Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

So the day is here.  I have been awake since about 4:30 going over what needs to be done today.  It's pretty straight forward.  I need to get the pie(s) in the oven first, then put the turkey in around noon.  Ned and Marta are going to pick up my mother and bring her here to visit for a couple of hours until it's time for them to go off to Marta's parents' house for dinner.  We'll have our dinner, return my mother to Atria, and then go to Marta's parents' house for a second dessert.

I'm going to make the traditional green bean casserole that I don't like, but Walt does.  I figure it will be a great thing to give my mother to do--take the ends off of the green beans.  She needs a job and that should be perfect -- easy, time consuming and I hope she doesn't forget halfway through the job what she's supposed to do!

I tried to get things organized yesterday.  Not much "organizing" to do when there are only 3 people and no complicated things to prepare, but I am trying some new things, like Geoffrey Zacharian's guide to make sure the turkey is dry before putting it in the oven.  He recommends putting it in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours.  So I've done that.  I brined a turkey for the first time last Thanksgiving and couldn't really tell the difference from un-brined so we'll see how GZ's recommendation works.

I'm also NOT going to stuff the turkey, but am going to make dressing in the crock pot.  Since this is the part of the meal I am most picky about I hope it works.  I read several recipes for doing it and will make my own, based on everyone's suggestions.  It certainly makes removing the dressing to a serving plate easier than scooping it out of the body of the bird.

And then there will be Jeff Mauro's sinfully rich mashed potatoes, with cream cheese, butter and half and half.  Oh, and potatoes too.

A good idea, but here are a few things on my "thankful list."

* Of course #1 is the family and how much I love our relationships with each other
* Especially Walt, who works so hard around here and how much I appreciate him
* (I love him too!)
* The dogs who entertain us nightly
* Having a warm home to live in on these cold days
* Being able to see so many theatrical programs
* Having the good fortune to be paid to write
* All of my "extended family," the Compassion children around the world
* Char, my best friend, without whom my life would be very blank
* All of my other friends, close and casual
* My mother's health and the good care she is getting now
* Books.  And more books
* Having Brianna and Lacie to write to
* Everybody who has read Airy Persiflage through the years.  I love you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sex and Turkeys

You can't turn on any news program without hearing about sex.  It is disheartening to hear what goes on with such beloved icons as Charlie Rose or Kevin Spacey.  There must be soul-searching all over Congress....surely a good percentage of those high and mighty representatives have some hanky panky in their history and now that women, after so long, are being believed they are tentatively coming forward and the stories are slowly coming out.

It appears the only person who does not believe the women is #45, who says Moore says he didn't do it and he must be believed.  BS.

But I'm having such a difficult time about Al Franken.  I was heartsick to hear the accusation against him and waited to hear more women come forth.  While waiting I examined the lewd photo and, as a photographer, I looked at it closely and saw that his hands are hovering over her breasts, they are not on her breasts, which I found reassuring. I also realized that they were on a comedy tour and the kiss, while stupid and ill-advised didn't rise to the level of dating teenagers, or grabbing pussies, or rape or any of the other accusations that have come up about other big names.

So the jury is out on my opinion of Al Franken, who has obviously lost his opportunity to run for president (though if #45 is any indication, sexual misconduct isn't an automatic show stopper), but I felt better when I read that 36 women involved in Saturday Night Live, whether stars or production people signed a statement which reads, in part,
What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant.
A second accuser has now come forth, saying that he grabbed her butt while they posed for a photo.  And I don't excuse that.  Again, how stupid can you be....but at the time he made his living as a comedian and it was something funny to do in an age where nobody gave it a second thought.
If nothing else does it rise to the level of the other men who have been accused of everything from pedophilia or rape?

There is a very thought-provoking article written by feminist S. Novi who is also having difficulties knowing what to think of Franken.  I really encourage people to read it.  She doesn't excuse anything that he has been accused of doing, but offers another way to look at it.
Let me say right up front that as a woman and a life-long feminist, I absolutely support women coming forward when there have been sexual assaults or abuse. There has been a history of demeaning women in both the courtroom and life so that most refused to put themselves through the process and simply remained quiet. However, this situation is quite a bit different and it requires that we step back and view this with a lens of logic. The fact is that Franken doesn’t have a history of demeaning women, in fact it is the opposite.
I had a disagreement yesterday with someone with whom I have been in agreement about politics for years.  She is adamant that Franken is a disgusting human being and she wants nothing more to do with him.  When I pointed out the photos of the woman grabbing a guy's butt on the same tour, she snapped " now they are slut-shaming."  I don't consider her a slut, nor do I 100% consider Franken on a par with the other molesters who have been accused.  I consider this a comedy tour where bawdy things are commonplace.

