up at the now-clear dining table with those two—lots of catching up to do, but we also talked about everything from raising kids to politics. For at least two hours. Serious discussion, interspersed with bits of humor—no, Alirio, I did not “yell” at you all those years ago for speaking Spanish at the dinner table, when I was trying to encourage Central American students to speak English. I gently suggested.

It was the kind of sustained exchange of ideas I think you only have with people you don’t see often. I did ask once if Alirio had anything to do with immigrant caravans, and he put his head in his hands and said, “It was horrible, horrible.” After a minute, he added, “Still is.” I didn’t pursue it.

One big takeaway for me: Colin and I, though basically in agreement, look at things from different perspectives: he, once a science major and now involved in big business, looks at process and results, whereas I, after a lifetime in the humanities, focus on the human aspect of politics, as well as everything else. It was an evening that will long stick in my mind, and a thoroughly good holiday.

My hope is your holiday, whatever, wherever, and with whoever, was equally rich.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Happy hour by the lake
Sunny, clear, and gorgeous today, but the lake is not mirror-smooth like it was last night when Colin and I at out there with two dogs and watched dusk turn to dark. The wind is up today, and the surface of the lake is ruffled, the windmill (decorative only) spinning fast. Even the swimming pool has tiny waves. Lisa has suggested happy hour by the lake tonight, with a fire in the pit. We’ll see how that goes.

Sophie and I are adjusting to different schedules than we keep at home. In the cottage, I usually take a short after-dinner nap and then work until eleven or twelve. Here, I’m in bed at ten—and I’m the last one up in the house. I laugh at Sophie—having once been shut into the bedroom, she won’t go in there with me unless I bribe her with a treat. But about nine o’clock, she decides it’s bedtime and crawls into her crate. When I come into the room, she looks askance at me as if to ask, “Why are you up so late?” But after that first rocky night of being in strange surroundings, we both sleep soundly all night. And she no longer sits anxiously outside the closed door when I disappear into the bathroom—the first day we were here she didn’t want me out of her sight and seemed to think the bathroom was a black hole which would swallow me.

For me, adaptation is a bit more difficult. At home in my cottage, I can roll around on my Rollator and fix my meals, take care of myself; Sophie can come and go out the patio door at will. Here, the house is on many levels, so I pretty much live in the section that has the family room, bedroom I’m using, and bathroom. For morning tea, meals, and the like I have to depend on others—and it makes me feel like a bother, though all four Tomball Alters are sweet about taking care of me. And about walking Sophie—when she comes to me and barks, I have to call for someone to come take her outside on a leash. No fenced yard. It’s a learning lesson in gratitude—gratitude that this branch of my family cares enough to take care of me and my dog and cater to our needs, cares enough to have me visit them even though my visit entails inconveniences.

Adaptation has been good in another way. Everyone here is busy—Colin working from home, Lisa getting ready to feed a multitude tomorrow, the kids busy with whatever teens do, from phones to working out. Where at home I can distract myself with everything from cooking to Christmas shopping, here there are no distractions. I’ve gotten a lot of work done, some of it things I’d been putting off.

Dogs and people, I’ve decided, are adaptable creatures, if they want to be.

No happy hour by the lake. Clouds came out in the afternoon, and by five, it was almost full dark. And then we were off to Lisa’s parents house, with Morgan driving that short distance, carefully and slowly. It was fun to see the house—they just moved in last July after some family remodeling updated floors, counters, paint, and the like. Torhild, Lisa’s mom, is quite happy with it. Now, we’re home, bellies full of Norwegian hamburgers and noodles. It’s time to sleep.

‘Night all. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with thanks for many blessings and brings you the kind of day you want—a turkey feast or a tofu turkey, a crowd or dinner for two. Make it your day!

Grandma and Grandpa's house across the field
Somehow   going there made me think of 
Over the river and through the woods
to Grandmaother's house we go

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Livin’ the High Life

As I write, there is a huge window to my left, looking out on the swimming pool and then across a field to the nearest house (where my son’s in-laws live). Through the bushes I can see grandson Kegan kicking a soccer ball in front of his grandparents’ house, while Grace, the family dog, watches. Straight ahead, I have a lovely view of the lake. Couldn’t ask for a better place to write.

I am visiting my oldest son Colin and his family in Tomball TX and they are spoiling me. The picture above shows my breakfast this morning—one of Colin’s specialties is eggs Benedict. He uses Taylor pork roll instead of Canadian bacon, and he makes the Hollandaise sauce extra lemony. So good. It’s an elegant way to begin the day.

