Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Who DID the Cooking?

The prompt for today is;

Who did most of the cooking in your house when you were growing up?

My mother, definitely.  Until I was in high school, she was a stay at home mom and even after she got a job with the Bank of America, it was only a couple of days a week, to start, so she was home the rest of the time.  She not only cooked dinner every night, but also fixed breakfast and packed our lunches to take to school.  Never did figure out why bologna sandwiches always had mayonnaise and salami sandwiches came with butter, but to this day I often fix them that way.

We had a lot of take out food, too.  Pizza (which we picked up at the local pizza joint in North Beach) or Chinese food (which we had delivered).

My father was a meat and potatoes kind of guy (with a big dose of Italian wanna be....he loved anything Italian, though he did not have a drop of Italian blood in him), so we had a lot of roasts (mostly beef) with potatoes and always vegetables, sometimes a salad.  I never did get the "love of veggies" gene, though.

He was a railway mail clerk, which meant he worked the mail on a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  This meant he would leave one morning, be gone that night and return the following night.  On the nights he was gone my sister and I often had "dinners" like pancakes, or scrambled eggs, or my favorite, those new Swanson fried chicken TV dinners that had just come out.

I remember I talked my mother into making pancakes with pork gravy for me one morning, after she told me that it was her favorite breakfast as a kid.  I remember really loving it and still don't know why she never fixed it again.  She also made marrow bone dumplings for soup from time to time.  Those were my favorites, but she stopped making them too.

My father liked to experiment in the kitchen, often something Italian.  The very best calzone I ever had was one he made.  I don't know, this many years later, what made it so special, but I've never had another that lived up to what he made.

But he was best known for his potato salad.  I have not had one since that was the same.  He said that the secret was slicing the potatoes very thin.  He also used sweet pickles and always Best Food (or Hellman's) mayonnaise and lots of onions and parsley.  I was his taster, letting him know if it needed more salt or not.

I don't make his potato salad because it needs lots of onion and Walt doesn't like onion.  Also because I love it and would eat more than I should.

He was less successful with sweets and once made peanut butter cookies that you could drink.  I don't know whether he added too much liquid (and what liquid do you add to cookies anyway?) or too little flour?  But we teased him unmercifully about those peanut butter cookies for many years.

Oddly, I did not learn to cook when I was growing up.  Perfectionist that she was, my mother never wanted help in the kitchen, or tried to teach us.  She would rather do it herself.  I taught myself to cook by volunteering to cook for a bunch of guys in the house where Walt was living at U.C. Berkeley.  But I think I turned out to be a fair-to-middlin' cook after all.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Who Does the Cooking?

The prompt for today is;

Who does most of the cooking in your home?

That would be a combination of me and Bertolli Italian dinners.  On weekends, when I have a show to review in Sacramento, I haul out one of the reliable Bertolli dinners.  My cousin Kathy recommended them to me years ago when we were talking about the dreary boredom of having to find something to cook for two people every night.  I started buying them and it is now my routine to cook a Bertolli dinner before a show in Sacramento.  I generally don't eat much of it because I'm not usually hungry for pasta, so one bag is plenty for us to have a light dinner so that we are full, but don't fall asleep in whatever show I'm reviewing.

But as a general rule, I do all the cooking, sometimes even preparing it myself!  I used to actually cook, as in "create a meal" when we had kids and foreign guests here, but now that it's only Walt and myself, I still prepare meals most nights, but get lazy and use frozen dinners too.  Why go to the work of making lasagna for two people when Costco has a perfectly good lasagna that will serve us for two nights an all I have to do is heat it up.

Walt always makes is own lunch and gets pretty creative, with either Chinese or hot flavors -- usually a top ramen base with all sorts of vegetables added and then whatever flavor (sesame oil or sirracha) he wants to augment it with.

He rarely cooks dinner, which is fine because he does so much else around the house.  Years ago we found a book of Beer Cookery and he found a recipe for lamb chips with capers and beer that we both loved.  Every five years or so, he'll cook that and I always enjoy it.

The real cook in the family is Tom.  When he was still a kid living at home, he learned to make omelettes and made the best in the family.  We all loved it when Tom could whip up one of his special omelettes.  He was never afraid to try anything.  I once said that I thought he could go into the refrigerator and take out sardines, peanut butter and chopped olives and somehow come up with a dish that would be delicious.  This was in the days before shows like Chopped on the Food Network.  He'd be great on that show!

Then he started working in restaurants and honed his natural abilities as a cook and now whenever we go to visit his family, it's almost always Tom who cooks.  He's a terrific barbeque chef.  And I love that he is teaching Brianna to cook.  She made ... made ... spaghetti the other day.  That's something I've never done.  But he has one of those pasta rollers and he taught her how to use it.  

Ned is also a very good cook, though not quite as adventurous as Tom.  I'm not sure when he started cooking for himself, but he whips up an excellent meal...and is the best party planner around.
Jeri cooks some now, but I think most of the cooking is done by her husband Phil, or they do it together.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Stealing

1. What would you pick as a major, if you could go back to college and do it again?
Probably journalism.

2. Who is the one celebrity with whom you would most like to have an in-depth conversation?
This is the question I almost always answered "Robin Williams," but now I guess I would choose Jon Stewart.

3. If you could make a living doing ANYthing, what would that be?
Being a salaried professional TV watcher.

4. What’s your all-time very favorite dessert?
I have several, depending on my mood and time of year.  Creme Brulee, homemade fruit pie, strawberry shortcake, pumpkin pie or cheesecake.

5. How many pairs of jeans do you own?
Zero.  Have not worn jeans in years.

6. What is your favorite flower, and why?
I like yellow roses, but actually any rose that has a perfume (which almost none of the store-bought ones do any more).  I also like daffodils, daisies, and chrysanthemums.

7. What book has most changed your life?
A little book called "How to Survive the Loss of a Love," which a co-worker gave to me after my friend Gilbert died and which helped me get through not only the grief of his death, but also of several deaths since then.

8. What is your least favorite vegetable? Is there any way you can be persuaded to eat it?
Beets...and I hope not!

9. If you could take a nonstop first class flight to any destination, where would you pick to land?
Australia.  That's a 30+ hour flight and I could make the most of my first class accommodations! 

10. If your 15 minutes of fame included a stint on American Idol, what song would be your trademark solo?
Isn't it Patsy Cline who sang "I'm Sorry"?  That's the only appropriate song for me to sing anywhere.
11. If you could pick one former friend (who has remained elusive in this wild Facebook world) to reunite with, who would you unearth?
A grammar school friend named Marie Davilla, whom I have not seen since 1960 and with whom I would very much like to reconnect. (the problem with finding female classmates is that we have this annoying tendency to marry and change our names!

12. You have been awarded the time off from work and an all-expenses paid week anywhere in the United States. The catch is that it must be somewhere you have not been before. Where do you choose to visit?
Mason City, Iowa, the town Meredith Willson based The Music Man on.  (Of course that is only a 2-3 hour visit, so I would spend the rest of the week visiting my cousin)

13. Name three of your guilty pleasures.
Ice cream bars, NCIS Marathons, taking the long way home to listen to my audio book longer.

14. The best kind of cookie is:

15. What do you value most in other people?
Friendship, loyalty and above all, a sense of humor.

16. Have you ever looked back at your life and realized that something you thought was a bad thing was actually a blessing in disguise?
Many, many, many times.  Any time I look back, I  realized the good things that resulted in something bad happening and realize that even if I had the power to go back and change things, even the very bad things, I would not.

17. What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited?
The Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland and the aqua blue of the Indian ocean (this answer may change if I ever get to see Iguacu falls in Brasil/Argentina!)

18. Are you more of a thinker or a feeler?
Very definitely a feeler.

19. Name three things you are thankful for right now.
The health of my husband, remaining children, and grandchildren, still having my mother in my life even in her demented state, Hagen Dasz mini ice cream bars

20. Have you ever participated in a three-legged race?
Sure, but not in a very, very long time.

21. When you are at an event that plays the National Anthem, do you place your hand over your heart?
Sometimes.  Not always.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

NaBloPoMo - DISH

The October theme:

This month, we're dishing on our favourite foods, sharing recipes (and the stories behind their creation), and reflecting on what we used to eat as kids. We're also looking at what dish we used to dread eating, and whether it's still our least favourite food.
I just joined BlogHer's NaBloPoMo, which is a month of daily blog entries.  These challenges are always such fun because I would do a month of daily blog entries anyway, so why not use it as an opportunity to get more readers, and to find more blogs to read?...to say nothing of having new ideas for interesting entries.  I don't know that I will follow all the prompts   (I just realized that I'll be on our cruise at the end of the month, so I'm sure I will have more interesting things to talk about than food), but at least there will be an entry a day! 

Apparently there are no prompts for the weekends, and I'm starting with a Saturday Entry, so I'll use the prompt for October 1 which was "tell us about your most beloved family dish."

My mother was a wonderful 'murrican cook.  She cooked plain, but everything she cooked was wonderful.  Fried chicken with shoestring fried potatoes, pot roast, meatloaf, roasts (beef and lamb, especially)...that kind of stuff.  When she got adventurous, she tried something like lasagna.  She made cakes from scratch and wonderful chocolate chip cookies.  One of my fondest memories of her is watching her sitting at the kitchen table, a big bowl between her knees to catch the apple peelings as she peeled and cut apples for apple pie.  We loved it when she made chocolate cream roll, a thin sponge cake filled with real whipped cream and frosted in a bittersweet chocolate frosting, the likes of which I have been unable to find.  My sister and I loved to lick the beaters and then to eat the "crusts" of the cake after it came out of the oven, before she rolled it in a powdered sugar covered towel to let it cool rolled up, to make adding the whipped cream later easier.

She had a cookbook, but I don't know how often she used it...and, being the Virgo that she is, when she decided she wouldn't be cooking any more, instead of asking me if I wanted the book, she just threw it away.

But the dinner that everyone loved the most, the one she made often for guests, was enchiladas, which seems an ambitious, unusual thing for someone who was such a basic cook to make.  But when I was very little--before I was old enough to remember--we had a Mexican neighbor who made them.  My parents loved them and so my mother asked Amalia to teach her how to make enchiladas.

I remember it was a many-day process for her, beginning with making her own chorizo.  The spices had to be blended just so and mixed in with the pork and then left in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. 
When it came time to assemble the enchiladas, it took the whole table, with a special sauce into which she dipped the tortillas, and then filled with ground beef, the chorizo, onions, olives, cheese and some other things.  Into the pan they went, topped with the remaining sauce into which she had dipped the tortillas, and topped with more cheese.

After they were baked, they were served, each on a romaine lettuce leaf and sprinkled with Parmesan.
I don't think I have had enchiladas since that I liked as much.  I did have her come to our house one time and show me how to make them, so I would know all the secrets.  At that time her mind had started to deteriorate and she wasn't sure she remembered right, but I did get the recipe.  I think I have made them once.  They were never the same as Momma used to make.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Messsage

A couple of days ago, I said that by today there would be big news from Peach and there is.  Unfortunately, it's not the way I had hoped it would be, but I'll do my best for her.

I think I may have said...or maybe not...that she was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  She spent several days in the hospital during which she had an amazing experience that she wants to tell the world about.  She was directed to post a video about it on October 1, and for the past 2 weeks we have been working together to get her script written.  It's been a sometimes frustrating collaboration and finally a few days ago, after some 70 emails, I told her I thought the script was exactly the way she wanted it to be and she should go ahead and record it as is.

They made the recording yesterday, but nobody had a way to upload it to YouTube, so they were going to send it to me and I would upload it.  Unfortunately, I only received 53 seconds of the video.  It is probably at least 5 minutes long.  I have requested that they re-send and if that doesn't work, I'll see if I can help them upload it directly.  But I know it was very important for her that her message get out on this day, so I'm going to copy it here.  I'm cleaning it up just a very little bit to make it a bit more clear, I hope, but this is almost exactly the way she wanted to tell her story.

If anyone wants to see the short video, it is here, on YouTube.  The tumor is affecting her eyesight, among other things, so she is reading the script but is having difficulty with it, though I printed it for her bold, in large print.

Hi, my name is Carolyn and I have brain cancer. I’d like to tell you my story.

Bob Tucker, my husband, had 3 brain bleeds at the end Oct of 2013. My daughter and her husband thought it would help all of us if we were to rent a house right across the street from them in New Hampton, Iowa so they could help us. I thought it was a great idea.

