Perfection

In a moment the dog will awaken and stare me into taking her out and feeding her. I’ll have to darken the rooms with shades because the sun is now behind the clouds but will come out in moments and make our home very hot.

The few remaining dishes from yesterday will have to be cleaned and breakfast will be made by me for my husband and our dog.

Perfection is what my mother wanted. I took violin, ballet and piano lessons for it yet I’ll never be perfect. No-one can be perfect.

We deal with our imperfections. I’ll never be the owner of the top Michelin star restaurant in the world yet I cook for my husband and family.

I’ll never write the JD Salinger novel or figure out the next step to Bucky’s geodesic dome. Yes, Buckminster Fuller, I knew him.

Striving to make the best pizza crust to serve at home I am lucky to find secrets from people who I keep secret.

My mother tried to make me perfect, walking with a dictionary on my head. My father always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. No-one is perfect.

Today I try to get crosswalks painted and have standing pools of mosquito-breeding grounds stopped. They are small steps but stairs lead somewhere and I’m not looking at elective office, just an opportunity to make a difference and to sleep one night without being bitten by these mosquito-like creatures that are flying by my window.

Spring is here. It’s time to contact the right people and have that standing water drained, as it was in the railroad days. Dee

Mistakes

First of all, never try a new dish for a dinner party. I haven’t made that mistake for a very long time. My rule was always to try a recipe first (unless I make one up, and I try it first as well) as written.

Now I had this surprise dish that turned out to be OK, not great, for my Texan husband. The butchers had to talk to each other to figure out the best cut of meat for the Chicken Fried Steak. I ended up with top round (on sale) and hit it with the heavy flat pounder before messing it up with the Medieval cruncher.

My mistakes were: substituting rice flour for regular, but the seasonings of garlic powder, ancho chili powder, salt & lots of pepper were spot on; substituting buttermilk for milk; and not using eggs. The batter just didn’t adhere as it should.

Sometimes I think cooking allows one to make mistakes. I know that whatever I make will taste good, it just may not look perfect. Neither do I, so for 13 years I’ve had a “guinea pig” husband to try things out. Yes, he’s gone from man caves with one frozen dinner (from his mother) and a 72 oz. Dr. Pepper and individually wrapped string cheese with wrappers going from the frig to his computer, which he made from scratch of course. The computer, not the cheese.

Now he critiques everything I do in the kitchen and even helps out sometimes. Don’t worry, I always set him up with everything on the other side of the island. That’s why we always have to have an island, and comfy stools to sit on. But as a string cheese maven, he now opines on 4-5 year cheddars and says I made him a food snob.

The good things about the night’s dinner were my first milk gravy, which is really just a bechamel sauce with lots of freshly ground pepper. My mashed potatoes were terrific. And I decided to saute the baby arugula in olive oil with chopped garlic. I loved it. He called it a bit “stout” in flavor. At least we had some green on the plate and I tried the steak but the potatoes and veg and sauce were my game.

Thank you Ree and Trisha, for giving me Southern inspiration for my Texas guy. Tomorrow I’ll turn Trisha’s biscuits that I messed up a bit into gold. I’ll halve and toast them, cook up some sausages, make eggs and I made a whole extra cup of gravy that awaits re-heating.

What cowboy doesn’t like biscuits and gravy? Dee

Texas

and the South, of course. Of late I’ve availed myself of other than my treasured cookbooks, gone back to at least my husband’s old favorites and become in a cooking rut.

I love to learn new-to-me recipes from people like Trisha Yearwood and Ree Drummond as they seem to really cook and have a passion for new and old family recipes. My husband is born & bred Texas, a farm boy who loves his meat and potatoes.

He was sick last weekend and recuperating after a long week so I’d like to make him a surprise. Yesterday I tried Trisha’s biscuits and though I’m a trained cook they didn’t turn out so well. They taste great but I had to use buttermilk powder and that may not have worked. The flour and veg shortening came together well but I had to add extra milk. They kind of looked like hockey pucks.

Immediately after they cooled I placed them in a sealed bag in the freezer. What I plan to do for breakfast is a toasted (unfrozen) biscuit with a sausage patty and egg, with cream gravy.

Thanks to this morning’s show with Ree I know making white gravy is as easy as falling off a horse – I know because been there, done that. And I make bechamel a few times a year, but hopefully “Pickles” is finally gone now after decades and throwing me across a creek then tossing me into a sandbox and running home, sending a dinner party to see if I was OK while only my pride was struck, and I never rode again.