Yesterday for lunch we had matzoh ball soup, a cheese and meat platter, a wonderful hot spinach dip—and a festive crowd. Lisa’s parents were here along with some friends of Colin and Lisa. And dinner last night? Salmon for those that eat it, steak for the others. Count me among the salmon eaters. Along with tiny smashed new potatoes and a crisp and good coleslaw/kale salad. I can hardly wait to see what’s for dinner tonight, and I know one night we’re having Norwegian hamburgers. Lisa’s mom’s specialty, they are meat patties in a rich gravy sauce. I may come home twenty pounds heavier.

The plan is that Colin will meet Jordan and Christian halfway between Tomball and Fort Worth on Saturday for the “mom” exchange, but I have warned grandson Kegan I may stay a month (as usual, I overpacked and could easily do that). Poor Kegan is the one I have displaced from his room, and while he sleeps on the couch, I’m cozy in his new Queen-size bed. His room is small, but there’s plenty of room for Sophie’s crate.

Sophie too is getting the star treatment, mostly. Colin walks her early in the morning, and after that Morgan and Kegan are at the ready when she indicates she wants to go outside. She was locked in her crate for a while yesterday when Lisa’s dad was here. Like me, he worries about his balance, and we were afraid Sophie would jump on him in her enthusiasm. Later, she mingled with him without incident. She was crated again yesterday when Colin and I went to the store. So this morning, she wouldn’t even follow me into the bedroom when I got dressed—afraid of being locked up again.

Colin is working from home, and Lisa is busy with Thanksgiving preparations (there may be as many as 18 people), so I’ve been working at my computer. But my outing yesterday was a trip to Target. I was so impressed that Colin uses the self-checkout with such aplomb—until he had to call for help with the payment part—TWICE! He says indignantly that it was my card, not his technique.

Yesterday was sunny and lovely. Today is cloudy but only a bit cooler. Tomorrow is supposed to turn cold, so I’m hoping Colin and I can sit by the lake later this afternoon. It’s my most favorite peaceful spot these days.

Signing off from Tomball. Hmmm. I wonder what’s for lunch.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A football kind of a day

Pictured above are two happy campers who drove to Waco to watch Baylor whup UT. I’m sure they won’t lord it over the Austin branch of the family—or maybe they will. Meanwhile, back in Fort Worth, Jordan and I had a nice day together—she made tuna for lunch and helped me get myself together to go to Tomball tomorrow

But she too was watching the Baylor game—some of it in my cottage. She had me so cowed that when she went to feed the neighbor’s cat with a warning she’d be back to watch the game, I was afraid to change it to the news channel. As soon as Baylor won—well, with five second left but it was clear—she was off to friends’ house to watch the TCU game. She had urged me to go, but in all honesty I’m happier at home with a book.

Watching football never did much for me. Maybe I was off to a bad start, because I came from the University of Chicago which had abandoned the game long before I arrived on campus. In fact, the football stadium was famous for something entirely different—the development of the atomic bomb. I grew up with stories of how they almost blew us in the surrounding neighborhood to smithereens, but that’s another story.

When my ex and I arrived in Fort Worth for his surgical residency, we were often invited to TCU games by physicians. In those day—the sixties—going to a TCU game was strictly a dress-up affair. Funny to think of now. I remember one of the first games I went to. It was September, but coming from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri I associated football with cold weather and dressed appropriately, lugging a full-length coat to the game. Needless to say, I was a bit over-dressed.

Later, when I was single, Toni Newton, the wonderful woman who was assistant to Chancellor Bill Tucker, befriended me and used to invite me to the pre-game parties at her apartment, which was kind of across the road from the stadium. I went for the conviviality and for the delicious array of pot-luck snacks, and then I went to the game out of politeness. After a few of those evenings, I got so I went to the pre-game party and snuck home when others went to the game.

I have never since been to a game and only watch when I cannot escape. Tonight I was completely happy to stay home with leftover meatloaf (only medium good—freezing didn’t preserve it as well as I’d hoped) and the rest of last night’s spinach, which was delicious. And two molasses cookies—I am loving them. And, of course, the mystery I’m reading.

Sophie had a spa day today in preparation for travel—a bath, a trim, nails trimmed, a fresh scarf, the whole works. Lisa, Colin’s wife, does not like dogs on furniture and I don’t blame her. That’s certainly how I was raised. They have a big dog who wouldn’t dream of getting on the couch. Sophie on the other hand thinks beds, couches, upholstered chairs were meant for her, and try as I might I cannot dissuade her. So I thought the least I could do was have her clean. I’ll take her crate, where she happily sleeps at night. I usually displace my granddaughter whose bed is so high Soph can’t begin to think of jumping on it. Shoot—I can barely get into it. It always puts me in mind of the tale of the princess and the pea. (I guess you have to be a certain age to get that reference.)

Sweet dreams, y’all.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Taking part in life

Busy days

I knew it was a busy week, but I didn’t realize quite how bad until I got up one morning and discovered the breakfast dishes from the day before still in the sink! And then there was the day I took a nap, woke with a start and wondered, “Why am I in bed? Did I forget to get up this morning?” Some weeks go by without my feeling that I am engaged with the world. This week was definitely the opposite, and I loved it.

Part of what kept me busy and distracted, of course, was the impeachment hearings. I wouldn’t say I was glued to every word—I tend to wait for summaries I trust. But I kept it on, watched the way people talked and held themselves, and listened intently only occasionally. I am in awe of the quiet, calm professionalism of the career people from the state department, and I am mightily impressed that women made such a strong showing. Maria Yovanovitch, Jennifer Williams, Laura Cooper, and Fiona Hill were unflappable, knowledgeable, self-confident, quite a contrast to the sloppy posture and presentation of their Republican antagonists. I saw a cartoon depicting Devin Nunes as Dopey, Gym Jordan (somebody buy him a jacket!) as Sleazy, and Castor, the Republican lawyer, as Sleepy—he was slouched so far down in his chair, he was almost horizontal. Not a pose that bespeaks alert intelligence. In fact, I read somewhere that he elicited damning information, on trump, from people he questioned.

The men were no less remarkable—confident, knowledgeable, unshakeable. Bill Taylor got most of the accolades, but I was impressed by David Holmes. He seemed almost amused by and a little disdainful of some of his interrogators. All in all, it was quite a show. The question is now, what next? Republicans are crowing that they will never abandon trump—they apparently recognize his guilt but don’t care. Will they hold firm when push comes to shove? Will they take into account the various signs that indicate trump and his cronies are Russian puppets, the abandonment of the Kurds being he most blatant. The Ukraine affair may easily be tied to Russia too—just listen again to Dr. Hill’s testimony.

My week beyond watching TV was one of sociability—lunches at Black Rooster and Nonna Tata, where I discovered that my favorite dish, braseola, is still available if no longer on the menu; dinner at the Tavern, where I discovered my good friend Betty does not eat artichokes, even grilled and slathered in butter and lemon. Last night, while Jordan went to a work event in Dallas, Christian and I went to a Connections Dinner at church. The point is to get members to dine and visit with new faces. At our table there was only one face new to me, but the others were people I rarely talk to more than to say “Good morning” on Sundays, so it was fun. The food was delicious, prepared by Louise Lamensdorf, formerly of Bistro Louise (there are perks to belonging to UCC and Louise’s occasional dinners are one of them). It was a beef stew kind of dish but with distinctive seasoning, a little bit sweet and sour, and a wonderful vegetable and white bean soup. I believe she said the dishes were Tuscan.

So today, chilly and wet in the morning, was a perfect day to stay home and regroup. I did odds and ends at my desk—how did I get so many of them? And began to get things together to go to Tomball for Thanksgiving. I’ll go Sunday and be gone most of the week, leaving behind Jordan and Christian to host their first big holiday meal. Oops, no—I remember that we had Alter Christmas at their house  in Hulen Bend one year, but it was a long time ago.

And tonight, it’s me, a copy of Food & Wine, and a new cozy mystery. Life is good.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Lunch is a learning experience


Delightful lunch today on campus. Students in a class in the department of nutritional sciences annually present two luncheons, open to the public. Today neighbor Mary and I went to a “Fiesta” luncheon in the Bass Hall Living Room. My first time on that part of campus in several years, and I was overwhelmed—there are new buildings where I thought we would park, and the Bass Building is now connected to sort of an indoor commons. I was almost lost.

The living room no longer had living room furniture nor the small four-top tables I remember from luncheons several years ago. About twelve long tables, decorated with bright, Mexican-themed cloths, filled the room, the tables set with charger plates, flatware, water goblets, and—yes—cloth napkins. Mexican decorations on side tables made for a fiesta atmosphere.

Service was buffet style, so I was doubly grateful that Mary came with me—she got to park the car and then carry two plates and two desserts. Like the seasoned waitress she was in college, she can hand-carry, stacking plates on her arm. If I’d tried that, back when I used to help out at the Star Cafe, we’d have had two lunches all over the floor.

