Thursday, December 31, 2009

How Do I NOT Do It?

Okay, so everyone’s doing the year in review—where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and how things have changed. Some ambitious writers have even reviewed the whole decade, in the mistaken (but understandably so) view that tonight we enter a new decade. (That’d be next year, son.)

I don’t have the energy.

This year we didn’t send a single holiday card—not Hanukkah, not Christmas. This is not like me. I usually take great pleasure in sending cards to friends and neighbors , some of whom we see frequently, some rarely; some of whom we hear from often, some just at this time of year. So when we threw in the towel on this year, we were relieved, but relief was quickly replaced with Major Guilt. I’m not over it yet—we got lovely cards from lovely friends who received nothing tangible from us.

I’m still working on the holiday letter. For 2007. What is it with me? I used to work ‘outside the home’, as we say in Ms. Magazine, full time. Add an hour and a half commuting time per day, add time spent with growing kids, including ball games, practices, violin lessons, and a little volunteer work, and I can hardly believe I ever had time to sleep. But I did. I also sent holiday cards…

Now I’m more or less retired, doing some freelance writing, obviously blogging, and running a custom embroidery business. (Betcha didn’t know that about me, huh?) But I can’t seem to make it all happen. I’m not reading the number of blogs I would like to, I’m not keeping the house as organized as I expected that I would, once retired, and I’m not getting enough sleep, either. Where, exactly, did I lose control? Did I ever actually have control?

But just so I won’t be the only blogger not to sum up her major achievements of the past twelve months, here are a few of mine:

1. I had my tires rotated.

2. I finished wallpapering my laundry room (I started in 2005. Really.)

3. I gave away my maternity clothes (my youngest child is 28) (Kidding.) (Not about the age, about the clothes.)

4. I changed dentists. No, I didn’t, but my husband did. Of course, he changes dentists like some people change socks.

5. I quit using fabric softener. At first it was just to see if that would clear up the rash I had on my arms, then realized I didn’t really need it anyway, so buh-bye dryer sheets.

6. We endured the chaos of having the carpeting replaced in our whole house. It was a total nightmare while it was happening, but it was worth it in retrospect.

7. I started a blog in August, right about the time the movie “Julie and Julia” came out. Everyone asked me if I saw it. If everyone who asked me that was reading my blog, I’d have a lot more hits each day! (Good movie, by the way.)

Far and away the best of those is #7. I’ve ‘met’ a lot of interesting and talented people by reading their blogs and the blogs of people who comment on those blogs, and—well, you know, pretty soon you have a whole garage full of Amway products. But seriously, folks, when I’m not working the embroidery business, volunteering at the elementary school library, helping out my in-laws (they’re 87—each), or ministering to the orphans at the—wait a minute, I don’t do that—back it up to the in-laws—I adore reading the blogs I’ve come to know and love.

I look forward to more of the same in 2010. So cheers to all of you, and a very happy new year to come! Thanks for stopping by—you really shouldn’t have brought that lovely gift—and try these yummy treats before you go! I hope all your wishes come true, and I hope mine do, too!

Oreo Cream Cheese Truffles

1 package Oreos

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

Chocolate for melting

This is grueling and exhausting (NOT), so buck up for the sheer yumminess of it!

Process the Oreos and the cream cheese in the food processor.

Form into quarter-size balls.

Chill on a cookie sheet till firm (30-45 minutes.)

Dip them in the melted chocolate, and place on wax paper to cool.

O. M. G. Don’t try to thank me now, just go make some more!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brisket and Rolling the Dice

The other night I was making a brisket when my husband, the Center of the Universe poked his head into the kitchen, following the smell of meat. It’s one of his primary skills.

CoTU: “I thought you usually make brisket in the oven. What’s with the pot-on-the-stove technique?”

Me: “I don’t just usually make it in the oven. I always make it in the oven. This is a true aberration.”

CoTU: “Would you care to elaborate?”

Me: “Well, I have always made my patented fork-tender, melt-in-your-mouth, yummerific brisket with a packet of Lipton’s onion soup mix, and I was appalled to find, just as I was searing the meat, that we have none of the requisite ingredient in the house.”

CoTU: “Would you like me to go to Dierberg’s and get you some?”

(He’s always happy to help if the outcome is edible.)

Me: “Thanks, but you’re too late. I was too tired to go, and didn’t want to ask you, so I pulled out some other brisket recipes I’ve been saving. I always thought they sounded good, but didn’t want to tinker with success. Tonight I had little choice.”

CoTU: “So you’re gambling with a 5-pound slab of meat, just to save a buck eighty on onion soup mix?”

Me: “No, I’m lazy, not cheap. In order to save a trip to the store, I’m trying a different recipe. This one happens to call for cooking on the stove, not in the oven. Besides, the primary benefit was that I had all the ingredients on hand.”

CoTU: “I can’t believe you’d risk a big beautiful roast like that.”

Me: “You know, it’s like me cutting my own hair. I used to think that I did it to save money. I now realize that I just happen to like cutting my own hair, and I think I do just about as well as the pros. Well, I like trying new recipes, and the dread of another trip out in the rainy weather impelled me to go this route. Sue me.”

CoTU: “No problem—it’s not like I’m not going to eat it. But it is a gamble…”

Me: “Hey, so were you, but I took a shot, and here we are all these years later!”

CoTU: “Because you were out of onion soup mix?”

Me: “No. Because I was willing to try something new. See? It worked out great for both of us, and this will, too.”

Note: The brisket was awesome! Here’s the recipe, and I’ll also give you the old time-honored, uber-simple one whose absence CoTU was lamenting .  Hmmm... I should have taken pictures, because a picture is worth  a thousand calories. 

First the new:

Sweet and Sour Tangy Brisket

Hunk o’ meat—recipe says 3-4 lbs., obviously I used a 5-er

3-4 medium onions, sliced

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup ketchup

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup water

1. Saute the onions in a tablespoon of vegetable oil till translucent

2. Remove to a bowl

3. Sear the meat (both sides) in the same large skillet

4. Add the onions back to the pan and add the crushed garlic

5. Mix the vinegar, brown sugar and ketchup in a bowl

6. Add the water to the mixture you created

7. Pour all this into the pan with the meat and onions

8. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook 2-3 hours, till meat is fork-tender

Seriously, CoTU now thinks this has replaced the old favorite in my recipe repertoire, so we give it two thumbs up. Also, we had guests to share it with the first night, and they seemed to love it, too.

BTW, I always make meats like this the day before I want to serve them, so I can refrigerate them overnight, skim off any excess fat, and slice it while it’s cold—that way I can get the slices nice and thin.

Now for the old standard recipe…

Time-Honored Brisket

Same hunk o’ meat 3-4-5 pounds

Packet of Lipton's onion soup mix (probably one is good for meats up to 4 lbs. If your roast is larger, use some of the second packet from the box.)


1. Sear the meat in a large skillet in a teaspoon of vegetable oil

2. Place the meat in a 9 x 13” pan, sprayed with Pam

3. Sprinkle onion soup mix over the meat, and rub in with your fingers

4. Add about a cup of water

5. Seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil

6. Place in preheated 350° oven for 2-2 ½ hours, till tender

Voila—super easy, and super delicioso! Trust me—I’m known for my brisket!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snip, Clip and Send

Last night I read Clip Notes, a post on the lovely blog of Debra Darvick. She took me on a delightful stroll down Memory Lane.

Debra observed that the decline of the daily newspaper has generally created an accompanying reduction in the number of newspaper articles we cut out and share with others. Specifically, she reflects on the clippings she sends to her adult children out of town.

She does it, she says, to connect with them. It’s more meaningful than sending a link to the article, she feels. I agree.

But I'm sort of a hybrid who does some of both. If I read it online, I copy and paste the link, but if I read it in hard copy, out come the scissors, envelopes and stamps. After all, I still relish opening a piece of mail that's personal, and as that event has become ever more rare, I cherish it all the more. I sense that the same is true for my kids.

About ten years ago, when we were quite accustomed to using e-mail for almost all our interpersonal correspondence, I received a lovely letter from my good friend Mary Jo. MJ had moved to the other side of the state a year or two earlier, and we e-mailed regularly.

Along with her letter was a clipped newspaper article about a group of (I think) eight women friends in their 70s and 80s. These women had been friends all their lives, and had written letters to one another over a great number of years. The article touched me with its poignancy, but all the more because I saw it as Mary Jo’s way of saying, “This will be us, one day!” (Sadly, she’s dead now—I had to kill her because she stopped writing me. But that’s not important right now.)

My mom used to send me articles with her letters, too. Of course, having raised phobias to an art form, she specialized in clippings of alarm. For example, "Forty-Seven Dead in Tuna Recall", or "Woman Killed by Muskrat Driving at Night." (How’d the muskrat even reach the stupid pedals?)

Overall I'd say her favorite topic, well ahead of how I could poison myself by eating tainted foods or how I could end up dead in a ditch late at night, was the danger of the IUD. Or rather, "The Danger of the IUD!" She loved me. She proved it with every snip of the scissors.

It was not as if I didn’t live in a big city, and read my own newspaper. I knew she wasn’t sending a ‘you don’t have the sense to come in from the rain’ message. As Debra Darvick notes, she was connecting. She was protecting me. Huh! She loved me! Who knew?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beer Vs. Cookies: Choose Your Party

Here’s something totally new and cutting edge for you to think about before your holiday party. (I hope I’m not too late.) It seems that a group of women from our biggest hospital system (one of the nation’s top 10, they do not hesitate to mention) are having a beer party to celebrate the season. Yes. Beer. I know.

