Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh Dam

We watched what I think is a made-for-Discovery Channel video tonight called China's Mega Dam. I'm not sure exactly when it was made, but it talks about the 3 Gorges Dam "scheduled for completion in 2009," so I guess it was made before 2009!

It was a fascinating, impressive and at times depressing look at the area where we will be in a little more than a week. I didn't much like the references to what would happen if a major earthquake hit, since the dam is built either on or near an earthquake fault and this ol' planet of ours doesn't seem to be very stable at the moment. We are taking a seismologist (Mike) to a fault zone and I'm hoping the twain do not, in this instance, meet!

The movie also shows me that, whether I've been working on it or not, I am slowly absorbing information about China. This pulls together the novel I read ("Dragon Bones") and the movie we saw a week or so ago, Up the Yangtze, which told the story of a family living along the river in an area that was scheduled to be flooded.

The book deals, in addition to a few murder mysteries, with archaeological excavation, trying to retrieve as many artifacts from ancient cultures as possible before they were gone forever. In China's Mega Dam the film crew visited one of those archeological digs and showed the wealth of artifacts from the ancient "Ba" people, a group of people living in the eastern Sichuan province, as well as peoples even older than the Ba that were being recovered. It also showed the heartbreaking sight of the river washing over the sites of the digs, knowing that all that remained of those civilizations is now gone forever.

When I first went to college, I thought I would like to be an anthropologist. That plan lasted about as long as it took me to read the course descriptions, but I still have an interest in ancient civilizations and appreciate the work that others have done in preserving their history. The loss of the artifacts along the Yangtze must be such a heartbreaking thing for those dedicated to preserving China's heritage.

Then there were the villages the movie profiled. One woman was living in her house that had been in the family for generations. I believe she said for 12 generations back from her grandmother. Hundreds of years. She still cooked in the wok that had been used for generations. In the village there was a tree that had stood there for more than 100 years. All of that is now under water and the family relocated to a concrete apartment building, where she has traded hundreds of years of family history for running water. The sight of her returning to her now deserted village and lighting incense to Buddha and praying for a miracle that would save her home was heartbreaking.

The movie explained the importance of ancestors for the Chinese and how terrible it was to lose the graves of the ancestors of all of the thousands of people who had to be relocated to higher ground.

But it also showed the resilience of the Chinese people, who smiled and shrugged and said that they always managed to cope with whatever came along.

A friend of mine, who is Chinese, told me two things about my upcoming trip -- one was that it will be hot and that I should take lots of handkerchiefs (swell--"heat" is the thing I hate most about traveling!) and the other was that I was in for a huge culture shock.

And speaking of culture shock that has nothing to do with China, Char brought up a point about the royal wedding that had not occurred to me and which, when I reposted to Facebook has sparked an interesting discussion.

Char asks: "there is a huge question no one is asking. WHERE ARE THE PORTA POTTIES??? They may be hidden, but they have to be there. Also some of those folks had to be inside the church 2 hours early. Some of them were quite old. Did they let them find a bathroom. How does the queen manage. She is old, but must have a concrete bladder."

I posted this question on Facebook and got some interesting responses:

Sue says "they (the portopotties) were disguised as guards.

Marte says, "You only thought those were trees." and adds, re the queen, "what do you think she carries in her handbag? Depends!"

Robin adds, "I did see a lot of people in the fountains" and then adds "also, please note the queen did wear yellow."

Marte comes back in with "Where does the queen pee? Anywhere she wants to!"

Sally, getting logical about it all, says "Anderson Cooper was commenting on his show tonight about how many people he saw urinating and/or intoxicated in public on the streets at night in London."

Robin chimes in again: "the Queen always has that pained expression on her face...I also saw that same look on Princess Anne...and I wont even mention Fergie's daughters...their outfits made me want to go to the bathroom!" ... later she posts "Well that hat that Princess Beatrice was wearing did look like a twisted colon..."

So if you were one of the 20,000 people at Trafalgar square or the million around Buckingham Palace, please do leave a message and let us know how you and your bladder coped. Thanks!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blogging the Wedding

Yeah, Yeah...I'm one of those dumb people who plan to watch the Big Wedding live. Despite the fact that I think all the hoopla leading up to it is absolutely ridiculous, it is history after all. I watched Elizabeth's Coronation and Charles & Diana's wedding. I sorta feel like part of the family.

So my plan is to stay up. It starts at 1 a.m. here and lord knows how long I'll last. To keep myself awake, I'm going to make scones, brew some tea, and sit here at the computer writing my review as it all happens.

Some blogger was trying to decide which station she wanted to watch it on, but that's a no brainer for me. I've been with The Today Show since they were just dating, so how can I not watch the show with Matt, Meredith, Al and Ann?

12:45: Scones are made. I fell asleep during The Daily Show and woke up in the middle of Colbert. Time to get serious about staying away for the wedding.

royalscones.jpg (173732 bytes)

Nothing happening on NBC yet, so I'm watching MSNBC. It's like watching the red carpet at an awards show...with less cleavage and more hats. Where is Joan Rivers when you need her?

HATSM.jpg  (74262 bytes)Since you aren't supposed to attend the royal wedding without a hat, I thought I'd pull out my old Last Session cap and wear that.

Needs more flowers, dontcha think?

(Actually that's a picture from 200...I've lost >25 lbs since that was taken. I also have newer glasses. But if I were to pull a hat out of my vast collection of 1, this would be what I would wear. Good thing I didn't get a royal invite.)

Someone on MSNBC has just said it's a little over an hour before the wedding begins. I guess I have a lot more time to kill before things get serious.

1 a.m. - Meredith and Matt are on now. This is like watching the red carpet. I so wish they would quit talking about Diana's funeral on this happy day for her son. I do love how newspeople spend so much time guessing about what is going on. Total speculation. But it fills up air time.

I can't believe how many people are packed into Trafalgar square (they expect 20,000 people). Where have all the pigeons gone?

Oh lord, it's going to be two hours before the wedding starts. I'd better start drinking tea to keep me awake!

So the royal couple are going to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn and the Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus. It does sound kind of silly, doesn't it? Especially the third one.

BluHat.jpg  (6018 bytes)Someone on Twitter called this hat "a rare blue rose vagina fascinator." Apparently there is a "hat watch" going on on Twitter. Some comments:

I've seen a flying saucer and one of those snazzy rice farmer hats. In fuschia.

That blue fascinator looks like a shark fin stuck on her head

WHAT ON EARTH IS TARA WEARING?! It looks like a shoe horn

So many hats and not one sombrero.

I would normally not be on Twitter, but I took a Twitter class tonight and this seemed a good time to start checking it out and see what people are saying about the wedding.

2 a.m. Time for a cup of tea

Tea.jpg (93964  bytes)

and a scone

sconescream.jpg (139917 bytes)

It's been so long since I've had tea to drink, I didnt realize that all I had was raspberry zinger. Well, maybe it will keep me awake. But more "stuff" is starting to happen. Harry and William are leaving Clarence House and headed for the Abby. William looks resplendent in his red uniform, at least from what I can see inside the limo.

3 a.m. Got distracted by all the pageantry and just sat and watched everybody arriving. Actually got kind of teary watching the queen and how she was received by the multitude on the streets. Catherine looks beautiful. The flower girls were so cute and the overhead shots inside the abby were breathtaking.

- Of the opening hymn...why do they have everyone sing every verse, especially when NOBODY that they put the camera on (not even Elton John...not even the queen) seemed to be singing along. I didn't see who lifted Kate's veil, or if she did it herself.

- Very sweet marriage have to kind of laugh at "with all my worldly goods, I thee endow."

- Thank goodness NBC commentators (I don't know about other networks) have chosen NOT to interrupt anything inside Westminster.

- I loved the smiles the bride and groom gave each other at various points in the sermon.

4:20 a.m. - they're parading back to Buckingham and I am finally starting to fight sleep. I'm going to hope I stay awake for that famous kiss on the balcony, but I'm not hopeful. Going to post this, turn out the lights and climb under a chihuahua and get a little sleep.

It's been fun blogging the wedding.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Call Me Ishmael

Here's my idea of theater:

* I get a ticket.
* I enter the theater and sit down.

* The curtain goes up and actors cavort on stage.

* I applaud, politely or enthusiastically, depending on what the performance was like.

* The actors bow and leave the stage, I get out of my seat and go home.

* I write the review

Here is what is NOT my idea of theater:

Everybody is Ishmael at some point. Even audience members can be Ishmael, as they have the opportunity to view and interact with the performance from many viewpoints. Although the piece experiments with the multiplicity of character and perspective, several anchors remain: actors serve as fixed versions of the characters Ishmael and Queequeg. Performer E serves as another anchor in a ritualized dance sequence that is video projected throughout the piece.

Director Z resists the typical audience experience. There is neither traditional stage nor spectator seating. Rather, audience members are invited to wander among the performers.

No. No, people. Audience members do not "wander among the performers" during the performance. That is not our job. Our job is to sit and observe. YOUR job is to be the performers. If I wanted to wander among the performers, I would have auditioned to be in the show.

The problem with being a reviewer in a university town is that everybody at the university wants to take advantage of the opportunity of being at a university to do all the avant garde stuff that they probably can't do out in the "real world." Often this involves audience interaction, two words that bring fear and terror to my heart.

Now, in all honesty, I have never been forced or even invited to participate in any production. They all seem very respectful of people like me who are terrified of being dragged on stage. But, you never know. I've never been made to feel uncomfortable, but I've sat through enough shows where I didn't know if I was going to be made to feel uncomfortable!

The current production opens next week and it is called The Moby-Dick Variations. I had been trying to avoid it, but of course I could not, and after an e-mail from the newspaper editor, one from the university publicity director with a follow up telephone call from the publicity director (if I were publicity director, I would have done the very same thing), I realized that I really do have to review this show next week.

But the main reason for avoiding it was having to admit that other than knowing that Moby Dick was a white whale and that the opening sentence of the book is "Call me Ishmael," I knew nothing about the story except that just about everybody says it's a horrible book to read.

Knowing I have to review this next week, I went to the Cliffs Notes for the book and read a plot summary, though I suspect that one screen full of description is not quite the same as reading the whole 135 chapter (plus epilogue) book!

The Moby-Dick Variations follows Melville’s narrative and plot in a non-linear fashion exploring the multiplicity of perspectives both within and outside of the novel. The Director's objective is twofold: to enable the audience to experience the multiplicity of perspectives that Melville delivers in the novel; and to allow the audience further perspectives through their own and the actors’ contemporary lenses. “Traditionally, theatre tells you what to think; The Moby-Dick Variations audience has to bring thoughts of their own.”

Stuff like this strikes fear and terror in my heart too. I don't have a clue what this means....and I don't know that I have any perspectives of my own to bring to the production.

But if nothing else, past experience has taught me that I fake well. Let's hope that still holds when I review this show.

Thursday Thirteen

Ways to cook "something with chicken in it"

1. Chicken burritos
2. Use Cajun seasoning and saute in oil and seasoning, add rice and chicken broth
3. Chicken stir-fry
4. Bake chicken breasts and add a balsamic reduction sauce
5. Fried chicken (fabulous if you coat with almond meal in the mixture)
6. Chicken tika masala
7. With tomato sauce, mushrooms and cream
8. Cornish game hens
9. Chinese Chicken salad
10. 40 clove of garlic chicken
11. clay pot orange chicken
12. chicken terriyake
13. chicken with waffles (I’ve never really tried it, but it’s all the rage these days)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Death and Parents

I'm getting seriously concerned for my mother. There seems to be a parental death virus sweeping through my life at the moment. First it was Walt's mother, then it was Charlotte's mother. Tonight I received a call from Gilbert's niece that HER mother had died this morning. I'm running out of friends/relatives who still have mothers and I'm eyening mine very protectively!

I don't mean to be flippant about the death of all of these loved ones, but they were all old, all in pain of one sort of another, and all ready to die, so it's a bittersweet thing. There is the pain of the loss for the survivors, but the comfort of the loss of pain for the one who has passed.

And if deaths come in 3s, maybe this is a good thing and my mother is safe until the next round starts.... I dunno.

I got lured back into the classroom tonight. I had said I would not do another blogging class because the students' needs were beginning to go beyond my expertise. I know what I use very well, but I just have a simple little blog. When you start trying to figure out how to make a web page out of it, I don't have the answers and so I was finding that I answered more and more questions with "I don't know." That was when I made the decision not to teach the course again.

But I got a call from my friend Anne, from the Davis Community Network. Anne runs an Internet Users Group Meeeting, which is mostly seniors trying to grope their way onto and around the big scary internet. The group has been going for 2-3 years now, and I went to my first meeting maybe 6 months ago. I can't remember why I went, but it was on Anne's invitation, to maybe help out. Maybe it was a class on blogging. I really don't remember.

I enjoyed my time there and knew several in the class and fully intended to go back again, but somehow many things intervened. They only meet once a month and the meeting dates never seemed to mesh with my own schedule.

But Anne was doing an introduction to Flickr tonight and asked if I could come and help work in smaller groups with 2 or 3 people and help them learn how to upload pictures to Flickr.

This worked better than the blogging class because I actually knew (or could figure out) all of the questions.

I did learn one important thing myself, though. I've been eyeing notebook computers wondering if it would be worth it to get one for traveling. The main thing that has stopped me so far is that I didn't think I could load the program I needed for my journal onto it. And then I decided to sponsor another Compassion child insted, so that took it completely out of possibility.

However, someone in the class tonight had one and I got to play around with it a llittle. ABSOLUTELY NO WAY!!! The print on that screen was so tiny I could barely read it without a magnifying glass.

Nice to learn that I've just saved myself a few hundred dollars!

You won't believe what I'm doing awake at this hour of the morning. I've been watching an English Mastiff trying to birth some puppies. Check this site for puppy cam, though based on what she's doing right now--panting and licking herself, and the light in the room just went on so her owners can see her better--I suspect they will be born by then.

Oh! We have a puppy!!!! Will there be a second....?


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

45 Things

This is Jeri's 45th birthday and I thought it might be fun to list 45 things about Jeri that are part of who she is.

1. I love her independence. She has done more by herself than I ever have.

2. I love that we can talk in theater quotes.

3. I like it when she texts from the orchestra pit during the run of a show.

4. Jeri gets more pure joy out of life than most people I know.

5. She's married to a neat guy too.

6. ...and I love their dog

7. I love how she always spreads her time out here by giving as much time to all her friends and relatives as she can.

8. I love her close relationship with her grandmothers (obviously including Walt's mother up until the end).

9. I have enjoyed watching her progression from neophyte teacher to popular teacher.

10. I like it when I see her self standing up for herself.

11. I love her dedication to staying in touch with her friends and family.

12. She's a great dog mommy.

13. I love listening to her play music. Her "Amazing Grace" at funerals is enough to un-harden the hardest of hearts.

14. I remember how David delighted in listening to her play the flute.

15. I remember how desperately she wanted a sister and how disappointed she was whenever we brought another brother home from the hospital for her.

16. I still can't believe that we put her on a city bus, alone, to ride up the hill to her 1st grade class.

17. She was always my godsend when I had to decorate a cake because I knew how to put designs in frosting, but didn't have the imagination to come up with the picture in the first place, and Jeri would draw it for me.

18. I remember the vacation when she read "Little House on the Prairie" over and over and over again.

19. She wanted to be Pippi Longstockings.

20. I was always in awe of her cavorting on stage with Marta and the rest of the Horns of Adequacy.

21. Jeri did usually know better.

22. I love it that she can fix an electrical appliance.

23. I remember the horrible night she was trapped on the bridge in San Francisco after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

24. I remember her inadvertently busking on the steps of a building in Dublin, when she played an Irish flute and people started giving her money.

25. Watching Aunt Jeri playing with Brianna is a true joy.

26. I remember her first ballet recital in Oakland, and subsequent performances in Davis (the dwarf beard was particularly fetching)

27. I look forward to her letters and she has inspired me to get back into writing snail mail.

28. I admire her lack of materialism.

29. She's one of hardest working people I know.

30. I will never forget the feelings of pride when I sat in the audience and watched her conduct the orchestra playing her own composition.

31. Or the feelings of pride watching You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which she directed.

32. Or the feelings of pride watching The Peabody Duck, for which she was the set designer.

33. So proud when she was offered a full-time teaching position at Berklee.

34. Such fun hearing about her starting a musical theatre course at Berklee -- and how successful it has become

35. Such joy sharing with her the magic of fireflies during her time doing summer stock in Ohio.

36. Amazement that she doesn't care about television (my daughter??)

37. I love how much she loves Lester, "my baby."

38. She's so good about sharing pictures of Lester on their daily walks.

39. Her relationship with Walt has always been such a beautiful thing.

40. I loved sharing France and Italy with her.

41. So grateful for her support on that trip. I never could have made it without her constant "You can do it, Mom!"

42. "My fake Italian is better than my fake French"

43. Her lifelong friendship with the Blackford women is something very special.

44. She is better at sustaining friendships than anybody I know.

45. She's my firstborn, my only daughter, my friend and a beautiful person

Happy Birthday, Jeri!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

Easter today made me long for the old days, when the kids were little and when we were all together, us, the kids, Walt's family and my mother for all of the holidays. This being scattered all around the country is for the birds.

At least we were only in three parts of the country this year, not four. In the past few years, Walt has gone to Santa Barbara to be with his mother and sister, I have gone to my mother's to be with her (and sometimes Ned), and Norm and his wife have had the big Easter for her family and which of our family can come. In the years when Brianna would spend Easter with us (last year was one), I can't remember exactly what we did...I know Ned and I were at Norm's, and I'm pretty sure my mother wasn't. Maybe she was at her stepson's.

I know that this is the norm for most couples with adult, married children, but we have just been very fortunate that we have been able to be together for all holidays for as many years as we have, and I'm still adjusting to having no structure for our holidays any more.

So this year, Ned came to our house and drove with us to my mother's, where he and Walt had a short visit before going to Walt's brother's house. His sister and her husband had driven up from Santa Barbara the day before. There was apparently dinner for 30 at that house, while my mother and I had dinner for 2 because she feels lost in big crowds and didn't want to go to the other dinner. Tom, Laurel and Bri were with her family. Jeri, of course was in Boston, but called to wish us a happy Easter.

Back "in the day," Walt and I would hide eggs for the kids in the back yard. After the first couple of years, they got smart and scouted out eggs from the upstairs window before going downstairs for the actual hunt. They always knew there was one on top of the monkey bars.

I always made some sort of special bread for Easter, sometimes a challah, or hot cross buns, or something yeasty that I never made at other times of the year, and we would have a special breakfast after we all went to Mass together.

And then in the afternoon either I'd fix dinner to have here, or we'd all go to either Walt's mother's house or my mother's house for an Easter dinner.

When the kids were really little, before we moved to Davis, I made up Easter baskets for each one of them, with candy and a stuffed Easter bunny in them. I remember one banner year, when Jeri was 2 and Ned was still a baby, when I found two very large bunnies on sale for really cheap.

stuffies.jpg (40637 bytes)

Of course there was also the very bad, awful, horrible Easter when everyone was so excited to go to an Easter egg hunt, but the real estate agent told us at the last minute that while we were out there would be an open house and we had to clean up for company before we left. The kids found no eggs and Jeri grumbled, as we left the park, "we would havefound something if you hadn't spent so much time cleaning house." I still cringe about that one.

I still miss those days when we were all together and everybody was excited to be celebrating Easter, the religious and the secular. I hope Brianna and the new baby have lots and lots of those kinds family celebrations as they grow up.

Easter 1975

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Food Meme

I made fried chicken tonight and was commenting to Walt that after nearly 50 years of cooking, I finally know how to make fried chicken. Oh, I've made it probably hundreds of times over the years, but I never knew for SURE how to get it to turn out right every time. Thank you, Food Network!

(And BTW, thanks again to Jeri and Phil for turning me on to almond meal, which makes a FABULOUS addition to the coating on the chicken!).

So anyway, that reminded me that I said I was going to do this food meme that I got from Kwizgiver, so here goes:

Do you like pie? Is the pope Catholic? Love pie. Learned to like it at my mother's knee.

Italian or Mexican? Mexican. I grew up with an Irish father who longed to be Italian and so ate Italian more than anything else. I would never choose an Italian restaurant over a Mexican one.

Can you bake? If so, what are your favorite things to bake? Yes. I can bake very well. What would you like? Cookies? cakes? bread? pies? If it can be baked, I'm willing to try baking it.

Do you use cook books or do you try to find recipes online? I have a lot of cookbooks, but I find it's easier these days to find a recipe on line.

Do you own a kitchen aid mixer? Yep. For nearly 40 years now.

Ever cooked a meal for more than 15 people at one time? Sure. There were Christmases when we had a sit-down meal for >20 people

Do you like hospital food? Fortunately I have not had enough of it to form a judgement. The last time I had hospital food was in 1972, when David was born.

Favorite fast food restaurant? Of the big burger joints, Jack in the Box.

Any picky eaters in your family? Neither Walt nor Marta eat onions. I won't eat liver or beets. But no serious picky eaters.

Soda or Tea? I'm not a big drinker of either.

Hot chocolate? Love it. Almost never have it.

Favorite holiday dish? Turkey stuffing

What is the most tasteful strangest looking thing you have ever tasted? Durien. And I never have to do that ever again.

Fries or tater tots? Hmmm....probably tater tots.

Do you like cheese? If so what kind? Yes. Swiss or Boursin

Home made or canned soup? Home made

Do you like to eat out? LOVE IT!

What kind of food is popular where you are? We have 18 Chinese restaurants in a town of 60,000 people, 9 Japanese, and 8 Thai, so I think that we are heavily into Asian influences!

Do you like cotton candy? I used to when I was a kid, but it's not the same now that it comes pre-packaged. I haven't had it in years.

Turkey or Chicken? Turkey

Hamburger or tuna helper? Hamburger (tho I don't use Hamburger Helper)

Raw or cooked veggies? Cooked, with butter or cheese to reduce the possibility of it being nutritious.

Do you like salad? Some salads.

Favorite pizza topping? Italian sausage and mushrooms

Do you like meat loaf? Yes I do. My meatloaf ain't half bad.

Ever been on a picnic in the park? If so what did you pack to eat? We used to picnic a lot and I"d bring sandwiches, chips, and drinks and probably some fruit and cookies. Not into fancy picnics

Hot dogs or hamburgers? Hamburgers

Pop corn or nachos? Nachos

Do you like fish? I'm not crazy about it, but I like it.

Do you like baked beans? Yes, especially Boston Baked Beans

Do a lot of crock pot cooking? Right now I'm doing a lot of it.

What is one "guilty pleasure" snack or food you REFUSE to give up no matter what? If I absolutely had to I could give up snack foods (better go cold turkey than have them get you back into eating badly again)

Growing up did you ever wonder what a "bug" would taste like when you played outdoors? Euww. Never.

Favorite flavor of ice cream? Anything vanilla-y with something crunchy and chocolate-y in it.

Do you like frozen burritos? They're kind of hard to chew; I prefer to heat them up. :)

What kind of milk do you drink? I don't drink a lot of milk now, but when I do, I prefer nonfat.

Yogurt or oatmeal? Yogurt in the summer, oatmeal in the winter.

Favorite kind of cereal? Honey Nut Cheerios

Do you like Asian Food? Love it..

Baked potato or sweet potato? Baked.

Do you like sub sandwiches? Yes and I prefer Quiznos to Subway.

Chips or pretzels? Definitely chips. I'm not a big pretzel person.

Apple sauce or pudding? Applesauce, especially home made.

Do you like fried mozzarella sticks? Of course--they're bad for you, right?

Do you like chili? Yes, but not too hot.

Do you like pickles? Not really. I don't like dill pickles, but I like sweet pickles in potato salad.

Do you like Oreo cookies? Hydrox were better but you can't find those any more.

Do you like soup crackers? When I'm in a restaurant, yes. I never buy them for home.

Do you like Tofu? Probably more than I realize. I never mind it in food, I've cooked it in Chinese food, but I would never just buy tofu for myself.

Strawberries or bananas? Yes. But if I have to choose, strawberries.

Canned fruit? Yes. I really like it in heavy syrup, but never buy that. I like the lite syrup or in-its-own-juice type too.

Do you like tuna? Yes. I like regular canned tuna, and I like sushi tuna

How about roast beef? How ABOUT roast beef? I love it, but prefer it rare. There has to be pink there and blood dripping off of it.

Do you like salsa or seven layer taco dip? Both, but again, if I have to choose, 7-layer dip.

Snow cones or ice cream cones? Ice cream cones. Snow cones make my teeth hurt.

Do you like tacos? Love 'em. Around here we call them kartudus, which is what our friend's daughter called them when she was little (since she's nearly 50 now, I won't embarrass her by naming her--but you know who you are)

Do you like cabbage? I can take it or leave it. I don't mind it, but I'm not wild about it.

Do you like plums? Yes, if they are just the right degree of ripeness.

Green onions? Yes. Some folks call them scallions, but they're really green onions.

Ever had ramen noodles? How do you fix yours? Do you add anything to them? Yes, I cook ramen for myself. I don't generally add anything to it, though I might cho up some scallions to put on top.

Do you like spicy foods? I love the taste of spicy foods, but I hate it when it's so hot you can't get the flavor. I always ask for mild spices.

Crispy or grilled chicken on your salad? Crispy, of course, continuing my explanation of why I am so fat!

Do you like corn on the cob? Love it.

Pumpkin or apple pie? Pumpkin, but a really good apple pie is hard to beat.

Dinner rolls or crescent rolls? crescent, with lots of real butter

How do you like your eggs? I usually order them scrambled (or an omelette)

Most expensive meal you have ever ate? Wow. That's hard to answer. I really don't know, though we went to a French restaurant in San Francisco once that had no prices on the woman's menu, so that may be one of the more expensive ones!

Do you like stir fry? Yes, and I do cook stir fry.

What kind of pots and pans do you use? You name it, I probably have it. What I use most is my set of Revereware, the crock pot and a 9x13 pyrex baking dish.

Do you like brussel sprouts? Like cabbage, I can take them or leave them, but I made some not too long ago that were cooked with bacon (a Food Network recipe) and were to die for.

Can or fresh tomatoes? Fresh, but only if it tastes like a tomato. Many tomatoes today are mealy and tasteless.

BBQ Chicken or Ribs? Probably ribs because I rarely cook ribs and I do like a good BBQ rib.

Do you like coffee? Yes. Peet's French Roast

Cupcakes or ice cream cake? Ice cream cake. I'm not a big "cake" eater.

Hot dogs or polish sausage? A toss up.

Do you like cinnamon toast? Yes, I love it.

Do you eat dinner at the table or in front of the TV? We eat at the table, but the TV is on. After 45 years, there isn't much to say.

Do you like to BBQ? I love BBQ, I don't like to do it myself.

Do you like cold cuts? Some. It's not my favorite choice of sandwich

Do you like rice? Yes, and I cook it a lot because Walt loves it. I really prefer potatoes, though.

Macaroni and cheese? Yes. We used to have Kraft Dinner on David's anniversary because he liked it. But I really prefer to make my own.

Key Lime Pie? I've only had it a couple of times, I think. I think I liked it. (It's pie--what's not to like?)

Favorite Fair/Carnival Food? I haven't been to a fair in over 20 years, so don't even know what is sold there any more, though I would like to try a fried Snickers bar some day.

What kind of gravy do you like? Not a big gravy eater.

Jalapeno Poppers? Yes. It's like crack.

Broccoli/Chicken Alfredo? Is that an either/or question? Would I rather have broccoli or chicken alfredo? Heck, chicken, of course.

Do you like cottage cheese? Not by itself, but mixed with fruit, sure.

Do you like lasagna? Not four days in a row (I just made lasagna for Cousins day and ate it for 3 days. There are still leftovers)

Do you like hard boiled eggs? Yes.

Do you like stuffing? Love it

Do you like cream corn? Haven't had it in years. It's ok but I'm not big on canned vegetables

Do you like corn nuts? Not really--I'm afraid to bite into them because I don't want to crack a tooth.

What about sauerkraut? Again, it's OK. I don't love it, but I don't dislike it..

Do you like ice cream sandwiches? Yes.

Sunflower or pumpkin seeds? Sunflower

Potato chips or nacho cheese chips? Potato chips.

Do you like granola bars? I like the ones with peanuts in them.

Do you like Pop tarts? I never ever buy them, but when I have the opportunity to have them, yes, I like them.

M&Ms or hersheys chocolate? Hard to decide. M&M Peanut would be my favorite, orHershey with almonds.

Last but not least……. What is your ALL time favorite FOOD????? Dungeness crab, of course. But if I were ordering my last meal, I would choose roast leg of lamb, potatoes, asparagus, soft rolls and ice cream for dessert. Which, by coincidence, is what I'm cooking for my mother tomorrow!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Mother's Daughter

I have written here extensively of my frustration with my mother for refusing medical care. She talks about waking up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain from muscle cramps or when she can't move her arms, or when her heart is racing, or something else, but she won't call the doctor to ask for advice because she's afraid they'll ask her to come in for an appointment and she hates to go to the doctor. (She also hates to take pills and gets angry because she considers it a weakness to need them.)

When she gets to the doctor's office, she apologies for bothering her, minimizes her complaints and forgets to tell the whole story "because it's not really that bad," she tells me later. There are times when I've been driven to distraction by her actions.

There are differences between myself and my mother. For one thing I worked in medical offices for about 20 years so I have no fear of that world.

For another, I don't tell people when there is something wrong with me that I am trying to ignore.

So it's a big deal for me to confess here that I have had this "condition" (which I will not describe) for about three months now. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse, but I am almost always aware of it. I have my own method of dealing with it and it usually clears up, but this time it's been worse, and less worse, never "better."

I have not talked with anybody about it. I haven't even mentioned it at Cousins Day. I've just been mother and determined to deal with it myself rather than go to the doctor's office.

Last night it woke me up and I was up in agony for about 3 hours until I was finally able to deal with it. I made the decision that this was the last straw. I went to the computer, called the Kaiser web site up and made an appointment.

I didn't even tell Walt I was going to the doctor, nor has he had a clue that there has been anything wrong with me.

Turns out it was a good thing I went. This is not life threatening, it's just "quality of life" threatening -- and it has definitely been threatening the quality of my life for a very long time.

Apparently almost everything I've been doing to fix the problem has possibly been making it worse.

So I am now loaded down not only with a course of medication that should fix me up in about a week, but I also have a second course in case things happen in China. A week. She said a week. HOW long have I been suffering with this???

I don't think I'll admit to my mother what I've been doing all the while I've been scolding her for refusing to call the doctor when she's not feeling well!!!

But I did learn about health care at my mother's knee, and apparently she taught me very well.

Do you ever use Google earth? I've had it forever, but I've been using it more since I got into this "write to people around the world" jazz. I check out their addresses on Google Earth. If I'm really lucky there is a little camera to click on that will take me to a street view of that address, or close to it. It has made all of these anonymous encounters a bit more real.

Well, today, I decided to check out Valley Springs on Google Earth and not only was I able to see the town, but I followed the road that we took out and got a great satellite shot of the farm and when I clicked on the little camera, discovered that the camera was situated directly in front of the road to where the farmhouse had been. I even discovered the address: 1874 Paloma Rd. (of course they had no road names when my mother lived there). What fun.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a Girl

BabySister.jpg (4285 bytes)Am I good at keeping a secret or what?

When we received the news that Brianna was going to be a big sister in September, we were asked not to talk about it. So me, the blabbermouth of the world, has kept it (almost completely) quiet. I did tell a few people who were sworn to secrecy, but I didn't even tell Peach until yesterday.

They wanted to wait until the definitive ultrasound which would let them know that everything was OK with the baby and when they would find out the sex (though it wasn't not knowing the sex that was the reason why they wanted it kept quiet).

ultrasound.jpg (28874 bytes)I didn't even post this photo from the first ultrasound, though it was the wallpaper on my cell phone until I realized I couldn't read the dark print on top of it.

(Aren't 3-D ultrasounds amazing! I'm from the years when they didn't even let you hear the heartbeat.)

But the big appointment was yesterday and they took Brianna with them so she could see the baby too. I got a text message from Tom that they had uploaded a video to their photo web site (which I will not upload here because that's their thing to do).

I sent back a text that read " wifi at Grandma's house!" I figured I would have to wait until I got home to see the video (which I did), but Tom fired back a text asking if I wanted to hear the information.

I started calling him and he was calling me at the same time, but somehow we connected. I got the happy news that everything is OK with the baby, and the Downs screen they did came back negative today, so it's all clear for a healthy baby. And that the baby is a girl.

Brianna has been talking about a baby brother and I know Tom would love to have a son, but I can just see him as a Daddy to his two little girls. He'll be great and all of their friends will be in love with him.

Tom has a name he's pushing for, but I did the Bad Grandma thing before Bri was born and let leak the name they were considering, so my mouth (and fingers) are sealed. I think it's the PERFECT name, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. If they do NOT name her his first choice, I will let you all know after she is born and has been named.

We're gonna be grandparents again!!!

Our 2-day Cousins Day came to an end this morning. We had scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast and then broke out the cards. Maybe we could fit a game in before we left.

Before we did that, Peach (who has twice empted her money bag and taken most of the coins to the bank) insisted on counting the money in my bag. She was betting I had $50 there. We piled up all the coins in $1 stacks

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It wasn't $50, it was $40, and after we played two games, it was more than $40 (apologies to my mother). I decided not to remove it and bank it, but to let it ride. I've seen how quickly those coins can disappear when the cards aren't with you!

It was a good 2 days, but it was also good to get home again, for a couple of days, at least!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Marys

1. Mary Williams
2. Mary Wise
3. Mary Martin
4. Mary, the mother of Jesus
5. Mary Lynn Tobin
6. Mary Mollerskov
7. Mary Young
8. Mary Z.
9. Mary Travers
10. Mary Livingstone
11. Mary Kay
12. Mary Cassatt
13. Mary Tudor

(Can you tell this was a list I wrote while trying to get sleepy?)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eleven Years

Paul's 11th anniversary.
I wasn't at home, but Walt brought flowers.

The Gazeen

"I hate to admit it," my mother said as we were approaching the turnoff to her house, "but I really had a good day today."

She was, of course, kidding. Pretending she didn't want to give us the satisfaction of letting us know she had enjoyed herself on our day-long jaunt back into her past.

Several years ago, before my aunt Barb got her diagnosis of Alzheimers and when Peach was still fairly new at genealogy, she decided that we should all take a trip to Valley Springs, the small town near Lodi where my mother had lived from the time she was about 3 until she was in the 5th grade, when the family moved into the larger city of Galt.

We found the old house without difficulty on that trip. It was deserted, dilapidated and for sale, but we were able to explore it and my mother and Barb took a great trip down memory lane explaining to us who had slept where, showing where many of the well-known family stories took place, and where the infamous "can pile" (a story for another day) had been located.

Since that trip, the house has been torn down and Peach has made several unsuccessful attempts back to Valley Springs trying to find where the property is. She has been wanting to make this trip with my mother for more than a year.

So after breakfast, early this morning, we got in the car (without playing cards first!!!) and headed for Valley Springs. It's about 120 miles from here and Bruce, on my GPS, directed us through the back roads, which were so beautifully green.

I just loved the idea that some town had of planting rose bushes around a lot of the poles along the highway. We must have passed dozens of them, all in bloom and so gorgeous!

The last time we had been to Valley Springs, we had eaten at a coffee shop called "Chubby's" (because that is my mother's nickname). The place has changed hands and it's now called "Campbell Country" (Campbell was her uncle's name).

We had a good lunch--Peach and I had what I would say was one of the best patty melts I've ever had. My mother had a hot dog. And we talked with the proprietor who, after being suitably shocked to discover that my mother was 91 years old, explained that she had lived in Valley Springs for 35 years, so she knew a lot of the places that my mother remembered. The central point of reference was a store that used to be called Plilers Market, and my mother's fondest memory was of buying her first pair of patent leather shoes there. Apparently it was "the" town store and you went there for everything. The building is still there, with the name just barely still visible.

Then, following directions from Plilers, we started driving up the family road. There is a big factory-looking building where my mother thought her house stood and we all got out to take pictures.

She was disappointed not to recognize more landscapes, but picked out the hill she thought the house had stood on and pointed to a big tree that had been in the back yard.

When the photos were taken, I went up the road a ways to find a place to turn around and my mother asked me to drive a little farther just to make sure we had found the right place. All of a sudden she shouted "THERE IT IS!" and even I recognized it from having been there before.

The old barn is still standing up by that telephone pole on the left, but the house is gone. But we took lots of pictures for reference, so Peach can show her kids and grandkids where their great grandparents used to live.

After we had thoroughly explored, we got back in the car and started home again, excited about all the things we had seen. I had brought a couple of playlists of music from the 40s and the 50s and though my mother had seemed a bit irritated when I first started a playlist, leaving her house, it was "her" kind of music and the three of us sang all through the round trip. Some of my fondest childhood memories are singing this kind of music with my mother, so it was the perfect accompaniment to the trip for me.

We got back to San Rafael around 5, I guess, and immediately set up the card game. My mother was going into withdrawal. The ingredients Peach had brought for drinks yesterday were mostly gone, so I created a new drink using vodka, chocolate liqueur, raspberry syrup and cream. We were trying to figure out what to call it and I decided to call it a Gazeen, in honor of our trip today, remembering the time when my mother's younger brother stood on the porch of their house, having to pee, and said "I have to go so bad, I could pee all the way over to Gazeen's," the name of the neighbors across the road.

So we ended the night with Gazeens and lasagna and cards and now, bed.

(My mother really liked them!!!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Take a Walk

We did something amazing today. We went for a walk. Now this may not seem amazing to you, but trust me, it was amazing.

My mother broke her ankle three years ago and what with the recovery period and then other physical problems that have come up, she has had difficulty even walking across the parking lot without pain. This has been very disappointing for her because her mobile home park has a lagoon with a 3/4 mile path around it, lots of greenery, ducks, geese, etc., as well as other people living in the park, and she has not been able to walk around it in all this time.

This has been particularly disappointing because she's such a nature person. She loves getting out and watching the ducks, especially in the spring when there are new families, and seeing all the new flowers blooming.

Well, last week she decided to try walking around the lake. She only made it across the parking lot, sat down for a rest and then went home, but she was encouraged so the next day she went a little farther, stopping for rests along the way.

Yesterday she made it all around the lake again and today the three of us went together around the lake.

It was a beautiful day, warm, but with a slight breeze. The flowers were blooming....

...and the ducks were relaxing around the shore.

We took our time, stopped once for a bit, and then made it back home again for more card playing.

I don't know how many games we played, but lots. The games go faster when there are only 3, not 4 people playing. And we were all making ridiculous mistakes that caused us the dishonor of receiving the boob. I swear, that latex boob got more action than a dancer in a topless bar. I was sorry it wasn't wearing a tassle.

Peach made drinks and I brought lasagna (which I figured would last us two nights). We watched the Dancing with the Stars elimination show and now the others are sleeping and I seem to have an internet connection, so I'm going to get this posted quickly before I lose it. (Though I get cut off whenever I attempt to upload and I may not be successful after all!)

But all in all, a very nice day.

Old Friends

I came across this interesting meme the other day, which asked all sorts of cooking questions. I will probably do it the next time I do a meme, but I was thinking about it while I was mixing up some flour and spices to dredge medallions of pork in for making a pork picata (delicious, BTW!) and I realized that the bowl I was using was the largest bowl of a set of Tupperware that I bought when we were still living in Oakland (we moved from there in 1973).

TBowl.jpg  (38877 bytes)

Our friend Concetta had just become a Tupperware salesperson and over several parties, I bought a lot of stuff from her. This one has lost one of its handles, but in its day it has seen countless mixtures. Whenever I look for a mixing bowl, this is the one I use. (The others in the set are long gone)

Thinking about the bowl got me thinking about how many things I have had for a very long time.

Pots1.jpg  (59560 bytes)

Here are some more old friends. The Corningware in the upper left corner and the Le Cruset casserole in the lower right corner were both wedding gifts, nearly 46 years ago. The collander is all banged up but I think I brought that with us from Oakland too. The blue bowl in the lower left corner was the one that I kept my sourdough starter in for years until a foreign student living with us decided to clean out that foul smelling stuff in the bowl. I haven't made sourdough since.

Pots2.jpg  (43174 bytes)

The copper bottomed Revereware were all wedding gifts and all are still working just fine for me, though not nearly as shiny as they once were. I think we had to replace one pot when a handle broke off, but it's been a really good set for 45 years.

muffintin.jpg (43103 bytes)

I have two of these muffin tins, bent, beat up and with holes in them (see the second from the right at the bottom, for example), but I have made hundreds of muffins in them over the years.

Mixer.jpg  (42805 bytes)This may be the warhorse of the bunch. I know I had it when we lived in Oakland, when I was making all of our bread. This has a dough hook and it did heavy duty during those years.

When I took cake decorating classes and then started a cake decorating business here in Davis, I could not have done it without this mixer.

What stories this machine could tell if it could talk!

It doesn't get as much use now as it did when I first got it back in the 1970s, but I have definitely gotten my money out of it--and it is still going strong.

There are several other pieces of kitchen appliances that I've had around for decades. As with other things in my life, I tend to prefer the older, tried and true pots and pans rather than use a brand new one (though I do love my new big frying pan!)

One of these days I should go through all of the cupboards around here and toss out all of the appliances I no longer use, but if I did that, I suspect that these old friends (and many more) would not be tossed out. Too many good memories, too many shared experiences. You don't throw out old friends.

Going off on a 2-day Cousins Day. I probably won't have internet access, so I may be posting 2 entries when I get home. But, if I'm lucky, I'll be able to find something. Anyway, if I disappear for 2 days, that's why.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Four More Stars

JCCSFstage.jpg (27978 bytes)

No cameras allowed, so this was as close as I got to taking a picture to commemorate our last trip to the Says You taping in San Francisco. We had such a good time, though. After six shows taped, the cast all seemed to be a little giddy and that always adds a nice bit of shared camaraderie with the audience (and the "good stuff" that will never make it to air when the show is edited!).

The promise is that the show will return to San Francisco next year, so perhaps we won't be flying down to Los Angeles on our annual jaunt again, if we can see them with only a brief drive from Davis.

After the show, we went out to dinner. Walt had had a late breakfast, but I had a bowl of oatmeal at 8 a.m. and by 4:30 I was pretty hungry. Rather than try to decide where we wanted to eat, we decided to drive until we found parking and then check out the available restaurants around the parking space.

So, that's how we found ourselves at Mel's diner on Geary Street. It was just what the doctor ordered. I had an "avocado burger" with onion rings that were fantastic.

avocadoburger1.jpg (56366 bytes)

Usually when you order something like an "avocado burger," it comes with a couple of slices of avocado on it. Not this baby.

avocadoburger2.jpg (54689 bytes)

This had half of an avocado on it, along with bacon and cheese. This was the lo-cal option of course :). Walt opted for a hot roast beef sandwich because it came with "lumpy mashed potatoes."

Malt.jpg  (48712 bytes)We both decided to indulge in a chocolate malt, which was the nice old-fashioned kind that I remember from my childhood, full of a malty taste, and coming in its own container in which it had been mixed so that you ended up with not one, but actually three glasses full of the stuff.

It reminded me of when we used to take the kids to The Hippo restaurant. It was a hamburger restaurant, but a gourmet hamburger restaurant where you could have any one of a number of choices. Jeri always had the hamburger sundae, which was a hamburger patty withice cream and chocolate on it.

It's not that she was weird, it was that she figured out that if she got the hamburger sunday, she got dinner and dessert, because we never could afford to get the kids dinner and dessert. She would scrape the ice cream off the burger and eat it separately. No dummy she!

So we had a really nice afternoon, with another two Says You tapings and dinner and we were home in time to watch Amazing Race. Can't beat that!

Tomorrow I have planning to do because I have a 2-day Cousins Day coming up. Peach is eager to return to the town where my mother spent her first years and find the place where the old farmhouse used to be, so we will go to my mother's on Tuesday morning and have a regular Cousins Day but on Wednesday we will drive the 120 mile drive to Valley Springs, take a picture of a plot of land and then drive 120 miles back to my mother's again, to spend the night before we go home again.

I'm sure we'll have a good day, but I'm not looking forward to a 250 mile drive.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Four Stars

Wreath.jpg  (74427 bytes)Many people think of Jeanette MacDonald standing in the ruins of 1906 San Francisco , singing hear heart out when they hear the song "San Francisco" (open your golden gates...). For decades I have heard that song and thought of Judy Garland belting it out during her Carnegie hall concert. After today, I will think of Fran Mitchell, and how appropriate it was that we should all sing that song at the end of her memorial service.

It was a grand send-off for Fran Mitchell, Char's mother. Fran died a month ago, after a brief stay in an assisted living facility near Char and her kids. Prior to that she had lived in San Francisco for 96 years.

The memorial had been postponed until Char's daughter finished taking her class to Costa Rica and it could be scheduled for a time convenient for her son and his family to fly out from the east coast. Grandma wasn't going anywhere; they could wait until the time was right.

The rest of us just made time to attend because...well...we never miss a Blackford funeral.

On Char's request, Walt wore his W.C. Fields tie, which he had worn for her father's funeral years before. Fran would have loved it.

It was a simple service, with comments and music provided by family members. I was so impressed with Char and her sister Flo, both of whom started the proceedings by getting up and speaking. Ain't no way I could have done that without falling apart.

Son Tim was the MC and did a great job of mostly sticking to the list Char had provided for him...and improvising when things had to be switched up a bit.

Char's oldest daughter Tavie wrote on Facebook yesterday, "Finished writing something to say at Grandma's service tomorrow, now I just have to figure out how to get through it without crying." She did a beautiful job.

The thing I loved about the service, as others in the gathering got up to share memories, was hearing what a fun-loving family this was, and how Fran had been the heart of it. I had known that, of course, having known Fran for more than 40 years, but it was nice to hear wave after wave of warm, funny memories. There were tales of picnics and crab hunts and camping trips and Halloween parties and so many other social gatherings that included all branches of the family.

It was a wonderful tribute to a woman who was the last of her generation in the Mitchell/Cameron clan.

When it was over, we stood around outside the funeral home chatting...

TimEricRich.jpg (42219 bytes)
Grandson Tim with Eric and his father Richard from the Pinata group.
80 year old Richard had driven down from the Sierra foothills to be there

...and then drove to granddaughter Dana's house for a reception. It was a wonderful spread which included enough clam dip that everyone could hover, if they wanted.

ClamDipFran.jpg (41836 bytes)

I got a chance to visit with several people, including talking with great granddaughter Haley about how she'd enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica and what was probably my very first conversation ever with one of Char's kids' spouses, who often is not able to make the Pinata gatherings.

The house was full of people and food and laughter and more stories about Fran and the family. It was exactly the kind of party she would have thrown if she could have planned it for herself, I suspect. And her family did her proud.

Good show, guys!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Says You: 2011

It was Richard Sher, the host on Says You who explained tonight that he had just walked out the door of his hotel when he saw a car with a sign on it that looked like a campaign sign for Donald Trump, until he looked closer and saw that it said "Trump: We shall overcomb." He explained that was when he knew he was really in San Francisco.

Yes, it was time for Says You and we left the house around 4 to make our way to San Francisco. We decided to drive down through Marin County, hoping for lighter traffic (good decision). As we came out the tunnel, we could see the city stretched out before us and the bridge up ahead. My favorite view ever. I love it in sun, in rain, in fog and in any other mix of weather you can imagine. But my very favorite is emerging from that dark tunnel and seeing this:

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and then

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I swear, I'm the biggest tourist ever when it comes to San Francisco. I just love looking at my city!

We were quite early, so we drove out California St. to find the Jewish Cultural Center, where the show was being taped, and found a great place to park, then went wandering around Laurel Village looking for someplace to eat. All the places that I had known from my Lamplighters days are long gone, but we did find an interesting restaurant, called Asqew, where you order from a menu of skewered things and sides. I had Thai Lime chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and a roasted pear salad. Everything was delicious, and we apparently just missed the dinner crowd, since the place was filling up quickly by the time we were leaving.

Asqew.jpg  (69806 bytes)

We arrived at the center about half an hour before they were letting people into the theatre so we had a dessert cookie from their snack bar and sat around to wait.

The Says You cast arrived en masse and we had a brief meeting with my friend, panelist Tony Kahn, who didn't make it out here last year, so I'd missed him. Good to see him looking relaxed and healthy following a week in Monterey with his wife, author Harriet Reisen.

We've had our tickets for about 6 months now, and I ordered them the week they went on sale, so we were disappointed to see that we were in row CC, which in most theatres would meant that the rows would be numbered from A to Z and then start all over again with AA and BB and so on. However, here the double lettered rows were the chairs that they placed in FRONT of the regular seats, so we were in the third row and I didn't even have a woman with a huge afro in front of me, as I did in So. California last year!

The show, of course, was very funny and something we wait for eagerly each year. We always learn something, and this year found out that Brianna is cincinate. Now I can't find that definition in my dictionary, nor can Google, but apparently "cincinate" means with curly ringlets.

We sat through the two tapings and got home around midnight, but it was really worth it and I'm glad we'll have a chance to do it all over again on Sunday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That's Entertainment

Regal.jpg  (43575 bytes)It's only April and already we have seen our second movie, in the theatre, for the year! (In a good year we average about 3-4 movies a year, compared to about 60 stage shows.)

When I took my friend Ruth for her post-op appointment last week, we were talking about what fun we had on our trip to Half Moon Bay to meet author Michael Connelly and about how the movie, based on his book, The Lincoln Lawyer, should be in theaters now.

I suggested that we should try to go to see the movie together, since we had been discussing Connelly books for so long. Also, Ruth has been cooped up in her house following her hip surgery, and now that she is starting to get mobile that sounded like a good idea to her.

Walt decided he wanted to see the movie too, so we picked Ruth up this afternoon and the 3 of us headed to the theatre. Until about 2 minutes before the show started, we thought we were going to be the only people in the theatre, but three other people arrived before the lights went down.

I'm always a little leery about seeing a movie about a character I know well. Lincoln Lawyer follows Connelly's character, Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who practices law out of his car on the streets of Los Angeles. I wondered if the actor could match my image of Haller, but I was happy to see that Matthew McConaughey makes a very satisfactory Haller and will now be the image I see when I read a book which features that character.

Haller's stories are always very gritty and I was pleased that the film version didn't pretty them up. It remained quite true to the book itself and I can see why Connelly was pleased with the film.

If a Harry Bosch book is made into a movie I will probably not see it, because I have my own image of Harry Bosch and don't want it spoiled.

(I remember how disappointed I was when they made a cartoon movie of The Hobbit. Since the movie came out, I can only picture that image of hobbits, though prior to the movie, my mental image was quite different._

It's an entertainment weekend. I hadn't reviewed a stage show in quite awhile, but we saw the touring Broadway production of Young Frankenstein last night. I was glad to see it, though it wasn't on a par with Mel Brooks' earlier The Producers. Still it has that unmistakable Brooks humor, the crude Catskills comedy (which, at its best, includes an awful lot of jokes and physical comedy about male genitalia and female breasts). The dances were good, "Puttin' on the Ritz" brings down the house, and there are costume changes that will have you gasping and wondering how they did that!

I was up at 5 a.m. this morning finishing the review and sending it off to the theatre.

Still to come over the weekend are tapings of the radio show Says You on Friday and Sunday and Charlotte's mother's memorial service on Saturday.

I probably will not review the memorial service, though I'm sure it would get four stars if I did.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Feeling Kneaded

In my new frenzy to join everything and send something to everyone in the world, I joined a recipe exchange on Swap-Bot earlier this week. The idea was to send five recipes to four different people and to include a comment about why you chose that recipe, or what was special about it. The hope was that people would go through their vaults and choose recipes that had been in the family for a long time and had good stories behind them.

I turned to my cookbook bible, Trifles from Tiny Tots, now raggedy edged and spotted with stains, the way a well-loved cookbook should be.

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When our kids were in nursery school we would occasionally have parties and all brought food. Char and I often made Mexican won ton, a recipe we found in Sunset magazine. It was always a HUGE hit.

Mexican Won Ton

1/2 lb hamburger
1/2 lb chorizo sausage
1 small can chopped green chili
2 green onions
1/4 cup jack cheese
1 pkg won ton skins (available in the oriental section of the supermarket, or in the produce section of some supermarkets)

Remove casing from sausage and crumble. Add to hamburger and brown meats. Add onion and chili and cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Let cool. Place one tsp of filling in the center of a won ton skin and fold, sealing the edges with water. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve hot with guacamole (home made or store bought--home made is better). These may be made ahead and frozen. When ready to serve, place on a cookie sheet and heat at 250 degrees for 30 minutes.

So many people asked us for the recipe that when a fund raiser discussion came up, we suggested that we make a school cookbook. Char and I volunteered to be on the committee and the two of us decided that this book would be great because it would give us the opportunity to put all of our favorite recipes in one place so we would always know where to find them. Char's evil and potent "velvet hammer," for example.

Velvet Hammer

1 bottle champagne
1 bottle soda
1 bottle white wine
1/2 pt vodka
1 oz orange curacao

Mix all together. Put in punch bowl with block of ice.

The punch was lethal and many people woke up with hangovers the next day after indulging in the Velvet Hammer without realizing they had reached the point of no return.

And so I turned to Trifles from Tiny Tots to pick out my favorite recipes to include in the swap. The thing that struck me most forcibly as I went through it is how I don't cook like this any more. I recognized a lot of recipes I used to make, but haven't made in years--too complicated.

I particularly remembered all the fancy breads that I used to make ("You used to make bread and we didn't appreciate it nearly enough. Thank you!," said an unsolicited message from Jeri this morning. Just the thing to make my day!).

I still make bread, occasionally, but I make white bread and I put it in a bread maker, so my part is just adding ingredients and pushing a button. But back in the day, Char, Pat and I used to go to a specialty store where we bought all sorts of different flours (I used to love cracked wheat) and other ingredients and we really made most of our own bread. (I remember that there was a character on a soap opera in those days who seemed to be making bread every time she was on the screen--and she NEVER got the hang of kneading bread dough. It drove me nuts.)

I made bread at least twice a week, sometimes more and spent a lot of time bend over the breadboard kneading dough (which I don't do any more). I heard once that the quickest way to get the gluten active was to throw the dough down on the board as hard as possible. We had a shy sheltie in those years and he would run and hide whenever I started throwing the dough around.

My staple was Cuban Water bread, which just had yeast, water, sugar, salt and flour, but I used potato water and it turned out huge, probably because you started it in a cold oven and so it continued to rise as it began to bake. It also had a fabulous flavor.

There was also a quick loaf bread which rose faster because it used more yeast, and it had a different flavor because the sweet element in it was honey, rather than regular sugar.

Refrigerator potato bread was great because you could keep the dough in the fridge for up to 10 days and use it for loaf bread or for rolls.

But I think my favorite was Whole Wheat Spiced bread because it got its flavor from cumin, one of my favorite spices.

Char also got tired of making turkey stuffing, so developed a recipe for "stuffing bread" where all you had to do was cut it up and add liquid and stuff the turkey--this was before you could buy pre-seasoned bread cubes in the supermarket.

I rarely bake bread now because it's just Walt and me and if I make bread, he eats a slice and I finish the loaf, which is exactly what I shouldn't do.

But I do remember those days, fondly (even though the kids probably remember that I spent them all yelling) and it was really special when Jeri thought to write that note this morning.