The carefully selected and planned menu offered green chile chicken enchiladas, homemade guacamole, homemade salsa, cilantro-lime black beans and rice, and tres leches cake. And every bite was delicious. We sat at a table with several faculty and staff from the college of engineering, and they were outgoing, pleasant, and talkative. Mostly we talked about food. I was lucky enough to sit opposite Anne Vanbeber, chair of nutritional sciences, and she put my uneaten enchilada (two is too many) on a plastic plate with my rice and some fresh guacamole for me to take home. Plus, she was interested to hear about my cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate.

Student introductions and a welcome from the class professor were followed by a drawing for door prices—Mary won $20 gift certificate to Salsa Limon. The whole thing was a win-win event—we had good food, good conversation, and saw education in action. We left with small cookbooks that held the recipes for all we’d eaten.

This is my second experiences with innovative programs at TCU in recent weeks. I may have mentioned that I am part of a study to see if the hearing-impaired (that’s me) can be trained to block out background noise. For forty minutes a week, I play a word game on my phone, with a sort of weird, bonging music playing in my ears. After two weeks I don’t know that I’m getting better, but I like playing word games. A student at the Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic is running the study as her senior honors project.

A wry comment from an English major: so nice to see other sides of the college experience besides football!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Bright skies, old friends, and dogs

When I was in elementary school, we had to memorize a poem about October’s bright blue skies. As I went out to meet a friend for lunch today, I looked up and almost recited that poem. It was the brightest, most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen, even if it was November and not October. A beautiful day that lifted the spirits.

Otherwise, Monday was, well, Monday. Baking cookies, odds and ends at my desk, lunch with my good friend, Fred, the man who saw me through graduate school. Love I that I can talk to him about the projects that interest me—few other people get excited when you talk about George Pullman, the Pullman railroad cars, and the Pullman riots in Chicago in the 1890s. Fred gets my enthusiasm—and I get his for the early aero plane culture and particularly the women pilots. Good lunch at the Black Rooster, where it’s quiet enough you can hear each other talk.and the sandwiches are great.

Interesting and fun happy hour tonight. In grade school and middle school, Jordan and Sarah were good friends. Although they were always friends, they drifted apart with adulthood and marriage. Recent events have brought them back close to each other in the last couple of years. I remember Sarah’s parents from those early days but hadn’t seen them in years. They came for happy hour tonight. In an interesting parallel, they now live in a cottage (converted garage/guest house) behind Sarah’s house, a situation so similar to mine.

You’d think given the connection and situation we’d have spent a lot of time “catching up,” but we really didn’t. There was a bit of talk about tiny house living—theirs is almost twice as big as mine and they have a real stove—and a bit about when the girls were young. But then there was a lot of talk about politics—we are all on the same page—and a lot of talk about dogs. Sarah has three Labrador pups, and Sophie was begging for attention from anyone who would love on her. We talked of dogs past and present. It always delights me to talk to people who care as much about dogs as I do.

Got most of my molasses cookies baked—maybe two pans left to go. A good project for tomorrow, when impeachment hearings will again be on TV. I can roll balls of dough in sugar while staring at the TV. I’ve decided of late that trump is taking way too much of my time and thought, when I could be doing more constructive things. But as I said in our discussion tonight, I feel a moral obligation to keep informed on what’s going on and to share the news when appropriate, offer my own opinions less frequently but occasionally. We talked at length tonight, without actually quoting it, about the saying that’s been around for a few years: This is not your father’s Republican Party. These are wild times we live in, and I can only imagine how history fifty years from now will assess them.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The sweet cookie monster and a sour thought

The cookie monster has hit our house—not so much the one that devours cookies, but the one that bakes them. For three weeks now, I have been consumed each weekend with making cookies, primarily for Jacob’s benefit. He gets them in his school lunch every day, but I also admit that I have them after my lunch and dinner. I remind myself of my late mother-in-law, who used to say, “Judy, dear, just a little sweet with my coffee.” I don’t have the coffee, but I sure like topping  meal off with something sweet. I’ve noticed that I almost never hit my chocolate stash if I have cookies on hand.

I started, of course, with chocolate chip cookies—to me, that’s the quintessential cookie. But when those disappeared, I made oatmeal raisin, because Jacob admitted to a real liking of them. Those are almost gone now, so today I made the dough for molasses cookies. That led to an interesting exchange. Me: “Do you like molasses cookies?” Jacob: “What’s in them?” Me: “Molasses.” Jacob: “What’s molasses?” How do you explain molasses to a thirteen-year-old? I’m sure if I let him sniff it, he’d say, “No, thanks. I’m not eating that.” But the cookie batter smells and tastes so good. Yes, I confess I licked the beaters and the spatula.

