Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Welcome visitors


Not Rose, but close.

Sophie had a dinner guest tonight—and she was only medium graceful about it. Rosie, a yellow lab twice Sophie’s size and just her same age, was graceful and ladylike and not at all interested in Sophie’s food or her treats. I fed Soph early, in anticipation of the visit, but she hadn’t had her treat or eaten her second helping, which is kibble, when Rosie arrived. I put the kibble out of the way to avoid disagreements. The dogs got along but pretty soon Sophie began her demanding bark—I gave each of them a treat, but Rosie, unfamiliar with that treat, declined it. And Sophie barked until I gave Rosie’s treat to her.

Then she began to bark again, which made conversation difficult. I tried fresh water. I tried everything. Finally, Rosie’s person suggested it was the kibble. I gave Sophie that, she ate and settled down on the floor. At one point, she was lying so close to Rosie I thought they were cuddling.

Rosie’s human is Babette Hale, columnist, publisher, and short story writer. Her collection, A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers won the 2021 best short story award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Babette is also the widow of Leon Hale, longtime columnist for the Houston Post who died just over a year ago at the age of ninety-nine. Hale’s columns, musings on everyday life often down back roads, were legendary in Texas and his fans legion.

Babette and I have known each other a longtime but really bonded after we both sort of retired—and got new pups. I said tonight it was the dogs that brought us together, but she said it was also cooking and writing. And those were the topics tonight—the kind of intellectual discussion none of us get often. Shared interests, shared subjects—such fun. Babette lives in Winedale and was stopping in Fort Worth on her way to Santa Fe (yes, jealous—I wanted to sneak Soph and me into the back seat of her car!).

So what did I serve to someone who says we bonded over cooking? An appetizer of goat cheese with pesto; a crab salad—halfway through the meal I confessed it was Krab, faux crab, really whitefish—she said it tasted more like lobster than crab, and who’s to argue with that?). For dessert, chocolate bon bons from Trader Joe’s—small chocolate covered bites of ice cream and cookie. A good light meal.

As so many people do, Babette had trouble backing out of the driveway. I swear I had the dishes washed before she successfully hit the street. But what a lovely evening.

Otherwise, not a lovely day. Not a bad one, but not lovely. This morning it took me until almost eleven-thirty to read and respond to emails plus read the news of the day and do a quick check for messages on Facebook. I find the news of the Democrats increasing approval—both mid-term candidate and the president—an occasion for cautious encouragement, though I never want us to become over-confident too soon. But I am increasingly appalled at the arrogance and disregard for our country that trump showed in stealing security documents.

I suspect I’m preaching to the choir here, but I find the possibilities of what he may have already done with them, who he may have shared them with, increasingly frightening. It may be the one most blatant case of treason ever in our history, and I am anxious to have him punished to the full extent of the law. We cannot live in peace until that is done. At whatever cost. (If I weren’t a lady, there are several things I would say to Lindsey Graham.)

Locally I am perturbed by what I just found is a new Texas rule: schools must display a banner or whatever that says, “In God We Trust” and displays the American and Texas flags. I love the poster who suggested it be on a background of rainbow colors, since the background isn’t specified. Yay to the Carrollton/Southlake ISD which has rejected the signs (and I thought they were a leader in book banning—got to rethink that.) The power of the alt-right Christian movement scares me more than I can say, and this is just one little ripple.

It is in the seventies tonight, and my patio door is open. Poor Rosie couldn’t figure out how to go in and out of the flexible screen door, no matter how often we showed her. As Babette asked tonight, “Why is it so humid if we’re in the midst of a drought?” At any rate, I am enjoying the cooler temperatures, sorry that the rain has skirted all around us.

Time for all good dogs and the rest of us to be asleep. Sweet dreams. I bet Sophie is dreaming of food and treats.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sadness and Safety


Hiding from the world
behind a book.

I was horrified a day or so ago to learn that a seventeen-year-old and a five-year-old had died and an eighteen-month-old was wounded in a daytime drive-by shooting in a peaceful neighborhood. Then this morning I read of two more shooting death of males seventeen years old. Put aside the fact that I have four grands who are close to or at that age in my family, I am saddened. My first thought was, “We are shooting our children.” Today I read of a twelve-year-old in California who shot a classmate.

I am so weary of those who proclaim loudly if we outlaw guns, only the bad guys will have guns. Or laws don’t matter. It won’t work. It works in other countries, and it can work here. We have got to get guns out of the hands of young people and the mentally ill. There’s absolutely no excuse for the horrific statistics of gun deaths in this country—so many of them our children. I don’t even know what to say about the greed that perpetuates this killing—congressmen who pocket gun lobby money, gun manufacturers who are making enormous profits. They are all stepping on the broken bodies, slopping through the blood of dead children.

Today I answered a political questionnaire—I usually don’t do that because they always end being a guise for asking for money. This though was from Sarah Longwell, founder of Republicans Against Trump. I respect her common sense, and I knew I wouldn’t feel guilty about not giving money to Republicans, even good ones, so I answered. It was straightforward, asking what party if any I identified with, how I voted in 2020, how I intend to vote in November. Then I was stumped: what one issue was most important to me. I wavered between gun violence and abortion. Ultimately, I chose abortion and now I’m second-guessing myself. The conservative stance on both issues is immoral, selfish, cruel—I could go on and on.

But as most things are circular, that brings me to Greg Abbott. Beto warned us Abbott would dump a lot of money into advertising, and now we’re seeing it. I’ve seen the same ad countless time—a casual Abbott in a sport shirt is sitting in a restaurant. Plastic dispensers for ketchup and mustard are at his elbow. You know—good guy, one of us, eats ketchup on his burger. But one thing is wrong: the restaurant is totally empty except for Abbott. If it were Beto sitting at that table, he’d be chatting with someone, the restaurant would be noisily full, people everywhere, some waving Beto signs.

Consistently I’ve noticed the Abbott keeps his distance. He’s on stage, above the audience, sometimes alone. Beto on the other hand is in the midst of the throngs of people who come to see him. He really is one of us. Abbott is not. Mean, little man. Who favors guns and letting women die from toxic pregnancies. Who knows nothing about medicine, the female body, or the female reproductive process, but oh boy, can he make laws. Why require seventeen-year-olds to take gun safety courses or be licensed? Might hurt Abbott’s big business buddies. Just like fixing the grid would.

Okay, Judith, stop. You’re rambling and getting carried away. It’s easy to do.

