Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Merry Christmas!

When I was a little girl, my five brothers and sisters and I were allowed to choose one “big gift” from Santa in the Sears gift catalog. We were comfortable, but since we were a large family, we all understood that by “big,” Santa meant $5.00 or less!

Actually, this was just fine by us, and Mom filled in with books, pajamas, and simple stocking stuffers. I know some people who tell me they spend thousands on each child, and I find this so sad; we were more than happy with our little gifts and I truly believe we felt the true spirit of Christmas much more deeply.

Nonetheless, one year something totally unexpected and thrilling rolled down the chimney. When I came down Christmas morning, a gorgeous shiny green three-speed bicycle stood at attention under the tallest of the tree’s branches. It was for me!

Oh, how I loved that green bike, and I rode it up and down our dirt road for many years.Best Christmas present ever -- thank you Mom and Dad!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Seamstress's Prayer

”...As the pieces come together, help me sew seams that are straight, so that nothing tears apart or unravels; and when it does, show me where and how to patch with just the right touch...” 
The Seamstress’s Prayer by Jay Hanley

I saw this on a lovely blog which I just discovered, Content in a Cottage. The poster, Rosemary, is one of those people who makes me sound like the sister in the movie, Notting Hill, who tells the famous actress played by Julia Roberts: "I feel -- and I have done for some time -- that you and I could be best friends." Here's to my new cyber-bestie, Rosemary, for sharing this, because I love this simple prayer. And we all know the words are so true for much more than sewing, don't we?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Daffodils Abloom on Cape Cod

Yes, thanks to the warm winter, 

the sweet daffodils are up. 

Time for a little Wordsworth, 

don't you agree?


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
--William Wordsworth
Want more?
Here's a lovely recitation 

by Jeremy Irons.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ouiser's Words to Live By

Steel Magnolia" quotes by and about the weird and grouchy Ouiser Boudreaux
(played by Shirley MacLaine in the 1989 movie):

Clairee Belcher:. Ousier's never done a religious thing in her life.
Ouiser Boudreaux: Now that is not true. When I was in school, a bunch of my friends and I would dress up as nuns and go bar-hoppin'

He's a real gentleman! I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he PEES in it!

The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God.

Don't try to get on my good side, Truvy. I no longer have one!

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God.

I'm not as sweet as I used to be.

I'm not crazy, I've just been a very bad mood for the last 40 years.

I'm pleasant. Damn it! I saw Drum Eatenton at the Piggly Wiggly this morning, and I smiled at the son of a bitch 'fore I could help myself.

Clairee: Ouiser, you sound almost chipper. What happened today - you run over a small child or something?

I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don't see movies 'cause they're trash, and they got nothin' but naked people in 'em! And I don't read books, 'cause if they're any good, they're gonna make 'em into a miniseries.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mom's Chicken Pot Pie

This is just a simple homemade chicken pot pie recipe from my mother with a few variations. The mushroom, sherry and fresh parsley make this something I'd be happy to serve  to company. My mother would add her own pie crust or buttermilk biscuits, but I had an emergency crust in the freezer and it was time to use it. I also relied on store-bought gravy, but that's something Mom would use in a pinch, too. For the chicken, I broke down a whole chicken I'd roasted earlier in the week, but you could substitute leftover chicken breasts or even a rotisserie chicken from the market. I'll tell you one thing, though; after eating this, you'll never again want to taste a frozen pot pie.

Betty's Chicken Pot Pie

2-4 cups cubed chicken

4 medium potatoes, diced

3 stalks of celery, sliced

4 large carrots, halved and sliced

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoon rough chopped fresh parsley

2 cups or half a bag frozen pearl onions

1 cup frozen petite peas

2 jars chicken gravy

2 heaping Tablespoons stone-ground or grain brown mustard

2 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons sherry

Chop chicken meat and place in large mixing bowl.

Put saucepan with water on stove, and start prepping veggies, beginning with potatoes.
Cook potatoes in water until fork tender. Put onions and peas in bottom on colander. Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, and place in colander to drain over and defrost frozen vegetables. Place sliced carrots in water, and cook until they too are fork tender.

Meanwhile, in frying pan, melt butter. Saute mushrooms in batches in pan, making sure each slice has complete contact with pan to get nicely browned on both sides. When all mushrooms are browned, remove, and add celery, cooking until wilted. Add mushrooms, add sherry wine, and cook until liquid is reduced slightly.

Add vegetables, parsley, mustard and gravy to bowl with chicken. Salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. 

Place mixture in large casserole dish. Carefully center pie crust on top, and tuck the edges under to make a rustic presentation. Prick crust with fork. Bake 40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and crust in browned nicely.

I serve this with cornbread. Saturday night, we all took second helpings!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Writing advice

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday British equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbaric.

--George Orwell

Friday, January 20, 2012

How to Shop for a Husband

What I learned from "how to shop for a husband"

Copyright 2009, Judith Reppucci

Janice Lieberman, the consumer correspondent on The Today Show, has written a "consumer guide to getting a great buy on a guy." I found it funny, albeit only slightly tongue in cheek, and I think Janice makes a lot of good points. However, when I recommended it to my friend Jennifer, who's also dating, she said, "I know how to date...I'm sick of dating. Just tell me what it says."

Okay, Jen, so here it is. True, some of what Janice says, we already know, starting with choosing performance and value over packaging. I've always called this "substance over style," but, after all, she's going with a consumer theme. Anyway, before she was married, Janice told talk show host Charles Grodin that she wanted a smart, good-looking wealthy, athletic guy with a sense of humor.Grodin disagreed, and  told her that instead, "You want somebody who loves you, cares about your family, somebody you can trust, who's kind, and who wants children." I  agree with Charles. 

Let's start with all those activities you enjoy so much, which in Janice's case, seemed to be athletics. I can tell you this; you will like doing almost anything (within reason) with the right person. That doesn't mean I'm not still searching for a ballroom dance partner, but I guess I can get into golfing if it really mattered...

Another major point from Grodin: choose a guy with good guts. That means good core values. Values aren't flashy, and they take time to inspect, but you'll know them when you see them in a person of integrity and honor. He's kind to his mother, he's kind to your mother, doesn't abuse substances, and wants the same lifestyle you want I couldn't agree more; I had a date with a man who was mean to our waitress -- the curtain opened and showed his impatience and sarcasm. He's also the one who, to my wonderful dad's outrage, accepted my offer to help pay for dinner. Bye-bye, Palsy.

Next, Janice says check under the hood and buy a model with a powerful engine. You can compromise in other areas, but don't settle for a relationship without sexual chemistry. Okay, 'nuf said. Who wants a putt-putt?

Janice also recommends choosing the guy who's the male equivalent of the little black dress -- the one that you'll keep in your wardrobe and turn to for years. The qualities she lists as aspects of "keepers" may be a bit controversial, but, hey, I'm just reporting the information. Here are the male LBD requirements:

1. He's a little less attractive than you.
2. He washes the dishes.
3. He lets you have your way.
4. He's college educated.
5. He's not Type A.
6. He earns more money than you.
7. He's not hyper-sexual, overly kinky or surrounded by hot women at work.
8. He's not an isolated, grumpy or generally unhappy person.

I can hear the outrage already, but, again, if you want to debate this, please get the book and read Janice's explanations.

Okay, now on to what might be one of the more important chapters; Using the dressing room mirror. Janice says that according to research on what makes a happy marriage, the more similar people are in their values, backgrounds and life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage. So look for someone who is most like you in looks, wealth, social status, educational level, family background and personality traits. This is featured in several of the on-line dating programs, including eHarmony. The five "mirror images" we should be looking for are:

1. Extroversion. Your levels of sociability should match. If he's a party boy, and you prefer the home life, rethink.

2. Agreeableness. Easy-going or constant pain in the patotey? If you play well with others, it's best that he does, too.

3. Conscientiousness. How responsible are you? A slacker mentality won't mix with a control freak.

4. Neuroticism. In other words, don't choose Woody Allen unless you're Annie Hall.

5. Openness to experience. Adventure skier and heirloom sewer? Probably won't work.

Are you liking this? There's a good chapter on communication skills, but I'll skip to the last chapter in part one, advice from those in long-term marriages. I loved this chapter, because there were a lot of surprising characteristics that I knew subconsciously (note that the first item is FOOD!), but have never seen mentioned before.

But, in general, the good news is that the couples in healthy marriages believed that, once you had found someone with the good guts, the little black dress qualities, the mirror image characteristics, etc, it doesn't -- yes, they said doesn't -- take all that much to make a happy marriage. A lot of options, like taste in music or appreciation for fine wines, don't count for much. But some factors that do matter? Big breath: Food (See? If he's disinterested in food, he just should step away from my clan of Italian cooks.), education (it should be fairly similar), degree of love for the outdoors, whether or not he likes your friends (um, he should like them), where you want to live, desire for children, money and sex. Less important, but still significant options include relative interest in sports, television and politics. Things that turn out not to matter all that much include interest in the arts, belief in working after children, your feelings towards his mother (ha!) and age differences.

Whoa. So, this wasn't a review so much as a recap, but I do think this book is a worthwhile resource. I hope my little overview helped those of us still looking for our true love. Let me know what you think!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Call to Arms: Let's use proper English!

Dear Fellow Bloggers:

I love you.  I love your generosity,your creativity, and your downright charm.

Please bear this in mind when I tell you that  I'm also completely dismayed by the appalling misuse of the English language among many bloggers. I'm amazed at the total disregard for proper grammar. Even those who tell us that they're homeschooling their children don't seem to understand the difference between "its" and "it's" or "their" or "they're." There's an bewildering use of improper pronouns, as in "Him and I went to church this morning." (Oh, and, by the way, that should be "He.") In among the wealth of resources, hapless readers stumble asunder on awkward phrasing, incorrect wording and even misused words and phrases..

Am I being fussy, nitpicking or overly critical? True, I've been a professional writer for a good portion of my life, and I'm so old, I  went to school when my major was called Journalism and not Communications. Nonetheless, I think language standards are important, even for nonprofessional writers. And I think we can do better. We all need to edit and proofread more. If you're confused about usage, check resources online or at the library. Take note of how language is used in newspapers of record like the New York Times or the Washington Post. Purchase the Associated Press Manual of Style or other grammar guides. My favorite remains the endearing and enduring "The Elements of Style, " the slim guidepost for writing clear, correct English. 

I know we can do better. Please, fellow bloggers, won't you join me in making the blog world a place where we can expect a high level of  writing and language?

I'll leave you with words from the preface of  the esteemed  "Little Book:"

Unless someone is willing to entertain notions of superiority, 
the English language disintegrates,
just as a home disintegrates unless someone in the family
sets standards of good taste, good conduct, and simple justice."
--E.B.White, The Elements of Style

With best regards to all,

* "The Elements of Style," by E.B, White and  William Strunk, Jr., is available for $10.00 or less. It's a clear, concise guide to the rules of English usage in literature, composition and grammar.