So now I have to bake them, which is tricky in a toaster oven. It heats too hot and fast, and I have to adjust. Made stuffed eggplant this weekend, and the top got all crusty and dry—too hot too fast.

While it’s fun to bake cookies for a teen, I think often these days that raising a teenager—or loving grandchildren—is fraught with perils that I never thought of when my kids were teens. I know I’m inclined to be a worrier, but danger seems to lurk everywhere. It’s not unheard of for Jacob’s school to be on lockdown, and while I’m glad authorities are so cautious, I can’t help but be alarmed each time. Surely a shooting won’t happen here—but that’s what the people of Santa Clarita thought.

On Facebook I see too many notices pleading for help finding missing teens. I know a lot are runaways, and I ache for the unhappiness that must cause them to make such a dangerous decision. But we also hear too much these days about sex trafficking, and I wonder how many of those kids have been outright kidnapped and sold. A horrifying thought. If Jacob is a bit late or plays basketball on the schoolyard at dusk, I can conjure up horrible thoughts. My other grandchildren are in a way fortunate that I don’t live close enough to worry about their every move.

But as I admitted, I am a worrier. I worry a lot about my dog Sophie and almost never let her out in the yard unless I’m at my desk where I can watch her. My fear? That dogfight people will come snatch her. When I see notices on the Neighborhood News or some such of dogs needing a new home, I almost always write and recommend that people register the dog with a recognized rescue service which vets prospective owners carefully. I’ve heard that dogfight guys will send their cute girlfriend to ooh and aah over what a good pet a dog will make, only to flip it as a bait dog. (As I write this, Sophie is sitting on the deck, across the yard, watching me.)

Probably I am a person with exaggerated fears. Sometimes I blame it on my childhood on the South Side of Chicago, where I was raised to be cautious—well, yes, scared. Other times I attribute my fears to the over-active imagination of a writer. Now if I could only translate those fears into best-selling mysteries!

On the other hand, there’s that old bromide: better safe than sorry. Be cautious folks—there’s a world of meanness out there. Having said that, I have to admit I cling to my belief that there is so much more good in the world than evil, and in people. It’s just those aberrations we have to watch out for.

Friday, November 15, 2019

My world is back in order, sort of

This is one of those nights when I really miss daylight savings time. By six tonight, the world seemed dark and gloomy—and a bit lonely—to me. Maybe more so because I briefly lost contact with the outer world. My computer and my TV, my lines to life beyond the cottage, both went out. I knrw what happened, just not how to fix it. And Sophie is the culprit.

For some months now, the crate that she appears to adore and that is too big for my tiny space has blocked her access to her favorite chair—my mom’s old wing chair. Yesterday, Sophie somehow figured out how to weasel her way up into it (Mom would not approve), but in so doing she disrupted the tangle of cords behind my desk. Last night, my computer screen told me to check the cable connection. I found an unattached cord but after much stewing and studying couldn’t find where it goes. Took a quick nap and figured it out—it had nothing to do with the wall power sources but connected my computer to my remote and much bigger monitor. Problem solved.

This morning, just a few minutes after I turned things on, both the computer and TV quit. I had to move the crate, leave my walker behind. and hold on to the desk to get back there, but I did it. Checked every connection, and they seemed fine. Jordan checked, said she thought the plug was just a bit loose from the wall, and fixed it. Computer came on; TV did not. Via distance, Christian said it needed rebooting. Jordan tried—nothing. She tried again—nothing. She came out this evening and tried—still nothing. Christian came out when he got home, turned it on, and there was a live picture. He had a good laugh, and we decided Jordan is an unrecognized genius.

So now I’m connected to the world, and what a day, a week it has been. I watched the impeachment hearings sporadically but was much impressed by George Kent and Bill Taylor and loved the standing ovation Marie Yovanovitch got today after her amazing testimony. It’s not been a good week for trump—in addition to the hearings, Federal courts have ordered the release of his tax records and the records of his International Trump Hotels, plus Roger Stone was convicted on all seven counts of perjury, and Giuliani’s buddy, Parnas, has apparently flipped. Giuliani himself is under study by Federal authorities I watched it all with glee.

On a different note, I’m struck by the innovations in technology, from various countries, that speak to replacing plastics with biodegradable materials—people are using lots of things in creative ways: clamshell containers made of coconut husks, vegetables wrapped in banana leaves rather than plastic, a biodegradable plastic made of fish scales, bamboo architectural elements that are apparently as strong as steel, disposable flatware made from avocado pits. All those point to ways to save our planet. Will they catch on? Probably not. The inventors have no money to develop their inventions, and, at least in America, the plastic industry is too entrenched and profitable. Just look at trump’s brief campaign for plastic straws. Discouraging.

