Monday, March 31, 2014


When pigs fly!

My husband tells me that his mother, born in 1895, never believed that the astronauts landed on the moon.  She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was just staged.  What absolutely amazes me is there is more computing power and memory in my old flip-top cell phone that I still insist on using than those first astronauts had on their trip.The invention in any field you care to name over these last, say seventy, years could just bowl you over.

The Writer’s Almanac today tells us that on this date in 1951, Remington Rand signed the government contract to build the second UNIVAC. The essay tells us the computer was the size of a one-car garage.  My first data programming was done for a Burroughs computer the size of a large refrigerator. Its computing power could fit into a virtual sugar canister in the home laptop I’m using to write this.  Unlike my mother-in-law, I do believe all this, but I still shake my head in amazement and awe.



Friday, March 28, 2014


There are lists out there for all the things we should be commemorating or celebrating each month. One of those is this month’s nod to Caffeine Awareness.   I’ve been aware of caffeine for over twenty-five years. I found out then that if I didn’t have any coffee before setting out on a three-hour trip where I didn’t want to have to stop for a pee, I’d get a beaut of a headache. My sister, a coffee-lover supreme, clued me in to the cause and gave me some caffeine pills to combat the headache.

About fifteen years ago I discovered that if I drank regular coffee after dinner I would be awake for hours.  I’m aware that it’s a ‘different’ kind of awake than just being awake with my ‘wheels going round and round’. I know it’s because that waitress gave me regular instead of decaf. That’s happened a time or two. I have to watch eating a lot of late chocolate too. I get very particular about any after dinner coffee these days. Most times I do without it in a restaurant – it’s not that I don’t trust them, but I don’t trust them.  I can go home and be sure of a decaf cup.

I laugh when I see notice on ginger ale or root beer that they’re caffeine-free. There never was any caffeine in those, but these days there’s so much caffeine in soft drinks that people are wary. All these new energy drinks are pumped chock full of caffeine – and, to extend the pun, they’ll go nuts when they start to withdraw from it. Headache? Ooooh la la, it will be a beaut.

Are you old enough to remember Mr. Coffee Nerves?


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I absolutely love Eggs Benedict, and I’ve recently acknowledged that it’s the Hollandaise that I love – the rest, for me, can be anything that resembles the ‘original’ assembly of component parts.

Taking this to heart, I prepared a Quick Sunday breakfast using 

Toast instead of English Muffins
Fried eggs instead of the fiddly poached variety   and
Canadian bacon – I did have this, but I could have used any variety of ham
     or bacon that I usually have on hand.

Bread toasted, Canadian bacon in the pan, ready to be heated, I prepared the ingredients for the sauce and had them ready. Then I began frying the eggs – two for each of us.   Then…

In one small bowl I whisked               then in another small bowl I

3 egg yolks                                      microwaved half a stick of butter

2 Tbsp. Lemon juice                          for 30 seconds –

Pinch of salt and pepper                    just enough to melt it.*

Using my immersion blender, I gradually poured the melted butter into the whisked yolks until I had my sauce. * Note that this is Julia Child’s Blender Hollandaise recipe – very lemony, which I love, however, because she used a whole stick of butter. The whole stick makes for a thicker sauce, but neither of us needed that extra butter.

I heated the bacon then began to assemble the dish – bread, meat, eggs, sauce. There was more than enough sauce, and I had the three egg whites too, so I am planning to use them, along with a few more eggs, for a scramble egg breakfast one day this week.  

I didn’t take pictures of this preparation – I’m not ready for pictures on a Sunday morning – so I’ll google the topic and see what I can find to decorate this post.  As Julia said: “Bon Appetite!”

Thursday, March 20, 2014


My parents' wedding day in 1939

I read this in this morning’s The Writer’s Almanac: The founding meeting of the Republican Party took place on this date in 1854, in a small schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. Former members of the Whig Party gathered to voice their opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, which repealed the terms of the Missouri Compromise, allowing settlers to decide for themselves if their respective territories would be a free state or a slave state.

The Writer’s Almanac is a dandy source for inspiration for writers like me who are stuck for a topic. Today’s bit about the Republican Party reminded me that if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here. You see, it’s like this: My Uncle Fred squired my mother, his sister of course, to a party at the Queens, New York, Republican Club, and that evening she met my father. I’ll never remember all the facts about the dates and places for the founding of the G.O.P., but I do remember the dates and places that, among other things, resulted in me.

Today is also the anniversary if the day that Albert Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity. 'Relatively' speaking this date is relatively good.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


It’s all in the pronunciation.

