Friday, June 14, 2024

FAMILY GATHERING USHERS IN JUNE

 I like Eli Cranor’s ubiquitous opening lines: “I’m writing from . . .” Likewise, I like to open with when: I’m writing at noon on Saturday after an early-morning trip to the nearby Dollar General. We were the third vehicle there but by the time we left, cars were parked everywhere; one even outside of the parking area in the driveway!

                Everything on our shopping list was available except a one-pound box of Velveeta with which we make cheese dip. Additional hang-ups were aisles blocked by stockers. While I unloaded the buggy for the checker, AM put the filled bags into an different buggy making it quicker than if only one were doing it. But, she said, “you bought a lot of that stuff for me.” That I did. Thank goodness for Discover.

                During the long weekend past, the brush got burned, the trust got amended, the pizzas got eaten and everyone got back home safely, even if the Florida trip took longer than expected. Gordon got home at 12:20 a.m. Tuesday morning. The plane landed at 11 pm, but he had to drive from the Destin airport back to Gulf Breeze.

                Eric of Hot Springs took back a sack of purple-blooming irises from the front bed and this morning, he sent email photos of them in the ground—some at their house and more at what he calls “Amityland,” their property off Amity Road.

    A great weekend with all my children. Thankful. Blessed. Have a good rest-of-June.



c 2024 by Pat Laster dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA



Thursday, February 22, 2024

Welcome to the 21st Century, he says . . .


   . . . this nearly-ready-for-Social-Security second son of mine, after I phone-describe the new, larger (handicapped, the plumber called it) toilet. No handle: just a circle on the lid split into “1” and “2” sections to push when flushing. Even my son hadn’t seen one that advanced!

        So, since the siblings were coming for lunch on Sunday, I scrubbed the tile floors before replacing the rugs, took off the lower shelf of the tall metal rack over the “throne,” and moved the towels up one shelf. On one side of the lid, I placed the plant-in-a-pear-motif-ed vase over a tiny circle of embroidery done by others. On the other side of the flusher circle, I placed the squat, square-glass dish full of Florida shells, on top of a multi-colored five-sided doily. Already for company, including four others who, as I did, grew up in this house. Can’t wait to hear their comments.

                The 500-piece jigsaw puzzle is finally finished. As of last Wednesday night, at 10:59, I put the last of 33 pieces left when I began at that sitting. Whew! Now, it’s elevated at an angle as supposed to be and ready to show my siblings when they come Sunday after church. I also took a flip-phone photo to the other son who gifted me with the items. He said it was blurry, but he could tell I’d finished it.

                For a week or so, the puzzle replaced my reading time, but now I’m back. Mitt Romney’s biography by McKay Coppins is my current book. After that, I’ll begin on Kai Bird’s “The Outlier:  The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter.” A grandson gifted me with this book at Christmas, bless ‘im.

                The siblings lunch went well. Guy brought a fruit and cheese-crackers appetizer served from the front room coffee table. After singing (our custom) the Wesley Grace, we ate pizza, hash-brown-potato casserole, a green salad, deviled eggs and peanut butter pie.             Afterwards, we gathered in the living room and visited until mid-afternoon. Two of the sisters, both of Little Rock, had dogs to get back to and naps to take. The rain had ended by then, thank goodness.

                Afterwards, AM and I cleaned up the kitchen, loaded and started the dishwasher, then retired to our napping places.

                An hour-and-a-half later, after a sleepless but restful spell, I arose, went into the kitchen for coffee, and noticed the dishwasher light was still blue, meaning it was still washing. No way! It should be showing a white light meaning finished. I opened the door to find the soap dispenser was not released, but there were suds in the bottom of the machine. Hmm. I started pushing the buttons as I usually do, and the light stuck on “sensor.” Nothing could happen until it gave me the strength and length of the cycle. Finally, finally, the sensor moved on to my selection; the washer began and worked perfectly. 

                All’s well that ends well, right?







































































































































































Sunday, February 4, 2024

Confluence of Handles, part 2

     After entering the kitchen, still in my robe and yawning for the umpteenth time, I switch on the overhead light, the warmer light, and the Keurig power button.

      Raising the lid of the pod holder and the lid of the water well, I hand-dig around in the basket until grasping a light-roast Breakfast Blend pod. I pull it out, insert it in the round hole and lower the handle, which pokes holes for the brewing to happen.

        Now for water to replenish the tank. I pull the pitcher through the confluence of handles and stop. I always smile at the unusual scene––brown, pink, and green, one facing in, one facing out, and the brown one facing me in the center. Once, I took a photo of the three handles—a still life, it you will.

                You wonder why I detail this image that’s important enough to use as the title? Perhaps it’s the artist part of my creativity; the flower-arranging skill I learned from being in the garden club, or the formality of a musical chord, a triad of sorts.

                I fill the pitcher from the tap at the sinks, pour the water into the narrow-ish aperture of the well-cum-tank, scoot the pitcher back to its nest and replace the lid of the well.

         Ready to brew! When the pod lid is down, three blue lights come on: Small, medium and large mugs show under those lights. I press the “large” button. The machine roars on, and while the coffee drips, I reach for the teaspoon and three packets of sweetener. After I thump the contents to the bottoms of the packets, I access the scissors, snip off the tops, pour them into the teapot.

                As the cycle finishes, I grasp the FRIENDS mug handle, turn it around, and with my left hand, pour the dark liquid into the pot. I replace the mug, stir the sweetener into the coffee, replacing the spoon and the teapot lid.   

                But this isn’t all. No, the coffee’s still too strong for my taste so I raise and lower the pod lid and the lights return. Again, I press “large.” This time while the cup is filling, I might water the windowsill plants, load, or unload the dishwasher. Or grab a parched peanut or two from the pan on the stove.

             When the Keurig becomes silent, return to the counter, lift the teapot lid, then the catch-mug, pour the second offering into the teapot, replace the lid and the mug. Repeat this step, but this time, press “medium.” While this last cycle brews, I check the cat food and water, refilling if necessary.

           With the third and final offering from the tiny pod of coffee, press the power button off, add the pale fluid to the pot, replace the lid.

          I select a mug to use all morning, perhaps one of Mom’s, perhaps one from Florida or a glass one, and pour the hot, sweet stuff into it. Ah! Perfect! I move to the table and continue my day with the morning paper.

                What could be more satisfying? Fresh brews and fresh news. And it added only one plastic pod to a landfill instead of three.

 c 2024, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA




Saturday, January 6, 2024

CONFLUENCE OF HANDLES - part 1


 

 

How to make enough coffee for your entire morning without adding much to the landfill:

Are there still some folks who have the old-fashioned Mr. Coffee that brews up to twelve cups of the black liquid pick-me-up each morning? Twelve cups? Perhaps in the even-older-fashioned days and styles of china cups, yes. But don’t all modern brides and bridegrooms and college students and young adults drink from pottery or glass mugs? Or even Yetis or insulated school-or-business-logoed flasks?

                After a daughter’s marriage, she found herself with an extra coffeemaker that she offered. “Thank you kindly,” I said, and studied up on its requirements.

                The next Christmas, my children presented me with a Keurig brewer, that of the plastic pods of pre-measured grounds. The previous Mr. Coffee was relegated to the farthest recesses of the corner kitchen cabinet, joining a bun warmer, a double boiler and a Bundt cake pan. May they all rest there until my heirs get them. 

                Ah, the Keurig machine! Now to find the perfect spot. It must accommodate my left-handedness. I surveyed the countertop to the left of the sink for a space about the size of an old-fashioned electric mixer with a bowl. A light switch paired with two electrical plug-ins was handy. In the corner where two walls converge was a cup (or mug) carousel. Voila! Just enough room in front of it for the new, modern, sleek Keurig.

                In the cupboard above, an Old-Fashioned glass (sometimes called a lowball or rocks glass) held single packets of instant lemonade, peach tea, and root beer. A box of one-hundred packets of saccharin-based sweetener was also in reach. On the side wall, a pottery pocket-piece held scissors.

                At the back of the counter convenient to the outlets, I placed a brown wicker basket to hold the coffee pods—light-roast Breakfast Blend, Hazelnut, and when available, Pumpkin Spice. On the right side of the basket, I snugged in a spoon holder with two indentions, one for a handful of sweetener packets, the other for a long teaspoon. Between the cup carousel and the basket was room for a medium-sized, ironstone pitcher that would hold enough water to fill the well of the machine. I could pull the pitcher by the handle slowly through the confluence of handles made by that of the tall mug on the Keurig base and the handle of the teapot sitting on a resurrected, electric cup warmer. Why a teapot, you ask? I’ll answer later.

                Speaking of the tall mug that catches the coffee, I use a favorite one: pink, with a fat, red heart added to the middle of the handle. When not in use, I turn it to see the message:

                “FRIENDS/ are like bras: supportive, never leave you hanging, make you look good, and are always close to your heart.”

                To make enough coffee for the morning, I’ll need a large vessel to hold multiple runs through the Keurig. Hmm. Oh! How about that pear-motif-ed teapot that grandson Billy spied at the local pharmacy? He brought it over and offered it since I collect pear-paraphernalia? The base set perfectly on the warmer and the green ceramic handle faced toward the machine for a hefty, lefty grasp.

                To make the “coffee center” more attractive, handy, and easy-to-clean, I folded a kitchen towel into fourths, the long side against the warmer to catch any drips from the pot to the mug.

                I’ve described the setting, now, here are the steps to making coffee that will last all morning, but not (eventually) add much to any landfill.

To be continued.


c 2024, Pat Laster dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Thursday, November 16, 2023

What to do with so much left-over mac-and-cheese . . .

 . . . when there are only two of you to eat it?

A box of Kraft hit my buggy at the store. It sat in the cupboard for a couple of weeks. Till one night, on her night to prepare the evening meal, my housemate decided to prepare it.

Good eating, perfect creaminess, delicious. With collard greens/pepper sauce and a bowl of fruits and cherry tomatoes, a great meal.

The next night was my turn; can't remember what I prepped, but the following night, we ate mac-'n-cheese and collard greens again. Even with four meals gone, there was still a gob of leftover m-'n-c. 

When it was my turn, I Googled, or Bing-ed, "how to dress up leftover mac and-cheese." Many recipes flew to the screen. The one I selected contained everything I had on hand: oleo (butter), paprika, breadcrumbs, an egg, and shredded cheese.

Since I learned that m-n-c doesn't mix well when cold, I'd set the dish out on the counter earlier. Gathering all ingredients except the egg and oleo, I waited till nearly time. 

Here's the recipe I used: "Leftover Mac and Cheese Cups from kitchenathoskins.com

3 cups m-a-c. (I didn't measure but decided it was close enough.); 1 egg (lightly beaten); 1/2 cup shredded cheese; add tablespoons (not succinct) breadcrumbs; 1/2 tablespoon melted butter; 1 pinch paprika.

Directions: Add m-a-c to a bowl. (I chose to use a bowl larger than the one it was in.) Separately, I mixed the cheese and egg before adding to the pasta. Pack into WELL GREASED muffin pan. (Apparently, pasta with cheese is very hard to remove from either paper cups or the metal tins.) Stir breadcrumbs, melted butter the paprika together, and sprinkle over tops of muffins I spooned rather than sprinkled--it was messy. It made 6 muffins, just as the recipe said, so I guessed correctly, didn't I?

But here's the conundrum: Bake at 425 degrees until tops are golden. Gee, the crumb mixture was golden, so I set the timer for 5 minutes, leaving the oven light on so I could judge. I couldn't tell a difference, so I set the timer for 5 more minutes. Still, not sure, so one more 5-minute stint. Surely the egg would be cooked with the prolonged heat. 

Getting the muffins out of the pan intact--or as intact as possible--and looking like muffins was good enough for me. AM ate two and I ate one, so we STILL HAVE LEFTOVERS!!!

c 2023 Pat Laster dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Monday, September 4, 2023

Living in a generation-gap household -- again

 

         It just so happens that middle-age (daughter) and old-age (me) are living together in my house. Kid Billy, now 33, had hied from here to Hot Springs to Phoenix where he now has lived for two years. He’s just graduated from massage therapy classes. 

        No, this time it’s his mother. She’s moved back “home” (though this was never her home, per se) to the back room that’s always been “the boys” bedroom, except for the short time Grandma Flossie dwelt there on her journey to Heaven. The room has two windows opening to the screened-in-but-later-paneled back porch. An air conditioner covers part of one window. Sheer curtain panels cover the other. It was outfitted as a guest room.      

       The closet, always a repository of everything imaginable is still used thusly. Equipped only with a rod of horizontally hung crown molding, I’d begun using it as hanging storage for winter clothes.

                The room contains a twin-sized bed, two dressers, one with a mirror, Mom’s old pink recliner, a large container of Billy’s books and assorted other “stuff” from his era. Plus, extra bedding and pillows.

A large table lamp sits on a dresser, and, along with the ceiling light-fan, there’s enough light to read by or to work crossword puzzles. The AC is on 24/7.

                We both have writing/working stations on the dining-room table, and she has a living-room space on the sofa where there’s a lamp/table beside one end. Her “work” project, she set for herself, and I agreed, is to keep the gray gravel driveway free of grass--Bermuda, bitter weeds, clover and other types, that the $800+ overlay doesn’t keep out. BTW, that deal was as close to a scam as I’ve ever gotten, or it may have been a scam: a thin overlay of “road base” tiny granite granules rather than the small white gravel that I expected. However, I didn’t ask the young man what he was covering the driveway with, so it’s partly my fault. But I digress.

                Daughter and I agreed to eat morning and noon meals on our own, then take turns preparing a sit-down supper.  My Benton sister shared a tater-tot casserole that was good for two nights, and I stirred together a Mexicali Chicken dish, also good for two nights. I’ll probably use what’s left and make soup. One night’s meal was mac-and-cheese. A fruit jello from earlier was dessert. With vanilla Oreos.

                So far, so good.

 


               

 

 

 c 2023, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Things I didn’t know I didn’t know

 





 

                Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Philip Martin long ago had a series of pieces with the headline, “Things I Didn’t Know.” I don’t think he would be insulted or accuse me of plagiarism if I used this same title today. Oh, that’s right: titles can’t be copyrighted. Nor many other things, one of which is a group of words. So, I should be safe.

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT “trig” and “trigness of the house” as found in Mark Twain’s book, “Life on the Mississippi” meant smartness, neatness, trim, spruce. Makes sense in that context, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it without its math meaning.

                In the same vein, “texas” with a small “t” in steamboat lingo refers to the long, narrow cabin known as the crew’s quarters. Also the “hurricane deck” is above the boiler deck, usually the uppermost full deck. It’s also called the upward deck or roof.

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT a septic tank included a distribution box located several yards away from the tank itself. In this box—a smaller tank by half, I’d say—overflow water from the tank runs into the box, thence out into the leach or field lines in the yard. After son dug four or five inches of dirt off the thick concrete lid of the box, he found that the pipe from the tank to the box was clogged with a log of roots, which he managed to get out. Then he sawed around the sides of the box, loosening roots of all sizes and colors. After that, he sprinkled in a two-pound container of ZEP Root Killer. “Let’s wait two weeks before I replace the dirt on the lid to see what it looks like,” he said, and stuck an orange cone on the now replaced lid of the box.

                Two-weeks passed; he pried off the lid, looked around, proclaimed it looking good, replaced the lid and shoveled the dirt back on to the box. We set a marker in the middle of it, and returned the orange cone to the trunk of my Taurus.

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is 16.3 million people. –Heather Cox Richardson citing DHHS.

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT Walmart employs 1. 7 Million folks in the U. S. and is raising its minimum wage from $12 to $14 a hour.

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT Peru has 33 million people and is the 5th most populous in Latin America. –NYT’s The Morning newsletter.

                Or that about 80 percent of New Zealanders 5.1 million population identifies as Pasifika—a New Zealander of Pacific islands descent. –Raw Story

                I DIDN’T KNOW THAT Africa has about 30 percent of the world’s reserves of minerals crucial to helping [the world] transition to green energy. –Heather Cox Richardson.

                I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT a “Church Committee” was in government until I found out it was a Frank Church committee; a U. S. Senate select committee in 1975 investigating abuses by the CIA, NSA, FBI and IRS. I was glad to know this wasn’t a ‘church’ as in religion committee. In 1975, I had four children from 14 to 5, plus teaching, plus work as a church musician. I was ignorant of governmental affairs then. But I’m making up for it now.