But overall tonight, with my TV on “Washington Week,” I feel encouraged—by advances in world-saving technology, by triumphs of justice. It’s not just my world that is in order, but I really believe that the larger world is working its way back to sanity. A good friend tells me I’m dreaming, but sometimes dreams come true. Keep the faith, everyone.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On becoming a recluse


I went out to dinner with a good friend tonight and enjoyed it thoroughly. We went to the Tavern, had chicken sliders, deviled eggs, and a bottle of wine. It was the first time I’ve poked my nose out of the cottage since last Saturday night. There are, of course, extenuating circumstances, like the extreme cold snap we’ve suffered through the last few days. In the low twenties in the mornings, never higher than the forties. The cottage is not as cozy as I’d wish, but it’s warm if I wear layers. Who wants to go out in that extreme cold?

Still, I’ve been pondering the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a recluse, because much as I enjoy people and being out in the world, I find it increasingly easy to stay home. I don’t have to dress, don’t have to put on a public face, am not obligated to do anything but I want. At home I can lounge in comfortable clothes and do what I want. I have work at my desk, plus reading, recipe reading (a great time suck), the internet—I can easily keep happily busy all day.

As a young child and even a teen, I was almost painfully shy, something I’ve pretty much overcome over the years of a professional career. I made myself be social and learned to enjoy it, so much so that I often say I feed on the company of other people. Still that shy girl emerges every once in a while, and maybe that keeps me home from some occasions. I never was one to go alone to art openings or lectures or receptions. The best receptions,  to me, were the ones my work dictated that I organize. Then I was at work and in charge. Turn me loose in a large crowd, and I tend to be los.

There’s the complication of my walker. Increasingly, I follow Jordan’s dictate and don’t go places by myself where I would have to get out of the car and get the walker out alone, then reverse the process to get back into the car. And, tonight, when Betty asked if I wanted to go to a church supper, I said yes, but it’s a pain to take me to a buffet because I can’t go through the line for myself. I am forever grateful for the mobility that my walker gives me, but I recognize that it is a handicap. I’m grateful for the friends who willingly put up with loading and unloading the walker, letting me out at restaurant doors, etc. But if no one wants to go to a church dinner, for instance, I will choose to stay home.

Finally, there’s the possibility that my lack of ambition to get up and go is simply a symptom of aging—maybe it’s true subconsciously that I simply don’t have the energy that I did fifteen or twenty years ago, but I’d like to reject that as a way of thinking. I truly believe we’re only as old as we think we are—and I sure don’t think of myself in my eighties.

So there are all the excuses for my increasing tendency toward reclusiveness, but that’s just what they are—excuses. And I’m going to reject them all, because I think the life of a recluse is neither happy nor healthy. And I do recognize that is not healthy. Doctors tell us we need the Vitamin D from being out in the sunshine daily, and I know that I don’t get that, even though I spend most of my day by a big window.

There is a caveat to all this, and maybe it’s part of what’s spoils me. I am blessed with family and friends who visit often enough to keep the cottage from being a lonely place of solitude. I have happy hour guests two or three nights a week, and Jordan usually comes out in the morning—I look for her to start my day—and a couple of times during the day. Jacob tells me these days he’s too busy, and Christian is indeed too busy—I often don’t see him during the week. But I know they’re close by.

Here’s my resolve: I’m going to get out and about more—but only if it warms up.
PS: As I often do, I did an internet search for free images to liven this post. When I typed in "recluse," I was rewarded with multiple images of spiders. There's a moral there someplace, but I'm too tired to pursue it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Something’s awry in the world

Oh, I don’t mean the big stuff that has obviously gone wrong in our world—impeachment, DACA, Jimmy Carter having brains surgery, all the corruption being revealed, climate change is destroying the planet. It’s enough to boggle the mind, but little things are amiss, I blame it on the cold front.

Yesterday Jordan brought her morning tea out to sit for a minute in the cottage, as she often does. I can tell you precisely when the cold front hit. When she came in and saw me bundled in a sweater and lap robe, in anticipation, she said, “Mom, it’s not cold yet.” When she left my patio doors it still wasn’t cold, but by the time she got to her back door—and, folks, this is not a big back yard—the wind was ferocious, her hair was blowing in all directions, leaves were swirling around her, and she could barely get the big sun umbrella down. For those who haven’t lived in Texas, the answer is yes, that’s how quickly our weather can change when a blue norther blows in.

Last night we were to have happy hour company—parents of a girl Jordan was close friends with in grade school and has re-hooked with in the last couple of years. I always liked the parents, and when Jordan suggested we invite them, I happily agreed. Jordan came out to straighten, as she always does when I’m having “special” company, and then left to get Jacob, asking me to put out some appetizers (we keep a drawer full of cheese, sausage, etc. for happy hour visitors). A little before they were due, I put out crackers in a basket, got out the cheese board, and was just unwrapping sausage and cranberry-coated goat cheese (does that not sound wonderful?), when she called to say they were re-scheduling. So there I was—wrapping cheese and sausage up, storing crackers and hoping they didn’t go stale. And I was all dressed up with no place to go, no one to impress. Christian saved the evening with  pot of chili, so good on a cold night, and the four of us had a happy supper in the cottage.

This morning Sophie began to dance round at, heaven help me! 6:30. I could hear her nails clicking on the wood floor. She was also coughing quite a bit, not unusual for her in the morning. I ignored it for a bit, because the house was chilly—it was 24 outside—and I was cozy in my blankets. Then I decided I’d give her a Benadryl and she’d sleep—wrong! At 7:20, she made it clear she had to go outside. She came right back in, but by eight she wanted to go again, and I gave up, got up.

This morning, when I should have been working, I had to fight with bill collectors. The security system sent me a dunning email, even though I had given them updated automatic deduction information last week. Got that straightened out with a cheerful representative, but it was the long wait until I got to her that frustrated me. Then I had to check the automatic deduction for my household/automobile insurance because the premium has gone up (of course).

All that out of the way, the world looks a little better tonight. It’s still cold, but the sun shone bravely today, and the future of DACA recipients is still uncertain—can you imagine living with that cloud over you?—but Jimmy Carter is recovering, public impeachment hearings begin tomorrow, and we had our usual Tuesday happy hour with neighbor Mary tonight. I told her I hoped she saw it as a compliment that we called it, “It’s just Mary,” and served leftovers—a bit of this piece of cheese and that, some herring left in the jar, a few Parmesan crisps—gosh, they are so good!

And to my credit, I baked the last of the oatmeal cookies, got all the dishes washed, and went through two cooking magazines to pull out the recipes I wanted and throw out the magazines. I need a clear and clean desk. Writing? What’s that?

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Veterans’ Day primer

Veterans’ Day originally began as Armistice Day, intended to honor veterans, living and dead, of World War I. On November 11, 1918, at five in the morning, a treaty was signed between the Allies in Europe and Germany. The treaty was to take effect at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”—11 a.m. November 11, although it was breeched all that day and shooting stopped only when darkness fell. Over the next year, the treaty was violated several times, and peace did not reign until the Treaty of Versailles, negotiated in 1919.

My father fought in WWI (makes me seem awfully old) for the Canadian army. He survived mostly unscathed, though he was gassed and ever after was subject to bronchial difficulties. When jet planes first whined over our Chicago home (right in the path of Midway Airport), if he was outside, Dad would instinctively duck and head for the garage. To him, it was the sound of incoming. But he never talked about his war experiences.

During WWII, the name of the day was changed to Veterans’ Day to honor all who had served, living and dead, in all wars fought by this nation. When I was young, the world almost came to standstill at eleven in the morning, as people stopped in their tracks to stand and face east for one minute, in honor of the veterans. It is almost an unknown custom these days, but this morning at eleven I stood in the cottage and faced east for one minute.

Another custom once associated with the day is the wearing of red poppies, inspired by the poem written by John McCrae when he saw the blood-red poppies, in reality a weed, blooming on a ravaged battlefield. A French woman, Anne Guérin, is generally hailed as the originator of the poppy custom, although an American woman, Moina Michael, a volunteer for the New York YWCA, was simultaneously inspired by the poem and worked to promote fabric poppies. Europeans still wear the red poppy on Armistice Day but in America, the custom has become associated with Memorial Day, which more specifically honors those who lost their lives. Fabric poppies are sold to raise money for servicemen.

World War I inspired literature—especially poetry—that, little known today, is both intensely terrible and beautiful. It is not the literature of patriotism, but rather works that portray and capture the horror of battle. McCrae’s poem is probably one of the best known.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

“. .. . the torch; be yours to hold it high”—words to remember and treasure in these trouble times in our country. On Veterans Day, let us honor and make proud the men and women who died to protect our freedom and our democracy.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

That kind of a Sunday

It was that kind of a Sunday

Sophie’s pose illustrates perfectly how I felt about today—it was that kind of Sunday. Once again, it took me a while to get going, though I did get my hair washed so as to be ready for church. But Christian pleaded exhaustion, and I went to church on the computer. Apparently, the national habit of turning everything into a designated holiday has reached the churches. Today was Higher Education Sunday, a special day I don’t remember ever hearing of before. But the sermon hit home with me—it was about how TCU and my church, University Christian, need and support each other. The community formed by those two institutions has been the center of my adult public life, and I was glad to hear the relationship affirmed, in spite of past occasions when the two took separate paths.

