Friday, May 29, 2015

EGG AND SALAD

This is not a picture of one of my egg salad sandwiches:
I eat them before I ever remember to take a picture.

May, according to the various and sundry lists I consult, is National Egg Month. It is also, among other things, National Salad Month. As one wag I know asked: “is it also National Egg Salad Month?” Why not? 

I do love egg salad. It’s part of my repertoire of comfort food. My mom made the best egg salad. My favorite is an egg salad sandwich on my own white bread. The egg salad needs just a bit of celery for crunch, then I add sliced tomatoes, a bit of salt, a leaf or two of ice berg lettuce, and voila: a mooshy, mushy sandwich that tastes divine. Some of the sandwich always winds up falling on the plate, so I always have a fork handy.

Basic egg salad is just cross-cut eggs, mayonnaise, and pepper. The mayo is salty enough. Interesting additions are celery, onions, chives, scallions, pimentos, ham, bacon, what else? Always diced or sliced nice and small. You can get really esoteric and begin to add things like mustard and capers, but the simple additions do it for me.





Friday, May 22, 2015

WHAT'S IN YOUR BACKPACK?

And he looks like he's headed to shop for more!

The premise is this: You are going on a rocket ship to somewhere in another galaxy. You will be provided with whatever you need in the way of food and clothing. You may bring along only ten items and those must fit in the backpack provided.

I first thought about this trip in some random book of science fiction I read in my early twenties. This was way before the computer age. At that time I had relatively few possessions. I think I filled my backpack with some of my favorite books, a scarf I loved and still have today, what else? I don’t remember. What I do remember is the “only ten items”. I think the backpack bit has added itself to my memory: we weren‘t really using backpacks in the 60’s. Oh yes – I do remember that it was important to me to take my eyeglasses. It’s still important to me. I have to see!

Think about it: what material objects are important to you? What would you bring? Favorite books, family pictures, the first thing you bought with your own money, your wedding ring? Would you bring your laptop computer and all you’ve saved on it? Would the battery last? Maybe electronic things wouldn’t be suitable to bring along.



The characters in most historic fiction, which usually reflects historic fact, had few possessions unless they were royalty and had trunks full of stuff. If disaster struck and they lost everything, they lost little. Or it seems that way in the books. Many had just the clothes on their backs, with maybe an extra tunic or dress for festive days, and what could fit in a purse or scrip. Folks had little in the way of material things to pass on to their children.

Though there are societies in this modern world that still live so simply, it is simple to say that our own times and needs have changed. Indeed they have, and for the better, but today we seem to have too much. That backpack has to get bigger. Our parents passed on just a few precious things to us, and we have those things and even more to pass on in turn to our own children. Is it all stuff really that important? Our own stuff has accumulated over the years, and the kids are acquiring stuff every day.  Eventually, their stuff will have stuff. Perhaps we should pass on the problem by giving them some of our stuff now, before we are possessed by our possessions.

While all of us do have some very nice things, we know that we could very easily do without most of them. We can look around our homes and do some creative triage: what can go to make our lives simpler, and what is important enough to fit in that “backpack”. You might want to document those important items on a bequest list. Let the future recipients know who gets what, the history of the items, and why they are especially important to you.




In centuries gone by, what most people could hope to pass on was a set of traditions and moral codes and, for the lucky ones, a home place and the knowledge of family history. This is as important to families today as it was then. What’s in your backpack? Think about it.




Friday, May 15, 2015

THE ROYAL GREENWICH OBSERVATORY - GMT


One of my favorite resources, The Writer’s Almanac, said that on May 4th, in 1675, 340 years ago, King Charles II commissioned the Royal Greenwich ObservatoryTaking river transportation along the wonderfully interesting Thames River way from Westminster to Greenwich, I’ve been to the observatory - eons ago! I had this post labelled for a posting on that day, but I put off going to the photo scrapbook to dig out the appropriate pictures. This morning I finally got to it. Here’s one of our daughter, Alice (From Our Palace) standing in two time zones. 

That's Frank back there - studying, studying, always studying.

The Royal Greenwich Observatory is the place of the Prime Meridian, the demarcation of the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It is the place of Greenwich Mean Time, hour zero, the creation of which standardized time throughout the world.

The Observatory is a marvelous museum of horological wonders, sitting on a hill in a beautiful building designed by Christopher Wren. Though it’s no longer a working observatory, because of the light pollution from London, it is still a museum and planetarium. The time pieces and astronomical equipment on display include some of the ‘marine timekeepers’ John Harrison invented to solve the problem of longitude and timekeeping on moving ships. Frank, as you can imagine, was fascinated. 



I’ve stood on the Prime Meridian, had my picture taken of course, though you won't see it here, and had a foot in each hemisphere. I didn’t feel a thing. It’s the same with standing at Four Corners out west, or on the U.S.-Canada border: a fun thing to have added to your life list. It’s like being on a mountain top in New York State, looking over into Vermont and Massachusetts: it’s not ‘here’, it’s ‘there’, and it’s notable and different. 





Friday, May 8, 2015

SPRING CLEANING AND BEYOND

I wrote this piece for our community magazine but they had many other pieces, including another of mine, to fit into the issue. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I will use it today. I want you to know that my halo isn't really on all that tight - I've not yet tackled many of the chores (well, hardly any!). But I do talk a great Martha Stewart-ish line. It's an instance of do as I say, not as I do. 




Spring has sprung
And grass is green.
I guess it’s time
I finally clean.


Air Out, Clean and Inspect

Spring cleaning time is upon us. Now that the temperatures are mild and the windows wide open, it’s time to handle jobs like touch-up painting, laundering slipcovers, bedspreads, and curtains, and doing a cleaning cycle with white vinegar in your clothes and dish washers. The dryer hose could be de-linted too. It’s time to clean out the grill and make sure that it and all the outdoor furniture are ready for warm weather living.

Our homes have been closed up for months. Now is the time to remove all the dust and grease and greasy dust that has built up on knickknacks, books, and pictures throughout the house, and on anything sitting or hanging in the open in the kitchen. By now you know the right way to clean them, so do it.

If you didn’t get to it in March, the start of May is a good time to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and in your flashlights, and to check your fire extinguishers. The days when our clocks Spring Ahead and Fall Back have become the days we’re now told to remember to do these checks, but the beginning of this month will do as well. It might also be a good time, before the summer rush, to have your air conditioning system checked and serviced. This goes for your irrigation system too.




Control the Chaos

Many of these May jobs can be put on a list and done bit by bit. In between times, or if you finish early, it might be time for some creative culling.

Is your garage is in a state of barely controlled chaos? This is a good time to back out the car, pull everything away from the walls, get some storage shelves and containers if you need them, and begin to get a handle on your stuff. As you investigate each item and the contents of every box, ask yourself these questions:
   When was the last time I used this?
   Does it still work? 
   Do I really need this? Do I really need this many?
   Does it have sentimental value? Would the kids like to have it?
   Can I cut down on all these holiday decorations?
   Can I donate it somewhere? Can I sell it?
   If I toss it now could I replace it for under $5 or borrow it if I need to?
   When was the last time I used this? (Yes, again!)

Do the tried and true three-part triage on your stuff:
   Stuff you really need to keep
   Stuff you can donate or sell
   Stuff you should toss

If you have things that you’d really like to have gone but are immensely or even mildly sentimental, take a few pictures of them and keep the pictures instead of the stuff. Just think of all the space you’ll save and the future headaches you’ll avoid when you get rid of all that memory clutter.
 
This is a good time of year to do some clothes closet cleaning, and kitchen closet culling too. The list of questions and the method of disposal is exactly the same as for the stuff in the garage. And, if you still have May time on your hands, clean out your files. Still have your tax records for the last umpteen years? Look up a good records retention schedule and lighten your paper burden.



Think Outside of the Box

It’s rare for or homeowners to dust off their hands and say, “There! Our home is complete!” There’s always something that can be done to make our spaces better, more efficient, more comfortable or just more visually appealing. With that in mind, you might want to take a look around and see how you can rearrange things.

Instead of all those framed family photos sitting around on every surface, think about arranging them on a photo wall. Use the frames as they are, or invest in coordinated frames from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. If not this, perhaps you’d want to make a special album of all these special photos. Just think of all the dusting time you’ll save.

Do other little things to change the household scenery: trade the toss pillows in the bedroom with those in the living room, put your Grandmother’s afghan over the arm of an easy chair, or curate and cull the knickknacks. Check your cabinets for stored items that might be decorative. Bring out a pretty pitcher, bowl, or tea cup, even a great sports trophy, to put on a table top or prominent shelf. Buy something that won’t break the bank but will change the scenery: perhaps a new set of towels or sheets, a small framed artwork or pottery piece from one of the Sun City craft groups, perhaps some fresh flowers to brighten your rooms.

You probably won’t need to do every job mentioned here, but be honest with yourself and really do a thorough job on what you do have to do. It’s going to be a busy month, what with all the other things going on in your life and in the world, but you will be pleased with your progress. By Memorial Day you should be able to sit back, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and have a wonderful summer.






Wednesday, May 6, 2015

MAY


MAY

In May I truly think it best
to be a robin lightly dressed
concocting soup inside my nest.
Mix it once
mix it twice
mix that chicken soup with rice.

                                            by Maurice Sendak


No, I didn't forget my chicken soup with rice. Early in the May 1st morning I did post about the marvelous month of May, but later in the day I otherwise occupied. I was delightedly visiting with the daughter of my heart. We had a ladies luncheon to attend too, so I was busy, busy, busy. Happy, happy, happy. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

THE MARVELOUS MONTH OF MAY


Hurrah! Hooray! The First of May – You all know what starts today!

Under the category Two Birds With One Stone, today I am reusing the piece I wrote for this month’s issue of our community magazine Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes. May was always one of my favorite months – the other being November, my birthday month – and I was delighted to celebrate it in print.



THE MARVELOUS MONTH OF MAY

Who doesn’t love the month of May?
Sports fans can look forward to the NBA Finals, the Indianapolis 500, the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and the French Open in tennis. While the hockey season is almost over, Major League Baseball is in full swing.

Who doesn’t love the month of May?
While the school-age children are anticipating the end of their year in class, even with finals beforehand, children of all ages are thinking what to get Mom for Mother’s Day. Everyone is counting down to Memorial Day and the semi-official start of summer.

Who doesn’t love the month of May?
There is something for everyone to celebrate:
Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month
Arthritis Month
Better Sleep Month
Better Speech and Hearing Month
Correct Posture Month
Europe Day
Foot Health Month
Indian Heritage Month (observed in Guyana, Suriname,
        Trinidad and Tobago, and most Caribbean island-nations)
Jewish American Heritage Month
Labor History Month
Mental Health Month
Military Appreciation Month
National Chocolate Custard Month
National Day of Prayer
National Defense Transportation Day
National Egg Month
National Foster Care Month
National Good Car Keeping Month
National Hamburger Month
National High Blood Pressure Month
National Maritime Day
National Osteoporosis Month
National Pet Month
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
National Salsa Month
National Share a Story Month
National Strawberry Month
National Stroke Awareness Month
National Transportation Week
National Water Safety Month
Older Americans Month
      Uranus Awareness Month
      World Trade Month

We can celebrate where we were born, how we get around, what we put on our tables for all the celebrating, the state of our health, even our old age. Truly, there’s at least one celebration for everyone.

Who doesn’t love the month of May?
It is the month when we can truly forget winter. Even in the most northern climes the trees are budding and flowers blooming. The month is named for Maia, the Roman goddess of fertility, but we also know that Ovid said the month was named for the maiores, Latin for "elders," and that June is named for the iuniores, or "young people". Perhaps that is why we find Older Americans Month of May’s calendar: not a day, not a week, but the whole month. We can thank John F. Kennedy for that one.

Who doesn’t love the month of May?
Many countries celebrate their national days this month, among them Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Eretria, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, and Poland.  There are saints’ days and religious celebrations for everyone from Buddhists to Pagans. Months, weeks, and day, the list of celebrations, fĂȘtes, commemorations, remembrances, appreciations, and other observances is the longest of the year. Many celebrations are related to a specific date, but a good number of the rest, especially May Day, were probably set in May because it is the loveliest month of the year.