Sunday, September 28, 2014


Today marks our 40th wedding anniversary.  We’ll be off again to the mountains of North Carolina for a brief celebratory trip. I wrote this blog two years ago, and it is still apropos. We’ve done well these last two years – smooth sailing and no major health issues in the twenty-eighth year of our retirement. I’d like to meet other couples who have been retired so long and are still talking to each other.
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We’ve had folks comment on how well my husband and I get along. Naturally, above all, we love each other to pieces.  Though we can mildly aggravate each other at times, we enjoy each other’s company above any others.

We both enjoy planning ahead: for the next meal, the next shopping trip, the next car, the next house. This usually helps us with our P’s: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. We’re probably in our last house now, but we still enjoy the planning. One never knows, do one? We’re fortunate that we’re both inclined to be neat and organized – it precludes sniping at one another.  Above all, we are courteous to each other. Saying a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for little favors leads to greater appreciation of bigger ones.

Over the years we’ve developed little rituals that we enjoy: from being sure to put out the sweet gherkins for our tuna melts to selecting fresh flowers for the house. Our best, now ingrained ritual is to say “I Love You” or “Love You to Pieeeeeeeeeeces!” Waking up each morning, settling in to bed, and all times in between; coming and going – especially going or ending a phone call with each other or any of the family – the words are always there.

We’ve got a song-book of family sayings, many of which our children and grandchildren outgrew years ago. When Joe was Joey – a little kid, that is – if he’d had a bad day, struck out, guttered too many bowling balls, or maybe fallen off his bike, he’d say to his Dad “it’s a no day Dad.” “A no day Dad” is a phrase of the past for him, but it is a regular in the conversation between Frank and me.  Similarly, when our oldest grandchild was in day care, she came home disgusted one day because the resident baby ducks were gone.  When asked how they were that day she replied: “No ducks, es worms.”  This too is part of her past, our present. 

These are just family sayings and doings, nothing too catchy or memorable outside of the family, but they keep the memories alive and the love renewed.

You might like to read about Zen Hugs, another of our family favorites.

Friday, September 26, 2014


I was searching Google Images for a picture for this post when it occurred to me
to take a picture of my own mug of coffee. By this time in my daily routine, the coffee
 level is way down in the mug - almost time for a second cup.

I read somewhere that the 29th of September is National Coffee Day. It is also our son Richard’s birthday, but that’s relevant only because he is a master coffee lover. We all are in this family. I can do two cups, occasionally three, of regular in the morning and perhaps a cup – decaf now – in the evening after dinner. 

I’m back to drinking my coffee without sugar. I’d had it that way for my first coffee-drinking years because that’s the way my mother drank it – I never thought of sugar. But back in the early 60’s when we were converting the bank’s checking accounts to computer, I had many late-night sessions trying to get it all to prove.  At that time there wasn’t a fast food restaurant on every corner – LOL, not even a handy bar on every corner in that neighborhood – so I started to add sugar to my coffee for a little bit of extra energy value. I kept up using sugar until just about this time last year. For some reason I grew to dislike the sugared coffee and just stopped using it. I am really loving my coffee again.

Scandinavia leads the world in per capita coffee consumption, Norway being fourth down on the list after Finland, Sweden and Denmark. (The Norwegians have always believed in moderation.)  So where did I have the worst cup of coffee I ever tasted? Of course, Norway.  I suppose the Norwegian rail system, the NSB, is known for its excellent service, but not for its cuisine, shall we say.  And I also suppose that in that early hour of the morning, heading on the train from Kristiansand to Stavanger, it was easier for them just to use the leftovers from the night before. I’ve had awful coffee – that stuff at the bank that had sat there on the hot plate for hours is a prime example – but before this it all was passable, drinkable.  This Norwegian stuff really tasted like paint thinner, like panther pee - though really, I can only imagine those flavors. Whew! Very worthy of entry into the Coffee Hall of Shame. I must say that we did have some great coffee in Norway, but they are hardly remembered in light of that railroad swill.

The best cup of coffee I ever had? Right here in the U.S.A.: Vermont, to be specific, at the original King Arthur Flour shop in Norwich. Frank and I went up there on a regular basis to stock up with their flour, the best, and other cooking and baking ingredients. On this particular trip there was new coffee to go with our traditional purchase of a baked goodie. It was the late 90’s, and the first time we’d ever seen or heard of the Keurig coffee pods. We picked the Green Mountain Coffee Vermont Country Blend – after all, we were in Vermont. Not knowing how good it might be, we selected the smallest serving – wrong! It turned out to be the best coffee we’d had to that date. We should have gone for the biggest size. Vermont Country Blend is still Frank’s favorite.

When the Keurig machines became available for home use we got right on the band wagon.  Sure the pods are expensive, now around 60¢ a pop, but they’re better than anything from Starbucks. (I have to wonder at the folks who line up at Starbucks each morning and fork over a lot of cash for their daily fix. An investment in a Keurig and the many varieties of pods and many available dairy coffee flavorings would save them wads of money – not to mention time spent on those lines.) I’ve sort of justified the cost in my mind because we are getting a fresh cup of coffee every time, and because we don’t leave any coffee sitting, undrunk and burning, on a hot plate. And at times, with great double coupons and coincidental sales, I’ve gotten the price well below 30¢. And now the super market chains are getting in on the act with their own house blends – pretty good ones in fact.

So, all this looks like a testimonial for Keurig – it was unsolicited, to be sure. We dread the times when our machines have broken down – and this has happened. I’ve got a pound of coffee stashed in the freezer and our old coffee maker is up in the pantry, just in case, but I’ve not had to resort to the old way of brewing. The big box stores are open every day and we’ve been able to replace the machine toot sweet, but I’m still really leery of being without my coffee.  

And do you want to know my favorite flavor of ice cream?  Coffee, of course!

Friday, September 19, 2014


Scrounging around for some quick blog posts for September, I looked at my old list of Commemorative Months. Where half of these commemorations come from I couldn’t begin to guess.  Topping the alphabetical list of commemorations are “All American Breakfast Month” and “better Breakfast Month” The former, I would guess, was started by the breakfast cereal industry, and the latter by the health nuts.

Breakfast at our house is according to a usually etched-in-stone menu:
Monday – cereal and banana (Minions welcome!)
Tuesday – oatmeal with prunes or raisins
Wednesday – an egg, usually soft boiled but often scrambled, and toast
Thursday – cereal and banana again (I hope the Minions stick around!)
Friday – that oatmeal again
Saturday – sweet indulgence: Waffles, pancakes or French toast
Sunday – “Heart Attack on a Plate” – two eggs, bacon, home fries, English
          Muffins or toast, and whatever else is not nailed down

All this served with coffee, and orange juice and vitamin pills – of course!

I must tell you that this menu was not devised by me. No, my husband is the perpetrator. Rarely, and usually only if we’re traveling, does he deviate from this norm. Me? I deviate. That oatmeal got stale years ago, so it's toast for me. On cereal days I’ve now come to have just the banana. (Did I tell you I love Minions?)  Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays I go with the flow – but I make only a single portion of those home fries. As I’ve gotten older they’ve become too much for me at one sitting, and sometimes they give me the “burpies and chirpies”. 
Over the years, Frank’s doctors have been amazed that he sticks to his regimen. They want to know if it’s boring. Boring? To him, boring is the same thing day in and day out – like a friend of ours who has a cup of yoghurt and a piece of toast each morning. That’s boring.

So, commemoratively speaking, a week of breakfasts at our house pays homage both to the “All American Breakfast” and the “Better Breakfast”. None of it could hurt, right? Of course right!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I was reminded that today, September 14, 2014, is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore, and the writing by Francis Scott Key of what has become our national anthem: The Star Spangled Banner. In light of that, I decided to rerun an essay I wrote in 2012. Our national anthem has become a pet topic for me. The song is rousing, yet for many hard to sing. Once man did get it right, and I wrote about that too.  I do wish that ‘the powers that be’ at any event where it is sung would encourage everyone to sing it. We need everyone’s participation these days.  

The Star Spangled Banner was made our national anthem just over eighty years ago in March 1931.  1931 was the year the Empire State Building was completed and the year my husband was born.  Two out of three of those have weathered well – one, the anthem, has not. 
I’ve always found it hard to sing.  It starts out in a fairly comfortable range, but then “the rockets’ red glare” takes the range sky high. Years ago everyone sang it at the start of sporting events. Today some rock group or rap singer or some sponsor’s wife does the rendition. Many flub the lines. The younger generation’s singers just have to jazz it up and add notes that were never in the score. The singing wives, who really are fine in the church choir, should never be encouraged to get up and sing alone. This is our national anthem, for pity’s sake, let’s not abuse it.

A notoriously bad version - Oh, yeah!
Hard to sing or not, it would be less painful to the ears if everyone sang as they once did. Just think of the money NASCAR or other sports organizers could save if they’d just have everyone sing it in one rousing chorus – flags waving, jets roaring by overhead.  Sounds good to me.  But then I realize that having all these stars around entices fans to get to the track or to watch the race on TV.  With a sigh I say “Oh well, the almighty dollar wins again.”

Whenever the subject comes up it’s for sure folks will agree that our anthem is hard to sing, and most will suggest we’d be better off with a rousing rendition of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America.  Don’t hold your breath kiddies!  Though it has become popular to play it at many sporting events, especially in the National Hockey League, (after all, there is no law that says a national anthem has to be played) the politically correct in this country wouldn’t have an anthem that contained the word “God”.* I don’t know how these same folks handle their greenbacks though, what with “In God We Trust” on all our currency.  Perhaps they rely totally on electronic banking.