Distant thunder rumbled late this afternoon but, alas, no rain. Mary Dulle is back from almost a month at Chautauqua, so we had a happy hour visit, caught up on news. Then she and Joe went off to supper, Jordan and Christian went to a concert, and I heated leftover spaghetti. A thoroughly pleasant evening. Tonight I’ll do some menu planning and then settle down with a cozy mystery. No sign of that rain.

It's nice to feel safe from the world. Maybe that’s fooling myself, and none of us ever are really safe, but for now it’s nice to retreat into a fictional world when reality seems to much with us, from national and local politics to drive-by shootings.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Chicago longings, a cooking weekend, and some good visits



View from Chicago's Lower Wacker Drive
How can I, who dislikes skyscrapers, be homesick for those tall buildings?
But I am.

Jordan Elisabeth Alter Burton (you know how when you’re angry you call kids by their full name? That’s what I’m doing here!)—that girl! Is besieging me with pictures of Chicago. Today it was several, including at least two of her enjoying drinks, apparently taken along lower Wacker Drive by the Chicago River. When I lived there, I never went anywhere near the river, but when my kids and I went for a visit six years ago, we had a hilarious time on Lower Wacker Drive, including a picture of me in front of Trump Tower (Colin tricked me into it) and the river architecture tour. Even worse, she sent me a video of what she called “my lake” in one of its better moods, with the water a deep blue and fairly gentle waves splashing against the shoreline rocks. That naughty child knows she’s making me homesick for my hometown.

I know all I have to do is damp down my dislike of flying, and I could be in Chicago for a long weekend. Any or all of my four kids and maybe some others would go with me. We’d stay at the Palmer House and drive by my childhood home, which Jordan apparently didn’t get to do this time. We’d take the transport chair, so walking wouldn’t be a challenge for me—though when we were there before, my sons took turns in seeing who could push me up and down ramps the fastest. But it’s doable, and I am tempted, and Jordan Elisabeth Alter Burton is tempting me all the more. She knows it too.

As is often the case, this was a cooking weekend for me. Friday night, Jean came, and I made Salade Niçoise with smoked salmon. I set it on a bed of spring mix greens and dressed it with sour cream diluted with lemon. I loved the salad ingredients, especially the smoked salmon, but the dressing didn’t work for me. Too thick, too hard to spread. Last night, Christian and I were home for supper, and I made a pot of spaghetti sauce that I’d been craving—good but heavy. I still have leftovers in the fridge.

Tonight, a friend had to cancel our dinner plans because of serious illness in her family, so I fixed part of what I would have fixed her—the turkey tonnato, but without the baked spinach casserole and broiled tomato I had planned. Instead, I fixed myself a salad of lettuce and avocado, dressed with Newman’s Own Vinaigrette and grated pecorino cheese. A good meal, but I was glad I hadn’t served it to a guest. I requested quarter inch slices of turkey from Central Market and got paper thin slices that are hard to deal with. It wasn’t the dish I’d envisioned. Tonnato sauce basically combines mayonnaise, tuna in olive oil, a bit of anchovy, some lemon juice and some capers—whir it in the processor. It’s good but a strong flavor, and you either like it or you don’t. I do.

But it was lovely to have visitors over the weekend. Jean and I had a good, catch-up visit on Friday night, and I think next weekend she’s going to force me out of my cottage to go to dinner. I’m looking forward to it, though I have a bad habit of backing out at the last minute. Not this time, I tell myself.

Saturday night, Jaimie and Greg walked up for happy hour, bringing granddaughter Ophelia. I had purchased a Beto yard sign; then I gave him some money—that $37 which is the mysterious figure he’s arrived at that will put him over the top—and he sent me another sign. So, I offered it to Jaimie, who was glad to have it. They came to get the sign…and stayed to visit. Ophelia was appropriately shy in a house she didn’t know with an adult she doesn’t know (thanks to Facebook, I know her a lot better than she knows me). When I asked if she liked pre-K or days with Grammy better, she said, “Both.” That child is a diplomat. Jaimie thinks of all kinds of creative activities for her, like cooking their way through the alphabet. Ophelia is also one of those children who early on looks like she understands the secrets of the universe in a way that most of us mere mortals never will. I had a child like that, and I recognize it.

So it’s been a pleasant weekend, hot but not too hot, good food, good company, some writing done, but I didn’t beat myself up about it. I am ready for Jordan to come home, but this coming week is shaping up to be busy. And that’s a good thing.

How does your week look?

Friday, August 26, 2022



The view of the Highlands from Stirling Castle

As I write, I have friends just back from a few days in LA and before that a longer stay in far north Scotland; other friends are in New Mexico, Pecos and Taos specifically, and one of them is only recently back from a tour of Scandinavian countries. One of my daughters is in Chicago, one son just back from LA, one son-in-law in Nashville at a music camp. My friend Jean has recently been to Mackinac Island, before that New York, and is making plans for a winter trip to Santa Fe, while Jeannie, who also went to Mackinac, is going to the Galapagos and then will be in on the Santa Fe trip. Mary is going to Galapagos, and Babette will stop in Fort Worth on her way from Winedale to Santa Fe. The whole world is traveling.

Meanwhile, the lawn service guy and I spent time looking out the window at some decorative grasses that are not one bit decorative. Mostly brown, they are lying limp on the ground—and were before the awful heat so that wasn’t the cause. This is the third thing we’ve tried in two smallish beds outside my desk window. And he said our pentas are the saddest he’s ever seen. (He has a horticulture degree from A&M, so he knows what he’s talking about). We have decided to put wildflowers in the two beds where the grasses are, and I will live with puny pentas until October when it’s time for mums. The wildflower beds will not be cheap—replanting beds usually involves a three-man crew, and time is money. My son says I pay too much for lawn care.

Tonight, Jean is coming for supper. We’ll have store-bought guac for starters, a smoked salmon Salad Niçoise, and a splurgy piece of chocolate cake for dessert. I usually keep smoked salmon on hand and often guac. I buy good wine, good quality meat and fresh fish, and my grocery bill is high for one person, though please remember that I feed four of us many nights. I haven’t yet bought the leg of lamb I crave, but I know I will someday. Or a rack of lamb.

You can see where this is going. I said to Jordan the other night that I know some friends and family think I spend too much on the yard and at the grocery, and she said, “It makes you happy.”

“It’s my travel,” I replied.