In her defense, she is running this through a colleague she respected, who turned out to have a hidden history that included sexual misconduct.  I can't be that black and white.  I don't in any way condone the actions of which Franken has been accused, but I just can't write him off.  

I wait and watch and see where it all goes from here.  I will be very disappointed if a legion of other women come out with new accusations.

In the meantime I am nothing but disgusted by the sexual abuser in the White House, who seems to prefer to support a pedophile for Senate than risk the election of a Democrat.  But then he disgusts me on most days, so why is today different from any other day?

But speaking of turkeys.....

Yesterday I did my big Thanksgiving shopping and enjoyed the choices I had for the main course.

Since there will only be 3 of us for dinner (assuming we can convince my mother to come out to the house), I looked for a smaller turkey, remembering the time I cooked a 31 lb turkey for 24 people.  I managed to find an 18 lb turkey and will be brining it today.  

With only 3 of us, and planning a very simple menu, I was surprised to see that the tag come to $177.  But I hope I have everything and though I have successfully cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for 50 years and though our only guest will be my mother, I find I am still nervous about getting it all right.

Happy Thanksgiving all!!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gracie and Jane

I don't know how many are familiar with the show Talk Stoop.  Apparently it is a full 15 or 30 minute show in New York with interviews of celebrities who happen to pass by the front steps of hostess Cat Greenleaf for a brief chat.  Out here on the West Coast we don't get the show, but we get like a 5 minute (or less) snippet of the show in between programming on the USA network.

My favorite part of the show was always "Gracie Greenleaf," Cat's bulldog, who sat, or usually slept, on the top step...

...occasionally sniffing the guest.  Gracie made the show for me.

I hadn't seen Talk Stoop in awhile but it popped up the other day and...there was no Gracie!  Instead, Cat had a new dog who looked like a terrier -- not nearly a good substitute for Gracie.  Apparently Gracie died back in April.  I looked and looked but can't find either a photo of the new dog or what his/her name is.  However, I did find a web page "In Memory of Gracie," where people can post photos or videos of Gracie.  There are no entries!  But I guess I'll have to get used to the new dog...and maybe eventually learn his/her name.

In the afternoon we went to a movie!  Alert the media!  This is the second movie we have seen this year, the first was Beauty and the Beast when Caroline was here in March.

Several movies came and went that I missed (like Victoria and Abdul, which I really wanted to see.  I'm assuming it will eventually make it to Netflix).  But tonight we actually went to see Jane, the story of Jane Goodall in a theater.

Jane Goodall is one of my heroes and I have followed her story since the National Geographic aired the very first special on her in the early 1960s.  I still remember that before Jane, I was taught that humans were the only intelligent creatures because only humans knew how to use tools.  Jane proved that theory wrong, showing chimpanzees taking twigs and sticking them into ant holes to get ants to eat.  It has since been shown that many animals know how to use tools.

The movie was very special but as much as I enjoyed all the chimpanzees, I was most impressed with a scene where a male and female lion attacked a wildebeest during the great migration.  The female had the wildebeest by the nose and the female had him by the tail, while all the other wildebeest ran by.  Then the whole herd stopped, turned around, came back and started threatening the lions, who dropped their catch and slunk off.  Lemme tell you, the last thing you want is to be threatened by hundreds of angry wildebeest!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Perks

There are perks of being a critic. 

The obvious one is that you get to see all the big shows that come to town.  Any traveling Broadway show that hits Sacramento, I get free high priced tickets, great seats, and all I have to do is enjoy the show and write about it.

Another perk is watching a theater company improve over the years, like the Davis Musical Theater Company, which was not wonderful 40 years ago, but which has turned in some amazing first-rate productions these last years.

The down side is that I have to see everything and while most are fun, some are real duds and trying to write something about them is real work and I figure helps pay for those great shows that are easy to review.

The perk that I don't often think about until it happens is seeing shows that are maybe not the best but so much fun it more than makes up for it.

One of my very favorite theater groups is the Winters Community Theater.  Winters is a small town (~7,000 people) and they have had this theater company which has been going for some 40 years.  They perform in the community center and people sit on uncomfortable folding chairs around big round tables (on opening night you get free champagne and cheesecake; other nights you can buy cheesecake)

What I love about Winters is that they are amateurs and they know it.  The definition of "amateur" is someone doing something for the love of it, and these guys love what they are doing.  They don't pretend to be or act like they are better than they are.  They just do what they can, but love what they are doing. Walt and I rarely leave a Winters production without smiling about how much fun it was and how much everyone loved what they are doing.

This week we had what may have been the most fun we've had at a theatrical production this year, and it was at Winters, where set changes seem to last forever and the pace of things is slower than it should be, but the overall result was just so much fun you almost didn't mind.

This show was The Wizard of Oz and it had a cast of thousands (well, about 35), including Tibby, who played Toto, and who was incredibly cute, especially when any of her "real" family came on stage (like the Cowardly Lion or Glinda) when her tail would wag much faster.

I was covering this show for two different newspapers (both of which will get the same review).  Debra DeAngelo, on the right, is the editor of the Winters Express, and since she was also playing Auntie Em, she couldn't very well review the show.

The last time she did a show it was Calendar Girls and I reviewed that one for her as well.

In the Munchkin number, I lost count of how many little kids were on stage, but one of them had a real baby in a front pack and a toddler by the hand.  The toddler wasn't into show biz and kept struggling to break free, finally doing so and first running off stage by a side ramp and then trying to run off stage and into the audience. Since the girl who was supposed to be his Munchkin mom was packing a baby, she couldn't chase him, so someone else managed to catch him before he plunged off the stage.

Toto didn't stay on script and barked when she should not have and didn't bark when she should (but Dorothy hid her face in Toto's head and barked for her)

Putting some of the familiar actors in the Oz costumes changed their personality and several gave better performances than I've ever seen, particularly the wicked witch who chewed the scenery just wonderfully.

And then there was Sunday's British Panto, Robin Hood in the Forest of Frogwarts, a zany 2-hour romp that is perfect for little kids.

There was lots of audience interaction, a chance for many kids to come on stage, and a finale that had everyone in the audience throwing plastic balls at the stage.  It was a little too much for me, but the kids in the audience loved it.  For the older people, they even had banners hanging over the houses of Hotwarts:  Pachyndwarf, Canary foot, Rasta Puff, and Chirpiz.

All too silly for me; I much preferred The Wizard of Oz.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Welcome back to Sunday Stealing which originated on WTIT: The Blog authored by Bud Weiser. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. You may have heard the expression, “honor among thieves”. In that age-old tradition, we try to credit the blog that we stole it from, if possible. We also provide a link to the victim's questions in our "Previous Victims" widget. (It's our way of saying "Thanks!") Sometimes we edit the original meme, to make it more relevant to our global players, to challenge our players, to select the best questions, or simply to make it less repetitive from recently asked questions from a previously post. Cheers to all of us thieves!

 With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I thought it might be fun to find a set of Thanksgiving-related questions.  This came from a site called Documented Legacy

1.  What made you feel patriotic this year?
The women's march the day after the inauguration and seeing the crowd that easily outnumbered his.

2 . What do you value most about your life?
My relationship with our kids and how close our family is -- no arguments when we get together!

3.  What do you appreciate about your friendships?
There is something wonderful about a long-term friendship that has lasted 50 years or more.  You know each other's lives, their family and you can go months without seeing each other, but then step back as if you just saw each other yesterday.

4.  Name one person who can make you laugh, even months later. Why?
The grandkids.  Kids can always bring a smile to your face even months later.

5.  What is the funniest thing you remember about a Thanksgiving past?
Watching Walt's mother playing charades, when she was alive.  Never ever being able to give a clue silently! (We always liked giving her the hardest clues for that reason!)

6.  Do you have any unusual traditions, rituals or habits around Thanksgiving?
These days, no.  In the days when we went to Lake Tahoe every Thanksgiving, we loved playing games and especially charades after dinner.  Also, Tom's annual baked Alaska.  I miss those days.

7.  Name one ancestor that you think about on Thanksgiving and tell us why.
My godfather, Fred West, who brought a 2 lb box of See's candy each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We looked forward to that.

8.  Is there a family heirloom at the Thanksgiving table? What is its story?
Not any more, but in the Tahoe days we had this ragged old paper turkey that we bought for the first Thanksgiving there, and we brought out every year, as it got more and more ragged and required more and more Scotch tape to hold it together.

9.  What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving Day?
Getting up in the middle of the night and sneaking leftover stuffing or pumpkin pie!

10. What random act of kindness did you perform or that was done to you this year that makes you feel grateful?
I suppose this could come under a random act of kindness.  We hosted a young vet student from Guernsey while she was taking a course at the university.  Her mother had stayed for 3 weeks with us when she was her daughter's age.  We were younger and had more stamina then, but I think Caroline had a good time here.

11. What do you appreciate about the change of seasons?
I am always a much happier person when the summer temps are finally gone.  And I love the fall color, even though we don't get a lot of it here.

12. Name five things that make you happy about today.
* A good visit with my mother (the Klonopin must be working!)
* #45 decided to reverse the decision lift the ban on killing big game animals in Africa, until he has a chance to "study it."  Signing those petitions HELPED!!!
* Fun production of The Wizard of Oz at the Winters Community Theater
* Free champagne and cheesecake before the show
* Nothing on the calendar for the rest of the day

13. How has the celebration of Thanksgiving today changed from when you were little?
For all the years of my childhood, we had dinner at our house, and the family all came there. 

(my sister took the picture)
After Jeri was born, the dinner moved to Walt's and my house and I enjoyed being the hostess, then we started going to Tahoe until David died.  

dinner at Tahoe, 1990

Now we have lost all tradition.  With the family spread out, there is no logical place to get us all together and the older my mother gets, the more I feel the need to celebrate what might be her last holiday, so I have dinner with her, and others either come or not, but she's not comfortable in crowds.

Thanksgiving 2016

14. If you could share Thanksgiving dinner today with one person in history who would it be? Why? (Note: it can be a relative)
Wampanoag chief Massasoit. He was at the very first Thanksgiving and I'd like to hear how that compares with today.

15. What is one wish you have for the next generation as they begin to establish their own Thanksgiving traditions.
I think our kids have good memories of Thanksgivings past.  I hope they are now establishing their own traditions, especially Tom and Laurel so that when the grandchildren grow up they will have fond memories of their Thanksgivings.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday 9

Welcome to Saturday: 9. What we've committed to our readers is that we will post 9 questions every Saturday. Sometimes the post will have a theme, and at other times the questions will be totally unrelated. Those weeks we do "random questions," so-to-speak. We encourage you to visit other participants posts and leave a comment. Because we don't have any rules, it is your choice. We hate rules. We love memes, however, and here is today's meme!
Saturday 9: Son of a Preacher Man (1968)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) This song was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, who turned it down. What's the most recent thing that you said "no" to? We were invited to join Ned's in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Because it would be too confusing for my mother and because she's 98 so I never know when her "last" holiday is going to be, I said that I would be cooking dinner for my mother instead, so we would not be able to come.
2) Two years later, Aretha recorded "Son of a Preacher Man." What's something you changed your mind about When I graduated from high school, my plan was to become a nun.  I had my trunk packed and my plane ticket in hand to fly to St. Louis, where the motherhouse was. The nuns weren't sure I was ready, so encouraged me to wait six months and then decide.  After six months I decided I didn't really want to do that after all.  I often wonder what I would be doing now if I had gone ahead with my original plans.

3) This song tells the tale of Billy Ray, a young man who could be very persuasive. If we wanted to change your mind about something, would you be more easily swayed by an emotional argument, or with verifiable facts? Definitely an emotional argument.  My mind's made up---don't confuse me with facts!
4) If you ordered a "Son of a Preacher Man" in a bar, you'd get a cocktail made with peppermint schnapps, gin and lemonade. When did you last have lemonade? Was it just lemonade, or was it spiked with alcohol? Whew.  I don't remember.  But whenever it was, it was just plain lemonade without alcohol.

5) Dusty had a thing for maps. She admired them artistically and enjoyed using them to take long car trips. Do you use printed maps? Or do you rely on technology, like GPS or Google Maps?

I used to be very good at reading maps.  Now I'm hopeless.  I use our GPS to get me somewhere I have never been before.

6) As a girl, she attended convent school. There, one of the nuns discouraged Dusty from performing, telling her that if she would do better to be a mother or a librarian. When you were growing up, did the adults in your world encourage your dreams?
Well, I didn't really have dreams but my father decided my life course (which included becoming a teacher, which I knew I did not want to be).  I just wanted to be a secretary, which I eventually became--and loved it.
7) That nun inspired Dusty's first major act of rebellion. In an attempt to make herself look less like a future librarian or housewife, she bleached her hair platinum blonde. In school, were you much of a rebel? Or did you conform to the expectations adults had of you?
Oh lord, I was so NOT a rebel!!!  I think that's the 11th commandment of Catholic girls' schools -- thou shall not become a rebel!

8) Early in her career, Dusty provided the entertainment at a family summer camp. She appeared on the bill with a clown, a fire-eater and a hypnotist. Have you ever been hypnotized?

No.  I've often wondered if I would be susceptible, but the fear of losing control would keep me from volunteering, if I ever had the opportunity.

9) Random question: Have you ever played matchmaker to your friends? If yes, did your efforts lead to romance?

Just once.  They are married now and their children are adults.  It wasn't so much "matchmaker" as "facilitator," as they had broken up and had not seen each other for a few years.  I made it possible for them to see each other again and the rest is history.

Friday, November 17, 2017


If you've read this journal for any length of time, you know how this makes me feel.....

This is sickening -- Trump’s just given the greenlight for bloodthirsty American hunters to murder elephants  in Africa and bring their heads home as trophies.

Trump’s own son shot and mutilated an elephant -- and now he’s changed the law so anyone can join the slaughter and bring home elephant body parts as souvenirs, even as ivory poaching threatens to wipe them out.

Let’s build a massive global outcry to shame the US into dropping this disgusting plan, and when its huge, Avaaz will work with key African countries to deliver it at a major wildlife protection meeting days away.

Sign the petition to President Trump, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservation authorities around the world:
"Elephants are facing extinction and this is no time to strip them of protection. Trophy hunting drives the slaughter of elephants, increases demand for their body parts, and projects a double standard that makes it harder to tackle ivory poaching. We call on you to do all you can to reverse the US decision to allow the import of elephant trophies, before it is too late."

Many efforts have been made to outlaw hunting elephants for their tusks, but poaching still occurs on a regular basis. It is thought that from 1930-1940 there were 3 to 5 million African elephants roaming the continent. Now in Western Africa elephant populations are counted in the tens or hundreds.  Conservation Int'l estimates that an elephant is killed every 15 minutes....and this is with the international ban in place.

It was a gigantic win when China was convinced to ban ivory.  What will happen now?  Will China decide to follow suit and allow ivory importing again?

Having read many accounts of people who have spent years with elephants and recorded their families in action, this lifting of the ban hurts me personally.  I hate what happens to elephants.  I cheered when the circuses decided to retire their elephants.

We went to the Chicago zoo once and there was one lone elephant (the other two had died) standing in this small cement yard just staring out.  I apologized to her.  She died a couple of years later.
There are two elephants at the Santa Barbara zoo.  A favorite of the kids who visit, but I hate to see them.  Elephants belong in families.  And free.

I've been following stories on the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the world's most successful elephant rescue and rehabilitation program.  It's wonderful to follow a baby orphaned when his mother is killed for her tusks, to watch that baby bond with the helpers at the orphanage, to watch them create families with the ther orphans, the grow to teenagers and start learning how to live on their own, to watch them finally graduate and become free...and then return in a year or so with a baby in tow to show him/her off.  Wonderfully rewarding.

But what is tragic are the babies who are too traumatized and never get over seeing the slaughter of their mother...and literally die of a broken heart.

Also watching video of the whole group working together to help a baby in trouble is so terribly moving.  And the death rituals of groups of elephants is downright human.  In fact, when you read the observations of these researchers who study elephant behavior you can't help but come to the conclusion that elephants may be the most "human" of any animals.

And now thanks to our glorious leader, people are going to be able to fly to Africa and kill them again to bring their "elephant trophies" home. 

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told CNN it means "elephants minding their business are going to be gunned down by rich Americans."

I have been so upset by this lifting of the ban, I have been very teary all day.  Not boo hoo crying, but every little thing on TV moves me to tears.

If we didn't have a sociopath in the White House who seems incapable of feeling empathy for anything, we might have a chance of getting the ban put back in place again, but I have little hope.
My grandchildren know elephants.  My great grandchildren may never know an elephant.