Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Week on the Gulf Coast

     Youngest and oldest child, Annamarie & Gordon

            The first eight days of June were spent either driving to/from or in Pensacola Beach for a family gathering that hadn’t happened since 2011. That was when the Florida granddaughter graduated from high school. This trip was the choice of another granddaughter who’d graduated earlier this May. Her family of three, my daughter’s family of four (including a boyfriend), and me, with the Florida family and a surprise visit from the celebrant’s brother, made a group of 12, which, in restaurants, usually meant two tables—one for the parents/grandparent, and one for the young adults.
          Our place was a Regency Cabana unit with two floors. Turns out my bedroom was on the main floor and the others’ were upstairs. I lucked out for sure. 

Main floor, deck behind us, kitchen in front
           The first place we ate was Flounders--us and a zillion others! A 30-minute wait was softened by a glass of Riesling, watching others come in, register, then find waiting spots—like we had done. Soon, we were ushered to a place on the beach/ Sound side where we could be entertained (as if we needed entertainment) by volleyball players, children throwing sand, loud music, and loud talking.      Three of us split a piled-high plate of nachos, and even then, we only ate half the food. My eldest grandson picked up the tab.
          All but two of our party spent Monday morning on the Gulf beach under a Tennessee-orange tent in lawn chairs.  Several of the young folks enjoyed the water, jumping the larger, pounding waves. The beach was littered with tents of various sizes and shapes, and families, also various sized and shaped.

          That evening, we re-dressed in our white-shirt-khaki-pants uniform for a family photo shoot. The venue changed, which meant a long slog through four-inch white sand to the next boardwalk. I’d worn white canvas “tennis shoes” (the old, old kind) and had bought my clothes at Walmart several weeks earlier. Other white shirts were lace, crop tops, button ups, polos—and pants were short shorts, long shorts, capris.

         The shoot included every possible configuration of family imaginable. Granddaughter had brought her cap and gown, and many poses of her were shot—in the sand, with the Gulf background, etc.

Granddaughter, the graduate. So proud.

               c 2019, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What chefs buy when they visit the grocery store

                               One of my favorite holiday dishes

                Now and then, when there’s a featured collection of something, somewhere, somebodies that require a slide show to navigate, sometimes I bite and oftentimes, I scroll on by. This Saturday night, I bit.
               The ‘come-on’ text was “Chefs Reveal the items They Always Buy at the Grocery Store.” The visual was three rows of rotisserie chickens, something I’ve never, ever bought. I was resting from yard work and it was too early for bed, so I began clicking and reading the few quotes from chefs and  restaurants I’d never heard of. It could be all fake news to me, but I don’t care.
             These chefs bought things, not for their businesses, but for themselves and their families. The second slide showed many triangles of different cheeses. Good. My love of cheese came from Dad I suppose, but I usually stick close to the tried and true; cheddar, mozzarella, provolone. I think I’ll branch out. One of the slides showed a meal of Doritos and Cottage Cheese. I like the idea of that combination.
            Canned tomatoes! Two different chefs admitted to this. I, too, always keep canned tomatoes in the pantry for soups and chili.
           Sauces and salsas, herbs and chickpeas (for hummus, yuck), fancy mayo and mustards, I passed them by.  
           But I stopped, surprised, at a photo of various mini candies—like the ones our bell choir snacks on during break. Nostalgia for a childhood candy bar, this chef said, even though it wasn’t good for you, the chef also said, was a pleasurable experience—to savor and to share (the nostalgia, not the candy). My go-to nostalgia bar is Payday, now in the snack-size package.    
            Chocolate, ice cream, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Oreos, cheese dip with chips, and bacon were items mentioned as not convenient to prepare from scratch.
            Anything on sale, said one respondent. The photo showed bags of Halo oranges, something I also try to keep on hand.
             A potpourri of snacks in bowls was a surprise, coming from a chef. But I guess chefs are people, too, aren’t they, with sweet tooths (teeth), salt urges, calories-be-darned like most of the rest of us. This photo showed popcorn, caramel corn, sweet cereals, pretzels, chips, Chex-mix and various crackers.
             These folks can keep their ramen noodles (I’ve never eaten  any), tofu, hummus, quinoa, farro, and koshihikari sprouted brown rice, cultured salted butter, Sriracha,  avocados, cauliflower pizza crust, kale smoothies--or kale-anything—coconut milk, miso, and fresh herbs.
            I’m content, at 80-something, with tuna, turkey breast, pre-cooked bacon, skim milk, Keurig coffees (Breakfast Blend and Hazelnut), Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese for dip, Scoops, Cheetos, yogurt or Edy’s ice cream, cheap pizzas, Cheerios (no saturated fats), raisins, peanut butter, saltines, rye bread, cinnamon raisin bagels, canned salmon, cranberry juice, and vegetable or tomato juice.
            I did discover two things that I’m adding to my ‘always keep on hand’ list: Reser’s chicken salad and potato salad from the local grocery deli.
           Anyone want the rest of the box of potato flakes I bought, and used once?

