Tuesday, July 28, 2015


  1. 1.
    a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
    "they gazed in awe at the small mountain of diamonds"

Atlas Obscura today has a piece on awe.  I got me to thinking about how many times in my life I’ve felt what is described as awe. Yes, I know that these days we trot out “awesome” to describe something even marginally good. Incidentally, I am not a fan of telling kids that everything they make, say, or do is “Awesome!”  They’re going to get swelled heads and think they can do no wrong. Wrong.

The piece asks: “Think about awe, about a time you felt it. Consider how you'd describe that experience to another person. Now, how would you show how you felt without words?

I was probably awed by many things when I was a child, but I don’t remember them. I was flabbergasted when I saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live TV. I am speechless when I contemplate the cosmos - pictures like the ones here are amazing. But there are only two times in my adult life that I was what I think of as awed. I can still summon a bit of the awe I felt on these occasions.

First when I saw a white-tailed deer in the Pennsylvania woods. Other than birds and squirrels in the park and animals in the zoo, I’d never seen a wild animal in its own habitat. My husband said I just stared, open-mouthed. Then I cried, it was so beautiful. I’ve seen sixty-two bazillion deer since then, our property in upstate New York had wildlife galore, from chipmunks to bears, but I’ll never forget that deer that day.

Second was during our visit to the Santa Croce in Florence. This is from a previous blog of mine: “Never in my whole life have I been awed as I was there, especially at the first tomb, that of Michelangelo. It’s not that I didn’t believe that these men really lived, but whew, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo! Most awe-inspiring was the tomb of Michelangelo. I can’t explain why, but I just stood and stared at it for quite some time, having a surprising sense of being in the presence of greatness. That sense of something special, all in my head and imagination as it may have been, has stayed with me. I hear or see a reference to Florence or the Santa Croce and the feeling is there again.”

In reading the whole Atlas Obscura piece, I’m not too sure if what I call awe is what they call awe. If it is anything else than what I call awe, I’ve never been awed. But by my definition, I have. I just thought I’d let you know that.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Evening Shade: the best ensemble ever

I’ve been doing the background checking for a community magazine article on television in the 60’s. There’s a lot to remember from that era – it’s all coming back to me in a rush of titles, theme songs, and sponsor jingles. They were the years of great dramas, westerns, sit-coms, and mysteries.

To me though, the best years of television were the years that gave us the great adult comedies. There was one thing Frank’s and my favorite shows had in common: they were wonderful “ensemble” shows starring some of the best actors. And, of course, there were no kiddies in the mix.  Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, and Taxi,– in alphabetical order because I couldn’t name my very favorite – in the 70’s, and later on shows like Evening Shade and Cheers were, in my opinion, the best of the best. The casts were peppered with Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, and Academy Award winners and nominees. The shows didn’t feature star-wannabes, they featured the already established cream of the crop.

Where's Fish?
Barney Miller, almost every scene in a NYPD squad room, had Hal Linden and Abe Vigoda in the cast, along with Steve Landesberg who did that great Gregory Peck voice.
M*A*S*H, which ran for eleven years, starred Alan Alda, Harry “Horse Hockey!” Morgan, and Jamie Farr, among so many others. We were always wondering what getup Farr’s Klinger would be wearing next, and always waiting for Gary Burghoff’s Radar, grape Nehi in hand, to hear “Choppers!” Quick repartee was the show’s forte. 

M star A star S star H
Taxi – ah, what a crew. I have to say my favorite was Christopher Lloyd’s Iggy. I’ve always wondered how the screenwriters described or the director directed some of his scenes, they were absolutely hilarious but so serious. There was one scene, I’ll never forget, where Iggy was taking the written test for his driver’s license, and the guys were trying to help him with the answers. “What does a yellow light mean?” “Go slower.” So he asked the question again, pausing after each word: “What. Does. A. Yellow. Light. Mean?” He got the same answer and then went even slower. You had to be there. If you were here I could act it out, but you aren’t, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I haven’t got the words to describe it, but the writers did, and the scene was wonderful. Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner in her pre-Evening Shade Days, and Danny DeVito led a great cast.

The whole Taxi crew
My favorite in the 80’s was Cheers. Can’t you just hear that theme song playing in your brain? “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” Ted Danson, hunk that he was and still is to my way of thinking, and Rhea Perlman, kept bar regulars on their toes, kept the quips coming and kept them sharp. Oh, and I just loved Nick Colasanto’s Coach.

Hey there Coach!
Evening Shade, in the 90’s, is probably our favorite one of all time. Talk about a stellar cast - that was one of the best ensembles ever assembled. You did notice that there were a few children in the cast? Yes, but they were just passing through. Burt Reynolds, Marilu Henner, Hal Holbrook, Charles “Nuts, Woodrow!” Durning, Ossie Davis, Michael Jeter, and Elizabeth Ashley: a dream crew.

I can hear you say “What about some of the other comedies? What about Seinfeld, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple, All in the Family? Et cetera, et cetera. Close, but no cigar. I watched many of the others, Frank didn’t care for them at all, but they were just “there”: I didn’t look forward to them each week, didn’t make sure not to schedule anything while they were on. There’s nothing about them I want to tell you I loved.

I have to round out what has become a rather lengthy essay by mentioning some of my favourite Brit-coms that were airing during those last years of the last century. No question about it, the British had us beat in the comedy department. Many of their shows were given a twist and produced over here under new names. Think of Sanford and Son, Three’s Company, and All in the Family.

No, no, no, no, yes!
Thank heavens for PBS! We watched The Good Neighbors faithfully. Talking to God and One Foot in the Grave were two other favourites. Dawn French’s The Vicar of Dibley was marvelous, and Emma Chamber’s Alice was the perfect foil for her. We did love Trevor Peacock too: “No, no, no, no, yes!” The absolute best was Last of the Summer Wine. This show ran for over 37 years. We watched it from the late 70’s until we could no longer find it on any of the PBS stations where we lived. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

I’ll let you go now. It’s now close to 900 words since I started, but I tried to keep it short! If I don’t stop soon I’ll keep remembering more good stuff. Frank and I are no longer great TV fans, and we are surely not fans of anything comedic that has been on in the last decade or so. But that may just be because we are getting old and curmudgeonly.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Here's another bit of fun and research that didn't make it into the community magazine. My whole inspiration for the piece started while I was watching a TV documentary about Chatsworth House. Very interesting! I do like bananas, and of course, people who know me know I just love Minions. Actually, I am bananas for Minions.         

Chatsworth House is a stately home in Derbyshire, and is the ancestral home of the Cavendish family, headed by the Dukes of Devonshire. What does this have to do with bananas, you ask? Though there are over fifty varieties, the banana you had with your cereal this morning is most likely a Cavendish banana, named for William, the 6th Duke, who grew them in his vast, glass Great Conservatory on the estate. Bet you didn’t know that!

You could go bananas with all the banana information available on the web today.* Banana plants are herbaceous, so bananas don’t grow on trees. Botanically speaking, bananas are berries, though you can’t grow them from their seeds as you can with an avocado, a coffee bean, or a grape. Bananas are the greatest selling of all the fruits, and one of the most popular foods in America and in the world. The average American eats 27 pounds of bananas, more than the average 23 pounds of pizza we consume each year. The banana is full of nutrients, is portable, requires no cooking, and can be a part of any meal. Bananas make us laugh.

Why do we go bananas? Why is the word associated with comedy and laughter? Well, we do laugh at monkey antics, and monkeys do like bananas. We talk about “top bananas” and “second bananas” and “going bananas”. About the only thing painful about bananas would be if you slipped on the peel, yet many folks will laugh at that. Bananas have been celebrated in songs like Yellow Bird and The Banana Boat Song, and in the movies. In 1971, Woody Allen went Bananas in a fictional banana republic, and in 2010, Minions went bananas in Despicable Me. Now they have their own movie Minions, of course. They are still “bananas!”

If you chose to, you could eat the whole banana, skin and all. No part of it is bad for you, but it is recommended that you eat no more than two a day, with or without the peel. They are so full of nutrients that if you ate too many you could overdose on some vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, but you’d have to eat more than a whole hand of bananas, not just a finger or two.

If it's been in the fridge it is still perfect.

Many of us think that “you should never put bananas in your refrigerator.” For years bananas have been getting over-ripe and mushy on kitchen counters because people believed the warning in the old Chiquita Banana jingle. That practice is so wrong. Someone came up with that tag line and used the word ‘refrigerator’ to rhyme with the ‘very, very tropical equator’, the climate in which bananas are grown. They could and did come up with a better jingle later on. If you buy bananas just the way you like to eat them, put them right in the refrigerator. If you buy them a bit greener than you like, leave them out until they are just the way you want them. Yes, the skins will get spotted and browner as the days pass, but the inside will stay just perfect for at least a week, in time for you to restock on your next shopping trip. Over-ripe bananas? Make banana bread or a smoothie. You can’t go wrong going bananas.

*The Chiquita Banana website, chiquitabananas.com, is a font of banana fun facts, recipes, and good information on health and nutrition.


Sunday, July 12, 2015


Every morning I get an email From the National Day Calendar, letting me know what wild and crazy thing is being celebrated that day. It's a wonderful way for me to pick up topics for my blog essays. Today it was National Pecan Pie Day.

The entry for the pie was this:
“National Pecan Pie Day is observed annually on July 12th.  The delicious pecan pie is made primarily with corn syrup, pecan nuts, salt and vanilla flavoring with some variations including sugar syrup and molasses or maple syrup.  Chocolate and bourbon whiskey may also be added to the pie recipe and is a popular addition in some areas.  Pecan pie is often served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
The attempts that have been made to trace this dish’s origin have not found any recipes dated earlier than 1897, even though there are claims made of the pie existing in the early 1800′s in Louisiana.  Well known cookbooks such as Fannie Farmer and The Joy of Cooking did not include this dessert until 1940.

Pecan pie was significantly popularized by the makers of Karo syrup. Their company has claimed that the pie was a “discovery”, in the 1930′s, by a corporate sales executive’s wife, as a “new use for corn syrup”.  Pecan pie is considered a specialty of Southern U.S. cuisine.”

I’ve had great pecan pie and I’ve had so-so pecan pie. The so-so variety is usually made with corn syrup and is usually the too sweet, store-bought variety. Bleah! - as Snoopy would say. You want a great pecan pie? Follow this recipe from my late neighbor Georgette who was born in the northern part of Quebec. Fortunately for them, they had no corn syrup. They had no sugar. What they did have was maple syrup. The pie recipe is easy to remember because, other than the crust, there are only four ingredients. Here is the recipe, copied straight from my electronic cook book:





I do tend to throw in more pecans than the recipe calls for because I just love pecans. I do agree with the entry from the National Day Calendar: “Pecan pie is often served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.” Oh, yes – must have one of those on top.

I’d love to make one now, but this July has been a killer with high temperatures. I wonder why a July day was chosen to celebrate pecan pie. It’s more of an October, November, December kind of thing, wouldn’t you think? So keep cool and save this recipe for later in the year.

Friday, July 10, 2015


I can't make a rye as good as this

There are many things touted as “The greatest thing since sliced bread”, but to me, the greatest thing probably is sliced bread.  The first loaf of machine-sliced bread was sold on July 7, 1928. Otto Rohwedder and worked on and perfected a bread slicing machine. He called it, eponymously, the Rohwedder Bread Slicer. He had a hard time selling it to bakers – little did they know – but finally found one to give it a try. The rest is basically history, enhanced by a new entry into the book of household phrases. 

I absolutely love bread. I devote ample room to bread in my freezer where it keeps best. At any one time in my kitchen, you should be able to find loaves of my own homemade white or wheat, perhaps a store-bought loaf of seeded rye and English muffins, some drop biscuits, sweet or savory, and perhaps my banana bread or raisin bread. I know I’ve said that it is maintained that you could live on a diet of orange juice, milk, and chocolate. Oh yes, I could, but I’d have to add bread to the diet.

Sometimes I wish I had a bread slicing machine of my own, but they take up too much space I need for other things - like bread making. I've tried those bread slicing guides and they are a pain in the you-know-where. So we get a wonky slice every once in a while - that's o.k., it won't be around for long.

I’ve devoted a blog or three to bread, the homemade, slice-it-yourself kind.  You can read the entries here, here, and here.  Any way you slice it, and even if you don’t, bread really is the staff of life.

My own raisin bread, minus a few slices

Friday, July 3, 2015


It's Friday. I usually post on Friday, but I was't thinking of it for today. Then I remembered the piece below - all about my Carolina Dream concert. I wrote this for our community magazine's series on Southern Writers and Musicians, but they didn't use it because "it's fiction and we don't print fiction." Yes it is, so the heck with those guys, I do have a forum of my own. I'll add a picture or two and voila! - a post for a Friday. 

The Time: early on a warm summer evening in June.
The Place: a great meadow in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 
       Bring along a blanket and an elegant evening’s picnic, and
       be sure to find a good spot for dreaming and listening to
The Performers: great music makers of the Carolinas.


Many will say that the concert should have taken place sometime in the mid-Sixties, when all the performers were still with us, but this is all in our minds, a Dream Concert, backed by a dream band or two. The year is any year, and they are all there in their prime:

We’ll start off our Dream Concert alphabetically with a composer and master jazz saxophone artist, The Hamlet, North Carolina-born John Coltrane. Though he did a lot of experimental jazz toward the end of his life, we’ll keep the program ‘classical’ with Lazy Bird and Moment’s Notice, two of his best known compositions. During his short lifetime, Coltrane played and recorded with our next two artists, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.

Dig those crazy cheeks!

Cheraw, South Carolina-born Dizzy Gillespie, jazz trumpeter and influential teacher, band leader and composer, is next on the bill. Perhaps this night we’ll hear him play his Night in Tunisia or Two Bass Hit, then he might segue into 52nd Street Theme, written by our next great musician:

Thelonius Monk. Rocky Mount, North Carolina-born and New York City-raised, Thelonious Monk was a composer and jazz pianist. He wrote many of the tunes you hum but didn’t know the name of like Straight, No Chaser, or Green Chimneys, or Epistrophy. He may entertain us with one of his remarkable improvisations, perhaps on his In Walked Bud.

Who are these young guys?

A switch of moods brings out Charlie Daniels and the Charlie Daniels Band. With over fifty albums to his credit, the Leland, North Carolina born and raised, Nashville, Tennessee-affiliated Daniels will bring a taste of country, rock, and maybe a bit of bluegrass to the program. We may be in the Carolinas, but we all know The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

As the evening hours lengthen and the mood mellows, we’ll welcome the soulful Roberta Flack, from Black Mountain, North Carolina. Known for her hits in many modes of music, singer, song writer, and pianist Roberta Cleopatra Flack is in a class by herself. We know her for songs like The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and Killing Me Softly with His Song, written by others, but she’s sure to sing some of her own work like Mood, or Only Heaven Can Wait, or And So It Goes.

We’ll ease on out and conclude our Dream Concert with the Chapel Hill, North Carolina-raised, Massachusetts-born musician, singer, and songwriter, James Taylor. Of all those on our concert lineup, he is almost automatically associated with our area because of his nostalgic Carolina In My Mind. “Can’t you just see the sunshine? Can’t you just feel the moonshine?” We’ll hear that, and perhaps this uncle of Sweet Baby James’s will sing You’ve Got a Friend, or Fire and Rain. And finally: Shower the People. What better way to end the dream evening in the meadow than to “Shower the people you love with love.”

I want to hear "Jellyman Kelly"!!

 Drive home safely!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Yours truly at the beach, with pail, ready to dig, in 1944

At the Sea-Side

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up
Till it could come no more.
                                              BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Last month’s stanza from Chicken Soup with Rice was the twelfth posting. The year was skewed by six months, but last July was when I thought to start posting that wonderfully catchy poem. I thought I’d start in now with some of my other favorite poems. As it is July, and as the summer has been so blazing hot so far, I’ll start with one of the first poems I ever knew by heart: At the Sea-Side. I can remember my mother reciting this to me when I would be digging in the sand at Rockaway Beach on Long Island. She loved Stevenson’s poems, and I’ve passed her volume of A Child’s Garden of Verses on to my nine-year-old granddaughter who is developing into another poetry lover. 

Have a lovely July - keep cool!