A lifelong animal lover who worked over 20 years in shelters and spay/neuter clinics horses sense my fear. I did get over it this past year in part, petting the largest horse I’ve ever met, a Percheron. Percherons were sent into war because they were so large and intimidating. Next is getting me to ride a horse. Perhaps this year.

Hopefully my husband won’t read this today because we have to get two things today, a utensil (under $5) that I’ve wanted for years, and raw frozen dog food. OK, then I’m going for groceries alone.

For dinner, I’m taking him back to TX with my first-ever chicken fried steak, my garlic mashed potatoes, and perhaps an arugula salad with grated black beet on top with a vinaigrette to be named later. Ree, let me hit a home run on this one.

A tip for cooks everywhere. You’ll probably see staff in the produce department. Ask them questions. Get to know your butchers (I can’t get to know my fishmongers because my husband is deathly allergic to anything that swims so I can’t even cook fish at home). If there is a cheese department get to know them and your shopping will be easy. You’ll only have to go into the inner aisles for things like olive oil, rice, soy sauce, jam, flour and sugar.

For those who celebrate Easter, and every reader, enjoy this day. Dee

 

Chopsticks

I called Nanny to tell her what a wonderful, marvelous, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious grandson I married. Today, I figured out that Mary Poppins dropped in and left some fairy dust behind that made our childhood street a wonderful place to live.

My husband usually gets off work and comes home around 7:00 so when he called (I was walking the dog and of course, forgot my phone) it was shortly after five and he was very ill.

I think it was food poisoning, certainly not intentional but I looked after him all weekend. He’s allergic to anything that swims so if someone dunks his french fries in oil that has been used to fry fish… that could do it.

While I normally cook, he was well enough to go out Sunday afternoon and got me some spicy tuna sushi. He forgot the chopsticks. Luckily a kind waitress at a local Thai restaurant, after hearing he did not use chopsticks, had fashioned a set with rubber bands that one would give a three year-old. I took off the rubber bands and used those.

So what did I get in the mail? A set of five Chinese bamboo chopsticks hand painted with Peking Opera facial masks.

A week after we met we talked marriage in a hypothetical way and I said it was always about the marriage, not the wedding. I also told him it was unfair for a potential wife to get an engagement ring. We eloped, but only because my parents were divorced and it was unfair of me to ask them to sit in a small room together.

As to jewelery, we got two matching rings for our wedding, I’ve two magnetic golf bracelets to stem my arthritis, a pair of earrings I’ve worn day and night for over ten years and last year, a silver Claddagh ring I’ve always wanted.

No diamonds, I married mine. As we go through life together I’ll remember that he doesn’t want me to carry in bulky or heavy stuff, so orders it online. And he bought me chopsticks when he doesn’t eat fish. This one’s for Tommy and all the birthday parties we had in our garage. Pin the tail on the donkey up there, kiddo. Dee

Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane

We knew she vanished somewhere. Sometimes we got mail from all places, disconsolate spaces where children were sad and parents were well-intentioned.

He played the piano, and we sang along, I thought that my harmonies would always belong.

Mary came to visit, another street, it was our own and a great place to meet. She placed me together with mentors and friends, we all played ball and stayed ’til the end.

The end has come for one of our friends. Let us remember him as a kind gent. He gave us whimsy and science and nice, let us give our friend his own kind of spice.

Radio chatter is not my game, SOS is all that I can avail, but this was a master the Navy says too, farewell MB and we all love you. To Mrs. MB and Don, Dee

PS Don, I’ll have to work on the lyrics, this came from the heart.

Mentors and Nice Pets

Let’s start. We’re nice pets to have. I was very upset when I started our taxes and we were getting money back. Then we got the second W-2 after the company changed hands and we owed money. I thought there was a horrible mistake, then I went through the 100 questions and figured it out.

We pay a lot to live here, if we had kids they’d be off to college or if younger, in private school if we could afford it. Otherwise our kids would be going into a sub-par school district. We pay a lot and don’t use the service so we’re a good pet to have around. So shave a couple hundred dollars off the taxes we already gave you and we’re good to go.

***

As to mentors, of course there were my parents. Still my Dad (Mom’s gone nearly 6 years now). I never thought I had any but they are there throughout my life. Even as a kid I knew I didn’t want to vacuum in pouffed hair, a dress and heels but Mom was smart.

Other than parents, before I was eight I’d gotten two mentors, MR and GG. Both were educated men who taught me about science, radios, philosophy, psychology and more. MR allowed me and my little sister to come over once a year to watch Dorothy change the world to color with all the Munchkins and go to Emerald City. GG taught me the word triskadekaphobia which means fear of the number thirteen.

