Thursday, May 31, 2012


Two hanging creations, two different concepts: which one would you take time to study and admire?  Which one is art?

Yesterday on the lovely blog Plum Siena, Annie presented a photo essay:
a piece called Creative Mind: Joana Vasconcelos.  First up was a piece called ‘Marilyn, 2011’, a 9 ft. pair of high heels constructed of cooking pots and their lids. They are sort of fun – like a Claes Oldenburg sculpture with a culinary twist.  The next one up, however, gave me a case of the “Whywouldyas.”  It’s a chandelier, ‘A Novia (the bride), 2001’, displayed in 2005 for the Venice Bienale.
Check the "Creative Mind" above to see  more pictures of this piece.

I just had to wince at this. As a chandelier it looks like many others: the kicker lies in the material used. When I tell you what it is will you wince too? I wonder if the creator (for this piece I’d hardly call her an artist) lay in bed one night and thought “Eureka! I’ll make a huge chandelier. All out of tampons!”  That’s correct: tampons.  Whywouldya?  It may be creative, but it surely isn’t art.


Coincidently, today I was made aware of the work of the industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick. The piece above was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust for their London headquarters, and is made of 142,000 glass spheres (someone counted every one?) suspended on tensile steel wires. I find it beautiful and very creative.  I might get a crick in my neck, but I'd love to stand and look up, up, up at it. I wonder if you can see it from the higher floors. This is art.

And that
(Said John)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Don't you just love this picture?  I've had it over two years in the file I call "Fun Fotos." It's got a little AP in the lower right-hand corner, so I can attribute it at least to the Associated Press.  I should have realized sooner that it was a great photo to accompany some of my curmudgeonly essays. To me it says "I'm looking at you!"

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Another curmudgeonly comment:  

On I found this:

Main Entry:
 trash television
Part of Speech:
 the broadcasting of television programs featuring violence, profanity, partial nudity, and other vulgar subject matter
The reality TV shows are the epitome of trash television.

I think the definition above should be broadened. 

Here they are: your typical American family.
Just yesterday I caught a TV ad for Operation Repo. Holey socks, why wouldya?! It’s said to be fictionalized versions of real repossessions. The ‘cast’ consists of way overweight, pierced, and tattooed folk. I instantly named it “Slut Television.”  I’d be most embarrassed if this show was picked up internationally.  My head is not stuck in the sand and I do know that people like this are real – they’re on TV, doncha know? – but this show - just the preview! - gives me the itch.

With some exceptions, I do like the ‘reality’ series that take you along with hard-working people like fishermen, loggers, and truckers.  I can also see some of those pawn or restoration shows: they come upon some very interesting stuff.  The original ‘reality’ shows like Survivor or Big Brother are just useless.

My two favorite Swamp Loggers

I must say, I really liked Swamp Loggers. It’s not been renewed, probably because there was little profanity, no violence, no in-fighting (I’m amazed that American Chopper has lasted so long!), and lots of good family values and hard work. I’d guess they’re happy to be able to get back to working without camera crews slowing them down.

And finally, while I’m on this curmudgeonly bent, I offer as a prime example of what’s wrong with the new trends in TV: The Learning Channel. Just click on that and look at their lineup. “Learning” has become a misnomer there.  It may be entertainment for some, but it ain’t at all learning
for anyone.

And that
(Said John)

Friday, May 25, 2012


Being in the high school band back in the late fifties was a fifty-fifty situation for me. Though I can’t remember what else I’d have done at that hour, maybe study hall, the plus side was that I got to spend several hours a week in band or orchestra practice. I loved being with music. From when I was little, sitting in front of our big console radio and listening to a concert or opera, I wanted to play the one that made that great sound at the start of the opera “Der Rosenkavalier”.  Turned out it was the French horn. 

I’d had piano lessons, but the first time I could choose what I liked was as a freshman in high school.  Naturally I picked the French horn.  Now I see that most French horns are carried in nice rectangular cases.  Years ago the case was the shape of the horn.  Though eventually we could leave our instruments at school, at first I had to schlep that unbalanced lump on my bicycle.   It was always a disaster because the case handle didn’t fit over my handle bars.  I tried tying it on, but it just swung around and banged me on my knee. That ride to school, along with forgetting my locker combination, is still part of an occasional crazy dream.  I should have picked the piccolo.

As an aside, I must say I enjoyed a part of the ride if that day I came upon a wonderful man who, more days than not, whatever the weather, would be sitting out on his front porch or puttering in his garden.  He’d hold the horn to give me a little break, and we’d have a little chat, and then I’d continue on.  This happened for only my freshman year because the new high school was just about ready and my route changed. Many years later it happened that the man was one of the directors of the bank at which I’d come to work.  He was pleased to see I’d done so well, and I was just delighted to see him again. Our little chats continued on from there.

I loved playing the French horn and singing in the chorus too.  We usually did quite well in New York State School Music Association’s adjudications, and I even got an individual medal the one time I entered.  The negative in all of this was that we had to march.  Marching in a parade wasn’t too too bad - I had marched for years as a Girl Scout – and we had a good time marching through the town and nodding to folks we knew, even though on Memorial Day that heavy wool band uniform was hot enough to melt your undies.

The kicker was the second year at the new high school when they decided we should have a marching band for the football games.  Problem was that many of the better players on the team were also the better players in the band. As a marching band we were few in numbers, puny and pathetic.  We drilled and drilled, but the leader couldn’t make much of us.  Eventually they dropped the whole idea - but not before we made it into the yearbook! I was searching for a nice picture of a French horn and I thought to google the high school marching band. Lo and behold! a picture from the 1959 North Shore High School yearbook. I'm in there somewhere.  Who'da believed it! 

The majorettes almost outnumbered the band!

When I look up my old high school on line I see today that they’ve got only what they call the “Concert Band”. Those kids are so lucky.  But lucky or not, times like those were what made for some really great memories, and another essay for my blog.

P.S. Enjoy this Memorial Day weekend. I, for one, will be glad not to be marching in a hot uniform!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I’m going out on a limb here, but after seeing recent articles about non-white births outnumbering white births for the first time in history, I want to ask several questions:
  ---who cares? (obviously, many people do, but I wish we could get beyond all of this.)
  ---do other countries keep track of such births as ours does?
  ---do the numbers mean much to anyone other than folks who like to fiddle around with demographics?
  ---why is race so important to institutions like colleges? To me, affirmative action should be directed toward admitting the best students or hiring the best employees, regardless of race, gender, etc.
  ---why do they ask you to select and check your race on various surveys and questionnaires?  I’m thinking of checking “Prefer not to answer” from now on.

Now I’ll state a few of my own views:
  ---I am getting tired of “ – Americans”.  I will be pleased – though I must admit it won’t happen in my lifetime – when there are no longer “Afro-Americans”, or “Muslim Americans”, or “Spanish Americans”, or even “Native Americans”.  I will be pleased when we are no longer defined first by our color, religion, or country of origin. If you are an American citizen you are just, though not merely, an American. 
  ---It should be against the law, even on the U.S. census, to require, or even
politely ask, on any questionnaire, survey, or application, about any one’s race or religion or country of origin. (I think I could admit an exception to this rule on an application for American citizenship. It would be interesting to keep track of the countries of origin.)
   ---I will be pleased – and again, it won’t happen in my lifetime – when the angst over what is perceived as our many differences – the “us vs. them" mentality - gives way to a celebration of our colorful diversity within our unity. We’ve got a slew of slogans out there, but we rarely live by them. Sometimes I think it would wake us all up if real ALFs showed up.
                              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
May 29, 2012 - I just saw this story in Slate.  It interets me because I am 1/16 Cherokee by blood. I didn't feel the necessity to include that information in the above piece. My grandmother's grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee. But I am an American - just, not merely, an American.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

this is Tuesday...

...and it has become my habit to post a small something on Tuesdays.  Not much strikes my fancy this morning, except to show you this picture of one of my Mother's Day roses. I'm not overly crazy about roses, but this particular pink is my favorite - how did they know?

We were going to do bit of antiquing up in Concord, North Carolina today, but thanks to a wonderful friend of mine who reminded me that this is Speed Week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway there, we will be avoiding that whole area for the duration.  How 'bout a lovely Seniors Lunch Out and some shopping at Trader Joes?  Sounds like a nice idea.

Sunday, May 20, 2012



"Oh, what a beautiful morning!" - I could sing out loud, it's such a lovely day.
Sunshiny bright, a bit of a breeze, and a temperature in the mid sixties. The bees are very busy, humming a tune in the lavender.  I'm just about to make our once-a-week "heart attack on a plate" breakfast of bacon, eggs, homefries and toast. Life sure is grand this day.

Friday, May 18, 2012



I was twenty-two, Lyndon B. Johnson was signing Medicare into being, and I was visiting California for the first time. In two weeks I experienced San Francisco, Monterey and Cannery Row (I'm a Steinbeck fan), driving the twisting Pacific Coast Highway, and my first earthquake in L.A.  Some of my fondest memories from that vacation are of Disneyland. Ten years previously, Walt Disney had opened Disneyland as the grail in the quest for an amusement park to interest both adults and children. I was a little bit of both then, and I enjoyed myself tremendously. 

I remember being impressed by the cleanliness of the place and the availability of food and souvenirs in every price range. I was treated to the price of admission, but I don’t remember it being as big a chunk of the average wage as it is today. I do remember some of the rides. I liked the Jungle Cruise, and wondered how they got the hippos to come up out of the water without damaging their works. I especially delighted by the Storybook Land Canal ride. Scenes from Disney movies were displayed in perfect miniature along the banks, and, if you suspended your disbelief, you would think you were gazing down on them from a slow-moving blimp.

The Matterhorn and the Submarine
I remember the Matterhorn ride as being a bit clunky - after all, I’d been on the Cyclone at Coney Island many, many times. The scaffolding and structure of the inside of the mountain was plainly visible, as though they just dropped the shell over the ride. I looked at a recent YouTube video of the ride and saw they’ve made it look more like you are really going through tunnels in the mountain. I do remember that we were in the front of the bobsled and got soaked in the end of the ride splash. That I didn’t like at all.

We’d been advised to always get on the left-hand line for any of the most popular rides, and in most cases it worked. The submarine ride was wonderful.  As with a lot of things from that time in my life, I don’t know what ever became of the slide, but I did take a great picture of the giant clam. Like all the rest of the underwater sights it wasn’t real, but it sure was clever. I’d have liked to go on that ride again that day to see what there was on other side of the boat but, left or right, the line was really too long for another go-round.
Never will I forget the Mad Tea Party ride. We sat in a tea cup, and we could make it go round and round, faster and faster.  Meanwhile the tea cups were on a platform that went round and round the other way, and then those platforms were on a bigger platform that went round and round and round and oh, did I feel sick. I almost lost my lunch there. I’ve since seen several similar rides at other amusement parks. I am not amused, and I steer clear of them. Round and round and round. Blaaaarg! Whew!

I’ve seen pictures of how Disneyland has grown since then, and how the concept has grown into several Disney parks around the world - all huge. I think none of them will ever have the quiet charm of the original. Distance may lend enchantment, but it really was an enchanting day for me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Next to our own Stars and Bars, have you ever seen a flag as stirring as that of the Norwegians?  I guess I am partial to the red, white, and blue.  Watch many international sporting events - The Winter Olympics, WRC rally races and something like the Tour de France come to mind - and you're sure to be able to pick out the Norwegial flags flying.  

Today is Syttende Mai, the seventeenth of May, Norwegian Constitution Day. One of my fondest memories is of returning from an eleven-day coastal cruise to Bergen on the ship Midnatsol - the old one, not the new one. The date was Syttende Mai, and we arrived to flags and bunads, the national costumes, and such color as I'd rarely seen before.  
So today we have our Norwegian flags flying outside and inside we'll have seafood au gratin to celebrate the day.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Just look at that hand! I've always liked this picture. I took it years ago at a craft fair at the Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts. The basketmaker, a lovely woman, took a lot of her time to explain to my Granddaughter and me some of what she was doing as she created this wonderful basket. 

