Friday, November 29, 2013



File this with the other strange things that run through my mind when I’m trying to go to sleep: I’m not sure if it’s my own imaginative thinking, but I have been thinking of some of the families I know and I find some have certain characteristics in common.

If the first two children are of the same sex the older will be ‘more’ of many of these: open, serious, responsible, grave, and Monday’s Child fair of face.

The second child will be ‘cuter’, and more blithe, mischievous, and secretive, and if it is the second of three, life may be a bit harder because it will always be a ‘middle’ child - neither the first who usually gets a bit more because its older and, obviously, has lived longer, nor the last who gets more attention because it’s the ‘baby’.

A third child of the same sex as its two older siblings will be a problem child: good looking, smart, clever, but a problem nevertheless.  The ‘terrible twos’ may last a lifetime.

I’m not familiar with any families that have more than three of the same sex in a row. One large family I know is a random mix of sexes, and another large one repeats the pattern of boy-girl-girl x 3! But I’d guess in larger families the older kids keep the younger ones in check – no matter how they came in order.

If the child is an only child (poor thing!) then, naturally, all bets are off.


I’ve never come upon or heard of anyone commenting on this before
– have you?


Thursday, November 28, 2013


Today the BBC in Pictures is running part of a series called
 by photographer Jimmy Nelson. The indigenous people in these photos would be absolutely appalled and most probably stunned by the activities and excess of most of the American non-indigenous peoples today: overeating at a huge meal and preparing to shop ‘til they drop on Black Friday.

p.s. "it’s just plain fun to say " Vanuatu

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


This morning, doing my regular morning round of favorite websites, Arts & Letters Daily enticed me with this: “As the last big unregulated industry, the art world attracts pirates, rogues, eccentrics, bullies, and snobs. Ruling it all is the dealer-king...” and the link went on to a piece, written by Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker, about the art dealer David Zwirner.  Of course I had to google Zwirner. Turns out he is an interesting and quite powerful man in his field, and if you’re interested in the field it’s an interesting article. But what really struck me, and prompted this first paragraph, was not the subject of the piece but its own first paragraph, ‘buried’ in an article that would be read by very few:

“Very important people line up differently from you and me. They don’t want to stand behind anyone else, or to acknowledge wanting something that can’t immediately be had. If there’s a door they’re eager to pass through, and hundreds of equally or even more important people are there, too, they get as close to the door as they can, claim a patch of available space as though it had been reserved for them, and maintain enough distance to pretend that they are not in a line.”

Did this writer know how elegant a statement that is? It is appropriate for those in the very top echelons of our world, the cream of the elite no matter their sphere of influence, on down to the every-day rank and file members like you and me. It prompted me to think “how true!” and to bring this food for thought to the attention of my own very few.



Monday, November 25, 2013


Bubbly hot out of my trusty toaster oven.
This is my rendition of the recipe Magnolia's Baked Blue Cheese and Macaroni  introduced to us a SCCL Cooking Fingers Club by Elaine Wilson. The dish is to die for, but unless you're having a group it is quite large: one pound of pasta versus one cup. The recipe comes via the Nothing Could Be Finer cookbook, submitted by Chef Donald Barickman, Magnolias Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina
1 cup dried macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup ½ and ½

4 oz. mozzarella – grated*
1+ oz. Roquefort, Stilton or other strong blue cheese**
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of Tabasco

Preheat oven to350°

Cook macaroni until just undercooked, about 8 minutes.

In 4 qt. sauce pan, melt the butter, whisk in the flour to make a roux, then add the ½ and ½ to make a sauce.  Cook for a few minutes. Add shredded mozzarella and stir until thickened.  Stir in the bleu cheese and allow it to melt until maybe just a few lumps are left.

Drain macaroni and add it to the sauce pot, stirring to evenly coat all the pasta.

Grease a small baking dish and pour in the macaroni mixture. Bake for about 1 hour until top is golden and bubbling.

I added some sliced green onions for a bit of color.

*   the original recipe uses Monterey Jack cheese, but I've always got mozzarella on hand so I substituted.
** to be true to our lovely state of South Carolina, you should use Clemson Blue. It is usually available at Young Plantation/Reid's on Rt.521 at Rt.160 in Indian Land.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Lazy lump that I am, I am reposting this piece from two years ago. It still interests me that we have transitioned Thanksgiving from European traditions, Pilgrims or none. We will be having a leisurely Thanksgiving at our son and daughter-in-law's home. I'll bring one of the desserts - maybe the easy family favorite chocolate cake.

My sister and I were dressed as Gypsies.
They certainly were warm outfits.

         Many folks I know from other areas of New York City never heard of this, but where I was born in Queens, New York, we didn’t go out Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, we ragamuffins went ‘begging’ on Thanksgiving. In the morning we were dressed up as beggars or Gypsies, in whatever old clothes were usable, and we went from door to door asking “Anything for Thanksgiving?” I was only in the second grade when my family moved from the city out to the country wilds of Long Island’s Nassau County, but my city memories tell me that we came home with apples and oranges, nuts and cookies, and perhaps a cup cake to add to the bounty of the day.
        Some recall that the items collected were given, in turn, to the various churches to then be distributed to the poor. I don’t recall this. I do recall a lot of walnuts at the bottom of my bag.

St. Martin's Day in the Netherlands

The custom may have a connection to November 11th, Martinmas, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of beggars and the poor, or St. Catherine’s Day, November 25th, both of which dates are used by many European cultures to signify the end of autumn and the coming of winter.  On either or both days, depending on the country and culture, children would dress up - or down! - and go around the town, especially with lantern on St. Martin’s Day, singing appropriate songs and, in many places, receive donations of food or money to be brought to the church, or get sweets for themselves.  Many countries celebrated with large, festive meals.

        It’s a certainty that the ancestors of these children brought these customs with them when the emigrated here, especially to the east coast, and they were gradually merged with the Thanksgiving traditions already in place.  Depending on the ethnic makeup of a neighborhood, some or all of the traditions carried over.  I’m sure that the ‘large, festive meals’ were easily transferred to the last Thursday of November. 

       Halloween has become a big, commercial festival, costumes and treats galore, so I’m not too sure that children still go begging on Thanksgiving Day. They’ve probably still got a lot of loot left over from Halloween, and the lure of the Macy’s parade on the TV is just too enticing to miss. We adults fondly recall the simpler times of our younger years.  I suppose that today’s children will recall these days as being the simpler times - and I can’t begin to imagine the times in which they’ll be living in the future, when what today’s adults call ‘excessive’ will to our grandchildren be ‘simple‘. It boggles the mind!

Yes, this was me around age six. I was a curmudgeon even then.
I was often a bit snerty about having my picture taken.
Don't you love the look?  My older granddaughters call this
"the lemon look".


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The mind is a wonderful thing, and it’s strange the things people remember.
I remember...

…my mother telling me that once when her father was away and came back unexpectedly to Ruhrort he got there late at night. They didn't believe it was him and wouldn’t let him in because they were so afraid of the Bolsheviks. He had to find a place to sleep until it was light again and they could see him. I am thinking that this must have been in the years just after the turn of the 20th century. A brief story, but somehow it stayed with me.

Friday, November 15, 2013


This is a busy month for Presidential happenings. Many of us are acutely aware of this every four years when the elections roll around, so if for nothing else November would be Presidentially notable.

Presidents were involved in some important events in the month of November.  In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to make a foreign diplomatic trip during his term in office. He sailed on the battleship Louisiana to visit the Isthmus of Panama and inspect the progress on the canal.  Visiting almost every other country in the world, such Presidential good-will trips have continued into this century, and have expanded to include world peace and economic summit meetings with many other heads of state.

Another much more significant event took place on November 19, 1863:
Abraham Lincoln delivered, at the dedication of a battlefield cemetery, what we now call the Gettysburg Address. There are few historical events at which so many would like to have been present, especially knowing what we know now. It is astounding that the main speaker spoke for two hours and Lincoln, in contrast, for just over two minutes, the crowd hardly hearing at all the words that would become so iconic.

Five of our Presidents were born in this month: Warren G. Harding and James Knox Polk on the 2nd, James A. Garfield on the 19th, Franklin Pierce on the 23rd, and Zachary Taylor on the 24th; and two presidents died in this month: Chester A. Arthur died in 1886 on November 18th, and John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 on the 22nd.

That last sentence is fairly matter-of-fact, but the fact of the matter of the assassination is very significant for most of today’s senior citizens.  It happened fifty (yes, it is fifty!) years ago this month. Almost all of us can remember exactly where we were that Friday when we heard the news that the President had been shot.

We remember sitting in front of the television all weekend to catch any new bit of information, watching Walter Cronkite on CBS because we wanted the news from the most trusted broadcast journalist.  Many remember seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. It wasn’t a staged play with actors, it was live television and it was all the more astounding.

Government offices, banks and schools were closed for the funeral that Monday. We remember watching the funeral procession with the riderless horse following the casket on the caisson; the service with so many heads of state: the diminutive Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I standing next to the towering French President Charles de Gaulle, the many European royals in full regalia, and the commentators identifying the notable people from all over the world. And we remember the large Kennedy family and the picture of young John in his blue coat, saluting the casket. These fifty years have flown by. Over the years the sad incidents in the Kennedy family have been of interest to us all because on that weekend in November we were “there”.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


O.K. – you may turn up your nose at this – your taste, your choice – but lately I have been able to cobble together a quick sauce using Kraft Ranch Dressing. Take Sunday night for example: I usually serve Trader Joe’s Bolognese Stuffed Ravioli with just a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped chives.  That day I had some nice plum tomatoes on hand so I chopped up one for each of us – pieces about a ½ inch or less – put them, and as much of their juice as I could scoop up, in a small sauce pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and some salt and pepper.  I simmered them for a few minutes, added 2 tablespoons of the dressing, and left it all on very low while the ravioli finished.  The sauce looked and tasted great. Frank said he’d like that sauce on shrimp too.

Several times before I made that ‘pink’ sauce I’ve used the dressing for ‘white’ sauces.  After chicken, pork chops, bacon, or maybe chopped meat, I’ve deglazed the pan – with a ¼ cup of pasta water or white wine perhaps – and a nice dollop of Kraft Ranch Dressing.Throw in maybe some chopped scallions or a drained 2 oz. jar of chopped, roasted red peppers, and voila! a tasty sauce. 
Try it - one never knows, do one? 

Monday, November 11, 2013


A curmudgeonly thought occurred to me this morning as I drove through our neighborhood. I noticed that many of the homes had red, white, and blue bunting on their garage doors - but only half of those homes also flew the flag. I've got news for those folks: bunting does not replace our nation's flag.
Case closed!


Friday, November 8, 2013


Here he is, pulling up to my house to deliver another package.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool on-line shopper. From back in the days when I was working all week, I hated having to shop on Saturdays when the stores were crowded. I began to shop via catalog and I did very well. If nothing else, it stopped me from making impulse buys. Today the catalogs just clutter up the mail. If you regularly shop on line why would the merchants bother you with catalogs?  Well, yes, I suppose I could think of several reasons but all that junk mail just bothers me on several levels.
I can still remember hearing the UPS man barreling in to make a delivery. We once lived about half mile in on a dirt road, and he came in hell-bent for leather. There were many dirt roads on his rout – that truck must have had a short life. I know one of the gals along the road accused him of running over her cat, but he always vehemently denied it.  It was rare in those days to see a FedEx truck.  That usually meant you had to sign for something special. I did so much catalog and then on-line shopping that I had a signature on file with UPS. Poor guy: he’d have had a job finding me sometimes. I was always out and about on the property – but usually I heard him coming.
These days more and more merchants are using FedEx and Smart Post where FedEx picks up the package and hands it over to the USPS to deliver. Good idea – after all, the mail lady is by here every day.  I know her by sight and by name, but I no longer know the UPS man, much less the FedEx guy. I’m just pleased that they’re on the job, bringing me all this good stuff.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Let me tell you, things are coming to a pretty pass when your 5-year-old granddaughter tells you “Gammy, your house is dusty.” Well, I do dust once every two weeks or so, but only the main surfaces – I’ve other things to do. Jenna wanted to see a carousel music box I have under a glass dome - I had to dust off the dome with my shirt tail.  Then later her ball rolled under the couch - cobwebs! She’s seen and mentioned other cobwebs here before. To her they mean Spiders! so she doesn’t like them. Jenna hates dust - thus the comment. While the other girls may remember me as the Grammy who always had wild cherry Life Savers in her purse, (the 3-year-old calls them “flavors”) Jenna will always remember me as the grandmother with the dusty house.
Ah, well!

Monday, November 4, 2013


I’ve had these lovely roasted, salted cashews from Trader Joe’s for a few weeks now.  After eating quit a few of them I decided the better part of valor, or something like that, was to put them aside for something special. Mmmm…  …how about Cashew Chicken one night? Well last night was the night.

The chicken I had, the cashews I had – I googled Cashew Chicken – well, that’s all I had. What didn’t I have?

                Rice wine
                Green onions
                Hoisin or teriyaki sauce
                Peanut oil or Sesame Oil
                Fresh ginger
                Chinese noodles
                Fresh red or green pepper

I am the champion of substitutions and winging it. So, here’s my final recipe:

         1 10 oz. chicken breast – this was really a lot
         1 Tbsp. sherry
         1 Tbsp. Orange juice
         1 tsp. corn starch

         1 medium onion, sliced       
         2 Tbsp. canola oil
         2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
         1 tsp. sugar
         1 tsp. molasses

         8 stalks of asparagus (mine were frozen) cut in smaller pieces
         1 2 oz. jar of sliced pimentos
         ½ cup roasted cashews
         ¼ cup ginger ale (I drank the rest with my dinner)

Cube the chicken into ¾ in. pieces, then mix with the next 3 ingredients and let it all marinate for 20 minutes or longer. And yes, I could have used white wine, but the O.J. seemed like a good idea.

Start the onion sautéing in the oil, after a few minutes add the soy sauce, sugar and molasses.  Then add the marinated chicken mixture. Sauté all this until the chicken is just about done.  Add the asparagus pieces, the pimentos and their liquid, and the cashews.

Thin the sauce with the ginger ale. (I did have ground ginger but I wasn’t sure about how much to use, so I erred on the mild side and used the ginger ale.) 

So – let me tell you: this was excellent.  My husband really liked it.  When he says something is as keeper I do take notice.  Because there was really a lot of chicken I opted for no starch.  Next time with a smaller chicken breast I think I’ll serve the whole thing over rice

Friday, November 1, 2013


This morning I was folding laundry, and as I usually do, I counted the week’s worth of each type of underwear and found one pair of Frank’s briefs missing.* “Who didn’t change their underwear?”  I had my chuckle for the day remembering my mother shouting that out as she was doing the same chore.  She knew which of us owned what – she even made a few stitches in red in my sister’s or my undies because we usually wore the same size.  The culprit was usually my brother.  I don’t know why he’d wear some undie or other for only a half a day, but if he did he’d put it aside to wear again and he’d mess up Mom’s count.
As I do, perhaps because it was what she did, I wash once a week for each type of laundry: sheets and towels, outer wear, and underwear. This last was always a bleach wash for Mom, but with so much colored underwear these days I rarely use bleach. I do not envy those moms who have scads of kids’ clothes to wash, and fold, or (gasp!) iron.
I do remember my mom hanging out the wash on the line from our Queens apartment to a handy light pole, and I remember things coming in frozen stiff in the winter. I know my grandmother had a washing machine with a wringer attachment, but at that time my mother hand-washed everything on a washboard in a big sink in the kitchen, wringing everything by hand. Later, in a new house, she got a washer, and then even later, in a bigger house, a dryer too. Luxury!  Her machines were down in the basement; for the last twenty-five years or so mine have been right by the kitchen. I can’t think of anything handier.


*They had fallen between the machines – of course!