Wordless Wednesday #4

Wordless Wednesday #4

SO ready for Spring!

Movie Night

Movie Night

It’s Saturday night, but the weather is pure crap. No one with a modicum of common sense would want to go out in this freezing drizzle. A little effortless entertainment is clearly in order. Luckily, with a decent TV and a DVD player, the comfort of my own sofa is as far as I need to go to enjoy a couple of hours of escape with no commercial interruptions. But what to watch?

Sorting through my movie collection, there’s a wide variety available. No horror films, because they give me the heebie-jeebies just to watch, not to mention the nightmares that would follow. But plenty of drama, comedy, romance, and westerns. I tend to gravitate toward the feel-good flicks with happy endings, like those in the photo above. Sometimes it’s fantasy, once in a while something based on someone’s true life experience, but almost always a tale that turns out right in the end, and leaves me with a sense of “God’s in his Heaven, all’s well with the world.”

When our daughter was small and Disney’s cartoon “The Little Mermaid” was released, we saw it at the theater, and then could hardly wait until it was available on videotape. The story, the music, the artwork . . . magic! She watched that film almost every day for two months, and I still don’t mind if the grandkids want to pop it into the player. The grandson’s favorite (when he was just tiny!) was a Veggie Tale movie: “King George and the Ducky”. He’d view that thing every afternoon if we let him, for months on end. What is it with that? I suppose it’s the comfort of knowing that yes–there will be conflict, there is a challenge to overcome–but everything’s going to resolve for the best. Just sit tight, and it’ll be fine before the credits roll.

Here’s your chance, then: leave a comment, tell us about your favorite movies. What would you watch on a cold Movie Night at home?

Pardon Me, Roy . . .

Pardon Me, Roy . . .

My brother D. has a great sense of humor.  Clean stories with a clever twist on words are one of his specialties.  Sometime prior to 1979 (I think) he came home with a story about Roy Rogers, a dead mountain lion, and a mangled pair of western foot apparel.  The punch line was “Pardon me Roy:  Is that the cat that chewed your new boots?” and was sung to the tune of the first lines of  The Chattanooga Choo-Choo.   (OK, so I can hear you groaning from here!)  It’s possible the last word was “shoes”, not “boots”, but you get the idea.  And now the song’s going to be in my head all evening.

What brought this up was a recent phone conversation when I told him about buying the boots in the photo.  The brand name is Double H (no, I’m not getting a commission on this, but I wouldn’t mind . . .), and they’re made in Pennsylvania.  The leather is sturdy, I like the wood-stack heels, the non-skid soles, and the fabric-covered inside seams on the uppers. What I really like a lot is that they’re manufactured right here in the good ol’ USA.

The surprising thing to me was just how many of the boots in the western-wear store I went to were not Made in America.  In fact, the clerk there told me that most of them aren’t.  Many brands have moved production to Mexico to save on costs.  This is understandable.  And after all, Mexico had vaqueros before we ever had buckaroos.  I can handle that.  But when she informed me that many of today’s cowboy boots are made in China?  I’m sorry–no offense to the Chinese, I’m sure they’ve got a lot of nice folks over there–but there’s just something wrong with that picture, at least in my mind.

Just about everyone I know is on a budget, or oughta be.  I am, and thanks to Financial Peace lessons from Dave Ramsey (see www.daveramsey.com), I was able to save enough to buy Double H boots and pay cash.  I’m not trying to preach, here, because there are plenty of imported items in my inventory.  But so many people around us are looking for work these days.  If and when you can, check the labels before you buy.  Look for that USA tag. Let’s keep America on the job!

A Girlfriend for Albert

A Girlfriend for Albert

Companionship can be a wonderful thing.  Albert has been my companion (or at least one of them) for well over three years now.  I think he’s as devoted to me as I am to him.  But one of the drawbacks is the level of worry I experience when I have to be gone for more than a day.  The chain link kennel outside is secure enough, and the roof overhead keeps out a good bit of weather.  He’s had his choice of the two molded plastic doghouses in there, with thick layers of cedar shavings inside for comfort and insulation. The fact remains, however, that he is accustomed to being with me a large percentage of the time.  So when duty calls or the travel bug bites, I stress about Albert getting lonely in his pen back home.

Here’s a really neat website:  www.petfinder.com

This site allows you to filter your search for a dog or cat (or other pets), male or female, young or adult, even specifying “OK with other pets” or “OK with children”.  Enter your ZIP code and it will return results closest to your home first, then radiating outward from there.  These are not pet store animals, they’re rescues.  Dogs who have been found wandering after being abandoned.  Cats who had to be given up by someone entering a nursing home.  For a wide variety of reasons, there are thousands of animals in every state, just waiting for a good home.  The costs are typically minimal, considering what the animal shelters provide.

Glenda S. helps at the Clinton Animal Shelter, and she and her husband Scott began providing a foster home for Dot after she was dumped near their home outside of town.  Their patience and TLC helped turn a terrified, starving young dog into a still-timid-but-willing-to-try, healthy beauty.  When I saw her pictures on the Petfinder site, I was captivated.  Could this long-limbed svelte girl be a suitable companion for Albert?  A phone call and a few messages later, a play-date meeting was arranged.  Albert and Dot exchanged the mandatory sniffs and snuffles common to canines the world over.  But when Dot dashed off, then turned and loped back over into an inviting play stance in front of Albert . . . well, we were had.  Glenda and I sat on the patio, marveling at how the two  raced and chased around the fenced yard, stopping now and then to nuzzle and sniff, then tearing off again in a doggy dance that was exuberance personified.

Recalling that Glenda had helped care for Albert at the Shelter for about four months before he came to live with me, I had a question for her.

“Who named Albert?”

“I did” Glenda said, turning to me with a smile.

So now Albert has a girlfriend.  Well, she’s a girl, and she’s his friend, but they’ve both been to the vet for more than their shots.  Since I don’t have a fenced yard, our trips outside involve leashes for the time being.  After Miss Dot has been here long enough to realize this is Home, she and Albert will get to run and play together again.  Stay tuned for some action photos, or maybe even a video.  He’s already tried to impress her with his mole-digging skills!  Here’s a picture of the new friends, relaxing together.

Albert and Dot

Albert and Dot

Genealogy of a House

Genealogy of a House

Ever since I was 15 years old I’ve been deeply interested in genealogy.  I was fortunate to know all of my grandparents, and four of my great-grandparents.  Mother has spent untold hours in research documenting the spreading branches of our family tree, back into the 1600s in some cases.  When we find something in print that tells us the least little detail about what our ancestors may have been like–as opposed to just names and dates on a page–it is a special treat.  Maybe you’ve enjoyed the same type of treasure hunt I’m mentioning here.

But what about real estate?  Now and then as I drive down a country road I see a sign posted by a driveway:  “Missouri Century Farm”.  This tells me that farmstead has been in the same family for at least 100 years.  Wouldn’t that be a neat feeling?!  While that particular honor isn’t possible for me, the concept isn’t unthinkable for my descendants.  Only time will tell, though, and I’ll be watching from elsewhere if and when it ever happens.

Today, however, I was in the county courthouse on a work-related matter, and just out of curiosity, asked the lady in the Recorder’s Office if she knew how I could find out when my home was built.

“What’s your address?” she asked.  I provided it, and she typed it into her computer system.

1917” she told me.  Just like that!

Her records did not show who had built the house, or who owned the land at the time, and she referred me upstairs to the Assessor’s Office.  A very kind gentleman named Frank Higgins helped me there, and showed me his copy of the 1896 Plat Book for our county.  It lists the landowner of my farm that year as Lucy J. Edwards.  There’s no guarantee that she still owned it 19 years later when this house was built, but somehow it felt gratifying to know.  One of the ladies in that office suggested I search the Net for later editions of the plat map, so that will be my next step.  It doesn’t accomplish or change anything . . . but perhaps Lucy Edwards or someone else watching from somewhere is smiling at the knowledge that while they may be gone, their efforts to make this little corner of the world a better place are still being appreciated.  I hope so.

The “comment” link up above next to my name enables you to leave a message regarding a post.  C’mon, tell us about your favorite old house!

Picture This!

Picture This!

In 1950, the U S Army drafted my daddy into service.  Of course, he wasn’t my daddy yet then, or anybody else’s either; that came later.  While stationed in Korea, however, at the PX (Post Exchange) he bought a 35mm camera, a Leica.  It had a black metal chassis with an orange peel texture, and a brown leather strap he would hang over his neck to keep it handy for those opportune moments.  The flash attachment looked like a small stainless steel lady’s fan when collapsed, but unfurled into a reflective daisy blossom with a blue glass center once the flashbulb was plugged and twisted into it.  One bulb, one flash.  The bulbs weren’t cheap, so many photos were taken outside or near windows during the daytime, where natural lighting made using the flash unnecessary.

The 35mm film could either be turned into prints or slides.  Once you had the slide, you could always have a print made from it, but not the other way around, so Daddy’s color film was often processed into slides. The little white cardboard frames made them easy to number and  store standing up in a tray-type box with slots, and there was a paper chart that just fit inside the lid of the metal box, on which the subject matter of each corresponding slide was recorded.  It was always a special night when the slide projector came out of the box and the tripod with its telescoping bar was set up and the screen raised and suspended from the top of the bar.  Picture time!  We’d review happy memories of birthdays, vacations, trips downtown to see the riverboats on the Mississippi, visits from family members or other special guests.  We got to enjoy these episodes all over again, by way of the slide shows.

Daddy is 85 now, but not a man to be left behind the times.  Through the wonders of modern technology, a home computer and a program called Photoshop, he’s going through those old slides–many of which have faded to a bluish cast over the years–and reworking the colors on the digitally converted images.  He sent several to me via email.  While it’s not quite the same effect as sitting on the floor with my siblings in a darkened room with the hum of the projector’s cooling fan motor in the background, it still gives me a chance to relive some pretty neat times. I’m thankful for so many things our parents provided us, and for the thought they put into preserving our history in pictures.  Thank you, Daddy, for continuing that effort!

Here’s an example, both before, and after:

J.  with doll (before)     J. and doll (after)

Wordless Wednesday #3

Wordless Wednesday #3

From the garden at the Mayflower Society Museum, Plymouth, MA, October 2013

Eat Your Vegetables . . .

Eat Your Vegetables . . .

Didn’t we all hear that enough times while growing up to burn it into our memories forever?  Well, most of us, anyway.  Not my niece A., surely, since she became a  vegetarian at a very tender age.  After watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid she stopped eating fish, and then a few years later the movie Babe put the skids to hotdogs ever appearing on her plate again.  But I digress.

Recently, that very niece and her mom (my beloved sister) told me about Kale Chips.

“What?”

“Kale Chips” they said.  “They’re great!”

“OK . . . tell me about those.”

And so they did.  And I made a mental note, thinking maybe I’d try these.  This weekend, I finally did.  And believe it or not, I like ’em!  Traditionally, I’m more of a popcorn or pretzel or cookie kind of snacker, but these are better than edible, they’re actually good.  Crispy, yet slightly chewy, with a pleasant flavor.  And from what I read about Kale, it’s even good for us, so you can eat these chips and get one of your daily vegetable servings out of the way at the same time.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour about 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl.  Add a little salt, pepper, garlic powder.

Wash 3-4 curly kale leaves and blot them dry on a paper towel.

Place kale leaf upside down on a cutting board.  Cut out the center rib, or at least most of it. Cut or break up the leaf into chip-sized pieces.  Place pieces in the bowl.  Repeat with other leaves.

Use a rubber scraper or wooden spoon to gently stir and turn the kale pieces in the bowl to coat them with the seasoned oil.  Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake 8 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the oven door slightly ajar with the pan in place for 2 minutes more.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before eating.

That’s it!  Yesterday I added just a hint of curry powder to the oil, and that was tasty.  Today I substituted a smidgen of nutmeg for the curry powder, and added a packet of leftover parmesan cheese from a carry-out pizza order.  Another method says to place the kale on the baking sheet, mist with the oil from a spray bottle, then sprinkle on the seasonings.  I don’t have an oil mister, but the bowl method was really simple and fast.

Now let’s hear your variations!

Let’s NOT have a Party

Let’s NOT have a Party

First, a disclaimer about the picture.  It is not from this week, or even this year.  There’s snow outside right now, but not this much.  It does, however, depict pretty well how cold it has felt all this week, and how the weather folks predict it’s going to stay for the next five days or so.  BRRRR!  (shiver)!

So maybe it’s the winter blahs, or the cold-weather blues, but tonight I’m fighting the pull of having a party.  Not the fun kind . . . a Pity Party.  At first I thought “Naw, I can’t write about that; people will just think I’m out for attention.”  But the more I considered, I realized it’s likely a rather common feeling right now.  With Christmas and New Years behind us, several weeks of winter still ahead, and Valentines Day coming up next week, it’s primetime for a little non-tropical depression. If you’ve been in the greeting card aisle (or the candy section, or the holiday racks) of a store lately, maybe you’ve felt it too.  In looking for a sweet Valentine to send my parents or my grandchildren, all I seem to see are the perfect sentiments to send to someone who’s not here to receive them anymore.  And it hurts.  It hurts to the point that I have tried three times to complete this errand, only to leave empty handed from every trip.

So to give myself something to look forward to, I sent a message to the Son-of-my-House, offering to pick up the kids after school next Friday, in case he’d like to meet his sweetheart after work for a special dinner.  The grandkids and I could bake cookies, or watch a movie (Pirates!) or work a jigsaw puzzle together.  Maybe even defrock the Christmas tree . . . well.  We’ll see about that.

Perhaps you’re mourning, too, or missing a friend, a partner, a parent, a sibling, a child.  If so, I am sincerely sorry.  It may not help to read it, but I know the feeling, and sympathize.   Now tell me how you cope?  What’s your best answer for NOT having a Pity Party?  Use the “comment” link above, next to my name!

Tunes for a Tuesday

Tunes for a Tuesday

Do you have a favorite song from days gone by?  You know the one . . . when it just happens to pop up on the oldies station of your car radio, and you’re all alone, you crank the volume way up and just grin.  Maybe you drum your fingers on the steering wheel, sing along, or perhaps shed a tear at the memory it evokes.  That song.

Music has always played an important role in my life, from Ragtime piano rolls played on the antique Stark upright in our basement when I was a child, to the sing-alongs we had with Daddy when he got out his guitar and mandolin; the Sunday morning church hymns and the various musicians who frequented our home over the years.  Maybe we didn’t get to run wild up and down the block and get into dirt-clod fights on the vacant lot, but we sure had music!  (Personally, I think the risk of a hidden rock in the dirt clods makes those fights highly overrated).

Now and then I clean the pile of debris off the clear plastic cover of my Technics turntable (Yes! it still works!) and get out some vinyl.  The first 45rpm single I bought was “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John.  My first album was a collection of Gene Autry songs.  Thereafter followed a mix of country and rock (and country-rock!), blues and religion and a few movie soundtrack tunes. If you were ever a collector of vinyl record albums, you’ll recall the thrill of a pulling out a liner sleeve that had lyrics to all the songs, credits for musicians, composers and lists of back-up singers. A veritable treasure trove of musical information!

These days I listen to a lot of those same songs, but from the convenience of the iPod setting on my phone. It’s easier than flipping the record over and restarting the needle every 20 minutes or so, and I can take it with me all over the place.  No pops or skips or episodes of the same three words being repeated over and over and over . . .  But now and then I do miss those liner notes.  I guess that’s what Google is for.

Ok, then, let me hear from you; what are your favorite oldies?