If I listed all the travel of my lifetime, I’d realize I’ve been far more places than most people. I’ve been to Scotland and Hawaii, California and Florida, New York and New Mexico, Seattle, Spokane, and Spartanburg, and more. Generally, I have great memories of trips, but the truth is I am not an easy traveler. I feel like the little old lady who, just off her first plane ride, was asked how she liked it. “It was all right,” she said, “but I never did put my full weight down.” I’m not really comfortable on flights, though when we went to Scotland on a red-eye, I was the one who slept while two of my grown children could not. But when I’m away, no matter how much I’m enjoying the new experience, I’m always counting how many “sleeps” (Jordan’s term) until I can sleep in my own bed again.

I do still have a bucket list of sorts. I never got to Alaska, and I’d like to do the inland waterway cruise and maybe visit Victoria on the way, see the abundant flowers, and have tea at the Empress Hotel. And I’d love to go back to the Scottish Highlands. But those are pipe-dream trips, given my mobility challenges. So I will content myself with wonderful memories of my one trip to Scotland. On a more practical level, I’d like to go back once again to Chicago, my hometown, drive by my childhood house, stay at The Palmer House that I’ve now written so much about. I could do that one. Just have to gear myself up to fly.

And I’d like to have a family get-together in Santa Fe. We used to go every Christmas, but now it’s been several years. I have some hesitation about the long drive. I love watching the flat Panhandle turn into the mesas of New Mexico as we head west, but ten hours in a car seat? Colin said, “We’ll rent a motor home.” Now that’s an idea to my liking.

Meantime, I’m content and happy in my cottage. I travel to the kitchen and the garden, though right now the latter is pretty pitiful.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

What offends you?


Is it people of color? The mention of slavery in our history? Trans-gender kids in our bathrooms? Obesity? The fact that maybe the Alamo wasn’t the glorious martyrdom we’ve always assumed? How about CRT, though if it offends you, you must be able to give a cogent definition. How about sex, straight, gay, or kinky? How about basic health education for our teens?

You know what offends me? Stupidity.

Taking offense is a purely subjective thing. There’s no standard measurement, nothing you can measure against. And yet school boards are rushing to remove books from libraries and classrooms if someone finds them offensive. And any parent can claim offense and trigger pulling a book for review. Two cases in the DFW Metroplex illustrate the idiocy of what’s going on. In the Keller ISD, the Bible was among the books pulled for review. I realize if you’re not a Christian, you may find the Bible offensive. So don’t read it. But don’t stop every schoolkid in the district from reading it. Or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Or a list of fifty other books. It’s been said so often, I hate to repeat it, but books stretch children’s minds, introduce them to new thoughts, prepare them for the world. If we curtail their reading, we’ll have a generation too uneducated to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

But locally, there’s an even sadder story—or at least started out to be. In Southlake, there’s a middle school named for George Dawson. Grandson of a slave, Dawson taught himself to read at the age of ninety-eight and wrote a book about his life when he was 103. The angry rumor went around the internet today that his book had been pulled from the shelves of the very school named for him, because, you know, we don’t want to talk about slavery. It might make some uncomfortable.

The truth apparently is that it was not pulled, and the lesson is that we liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call us are as capable of taking a good story and making it better as the Republicans who we accuse of disinformation. I repeated this story before I checked and subsequently learned a lesson. Hope you will too.

There were other stories of note today, and I had some random thoughts on them. President Biden announced a huge forgiveness program for student debt. Naturally, it’s controversial—if the man sneezes, it’s controversial. Most people are enthusiastic about the economic opportunities this will bring to some financially stressed families, who will then spend money and put it back into circulation in our economy. Conservatives, of course, denounce it. In our local newspaper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram which swings far right, a columnist called it bad economics, and another denounced it as devouring the poor—I don’t understand the latter. But so far, Biden’s economic moves have worked to benefit the country, and we are in much better shape than we were. Look for instance, at the Inflation Recovery Act with its cap on prescriptions costs for Medicare recipients. I have confidence the loan forgiveness program is not raising my taxes or yours.

But what gets me is the attitude of, “I paid my debt. Why shouldn’t they?” Due to corrupt loan practices, some student borrowers pay until they are in their sixties without measurably reducing the principle. There are a lot of horror stories out there, and I for one am glad to see people getting relief. Really? Just because you suffered, you want someone else to? I figure if I can make the next person’s path easier, good for me. That would make me happy.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell seems to be softening—is it age, or is he anticipating leaving the Senate? First, he admits Republicans won’t likely take the Senate because they have fielded weak candidates. He must mean Herschl Walker, Dr. Oz, and a few others. Now he has acknowledged that voter fraud is not a significant problem. He cites Kentucky, where there have been negligible numbers of cases. There goes The Big Lie, along with the frantic claims made by governors Abbott, DeSantis, and their ilk. A year ago, McConnell was among the loudest of Republicans charging voter fraud. I'm not sure what changed his mind, but I welcome it.

Finally, Greg Abbott’s abortion law goes into effect tomorrow. I think we should always call it Abbott’s Law, to remind folks who’s behind it. As of tomorrow, abortion is illegal from the moment of conception on, which strikes me as silly. Even physicians can’t pinpoint the moment and certainly most women can’t. I am left with the picture in my mind of Greg Abbott in his wheelchair lurking outside bedroom doors like a voyeur. Incidentally when I mentioned in a post recently that Abbott collected a huge settlement after his injury and then made sure no one else in Texas could get a similar generous settlement, one of his followers accused me of disrespect for the disabled. I wanted to yell, “Hey, I can’t walk without a walker! I have all kinds of respect for the disabled. But not for Greg Abbott.”

It’s an interesting world we live in, but I insist that the good people, those who will do to ride the river with, far outnumber the Abbotts and DeSantises. We just have to take power back.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Rain, rain, and more rain


Photo by Jean Walbridge

If you live in the Fort Worth/Dallas area, you know the news. And truly, wherever you live in the lower forty-eight, you have probably heard the news: we have had historic flooding in our area. When the drought broke, it did so with force. Tonight, flooding in Dallas was the first subject on the NBC Nightly News, with pictures of stranded cars, rescues, high water, and even water in homes.

As usual—and so wrong—Fort Worth was overshadowed by Dallas. But the situation was pretty impressive here. It started to rain last night maybe about eight or nine. I know it thundered mightily—Sophie will tell you—and I went to sleep about 11:30 to the sound of rain, woke up this morning to more rain. I assume it had been raining throughout the night, and it kept up until early afternoon. Steady, medium rain; then a light sprinkle; and then back to that steady rain.

The official measurement at DFW airport was nine inches and something. In my neighborhood, some gauges showed slightly over ten inches in twenty-four hours. As one newspaper reporter wrote, we got a whole summer’s worth of rain in one 24-hour period. There were something like 130-plus calls for high-water rescues and an astounding number of auto accidents. Familiar streets, including that in front of my former office, were chest deep in water, major thoroughfares closed. Fortunately, there are no reports of death or serious injury—a mirace.

Creeks have turned into raging rivers. Someone posted a picture of a tiny creek that runs off near the zoo (close to our house): it was a churning, swift-flowing torrent. I read where homes in the northeast portion of the city were evacuated because a stream left its banks, and there was water in some houses.

Jean, who lives in a retirement community downtown, on the 17th floor, overlooking the Trinity, sent pictures. The river was way out of its banks, over the walking path and the road next to it, with a lone pickup sitting askew in the water. I wonder if that driver knows how lucky he or she is to be alive.

Every year, there are people who don’t listen to “Don’t drown, turn around.” They think they can make it through standing water. They can’t. I read today that two feet is enough to sweep a car or SUV away. We tried hard to tell Jacob that at dinner. When I asked if he knew what to do when confront with water on the roadway, he said, “Go slow?” His mother and I both yelled, “No!”

It's a relief of course to have the long, hot drought broken. The temperature tonight at nine is 76, and highs in the low eighties are predicted for the next few days. Such a relief, though I must admit staying in as much as I do, I felt the extreme heat less than others. Still, as an Austin friend wrote, it felt like a fever had finally broken.

At first, I was tempted to say, rather poetically, “See? The earth heals itself.” But I don’t really believe that. These floods, like the drought, are part of climate change or, to put it more succinctly, climate disaster that man has wrought upon the earth. We have covered the world with concrete, destroying habitats that maintained the balance of nature, the vegetation that holds moisture for the earth. Our oil and gas and industries and luxuries and concrete heat up the environment, so there is no moisture. But today I read that because of the heat, the atmosphere holds more moisture, so that when it unleashes itself, we get torrential rain. I don’t pretend to be a meteorologist or to understand this thoroughly, but I wish someone with more wisdom would explain it. Meantime I know without a doubt that the weather in our world—hurricanes, floods, drought, long spells of extreme heat and then extreme cold, is getting worse, and it’s due to man-made climate disaster.

The bill that President Biden just signed is the first significant step toward fighting climate disaster. Still some states merrily burn fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. Yes, I’m thinking of Texas where Abbott has not seriously addressed the grid problem, despite his assurances. And West Virginia, though I don’t understand Manchin’s recent move where he may have turned tables on coal interests.

Like so much of our world, I wish for clarity so I could understand. Until then, I’m doing an ongoing rain dance. But I don’t want our new tree to get too much water so that its roots are standing in water. I am reminded of Elmer Kelton, the late, beloved Texas novelist whose The Time It Never Rained has been hailed as one of the few classic American novels to come out of the twentieth century. Some years ago, Elmer wrote an article entitled, “The Time It Always Rained.” He pointed out that too much rans brings problems, just as too little does.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Will success spoil Judy Alter?


Carnitas plate
I prefer mine this way rather than rolled into a tortilla

After my resounding failure with eggplant last week, I am happy to report a cooking weekend with a couple of successes on my part and a culinary home run for Christian.

Friday night, in the midst of the found dog episode (read last night’s blog) I made salmon en croute. I’ve never made Beef Wellington, though the idea intrigues me. But if you get right down to it, I like salmon better than beef. And truth is, I’ve been collecting salmon en croute ideas for a while. When I’d go through my recipes looking for things to cook, I’d linger over several versions, including one where an anonymous cook just winged it and described what she did. Finally last week, I chose one recipe, put the ingredients on our weekly grocery list, and fixed it. It was really good, but I won’t describe it here because I’m quite sure it will be my recipe of the week on Thursday’s Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog. I will hint, however, that I used the new canned salmon I ordered from Alaska Gold, and it was every bit as good as a fresh filet. If I haven’t said this before, Alaska Gold is a cooperative of small fishermen, so the fish is wild caught.

I read an article today about the recommendations of several chefs on ordering seafood, either to cook or in a restaurant. Unanimous, know your source. They particularly advised against farm-raised Atlantic salmon and any tilapia, which is always farm raised, often in less than sanitary conditions. From the small-boat supplier from whom I’ve boat tuna for years, I’ve learned that farmed fish is also taking over the Pacific salmon market. But there are reliable cooperatives, like Alaska Gold. And from Central Market I often order Verlasso salmon which is farmed in ocean water off the coast of Chile.

Anyway, to continue with our good weekend. Yesterday, Jordan said Christian would either try the turkey burger recipe I had or order in. He came out, and I showed him the recipe, and he said he’d try. Confession: I hadn’t really meant to bully him into cooking. I was prepared to do it myself, since this recipe clearly called for skillet burgers rather than grilled. But he took the recipe and disappeared into the house. What he created was really good. He added basil and something to a very basic recipe, but it was flavorful. And more important, it held together, which was his concern. The recipe called for a bit of mayonnaise, and I think that was the binding agent. Made delicious burgers with cheese, tomato, and mayo on a bun.

So tonight, It was my turn again, and by request I made carnitas. I’ve decided everyone’s carnitas are different, and I’m about to call mine “Gringo carnitas.” Most that you get in restaurants are shredded pork; mine are cubed. Years ago from a co-worker who had lived in Arizona I learned to cook a pork butt without the oven: you cube it and simmer in salted water until the water evaporates and the meat browns in its own juices. That plain version was served with a garlicky lemon sauce. But then I found a recipe for adding seasonings—bay leaves, cinnamon, clove, onion, oregano, orange peel—to the cooking water. And there was our carnitas meal.

Still cooking it was a problem. Several times I put too much water in, and it took so long to cook down that it was almost midnight before we ate. Tonight I measured scrupulously—2.5 lbs. pork butt and two cups water, but I decided my idea of simmer and what the recipe meant was far apart. When I kept it at a low boil, the liquid evaporated, and the meat browned.

Jordan and I have often served this with black beans straight out of the can, but today I gussied them up a bit. Sauteed chopped shallot in oil, added cumin, garlic, and oregano, omitted the green pepper the recipe called for (I really can’t tolerate them) and called it beans. Really a vast improvement. 

Can you tell I had fun this weekend? Otherwise, it was sort of ordinary, with the exception of the dog incident, of course. A lot of reading, a bit of writing, a lot of thinking, a couple of light rain shower for which we are grateful. Every bit is precious.

And so we head into another week, with the world in turmoil, here at home and abroad. I am inundated with political emails, which is probably my own fault for contributing to various races and speaking my mind. But what wears me out—and comes closes to antagonizing me—is that I get five or six emails a day from the same candidate. One minute the message is, “We’re pulling ahead. We can do this.” But not five minutes later an email will bemoan their loss and proclaim, “We’re packing it up. Going home.” Well, I know they are not going home.

I am a loyal Democrat, have been all my life, but it is frustrating to get repeated messages urging me to renew my membership. When I first tried, the Action Blue website said it could not perform this action; later, it accepted my money, but I still get lots of messages urging me to renew. I wrote once to complain about something and got a standard letter apologetically explaining that they simply can’t answer individual emails.

I hope it’s not an omen. I remain optimistic about a blue Texas.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

A disturbing dog story


I am deliberately not posting the real dog from this story,
because I don't want to stir the pot
This is for the algorithms. 

This is one of those “It’s always something” stories. As Jean said when she left last night, it’s never dull at the Burton/Alter compound. Last night, as I was cooking supper, I looked out the window over the driveway and saw a small, unattended dog. Thinking it was our neighbor’s dog, I called Jordan to go corral it and see that it was safe. Within minutes she reported that it was not the neighbor’s, but she had it on the front porch with water, food, and a dog bed.

The dog was maybe ten pounds, clean, well-cared-for but no collar. Christian noticed that even her teeth looked like they’d just been cleaned, and she was not hungry, nor thirsty, nor tired. We figured she came from our neighborhood or an adjacent one and put notices on all the email lists. No response.

Meantime, Jean was late for supper and finally came in saying, “I’ve been playing with the new dog on the front porch.” And that’s how the evening went—everybody played with the new dog. Eventually they brought her to the back yard, and it was like an impromptu party. Jacob held Soph on a leash, because poor Sophie just wanted to play, but the little dog was having none of it. Everyone assumed that since Soph is three times larger, she would hurt the dog. So the stray was loved and cuddled, while Sophie was restrained.

The report this morning was that the new dog—she desperately needed a name—was the prefect dog. Housebroken, calm, a little fussy about food but that was okay. Jordan slept on the couch to be with her, and the dog spent the entire night between Jordan’s legs.

This morning Sophie was desperate to get into the house and play with that dog, so she jumped at the back door. I got a call to lock her in the cottage for fear she’d hurt the new door. I reminded that it is a metal door. Sophie likes to lie on the patio of a morning, and I like to have my door open and get some fresh air. We spent some of the morning closeted in the cottage. I worried about the adjustment if the dog stayed.

The Burtons were off to our wonderful vet clinic, University Animal Hospital, where it turned out the dog was chipped. The registry called the owners, and Jordan and Christian came home to wait for these frantic, desperate owners to call. It never happened. They had been given the name of the rescue group from which the dog had been adopted but were told that the owners had a hold on any personal information. The only clue they got was that the owners lived in Fort Worth but not anywhere near us. The dog’s name was Muggles. As Christian said, it was not a good name.

Deductive reasoning: she’d been dumped. At the foot of our driveway for all we knew. It’s a nice neighborhood, and maybe they figured someone would take care of her. Although last night there was speculation and a little bit of weakening to adding her to our family, in the cold light of day, reality struck: we have three dogs, one with severe health problems, one with abundant energy (yes, that’s my Sophie). A new home was needed. Fortunately, Jordan has a friend whose sister-in-law wanted a dog, so today Muggles went to Dallas. If the owners claim her within ten days, they can have her, but at this point that is doubtful. After that, the adoption is final.

I have several thoughts about this, first and foremost gratitude that the dog is safe and in good hands. Beyond that, what were the owners thinking to dump a tiny dog on the streets? Did they expect it to find a new home, let alone survive without care? Did they have any idea of the danger they were subjecting that dog to? Muggles (she still needs a new name) was lucky, but abandoning a dog is heartless and cruel. Shelters are overcrowded with all those dogs quarantined people bought during the worst of Covid for company and now don’t have time for because they’re back to their full lives. But there are places and people who would take in a dog to keep it off the streets.

Did these owners not realize the dangers, especially for a tiny dog—her little legs were so thin I thought they might just spontaneously break at any minute. Dogs on the street suffer from hunger, thirst, cold, heat, predators both human and animal. Then there are cars—who knows if Muggles had any street sense? Probably not. I’m told organized dog fighting is not common in our area, but there are always horrific tales of bait dogs.

Lost and found dogs are one of the causes I am passionate about—reuniting lost dogs with their proper owners, making sure that those who claim them really are the owners, finding homes for the homeless and keeping them safe. There’s a huge network out there of shelters and animal health care professionals and just people like me who care. There is no reason, np excuse for anyone to simply dump a dog in the midst of a big city. If Muggles really was abandoned, my scorn for her former owners is without measure.

This afternoon there was a notice on our neighborhood email listserv that there was a stray dog on our street. Christian, standing with his back to the front door, told Jordan, “Do not go out this door. Do not go out into the street.”

Friday, August 19, 2022

A little cooking, a little reading … and a cloudy morning


Years ago, when my children were still very young, my newly widowed mom moved from North Carolina to Fort Worth. She lived just a couple of blocks from us, and she ate dinner with us almost every night. She and I team cooked. Since I learned to cook from my mom, I’m sure I learned a lot more during those sessions, though the thing I most remember is that she could not, would not throw away even the tiniest bit of leftovers. It did no good to remind her that two tablespoons of something wouldn’t go far in a family of six. Her solution was to put it in the soup pot.

Now it’s Jordan’s turn. We all eat together maybe three to five nights a week, and we cook in my tiny kitchen. Jordan never really cooked with me when she was young, and she is a good cook with a limited repertoire, so she, too, is learning. Last night we were making steak fingers, but there was more meat than frying pan space, so we cooked in batches. I suggested she fry the first batch, while I coated the second with flour, salt and pepper. It was an exercise in frustration for her.

“How hot?”

“Oh,” I said, “you know. Hot enough to get a crust but not too hot.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Until the pieces have a nice crust.”

Me, a little bit later, “Smells like it’s done to me.” Wonder why she gave me that sarcastic look (if looks can be sarcastic).

Dinner was good. The steak pieces just right. I serve them with lemon, which Jordan remembers from her childhood. I asked if she’d prefer pan gravy, but she said she liked the lemon.

I’m still following stories about educational gag orders. These are the places now in the news for classroom restrictions: All of Florida, and particularly Sarasota County; Bucks County, Pennsylvania, once the home of intellectuals; Keller, Texas, where administration seems to be stepping back on an ill-advised, knee-jerk reaction, which proves negative publicity and public outrage are effective; Jamestown township in Michigan where a small group loudly protested LGBTQ books in the library—they are about .001% of the collection—and defeated a tax proposal to support the library so now, with 85% of its funding gone, the library may have to close. Voter turnout was small, and citizens are fighting back in support of the library.

The day started as cloudy, and I was so encouraged. It was nice not to have the sun beating down. Reminded me of a old Reader’s Digest joke about the man who was vacationing in Florida, woke up, looked out the window, and said, “Another damn sunny day!” But now the sun is shining, and the temperature climbing though it’s not supposed to go over a hundred. One of my Austin friends, writing of the rain and sudden cool weather, said it felt like a fever had broken. I thought it was a perfect description. They are getting rain in Central Texas, and we up north have hopes for the coming week.

That old joke prompts me to ask how many remember Reader’s Digest and its wealth of jokes? When I was young, we had a book that was a compilation of those jokes—oh boy, I almost had that thing memorized. Older and fancying myself a writer, that was one market I really wanted to hit, but it was a tough one. I came close because an established author introduced me to an editor. But I never quite made it. My story was about a teenage girl, the daughter of friends, who was getting in trouble at home, keeping company with the wrong crowd, and was sent to live with us, with our blessing. When her boyfriend got out of prison in another state and came for her, she ran away with him. I had to go to the police station, retrieve her, and send her back home. For a few nights there, my then-husband slept with an iron pipe by the bed. Today, I’m sure it would have been a gun, and the boyfriend would have had a gun. I can’t help thinking today’s proliferation of guns might have meant a totally different and disastrous outcome. Occasionally, an out-of-the-ordinary episode like that jumps into my mind. Maybe I should write that memoir.

And maybe I’m rambling.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

What are your children are reading?


The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
Pulled from school shelves in Keller, Texas

This morning I posted my weekly cooking blog, Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Normally, that would have done it for me for the day. But the following is a continuation of yesterday’s blog and something I really wanted to say. I realized a bit of it is date-limited—the Rushdie readings—so two blogs in one day. Maybe I’ll take a vacation tomorrow, depending on what my little world and the larger world offers.

In a hangover from my publishing days, I subscribe to an online newsletter for booksellers called Shelf Awareness. Today’s edition had a large serving of irony. The opening story was about a planned reading tomorrow on the steps of the New York Public Library in support of Salman Rushdie and his continuing battle for artistic freedom, for writers to be able to speak their minds, share their thoughts. Several of his close friends, all authors, will read selections form his work. It will be livestreamed on Friday, August 19, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET. The authors are all from PEN America, and most names were unfamiliar to me. Rushdie obviously moves in more elite circles than I do, but I certainly applaud the effort. Calling this a watershed moment for the freedom to write, a cause that is synonymous with Salman's life and work,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. said, “We are gathering as friends, associates and admirers to amplify Salman's words and convey our warm wishes, but also to rise in defense of principles that will not be extinguished by violence."

I have never read Rushdie though of course I have followed his career as many of us have. But since the attack on him, I’ve learned a lot more, not just about his writing but about his dedication to freedom of the arts. I’m going to try (yes, that’s the verb) to read some of his work now. I’m even fascinated that he was married to Padma Lakshmi who has many facets to her career, but who I always think of as a food writer.

So much for Rushdie. The very next article in the newsletter highlights the increasing effort to control what students in our schools read. The statistics are appalling. Educational gag orders--state legislative proposals to restrict the freedom to learn and teach—have increased by 250% compared to last year and have become law in 19 states, affecting 122 million Americans.  According to a report from PEN America, 137 gag orders have been filed in 36 states so far in 2022, compared to 54 gag orders in 22 states through all of 2021. Only a small percentage of those proposals are signed into law, but the trend is disturbing.

Racism is behind the majority of gag orders, but LGBTQ and identity issues are not far behind. And the consequences are getting more severe—fines and now even some jail time. And the move that first began in elementary schools is now moving even into higher education. To quote Nossel, PEN America CEO, again, “Lawmakers are undermining the role of our public schools as a unifying force above politics and turning them instead into a culture war battleground. By seeking to silence critical perspectives and stifle debate, they are depriving students of the tools they need to navigate a diverse and complex world."

Some incidental notes: Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin spoke last week on the Chautauqua platform where Rushdie was attacked and told the audience that one of his books is banned in Iraq—and in Texas.

Meanwhile in Keller, administration seems to be feeling the heat. The superintendent of the Keller ISD said today he expects some of the books pulled from shelves to be available again very soon. The question is: which books will be banned?

Censorship is like freedom of speech and abortion rights and a lot of other battles we thought we’d fought and won years ago, and now they are rearing their ugly heads again. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but all of us need to pick up arms—or books and words—and enter the fray again. We cannot let authoritarianism win—that means you, Ron DeSantis, and you, donald j. trump, and you, Greg Abbott.

Peace my friends. Go read a good book.



Wednesday, August 17, 2022

This, that, and—what was I thinking?


I’m just going to start this and see where it goes, because there are several things on my mind tonight, none of them earth-shattering but a few that I really want to give voice too. So here goes.

My day got off to a rocky start. I got up early (for me) and was dressed, had my tea, and was ready to go by 8:45 for a 9:00 p.m. appointment to have my teeth cleaned. The dentist’s office rejected me! I had to call Jordan and tell her to turn around and come get me. And it was all my fault: the dentist had given me a prescription for amoxycillin, which I somehow thought was in case I had a tooth flare-up. But when I got home and read the label, I saw that it clearly said to take one an hour before a dental appointment. I know they used to make patients with metal parts (like my hip) take antibiotics before teeth cleaning, but my surgeon had signed off saying I didn’t need it. Apparently five years later, the dentist has decided I do. I guess caution is best, so I rescheduled the appointment.

I’m upset about censorship these days. Sarasota County in Florida has issued strict guidelines for what teachers can and can’t do—and it’s mostly what they can’t do. Order books from Scholastic—how can they blanketly condemn one of the best publishers of children’s books? Teachers may not read to students or give them books to read without specific approval of the book. No gifts related to books. No books may be ordered, not book fairs scheduled. Remember how excited your kids were on book fair day? Gone. And the list goes on. Talk about Big Brother.

Closer to home, the Keller school district has pulled from school shelves every book to which there was even one objection last year. That includes the Bible, Ann Frank’s Diary (the graphic version), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and a long list of, I’d say, fifty titles. Many were unfamiliar to me, but some not. I can see (but not approve) where small, closed minds would want to ban a book titled Gender Queer, but school authorities, charged with educating our young people, should understand that many teens are struggling with their sexual identity right now. They would find comfort and help in reading the thoughts and experiences of others. One woman posted that she questioned banning all the books except the Bible—she could understand that. I told her that meant she supported censorship, and maybe if it bothered her, she should just not read the Bible. But what bothers me most is that these insane objections to good books are robbing children of the richness of life lived through books. Books have been my whole life, my career, my comfort. I am appalled. Small comfort: kids with inquiring minds will rush to read the books on the published lists.

I’m a proud Texan (transplant), but I think Texas and Florida may be the worst states in which to live, let alone raise children these days. One post online said we can’t let them read the Bible (where the worst line is probably “Abraham knew his wife”) but we can subject them to shooter drills and expect ten-year-olds to carry and deliver babies. What kind of a world have we stumbled into?

While I’m on a rant: I saw a TV ad last night for some magic cure for erectile dysfunction. The ad was full of hype—buy now, this sale ends soon, end your worry, etc. And it made me instantly angry. Women cannot have the protection of abortion in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergency, but let’s enhance men’s sexual ability. I call on Governor Abbott to immediately ban all medications for erectile dysfunction. Let’s see how that sits with his base. (I tried to post my comment on Mothers Against Greg Abbott and Facebook rejected it--at least they didn't put me in Facebook jail.)

It is actually raining as I write! Glory be, Hallelujah! The temperature is down to  90 and falling, thunder is crashing all around (and Sophie is cowering on my feet under my desk). The air smells like rain. It’s wonderful! I know one rain won’t restore our decimated gardens, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I can’t remember all the other things that were on my mind. Maybe they had to do with what a good run President Biden has had in the last week and a half or what a bad week it was for trump. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that people like Beto and John Fetterman and Val Demings and Liz Cheney make me optimistic. If anything I had to say seems significant, surely it will come back to me.

Meantime, if you’re in North Texas, enjoy the rain. How lovely to go to sleep with thunder rolling overhead. The gods are bowling again!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Moving slowly


Yes, that's Jacob in an outfit his preschool put on him. 
My other kids were pretty upset, and I got lots of message to the effect that,
"Your other grandchildren are pretty cute too!"

Moved slowly this morning. Nothing wrong with me except that I felt sluggish, unwilling to face the day. Perhaps it was that unsettling dream I had between feeding Sophie and getting up for the day. I have that technique down to six minutes at my best (I remind myself of a barrel racer). I can let her out, dish out her food, rinse the spoon so it doesn’t stick, feed her, go to the bathroom, and be back in bed in six minutes. Some mornings I time myself—racing against my record. Usually this is about five-thirty, still hard dark.

Or maybe I didn’t sleep as well as usual. Sometimes about three in the morning my brain gets caught in a semi-awake, semi-asleep cycle in which I repeat a scene or plan over and over—it maybe a scene I plan to write, a recipe I want to cook. This morning it was a recipe.

But maybe I was unwilling to face a world that seems increasing loud and noisy. This week, I’m quite sure it’s all the loud noise trump is creating with his multiple, self-contradictory lies and excuses about the classified documents. In a week when the nation should be celebrating several significant victories of President Joe Biden, we’re being drown out by trump, while Biden goes quietly about the business of making America better.

Along political lines, in case you missed it, I can’t resist telling you about a campaign video by Dr. Oz that has recently resurfaced—to the great hilarity of his opponent, John Fetterman. Oz is in a grocery store—with Wegman’s in mind and the real name of the store, he comes out with Wegner’s, which is wrong. He’s shopping for crudities for his wife—as Fetterman points out, a lot of us call that a veggie tray. Trying to skewer Biden for inflation, Oz choses a head of broccoli, a package of asparagus, a ginormous bag of large carrots, a container of guacamole and one of salsa. Then he points out that a crudities tray costs $20. A store employee posted that employees repeatedly tried to tell him they had vegetable trays, with guac, available for $7.95. He said his wife likes salsa. Do you suppose she dips raw asparagus in it?

And speaking of food, I’ve noticed lately that the food memoir is a new thing. People are taking classes in exploring their deepest inner lives by focusing on what they eat/ate, particularly as children. It’s always nice to be on the cutting edge, so I’d like to point out that I wrote a food memoir, Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books, way back in 2009, before it was trendy. I belong to a small online writing group where many write memoir, and I’ve always felt slightly deficient because I can’t seem to wrap my head around a traditional memoir. It’s not that I’m afraid of confronting some truths in my life, but it’s that I never can get the peg on which to hang it. In 2009 food was the peg. It’s kind of hard to find on Amazon, so if you’re interested, here’s the link:  Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books (Stars of Texas Series): Alter PhD, Dr. Judy: 9781933337333: Books  You’ll not only find out more than you want to know about me, but you’ll get most of my family’s favorite recipes. Then again, a lot of water under the bridge since 2009.

As I write this, it’s six o’clock, and I think I’ve got my groove back. Everyone’s gone elsewhere for supper, so I’m thinking scrambled eggs sound good. My mom used to dump a spoonful of cottage cheese in them, and I think I’ll do that. Haven’t done it in a long time.

I read an anecdote today about a woman who was being shown to her room in a nursing room. “I know I shall be very happy there,” she said, and the attendant protested, “You haven’t even seen the room yet.” “No, but I know I’ll be happy there. Because I choose to be happy.” It’s a choice we each make daily—we can be happy or we can be miserable. Tomorrow I’ll get my happy back on. Tonight, I’ll read a mystery.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Go West, young—er—lady!


Frances Perkins (and all those men) watching 
President Franklin D Roosevelt sign the social security act, 1935

Remember Horace Greeley from when you studied American history in school? He was a nineteenth-century newspaperman, served briefly in the House of Representatives, and was a utopian reformer who believed the American West was the land of opportunity. He’s best remembered for the advice, “Go West, young man!” It became the slogan that expressed the American belief in individualism—a man can pull himself up by the bootstraps, care for his family, make living, and do anything he wants if he is only strong and brave and works hard. It’s an idea that many Americans still take patriotic pride in. But it’s a myth.

During the Depression, along came Frances Perkins, a reformer who fought for workers' rights, became the first woman to serve in the presidential cabinet as Secretary of Labor, and is genuinely considered responsible for social security as we know it. (She was also an ardent feminist.) A witness to the 1911 Triangle fire in which 146 women and girls died, trapped inside a locked factory, Perkins determined that America had to take care of all its citizens, and in contrast to Greeley, she touted another American tradition: communities take care of their own, people look out for each other. Compassion and caring are the American way. She persuaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to implement a social security program, but his first response was, “Nothing like this has ever been done before.” So if you want to talk about a uniquely American tradition, talk about the tradition of caring for all our citizens.

As originally written, Social Security did not just mean old-age assistance. It was an attempt to use government taxes to take care of all in our society—the poor, the homeless, neglected children, the disabled, the unemployed, the mentally and/or physically ill--all those who could not follow Horace Greeley’s idealistic and unreal advice. She said, “People are what matter to a government, and a government should strive to give the very best life to the people under its jurisdiction.”

Perkins saw social security as a permanent part of our government. “It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.” Of course, for a few generations now, we have known it is not safe. Conservatives first target is often social security, and now Lindsey Graham has confirmed that should the party take Congress in November, the Republicans will be coming after social security and Medicare.

I’m no politician nor one to advise them, but that seems like a foolish, shortsighted vision to me. For one thing, so much of the country depends on government aid in one way or another, Republicans would lose a lot of votes. Perhaps they think that would be okay because some among them on planning on rigging elections ( see Trump loyalists form alliance in bid to take over election process in key states | US politics | The Guardian ). But beyond that, withdrawing government aid to many segments of our society would further increase the already dramatic division between the haves and the have-nots. We might return to Depression days (which was when social security started) with throngs of hungry Americans in the street while the rich sat in their penthouses and ate caviar. Far-fetched? Maybe, but too darn close.

America under trump was downgraded in the international order (for example, Trump's Foreign Policy Has Destroyed America's International Standing - Rolling Stone). If we were truly to become a country of hungry, homeless, sick people, neglected children, etc. America would quickly lose its standing in the world. Perhaps that seems far-fetched, but as of now, without congressional interference, social security is set to "run out" in 1934 unless Congress takes action. That doesn't mean all payments will suddenly stop, but it does mean recipients will take a twenty-five percent cut.

Republicans will argue we cannot afford social security, but my understanding is that is gaslighting. We pay into social security, and the money we receive is ours, not the governments. Trump’s tax cuts increased the national debt more than social security ever will, but Biden’s administration has already decreased the debt and the Inflation Reduction Bill is set to effect additional substantial decrease.

I don’t mean to preach, but I think these are things that each of us should study and keep in mind when we go to vote in less than ninety days. If you want to read more about social security and its history, please read Heather Cox Richardson’s column of last night, Letters from an American August 13, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson (


Friday, August 12, 2022

On becoming my mother


The Chicago house of my childhood.

Several years ago, when my oldest granddaughter, Maddie, was five or six, she and I were in the guest room giggling about something, the rest of the family was in the living room, and the dogs were in the back yard barking continually.

“Colin really must do something about those dogs,” I said, getting up off the bed and heading for the living room. Maddie darted ahead of me, stormed into the room, and hands on hips said, “Colin, you really must do something about those dogs.” She mimicked me perfectly—tone, inflection, even the semi-angry stance. I clearly heard myself. Everyone laughed, and Colin went to quiet the dogs.

That incident came to mind because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the conventional wisdom that every woman turns into her mother. In my case, that would be a very good thing. But it’s not her laughter or her wisdom, her passion for learning and food, its not even her enveloping love that I’m thinking of. It’s little things.

In Chicago summers, in an old house without air conditioning, Mom would throw the house open in the early morning to bring in cool, fresh air; by noon she had it closed up tight, shades drawn against the sun, and it stayed that way at least until dark set in. I do the same with my cottage, turning off the a/c and opening the French door so Sophie can come and go, and I can get the feel of being outdoors, even at my desk.

For her children, Mom was a one-woman clipping service, often sending us news pieces that she thought we would or should enjoy. I’m afraid Christian gets the brunt of that from me because I’m always sending him links to stuff about garden and lawn care (I did just this morning) or recipes I think he’ll like. I did send all the kids a note yesterday that their favorite greasy spoon in Waco is for sale and I wondered if they wanted to make it a family business. Only a million and a half.

Mom lived through the Depression as a young wife and mother, and the rest of her long life she wasted nothing. When we cleaned out her refrigerator that last time, we found baby food jars with unidentifiable bits of food in them, some of it moldy. She used paper towels twice—once on a counter spill and the second time on a floor spill—and she had a special place she kept them in between. She saved bits of string, used gum wrappers (they were aluminum back in the day), and rubber bands. She canned her own tomatoes, made her own applesauce and soups, and cooked from scratch. I’m not as frugal, a fact she often pointed out to me once I had my own home, but I save leftovers in the freezer, and I do a lot of scratch cooking. I thought of Mom the other night when I made salmon croquettes, one of the dishes she regularly rotated though in retrospect I can’t imagine how she got my meat-and-potatoes father to eat them.

I’ve got a long way to go to be as kind and gracious as my mom, let alone as good a cook and as good a mom, but sometimes I hear her in my voice or recognize her in my attitude. It makes me smile.

On another note, I slept so hard and dreamt so vividly this morning that I woke thinking if I could write like I dream I’d have best-selling novels and box-office hits to my name. My dreams were jumbled but somewhere in there was a sit com about New York fashionistas enduring the hardships of camping for the sake of the men in their lives—it was all slapstick humor, and, by the end, there was not much love to be lost. And then there was a movie about what a wonderful life on the lam a runaway girl had, and I remember thinking what an awful, unrealistic role model that was for young girls. No, it had nothing to do with the movie by that name or the band. It probably came from a book I was reading last night where a young girl is kidnapped, and some officers insist that she was probably just another runaway.

Here's my cheer for the day: to Jou Joubert, barbecue pitmaster who was delivering the wedding dinner to a party at a private home, only to learn that the minister hadn’t shown up and the bride was in tears. Asked if he was an ordained minister, he told them yes and married the couple in a ten-minute ceremony.

And here’s my boo-hiss for the day: to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a headline proclaiming that Beto swore at an Abbott supporter. Beto’s got too much class for that kind of cheap political stunt. Swear he did, but who the man would vote for wasn’t the issue. Beto swore out of passionate, deep-down anger at a man who would try to make a joke out of AR-15s and the massacre at Uvalde. I might not have used the same word, but I’d have sworn too. Go, Beto!