I know. You’re thinking, what happened to cookies and punch? Isn’t this a work-related activity? Aren’t alcoholic beverages, I don’t know, shall we say, sort of out of place at a workplace party? Okay, they don’t actually hold the party in the workplace, I’ll concede that.

Each woman brings 24 bottles to the party; six to share and eighteen to take home. So is each participant drinking six beers on site? Hello? Do we need an intervention here? Even if no one is driving home, how could anyone with six beers downed carry the other eighteen bottles to the Metro stop without falling and breaking them all, bloodying herself in the process? What am I missing here?

One of the organizers, Jennifer Arvin, is quoted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch today as saying, “Cookie exchanges are lame.”

Now, I’m not one to start trouble—or wait a second, maybe I am—but some of us happen to enjoy the cookie exchanges, and think that they are classic ways to spend the holiday season. Lame? Your mom’s lame. Cookies are, after all, wonderfully yummy, if made with enough butter and sugar. They also conjure up memories of Grandma, baking, warmth, happiness and fun. Did I mention that they taste really, really good? They may pile on the calories, but they’re worth it.

Beer has been known to plump up a significant number of bellies, too, for that matter. And to make people act dopey, get rowdy, or pass out, at least when consumed six at a time. And a beer tastes great at a ball game, or a cookout. But a beer exchange party?

The participants in the festivities are from the communications team of the hospital system. Mostly marketing and public relations staffers, according to the Post. A real bubbly group, I’m guessing. (Groan—sorry!) This is the third year for this gathering, and at least one husband is eagerly anticipating what his wife will bring home.

I’m wondering whether they got approval from their big bosses to have the photos taken, and put this on the front page of the daily paper. Or if tomorrow’s paper will carry a warning, a rebuke or an admonition from someone at MADD, or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. This same newspaper has carried a number of articles on DUIs recently, and our state’s miserable enforcement of the law.

Beer party: bad idea, or just bad timing? Nobody ever lost consciousness over too many snickerdoodles. Or did they… Maybe these women are just trying to get (wait for it--) a head.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Again, Off Again, On Again?

It’s on. It’s off. No, wait, it’s on again. Oops, sorry, spoke too soon—it’s toast.

What am I talking about? The roller-coaster ride that GM has taken us on, trying to spin off the Saab brand of cars.  There were more offs and ons than a string of Christmas lights.

GM bought management control of Saab in 1989 after it split from the Swedish truck maker Scania. In 2000, it bought full ownership of the quirky, sexy little car line.

What’s going on? I know very little except that it seems that there’s a new headline every other day jerking our collective leash in opposing directions. A deal’s been struck. A deal fell through. A buyer’s been found. Potential buyers backed out. Following the stories gave me whiplash.

General Motors, now in bankruptcy, has closed numerous divisions and product lines. They failed to find buyers for the Opel brand. They failed to find buyers for the Saturn brand. Now after umpteen pulls on the choke chain we have news that the deal to sell Saab to the Dutch manufacturer Stryker is dead.

Except for one thing. This morning there’s another set of reports that a new deal with Stryker is in the works. I hope it pans out, and for that matter, I hope they cobble together some sort of deal for Saturn, where most of the jobs are in the United States. (Most of Saab’s are in Sweden.)

Meanwhile, it’s just another Saab story.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanks to Amber!

As promised last week when I was blogging from the remote wilds of suburban Sacramento, here is the inspiration for my “Dear So and So” post. As I had thought, it was the amazing Amber from “Airing My Dirty Laundry”. She’s done it again with “My Dear Letters”, and it’s a total crack-up. Check it out—she never disappoints. And thanks, Amber, for setting the standard!

How Do You Spell Chaos?

Chaos reigns in the household, and I mean above and beyond the usual level of chaos…

This week we have prepared for the ultimate invasion of privacy, the consummate disruption to daily living, and the unearthing of Jurassic era dust from the corners of our closets. Yes, my friends, the Center of the Universe and I have committed to having our carpeting replaced.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early (wait, who am I kidding? – is there any WAY these people will show up on time???) installers will come with a great quantity of carpeting. Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, our nasty old antediluvian floor covering will go away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Yes, this is a happy event, in that, well, who doesn’t like new carpeting more than old carpeting? That’s kind of a given, after all. But here’s the rub, and the actual reason we have procrastinated for so long about doing it: The upheaval may kill us. And our marriage. And us. And our marriage.

When every bedroom in the house has to have the ratty old stuff yanked out in anticipation of having sparkly, twinkly, shiny clean new stuff laid, where do you put the furnishings of each room? Yes, I know, the installers will move the furniture. Believe me, the only thing that finally impelled us to actually bite the bullet and take this step is the knowledge that other people do this every day of the year. (No, not the same people, but you know…)

So our bedroom furniture will go into the guest room while they do our bedroom, and vice versa. Q.E.D. We get that. It’s all the “stuff”, to use the polite term, which has had us fearful and intimidated for so long. (Believe me, we have put this off waaaay too long.)

It’s the issue of emptying out the closets (carpet installers don’t do that), moving computer desks and computers (carpet installers don’t move electronics), moving the treadle sewing machines (carpet installers don’t move ‘antiques’), finding a new home for a lovely spinet piano that nobody plays any more (carpet installers don’t move pianos), and not killing each other in the process.

Truth be told, we’re actually cooperating quite well, and coordinating our efforts to make this a joint project. (No, Howard, that does not mean we’re smoking a joint to get us through this. Come on!) But they say in every couple there’s a hoarder and a discarder, and the two are typically at odds.

In all fairness, we both have some packrat tendencies, but mine are well-controlled (according to me—hey, let him get his own blog!) and his are more like, “But that sweatshirt may come in handy one day, if the see-through look ever comes back and needs to be expressed in kelly green fleece with the barely visible silk-screen of a St. Patrick’s Day Barf-fest on it.” Yeah. That sweatshirt isn’t even good for washing the car, so give it up, man. Or, “I know that frame is broken, but I used to like it.” Used to? It needs to go away. You see the problem.

How about the umpteen boxes of cassette tapes I found on our son’s closet floor. I wanted to give them to Goodwill. Face it, my son clearly doesn’t want them, or he would have taken them with him. And all music is digital now, unless you still like your vinyl, which is another story entirely. I will run it by the son before disposing of the tapes, but you should have seen the C. o. T. U. when I stacked them by the Goodwill stuff. He began to hyperventilate and perspiration formed on his upper lip. I could see I was in for a struggle. “Babe, you don’t want these—we don’t play tapes anymore.” “Let me just see the titles,” he pleaded. “It doesn’t matter—where would you play them? You’d hate the sound quality. What’s the point?”
He gave up a little too easily. I’m going to check those boxes in the morning. I bet he’s squirreled them away in his workshop. Along with his bell bottoms, his madras shirts, and his Bass weejuns.

The old carpeting may go, but the time capsule remains.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Modesty and the Universal Law

Ponder this: I'm visiting my daughter and her wonderful family out-of-town. My son-in-law admonishes my (soon-to-be 3-year old) grandson not to go into the bathroom while Grandma's in the shower. I'm fine with that, but even if he did, what's the worst that could happen?

If he saw me naked, it'd be a lot like seeing his mommy coming out of the shower, only saggy and baggy. He'd get a good first-hand lesson on the aging process.

In fact, if Sir Isaac Newton at age three had seen his Grandma coming out of the shower, he probably would have discovered the Law of Gravity a whole lot sooner.


But you knew that...

I'm just saying...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear So and So,

Apologies to the blogger who inspired the notion of using Fridays to address certain wrongs committed by fellow inhabitants of this planet on which we ride. I am currently travelling, and have intermittent computer access, and slow internet connections, or I would link you up to the muse who planted that seed, and give her due credit. Alas, I will just have to promise to provide that information when I have returned to my home base-- soon!

With a tip of my hat to the above-referenced blogger, here are a few “Dear You-Know-Who-You-Are”s:

Dear Chick-in-the-Pittsburgh-Hotel-Lobby,
What in the name of God makes you think it’s okay to come down to the communal breakfast in your jammies? You are not at home. This is not your kitchen. This is, in fact, the equivalent of a restaurant. Would you go to the IHOP in your pajamas? Would you go to Denny’s in your nightgown? Good grief, I would hope not. Especially in this particular pair of jammies that are thin enough to display your womanly assets in more detail than is truly appropriate for the young children present. Personally, I think the female form is totally beautiful, but I truly don’t care to see yours displayed in this setting. Time and place, Cookie. Think: context.

Dear Funky-Lady-Seated-Next-to-Me-on-the-Plane,
For all the money in the world I cannot imagine why you would not turn off your CrackBerry even after two announcements requesting ALL of us to do so by the flight attendants. I turned off my iPod (wait while I adjust my halo), and no doubt dozens of other passengers turned off their phones and other devices.

When the attendant walked by and I asked her to help you with this decision, you got really snarky. Your brash, “We’re not gonna crash, lady!” struck me as rather peculiar. I really rather wonder what it is that makes you, a 60-something traveler with her hair in a pony tail and her panties in a knot, think that you know more about the aeronautics and avionics involved than the FAA. Oh wait—could it be because you’ve continued to use your PDA when it should have been turned off on other flights that did not crash? Hmmm…

Fortunately, the cabin attendant spoke sternly to you and stood there till you actually turned it off and put it away, but you, the offending offender, sniped at me, “You could have just asked ME to turn it off, you didn’t have to tell her!” I said, “They’ve made two announcements—why would I think you’d do it because I ask you to?”

So next time you fly, what about just following the rules and assuming they have a reason for asking us to ‘power down’? Gee, thanks a bunch. I was hoping to reach my destination safely.

That’s it for today. I’m sure that there are a lot more people I’d like to tell off, but they’ll have to wait for another post. Meanwhile, I’m generally not a cranky person. I’m pretty upbeat, and mostly rather friendly. But I do know how to dish the snark, and I thank you for letting me do so here! And you know, it feels good!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Year Lingo - How Do YOU Say 2010?

A couple of weeks ago (good thing I found this scribbled note I stuck in my purse, and yes, I know I misspelled 'Siegel' in my note... Who knew?) I heard a feature story on NPR’s All Things Considered that really made me scowl. Permit me to vent.

The discussion was about whether next year should be called “two-thousand ten” or “twenty-ten”. BFD, right? But still…

Robert Siegel is the host of the program, and he interviewed four people: the secretary of state of Iowa, a man who runs a mail order planner/calendar business, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the art director of an ad agency in Portland, Oregon. Among them they presented both sides of the argument.

Now before I launch into my spiel about my thinking on this, is anyone else wondering why it’s more important to consider next year, than it would have been to ask whether this year should have been “twenty-oh-nine” versus “two-thousand nine”? I’m just asking…

So here’s the thing. Although both concepts had support, the gist of their interviewees’ opinions seemed to indicate that only “two-thousand ten” offers the dignity that we should accord this upcoming year, and that “twenty-ten” is basically too casual to be considered proper. I respectfully disagree.

Think of the most respected and esteemed years in our nation’s history. Columbus discovered America in_______. Class? Right—1492. Always “fourteen ninety-two”, never “one thousand four hundred ninety-two.” The year of our founding? Bueller? Exactly—1776. “Seventeen seventy-six.” No disrespect implied; we say it with pride and respect. And our last example: Party like it’s ________. Anyone? Of course—1999 “Nineteen ninety-nine.” Respect is front and center in all of those years, and the ones before and since. It has been our custom and our convention to name our years this way. What’s the big deal?

So where’s the real problem here? Yes, the ‘experts’ invoked both the movie “2001- A Space Odyssey” and the incredibly stupid song from the ‘70s, “In the Year 2525” as competing reasons for which way to go on this urgent and pressing issue of the day. But let’s decide soon—there are only twenty-two days left before the new year. Or should I say three weeks and a day? Or should I say 11/15 of a month? Or should I say 528 (five-hundred twenty-eight) hours? Or should I … Nope. I’m done.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Ten Deadly Warning Signs

As it has been written:

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
I am my mother after all.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Chenille Sisters do a fabulous song called, “Help! I’m Becoming My Parents”. They cleverly point out that while we love and admire them, we never thought we would actually turn out to be just like them. When it turns out that we are, we are not happy about it.

I’d like to think that I’m still in my prime –okay, I’d like to think that I sing like Susan Boyle, too, and that’s just another false fantasy—but I must admit that I see signs that I may be evolving (or devolving) into the people who gave me life. As a public service, I’d like to provide a list of the ten deadly warning signs of what I like to call Generational Creep.

1. You are no longer comfortable driving at night.
2. Some desserts are “too rich”. (See footnote: “Alka-Seltzer as a nightcap”)
3. Your idea of the perfect Saturday night is staying home.
4. You are preoccupied with your digestive tract.
5. You think other people are interested in your digestive tract.
6. You have at least one sibling you don’t speak to.
7. You need an afternoon nap in order to stay up for Letterman.
8. You worry about your children’s health insurance.
9. You think your children should be worried about your health insurance.
10. You want Velcro on your tennis shoes.

I think people my age are going to fight this “senior citizen” status till we’re blue in the face, even if it means shunning the all-important senior discount. We grew up in the ‘60s, and we invented sex, drugs and rock and roll. Of course, one look at Mick Jagger on stage should serve as a reminder that we are no longer young and vital. Maybe we can settle for “aging and vital.” Maybe we can settle for “we still have our own teeth.”

All I know is that it’s a slippery slope, and once you start putting pills into a 7-day compartmentalized container, you can just about bend over and kiss your youth, heck, kiss middle-age goodbye. And if you can stand up straight after that, the Motrin’s on the second shelf.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Yes, at last, I’m honoring the second part of my commitment to Nancy at f8hasit by bestowing the “Your Blog is Fabulous” award on the following five bloggers!

1. Susan at “A Walk in My Shoes” writes with insight and inspiration about her writing, and (like a good teacher) makes you think about your own writing. And she ties it beautifully into shoes in one way or another. Check it out, she lovingly makes you think!

2. Amber at “Airing My Dirty Laundry (One Sock at a Time)” keeps me in stitches with her recounting of life with two (totally gorgeous) kids and a hubbin in the military. She’s for real, and she provides a relaxing look at her life on an army post.

3. Amanda at “Mandajuice” is a remarkable writer who seems to have twelve plates spinning in the air at any given time. She is writing a novel, raising her kids, and keeping her husband happy, too. Her ability to share family life and the challenges we all face is uncanny!

4. JennyMac at “Let’s Have a Cocktail” is the most prolific blogger I know. She routinely posts six days a week, and they are truly all quality reads. She also has a habit of sharing some delectable recipes from time to time, and I can recommend several of them highly. She is a mighty clever writer!

5. “Swistle” writes about life with her husband and five kids in a way that you completely understand, yet leaves you spitting coffee out of your nostrils. She’s a total laugh riot and has a unique take on all phases of life. It’s a blast to read her blog.

So there you have it, my friends, the award goes to e) all of the above. Bravo to all of them for the wonderful job they do, and the joy and entertainment they provide. May I just say, to paraphrase the immortal words of the late Fernando, “Your blog is fabulous.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Playing Catch-Up! Thanks Again, Nancy!

The long overdue debt to the lovely Nancy at f8hasit is paid at last! Nancy honored me with the Your Blog is Fabulous award all the way back on November 11th, and I am overdue to execute the responsibilities of this award. Can she rescind it? Well, maybe if I get on the stick today, she’ll cut me just a little more slack…

But seriously folks, since November 11th I’ve traveled to Pittsburgh for a lovely visit with my son and the daffodil (remember: De Facto Daughter-in-Law), nearly burned to a crisp in a hotel fire en route home, (you read that post about ten days ago?) and hosted a gala Thanksgiving dinner here for 16, which (by my own rules) involved marathon cooking for days in advance. And the use of dishes which can not be put into the dishwasher. (Yes. I am nuts.)

So I’m just saying, I have tons of excuses for the lengthy delay…

Anyway, my obligation is to tell you of five obsessions, and to bestow the aforementioned award on five more bloggers. First, my obsessions.

1. Billy Collins. His poetry totally rocks my world. He can make me laugh and cry both within the same poem. He sees things with clarity and insight and shares them like a ripe peach. Oh, please buy his books, read his work, and worship him as I do. We will be the Billy Collins cult. And The Lanyard will be our anthem. Or The Trouble With Poetry. Or The Poems of Others. Or The Man in the Moon. You will so love this man’s work.

2. Fabric. I love everything about it. Touching it, turning it, cutting it, ironing it. Wait—maybe not so much the ironing part. I started sewing when I was very young, and fell in love with what I could do with fabric. Make myself a dress, make curtains for my room, later make clothes for my kids, re-cover seat cushions to my liking, make fun purses, etc. When I discovered quilting about twenty-five years ago, a whole new world of fabrics opened up to me. Great and wonderful colors and designs are out there, and there are new lines and designers coming along all the time. Amazing things can be done, and one can never have too much fabric. That is axiomatic. You can believe the bumper sticker She Who Dies With the Most Fabric Wins.

3. Justice. I know, this should have been first, not third, but I’m weak. I despise and detest injustice in all its many forms. I cringe, rail, and shake my fist in the face of any display of bias, discrimination or unfairness. I write letters to the editor, to my senators, to my congressman, to anyone I think can effect change in the face of some perceived wrong. I attend meetings, sometimes I organize meetings, letter-writing campaigns, or other means of protest when I think that justice is not being served. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and who are we if we do not speak up when we witness an act of inequality?

4. Reading. My earliest memories are of reading. It was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I have very vivid memories of riding the Elmwood-Darstdale bus to the Delmar Loop to visit our local library on Saturday mornings. I can (seriously) conjure up the smells of that wood, and the marble floors and the beautiful, and seemingly endless, shelves of books. I recall that I was allowed six books each week, and would read them over and over again until the next Saturday rolled around. I also remember that I couldn’t wait for my fifth birthday to come, as that was the day I was permitted to get my own library card. I printed my name on the line, and my mother attested to my age. This was perhaps sweeter than getting my driver’s license. A license to read. My driver’s license had more limits than a library card. I still couldn’t leave our metropolitan area at sixteen years old, but even at age five, with my own library card I had a passport to everywhere. I was reborn! (We should talk about The Elegance of the Hedgehog—have you read it?)

5. My kids. (Photos some other time!) Enough said. I’m getting ferklemt just going that far, so fill in the rest for yourselves. And this includes, of course, the grandkids. Sniff, sniff.

Step two: Bestow the award on five deserving recipients. For that, tune in Friday! This post has become a tome in itself!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Aura

What a week it's been-- marathon cooking and cleaning getting ready for the big celebration(s)! In addition to the regular responsibilities of daily life, prepping for one of the most labor intensive holidays of the year really ate up my week! I never expected to be absent for so long, but sometimes circumstances take over your life... in a good way, though.

So after sharing Thanksgiving Day itself with my brother and sister-in-law at their house, with all of her family included, we went to CoTU's sister and brother-in-law's house for the evening meal and celebration! A grand time was had by all. --and yet...

Because our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were coming in from Boston Saturday, we had planned another Thanksgiving at OUR house for Saturday night! So we had 14 adults and two kidlets, and as they say-- hilarity ensued. And I don't have to tell you, we had enough food for 300 of our closest friends.

Following are the remarks I made when we gathered everyone from the 87-year old in-laws to the 20-month old littlest one:

Since in the past I have been met with resistance when I ask everyone to share what they are thankful for I’ll make one of my own cheesy little speeches.

Let me just say that:

I’m thankful to still be here

I’m thankful to know that my husband loves me very much (and sometimes says so)

I’m grateful to have a gathering like this one, of family that can come together and share a special day (or within 48 hours of one)

I’m grateful for Dierberg’s (my wonderful local supermarket!) and America’s Test Kitchen

I’m thankful to have a dishwasher and a self-cleaning oven

I’m grateful to still have all my body parts, unlike so many of my dear, sweet friends

I’m thankful that my husband’s family has so completely embraced me and made me part of them

I’m thankful that two of our four kids could be here, with the special partners they brought into our lives (after all, in baseball two out of four is an awesome batting average)

I’m thankful for a beautiful little granddaughter who is with us (!)

I’m grateful that my brother and sister-in-law are here to help me hold up the Rubin end of the rope (Not THAT rope!)

And I’m thankful –and deliriously happy—to announce that our son Rob is going to marry the lovely and wonderful Jessica on May 23, 2010!

And then we ate ourselves into oblivion, and if you like, I'll post the link to the best apple pie recipe I've ever made! But I'm warning you-- it contains five pounds of apples! O. M. G. To die for! The pumpkin pie was equally awesome, and both owe their fabulosity to America's Test Kitchen! Did I mention their recipe for the world's best stuffing??? I should have!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks

Here we are at the start of Thanksgiving week, with only three workdays before the holiday. Of course, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, every day this week is a work day.

Work, as in plan the menu, make the grocery list, set up a timeline for all the chores so that you can use your best planning skills to assure that everything is done and ready to go when the big day arrives.

There was a time when I just made Thanksgiving happen without the timeline. I shopped, I chopped, and I cooked. Everything was done on time: the house was clean, the food was yummy, and a good time was had by all. Well, okay, not Uncle Billy, but he hasn’t been the same since he left the carnival… But I digress.

So as I was saying, I used to get it all done, while working full time, raising a couple of kids, and trying (against all odds) to domesticate my husband. What happened? I’m either not as good at multi-tasking as I used to be, or I just have more time to worry about getting it right, so I do. Worry, that is.

Now, unless I review each recipe and create a sub-divided and categorized grocery list, I worry about not having all the ingredients I need here in the house. (Hmm… let’s see, four eggs for the stuffing, two for each pumpkin pie…) Unless I figure out how much oven time each dish needs, and create an actual schedule for Oven Availability, I’m semi-frantic about the timing, and having everything done on time. I’m serious. If anybody needs to borrow my oven this week, I’m going to have to consult the grid I created. Picture it: My neighbor comes to the door and says, “Hi, my oven’s on the fritz—can I bake these brownies over here?” I pick up my clipboard, and a super-fine Sharpie, and say, “Gosh, Holls, looks like I could squeeze you in between the broccoli cheese casserole and the deep-dish apple pie. How’s 2:37 work for you?”

Last year, I took the advice of the experts and baked my pies early in the week and froze them. They were really wonderful, and it sure took some of the pressure off Thanksgiving day. This year I’m taking that to a whole new level. This year, not only am I baking the pies early, I’m making the stuffing ahead, too, since it always seems to taste better the day after Thanksgiving anyway! (Shh—don’t tell the stuffing—I’m tricking it into thinking Wednesday is actually Thanksgiving. Bwah-ha-ha!) I’m even blanching the green beans a day ahead, but then I always was a rebel.

I’ll have my two coffeemakers set up and ready to go, my table set, fresh towels, fresh flowers and fresh Uncle George all present and accounted for. I’m making three appetizers which (you’re way ahead of me on this one, aren’t you?) do not require the use of the oven! Great stuff like my famous black bean salsa dip with chips, BLT roll-ups and a cheese ball with crackers. This keeps the riff-raff spread throughout a couple of rooms, as they forage while waiting for dinner to be served.

It’s all a well-choreographed dance in three acts: snacking, gorging and why-did-you-let-me-eat-so-much.

Thanksgiving’s always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s inclusive of everyone and it reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for. When we all finally sit down at the dinner table, I make some cheesy little statement about how fortunate we all are. Humble murmurs echoing the sentiment are heard. That’s it. No gifts, no competition, no bills. Just family, food and lots of talking and laughter. Thank God for the laughter.

But when the last slice of pie has been eaten, and the plates are stacked in the sink, I will have another reason to be thankful: I don’t have to do this again for another year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Hot Time in the Small Town

Yes, I’m back from Pittsburgh (great city—great visit!) and only slightly worse for wear!

How so, you ask? I’ll tell you the story of our overnight en route home… I know, it’s only 630 miles from St. Louis, but we are old and odd, and we like to take some of the off-ramps into old, small towns to poke around in a bit of history. You have no idea how much fun some of the town squares and historic courthouses can be. Okay, not fun as in lots of laughs, but really interesting and worthwhile. Anyhoo…

From the minute we left Pittsburgh we were surrounded by rain, fog and gray skies. We didn’t feel as if we had any right to complain, because for five days straight we had been uber-blessed with gorgeous sunshine-y days, blue skies, and incredibly mild temperatures (for November.) Remember, I’m the weather wimp, and I was just wearing a light jacket the whole time. (Yes—I did have my winter coat in the car, just in case.)

So we covered about 430 miles, and decided to save the last 200 for the next day. We pulled into the lot of a nice hotel. Same chain we had stayed at for the previous four nights, so we might as well rack up some more member points, right? (Can’t stay with the kids in P’burgh—allergic to the grandcats.)

We unpack, go to dinner, come back to the room, watch a little CNN, go to bed. We both fall asleep instantly, but an hour later I hear this heinous alarm, and I think it’s the hotel clock-radio, so I yell hubby’s name. No answer. I yell it again. Still no answer.

I’ve always said he sleeps like the dead, but come ON! I yell his name a third time, panic rising, because how could he not hear this, and not hear me yelling his name unless he really WAS DEAD? I’m reaching for a light switch (strange room, where the hell’s the light?) and finally get my fingers around it and see HE’S NOT IN THE BED! My heart is now pounding so hard, I think they’ll need the paramedics for me!

At this point, CoTU comes out of the bathroom, covering his ears, and motioning for me to do the same. (Once an engineer, always an engineer.) “You’re ALIVE!” I shout, but he’s got his fingers in his ears, and doesn’t understand my panic, or that I thought that if we were depending on the paramedics in this little town, we might be a touch disappointed. Also a touch dead.

Now, the sleep is wearing off (noise at that level will do that to you) and we’re both trying to kill the clock-radio. We simultaneously realize that it’s the fire alarm, not the clock-radio, duh, and people are in the hall, heading for the exits. We pull our clothes on over our jammies, put on our jackets and shoes and head out with the rest of the ‘guests’.

We smell smoke, but no one seems to know what’s going on. Firefighters arrive, and begin poking around the place, but there’s no obvious fire. Finally one of the hotel guests, a portly gray-haired woman in sweats and sneakers points out that the ground alongside the front door of the hotel seems to be smoking. I might mention here that the aforementioned woman had no professional training for this work whatsoever. (Or so she said.)

After another twenty minutes or so of poking and testing, it’s decided that an errant cigarette discarded carelessly has smoldered in the dirt. The resulting smoke got sucked into the air system of the hotel, and set off the fire alarm. A hundred or more people are standing outside at 12:30 a.m. in their jammies, in the mist and drizzle, wondering whether they will get to go back to their beds and their belongings, or will wind up on a cot in the high school gym with a Red Cross blanket and a Styrofoam cup of coffee.

That might be more of a small-town view than we bargained for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the Road Again--Pittsburgh!

So I’ll be posting from the road for a day or two because I’m going to be visiting my son and his fiancé in Pittsburgh. I love Pittsburgh, but I adore my son and his fiancé more. I love being able to call her his fiancé now—after five years of thinking ‘girlfriend’ sounded too much like a high school relationship. I had come to think of her as my ‘de facto daughter-in-law’, and since I tend to make everything into an acronym (the blog is FITNY to me) I viewed her as my daffodil. (I was, however, savvy enough to keep this to myself.)

This was cool (and nerdy, I know—DUH! How many times must I tell you?) for several reasons.

1. I love daffodils. They are harbingers of spring. They are beautiful and graceful and bright. They represent happiness and hope.

2. I love this young woman. Yes, she is lovely and smart and sweet and caring. She is hard-working, accomplished, respected and highly principled. She has a social conscience and acts on it. And beyond all that, she adores my son, who adores her just as much, and she makes him happy. Which is really all a momma could want for her son. At least this momma.

3. I like playing dopey little word games. They amuse me. I love the Will Shortz puzzle segment on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday. Check it out.

Back to the subject: Wedding coming up in May 2010! Be there or be square—or in my case, be both. I’ll be the happiest mother of the groom (MOG) you ever saw!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Healthy or Unhealthy? The Eye of the Beholder

My husband, you remember him—the Center of the Universe-- is an eternal optimist. Currently he’s hoping for the return of the giant bacon and egg breakfast with fried potatoes as a healthy option. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to see that in this lifetime.

“Remember,” he says, hopeful as a little puppy who sees his leash taken off the doorknob, “they used to think that smoking was actually healthy for you! Now we know it causes cancer. They used to say that meat and potatoes were a solid American dinner. Now it’s considered unhealthy. They used to think liquor was a bad habit. Now they say you should drink a glass of wine every day. Chocolate was totally off-limits as ‘junk’ food. Now they say it’s so full of anti-oxidants that it should be its own food group. They used to recommend salt tablets for people working in hot weather. Now those have been taken off the market as dangerous. Sooner or later everything changes from the ‘Healthy’ column to the ‘Unhealthy’ column, or vice versa.”

“What is this, Sleeper?” I want to know.

You remember the old Woody Allen movie where he wakes up in the future, after having been cryogenically preserved for 200 years? He, too, thinks that a big steak dinner and a fat cigar are going to be recommended by doctors as the path to a long and healthy life!

Of course, this is the man who, when he gets heartburn after eating munchy appetizers, a big steak, baked potato (loaded), broccoli and apple pie a la mode for dessert, concludes that the source of his discomfort was the broccoli. Always.

If we go out for Mexican food, he can inhale tons of chips and salsa, a Margarita, the Mondo Combo plate and a fried ice cream dessert. When he’s miserable later, in search of the Alka-Seltzer, he assures me that the culprit is the apple he ate after lunch. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

So when second-hand smoke is pumped in to all hospital neonatal units because it’s deemed to be really good for healthy lung development, the CoTU will be eating like the love child of Bob Greene and Jane Brody. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Game Are We Here to Play?

Monday night was our monthly Bunco game. There were so many ‘senior moments’ I wonder if all of us made it home safely.

It was hilarious to see how often someone reached for the dice when it wasn’t her turn, failed to take the dice when it was her turn, forgot to write points down, and more. One player actually started to keep score from the top of the column instead of the bottom. (You had to be there.)

People forgot to get up and move to another table when it was required. People forgot to ring the bell when their team won. People forgot to eat their yummy snacks! --oh wait, no they didn’t… We ate. We do not forget to eat!

The errors got so bad we couldn’t stop laughing about them. I figure by next year at this time we’ll still get together on the second Monday of the month, we just won’t remember why…

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Blog Is Fabulous?

My heartfelt thanks to Nancy at f8hasit for bestowing the lovely Your Blog Is Fabulous award on me! I’m truly honored, because Nancy is no ordinary blogger. Her writing is truly extraordinary, and I’m consistently amazed at her work. So thanks, Nancy, and I’ll be carrying out the responsibilities of this award next week! Stay tuned…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Smells Like a Problem

What is the deal with perfume?

I wore Oui every day of my life for the past ten or twelve years. Let me just say that I tried it when it first came out and I’ve worn it ever since. Exclusively. I like to wear only one fragrance. It’s a thing with me. I wore only Alfred Sung for years before Lancome came out with Oui, and I got hooked on it. (Perfume dependency—is there a 12-step program for it?)

About a year ago our local stores stopped carrying Oui. I looked for it in the ‘closeout’ stores, thinking I could score some there, but no dice.

I am not without my resources, so I went on eBay and bought Oui. I’ve now done that twice, and I’m not completely convinced that, despite very authentic-looking packaging, it’s the real deal. In any case, during the past year I have made several forays into cosmetic departments looking for a suitable replacement for my treasured fragrance. Man, it’s a jungle out there…

I have sprayed and sniffed dozens (seems like hundreds) of fragrances, and haven’t found anything I like nearly as much as the much-loved, aforementioned Oui.

The Lancome website says it’s a combination of Clementine (citrus), water-lily and musk. It just smells perfect and lovely and fresh, and I’m totally out of it now, and will (DUH!) just buy it this time from Lancome, to be sure I’m getting the real McCoy.

But here’s what I want to know:

Why is it that when you put on the perfume you love in the morning, you never really notice it the rest of the day, yet when you spray just a touch of some “I’m All Yours-WannaBe” on your wrist in the department store as a test, you can’t get that smell out of your nostrils for love or money. You can wash your hands twelve times, and you’re still immersed in the pond of shpritz you sparingly tried on, hoping against hope that you’d fall in love with it. Driving over a skunk and getting out and sniffing your tires is the only way to eradicate the uber-sugary-rose-petal-gag-me-with-a-fist scent that seemed so innocent and appealing in its demure and modest bottle. (I’m guessing here—I haven’t actually done it, but I would if I encountered a skunk that was maybe in the final stages of some terminal illness anyway.)

But seriously, I try to just sniff the bottles, and not put any of the product directly on my skin. I mean, I can learn from my experiences. Usually I can tell I hate it right away, and move on. But sometimes there’s a tease, a little hint that this might be the one! Yeah, but it never pans out. Then I’m stuck with the Essence of Grossitude on my wrist till I find the next skunk with an advanced health directive and slow reflexes.

I’m just saying…

Monday, November 9, 2009

Slightly Off-Path

Today I'm going to take a slight detour from 'funny' to 'punny'. Well, not exactly punny, more like pundit-y. I'm going to post the 400-word column I wrote to compete in the Washington Post Pundit Contest. Bear with me-- more than one of my loyal readers sent me the link, suggesting I enter the contest, and guess what? I did not make the top ten. Oh well, my dad would have said, "C'est la vie, Baby!" But, hey-- I tried. So here it is, and I promise, next time it's back to funny!

I wonder whether President Obama has sent a thank-you note to Sandra Day O’Connor for his Nobel Peace Prize. After all, it’s widely agreed that a significant part of the reason the Nobel Committee conferred this honor on our neophyte president, is that he is not George W. Bush. So the Bush presidency set the stage for this lofty award.

Bearing in mind that Florida’s Electoral College votes determined the winner of the 2000 presidential election, and that there is broad consensus that the United States Supreme Court selected the president-elect by means of their Bush v. Gore decision. A 5-4 decision, with the deciding vote coming from –wait for it—Sandra Day O’Connor.

Yes, there were four other justices who voted to grant Bush’s emergency plea for a stay of the Florida Supreme Court ruling, halting the ongoing recount, but their votes were never in question. Justices Rehnquist, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas were solidly established conservative votes, rarely varying from the far right option. Justice O’Connor was the swing vote on that court, and could have just as easily ruled with the other four justices (Stevens, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg.) But she voted to stop the recount, and thus begat President George W. Bush, just as surely as if she had given birth to the man.

Now I don’t bring this up to besmirch the record of this fine woman. In fact, I’m quite a fan and supporter of her trailblazing record on the bench. The Big Bench. When President Reagan nominated her to that lofty post in 1981, I was the president of a local NOW chapter, and was therefore interviewed by a local radio station for my reaction to her nomination. Clearly, I was ecstatic that a woman would finally be a member of that august body, and tried to express that in my remarks. Later I rejoiced at her confirmation, and celebrated her distinguished service as an exemplary representative of her—our gender.

Over the years I have enjoyed her biography about growing up on a ranch and a memoir about her life on the bench, I admired her then, as I do now, for her intelligence, morality, dignity and sense of responsibility.

Does that mean I agreed with her on Bush v. Gore? Not on your life. But maybe she now gets some credit for the big prize going to our sitting president. That helps.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Name Game

Here, let me date myself once again. When I was a kid, little boys were named Jimmy, Johnny, Joey, Billy, Michael, David, Mark, Tommy and Steven. Okay, there was the occasional Timmy or Kenny, but I’m guessing these names covered about 87.3% of the boys in my school. (Did you know that 74.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot?)

When my kids were in school, the boys were named Jason, Todd, Matthew, Josh, Jason, Christopher, Kevin, Jason and Brian. Actually, they were all named Jason, but some rebelled and demanded to be called by one of these other names. Still, there was not a Billy or Jimmy to be found.

Somewhere in the ‘90s it seemed that every coworker of mine was giving birth to boys named Tyler or Taylor. Seriously, it was epidemic.

Now I have a grandson in preschool. Here are the first names of his classmates, and with all due respect to Dave Barry (the patron saint of humorists) I swear I am not making this up.


So. Are we naming our children for hotels, universities, credit cards? What’s going on here?

Yes, Daniel has appeared popularly in years gone by, and is a solid, traditional name. Interestingly, this particular Daniel is Chinese-American. My grandson’s name is Zachary; never trendy, so not dated, either. It’s never been tied to any particular decade of name assignation. Whereas I am willing to bet that if you hear the name Jason or Todd, you automatically visualize someone in the 30-35 age range. Am I right?

For a while Zach was in a class that had Aidan, Jaden and Braden. Really! How did the teacher keep them straight?

So what happened to tradition? It is gone. Rarely is the newborn given his father’s or his grandfather’s name. A little girl recently went up to a volunteer (older guy, o-b-v-i-o-u-s-l-y) named Bob in her school. She said, “I’ve never met someone named Bob before,” she shared. Bob wasn’t surprised.

So what does the future hold in store for us? Who knows? It’s hard to see the trends coming, but if the current names teach us anything, I guess we’ll see Hilton, State and Capital One. What’s in your wallet?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie

Remember how good “Tuesdays With Morrie” made you feel? Remember how it nourished your soul and your spirit and made you think about how you wanted to live your life and what mattered and how to handle run-on sentences? Me neither. Oh wait—no, I really do remember, and not just because I heard Mitch Albom speak here in St. Louis last week. (He has a new book out: Have a Little Faith. We’ll talk about that in a couple of days.)

So the only thing that could be better than all of the above, it seems to me, is Tuesdays With Dorie! Dorie Greenspan is a fabulous cook and baker extraordinaire! You may have heard her on The Splendid Table, an NPR show “for people who love to eat” hosted by Lynn Rosetto-Casper. Dorie’s latest book is called “Baking From My Home to Yours”.

If you still doubt the value of Twitter, let me just say that I would not have known about the Tuesdays With Dorie phenomenon if not for yesterday’s tweet by Scott Simon (“NPRScottSimon” on Twitter) – yes, let us never forget that I am the world’s biggest (and shortest) nerd—about Dorie’s “World Peace Cookies”. Now seriously, can you even read that sentence and not follow the link and plan to bake cookies called World Peace Cookies? I didn’t think so. Here’s what happened.

Yesterday Scott (yep, he’s my bud, I call him by his first name—um… don’t mention that to him if you see him) Tweeted about Dorie’s cookies, said they were the world’s best cookies, and insisted (all within his allotted 140 characters) that that was NOT hyperbole.
From Dorie’s website, here’s the précis on how they got their name!

I was given the recipe in 2000 by Pierre Herme, who had created the cookie for a restaurant in Paris called Korova and so, when I included the recipe in Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops, I naturally dubbed the sables Korova Cookies. I don't have the stats to prove it, but my guess is that those cookies were the most frequently made recipe in the book.
Because the cookies had become such a hit -- and because I was making batches of them at least once a week -- I wanted to reprise the recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours and had it all written and ready to go when I ran into my neighbor, Richard Gold, who couldn't stop talking about how much he loved the Korovas and how much everyone he'd ever made them for loved them too. "In fact," he said, "in our house, we call them World Peace Cookies, because we're convinced that a daily dose of the cookies is all that's needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness."
How could I not rename them World Peace Cookies!

I don’t know about you, but I’m baking today! Here’s to World Peace Cookies, and to World Peace! Hmmm… Why do I suddenly have the urge to watch the movie “Groundhog Day”?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Testosterone Poisoning

On my way out to do some errands yesterday, I encountered two of the finest neighbors I’ve ever been privileged to know chatting in the street. Not at all uncommon here on Divorce Court, the cul-de-sac of the second chance.

Lady J from next door and Lady H from across the street were having a confab on the concrete. Since for once I wasn’t running late for some time-specific appointment, which causes me to wave and drive on, I got a chance to stop and join them.

Lady J was quick to let me know that they were grousing about their male partners. “You won’t believe this,” she shared. Her husband, Sir K, had been on his wet roof the day before, blowing leaves off, when he slipped and fell off the house, spraining his ankle.

“OMG—he’s lucky he didn’t do much more damage,” I said, incredulous. (Bear in mind that Sir K is, shall we say, of a certain age, RETIRED, after all, and has no more business getting up on a slippery, wet roof than I do flying a 747.) I recounted the story of a friend of ours who fell from his roof about five years ago and broke multiple bones. Lady H chimed in, telling us of a neighbor a few streets over who fell off his roof, broke his neck and died on the spot! (Game, set, match.) Can’t top that!

Meanwhile, Lady H is furious with her significant other, Sir J, because he had arthroscopic knee surgery and won’t follow doctor’s orders to stay off it. “He’s gone to the bank, he’s up and around as if it never happened!” Having had the same surgery a few years back, she knows whereof she speaks. “We’ve had it with both of them! They’re crazy—are you ready to leave CoTU (you remember my hub, the Center of the Universe) too?”

“Come to think of it, he definitely belongs in the same club. He won’t get up on the roof, but he did take the leaf blower out on the deck the other day to get rid of the leaves. It started raining while he was out there, but he persevered and finished the job. When I came home he told me he thought he might be the first Electrical Engineering graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla to have his degree revoked posthumously!”

Yeah, have we heard somewhere that electricity and water don’t mix? Shocking, I’d say!

Notice that didn’t stop him from doing it.

We all kind of spontaneously rolled our eyes, shook our heads and threw our hands up in the air. We don’t understand why we can’t reason with them. Or maybe we do… It’s a guy thing. It’s the Y chromosome. You just can’t fight testosterone poisoning.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gracious Living Skills 101

I know, another post about manners? But seriously, I sometimes think that a considerable part of the reason that we, as a society, seem to be headed for a wild tumble off the ultimate cliff, is the decline of general good manners.

The loss of manners leads to loss of courtesy which leads directly to loss of respect. They’re like dominoes—they just fall, one after the other. Can we really afford to let this happen? It’s like when Lily Tomlin asked way back in the ‘70s, “Should we be giving up the ozone layer for Pam?” (The cooking spray, not Pamela Anderson.) I want to know, Should we really be giving up civilization for slam?

Anyhoo, this is why I’m so excited to present a pre-packaged course, written by my neighbor Betty Vaughan. It’s called Gracious Living Skills 101 (The Care and Feeding of Adult Children). There are no class fees, no books, no entry requirements like shots or prerequisites or long essays. The goal is to enable your adult children to come home, either for a visit or to live, while preserving everyone’s sanity. With the holidays coming up, you might find this veeeeeerrry useful. What follows is a somewhat abbreviated version of Betty’s course. Betty is not only very wise, she is very funny, and very much a product of the south. You will love her style!

Gracious Living Skills 101
AKA The Care and Feeding of Adult Children

The following FREE Seminar is offered to give our college age children a better understanding of what is expected from them this summer.

-We are old, and at least from your point of view, we have become more disgusting and set in our routines since you left the house for college.
-You, at least from our point of view, are not used to having any discernable rules or regulations governing your life.
-Please continue to treat us like we are your parents and not your roommates.
-The words “sir” and “ma’am” should still be somewhere in your vocabulary when addressing us.

-Cinderella, if you are going to be out after midnight, and I have not been informed of this IN WRITING, call me! A Note Board will be installed near the mail drop-off to more easily facilitate early, and I would like to stress the word EARLY, notification. You may also use the Note Board to post work schedules.
-The volume on late night music, TV, and sibling harassment must be low enough that it DOES NOT wake me up. Please use your critical thinking skills to determine if it is “late night.” If it is 3:00 PM and I am asleep, you may assume that it is indeed “late night” and QUIET HOURS have begun.

Sibling Harassment
-Please assume that it will escalate into something that is roughly the sound of a 747 trying to land in my living room.
-Remember, if you annoy your little brother and he wakes me up, I reserve the right to annoy you.

Note Board
-Please post your work schedule for me.
-If I have been given your work schedule, I should be able to determine if you are expected for church, dinner or Sunday lunch.
-If you are going to be traveling, it would be greatly appreciated if your schedule would include the part of the state, country, or world in which you are located on any particular day.

-We all agree that life is easier with electricity, gas, water, telephone, Internet, and cable service. In order to have those things, the bills must be paid.
-If you get the mail out of the mailbox, you are expected to put it in the basket on the blue trunk in the living area of the house.
-Remove only the stuff with your name on it.

-Think Green! My Green Money is a terrible thing to waste.
-Turn off the lights! Because some parts of my knee are not where they used to be, I find the lights left on in the basement to be especially annoying.
-If you are the last person to leave the house, please run through the house and turn off any lights, TVs, radios, etc. Please assume that anyone willing to break into our house can bring his own flashlight or find the light switch on his own.

Meal Time
-You are expected to eat dinner with us every evening, posted schedules permitting.
-You are also expected to eat Sunday lunch with us, posted schedules permitting. (See Note Board notice above)
-While partaking of the meal in our presence, you are expected to participate in witty, light-hearted, and appropriate conversation. (See Language section below)

-Your dad and I both attended college. We do understand that the rules of polite conversation can be a little more relaxed while you are dining with your friends. This is not the case at my home. Keep it clean.

Car Maintenance
-Your dad has graciously provided routine car maintenance in the past. If you would like this service to continue, you need to let him know in advance about things that are coming up, oil changes, etc. You also need to pay proper homage to him for agreeing to care for the car that you have come to think of as your vehicle.
-Remember: Jiffy Lube actually charges money for this service.
-You will be buying your own gasoline this summer. If dad somehow forgets this policy and gives you a free fill up, you WILL thank him profusely. If mom forgets this policy, she has lost the plot. Please get her immediate medical attention.

-No whining allowed.
-Be ready ON TIME OR have “work” on your schedule on the Note Board.
-If your “work” is of a fictitious nature, make certain that you are not still at home when we return from church.
-If we eat out after church and you are not at church with us, you have lost your FREE lunch.
-No! We will not pick something up for you.

Mouse Traps
-Think prevention! Please do not leave food out, especially in the basement.
-I think mice are gross, too. Dad can usually be talked into disposing of their little dead bodies. If Dad is not at home, I will grudgingly try to remove the dead varmints, depending on my mood and my blood alcohol content.

I am thrilled you are home; however, I am STILL NOT your maid.
We will all be working this summer and we will all have chores.
Minimum expectations noted below: (Please note, the word minimum means that I may assign other chores if the need arises.)

-You need to plan on being responsible for preparing, cooking and cleaning up one evening meal per week.
-PLAN AHEAD - If you give me enough notice and the meal is not too pricey, I will buy the ingredients. Otherwise, you need to plan to buy them on your own.
-If the meal that you choose is located at any fast food, carry out, or delivery place, you are responsible for ensuring that everyone’s needs are met with YOUR own money.
-Meals must appeal to a wide range of tastes and needs. (I still remember when you only ate chicken nuggets and hot dogs.)
-Hot dogs do not a meal make.

-If you wash my clothes, fold them NEATLY, and put them in my basket, I will return the favor for clothes gradually brought to the laundry room.
-If you put six weeks of clothes in the laundry room all at once, you need to plan on doing your own laundry, AND in less than a day.
-Clothes need to be put away in your room and your laundry basket needs to be returned to the laundry room. ASAP
-The lost sock container in the laundry room is for socks that have actually LOST a mate, hence the name. It is not for an entire load of socks that you do not want to take the time to match.
-If your clothes need special care, you are the perfect person for the job. Do not place them in the laundry room or I will treat them like they are mine.
-A Dry Cleaning business is located at the bottom of the hill. If YOU pay them a small fee, they will be delighted to care for any special needs items that you have. I, on the other hand, will not do it for any amount of money.
-If you notice that we are running low on Tide or Downy, write it on the shopping list.

-Clean at least once a week - I will assign days if you feel you need the structure.
-Vacuum floor weekly - If you break the vacuum, you will fix it. Otherwise, I will pick out a new vacuum and YOU will purchase it for me.
-Take out the trash
-Change the sheets on your bed at least every other week.

-Clean up after yourself!
This includes, but is not limited to:
-Wiping down the table and countertops,
-Putting dishes in the dishwasher, NOT IN, OR NEAR THE SINK, and
-Putting away the CLEAN dishes, if applicable, (This means actually bending over, removing the dishes from the dishwasher, and putting them on the proper shelf/drawer.)
-Actually placing trash in the garbage can.
-If you use the last of something, write it on the list.

Bathroom Assignments:
Firstborn: Downstairs Bathroom
Dreaded Middle Child: Blue Bathroom
Youngest: Green Bathroom
Mom: Master Bathroom
-Clean at least once a week – Again, I will happily assign days if you feel you need the structure.
This includes but is not limited to:
-Replacing the toilet paper ON the actual roller, (If you are assigned a bathroom, this is your job in that particular bathroom. Since everyone in the house uses TP, I really don’t care who used the last of the TP, so don’t waste my time by telling me. Seminars on how to change a roll of TP, which I have given in the past without charging a fee, are now only available for a small fee of $125.00 CASH ONLY - PAID IN ADVANCE.)
-Cleaning the inside and the outside of the toilet,
-Cleaning the shower,
-Cleaning the floor,
-Cleaning the sink,
-Cleaning the mirror,
-Emptying the trash,
-Dusting things that need dusting, and
-Vacuuming the floor - Again, if you break the vacuum, you will fix it. Otherwise, I will pick out a new vacuum and YOU will purchase it for me.

Living Areas
-Leave them in better shape than you find them.
-If you do not like to pick up after men and children, please do not date.

Care and feeding of Your Brother
-He may be mine, but guess what, so is the house you are living in. Everyone living at home helps out.
-Once a month, each child over the age of 16 will keep/feed/transport/entertain said brother so your dad and I can have an actual date with each other.
-You are not invited to go on those dates. We will be flirting with each other. We are out of practice with flirting and much more direct with each other these days. We are also slightly hard of hearing, therefore; frequently, we will flirt loud enough for the people at the next table to hear. I am 100% certain that you would be too embarrassed and nauseated to hold your meal down, so please don’t ask if you can tag along.
-Brother will continue take out the trash and feed the dog. He will also continue to clean his bedroom with help. In addition, he will also begin cleaning the Green Bathroom without help.

The above rules are only the tip of the iceberg. Please do not, through any words or actions on your part, force me to amend the existing rules or make new rules.

I really do love you all,

Isn’t that just the most inclusive, incisive and witty course you’ve ever taken? Now take out a number 2 pencil, we’re going to have a short quiz. No we’re not. But if this doesn’t help you when the college kids come home for Thanksgiving, your problem runs deeper than I thought… Maybe Betty will take you on for some private counseling!
Oh—and if YOU are the adult child going home for a visit—these are excellent rules to remember!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Totally Awkward Tuesday

In tribute to the delightful, but sadly missing-in-action Tova Darling, here is my Totally Awkward Tuesday...

I have a history of back problems. Fortunately, if I’m careful about how I move and the things I lift, I can go for years at a time without it flaring up, but every once in a while, it’s one false move and I’m paralyzed with pain.

And one false move can be anything from how I brush my teeth to moving a piece of furniture. Of course when your back goes out, people always ask you how it happened, and it would be oh-so-satisfying to say “Skydiving.” But as you know, I do value the truth, and besides who would believe me?

When that disk bulges I have often been sent to physical therapy for relief. It has always worked wonders for me, and anything that keeps me away from surgery sounds good to me.

So a few years ago, my back goes out. Let’s just say I was neither brushing my teeth nor skydiving at the time. Leave it at that, okay? The doctor sends me to physical therapy three mornings a week; I get the earliest appointment at 7:30 a.m. so I can go directly to work after the session. Yes, I get in a little late, but I work through lunch or stay late to make up for it.

I shower at home, and dress in sweats and sneakers so that the therapist can apply the heat to my back, and put me through my delicate paces without wrinkling my work clothes. I leave home taking a garment bag with my suit, business-type blouse, panty-hose, jewelry and grown-up shoes. When I get to work, I lock my office door and change my clothes—voila! Transformed from borderline-cripple to middle manager.

This works great for the first week and a half. Then. One. Day. I go to work, and my staff is already busy doing their thing, except that there is a mini-crisis at the front desk. I put my garment bag and purse in my office, and come back to the front to problem-solve, and effectively (if I do say so myself) put out the brush fire.

Feeling pretty good about the day, I go to my office, lock the door and change. Sweats off, pantyhose on, blouse on, skirt—hey, where’s my skirt??? It should be on this hanger with my suit jacket. It’s not. Oh—my staff! There are a couple of jokers out there, and I’ll just bet that while I was distracted at the front desk, one of them came back and kidnapped my skirt just for sport!

I put the sweatpants back on, unlock my door, and call the primary suspect back to my office. She denies everything, but she does snicker and giggle at the idea. I reluctantly go to the desks of a couple of other possible perpetrators, dressed like a professional from the waist up, and like a cat burglar from the waist down. Everyone proclaims their innocence. I’m screwed. I have a whole day of meetings and work in front of me, and no choice but to wear my hybrid pro-cat outfit.

I think about hanging a sign on my door that says “No skirt, no service.” But I know it would be futile. Life must go on, even if you’re not appropriately dressed for it. I do get two meetings changed from another person’s office to mine, just so I don’t have to parade in front of more people than necessary. But I take a lot of ribbing about it for a long time.

Yep, when I get home that night, I find the skirt in the closet on a separate hanger. I never do figure out why I hadn’t hung the skirt and jacket together, but I also never leave home again without checking the hanger twice.

And that, dear readers, is my Totally Awkward Tuesday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bunco! --and thanks to Stephanie

First, may I offer my (dare I say?) heartfelt thanks to Stephanie at Steph in the City for bestowing the “Heartfelt” award on me. I am humbled, and delighted to be the recipient of this lovely honor!

What is bunco? Well, my brand of bunco is a game, played just for fun (well, maybe some prizes or money changes hands—I really couldn’t say for sure, according to my lawyers, Nolo, Contendere and Machiavelli. But it’s not a swindle or a scheme that deceives people into parting with their money, as defined in the dictionary. Or is it? (Index finger thoughtfully tapping chin.)

Bunco. One bell, three tables, nine dice, twelve women. (Okay, sometimes we are as few as eight women at two tables, but you get the idea. Or maybe you don’t. Stay with me.

Four women sit at a table. They are two sets of partners, not unlike bridge. If there are only three women at this table, two are partners and the third plays with a ‘ghost’, because unlike bridge, there are no dummies in bunco. (Ouch!) And although you think this is all just a brain dump, I can prove (sort of) that I did a bit of actual research for this post: In 1924 Hoyle’s Standard Games published rules for bunco! Hah—and they say journalism is dead…

There are three dice on each table. At the ‘head’ table there is a bell to designate the start of the game. Sounds simple, yes? Yes. Round one, you are playing for ones. (Subsequent rounds are also played for the target number—round two, roll a two, etc.) You roll the three dice, and for each die that comes up a one, you get a point for your team. (If you didn’t roll any ones, the turn passes clockwise.) You keep rolling as long as you get at least one point. Play proceeds around the table and continues till one team at the head table gets 21 points. When that happens, they ring the bell, and play stops at all tables.

Fine points: three of a kind, any number is called a mini-bunco, and is worth five points. Three of a kind of the target number for the round is a bunco, and is worth 21 points. So obviously if someone rolls a bunco at the head table, the round ends. Meanwhile, teams at other (less worthy) tables can end up with fifty or sixty points sometimes, waiting for the head table to reach 21. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. On the other hand, sometimes a round ends so quickly one table may end with a 4-3 score.

Details: You play four sets of six rounds. After each round the two women who lost move to the next table. The two who won stay, but one must change seats so that the two who won will not be partners in the next round. This goes on all evening till the 24 rounds have been played, or until a certain player (nothing personal, Jane) is too drunk to sit in her chair. Meanwhile, snacking is mandatory, and an impressive and yummy dessert is served when the games are over.

One more sign that actual research was conducted: Some groups play a variation of bunco called Wipeout. In that game, you never play a round for ones, only twos through sixes. Then rolling three ones is called a wipeout, and the team who rolls one loses their points for that round, and starts over at zero. Sounds like fun!

Scoring: Points are not accumulated beyond the round, so you just keep track of wins and losses, and of course the number of times you BUNCO! Prizes and or cash may or may not be awarded (we might each pay $5 to participate) to the player with the most buncos, the most wins, the second-most wins, and the least wins. Sore losers are not tolerated, and gloating is to be expected. In fact, in our group it has been raised to an art form. (You know who you are.)

Comments will be withheld on a certain player’s sister who visited from California, a total bunco newbie and scored an unheard-of, unprecedented and record-shattering FIVE buncos one night. She won the [imaginary] jackpot, not that we’re bitter!

My daughter has asked, “What is the deal with bunco?” Loosely translated this means, “Are you embarrassing yourself in front of people who know me?” The answer is, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. No, wait, that’s something else. This answer is, it’s not the game, it’s the stupidity.

Which just means that it’s THE PEOPLE you like to hang out with, and laugh with and have fun with. The older we get, the more important it is to have fun with people who don’t mind if you act a little stupid once in a while. Or even a lot stupid, because FUN is so very vital to our well-being and mental health.

I look forward to the second Monday of the month to get together with this awesome group of friends and have a fun time catching up on everyone’s jobs, families, ailments, pets, car troubles, travels, etc. We recommend books, tv shows, movies, and restaurants to each other. It’s a total gabfest, and the game is just a vehicle for the mixing and schmoozing. We range from a young mom with a 3-year old, to the retired grandmothers of tweens. We are women, and we know how to have fun!

So here’s my shout-out to the women who make bunco the party that life is meant to be: Kitty, Donna, Liz, Karen C., Karen P., Sandy, Nancy, Melissa, Boni, Carol, and our permanent substitute Joan. Y’all are the best. Let’s all hum Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, okay? ‘Cause you do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

The truth is very important. “The truth shall set you free,” comes to mind as a widely-quoted aphorism about truth. But that’s from the New Testament, and we don’t all ascribe to the New Testament, so let’s go to a more universal source: Hollywood. Ah, the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”. Say it with me, “You can’t handle the truth!”

But there are more wonderful truisms about truth that we don’t hear all that often. Here are a few of my favorites:

“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” --Abraham Lincoln

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” –Gloria Steinem

“Truth is our element.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Like all dreamers I confuse disenchantment with truth.” --Jean-Paul Sartre

“Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this except that it ain’t so.” --Mark Twain

"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." --Harry S. Truman

Okay, you get it—I value truth. But who among us doesn’t say that they do? We all say we do, but we each walk a different path. For some of us, truth is concrete, inflexible and rigid. For others, everything is subject to molding, forming and shaping. Sometimes to make it more beautiful, sometimes to make it less painful, and sometimes to save our sorry hides.

I’m pretty sure I only lie when the purpose is to spare someone’s feelings. The answer to “Do you like my hair?” should never be “Yes, it reminds me of that psychotic character on The Muppet Show.” Never. So I manage to say something complimentary, and omit the raggy, sticky-outy, neon-orange colored references.

My life’s partner, however, the love of my life, the Center of the Universe, the one I married, and pledged all my love and allegiance to, has a slightly different view of the truth. He sees it as just one more arrow in the quiver, and uses it to his best advantage. (Oops—all over America women’s jaws are dropping and eyes are rolling as they utter one laconic “Duuuuh.”)

Don’t get me wrong—when it comes to business and industry, commercial and economic exchanges this guy is Mr. Clean. He would surely rather do himself great bodily injury than lie, mislead or misrepresent in any form or fashion. This I would literally stake my life on, as would anyone who knows him well.

But when it comes to domestic matters his moral requirements shift slightly. And by ‘slightly’ I mean like an avalanche is a slight drift of snow.

His weak spots fall into three categories:

1) Food. Did I finish the cookies? Um, I’m pretty sure there were plenty left when I last looked. Okay, this is only officially ‘true’ if you were blindfolded when you consumed the other half of the box.

2) Messes. Did I spill the salt? Knock over the detergent? Leave a teabag in the sink? Man, that looks like Rob’s work to me. Right, Rob who hasn’t lived here since 2003, and wouldn’t drink tea with a gun held to his head.

3) Lascivious intent. Whaaaat? No, I wasn’t trying – I didn’t mean—I had no intention at all – I was only-- Uh-huh. Save it for someone who believes you.

“So, Hub,” I advise, “Never try to tell the big lie—you can’t pull it off.”

“I wasn’t lying,” he insists. “Maybe I was a little metaphorically aggressive.” Oh no… Abe Lincoln is rolling over in Harry Truman's grave.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lost Weekend

OMG, wake me when I’m sober, I mean when it’s over!

I just survived (on VERY little alcohol, I might add) what turned out to be almost 72 hours with almost the same number of my husband’s fraternity brothers plus spouses. Forty years after leaving college (a nationally-renowned engineering school in the Missouri University system) these aging baby boomers gathered here to reminisce, reunite, and remember what they experienced at Rolla, Missouri in the 1960s and ‘70s.

We began with a happy hour that turned into dinner and beyond on Thursday night with one couple who came in from two states away (Indiana) for the occasion, and another couple who recently moved back to St. Louis after 41 years in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The men kept telling each other how little they had changed, and the women tried to keep straight faces. I love these women!

One of the couples had gotten married when they were in college, so everyone but Mrs. Indiana and I had lots of memories of the campus, the fraternity house, and the escapades that went on in that den of iniquity. It was a terrific evening that was filled with great stories of days gone by. My own husband’s abs hurt the next day from laughing so hard over dinner.

On Friday we met the same couples and a handful of additional brothers who were arriving from New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Kansas City and more. We gathered in the hotel bar at about 3 p.m., moved into a restaurant for dinner, and hung out till nearly midnight. The crowd grew as more and more of the old fraternity members showed up to relive old times. Everyone found it hard to say goodnight.

The Saturday bash was the main event. One of the alums had rented the clubhouse of his subdivision for the day, so the party started at about 2 in the afternoon. Hours were spent poring over the old house scrapbooks, exclaiming over how young everyone was FORTY-SOME years ago! Most of us had to admit to putting on weight, although there were some notable exceptions. (Go, Kenny and Chuck!) The party was punctuated by a slide show that provided a nice walk down memory lane.

People were kind to each other, but there were numerous observations of the ubiquitous receding hairlines, disappearing hairlines, and expanded waistlines. The clothes we wore, the neckties, --scary stuff!

Party Weekend—the recurring theme that the ‘boys’ wanted to dwell on. The one weekend per quarter when they brought dates to campus from St. Louis, or Columbia, or wherever they could find them for a bash at the fraternity house. There were virtually no females on their campus, so the girls were highly prized upon arrival! Of course Purple Passion, Spolioli, kegs of beer, and Colt 45 played a large part in their festivities. Has anything changed?

Raucous laughter reigned throughout the evening, and although some occasionally found themselves arguing over politics and the state of the world, it was all done with respect and consideration for the other guy’s viewpoint. And it was all done to the backdrop of a soundtrack put together by my hubby—great Motown sounds, Simon and Garfunkel, and the hits just keep on comin’.

By the evening’s end (close to midnight) a chorus of men, once young, stood arm in arm and sang their old, nearly-forgotten fraternity songs. (Lyric sheets had been provided to help failing memories!) I had become fast friends with the Indiana wife with whom we shared dinner on Thursday night. (Yo, Phyllis!) We planned to meet for breakfast Sunday before they (and most of the others) had to hit the road.

Eight of us met next morning for yet another meal, and there was never a break in the conversation. Lots of catching up to be done before we all said goodbye. And there was one more final goodbye to be said.

One of the chapter’s founding members had suffered a massive heart attack a week before the reunion. Just before that, however, he submitted his “personal info update” to the scribe who put together a spiral-bound book of short bios, most with photos. Dave’s was the first page of the book, and he was clearly looking forward to being a part of this weekend’s activities. Sadly, he passed away Friday afternoon, and his presence was sorely missed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when our host tried valiantly to read Dave’s obituary. To the eternal credit of these guys, those who could turned out in that Sunday sunshine to pay tribute to their lost brother at a poignant and touching graveside service.

It was a good reminder to love each other well, make every day count, and not wait 40 years for the next reunion.