O, to be in England . . .

“O, to be in England                                                                                                                          Now that April’s there”

The words of Robert Browning jumped out at me the other day from the pages of a book I was reading.  I was looking for some poetry that would be uplifting, inspiring, or anything warm and fuzzy.  Mr. Browning’s “Home Thoughts, From Abroad” (read the full poem at the end) makes me just a little jealous of an English spring.  Temperatures in London this week are up in the 60s.  We’re not even going to break 40 degrees and a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for tonight.

O, to be in England.  It’s warm, if not exactly fuzzy.  Unless foggy counts as fuzzy.

Here, we’re all thinking about our gardens and wondering if we’ll get them in by May (or June!).  The recent rains have melted a lot of the snow and there are nice big patches of lawn and garden showing where ten days ago they were covered with at least a foot of the white stuff.

Bare Naked Lawn

Bare Naked Lawn

Garden Patch

Garden Patch

The sidewalks around the houses are ice-free (yippee!) as are the gutters out in front.  No more “slip-n-slide”.   Or broken bones.

Ooopsie!

Ooopsie! Fall down, go boom.

Now that I am thinking about gardening, I’ve decided I won’t take a plot, or what the English call “an allotment”, at the Community Garden  this year.  Instead I have some packets of herb and veggie seeds for a kitchen garden.  I want to step outside my back door, snip a few fresh basil leaves, twist off a perfectly ripe tomato and rush them back inside for a Caprese Salad or plateful/plate full of bruschetta.  Fresh baby peas, pencil thin green beans, a variety of herbs, and cherry, grape and Roma  tomatoes…everything I want within an arm’s reach.  That’s the general idea, anyway.  This week the little seeds go into little pots and onto the windowsills.  With a little TLC and a lot of luck I should have my little kitchen garden in full swing by June.

Or July.

No later than August, surely.

O, to be in England.  Or at least to have a British accent . . .

If I had a British accent I'd never shut up!

If I had a British accent I’d never shut up!

 

Home Thoughts, From Abroad                                                                                           Robert Browning

Oh to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge -
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower

Posted in Food, Garden and Home, Gardening, Poetry, Quotes, Spring | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Colour Purple

I love hearing about young people getting involved in or starting organizations that help others.  This morning I found another one that certainly deserves some attention.  “Purple Day”, March 26.

Purple Day” was started by a young girl in Nova Scotia, Canada, Cassidy Megan.  She was nine years old when she began her quest to increase world-wide awareness of epilepsy.  I wish she had been around when I was younger.

In my teens, I went to school with someone who had epilepsy.  She was beautiful, smart, talented and, because of her epilepsy, she scared the living daylights out of me.  Like so many others, I was ignorant about epilepsy.  My fears were unfounded, but back then people didn’t talk about “things like that”.  It was spoken of in whispers.  Decades later, in 2008, Cassidy came along to stop the whispering.

It is now six years since Cassidy started Purple Day and there is a wonderful website, www.purpleday.org, with links to partner organizations that can help people understand epilepsy. The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia website http://epilepsyns.com has information for those who have epilepsy, and important information about what first aid to give someone having a seizure. It is crucial to know what to do and what NOT to do in these instances.  Please click on the link above and take a look at how you can help someone in distress.

Another Purple Day partner organization is The Anita Kaufman Foundation, http://akfus.org/.  Their goal its to educate people about and  eliminate the fears associated with epilepsy.  Take a minute to check out their site.  It’s well worth your time.

Thanks to Cassidy, there are Purple Day events all over the world. Dances, dinners, walks-a-thons and runs, purple cupcake sales, purple popcorn sales, raffles, seminars…the list goes on and on.  

I’ll be wearing purple on Purple Day, Wednesday, March 26, in support of Epilepsy Awareness and hope some of you will, too. 

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Hot Diggedy (Corn)Dog!!

Saturday was National Corndog Day!!! 

I recently came across the National Corndog Day website and I was hooked!  Quite simply, every once in a while I get a violent craving to have a corndog!  I had my first one at the Los Angeles County Fair way (way, way) back in the early 70’s.  Paired it with a cup of freshly squeezed and sweetened lemonade and I was over the moon!! (The L.A. County Fair now even has a blog called “Hot Blog On A Stick”!  )

Once I found the NCD website, I checked around and found out that the largest hot dog chain in the world, Wienerschnitzel (they have great chili dogs!), was having a special: 2 corndogs for $1.00.  And I missed it! 

Now that I know corndogs have THEIR OWN DAY you can bet your sweet bippy I was celebratin’!  It was a last-minute decision, so I didn’t get anything too fancy.  Only the basics.  And if you want to celebrate National Corndog Day next March, you’ll need just a few things:

You’ll need some corndogs, naturally.

 DSCN9463

some tater tots (remember, mom always says to eat your veggies and I say taters are veggies!)

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and some Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (traditional, according to the NCD website) or your beverage of choice; I chose lemonade for nostalgia (see above).