MR died recently. It’s good that we got to see each other a few years ago. I know he led a good life with wife and family. I’ve had other male and female mentors to be spoken of later. Right now my thoughts are with our old neighborhood and friends. I wasn’t allowed to cross the next street so our street had seven homes on it so as far as mentors were concerned, I was blessed.

Dad would be called on every night for two-base softball in our back yard or touch football in the street and everyone, all the girls, played because that was his rule. When it was dark everyone went home and slept soundly. The street will never be the same. MR, I don’t know what your handle was but may it be retired in your name, sir. Dee

 

Old Dogs, New Tricks

A few years ago we heard about dogs predicting seizures especially in young patients who adopted these dogs and could lead a better life.

Why would I be surprised this week that dogs can sniff out cancer. In the US, dogs are reviled as leaving poop behind and misbehaving around people of all ages and other dogs. This lasting impression of dogs and their owners is not correct.

Nearly everyone who takes their dog for a walk or to a park to socialize with other people and their dogs is a well-trained dog. My dog is ten years old now, and she’d be a good hospice therapy dog but will not be allowed because she eats frozen raw food. I offered to create a training and volunteer program for a local rehabilitation hospital (mostly older folks and some car wreck youth) and tried three times and after meeting the volunteer coordinator she never called back.

Everyone in the neighborhood knows our dog, Zoe. People I don’t even know pet her (my husband and I usually take her out separately) and say her name.

I truly believe dogs have a bond with humans and their senses that go way beyond ours, including sight and smell and if their senses can catch a seizure or heart attack when a child’s mother or father may have taken five seconds to stir the tomato sauce we should think again about making dogs a part of the family.

Part of the family means being allowed to fairly share public parks with others through a number of mechanisms. My dog is ten now, and she’s a hit with everyone. Many shy children have started to open up just because Zoe did a trick for them or walked on the leash for a few feet with them holding that leash. One child never talked to me until now after months seeing Zoe and asking “where’s your dog?” Now I ask him about school and what he learned today.

Cats, on the other hand… I love them dearly but cannot have one in the house because of my husband’s allergies. Years ago Alzheimer’s facilities started having therapy cats. Right now we have Zoe and want to make sure her senior years are well spent. Cheers to therapy dogs and cats and the folks who made this happen! Dee

 

Sugar

Neighbors. I always envision them coming to me for a cup of sugar. I don’t bake, but do cook, and never have 25 lbs. of sugar on hand. But nobody asks me. It’s urban America and few neighbors want to actually meet and get to know each other. I’ve made more acquaintances here at a dog event where my dog aced every cerebral event and turned up her nose at dunking for hot dogs. A Yorkie did it and she gave up her snout to water and a chunk of hot dog. Whoopie!

When I was ten my class went to the local radio station on a field trip. On our way out we were each given a random “single.” Mine was “Sugar, Sugar.” Oh honey honey, you are my candy girl…. It was my first record and I’d like to thank the DJ who gave it to me. The station only gave them to us because they were old and they wouldn’t need them anymore.

Music was always a theme in my life because my father started his younger years as a violinist and music teacher. My first single I purchased with my fifty cent allowance was Mother and Child Reunion. I read that this name was based on a Chinese restaurant dish but was about Paul Simon’s dog who had died.

My first album was Three Dog Night, One is the Loneliest Number was my favorite dirge at the time. That was stolen from me weeks later. Oh, well, my memories are still intact. Dee

Privacy and FOIA, Vol. II

I’m up early because the dog got off the bed for a couple of hours then wanted back up. Just call me Otis, the elevator inventor. I lift our hip-less wonder at least twice a night now. It’s OK, she’s ten, a joy, and deserves that attention.

While struggling through my thoughts years ago balancing freedom of information and open meetings, vs. personal privacy, I did come to my own ethos on  the matter.

It depends upon circumstance. Right now I’m dealing with a standing water issue that will last for six months until the snow starts again, then it will freeze. It is on a trail right below that is lovely except I won’t walk on it alone with the dog because of last summer’s daytime sexual assaults. It used to be a railroad track and had drainage which Texans call bar ditches, to drain off water from rain and snow from the tracks.

Last year I called the County Parks and was told that these former drainage ditches were protected by the federal government by the MMPA, the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The only active breeding program there is mosquitoes. No porpoises or manatees or blue whales live in that 4″ of fetid, garbage infested water.

So I called the CDC, EPA, my local Congressman and others. So far, no help. I looked up our county and they’re having coffees in different neighborhoods to place their finger on the pulse of real people (or get re-elected). Guess what?

