Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gobsmacked

I feel gobsmacked. Which is appropriate because that's a term Molly Ivins used, along with a whole lot of other Texas-speak and Molly-isms. The reason I feel that way is because she just seemed so damned invincible all these years and then, today, she up and died on us.

Three times she went into battle with cancer. Three. The third one got her. But she went out swinging, just the way she came in. She was still producing her columns right up to the end, even though the last two had to be dictated because she was so physically weak. I don't believe there was ever a moment she was mentally weak.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the lady, Molly was one of this country's best political columnists -- a stun gun with an attitude and an unquenchable sense of humor. She cut her teeth on the Texas Legislature and expanded to skewering political foolishness, ineptness or corruption nationwide. She was articulate, witty and so flipping funny that even the targets of her zaps had to laugh. Through clenched teeth sometimes but ...

It didn't take very long for comments and tributes to start pouring in over the Internet. The number of links you can Google up is overwhelming. That's why I'm late posting tonight -- there are some really good Molly stories out there and I didn't want to miss any. It's interesting that even those who totally disagreed with her political perspective admired her passion and her honesty.

That was the thing about Molly. She said what she really thought instead of what was safe or PC. I liked her for that. She was so good at cutting through the spin and double-speak. She was an absolute genius at reporting outrageous events and behavior in a way that allowed you to deal from the strength of laughter instead of throwing up your hands in despair.

Molly is high on my list of people I want to meet Over There. Bet she has a pickup load of juicy stories that never made it to her columns. Hooooo, what a party!

Note: I don't know who deserves attribution for the above excellent photo of Molly. I hope using it in a tribute to her will be permissible and I thank the photographer in advance.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Whatever Happens To Be Handy Stew

I've had such a lot of fun since rediscovering my electric wok. You know how it is. You get a super-duper, handy-dandy appliance that does everything but diaper the baby and you put it carefully away on a shelf or in a cupboard -- and forget you've got it. Out of sight is truly out of mind with kitchen appliances.

That's pretty much what had happened with the wok. Until I decided to pull it out for something a month or so ago. I'd forgotten how fast it did its job and how easy it was to control the heat. Haven't used a frying pan since. Nor have I put the wok back in the cupboard. Nope. It sits its purty red self right out there on the counter ALL the time.

Another thing that sits on the counter (because it comes with a convenient storage unit) is my V-Slicer mandolin. Slices, dices and juliennes quick like a bunny. I'm constantly trying to figure out new ways to use it because it's just fun. If I'm putting 'taters in a soup or stew, the thick julienne cut is perfect. Carrots come out just right on the thin cut. They not only cook faster, they look elegant.

The Dynamite Duo came in to play this evening when I decided to make one of those Whatever Happens To Be Handy stews. One of my favorite easy and quick meals and limited only by ingredients on hand. Which means, of course, your stew will likely contain different ingredients. No matter. Whatever happens to be handy.

First I took the kitchen shears and snipped a small boneless chicken thigh into bite-sized pieces and started them browning in a dab of olive oil. Then I thick-julienned one medium, unpeeled potato and threw that in. A quick browse through the freezer yielded a package of frozen mixed veggies, the Scandinavian mix with broad beans and zucchini slices and carrots and I don't know what all. Shook a bit of that into the sizzling mix and tossed it all together, along with seasoning. Turned the heat down, put on the lid, and read a couple of short stories in a science fiction book.

When I checked the doneness of the potatoes (just right), I added two cups of chicken broth and brought it to a boil. Then I added some cornstarch for thickening and said, "Shazzam! This is some kind of righteous chow." Dished up a bowl, sprinkled it with some crumbled Feta cheese and knew all was right with the world, at least for a little while. Comfort food. And it's even healthy!

Just haven't had the nerve to add chocolate to it.

Almost forgot my usual apology to John Wagner, the brilliant cartoonist who does the Maxine character so very well. The above is one of those captionless cartoons that seem to wander the Internet and emerge now and then with a new caption. Just want to emphasize that when I use my Maxine alter ego, the words I put in her mouth should never be blamed on Mr. Wagner.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Some People Said ...


Barbaro died today.

A lot of people cried when they heard the news.

Some people said, "Are you crazy? He was just a horse."

Well, yes. He was just a horse the same way Babe Ruth was just a baseball player. The same way Shirley Temple was just child star. The same way Bob Hope was just a comedian. The list could go on forever but these few examples make my point -- which is that there are some entities, be they critter or human, who capture our hearts and lift our spirits when we most need that lift.

Some people said, "Where are your priorities? There are horrible things going on in this world that need your attention."

Well, yes. We know that. Dear God, we know that all too well. That's why we need to grasp those things that can reassure us there is beauty and goodness in the midst of all this hatred and sickness. If what we grasp happens to be a beautiful horse who cheers us with his ability and spirit, what's wrong with that? When so many of our public figures are mean-spirited and flawed with greed, is it any wonder we lavish some of our attention on something that can't be corrupted?

Some people said, "All that money spent to keep Barbaro alive could have been better used to feed starving children."

Well, yes. The same can be said of all too much of our government spending, from the smallest village to the White House, itself. The same can be said of any frivolous expenditure made by any one of us. There are a lot of serious needs in the world and we cannot each address it all. We can only do what we can do. At least the money that funded the medical procedures on this horse was far better spent than that which goes into pockets filled via corruption. At least the lessons learned with Barbaro's care can benefit other animals and, yes, other humans.

Some people said, "All this grief over a horse. Where's your grief for our soldiers?"

Well, yes. Right up front and center. And even many of our solders were cheering for Barbaro, you know. It is possible to care deeply about more than one thing without showing a lack of respect for any. Shedding tears for a horse takes absolutely nothing away from the tears shed for a soldier. Both are valid. Both are worthy. Like love, grief should not be a matter of competition. It simply IS.

Barbaro died today. A lot of people cried when they heard the news.

I was one of them.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One Potato, Two Potato ...

Well, you know, not ALL grand culinary experiments turn out. I embarked on one such adventure today and have decidedly mixed feelings about the outcome. It seemed simple enough: baked potato chips. The advantage would be control over the amount of fat and seasoning -- a healthier 'tater chip, with a wider choice of flavoring additives.

I'm fortunate in having that dandy V-Slicer mandolin to get ultra-skinny, uniform potato slices. Two small potatoes were transformed into a pile of tidy medallions almost before I could blink.

Then I dumped the slices in a bowl and dribbled, oh, maybe a teaspoon of olive oil over them, plus sprinkled on some chili powder and paprika, then tossed the slices until they were all nicely coated. Next step was to place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, then into a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

While they were baking, I was mulling over the range of seasoning possibilities for future bake-offs if this one worked out. Some things would be added before baking, like rosemary or dill or various powders and peppers or veggie seasonings like the Mrs. Dash combos. Some things you can sprinkle on when they come out of the oven and are still hot, like freshly grated asiago or pecorino or sharp cheddar.

I pulled the pan out after 22 minutes because I noticed the smaller end pieces had gone past brown to cinder. The remaining, larger slices ranged from the perfectly done crispy disk to those that were crisp around the outside and soft-centered. This tells me one would have to keep an eye on the baking process and keep removing individual chips as they reached their peak.

Such a bother for a relatively small amount of chips. Not that they weren't good. Both the crisp ones and the semi-crisp were quite delicious. (I forgot to mention I lightly sprinkled them with coarse kosher salt when I removed them from the oven.) But, frankly, I had to wonder if it was worth the fuss.

I did read one site online that swears THE way to go for homemade chips is to do them just as I described above -- but run them for 7 minutes on high in the microwave. Mmmm, well, maybe. I'm not at all sure I'm that fond of potato chips, if you want to know the truth. Even if the microwave version cooks more evenly, you would be faced with a much smaller batch so you'd have to keep at it until you had the intended amount all done.

Adding to the frustration, I didn't even like the way the photos of the 'tater chips came out. That's why I illustrated this entry with a shot of the Christmas cactus that is bursting forth with its second wave of blooms in about a three-month span. Curiously, this return engagement is sporting blossoms of a deeper hue than the first go round.

All things considered, I guess that works out okay. The 'tater chips provided food for my body and the blossoms provide food for my soul. God, as usual, seems to have the best recipe.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Just Speak Into the Cheese

This nostalgia turn keeps wandering off in different directions. Today brought comments about earlier phone systems. I wish I could remember more about the phones when I was a kidlet but I really don't. The earliest model of phone I remember was one my grandparents used when they were working at a Forest Service lookout on Pratt Mountain, near Garberville, California. This was in 1948. I was 9 years old that summer and got to spend a month with Mac and Mertie on the mountaintop. Every morning and every evening, Mac had to call down to the Forest Service station at the foot of the mountain, both to pass on readings from weather instruments and as a safety check.

The phone fascinated me, that wooden box high above me on the wall. There was a funnel-shaped mouthpiece in front that could be tilted to adjust for the height of the speaker. The earpiece hung in its cradle on the left side and the handle you had to crank to ring out was on the right. It occurs to me now, that arrangement must have been aggravating for lefties.

The phone we used at home wasn't nearly as exotic, just that plain old black model, like the one pictured above, that everyone had. It's the party line I really remember. And all the stories you hear about party lines are, I'm sure, quite true. We were taught early to be circumspect on the phone because you never knew when someone was listening. Not always an easy thing to remember when in the heat of an interesting conversation.

At the end of a phone call, my sister and I would wait until the person we were speaking to had hung up and then we'd cheerfully announce, "Okay, everyone. We're done now. You can hang up!" On a good day, we'd hear click, click, click all the way down the line. When Mom found out, she made us quit. Darn.

In the early '80s, my sister lived where she was on one of the few remaining party lines in the area. This wasn't such an inconvenience until she got her brand new answering machine -- and then couldn't use it. If I recall correctly, the problem had to do with the ring. Each person on the line had their own distinctive ring so, for instance, one long ring would be for phone A and two short rings would be for phone B, and so on. Trouble was, the answering machine couldn't make the distinction and would accept any call that came in on that line, no matter who was supposed to get it.

The phone I considered the most fun, though, was one I took to the bar where I worked. It looked like a big cheeseburger. I lived for the moments when a call came in for a customer and I could hand over the phone and say, "Just speak into the cheese."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Back In The Day

You may have seen it as it's been passed around in email, that hilarious post detailing all the ways in which the current Over 30 crowd had it tough, compared to today's kids. One point made was, "Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called TV Guide to find out what was on."

This immediately prompted a response from a member of the Over 40 group. "You wanna talk about TV?" she asked. "We had one, a 13" black and white -- that's right, no color. We got a color TV when I was 7 but we could only get three channels, none of them clear, because in the town where I grew up, there WAS no cable in 1980!"

Heh, heh. If you think the Over 60 group can't beat that, you haven't been paying attention. Although it existed in other parts of the country, we didn't get TV on the south coast of Oregon until I was about 17-18 -- 1956 -- and it was black and white and very snowy.

What we had when I was growing up was the good old-fashioned radio. Ours was a table model Cathedral style Philco, very much like the one in the above picture. It couldn't have been more than a couple of feet high, if that, because I sneaked it under the covers one night so I could listen to Inner Sanctum. That was simply an extension of hiding under the covers with a book and a flashlight after lights out was called. Except the books weren't forbidden. Inner Sanctum, however, was judged too scary for one of my tender age. (Eight or nine, I think -- totally bloodthirsty, of course.)

Well, I only got to try that once. Just when the program was getting to the good part, Mom whipped the covers away and marched off with the Philco, heedless to my pleas and abject begging. It had never occurred to me the grownups might listen to that stuff after we kidlets went to bed or that they might actually miss a piece of furniture not in its accustomed place.

I don't mean to claim we were deprived without television. Of course we weren't. How could we miss what didn't even exist? And, oh! What great radio programs we got to listen to. Boston Blackie. The Green Hornet. The Shadow. The Cisco Kid. The Roy Rogers Show. Jack Benny.

Oh, Jack Benny. Now there is an example of what wonders your imagination can produce. I listened to Jack Benny for years and always loved the episodes where he went down to his vault to visit his money. When Jack and the rest of us finally graduated to television, I could hardly wait to see an episode showing that fabulous vault. You know what? I was sorely disappointed. My vault was far more impressive than their version.

I find that happening in other contexts, too. Think of the difference your imagination makes if you read the book first and then see the movie, instead of the other way around. For that matter, think about the different visual associations you have when you hear a song before you see it in a music video. In a way, we lose something when other people present us with the picture before we can create our own.

That's why I don't think today's kids really have it better, where the imagination is concerned. Not worse, either. Just different. But, man, you should have seen my version of the vault!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ghost Money

Somebody in St. Louis bought a Powerball ticket that ended up worth $254 million in Wednesday's drawing. As of this moment, the newest rich person on the planet hasn't shown up to claim the prize. It's nice, though, to see someone winning real money.

When I say "real money," I'm not talking about the amount, I'm referring to the spendibility of the stuff. That prize money will actually buy all kinds of things, as well as places to put them. Contrast that with the worth of all this ghost money I've been winning. You, too, I'll bet.

In November alone, assorted emails informed me I'd won a total of somewhere around $19 million in Yankee dollahs and another 4,250,000 in pounds across the pond. Not as impressive as the Powerball win, I'll admit, but it's more than I ever had in Monopoly money. And worth even less. Which is too bad because I'd have fun using it to buy all that property in Costa Rica they keep offering me.

This is what's known as the 419 scam and you can read a whole lot more about it here. This morning I received the one that falls in the Microsoft Email Lottery genre and this time my winnings come to 470,000 euros. All I have to do is contact my claims agent, a Mr. Pixie Turker, to start the process moving. Yo, Pixie!

The fun part was the closing, wherein a lady with the hefty title of Microsoft E-Mail Lottery Promotion Coordinator assured me she was:

Faithfully yours,
Queen Salote Tupou III of Tonga (1918-65)
JONY XINXY (Mrs)

Ohmigawd, I thought. There really IS email in heaven. Looky there -- they're channeling staff!

Well, not really. See, my mail program won't show images unless I tell it to. What I was seeing was the html tag that identifies the image in the space where it's supposed to go. The letter sender didn't expect that, of course. What they expected me to see (and I did when I clicked the image button) was a small photo of the late Queen -- a perfectly sweet old lady, happily working at her desk. I was supposed to think this was Jony Xinxy (Mrs) and be convinced she had an honest, trustworthy face so it would be okay to check in with ol' Pixie.

Decent psychology. Lousy presentation.

Tell you what, though ... they hadn't oughta be messin' with the Queen. No telling what she could zap 'em with from where she is now.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nunc Est Bibendum


Will you look at that? I actually have an official seal for the Coffee Bean Goddess!

Primary thanks go to my buddy, Julie, the adventurous woman over there on the link list. She's the one who found the site. Secondary thanks, of course, must go to Says-It, who are kind enough to let us make and download such things for free.

You can choose from an assortment of borders, fonts, colors and logos -- and you can keep fiddling with it until it comes out right.

They offer a pretty good selection of logos, considering this is a freebie. Which is why I'm not complaining because they didn't have a voluptuous goddess figure dressed in flowing robes and adorned with coffee blossoms. That's probably a Good Thang. I don't want to get arrested for false advertising.

The do offer a link to a Wikipedia site that displays a long list of Latin phrases and translations from which you can filch for the motto on your crest. The one I chose translates to: "Now is the time to drink." That's pretty much what I'm thinking every morning, on my way to the coffee pot.

The site informs me this comes from the Odes of Horace and the line goes on to say: "Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus." or "Now the time to dance footloose upon the earth."

I like that. Sounds like something a goddess would do upon arising in the morning. Dance around barefoot in the dew-laden pasture, steaming coffee mug in one hand, marmalade-slathered toast in the other. Being a goddess, she would effortlessly avoid waltzing into any recently deposited cow flops. It's a sort of magical skill a goddess has. Compensates for the fact that they only stock sandals in the Olympus shoe market.




Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Classics


When something retains its appeal over time, we call it a classic. It's probably safe to say, therefore, that chicken soup, in all its variations, easily earns that label.

How far back does chicken soup go? Well, the recent discovery of surprisingly well-preserved cave paintings in Lower Mongolia show prehistoric hunters taking down a pterodactyl with hurled stones and spears and then throwing a tailgate party in front of a cave, with the doomed bird simmering in a mastodon skull kettle.

Okay. I made that up. I also made up a modern version in as simple a manner as possible today and I'm happy to share it with you.

It all started with my habit of buying the family packs of boneless chicken breasts and boneless thighs. When I get them home, I portion them out into freezer Ziploc bags, one or two pieces per bag, depending on size. As it happened, I did the thighs two-to-a-bag and had one left over. Well, I said to myself. That's just about right for some chicken noodle soup.

And it was. I set approximately 6 cups of water to boil (who measures?) and tossed in a bunch of broken up fettucini noodles. While these were cooking, I took the kitchen shears and snipped away at the thigh until I had a nice pile of bite-sized chicken bits. (When chicken is fresh or thawed, you can cut it easier and neater with scissors than with a knife.) Splished a bit of olive oil in the electric wok set at 350 degrees, tossed the chicken into that, sprinkled it with Montreal chicken seasoning, and quickly stir fried it to just done.

Back to the noodle pot -- added six teaspoons of Wyler's chicken bullion granules, a hearty clump of Mrs. Dash Original seasoning, a generous spoonful of dried minced onion, and the stir fried chicken. Just for the fun of it, I also added about a cup of frozen mixed vegetables. Then I turned the heat down to simmer, put the lid on the pot and went about my bidness.

Don't really know how long I let it simmer. Half an hour? An hour? Hard to say. In any case, when I came back, I flipped it back up to a boil and stirred in some corn starch to thicken it just a bit. Shazaam! Chicken Noodle soup, in all its classic glory, perfect for a winter afternoon meal.

I'm not really sure what fortuitous steps led me to another classic but, while digesting my first bowl of soup, I discovered one of my all time favorite fun movies is (hurrah!) on DVD. This gem falls under the heading of Unsung Classic. Have you ever heard of "The Villain" with Kirk Douglas, Ann Margaret, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Lynde, Strother Martin and Jack Elam? Oh! Let's not forget a horse named Whiskey because he was the real star of the show.

How to describe this movie? It's totally camp, totally silly and totally addictive. Think Grade B Western meets Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner and picture Douglas in the Coyote role. Think highly respected actors getting paid for goofing off and having more fun than ought to be legal. Watch Schwarzenegger in the pre-Terminator (this was 1979) role of Handsome Stranger and think, "Ohmigawd, this man is the governor of California! That explains a lot."

For the fun of it, I was reading the reviews of the movie at Amazon. It was amusing to compare comments between the folks who "got it" and those who didn't have a clue. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I read a review that made me blink with bemused shock. The reviewer, who liked the movie, felt compelled to explain to contemporaries that Kirk Douglas was the father of Michael.

Holy Generation Gap, Batman! It's hard to get one's mind around the fact that the actors one grew up with aren't even a blip on the radar screen of the youngsters running around. Nor is it any easier to understand how those same actors can possibly be so blatantly showing their age now, when one still sees the younger version in the mind's eye. It's difficult to reconcile that inner vision with current photos, the difference is so vast.

The human body, it seems, does not weather the ages quite as gracefully as chicken soup. It's more like the crumbling ruins of the Parthenon. But we're classic, by golly, and don't you young whippersnappers forget it!

HAPPY UPDATE! Just wanted to mention, Eddi came home from the hospital yesterday and is continuing to heal in comfort. Thank you, again, for all the wonderful mojo.


Monday, January 22, 2007

T-Shirt Police

Here's the setup: this Australian fellow, who lives in London, tried to board a Quantas flight in Melbourne. He was wearing a t-shirt that labeled Bush as a terrorist. Quantas refused to let him fly their PC skies when he refused to change the shirt. They insisted that comments made verbally or on a T-shirt which had the potential to offend other travelers or threaten the security of aircraft “will not be tolerated.”

Oh-kaaaaay.

Let me just say, up front, I didn't bring this up to debate the "truthiness," or lack of same, of the t-shirt sentiment. Suffice it to say, in any given group, in any given country, you will find folks who both agree and disagree and, please, let's leave it at that. The message on the t-shirt isn't the point -- unless you just take it as a given that folks won't stop to think when the T word is used anywhere near an airplane, in any context. No, it's the inherent arrogance of the Quantas position of moral authority that I'm wondering about.

In the first place, they might as well enforce a policy banning all t-shirts with slogans because there are bound to be some passengers who will take offense, no matter what they read. There might, for instance, be a salad of vegetarians aboard who would be appalled at a t-shirt that hollered, "Where's the beef?" That way, Quantas could avoid being accused of discriminating against some slogans, in favor of others. They could simply take the position that all t-shirt slogans are socially challenged.

If one is offended by what's written on a t-shirt, one can shun the wearer. Or wear a t-shirt with an opposing point of view. Or, at the very least, ignore it like the ads in a magazine. T-shirt slogans are passive statements that do not require --and sometimes don't deserve-- response. Want to make somebody regret spending $19.95 plus postage and handling for that shirt? Look at it, sigh mournfully -- and turn away. I would suggest muffled giggling and pointing but some people are encouraged by that.

In the second place, I'm finding it difficult to imagine how a t-shirt slogan can threaten the security of the aircraft. Given the lengths to which security goes to disarm passengers, even if the slogan incited a riot, about all the passengers could do is have a food fight. On some flights, that could be a Good Thang. Or they could beat the living crap out of the offender, in which case, it's that individual's security that has been threatened, not the aircraft's.

Okay, maybe it's possible that if all the passengers jumped on top of the culprit at once, it might tip the plane over. But, hey, the pilots are skilled professionals. That's why they get paid the Big Bucks. They could easily bring the plane back to its normal position so everyone could scramble for the barf bags.

The thing about t-shirt slogans is that the wearers are revealing something about themselves, for good or ill. Conversely, the thing about reading a t-shirt slogan is that your reaction reveals something about you. Sometimes that can be the most interesting aspect of the wearer-reader gestalt. I've learned not to read slogans out loud, in public, because it's embarrassing when you get to a punchline that's racier than you expected. And, ohboyhowdy, there are plenty of t-shirts with less-than-tasteful punchlines.

In fact, I own one of those, but I don't have the guts to wear it. I consider it a collector's item. It's from an infamous, now-defunct, house of ill repute near Vegas and says, "Mustang Ranch -- where the customer always comes first." (Hey! It was a gag gift, okay?)

I suppose I could wear it as a test, to see if Quantas would deem me offensive or threatening. But if they let me on board, I'd have to worry about the reaction of the sweaty guy sitting next to me. It might be safer to wear the one that says, "Support mental health or I'll kill you."



Sunday, January 21, 2007

Working Up A Glisten

Somewhere, at sometime, in some book or article or something, I read that ladies don't sweat. They glisten. The idea has a certain appeal. Let's face it -- dewy is more esthetically pleasing than dripping. Probably more comfortable, too.

I suspect, however, there are those who would be horrified to discover ladies could work up a good glisten over a hard-slammin', bone-bangin', hell-raisin' football game. Well, piffle and fiddlesticks, I say. (When I'm in lady-like mode, I talk like that.) Ladies can appreciate a close, cliff-hanging, nail-biting contest just as thoroughly as the next guy -- and we can certainly develop a glisten while we're at it.

I'm referring, of course, to this evening's extremely hard fought Conference Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The first half wasn't all that encouraging for those of us who had picked the Colts but I had hopes. If I've learned anything, it's that the second half of a game can be a whole 'nuther ball game. And this one was.

When the Colts came out of the locker room after halftime, they came out swinging. And the Pats swung right back. Made for a lot of stomach lurching, I can tell you. Nothing was for sure until the very end when, much to my relief, the final score stood at 38-34 Indianapolis. Absolutely none of those players were merely glistening by the time the dust settled. But then, fortunately, none of them are ladies.

So -- two weeks from now, the classy Colts and the brawny Bears will roar onto the field down in Miami and proceed to duke it out for whole ball of wax. All over the country, fans will gather to cheer and rate the best Super Bowl commercials ... wait. I'm digressing again. Okay, we'll cheer the commercials and the tailgate food and the halftime entertainment and, somewhere in the middle, we'll cheer the football players. That way, everyone is covered. And glistening.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fabricati Mei Diem

If Dirty Harry had been in ancient Rome at the time, that's what he'd have said instead of "Make my day."

Well, maybe. I don't know how accurate some of these sources for Latin phrases may or may not be but you can sure get distracted browsing through them. I love this one: Bovina sancta! (Holy cow!) Here's one you can use on your boss, but only if you're sure he or she doesn't know Latin. Smile and softly say, "Ascendo tuum." That means "Up yours," but you should probably lie if asked to translate.

I found one phrase that came really close to being accurate after I made venison stir-fry today and sprinkled just a tad too much cayenne in it. "Mei cappilli sut flagrantes!" I say close because it means "My hair is on fire!" Couldn't find the Latin word for tongue.

Had to run into Bandon for some grocery shopping this morning so I met Larry at the deli and we had coffee before he departed to visit Eddi at the hospital. He gave me the number for the phone by her bed so I got to visit with her myself this evening. She sounded terrific and, if she keeps improving at this rate, they might even let her come home Monday or Tuesday! That's just huge.

I think she's ready. For one thing, she says she doesn't know why they give her a menu to choose her meals because she never gets what she asks for. Tonight, for instance, she ordered an egg salad sandwich because she's had her lower plate out, due to sore gums. Thought that would be soft enough to handle with just her uppers. So they sent her a turkey sandwich.

The other thing that had her antsy is the fact that the other woman who was in the room with her had head lice. There was a big uproar, getting that treated and making sure the little rascals hadn't spread around elsewhere. "In 67 years I've never had head lice," Eddi said, "and I'll be damned if I want to get them in the hospital!"

Made me grin to hear her sound like her old self. It sure fabricatied my diem, by golly.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rice Is Nice

Can't think why it is but sometimes I simply forget how versatile rice can be. Boiled, steamed, fried or baked. Plain, savory or sweet. It will pretty much do whatever you want it to and doesn't complain, either.

Like today. There I was, hungry for something different and in no mood to spend too much time in preparation, when my wandering gaze fell on the cannister of jasmine rice. Now, one cup of uncooked jasmine will plump out to about three cups of fluffy goodness when dumped into boiling water and simmered for about 20 minutes. Then, what can be done with the finished rice is limited only by what one can scrounge from shelf and imagination.

So, when the rice had cooked and was fluffed and set aside, I dumped a can of diced spicy tomatoes into the electric wok, set at 350 degrees. Shook in some dried minced onion and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Shredded about a cup of cheddar cheese. When some of the juice had cooked off the 'maters, I added all the rice and mixed everything up good. Then the cheese was added and quickly stirred in as it melted into everything.

Shazaam! Just like that, a one-dish meal that was fast, easy, tasty and satisfying. Actually, for me it's more like three meals. I've already finished two of them. The final one will probably be my midnight snack. Or maybe even brunch tomorrow. During which I can contemplate how I'm going to fix a generous portion of the brown Basmati rice that's in another cannister in the pantry.

Were I one to do needlepoint (which I emphatically am not), I could whip out one of those frameable aphorisms with something like: Concise Advice -- Rice Will Suffice.

Good thing I don't do needlepoint, huh?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goodnight, Art

There has been so much coverage, it may be impossible to say anything about Art Buchwald that you haven't already read. If you haven't yet seen it, you may enjoy this video interview done last summer. (Thank you, Fes, for the link.) I like to think of it as one of his final gifts to his fans.

Certainly he left us more than that interview, laced with his irrepressible humor. Given nearly a year of life beyond what the doctors expected, Art didn't seem to waste any of it bemoaning his fate. Instead, he had an ongoing Going Away party. He was the guest of honor at his own wake. He got to enjoy all the nice things said about him before it was too late to hear them. Instead of laying down to die, he set about the business of living -- and appreciating -- every moment he had left.

He even found time and energy to write one more book, which hit the shelves just this last November. Ironically, the title is Too Soon To Say Goodbye and that link will take you to Amazon to check it out, should you wish.

During the above-mentioned interview, Art mentioned that he never made Nixon's hate list. When he asked one of Nixon's people why, he was told it was because he wasn't important enough. Which, I believe, illustrates perfectly the fatally skewed perspective of the Nixon camp.

Good job, Art, right down to the final deadline. Thank you.

~^~^~^~^~^~

On an entirely different note, I'm a bit concerned about some of our UK Coffee Mates. Maggie Wallace? John Bailey? John Baker? The mighty wind storm that tore through your country so dangerously on your Thursday -- have you escaped the general mayhem? Please check in, just to soothe my Mother Hen gland, okay? In any case, major mojo being fed your way.

Speaking of mojo and its salutary effects, I'm excited to report Eddi had her first solid food in a week (the Jello doesn't count)! Mashed potatoes and gravy and chicken, by golly. That's awfully close to that steak you mentioned, John.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Judy, Judy, Judy

This chimp named Judy escaped from her cage and, until she was sedated, ran gently amuck in a service area at the zoo where she lives. She raided the refrigerator and the freezer, scarfed up some chimp snacks and juices and snagged a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread.

All that seems perfectly reasonable. Healthy. Normal. But, in between all this, she did a couple of things that may indicate a serious personality disorder and I'm worried there aren't any chimp shrinks.

What am I talking about? Judy, momentarily free and on her own, did not choose to swing from the chandelier or call up her friends for a party. Out of all the options open to her, she chose -- gulp -- housecleaning jobs.

I am not making this up.

Judy squeezed out a sponge and proceeded to wipe down the refrigerator. I do not think she was getting rid of her fingerprints so nobody would know she'd raided the durned thang. Then, unable to control her dark compulsions, she grabbed a brush and cleaned the toilet!

If that isn't a cry for help, I don't know what is. She is probably suffering from flash-backs. It seems that 37-year old Judy used to be a pet before the zoo got her. Hah! I'll bet she had to wash windows and mop floors, too. Once she left the safety of her zoo quarters, all those early memories started coming back.

I hope the experience doesn't give her nightmares. Until she's worked through the trauma, though, I think the zoo people ought to make sure she has a plentiful supply of cinnamon-raisin bread. It's a proven comfort food, after all.

Eddi update: Steady improvement -- today they moved her out of ICU into a regular room. The doctor is not happy with her white cell count yet but she IS getting better! Huzzah!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Good News Quickie

Can't spend much time tonight but there is some excellent news I want to share.

When Larry called the hospital this morning, they told him the tube had been pulled again and they were letting Eddi try to breathe on her own once more. An hour later, he called to check on how she was doing.

"Oh," said the nurse, "she is not only sitting up in bed, she's eating Jello!"

Good grief, Gertie! Given the situation 24 hours ago, that's somewhere in the area of incredible. Don't tell me mojo doesn't work!

There's still some serious mending to do and she'd mighty tired and weak. The important thing, though, is that she's on the sunny side of the line. I'll continue with updates but, in the meantime, thank you with all my heart for your caring mojo. You folks are the best!

Monday, January 15, 2007

No Man Is An Island, But...

...but wouldn't it be fun to own one? An island, I mean, not the man. This improbable train of thought blossomed out of a recent news article about buying the smallest country in the world. Really. It's called Sealand and if you Google it, you'll get all kinds of interesting links, including the one at Wikipedia, which has a few photos. According to that article, since Sealand is a principality, it can't be sold but it is open for transfer. They're looking for offers of "eight digits or over." One of the figures cited was U.S. $977 million.

Okaaaaay. Well, I have to admit, it has a really exciting history, including attempted invasion and kidnapping and all that good stuff. Somebody should write a book or make a movie. But then you look at a photo of this little principality (5920 square feet) and find it difficult to understand why anyone would want to live there, let alone pay an appalling amount of money for a transfer. The truth is, Coffee Mates, Sealand is -- ah, there is no gentle way to put it -- Sealand is ugly. Would you want to live out on the North Sea on something that looks like a stripped oil rig? I didn't think so.

On the other hand, even if you didn't dream it seriously, have you ever dreamed about owning your own island? It's not such a far-fetched dream, actually. When I typed island for sale into Google, almost immediately I was faced with 41,400,000 links! Shazaam! What was even more astonishing was the asking price on some of these islands. I mean, there are plain old houses in this area that would cost as much, I kid you not.

For example, for a mere $540,000 you can buy a 21-acre island in the Lake of Nicaragua, only 5 miles east of the mainland, with a view of the city of Granada. A 25-minute boat ride, they say. This is not just a bare island. No. It's got a main house (furnished), a caretaker's house (and the caretaker and his wife, who provides maid service, go with the deal if you want them), docks, boats, two wells, a water tower, two generators, livestock, phone and Internet capabilities and something they call an Infinite pool. Whatever that is. There's even a dog that looks to have largely German Shepherd origins that is part of the deal.

The web site with all the details is here and there are a lot of photos to give you a taste of what the island is like. They say there has never been a hurricane there and the lake is usually calm. They say the offshore breezes keep the house cool even when it's hot. So I'm looking at the pictures and I notice they even have big fans set up outside on the wrap-around porch. And I realize "hot" and "cool" are relative terms.

They say the soil is very fertile and the owner has easily grown crops there. Certainly the pictures with the cattle show lush grass but then, why is the ground around the house just dirt? And why are there cement walkways all over the island and even a cement pad under the picnic table beside the house? For that matter, why are the houses up on stilts? Insects are not supposed to be a problem but they don't mention whether or not there are (shudder) snakes creepy-crawling around. Now that I think on it, don't they have the fer-de-lance down there?

On the other hand, the fishing seems to be fairly spectacular and there are coconut palms, banana trees, mango and avocado. I could live with that.

Now listen, Coffee Mates, if we pool our resources, we could go together and buy that island. But all y'all had better have a bigger pool than I do. I'm just saying ...

Eddi update: her vitals are all good and, while some things aren't up to snuff, other things are looking better. They tried letting her breathe without the ventilator today but had to hook her back up. Will try again tomorrow. The mojo is helping, I'm sure of it. Thanks, everyone.





Sunday, January 14, 2007

Comfort Food

Got lazy this afternoon and let the bread machine do ALL the work. That means the baking, too. Which means (insert sigh) there is a hole in the bottom of the loaf from the kneading paddle, I got one big loaf instead of two small loaves and, durn it, the size and shape is awkward.

Reading that last paragraph back makes me think I'd bitch if they hung me with a brand new rope. Sorry, Coffee Mates. Truly, all of the above whining doesn't change the fact that this is a very tasty loaf of bread. Here am the way it goes:

Cheesy-Onion Bread

In a sauce pan, heat 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup butter until the butter is melted. Cool a bit and pour into bread machine pan. Add 2 eggs, beaten, 2 cups shredded cheese (whatever kind you want), 1/2 cup minced onion, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss in 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 package yeast. Set machine for a 2 pound loaf, regular, and let 'er all hang out. For the record, I used medium cheddar cheese. I think there is just the right amount of onion flavor in the finished loaf. Very nice.

It's a good thing I rate freshly baked bread as a comfort food because, after today's playoff games, I needed some comfort. For the weekend, I had picked Baltimore, New Orleans, Chicago and San Diego. New Orleans and Chicago came through for me. I don't mind the Colts winning but it flat broke my heart when the Chargers lost by a lousy field goal. Dayum!

I was hoping to see San Diego go all the way but now I'll have to fall back on Plan B. Therefore, let it be known far and wide, I'm rooting for New Orleans. Love those Saints.

To end on a high note, the news on Eddi is good and Larry sounds much better today. She's not out of the woods, by any means, but her temperature is back to normal and other signs are improving. Now, if we can just keep that upward trend going ...

Mojo, mojo, mojo ...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Rain-Rein-Reign in Spain

You will not be surprised to know my main concern today has been for Eddi and Larry. She has been moved to a larger hospital just a bit north of us and the doctors, while certainly not denying hope, have warned her family things really, really don't look good. So we wait and we pray.

It's been a strange jumble of a day and I'm not sure I could accurately describe it, should a prosecuting attorney have me trapped on the witness stand. Distraction does strange things to your memory. Asked what I had done all day, I'd probably end up with, "Well, first I -- no, wait. That was between -- oh, I remember now. No I don't. Let's see. I'm sure -- well, I think maybe..."

In self-defense, I finally curled up with a Ruth Rendell book I hadn't read before. If you're not acquainted with her, Rendell writes some of the most intelligent and deliciously layered crime fiction available. She is one of those authors who simply never lets you down, either in the area of creative imagination or craft skills. That's more than you can say about some authors, even when they regularly enjoy bestseller status and really ought to know better.

I'm not trying to be snobbish here. Lord knows, I can't throw any stones of superiority, nor would I want to. But I do grind my teeth when people misuse the tools of their trade. And words are the tools of the writer's trade.

I just got through reading a book by a bestselling author that had me shaking my head and wondering where that author's line editor was. The author (who shall remain nameless) has an excellent vocabulary, no question about it. But we all mispronounce or misunderstand the occasional word here and there. A good line editor is supposed to help catch that sort of error. Still, in this particular book, several misused (or non-existent) words were sitting there just as though they belonged and they were probably feeling pretty smug for having slipped in under the radar.

I'm not sure if this is the most often misused set of words in the English language but it must be the set I most often notice being misused. Rein and reign. And our hapless bestseller misused those words, not once, but several times. As in: "She tried to reign in her expectations."

No, no, NO! To reign is to rule. To rein is to use the lines attached to the bridle to control the critter wearing the bridle -- literally or figuratively. Therefore: The reigning queen reined in her steed and they soaked up the pouring rain, which was falling mainly on the plain in Spain. (The rain reference was for fun, just because.)

Understand, I'm not immune to making careless grammar and word usage errors. Although I really do know better, I all too often find I've written "it's" when I should have written "its." Or I might say "to" when I mean "too." Or I might say "was" when it should be "were." But, hey, I'm not a bestselling author, laughing all the way to the bank. And I really do try to proofread what I've written to catch that sort of error. So I respect the writer who has enough pride to do the same.

Careful craftsmanship is such a pleasure to behold, no matter the medium. I think, too, it makes us extend our reach. We do try harder and improve more if we test ourselves against excellence, don't you think? Although, if we spend too much time in the rain, mildew may become a problem.




Friday, January 12, 2007

Mucho Mojo

I've mentioned my friends, Eddi and Larry, before. They're my football buddies. They're an important part of my family of the heart. They're my dear friends.

You can't help loving them. Big ol' Larry has a perpetual buzz cut and a big beard -- not to mention a big belly he's right proud of. At one time, one of my grandsons thought he was Santa. He is a constant fund of jokes and light-hearted humor. Little ol' Eddi (nobody ever calls her Edna) is, as an old fellow I used to know would say, "No biggern' a bar of soap after a hard day's warsh." She has mother-henned more grateful people in this area for more years than you could believe. Both of them were previously married to others but they've been hitched to each other for 34 years, as of today. It's been one of those rare and wonderful True Love matches that renews your faith in romance and love and the incredible depths of the human heart.

As will happen, the years have gradually worn down their bodies and both have assorted physical problems that must be dealt with and endured. Eddi, especially, has been in fragile health for some years now and is on oxygen all the time. All of us who know her are especially careful never to go around if we're packing the slightest hint of the sniffles.

In spite of everyone's care and all the precautions they, themselves, take, Larry had to zip Eddi into the hospital at 3:00 this morning. She has pneumonia. Right now, she's so doped up, she's sleeping. That's because she has to have an oxygen mask on -- and she has claustrophobia so bad, she absolutely can't bear to wear that mask when she's conscious of it. Ain't that a stone bitch?

All of which means I'll be pouring on a flood of mucho major mojo for her. Let me define that. You can call it prayer or white light or whatever you want. In my mind, it's all the same-same -- an intense, focused, passionate flow of energy for healing, strength, whatever is needed. The labels vary. The process and intent are the same.

So Larry will be checking in with the hospital later this evening and, shortly thereafter, I'll be checking in with him to see how she's doing. And to see how he's doing because, don't you know, this is cruelly hard on him, too. And we'll tell each other funny stories about her and we'll talk football because we always do and we'll help each other through this for a little while. And tomorrow we'll do it again. Whatever it takes, for however long it takes.

Should any of you feel the inclination, please know your version of mojo for Eddi would be greatly appreciated. She's pretty special. Thank you, from my heart.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow and Bucking Horses


When I stumbled into the kitchen this morning to fire up Ye Olde Coffee Maker, I noticed it seemed colder than usual in the hallway between rooms. That factoid didn't really register until I glanced out the kitchen window -- and then did a double-take.

Is that SNOW out there?

A closer examination verified that, yes, there was a goodly scattering of both snow and hail here and there about the landscape, especially on rooftops and cars. Well, I'll be. See, being at sea level here, we don't get much of the fluffy white stuff, as a general rule. The hills to the east of Highway 101 may display a powdered sugar dusting from time to time but, down here, it stays green.

I took some pictures, of course, but I could have waited. It wasn't long before the pewter clouds unloaded a fresh supply. For here, it was a large fresh supply. Before 11:00, we had a good inch of snowman material spread out over everything. It was lovely. And I took some more pictures.

I've spent a few years in places where there was real snow. Upper Michigan. Goose Bay, Labrador. Even Spokane, Washington. So I know today's mild offering was puny by comparison. Furthermore, periodic bouts of sunshine pretty much melted off the bulk of the download. Still, for here, for this place, it was plenty enough.

Did I build a snowman? Well, no. The thought did cross my alleged mind -- followed by the further thought that I didn't have any gloves and snow is really cold and, no, building a snowman was not terribly high on my list of Things I Absolutely Want To Do.

For what it's worth, though, today's photo, from the kitchen window, shows a view of Highway 101 (in the foreground) and Second Street, with their surfaces in the process of being coated liberally with the white stuff.

At least, I think there's going to be a photo. I just tried to upload it and, according to the message, that got done. Trouble is, I don't see it in the draft version. Okay, I'm going to hit the Publish button and see if it shows up at the blog site. Bear with me here, Coffee Mates. I'm still learning how to ride this horse. The rascal tends to buck a bit now and then. They do get frisky if you don't pay attention.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Banana Belt

The last word on bananas has not yet been spoken, apparently. Not by a long shot. Thanks to Mage and Bill tipping me off, I Googled "Geostationary Banana Over Texas." Oh. My. God. In 0.16 seconds, I was faced with 29,100 hits, kablam! Go ahead, give it a shot. I double-dog dare ya.

You will find a few sites with great photos, the kind that make you appreciate the potential of Photo Shop and clever minds. What's fun, though, is to read the comment sections at some of these sites. The Big Banana has captured everyone's attention, for better or worse, and it's -- uhmm -- educational to read the different points of view.

Someone is probably already selling tee shirts emblazoned with floating bananas and slogans like Pecos Potassium or Ban the Banana. There will probably be a quickly written pop tune that will briefly rise and fall on the charts -- something along the lines of "Nana Got Run Over By a 'Naner." And you can bet the farm there will suddenly be frothy cocktails in Texas bars with banana in the name, like Banana Slammer. Might even be a dance, like the Monster Mash, only it'll be the Banana Bash.

The big thing, though, will probably be a software game, where you have to shoot bananas out of the sky before they turn brown, while dodging hordes of berserker fruit flies. If you lose, you have to eat the banana bread that comes wrapped with the software CD.

Martha Stewart can probably whip out a colorful cookbook of banana recipes. The cover will feature a tastefully displayed banana split made with banana slices cut out in the shape of Texas stars.

For the record, I'm convinced this is a huge leg pull. The various news articles seem to be playing it straight but there are instances of suspicious phrasing. And I have to question the "science" involved here. Doesn't matter. Whether it's for real or for fooling, it's a welcome respite in the daily news dose of pain and fury. Gives us something fun to focus on, even if it's only temporary.

On the other hand, I wonder how much money one could make if one published an e-book called, say, "The Lighter Than Air Banana Diet." Sure. It could work. A banana smoothie for breakfast. Banana salad for lunch. Mashed banana steak with a banana souffle for supper. Frozen banana on a stick for midnight snack. Banana daiquiris in between.

You're right. The idea is full of hot air. It'll never fly.







Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Yes We Have No Bananas Today

Is it just me? I cannot possibly be the only person on the North American continent who thinks there is something really strange about this. Stay with me, here -- it gets tricky.

An Argentine-born artist named Cesar Saez, who now lives in Montreal, is going to build a 985-foot banana in Mexico and float it over Texas. Have we hit enough geographic points yet? The banana will be built of bamboo and synthetic paper, filled with helium and sailed 12 to 18 miles above the Lone Star state until it disintegrates in approximately one month. Will anyone be surprised to learn the tab for this airborne art cha-chings at about $1 million Canadian dollars, some of which has already been raised? Including "small amounts" contributed by the Federal and Quebec governments.

Saez is quoted as saying, "Why? Because it's possible. Why not a banana over Texas?"

That lame explanation would only have worked if Kinky Friedman had pulled off his bid for governor. In that event, a whole floating fruit salad -- with croƻtons and walnuts -- would have seemed normal. As it is, if the Texas Air National Guard doesn't shoot it down, it will certainly provide the late night talk show hosts with a few jokes. "Pssst! Mr. Bush. Your banana is showing." Well, at least vice-president Cheney won't get in on it. Bananas don't resemble either quail or lawyers.

And what if the banana gets caught in the jet stream and sails into the air space of another country? How embarrassing would it be for the heads of state to get on the red phones and complain? "Listen, your --uh-- your banana is an aviation hazard." Does that sound like a responsible person to you? Wouldn't you, yourself, feel a bit silly if you had to speak that line seriously? Could you say it without snorting coffee through your nose?

For that matter, to whom would one complain? Does the banana belong to the artist? To Canada? Does Mexico own shares in it? Or does its encroachment into U.S. air space make it our property?

I'll tell you the truth. I think Governor Schwarzsenegger has something to do with this. California has been fighting fruit flies forever. You can figure a banana that size will attract every living fruit fly on the whole flipping continent. And when the banana disintegrates, where are all those flies gonna fall, huh? Tell me that. Heck, after a month, the banana might even be hanging over Florida. How's that for messing with the competition?

I'm just waiting for the Political Correctness Cops to get wind of this. I'll bet you there is going to be something non-pc about flaunting a banana instead of some leafy green vegetable or maybe even a monster spiral cut ham. In the latter case, it would at least prove pigs really can fly.






Monday, January 8, 2007

Wordcraft

At first glance, you might have read that as woodcraft. No. I'm talking about the craft of words, specifically about the gestation and birth of new ones. Baby words. Proof that English is not a dead language. A confusing one, yes, but far from dead.

I was just reading where Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, announced the word of the year for 2006 after running an online poll. "Truthiness." Credit for fathering this new word goes to Stephen Colbert, who claims it means "...truth that comes from the gut, not books." Well, he would know, wouldn't he? Being there at conception and all.

On the other hand, the venerable (117 years old) American Dialect Society has chosen "Plutoed" as the word of the year. To "Pluto" is to demote or devalue something, reflecting that innocent planet's eviction from the roster of "real" planets. Personally, I think Pluto has grounds for a good law suit against the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. They didn't even offer to buy out Pluto's contract. It was just "Clear your desk and don't let the door hit you on your southern polar region."

I can understand why Plutoed would be accepted as a valid word. Given the trend toward downsizing in the job market, I think a lot of folks can identify. There's a terrible, gutty "truthiness" to the term, as in, "Whoa, Dude! Pink slip? You've just been Plutoed!"

I was just trying to imagine how it would work on Madison Avenue. There might be more "truthiness" in advertising if the stripped-down economy version was touted as the "Pluto model." Or what if the party of the first part wants to lose the party of the second part and says, "In all truthiness, darling, I think we should Pluto this relationship."?

Uhmmm -- maybe not. The party of the second part might misunderstand and gift the party of the first part with a puppy that looks like Walt Disney's Pluto. Truthiness is, after all, in the gut of the beholder.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Football Bread

That isn't what it's really called but, given that it's made with beer and given that I made it while the football games were on, the title seemed appropriate.

Actually, it's just called "Beer & Cheese bread" and it's ridiculously simple to make. As usual, I put it through the bread machine on the dough cycle, then baked it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. It came out as a lovely golden loaf and I'm quite pleased with it.

First you heat 10 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of cubed or shredded cheese and 1 tablespoon butter. The cheese doesn't have to be melted and you don't want the beer so hot it kills the yeast. I let it heat until the cheese was soft and the butter was almost melted, figuring the flour dumped on top of it would have it cool enough by the time the yeast was mixed in.

Pour that mixture in your bread machine pan and add 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 package yeast.

That's all there is to it. I was also going to toss in one finely minced jalapeno but forgot. Oh well. Next time. Also, the flavor would be even better with sharp cheddar but I just had the regular. I would imagine you could use just about any cheese you wanted to.

By the way, have you noticed the search function up above, on the left-hand side? Very handy. You can use it to track down this recipe at a later date, should you feel like it.

I was astonished to discover I'd actually aced the football picks this weekend, although Dallas gave me a nail-biting moment before they finally blew their chances. Next week, the Divisional playoffs will not be nearly as easy to pick. Maybe I'd better make some more of this ol' football bread. Could be I've stumbled onto a lucky charm sort of thang, you think?

Okay. Right. I agree. Making the bread will not cause my picks to be gold. But, by golly, the bread will be gold and could even soak up tears of anguish, if necessary. Which may well BE necessary if I remember the minced jalapeno.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

One Pffft! After Another

A thoroughly damp day today. It didn't rain all that much but it just seemed as though the air was full of infinitesimal droplets of moisture. Even Ralph and Mei Tu felt damp, without being actually wet, when I jollied them about at their chow time. It was like the weather didn't really care enough to go all out at anything, wet or dry. Just -- you know -- pffft!

Could be I've taken my attitude for the day from the weather. Can't seem to focus on anything in particular. Rather, it's been bits and pieces of a lot of things, all without any thought of organization or efficiency. It's been more like everything that gets done is accidental and what doesn't get done is not quite visible because I'm not paying attention.

Made a sandwich with some of the chicken I roasted yesterday. Last two pieces of bread in the loaf and I thought, hmmm, I'd better make some more bread. And I enjoyed the sandwich and didn't think another moment about making bread. Tomorrow I'm sure my focus will be sharper and bread making will be on the agenda. Today ... pfffft!

For those of you who care (those who don't may close your eyes), this is Wild Card Weekend in the NFL. Two games today, two tomorrow. I picked Indianapolis, Seattle, New England and Philly to win. So far, Indy came through for me and, as we speak, Dallas and Seattle are mucking about at Quest Stadium in Seattle.

I'll check the scoreboard now and then to see how they're doing but I'm not terribly excited about any of the games this weekend. It's next weekend that has my attention. So, tonight, I'll be content to concentrate on reading a good book and sipping a mug of enhanced coffee ... wait. I have to make a pot of coffee before I can enhance it. Now there is something I can focus on.

Whew! Good thing. I was beginning to think this whole day was going to be a pffffft!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Learning As We Go

This is turning out to be quite an interesting project -- for me, at least. Hope it doesn't have you bored to tears. Got a couple of items on the agenda this evening. Think of this as a shakedown cruise. We're trying to identify possible glitches and spraying for bugs. (That's what you always tell folks when you don't want them to know you haven't got a clue.)

First: please notice the font you're reading. Got it? Right. What I'm doing here is trying to find the particular font that is most readable across the eyesight range. The first two entries were done in the standard Times, with the second done a larger size and bold. Interestingly enough, that second entry is harder to read than the first. I think that might be because the bolding crowds the letters a bit too close together.

What I'm using in this entry is Verdana, normal size. (Instead of numbered font sizes, I'm given choices that range from Tiny to Huge. Normal is, you probably guessed, in the middle.) If you feel like it, would you please mention in the comments section which of the three entries are most readable for you?

Just to spice things up a bit, I'll do this paragraph in bold. Please mention which you prefer, okay? I'm thinking the bold in the sans serif Verdana is easier to read than the bold in the serifed Times. Uncluttered.

The other test we're running tonight is the notify system. I think I have the process figured out. (Nervous grin.) As soon as I post this entry, I'll hurry to the notify site and prepare the email and send it off to those of you who have registered thus far. Please let me know if there's any problem with the notice. You can use the comment function because I get an email whenever anyone posts a comment. If I'm online, I'll know.

Heh, heh ... that last sentence sounded like Mommy Radar. Eyes in the back of the head stuff. Can't sneak up on me, by golly. Which is good. I can have your coffee poured before you even sit down at the table. Gives us more time to figure out what the heck we're doing here. Or not.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I Blame the Weather.

Well, why not? Seems to me a lot of what gets screwed, glued and tattooed in this world can trace causative factors to the weather. Bread doesn't raise properly. Divinity is not so divine. Folks get the blues when it's overcast and they walk around smacking each other when it's too hot. Therefore, when your internet connection is behaving like a pit bull with PMS, it seems reasonable to blame the weather.

That's what I think. Especially today, when we have had overcast, showers, sunshine (in brief, teasing snippets), hail and wind. Sometimes all at the same time.

That said, I can report I've diligently searched for a means to notify subscribers when new entries are posted here. My first thought was to continue with the service I used at the old web site but the code doesn't seem to want to fit in here. Lord knows, I've tried.

Other code works. I managed to score a cute little hit counter from Bravenet and there didn't seem to be any muss or fuss to putting it in place. So, hey, maybe I'll just try their mailing list utility. I'm not sure how that works but if you're willing to experiment along with me, I can certainly check it out.

Okay. Done. I hope. If I'm understanding it correctly, you sign up and then, when I post a new entry, I shoot an email out to everyone on the list. Right? Heh, heh. Already, I know we might be in trouble. Listen, Coffee Mates, if any of you know anything about Bravenet's mailing list utility, don't hesitate to tell me if I'm going in either the right or wrong direction here. Or -- how's this for a concept? If you have any suggestions for a notify utility that you think is good to use, lay it on me.

In the meantime, whatever happens, we can just blame the weather.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Zen of Changing Oil


When I learned to change the oil in my car all by myself, I was prouder than a hen with a double-yolk egg. I was no wussy girly-girl, nossirree. I was WOMAN-HEAR-ME-ROAR. I could also change the air filter, the gas filter and switch from snow tires to regulars. Boy, I was kewl beans.

Don't know how many years I went through that whole routine but I do recall, one hot afternoon, when I was laying under the car, gravel working into my jeans, mountain climbing sugar ants behaving as though I was the south slope of the Matterhorn, and sweat and stray oil working thoroughly into my hair
-- I remember laying there and saying to myself, "Self? Tell me again why this is a Good Thang To Do."

Self could not come up with an answer that convinced me of the worth of continuing to service my own car. Self was, however, able to list, oh, seven or eighteen perfectly good reasons to drive into a service center, pay the nice fellows at the desk and let somebody else do all the dirty work.

Interestingly enough, my experience of online journaling has evolved in much the same fashion. When I first learned html, once again, I was prouder than a hen with a double-yolk egg. I was no push-button web master, nosirree. I built it all myself, from the ground up. Layout, graphics, gizmos and passing fancies. I was WEBMASTER-SEE-ME-ROAR.

Gradually, over the half-dozen-plus years I've been doing this, the almost daily posts started dwindling down and showing larger and larger gaps between posting. More and more I noticed myself looking wistfully at web sites that seemed to simplify the process so beautifully. More and more I found myself thinking about a post -- and then procrastinating because I simply wasn't in the mood to mess with the html and ftp routine -- with the inevitable result of no post at all.

So there I was, in the cyber-equivalent of laying under the car, covered with ants and oil and sweat, and thinking to myself, "Self? Why don't we start doing this the easy way?" Self got so excited it almost had a Depends moment. "Chill," I said. "There will be a learning curve, you know. We might not find this to be as easy as it looks. This is an experiment, understand?"

Okay. What the heck. I will bumble and fumble around and probably have some fun while I'm at it and -- who knows? I might love it. It's not like the adventure is costing me anything. (Google, I love you.)

Oh! While I'm at it, for this first entry of the Grand New Year of 2007, let me wish all of you all that is good and wonderful for the months ahead. Thanks for hanging in here with me!