We got Bob to a Dr Cherril and she took good care of him.

It was a cold old winter in New Hampton that year and we had difficulty taking care of the house. We moved to Mallard Point, a senior living facility, in Cedar Falls atthe end of. February. My son paid for Bob's bath on Tuesday and Thursday from Comfort Care in Mallard Point.

In mid Sept of 2014 I found a lump in my breast. I went to Cedar Falls Arrowhead Clinic to get checked out. Things went too fast, I felt like I was on a running train. Next I was in a doctor's office at Covenent Clinic in Waterloo , just me and the Dr.. He checked the X-rays, came over to me and said you have breast cancer in,your right breast and we're going to have to take it out. I had 2 lumps in my breast and one lymph node was affected, though they removed 8 nodes. None of the others were affected

I went to Covenant Clinic Hospital in Waterloo right away and met with another doctor. He knew exactly what to do, Next step, surgery

I had surgery on my right breast , had it taken off. My other daughter came from Mexico to help take care of me, only the lump and a node and my breast were gone, I felt disfigured. I went to see Dr Nadi at the Covenant Clinic in Waterloo. He opted for all three chemo treatments at one time for several weeks.

After the first chemo nothing helped, I was sick, lost 15 lbs and kinda turned gray for awhile. All the residents at Mallard Point where we stayed said so. (It’s a great place to live, it's all done for you, check it out under Holiday Retirement on its own website.)

In Nov of 2014 Dr Nadi started me off with 3 different kinds of Chemo, the bad kind, I started the treatment. The following week I went in to see him, I was gray and sick. So back to Dr Nadi, I listened real hard, and me and the family listened hard and we all decided it's the Quality Over Quantity is the best of both worlds right now and I knew I had to be with Bob the whole time till we got it fixed. And I could not be with him if I was going to be so sick from the chemo, so I opted for no more Chemo. Dr. Nadi said the cancer would come back.  We just didn't know where yet.

Things went fine for several months, then on July 3 my dog Sophie needed grooming, I took her out the back door with her leash, introduced her to the groomer who she knew and then I said "let's go get into the cage" She walked the other way I turned and tried to grab the leash. Well as I did, I lost the leash, spun around to get it and I fell on the right side of my head, which hurt, and I saw my wrist popped out of place, I grabbed the wrist and Prayed a few minutes. Patrick Kane the Mallard bus driver, took me over to Arrowhead Clinic. They put me to sleep put my wrist back together with a brace till the following Monday when I could get to the doctor to get some help. Even though I told them at Arrowhead, they never checked out my head cause there was no blood I guess, so Sophie got to the groomer and I went to the clinic. They gave me hydrocodone for the pain that weekend till it calmed down.

The following Monday, I went to the hospital for surgery (it was all happening too fast) I had a white cast on and scheduled an appt on the 26th for cast and pin removal.

On Aug 20th the pain didn't hurt any more so I stopped taking the Hydrocodone, next I got the heaves bad, almost every hour on the hour with chills. When I went to the ER and they told me it was because of the hydrocodone that I was going through withdrawal from the hydrocodone.

On Aug 24 I was still vomiting at the home of my daughter and son-in-law till Aug 31st. I had an appointment with Dr Sandell. She said my potassium was low enough to get me into the hospital.
On Sep 1 I tried to be brave and do it alone, I got on the porta potty. I got up to get back in bed and fell to my side, hit my head and they immediately did a CAT scan and an MRI. They found a large tumor in the cerebellum and a few other spots. I was shocked it was all a big blur to me.

The Dr decided that I would have one radiation treatment of 20 minutes and 4 five minute treatments on Sep 3rd.

We finally went to the Covenant Clinic Hospital on Monday to get the pins put in my hand and a new red psychedelic cast on for all the Mallard Point to see!

On the weekend I couldn't stop throwing up - everything, my daughter brought me to her house while I was throwing up all the time, no matter what I ate. I even fell on the floor, hit the top of my head, and her husband put me back to bed. I stayed from the 23rd of September till the cast came off
I knew that my blood pressure was at 190, plus I was still throwing up. Here it gets a little fuzzy, I think I went to the hospital for 7 days, my blood pressure was high, 190' my potassium was way low. On I think it was the 3rd day in the middle of the night I heard this song.  (on the video she sings this)

Here I am lord,
It is I lord
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go lord
If you need me
I will hold you closer to my heart

The next morning my blood pressure went down to 141 and my potassium went to normal. I knew exactly what to do, God had told me. He even gave me the names of people who might win football. And the people who would help me. He told me a name and a date.  He said I have way too much work to do before I'm finished with this life, he really needed me, my castle is not all fixed yet.

It was a religious experience for me, never had one before. I feel meek with power what ever I do now, God talks to me in many ways. I know stuff I shouldn't know, but I accept what he's telling me. I do what He wants me to till He is finished with me

Only one other strange thing that happened while my daughter Karen was with me. Around 7am we saw the blessed mother that my best friend named Burt Marshall gave to me when she died. I don't know if belongs to the Church or not, will find out, anyway. On the top of her head there was a huge aura, I asked Karen to take photos at least 5 and one for my grandson so he would have one. All the photos are ~ NOT ~ there, they disappeared forever. I told Father Mark from St Joseph in New Hampton, Iowa that I was still waiting to see her again.

God bless the Pope for helping me know what God said to me without him knowing it, he blessed me all the while he was here and I knew what to say he will know what I'm to say on the appointed date

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Pontiff and the Clerk

It's no secret that I left the Catholic church many years ago, for many reasons, most of which still exist.  At the time I left the church, John Paul was pope.  I had nothing against him personally.  Seemed like a nice grandfatherly kind of pope, though it was under him that the sex scandal broke and it was handled (or not) abominably.

During the time the sex scandals were going on, the extensive holdings of the church in Boston were transferred to Rome so that they could not be garnished during the sex trials.  Boston's Cardinal Law, forced to resign because of the sex scandal, was brought to Rome where he was given a high appointment by John Paul.  (There are rumors that he alleged left just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas seeking his grand jury testimony.)

When JP died, the ONLY Cardinal in the entire College of Cardinals that I prayed would not be elected was Cardinal Ratzinger, the most conservative, strictest of the cardinals with whom I was familiar (admittedly not that many).  But against my express wishes, they went ahead and elected him anyway.

Benedict XVI was everything I hated about the papacy.  He embraced the royalty of it, the jewels, the robes, the luxury accommodations, the limousines.  He had rings on his fingers and for all I know bells on his toes (but who could see them under those red slippers?)  Benedict led the move to take the church back to previous centuries.  He wanted to return to the Latin mass, he "reintroduced traditional papal garments."  I was thrilled when he resigned.

But along comes Pope Francis.  A man of simple tastes, who drove himself in his VW to the Vatican on the first day of his papacy.  He doesn't wear jewels or crowns, or gold or velvet.  He doesn't ride in a limo.  He doesn't live in a luxury apartment.  He seems genuinely concerned with bettering the world rather than puffing himself up.

I don't agree with all of his positions, especially about the gay community and women's place in the church, but he at least had a more conciliatory tone when speaking of these issues.

We had a Popeageddon here in this country last week and Frances was everybody's darling.  Everywhere he went throngs of crowds were there.  He spoke of world peace and the danger of climate change.  He kissed babies and turned down a fancy state dinner to eat at a homeless shelter.  He exemplified everything that I have loved about this pope .... not enough to bring me back to the church, but enough to make me feel more positive about the papacy again.

And then the religious fanatics brought her to Washington and in one press release it seems that all the good will that Frances brought with him was wiped out because he allegedly spent 15 minutes with the Rowan, Kentucky County Clerk.  Now that's all anybody is talking about.  People who were singing the Pope's praises a few days ago are now hating him for what that meeting showed.

James Martin, S.J. wrote an excellent piece which gave another way of looking at this meeting that is being so ballyhooed by the likes of the Family Research Council and other pro-life organizations.  He gives a possible scenario that I had wondered about myself.  There are no photos of the event and all the Vatican has acknowledged was that he did meet with her, but I'm wondering if he even knew who she was.  I envision the likes of New York's Cardinal Dolan in collusion with Mike Huckabee seizing the opportunity and rushing the clerk (who is not Catholic, by the way) to where the Pope was greeting a bunch of people.  Was he briefed on her story?  Or was she just another visitor who earned the right to meet him?  She says he told her to "be strong."  Be strong in her convictions to disobey the laws of the United States? or be strong in her faith?  Sounds like something he might say to anybody who came to shake his hand.  He asked her to pray for him, she boasts.  Heck, he asked EVERYONE to pray for him.  And this was at the end of several grueling days for the pontiff.  He might have been kinda tired.

Look, I have lots of complaints about this pope, but it's nice that I also have a lot of good feelings too (which I have not felt about Popes for a very long time) and I hate that some opportunistic politicians have used him for their own agenda....and that it seems to have negated much of the good will that he garnered in the time outside of that 15 minute secret meeting.

Let us hope that his vision for the world and his challenge to people regarding immigration, climate change, etc. and not one brief politicized moment will be the ultimate lasting legacy of this trip.

As my friend diane says : I met the previous Pope, shook his hand and was given a rosary. I doubt very much that he agreed with my feminism or views of the hierarchy, but he did what Popes do - shook my hand, muttered something meaningless and gave me the rosary. It's not a big deal. It certainly was not him validating any of my beliefs or actions - or vice versa!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's All "Relative"

First of all, sorry about the late posting of yesterday's entry.  I finished it by midnight and was certain I had posted it, so I was surprised when, shortly before noon, Walt came to ask me if I knew that my journal entry was not up.  I was sure he was mistaken an went to show him that yes, it certainly was up.  But it was not.

I think -- again -- that my mother's dementia is contagious.

She is wonderful at covering up her dementia.  I am leaving the photo of the day for another day, since this refers to that.  My cousin Kathy's daughter Karen had a nice visit with my mother yesterday and wrote this on Facebook:

    Such a fun visit! She kept telling me she was 100 years old and I kept telling her we needed to call Willard Scott and get her face on a jelly jar--belly laughs all around. Love Aunt Chubbie!!

I'm delighted that they had a good visit and that Karen came away feeling so good about it, but today my mother has no memory of the visit, does not know who Karen is, doesn't remember who Kathy is, and has never seen The Today Show or Willard Scott in her life, even before the dementia.

(She did, however, when prodded, remember Cousins Day)

But she has all sorts of tricks to cover and to make people think (a) she knows them, and (b) she is following what they are talking to her about.  I know there are people in the family who get angry with me for talking about her dementia because it's perfectly clear to them that she's not nearly as bad as I make her out to be.  I invite them to spend a month with her!  Or even a few days!

I've watched her have a lovely conversation with people on the phone and when she hangs up and I ask her who it was, she has no idea, but she can hold up her end of the conversation and from listening to my end of the chat, I'm sure nobody has a clue she doesn't know who she is talking to.

I made the mistake of trying to make a joke today.  She was saying how frustrating it is not to remember stuff, and not to remember people.  I asked her if she still remembers her family. She is forgetting what her siblings looked like and she says she can't remember a lot about her father but thinks she will always remember her mother (whom she sees in her dreams most nights).

She then asked if I ever forget people like that.  I said that yes, I sometimes forget who my mother is.  She did not get the joke at all, but sadly remembered that my aunt Marge was my mother.  When I  told her I was joking and that she was my mother, she then remembered that she is, but didn't understand that I was joking.

But I am thrilled that Karen visited her and have no doubt that at the time, though my mother had no idea who she was, that she enjoyed the visit.  I won't let Karen know that she doesn't remember her or the visit.  So few people visit her and I hate to harp on it, begging them to come.

One of my cousins, a cosmetologist, comes to give her a manicure and a pedicure occasionally, but she has not been for a very long time.  I love that she does it and she brings such joy and energy to my mother, but her toenails are getting to where they are starting to curl under and I'm going to have to make an appointment for a pedicure for her if my cousin doesn't show up soon.  (I could cut her nails myself and if worse comes to worse, I will, but my distaste of touching feet, even my own, prevents me from doing it when there are other options available)

In other family news, watch this space tomorrow or the next day.  I have spent the week helping Peach with a project that she made me promise I would keep secret, but if all goes well, it will be revealed on October 1 and then not only can I tell the whole world, but I am encouraged to do so.