 DSCN9477

Now, you’re supposed to be watching this weekend’s college basketball while consuming all this fair fare, but I watched the Britcoms instead.  The menfolk were gone, it was girls night in, and mom had the remote! 

Life is good.

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Spring Sprang, or Did It?

Yesterday, Spring arrived.  At least, according to the calendar it did.  I’m finding it hard to believe. 

Spring, maybe

It’s not much different from the day before yesterday.  It’s still cold with some nasty wind chills and there are mountains of plowed up snow everywhere and more snow on the way. But, . . .

Shoots

Shoots

I can see teeny-tiny shoots of things coming up in Mother’s garden.  I see bare patches of mousy-brown lawn.  I hear itty-bitty birdies twittering at sun-up.  But, . . .

Spring?

Spring?

The days are below freezing and nights are still dipping into the teens, several inches of ice remain in the gutter in front of the house, and the frost level is now down to 8 feet underground (and will probably go lower!).  But, . . .

Shoots again

Shoots again

Dawn is earlier, dusk is later.  The light is lighter and the air is airier. Faces are happier, smilier.  But, . . .

But, but, but, . . .

"I wonder where dem boidies is"

“I wonder where dem boidies is”

What I’m saying is, to me it isn’t that spring has sprung.  It’s more like spring is slowly uncoiling.   And I’m uncoiling with it.  Slowly.  Very slowly.

Spring, sprang, sprung.

And now, something to make your face a little “smilier”….

“A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing!”

.

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First You Burn It . . .

It’s early.  Not yet dawn.  And I decide I want to have some tea and toast to start my day. 

I grab the bread and put two slices in the toaster.  While they’re toasting, I get out the electric kettle and fill it with water and plug it in.  So far, so good.

Then the toast pops up and it is way too pale for my liking.  It looks like it was passed over a candle once on each side, so back into the toaster goes for another minute.  Now, I’ll just get out a cup, the Earl Grey, a spoon, and . . . wait!  What’s that smell?!

Burnt toast!!  I hate burnt toast with all those nasty little carcinogens!

What to do, what to do?

Aha!! (I often have “aha” moments, although I more often have  those annoying “senior” moments…ask my family)

Anyway.

Aha!! I’ll make “Grandma Grimm’s Toast”.

Grandma Grimm’s Toast” was invented when my own grandma was having her third child, my Uncle John.  Her other two children, my Mom and my Uncle Dick, were at home being cared for by her mother-in-law, Mrs. Grimm (who really WAS grim!).

When my grandma got home and back on her feet, she was making breakfast one day and Uncle Dick asked her to make toast the way Grandma Grimm made it.  How did Grandma Grimm make toast?  Uncle Dick explained, “First she burns it, then she scrapes it off.”

Grandma Grimm’s Toast.  A (not-so-) favorite family recipe, handed down through generations.

Scrape, scrape, scrape.

Music to scrape your burnt toast by:

 

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Mom’s Vegetable Salad Mold

This weird recipe for a vegetables-jello-tomato-soup-cream-cheese-salad-mold needs a better name.  It is a recipe given to my mom by her aunt, an old-maid-schoolteacher, who couldn’t cook but who liked to tell other people how to cook, most especially if they were cooking something she was going to eat.  

Mom made this quite a lot when we were all still kids at home.  None of us actually ever ate it.  Think about it…jello and tomato soup? Vegetables?!  The idea was pretty repulsive to us kids.  Add to that the fact that I could not (and still can’t) eat bell peppers because they give me heartburn.  The minced celery didn’t seem too bad an idea, but the onions and cream cheese were iffy, if you know what I mean.  Don’t forget, we were just kids, and to us this was a pretty “out there” dish.  So, mom would make it to take to potlucks or to work for sharing with grown-ups. 

Fast forward a bazillion years to one morning last week.  I am doing most of the cooking for her now, so I asked if there was anything special she wanted me to make for her dinner and she handed this to me. 

 Handwritten recipe

I was going to have to make the dreaded VJTSCCSM. 

Gathering all the inner strength I could muster, I gathered all the ingredients,

Ingredients

Ingredients, more

did a bit of mincing and dicing,

Veggies

and boiled the water.

water boiling

Assembling everything was all that was left to do. 

Add the boiling water to the lemon Jell-o,

DSCN9406

mix in the whipped cream cheese

DSCN9407

and the tomato soup (which I forgot to get a picture of, naturally). Then chill until partially set.

DSCN9411

Add onions and celery (at this point, I put some of the mix in a small bowl for myself),

DSCN9413

and bell pepper.

DSCN9417

Mix well and put back into the fridge until completely set.

DSCN9422

I have to say that after trying this without the peppers, I discovered it was not as bad as I’d led myself to believe.  It was quite good, in fact. So much so that I made a second batch a few days later just to be sure I wasn’t mistaken.

I wasn’t.

My personal little bowl without the nasty bell pepper . . .

DSCN9421

Not bad, not bad.

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And Not A Drop To Drink

This winter weather has been a lot like “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at Disneyland.  Snow, ice, rain, high winds, brutal cold.  Sometimes all in one day!  The recent severe cold has caused an unusual problem for many cities and towns.  Frozen pipes.

I’ve had frozen pipes before.  I thaw them out with a hair dryer then leave the faucet running at a steady drip until the cold goes away. It runs up the water bill some, but is less costly than calling in a plumber to repair a burst pipe. 

That’s bad, but lately it has gotten worse.

NOW lateral water pipes into buildings are freezing!  The frost level in the ground is about 6 feet deep and getting deeper.  The utility company issued a blanket order a couple weeks ago for everyone on the city water to leave one faucet running a thin stream of water the size of a pencil lead in order to prevent those laterals from freezing.  If those pipes from the house to the city water freeze, homeowners will be responsible for repairs.  Okay, pencil thin stream of water coming up.  Or going down…the drain. 

running faucet

That lasted a few days.  Then it was discovered that the pencil lead thin stream was not enough.  Pipes were still freezing in some places.  So we’ve now been directed to run a pencil-sized stream of water twenty-four hours a day until further notice.  Weeks at least. Maybe months. 

I have a couple of buckets and I wanted to try and save some of the water and find other uses for it, but one bucket filled up in minutes.  I don’t have many houseplants and they don’t need watering every day.  I can use some of the water to flush the toilet and some to run the washing machine, but 99.44% of it will still go down the drain 

If I had a bigger backyard I could throw buckets of water on it to make a mini skating rink.  If only I skated. 

I could pour some into plastic lined boxes and let it freeze into blocks for ice sculptures.  I’ll need to borrow a chainsaw, though. 

If I fill up some milk cartons they could go in the chest freezer to take up the empty spaces.  All three of them.

All this wanting to save the water is a “pipe” dream anyway because I have a little problem with one of my buckets…….

Water, water everywhere.

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two days later

This is the fourth year of National Haiku Writing Month, or NaHaiWriMo, and I didn’t even know it existed!   Haiku is one of the shortest forms of poetry and February is the shortest month of the year…it’s a perfect match!

I write poetry when my muse nudges me.  Next month is the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. The news in the days that followed was stupefying.  The loss of life was unbelievable, destruction of towns and villages on a scale unheard of,  the photos and videos nearly hypnotic.

Two days after the tsunami I read and listened to interviews of some survivors and the seeming calm of the people struck me forcibly. Their soft-spoken words told tales of terror and tragedy that made my heart clench in a way no shrieks or screams could.  Five survivors in particular caught my attention.  Their natural eloquence amidst the horrors heaped upon them was the impetus for me to write.  Here are their stories:

two days later…….

1

earth water chaos

teahouse of the super moon

adrift in the sea

2

where are my parents

I had them here in my hands

swirling gods took them

3

tsunami was black

and I saw people on cars

old ones swept away

4

teared up while looking

the newly built home erased

“This,” she said, “is life.”

5

in a four-ton truck

you can sit inside and pray

as the trees sweep past

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Cloudy With a Chance of Groundhogs

It’s 3:45 a.m.  I’ve checked the weather for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and I am reasonably satisfied that delightful creature, Punxsutawney Phil, will predict an early spring.

He’d better.

I’m running out of places to put all the snow I keep shoveling.  And the ice.  The ice!  Layer upon layer of ice on the driveway has been my nemesis for the last month.  As fast as I can chop and shovel it away, it comes back.  After working on the same spots all month, I started experiencing weird feelings of deja-vu and the desire to hit something other than ice.

I’m pinning all my hopes on Phil.  He’s our only chance.  If he doesn’t see his shadow, it will all be over soon.  If he does, well, I won’t think about it now.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.   If tomorrow ever comes.

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A Big Chill

We’re gearing up for a big chill in the upper midwest.  Last night the wind was howling and hurling itself at the house like a sumo wrestler attacking his opponent.  The windows were rattling so much I was very afraid they’d shatter into eleventy-jillion pieces.  I was running around half the night checking for cracks in the glass because I just KNEW I’d be sweeping up all eleventy-jillion pieces before morning.

Finally, the wind died down some, and I was able to relax and go to sleep. But guess what I have to look forward to?  Yep, more wind.  And to make it even tastier, some more snow and a bit of a dip in the temperature.  In another day or so, the overnight temps will drop to about 15 below zero with wind chills of 40 to 50 below!  I probably won’t notice the cold because I’ll be keeping warm.

Running.

Running around the house.

Running around the house checking to see that the pipes aren’t freezing. Running in and out of the bathroom to check if the water in the tub is running (the only thing that should be running and it quits at the least little hint of arctic weather!)   Running down to the basement with a hairdryer to thaw any frozen bathtub pipes. Running back upstairs to turn off the tub faucet once the water is running again.

That’s a heck of a lot of running.  I don’t like running.  I’d rather do something else.

Maybe instead of all that running I could dance during the big chill.  Maybe something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86GA4JnW7x4

I can chill out and stay warm all at the same time!!  Sounds like a plan to me!

Where ever you are, stay toasty.  Or chill out.  Or both!

Posted in Garden and Home, Nature, Weekend Edition | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment