Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Snow is Snowing and the Wind is Blowing . . .

We were just pulling out of our driveway and our neighbor Dave came over to assure us he would keep an eye on our house. "It's going to rain tomorrow," he said. I do not pay much attention to weather forecasts and I have a husband who wants Congress to pass a bill that no weather news or forecasts should be televised for any area more than ten miles away from where he is. The whole of California could be in flames, the East Coast could be underwater . . . he doesn't want to know. Some quote from Thoreau usually follows his declaration.

We made it to Chicago just fine, and sure enough it rained next day. It didn't matter—we were visiting Ernie's sister and her husband and we spent most of our time drinking coffee, discussing our families, eating and deciding if and where to go. What a delight to see Mary Ann and John's sons Patrick, John and Mike and—via Skype—Megan and Emiliano in Texas.

We went to Oakbrook and Ernie's favorite store, The Container Store. He bought boxes to store boxes containing . . . who knows. Maybe some more boxes. I must admit I found some rather useful things, but I will keep them to myself. I am now a member of Pop! We went to Owl Lumber, where Ernie bought lengths of exotic hardwood. For exotic, read expensive. We went to an event described as a "craft show". I thought it would be something like a bunch of women in a church hall. No, it was an enormous place, stacked with vendors who had arrived with huge truck-like vehicles to bring their offerings.

Fortunately pretty much the first vendor we saw was a woodworker, so Ernie was happy. The two of them discussed wood  at length. There was a bread knife (he bought one) and this interesting toy called a do-nothing. It was fancier than this and looked much nicer. The four blocks were made of exotic (see above, it means expensive) wood and I felt pretty good because thanks to my trip to Owl Lumber, I could recognize some. We bought one of these too, but I will not complain because Mary Ann and I made a small dent in our charge cards.

The high point of our visit was a trip to the theater. Our hosts live in a suburb of Chicago and at the time we drove down it took one and a half hours to make it to The Royal George Theatre. Mary Ann had bought tickets for Mike and his fiancee Jaime in honor of Mike's birthday, and fortunately Mike volunteered to brave the traffic. It was a one-man show in which Hershey Felder portrayed Irving Berlin, from his beginnings as an immigrant from Belarus until his death. Felder has been described as a one-man industry and I am not surprised, as among his talents are the singing, piano playing and acting he displays magnificently in this show. Note: why have I never heard of him? Why have I never heard of his wife, Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minister of Canada?

The night before we left, John said it was going to snow 6-8 inches the next day. It didn't, but when we woke up the morning after that at home, there it was. In the words of Mr. Berlin, "I can't remember a worse December . . . "

But this is still November.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Move Over, Mary Berry

I have become quite a fan of The Great British Bake Off and quite a fan of Mary Berry. Actually of everyone who boldly undertook the baking challenges. I have never had any confidence when it comes to baking. I do want to make an attempt at a Victoria Sponge one of these days and I know I need to make a few pies with something other than pre-made pastry. Even my children do better than that! Since my kitchen was re-modelled I have had what I feel is a good excuse. I didn't want to roll pastry on my nice wood table or on my marble counter top. It would stick, wouldn't it? But that was 15 years ago, so I finally trotted off to the inadequately named Bed, Bath and Beyond, and in the Beyond section I bought one of those silpat numbers, with outlines of various sizes of pies and I will give it a try. For Thanksgiving? Maybe not, my blood pressure is already too high. Maybe I will post a photo.

Our dear friend and fellow classicist of Ernie, who hails from upper New York, has always made fun of Ernie's flat mid-western vowels, and claims that there is no difference in his pronunciation of the vowels in "Merry Mary married hairy Harry." I must ask him how a denizen of the Hudson Valley would deal with "Merry Mary Berry married hairy Harry?" Maybe a moot question—she's too fastidious for that.

On the subject of baking. Remember that fellow in my last post who whisked my daughter off into matrimony? He bakes for his family. Buys enormous bags of flour. And gets results like this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rolling Up my Sleeves Again

When a person has been away for a long time, it is hard to get going again. Especially when there have been a number of sadnesses in the interim period. Two good friends of mine have lost their husbands and so has a virtual friend. I am now using office365 for my e-mails. I hate it and in my usual un-informed way I am hoping it does not creep over to blogger.

There was however, one glorious event. My brother Brian and his wife Brenda came over to visit. I keep looking at this photo and wondering exactly when it was taken. My brother was born in June of 1944. He looks a little propped up here, so I suspect it was taken around my fifth birthday in December of that year. The war was coming to and end, but we weren't to know that. And we certainly were not the kind of family to have formal photos taken. (There were two others of me which may appear soon.) I do remember my dress. It was made by my Aunty Doris, my mother's sister. Salmon silk, with dark green smocking. You have to love the sausage curls.

We seem to have changed a bit since then! Here we are at Partridge Creek Mall where I treated myself to shocking pink Crocs (I love them) and some conservative brown Clarks (ditto.) The Apple store was appealing. I need a new computer, but I restrained myself. Just another new toy I am not sure I want to learn to use.

We utilized the theatre at the end of the street to see Everest and A Little Chaos. How interesting to learn that Alan Rickman went to the same school as my brother, though they didn't run in the same circles. We cruised the Clinton River to celebrate their wedding anniversary. We went downtown to Wayne and visited Kate in her office and took part in Joe's first birthday party. We treated them to a fantastic astronomical experience when a lunar eclipse met a supermoon. At least, Ernie took them to the park where there was a clear view. I went to bed. We caught up with British personalities and talked of Jeremy Corbin and Monte Python. Not the same person.

All too soon they left. I put away the teapot.

I'm reverting to my previous practice of marking special family anniversaries in this blog, so congratulations to our lovely and talented daughter Kate who married Ron (who is also lovely and talented) twenty years ago today. We love you and appreciate all your help.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Any Suggestions?

My husband received this dollar bill as change from a purchase. Initially I thought someone had just been scribbling random words and sentences on the back, but as I read it I found a sort of rhythm. To me at any rate each successive clause/phrase seems weaker than the last, and I came to the conclusion that a wouldbe writer of a rap song did not have any paper handy. Pretty impressive pen though. I know nothing about rap and have been trying to come up with a fourth line. Are there rules? I am pretty sure it is not supposed to follow the structure of a sonnet.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Au Revoir, Dr. John

He first appeared in our lives in the 70's (I think.) He was in a Latin class of Ernie's. We found out he lived on our street and he was kind enough to give Ernie a ride to Wayne some days so that I could have the car. Later we learned that before we got to know her, his mother had seen me walking to the local store with a couple of kids walking beside me and two or three riding in/hanging onto the stroller. She had remarked to John that she felt sorry for me. Me too.

John applied to Medical School (and I think I remember Ernie telling him that if he didn't get in, he would make him take Greek.) He did get in and qualified as a Family Doctor.  I remember the graduation party, and as I write this many memories of times spent together come back. As his mother grew older, she needed more care and John hired carers and eventually moved to a one storey house where there was room for her wheel chair. About fifteen years ago his mother died and John became a world traveler—as well as he could while remaining in his practice.

We gave John a party for his sixtieth birthday a couple of years ago and he continued to combine his travels and his work. Eventually he realized he could combine the two passions and before we knew it he was applying for one year locum positions in New Zealand.

Finally the name "Ashburton" appeared, and we watched various on-line descriptions and movies. We heard about the clinic where he would be working.

It was on our picnic table that he finally signed the contract. And today he left for San Francisco where he will board his connection to New Zealand—first Auckland for a brief interview, then on to Christchurch.

We no longer have small children for you to remove stitches from. We will not be seeing you arriving at our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas with your arms full of gifts. Au Revoir Dr. John. We will await your return.

Monday, September 07, 2015


A year ago were thinking of ways to encourage Kate's husband, Ron, who was in training for the Detroit Free Press Marathon. He belongs to a gym and works out regularly, but a Marathon? He is more at home on a stage. We joined the crowds of people lining the streets of Indian Village, watched him go by and got the news (via i-phone) that he had finished his first Marathon. We were all so proud of him. Somewhere I have a photo, but . . .

It took courage on his part, but this year I will be watching the progress of a runner with a different kind of courage, and one which I understand perhaps more. I first found an article on Beth Kline-Markesino in a paper which is distributed freely in Grosse Pointe. It described how she is running the Detroit Marathon to "raise awareness of a painful, little
known disease called trigeminal neuralgia". Sound familiar? Beth surprised me by saying she was diagnosed when she was 25, which is outside the normal range (over 60, 5 to one female and right cheek more likely than left.) I cannot imagine knowing she has so many years to live with this condition.  She introduced me to an on-line fundraising site of which I was not previously aware:

Later she was one of five runners featured in an article in the Detroit Free Press written by Kristen Jordan Shamus. I was amazed by Beth's quote, "Somebody just recently said why are you coming forward? Why aren't you being quiet??"

I join Beth in not being quiet, but I am not about to run a Marathon. I applaud this lovely young woman. Join me in thinking of her on race day and in praying for her and the others who suffer with this painful and under-researched condition.

Friday, September 04, 2015

So How Was Your Day, Mrs. Ament?

As often, though not always these days, I arose with my day organized, at least in my head. The world was washed cleaned by last night's storm. I read the more interesting pages in today's WSJ and then went up to do battle with my computer. There is most certainly a problem and a Comcast agent is going to send a new modem. She assured me it would be easy to install, but—

I used to work with an Admissions Officer called Dorothy, who claimed that the admissions system worked only half the time. I was scornful, but I found my internet connection which had been dead was working just fine and banged out a few e-mails. Sorry Dorothy.

Next I did a  little cleaning—just in case. Together with the three daughters who live in the area we are going to give a last swim of the season/farewell picnic for our friend John who is slated to leave for New Zealand on Tuesday as a locum in a medical facility for a year (two years?) The weather is bound to be lovely, right? But the thunder and lightning we enjoyed last night would not work out well for a picnic, and my house was Plan B. The weather was not the only threat . . . John's visa was late in coming. Then who should arrive but John to tell us all is well with the visa and he leaves Tuesday. More then.

After lunch I had a short attack of what I call the "Two o'clock wobblies." It never lasts long, but a sit-down with a book helped. Let's see, before long it was dinner and the news. We were attempting to locate the channel showing the first Michigan State football game of the season. First we bumped into the game show Jeopardy with the charming host, Alex Trebek. All three of the contestants were teachers, and in response to a question about how she kept order in the classroom, one contestant claimed that flexibility of lesson plan and humor helped. To this Alex Trebek said he had had a couple of teachers like that. Perhaps that included Prof. Ernest Ament who taught a young Trebek at the University of Ottawa in the late fifties.

I have never spent blog entries writing about how my day went. But sometimes a lot of nothing adds up to a whole morning, afternoon and evening.