                 "Hands to work, hearts to God" - a Shaker motto 

Friday, May 11, 2012


You’ve heard of Love for Three Oranges? This is Cooking for Two Seniors – it can be done, and very easily too if you’ve planned ahead.  Planning means knowing what you eat and planning accordingly.  You can do that, right? Or are you a run-to-the-store kind of person? For twenty-five years our closest supermarket was seventeen miles away on the other side of the Berkshire Mountains, so I am not accustomed to fast foods or take out. We’re retired now – way up there in years – and, naturally, we don’t eat as much as we once did.  While you can find recipes for two on line, most ‘shelter’ sites assume their audience is twenty- to forty-something, and recipes are for larger appetites. My husband and I once ate a chicken breast each, but now I’ve got to filet just one into two portions. I still make a full recipe of things like soup or meatballs, but I bag and freeze less for each meal. Smaller appetites mean smaller portions, smaller packaging, and a food budget that goes further.

I do have a small freezer, and I have become adept at proper prior planning.
I buy many foods in bags: shrimp that has been flash frozen on the boat; bagged frozen veggies because the boxed varieties serve more than two and the leftovers have to be repackaged; and frozen fruit, especially wild blueberries and peaches, because I never know when I’ll want to sauté some with butter and brown sugar for a quick, hot dessert or add some to pancakes or muffins. I never know when I’ll want just a few asparagus or some peas to add some green to an otherwise drab looking concoction.
What I don’t buy in bags I can easily package: after I cut all the ‘guck’ off of the chicken breasts I bag them individually, then I stack them someplace handy in the freezer so that they freeze in sort of a lump. Then they go on the meat shelf.  Same with a whole boneless pork loin cut into chops and, in expectation of company, small roasts. Bag ‘em, stack ‘em, freeze ‘em.  

I’ve developed a list of things that I absolutely have to have on hand: onions, eggs, tomatoes, bacon, pasta, cheese, various types of canned beans, and butter. (And never forget some ice cream!)  Sounds like a good meal in the making right there.  Of course I’ve always got plenty of flour and sugar, herbs and spices, oil and various condiments, and chocolate and nuts. Yeah, and fresh fruit and salad fixings too. I’m sure you’ve got your own favorites staples.

I regularly make a big pot of spaghetti sauce, or soups and stews. When I do make a roast I make lots of extra gravy. Sauce and gravy portioned into one-cup containers, and soups or stews in three cup containers can last the two of us for weeks. I’ve got a handy set of shallow, plastic carrier bins that fit beautifully on the freezer shelves to hold bagged fruit and veggies, meats, and my own or store-bought baked goods. I invested in good freezer containers and baked-goods bags to insure the quality of what I freeze. I make my own bread, my husband slices it once it’s cool, then into a bag and into the freezer it goes. If you properly bag store-bought bread it will keep as well. Other shelves are reserved for those containers of frozen sauce and soup.  Works for me, and as I said, it keeps the food bill down.

Another thing that works for me is writing down good recipes for two when I make something good for the first time. I’ve got a great file of family recipes on my laptop, and I’m gradually adapting those and adding the good results to my recipes for two. I also keep cheat sheets in a box by the fridge.  Most of the time I wing it: I think of what I have on hand and how I can combine a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a handy starch like pasta or beans, and come up with something good. 
Sometimes I get a great hint from a magazine or website I’ve seen that today.  Today I saw a recipe for asparagus and pasta, so tonight we’ll have some variation on that theme – I’ve got the butter, lemon and parmesan in the fridge, linguini on the shelf, and asparagus in the freezer.  We’re set for a good meal – for two.

NOTE!  Yesterday I started a recipe blog - LATELIFE RECIPES. It will be a compendium of recipes I've adapted for just the two of us.  There's just one recipe there today, but I'll add to it regularly - I've got a slew of recipes of my own, as well as recipes and ideas culled from other sources.  I'm sure you will like the list of sweet and savory hints from Jacques Pépin - coming soon! Well, as soon as I can decide what to post next. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


After my seven-day siege of the flu, temperature up to 104° and all that goes with it, I’ve been continuing my recuperation today.  Though I feel very well, if I do anything the least bit strenuous I get exhausted. It’s very un-exhausting to sit here and noodle through all my favorite blogs and catch up on the latest e-zine issues. It’s like having a ladies' day out, and I am in a purple frame of mind.

Friday, May 4, 2012


The French Chef - Julia Child - ran on PBS from 1963 to 1973
Television is rife with cooking shows these days. From the BBC to PBS, from Kimchi Chronicles to New Scandinavian Cooking, food shows are on – and ‘in’. When I was a kid there was just one: The Dione Lucas Cooking Show.  My Mother was a great fan of hers, so I got to watch that quite often.  After looking at many of today’s cooking shows I’ve come to realize that how and what you do in the kitchen may depend on what chef you saw on the TV, or on which one you think best – that is if any of today’s chefs do appeal to you. Few of the newer ones appeal to me. The Food Channel might as well not exist as far as I’m concerned. I’ve checked it out and found it wanting. Old curmudgeon that I am, I am of the Julia Child, Jacques Pépin school of cooking. 

Julia Child was meticulous where she needed to be, say, with soufflés or in folding and rolling the pastry, again and again, for perfect croissant. She was less so where exactitude (great word!) didn’t count. A pinch of this, a dab of that. She knew that she wasn’t doing the kitchen equivalent of building a Swiss watch. Once, in the days of live television, when she dropped a potato pancake on the counter instead of flipping it back into the trash, she remarked “You just scoop it back into the pan. Remember, you are alone in the kitchen and nobody can see you.” From Julia I learned that cooking should be a pleasure, not a chore.

Jacques Pépin, always smiling
I know of those who crack eggs with a spatula and then clean out the shells to get every last drop. I wouldn’t call that frugal because isn’t stretching the food to feed one more mouth, it means nothing in a recipe, and when I’m adding a dozen eggs to a huge mixture for a French toast casserole, I haven’t got the time for it.  Jacques Pépin would call that practice a no-no.  He says you should tap the egg on the counter and pull it open so that you don’t get egg bits into the food. So what do I do? I do it Jacques’ way, of course.  What I don’t do his way is separate the egg: he uses his hands and lets the whites fall through his fingers. Eeew! Slimy! Germy!  You keep what you think are good ideas, ones that work for you, and discard the rest – of course.
Pépin is the champion of “Fast Food My Way” and some of his recipes seem more like elaborate suggestions than recipes: take some of this and some of that, but if you don’t have any of this or that you can use whatever you have on hand. From Jacques Pepin I learned improvisation and refinements, especially for cooking for two.

One on my favorite cooks - one of my favorite cookbooks!

I once had a fairly good collection of cook books, but I before moving here to SCCL I pared them down to a precious few: those by my favorite cooks. I’ve several by the doyenne of delicious Southern cooking, Edna Lewis. From her I learned that the most important thing in cooking is flavor. Her pound cake is simply the best.

Sinfully rich - sinfully delicious recipes

Of course I’ve got books by Julia and
Jacques, but the oldest one I have is from Dione Lucas, the first female graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. I cherish my copy of Gourmet Tips for Better Cooking. This last is a little twenty-eight page booklet from the 50’s. It was an advertising premium sent out by one of her show’s sponsors. I have The Cordon Bleu Cook Book, but a newer edition of her 1947 major work. Fifty years or so later I wouldn’t tackle many of her sinfully rich dishes, but she had great advice for any cooks of any age, especially the importance of proper tools. From Dione Lucas I learned, and I can still remember seeing her demonstrate this on TV, to frost the sides of a cake first. You’ll always have enough left to finish the top.

Find yourself one of these - you won't be sorry.

And do you know Edouard de Pomaine?  He wrote Cooking with Pomaine, and the handiest thing I have on my shelf: his little volume from 1930 called French Cooking in Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life. (Cooking in ten minutes? - It can be done! But he doesn’t count the time it takes for a pot of water to boil.)  He wrote the book for busy Parisiennes and it is very handy for busy Americans too. From Pomaine I learned the value of having on hand a good range of basic staples, including eggs, onions, pasta and olive oil.

Before my granddaughter’s wedding I made up for her a flash drive full of family pictures and recipes.  There are four generations of recipes in the collection. These have become my standbys, of course, and now they’ve been handed on down again. From my Mother I learned that cooking for those you love is one of the most satisfying things in life.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and...

...from this guy I've learned only the F word.
What a waste of time! Stick to PBS.