One afternoon last week, Frank and I were watching Rudy Maxa, the Savvy Traveler, in Carcassonne and southern France – one of our favorite places in one of our favorite regions.  Needless to say he included two of our favorite foods: Roquefort and cassoulet.  After that we both knew what we wanted for dinner. We had no Roquefort on hand, but cassoulet? That I could do. Cassoulet is usually a slow-cooked mélange of white beans, pork sausage, maybe duck or goose (I usually use chicken) and other meats, along with the appropriate herbs and spices. There is no one definitive recipe – as I said, it’s a mélange you construct with the ingredients at hand.

So – I had too many cans of dark red kidney beans (free when Harris Teeter doubled dollars) so they substituted for white navy beans.

I had pork sausage, but it was the sweet Italian variety, not French saucisson. I had more pork in the form of thick cut bacon, so I cut that into nice chunks. Onions? I’m never without them. Garlic – if not fresh, then chopped from a jar (but don’t overcook it!) Some thyme, some winter savory, salt and pepper. A good squeeze or two from a tube of tomato paste, a slosh of white wine. I let it sit for a while to ‘flavor up’. (I even thought to take a quick picture for a blog entry.) Voila!

I do so love it when I come up with a tasty dish from what’s on hand – this was enough for four meals, so I froze half. I served it with a spinach salad, and it was excellent.  

Friday, March 14, 2014


In this morning's in-box comes an email from Ace Hardware telling me that today only I can "Take a slice off our price with a 1 day only Pi Day coupon" Pi Day - who knew? Well, many mathematicians would know because today is Albert Einstein's 135th birthday. If you are really, truly interested in all this, relatively speaking of course, you can learn more at Pi

There's too much to know and too little time, so I am saving time today by reposting this piece from last May. I'll go now and learn something new.


Once, when I annoyed someone because I knew the correct answer on a quickie quiz, they muttered “know it all!” Well, I do have a lot of relatively useless trivia – such as where we get the concept of trivia – stored in my (alleged) mind. But it’s been said that if you knew it all you’d go crazy.

Just think of all there is to know – everything from the exact amount of pi* to the last time your neighbor went to the bathroom; the bloom time of every daffodil to the time of the next eclipse; the function of the microorganisms in your body to what is in the center of a black hole. There is too much to know.


Recently I read an article in Foreign Affairs on The Rise of Big Data. The article says that if all the available information today were put on CDs there would be five piles of them reaching up to the moon. TMI, TMI. Even knowing that TMI means Too Much Information is TMI. Like spiders, they are saving everything that hits the web, from learned essays to the latest tweets. I’m so glad that none of my own thoughts about day to day happenings will stick to that sticky web – I don’t post on Facebook and I don’t tweet. To me this is all ‘evidence’ junk: evidence of something done, something won, or a presence somewhere thought significant to someone.  I’m not social enough for social media. I know that the vast majority of people care less about what I do, though this blog will probably make the cut.

I suppose all this stuff has to be saved because one never knows when a biographer might want to know what his subject wrote about the events on a certain day, or what plans a mad bomber hatched, but really, all that stuff is junk.  Would we be better off now if Einstein or Hitler or Alexander the Great had tweeted? How ‘bout if Lucretia Borgia or Thomas Jefferson were on Facebook? We’ll never know – and I’m so glad.

*Pi, I’ve now learned, is infinite. Around the same time I read the article on the rise of big data, I came upon an article from Slate called Your Life in Pi. Speaking of TMI, the Pi article tells me "Pi is an infinite, nonrepeating decimal - meaning that every possible number combination exists somewhere in pi. Converted into ASCII text, somewhere in that infinite string of digits is the name of every person you will ever love, the date, time, and manner of your death, and the answers to all the great questions of the universe. Converted into a bitmap, somewhere in that infinite string of digits is a pixel-perfect representation of the first thing you saw on this earth, the last thing you will see before your life leaves you, and all the moments, momentous and mundane, that will occur between those two points. All information that has ever existed or will ever exist, the DNA of every being in the universe, EVERYTHING: all contained in the ratio of a circumference and a diameter."  Whew!  Let someone else convert things into ASCII – I went pi-eyed just googling that.

I can’t begin to know when or even if our store of information will outgrow our ability to store it, but I think I’ll not be around to worry about it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I had a bowlful of those little Halos – nice mandarin oranges – and the thought of chicken for dinner.  I went searching online and came up with very few ideas for anything but chicken with tangerines or mandarins done Chinese style in pieces with broccoli, mushrooms maybe, and rice, of course. I finally adapted a recipe for Tangerine Chicken from
Prep: using a rasp, grate the peels of two mandarin oranges. Peel the oranges and pull apart the pieces.  Filet a large chicken breast into two pieces.  Cook two servings of rice.

In a medium size pan sauté the chicken filets in 1 Tbsp. of butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper

Remove the filets from the pan and sprinkle in 1 Tbsp. of flour, whisking it into the drippings for a minute or two.

Add ½ cup of orange juice and ¼ cup of water, stir until the sauce is smooth and thickened.  Add the grated peel and a pinch of cinnamon. Add more water if the sauce is too thick. 

Stir in the tangerine pieces and then pour the sauce over the chicken and rice. Serve with a nice salad.

Monday, March 10, 2014


My handsome assistant chef

Once again I've found a very interesting photo. A while ago, I started a project to scan in some of the better photos from the two dozen or so albums I've got going back over 40 years. This one is from 1988, and I'd think it was around the winter holidays because Frank was creating in the kitchen - a thing he loved to do around that time of year. I can see the condensation on the stove window, so that means he was about to bake something - perhaps his usual croissants or a tarte, though surely not whatever was in the Waring blender. I can also see that he has the recipe taped up to the cabinet door - clever him. I asked him about the picture but after all these years he doesn't remember it at all.  And he surely doesn't remember wearing that apron, that's for sure!

Friday, March 7, 2014


This post is dedicated to my wonderful Canadian friend.
The Owl Court O.W.L. - do you see it?

I am grateful for owls. If the short-named owls didn’t exist I probably would be living on the long-named Carolina Wren Court. That’s the name the builder originally gave to our street.  By the time we’d moved here they’d changed it to Owl Court.  Evidently the Carolina Wren had flown to another part of the development. Lucky us.
A recent early morning was cold and quiet and the full moon was still awake when I heard an owl’s voice as I did my constitutional here on Owl Court. Some owls here must have a southern drawl because the call was a new one to me. It was probably a Great Horned Owl, but instead of calling four notes: hoo-hoo-ha-hoo, this one called five: hoo-hoo-ha-hoo-hoo.
This year, March 7th to the 9th will be the International Festival of Owls*, in Houston, Minnesota. I’d love to be able to go for two reasons: first, a trip to Minnesota in the winter would be an adventure, and second, because owls are fascinating birds. The website says “The mission of the International Festival of Owls is to: spark a personal connection to owls and the environments we share with them.”  My personal connection was sparked many years ago when we moved to great owl country in upstate New York. Surrounded by woods – we couldn’t even see a neighbor’s house – the owls were very much at home.  An ornithologist friend of our neighbor told us we could add any owl we heard to our life list if we could identify the voice. That meant we could add the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl, and a Screech Owl. In this much more suburban area here south of Charlotte we’ve not been able to add too many more birds to our life list, but further south, in Congaree National Park, we finally got to see a Barred Owl. That was a rare treat.
The Barred Owl at Congaree National Park
*They’ve even got a Kids Hooting Contest. I’d be good at that – I am a hoot!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Just after adding the eggs

I love eggs. I panic if I have less than two dozen in the fridge. This week I'm in heaven because Harris Teeter had a BOGO on eggs and I stocked up. I was flipping through one of my recipe binders and my eye just happened to catch the sight of the an old cutting from Saveur - all about Gashouse Eggs.  The have many catchy names, but by any name they are delicious.
The ingredients - lots of butter and as many eggs and slices of bread, homemade in my case, you'd care to devour. Be very, very sure to have the eggs at room temperature. I forgot that this morning and when the eggs finally set the bottom of the toast was a wee bit too dark. But we ate them anyway because, as I said, they are delicious.

The method - butter both sides of the bread, then use a muffin cutter, cookie cutter or even a glass to cut out the circles. Fry the slices on one side until they are nicely toasted. Flip them over, take out the circles and nestle them elsewhere in the pan. Put a dab of butter into each hole and then crack the eggs into the holes. Continue frying until the eggs are set. 

Salt and pepper the eggs - serve them forth. Add what?  Bacon, Canadian or regular, some cut-up fresh fruit, the choices are yours. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


A picture I took in France while walking the walls of Aigues- Mortes
O.K. Here’s an odd topic for a blog: going to the bathroom. Recently, my cousin and I have been corresponding about our family, filling each other in on all the stuff the other one never knew. I wrote to him about the few things I remember about our grandfather, and it’s really not too much. Then this morning I remembered a little thing about him: he always went to the bathroom before he left anywhere. Wanted to be sure, I suppose, by 'using the facilities' one more time. I recall that one day on our way to somewhere, after I’d hit the bathroom on the way out, my mother saying to me that I was just like her father who always did the same thing.  I suppose I should be proud. One never knows.