I would much prefer to be physically in church, but when that isn’t possible, I am grateful for the live streaming. Today neither the audio nor the video cut out, which happens too frequently and is so frustrating. The music, of course, is not as grand and glorious, but I still get a sense of a part of the week set aside for worship and inspiration.

Once the early service was over, I alternated between baking oatmeal/raisin cookies and a chicken casserole for supper. Not sure the casserole was a hit—personally I thought it needed salt, which is easily added. But I didn’t taste the wine/herb base I used. It’s a technique I used to do all the time with leftover turkey. Somehow it wasn’t quite the same. Jordan’s blue cheese salad was good.

Finished a cozy mystery that I really enjoyed—By Book or by Crook, a Lighthouse Library Mystery—and started an Alexander McCall Smith title, The Second Worst Restaurant in France. Despite the great popularity of his #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, I never could hook into those books and so have not been among Smith’s legion of fans, which always gives me the feeling I’m missing something. But I liked the title of this one, and novels about food always draw me in. Not far enough in yet to have an opinion.

Still basking in the loveliness of last night’s birthday dinner. Sue took this picture of Jordan, Christian, and me. As usual, they photograph wonderfully—I think that was a gene I missed, but this is a better picture of me than many. My dear late friend Bobbie used to tell me she didn’t know why or what it was but I really never did look good in pictures—Megan always said, “Bobbie tells it like it is.” And my mother told me that her father once said she took such a poor picture that the only place he’d hang it was in the barn. I think Mom passed that gene on to me.

Hard freeze tonight, but who needs a greenhouse? I have a shower stall.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

A lazy morning, a lovely evening

Saturday morning, and I was reluctant to get up. Let Sophie out early and headed back to bed, but she is ever quicker than I am, and we disagreed about who should get the warm spot I’d just vacated. I won, and she pouted off to the living room. By 8:30 I was browsing the news but reluctant to face the chores I’d laid out last night—cooking chicken for tomorrow night’s casserole and making a batch of oatmeal/raisin cookie dough, since Jacob said he loves those cookies.

About ten-thirty, I took Jordan to meet a friend to watch the TCU/Baylor game—managed to avoid the traffic jam by going back streets. Some will tell you I’m the queen of back streets in south and west Fort Worth—my preferred routes, which always makes me think of an older friend, many years ago, who tut-tutted at me that a straight line was the shortest distance between two points. She didn’t think about traffic jams and stoplights.

Back home I dug in and spent the rest of the morning doing those chores—by one o’clock I had the kitchen clean, cookie dough and cooked chicken in the fridge, and lunch eaten. Prowled the New York Times Cooking Community Facebook page—what do you say to a woman who begins a post with “I hate hamburger. So bland and tasteless,” and then asks for recipes. I wouldn’t dare make a suggestion. Printed off a full color picture of a charcuterie platter with all  the ingredients labeled—good guide for us sometime, since Jordan and I loved to do those platters. And I even jotted down some good Christmas ideas and found a bright red outfit I think I want. I reluctantly parted this fall with the red plaid velvet shirt I’ve worn every Christmas Eve for years. Nap time!

Tonight, Jordan, Christian, and  I went to a lovely dinner party to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the husband of my Canadian daughter (explanation for those who don’t know: Sue and her two children, now well grown but young then, lived next door to me for several years; she moved on, bought a house, fell in love with a guy from California and enticed him to Fort Worth; she calls me her Fort Worth mom because her mom is far away in Ottawa, Ontario). We absolutely adore Teddy and were honored to be able to celebrate with him. I'm only sorry we didn't get a picture of him. He did single me out as the only person in the room a year older than him, and I reminded him it's a bit more than one year.
Dinner was at Nonna Tata, a tiny charming restaurant that serves country Italian food and seats at most 22—that’s how many there were tonight.  Wonderful food—antipasto, two pasta dishes, salad, rosemary bread, chicken and capers in what seemed like a yogurt sauce and was absolutely delicious, and an apple something for dessert. Great food, twice as much as I needed, and that much wine too. Good company, and a happy atmosphere. Lovely evening.