This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie’s great song, might come under consideration, especially if we stuck to just the first two verses. “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island” – it covers the whole nation.  But in the original version, after the first few verses it begins to sound like the protest song it is. Guthrie wrote it in 1940 as a rebuttal to Berlin’s God Bless America, which he thought unrealistic.  God Bless America does get my vote though. Anthem lyrics aren’t necessarily realistic, but they should be patriotic, extolling us as we can be our very ‘finest hour’.  Realistic lyrics would have to be changed on a regular basis according to the state of the union, and would read like the front page of a major national newspaper.

There’s a lot to be said for America the Beautiful – but God is in the lyrics there too, wouldn’tcha know.  And it’s a song that’s usually played slowly and with a bit more, shall we say, reverence than our current anthem, making it a poor choice at sporting event s.  Yes, “God” is in the lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner: “and this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’”  Rarely do we sing on down to that fourth stanza to note it. At the time our anthem was chosen the movement toward political correctness was not even on the horizon. I wish Congress had stuck with Hail, Columbia. Maybe they can bring that one back.

You can go on line and come up with many differing opinions on the current song and its suggested replacements – I just thought I’d add my own thoughts to the mix.

*They’re after the Pledge of Allegiance too. Read this recent article from the UPI.

Friday, September 12, 2014


I first used this essay back in 2011, and in light of the things I’ve been posting lately I thought I’d run it by you again.

As Popeye said – “I yam what I yam,” and I’ve tried to live by that since the time years ago I cut out and saved an article from Real Simple magazine, and I can’t find the date on it, about Finnish women who, on the whole, rarely if ever agonize over their body image.  They are what they are. The article, by now Associate Professor of Writing at the New School, Elizabeth Kendall, was titled The Naked Truth.

Truth be told, not many of us are happy with our naked bodies.  Oh, I’d like to be many, many pounds lighter, but my body likes the “set point” I’ve been at for over a quarter of a century.  Diets and I don’t get along too well. 
So I dress as neatly and fashionably and comfortably as possible, and let it go at that. My sister and I were always great fans of “gut hiders”, those blouses and other tops that deemphasized our more-than-bountiful embonpoint. Loose is lovely, comfortable is lovely.

I yam what I yam, and, being diplomatic about it, I do suppose that most other women of a certain age feel the same way.  But ladies, I do wish more of you well-endowed gals would give a bit more thought to how you dress.  Don’t agonize over the body you have and how to change it. By this time, like me, you’ve got to live with it. Worry more about other things such as dressing that body presentably.

First of all, if the clothes go around you that does not mean they fit. Spandex is, as they say, a privilege. Wearing any tight, knitted garments is for the very young and the very slim. You don’t want folks saying “Looks like she’s been melted and poured into it,” now do you?
   O.k., that top is a size 16 and you’re a 14, but it’s a tank top and your upper arms are way past flabby. Why would ya?  And just because something jazzy comes in a size you wear doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

I love to see a well-turned-out woman of any age or size. I must admit though, I do love to sightsee in places like Walmart. Talk about “why would ya?” You know the ones I mean. Some of those folks are a definite hoot. Nudge, nudge, wink wink. That one over there!  You know the ones I mean.

(Well, maybe my halo is on too tight.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014


This morning I was assembling my blog for this coming Sunday, September 14th, the anniversary of the writing of the poem that became The Star Spangled Banner. In searching for the word ‘anthem’ in my blog history, I came upon my writing about the British national anthem and the note about this date next year.

Yes, reserve this date for next year, September 11, 2015.  That will be the day, at 63 years, 217 days, that Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in the history of England. I am rooting for her to stay healthy and make it to the party.     

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Do you see that? How cool!  Who took the picture – a passing angel with a Hasselblad?  Noooo! Go to Astronomy Picture of the Day – APOD – and read all about it. All this endeavor goes on quietly above us and we rarely thing of what these people are doing. Yes, I know they probably rarely think of what we’re doing down here, but they are the few and we are so many.  Speaking of the many, I read on the Beeb that we earthlings are thinking very seriously about cleaning up a lot of the debris floating around up there.
 Heavens – we’re such litter bugs.

Monday, September 1, 2014



In September, for a while
I will ride a crocodile
Down the chicken soup-y Nile
Paddle once, paddle twice
Paddle chicken soup with rice

One September afternoon years ago marked the family's introduction to Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup With Rice. Granddaughter Mollie came home from her first day at school reciting this verse. She was hilarious! She put in every word, every nuance of body language her little frame could muster up. She was especially funny when she went "down the chicken-soupy Nile", waving her arms to her sides like a seasoned Egyptian dancer. She paddled like crazy  - not just 'once', not just 'twice' - while stressing the words "CHICK-en SOUP with RICE". 

Seeing as how Mollie is now twenty-three and a mother herself, this is a cherished family memory.