The county has not had great attendance at these coffee events. Why, you ask. When one asks for information every website is non-functional. Talk about freedom of information and open meetings laws. Now they’ve got free coffee and don’t have to talk to constituents. Guess who pays for the free coffee? We, the taxpayers.

I was also tasked with privacy. I didn’t fight back when the government wouldn’t allow me access to police reports of a car that swerved into mine, legally parked on the street, and sheared the left front tire from the axle. Hit and run. I paid the entire cost of my car to have it repaired because I couldn’t afford another car as I was working to protect FOIA/Open Meetings and privacy.

When I speak of privacy, it was primarily so that banks, cable tv (new at the time), insurance, health care and others were not blankly sending out records on their customers. Much has been done in health care with HIPAA since then.

I do have a beef, though, with the NSA recording this and all of my phone calls and mail for “national security.” The so-called patriot act eviscerates our Constitution for a lot of our money and no gain for US citizens. I also believe CIA and FBI have blurred lines when it comes to spying on us.

While my government career is now behind me those were heady days. I worked hard and there was actually a disco in the neighborhood, but I preferred the quiet piano bar/restaurant. There I met a lot of lobbyists and learned how to ask an old elected official who was trying to pick me up, “so how’s Mindy doing in art school?” That brought him back to his bearings and thinking about his wife and daughter and kept me safe.

I’ll get the mosquito issue taken care of, and I took care of the politicians, while quite naive at the time. There were lobbyist receptions nearly every night when they were in session, and as we worked long hours and made little money we had to eat and it was best if free. Talk to me about consumer affairs vs insurance in free food sometime. Dee

Typing

There are more ways than one. First is sorting people by type at first glance and making a decision before a word is spoken. Second is the infernal machine called a typewriter, now called some form of computer.

When the typewriter was invented it was surmised that only men could achieve mastery of this device. The pay was high, then the guys got bored and gave the job to women, thus making it a pink collar job with a cut in wages.

When I graduated from high school my dear Aunt L gave me the 1957 portable Smith-Corona typewriter that helped her through college and to become a venerable teacher. It was the first year anyone made a portable electric typewriter and I still have it and move it everywhere we go. It’s very heavy and now goes for $6 on E-Bay but I’m keeping it.

I was the envy of the dorm and after I wrote my paper I lent it out. I should have rented it just to pay for ribbons! Now I can’t even find those. After college graduation I was advised by several prominent women to never let anyone know I could type, lest I be assigned a secretarial role. Sexism. That was before computers.

With a potential book in my head I wonder if I should exchange my keyboard for the old Smith-Corona. I think I’m too prone to computer editing to do so, sorry. I don’t think there’s enough white-out in the world for that debacle.

Typing of another kind comes to mind. If I was asked about family I’d say we are intelligent, some book-smart and some street-smart. While our parents weren’t necessarily progressive, they were tolerant of differences and encouraged us to be so as well. That said, I didn’t meet a black friend until freshman year of high school, or my first gay friend back in grade school but I’d no idea and just protected him from his sister and mine and other students because he was being verbally abused. I didn’t know about such things so had no clue, only that he needed my protection.

I thank my parents for my education in many ways, and tolerance is high on the list. When one is labeled as a gangster, druggie, gay, mentally challenged or called any religious name in a bad way, you get the picture.

In grade school I took the mini-bus. We lived way out in the country (five miles out of town) and our bus picked up all the farm kids. It took a long time so we had to get to our bus stop early. When we pulled into the school all the other kids said we were on the “retard bus.”

One day two boys in a large family of boys took my hat. I was eight years old and stood up in the aisle while they threw my winter hat over my head several times then ripped it in half. As we pulled in I was crying and the lady who made sure all the buses and all the kids arrived safely at school took me aside and took me to see the principal.

The principal made me identify the boys and I did, all the while wondering if I could ever take that bus again, in fear of my life. The next day everything was fine and the F boys never bothered me. My neighbors, two large families with a dairy farm down the hill, were more in number, strength, might and right to make our school bus a model for all to see and I don’t think they even had to throw a punch. They saved me and my little sister. I love farm boys, especially from a dairy. I married a physicist who grew up on a dairy farm.

Now there’s another type or label, farm boy or geek, or both. Perhaps my book should be about this. Gals want the hunk in English class who is getting passing grades because the prof knows he needs to get them to play football next season. I waited a few years and polished the rough edges from a diamond who brings everything to the table and has been my best friend for over 12 years. He once had only Dr. