Sunday, December 04, 2016

For to everyone who has . . .

 . . . will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Anyone reading this blog and noting that two of the last three entries have titles taken from the New Testament will be forgiven for wondering if he has come across an index to a book of homilies (or a political rant, of which there have been many in the press lately.)

This quotation came to me as I was writing in the last post about Cyber Monday and availing myself of discount coupons. I feel guilty. The catalogs that come from stores from whom I have already ordered offer me 40% off and free shipping. Krogers, where I spend an awful lot of money on food, regularly sends me a nice wallet of coupons with hefty discounts on some products I buy regularly (yes, Big Brother is watching) and a straight $5 or $10 on meat and on vegetables and $20 or so off my total bill.

I understand the business think. I am a regular shopper, known as a valued customer, and they are luring me back into their store for my well earned reward—and to spend more. But I wish they would provide a box where I could deposit my coupon for the use of someone who couldn’t afford to spend enough in the first place to warrant his own rebate. These would add up nicely for those who could use a little help with their grocery bills.

For to every one who has will more be given. I know this does not refer to material goods but to understanding. I still feel guilty.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The End of a Holiday.

Thanksgiving is over. I have performed my usual rituals—I sat patiently by the phone last night waiting to hear from the travelers on their way to Virginia (they finally got there just before 10:00 p.m. after twelve hours of bumper to bumper traffic), I have photographed the unclaimed objects (so far a scarf, a fork, a hat and a fuzzy throw) and will e-mail to the photos to any of the 23 people to whom they might belong. That’s only four families, so not so difficult.  I have begun the task of washing armfuls of flannel sheets and towels and I have placed the phone call to the appliance repair man to solve my problems with the obligatory appliance which breaks down on a major holiday. The time it was the dishwasher—and they can’t send anyone out until Friday.

Thanksgiving is the time for—well, giving thanks and I am so grateful to my wonderful children who have accepted the fact that my days as the official mater familias are over.  I think it was the time I dropped the turkey that did it. They take it in turns to host the major holidays and Kate and Ron even stepped in with a pierogi dinner two days after they hosted Thanksgiving. Everyone was at our house the day after Thanksgiving and we all pitched in. It wasn’t until dinner was over and I had lamented several times that I didn’t have anything green on the table that I remembered the spinach, brussel sprouts and cauliflower and broccoli in the basement refrigerator. Ah well. Corn too.

My photos show the dinner tables at Kate’s house. There was an adult table, a big kids’ table and a (slightly) smaller kids’ table. The age differences are no longer reflected by the grocery bills. Everyone (except baby Gigi and two year old Joe) packs it away these days. And what a treat it was to talk with my two college freshmen grandsons. They talked patiently to me about technology, but I am not sure much of it stuck. As the years go by it will be harder and harder to get everyone together. We missed Andrew and his family and Gody who was on call, but it was a wonderful holiday. Ron escorted a large group down to a University of Detroit/ Mercy basketball game and there were various other expeditions.

Yes, a photo would be wonderful, but I gave up on my camera a while ago and either my iPhone  camera is having a bad time or my hands are shaking. The next major holiday is upon us, so Santa Claus, if you are reading this, I have been a nice girl and my camera wants (and needs) are modest.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap.

My daughter and I were talking about Thanksgiving, and I asked her when her son, who is coming to the end of his first semester of college, will be coming home to celebrate with the family. She gave me his schedule and then said, “Patrick thinks he’ll be able to get to the airport OK”, or something to that effect. I must admit, part of me thought “I hope he can figure it out” (he’s still a little boy to me) and then it occurred to me that I had never worried about my kids finding their way to an airport when they were coming home. They just did it and to my mind, that was one of the things college was about. Learning to take care of themselves, figuring out what had to be done and using innate intelligence to get themselves on a plane. College always seemed like the beginning of adulthood, rather than the end of childhood.

For the last week following the results of the election we have been reading about college professors cancelling exams because their students are in mourning, or bringing tissues to class, not giving the scheduled lectures and allowing their class to express their feelings and use the classroom as a safe space to vent their grief, anger and frustration. I will make a lot of enemies, but I find this ridiculous. Perhaps a lecture on the history and meaning of the Electoral College or some other topic rooted in history or precedence would be in order. On the other hand, most of their parents did not expect their tuition money to be spent on Kleenex or comfort food. Now I am seeing students are taking to the streets, disrupting traffic and generally marching to protest  the election. One of my great nieces is marching in New York, one of my great nieces is complaining of the traffic jams in DC.

I have seen suggestions that the pandering to the young is the result of a generation of children who were never rewarded for skill or competence, but just for turning up. The ultimate in entitlement.

I don’t know, but I do think it important for young adults to find on their own the literal or metaphorical airport that will take them where they want to go.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

November 8, 2016

Election Day. And no, I am not going to write anything about the candidates, the political parties, the campaigns and some of the general nastiness that has been going on. And it has been nasty. Mudslinging left and right. I am sure I will sit up late this evening to watch the results coming in. I am a little tired of pollsters and political pundits.

I wrote a post earlier this year in which I questioned Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, NOT because of the politics involved, but because I was having age-related issues and wondered if she could put up with the  effort involved in campaigning and answering the phone at 3:00 a.m. The same goes for Donald Trump, but it was easier to put myself in HRC’s shoes.

The fact is, I am marking today not because it is election day, but because it is the first day since my surgery that I have not slept away the afternoon. In fact I spent it struggling with some computer issues and solving some of them relatively well. I am hoping that I will be able to sleep tonight and maybe soon start to tackle some of the chores which have been piling up. I still look extremely attractive with a black eye and badly bruised forehead caused by going back on a little too much medication for a while. I am not going to re-post the nasty photograph that appeared on Facebook. It is a delicate balance.

So let’s hope that in many ways things will be better. For me and the entire country.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Corned Beef

Or as I used to call it “Corn Beef.”

After my last post on custard and Bisto, I received an e-mail from our friend John, who is working in New Zealand. John is a doctor who took early retirement and went to the Antipodes to join a practice in Ashburton outside Christchurch. Here you see him signing the contract in our back yard, under Ernie’s eagle eye. He used  to live a few houses down from us and attended Wayne State where he took a couple of classes from Ernie. The siren song of Latin was not strong enough and John went off to Medical School.

Apparently John was discussing my post with friends in a watering hole called Spike and Nonnas, and they introduced him to two other products of Post War England. The first was corned beef (in a can.) I actually thought it was pretty tasty and it was a way that meat could be preserved and sent to rationed Britain. I seem to remember a lot of jellied fat in it, but I could be wrong. In the States we take a slab of corned beef (brisket) and boil the daylights out of it along with cabbage, potatoes and carrots to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. I am not really a fan.

John saved most of his enthusiasm for Spotted Dick. Of  course, he liked the name. I am not sure that specific pudding was in my mother’s repertoire, although I do remember lots of delicious steamed puddings, especially treacle. (Look that one up, John.) These would boil away on top of the stove, covered by waterproof (i.e. wax) paper and tied up with the “pudding cloth.” Sliced and covered with a blanket of Birds custard they went down a treat.

Such puddings were usually referred to collectively as “stodge.” John is coming home soon for a month’s leave. Perhaps I’ll treat him to some stodge.   Perhaps not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ah. . . Bisto!

When I was growing up in England in the 50’s, no meal seemed complete if the food was not blanketed in a creamy, wet and warm substance. If we had a pie, a crumble, or a crisp of some sort, it was smothered in the yellow goodness of Bird’s custard.

I wasn’t totally enamored of custard. I went to Google to get this photo and started reading about the history of custard.

“Though cooked custard is a weak gel, viscous and thixotropic, a suspension of uncooked custard powder (starch) in water, with the proper proportions, has the opposite rheological property: it is negative thixotropic, or dilatant, which is to say that it becomes more viscous when under pressure. This suspension is termed oobleck and often used in science demonstrations of non-Newtonian fluids. The popular-science programme Brainiac: Science Abuse demonstrated dilatancy dramatically by filling a swimming pool with this mixture and having presenter Jon Tickle walk across it."

When it came time for a quick gravy for our Sunday joint or any other meat, we turned to Bisto. I seem to remember lots of  advertisements for it in what passed for Social Media in the 50s and 60’s, but I don’t think it had any rivals. Like custard it started with a powder  containing a thickener that was mixed with water and heated. Don’t know if it was thixotropic. Again, it was a ubiquitous blanket for meat and found its way over to the mashed potatoes.

When I eventually set up shop for myself, there was no Bisto in the States, so I had to go the long route. I was beguiled with words like “deglaze”, “wine” and “loosen the crusty bits”.  More often than not, much to my husband’s disgust, I skipped the gravy part altogether. Too much work.

Then a few months ago on a visit to the super
market and in my search for the shelf with bouillon cubes—look what I discovered!
A quick and easy coating for our meat (and mashed potatoes) and the source of Ernie’s heartfelt thanks.

Maybe I should be on the lookout for custard powder.

Monday, October 10, 2016


What an adventure today. For the first time in many weeks I felt up to going to the grocery store. (Full disclosure, I didn’t drive or take all the bags from the car to the house. But I did wander around and check out what was going on. And buy all the groceries.)

Dear Krogers—I love flowers. But this is Fall, and we feel at home with chrysanthemums, along with the squash and the root vegetables that we buy for comfort food.  These are tulips. You know, the bright cheery flowers that indicate the grey winter is almost over, spring is around the corner and we need to enjoy the lovely blooms. Why on earth are they displayed in the flower section of the store, much more expensive than they are in spring?

After all, some combinations make sense, others fall wide of the mark.

These fall wide of the mark.