                                        A graham cracker concoction that Billy & I really liked

c 2019, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Deciding I don’t have to eat everything I buy

A younger person I know and love decided that during the month of February, in the name of minimalism, she would give away, or otherwise get rid of as many items in her home as coincides with the days in the month. She last reported that the first nine days were doable, but the double-digit ones were beginning to be a problem.

Which brings me to my tale. It was exactly mid-February or would be in any other month. I decided to do something that was heretofore against my thrifty upbringing: dispose of foodstuffs that 1) I didn’t like, or 2) Christmas leftovers, or 3) things in the freezer that I’d never eat because I bought them for another event and they weren’t eaten, or, in the case of Schwan’s chicken breast pieces, were too old.

1) What I didn’t like were the rest of packaged onion rings used on top of green bean casseroles. Why did I buy them? (Shrug.) How did I use them? Eating them out of the package. Yuck! Grease coated my mouth. Don’t do that again. Out they went in a large bowl I’d set out for the purpose. Next was a package of something-filled-nugget snacks that looked different from what I usually buy. Nope. They joined the onions. Later on, I watered down bottles of half veggie juice and half a too-sharp Bloody Mary mix so I could finish it without tossing. Won’t buy that again. Virgin, but still….

2) Christmas leftovers. Fudge from two sources: a gift from a friend, and a batch brought for the church luncheon and left behind. I’d eaten and eaten more bites than I should have. I even took some to the preacher’s kid who commented on how good it was and that it was his favorite.

The other Christmas confection I ended up throwing out doesn’t have a name, but after altering and adding to it twice, it became so hard that all I could use it for was sweetener (after it melted) for my coffee. Enough, said I. Out it went.

3) In the freezer was most of a package of gluten-free crackers that tasted like pasteboard. I tried to add them to my row of snacks on the back of the countertop and ate a few. But out they went, too. Since I “divorced” Schwan’s, the chicken bites were nearly gone, but out they went. Too old. Dangerous?

That didn’t hurt at all, I decided. Now, should I check all the dressings, sauces, mustards, pickles and olives for expiration dates and do likewise? I know there’s a can of evaporated milk in the cupboard that’s expired.

What else can I give or throw away? Lent is here; perhaps I’ll fill sacks for Goodwill or SCJOHN. It won’t be blue glass, Fostoria or Cape Cod pieces. Perhaps place mats, tablecloths and napkins. Someone could surely use those items.

Happy waning winter days to you.

c 2019, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Different days call for different words

                                                                      Winter 2018
    The word today is NEGATIVE. Two things I’ll never buy again: toaster strudels and Hot Pockets. Three: single-ply toilet tissue.

     One thing I’ll never do again is freeze a cherry pie. Make Christmas goodies that still, on Valentine’s Day resided in the freezer. Marry again. Believe in “fate” again.

   The word today is PERSISTENCE. Since I live with only a gray cat, I am the one who must put-together, figure out, try and fail, try again and succeed. Thus, persistence. Case in point: As tax deadline looms closer, I needed a space for only tax papers. That precluded the dining table, the office table, the “greenhouse” table, the piano bench and the sofa. Aha! On the back porch was a rectangular folding table I bought for the bell choir back in the day. I’d used it once before for this very reason, but it had lain folded up for several years.

     With a new week and warmer temps—even though it rained for two whole days and nights and was still raining as I wrote—I decided to bring that table in, set it up and begin the tax task. I chose to add it to the dining room area, which would leave a path to both the kitchen and the back rooms.
    After dusting the black plastic top, I lay the table down with bent legs visible. It reminded me of the many times I lie down and immediately fold my legs at the knee in cross-legged fashion. I opened one set of legs. Where the ball popped into the leg I could see they were too short for my needs. Pushed in the ball, extended the leg but the ball wouldn’t pop into the lower hole. Twist, turn, jiggle—nothing worked
   So I went to the other legs. They cooperated beautifully. Now back to the recalcitrant one. I could feel the hole with my fingers and could see the ball on the stubborn leg. On the fifth try, CONTACT. VOILA!

Now to find a lamp. DONE: In the corner bedroom was a small one with a measly 15-watt bulb. I didn’t have a 40-watt, only two boxes of 60-watt LED ones. Would that size be too hot for the lampshade? I tried it, and later checked the shade. Nah, no extreme heat at all.

Unable--at first-- to open cans, even with several implements
 The next pressing task was to go through FIVE MONTHS of unreconciled 2018 bank statements. Until nap time, that is. The odd thing, my usually-two-hour nap, thanks to many and active dreamscapes, turned into FOUR HOURS! So now, I was bound to stay awake till midnight. Why? Surely I could handle six hours of activity, even if it was sitting at the computer or at the table with a meal and the newspaper.
 Today’s word is BLESSED. Friend Sally who was in the neighborhood, dropped by. We were close neighbors in Arkadelphia in the waning years of the 20th century. Then, two children checked in with gifts on Valentine’s Day—one in person, one by Tipton and Hurst of Little Rock. One son had called the night before. After my nap, I returned a 501 call to hear another longer-time friend, Evelyn, who was moving to Fox Ridge at her children’s urging. That she—a choir member from my years at Bryant FUMC during the 1970s—would share it with me was thrilling. Hence, BLESSED.

 I wonder what tomorrow’s word will be.

c 2019, PL, dba lovepat press, Benton AR U.S.A.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Different ideas about “things”

New windows, office, sans blue glass

On Facebook last week, I saw a post about needing something to give impetus to tackling the things that needed doing. Coffee was the answer. Someone commented about wishing there weren’t things to do. I reacted: “No, without things to do, it would be awful.”

Seated in my office, I had only to look around to see several “things” that needed attention.

One was updating the CALLIOPE scheduling since the general editor gave me leave to add two more poems to each issue. Only then can I answer the poet submitters about when their poems can be scheduled.

Another was revising my latest submission to the writers group for critiques

A third was to prepare my 4th book manuscript–incomplete as it is–for viewing by the editor who agreed to publish it.

Filing is always a thing to be done now that I’ve bought more card boxes. Oh, wait. I bought those way last summer. Geez! Where has the time gone?

And in this same room, the frames of the new windows need painting. And then I can rehang the hardware for the horizontal shelving which will hold the remainder of the blue-glass collection I had to take down (and wash) before the windows installation.

By Sunday evening my weekly newspaper column wasn’t finished. That was one ‘thing’ I had to do before anything else. The second thing was to email the minister next Sunday’s service music for the bulletin.

Monday’s “things-to-do” list included notifying poetry submitters about whether their poems were accepted, and if so, when they would be scheduled (see above).

While the weather was spring-like, I hoped to work more in the yard raking the myriad oak leaves thus re-animating the recently-burned brush pile.

Daffodils are blossoming, japonica is pink with blooms, and the pansies dare the cold weather to bother them. Mr. Groundhog predicted an early spring, and for a few days, he was right. But, understandably, he doesn’t keep up with climate change or even the calendar, so what does he really know? Only we know that more winter is in our forecast.

 Here's a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Do the thing and you will have the power." Where's my coffee?
                                                           Before - a year's worth of detritus

                                                               After---- son Eric supervised

c 2019, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Friday, January 4, 2019

Snow flurries hurries folks to stock up on necessities

With snow predicted to turn to ice by noon, I'd donned hat, gloves, scarf and car coat on top of my regular fleece togs and headed to the local pharmacy for my hormone therapy, which cost $60-something since Humana wouldn’t pay— “not a medical necessity” they say.
There was a line. Two checkers but only one machine. Customer “Hubert” left, and an older blonde was next. After her purchase, she asked to see the quarters in the register. Mrs. Pharmacist said, “Let’s move over here so Bob can wait on this lady (me). When I left, the two women were picking over the quarters. “There’s Kentucky,” one said. “Here’s Nevada,” the other chimed in.

Vivelle patches in hand, I started home. But since I was already out, I thought, why not pick up a big bag of cheap cat food for the Moors. The Moors are four solid black cats that adopted us. They are outside cats that won’t allow a touch, but the beggars and whiners expect to be fed.

On the far end of the strip mall––the pharmacy was on the other end––I pulled in at Family Dollar. One always hears about folks panicking when a snow event begins. Now I’ve been involved, though I didn’t panic.

Inside, it turned out that several folks were buying dog or cat food. All I wanted was a six-dollar bag. Passing through the store, I noticed another queue of customers, their buggies extending back to the refrigerator-freezer section. I didn’t have anything pressing to do at home, so I picked up the twelve-pound bag and headed to the far side of the store where the line ended. Lo and behold, the waiting folks and their buggies turned down the coffee-tea-cereal aisle.

I stepped in behind a family of females that included a pink bunny-wrapped baby in the buggy. The next time I looked, she sat a-perch her aunt’s hip. The aunt couldn’t have been more than twelve. Her blue-jeaned legs weren’t much bigger than fat broomsticks. In front of her was an older girl—the baby’s mother—with ear buds and her iPod. At the head of the group was the mother of the girls, herself a tiny wisp of a woman. She saw me with my load and immediately offered her buggy for my sack. I thanked her and said if it got too heavy, I would take her up on it.

I listened to them chat. The older girl reached for a case of cokes. The mother said, “Oh, not that; that doesn’t have any caffeine, and I need caffeine.” 

“Amen!” I chimed in. The daughter exchanged the carton. The line moved slowly. Finally, a man rustled in behind me carrying three small bags of cat food. “We’re all taking care of our pets, huh?” I said. I don’t see any reason not to be friendly to strangers.

He said ‘yea-ow,’ that his cat had grumbled at him before he left for the store. His arms held two smaller cheapies and one package of better-quality food—like I feed mine.

Soon, the mother leaned over to me. “It looks like the second line (checker Bob’s) is shorter. Why don’t you go up there?” Talk about being neighborly, she certainly was.

I slowly maneuvered past a couple of shoppers and found myself standing behind a burly woodsman with a bag of dog food as large as mine.

“We’ve got to take care of our pets, don’t we?” I said again, and that was all he needed. He told us—a lady was checking out ahead of us; she added a comment or two as the man told his story about two Texans moving into the Ouachita National Forest “up yonder.” He pointed to the west. I wondered if he lived in or near Paron or out in the country around Mountain View, and, if so, why was he this far away from home? Later, it sounded like he might live around the Steel Bridge area.

“These fool Texans,” he said, “found out that a bear lived in the area, and they put peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the back porch just to watch it up close. Well, one time they were gone and the bear somehow got the door open and ransacked their house. It made me so mad,” he said. “I told the Game and Fish it wasn’t the bear’s fault. They relocated it about thirty miles farther on and in two days, the bear was back. They finally had to put it down.” He shook his long gray hair that fell beneath his cap.

When it was his turn to pay, he presented the checker with a hundred-dollar bill. Bob called over his shoulder to the manager on the next counter, “You got change for a hundred?”

 “No. No I don’t.” It was only a little after nine in the morning. “Punch ‘suspend’,” she said to Bob, and to the man, “Go over to Harvest Foods and get change and then come back.” He left; I was quickly dispatched. I noticed the gaggle of females were now two shoppers behind me. I caught the woman’s eye and mouthed a ‘thank you’. She smiled and nodded.

It was snowing harder, larger flakes, but with the windshield wiper running fast, there was no danger; it was only a quarter-mile drive home.

Fifteen minutes I after I wrote this piece, the driveway had already whitened. Brown leaves showed their tips farther down the hill in the “tennis court.” A blue jay perched momentarily on the beautyberry limb and partook of the wizened berries now capped with tufts of new snow.

Aha! The satisfaction of knowing that everything and everyone under one’s care was safe.
Now, to enjoy the snow.

[This piece was written in 2011 but I couldn't locate it on the blog, so here it is.;]

c 2019, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Old houses must be kept up to “live” longer

Old west window (cracked) in Green Room (plants)

                “Years of water damage stain the walls. Holes in the ceiling expose the second floor to the first. The staircase creaks, boards straining under the pressure of each footstep. A musty aroma taints the air, as if someone was rifling thru’ pages of an old book.”
                This describes the 1870s house in Fayetteville, the Stone-Hilton house, a significant structure in the Washington-Willow Historic District. [To be given this] designation it must be associated with a significant event, person or architectural style, or hold important information about the past. It must be at least 50 years old— (Alexander Nicoll, NWA D-G pg. 1B, 8.6.17)
                Back last year, I jotted down the paragraphs above, added them to a computer document under the heading, “Standard column for early 2018 – old houses.” Early left a long time ago, but circumstances make this a good lede for this post.
                Couchwood (I named it myself after moving here 12 years ago) was built in 1932-33, making it old enough to be historic. However, as far as I know, Saline County doesn’t have a “historic district.” Those of us who’ve lived in the Salem community all—or nearly all—our lives are the only ones who consider it so.
                Only a scant few years younger than this house built of white rock and red brick, I inherited it. The eldest of seven siblings and the only one without a house of her own were two reasons the parents deeded it to me. 
                                             Outside new windows on the north, & old ones
          I’ve improved the inside through the years: new carpets, replaced linoleum with tile in the kitchen and refinished the hardwood floors. Later, unhappily taking down the cracked, and in one place, missing, thick plaster ceilings in the two front rooms. Then painting the 1970s paneling that covered cracking wall plaster—all these were earlier upgrades.
                But when an elder at Ebenezer UMC showed me photos of windows in a house he was renovating, a brain wave zapped inside my head. “Windows,” it said. “He does windows. Your drafty, thin-paned windows have needed replacing for ages.” So, he and I made plans.
Office/ Blue room without any windows

                As I write, all 30 windows now have double-paned, cleanable windows. The outsides are white vinyl and the inside facings are aromatic raw wood until I get around to painting them. Though all windows except the two short kitchen ones (only one was delivered) are in and screens are attached, there is all the debris clean up and repairing the north yard where a forklift dug into the wet ground while hoisting the three mulled attic windows.
                Folks swear I’ll love the reduced heating and cooling bill. But I insisted (with the approval of son Eric) the window ACs be reinstalled, so I had to finagle ways to keep the drafts stopped around all five of them. Thank goodness for wide packing tape.
                It already takes the back rooms less time to heat up to a comfortable temp. And he can’t tell me, but Greye-the-cat will be warmer in the attic now when he chooses to go there.
                Though I hope to live in this more- modern-on-the-inside house at least ten more years, it can never be on a “historic homes” register.

                                                 New Blue Room/ Office windows

         c 2018, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA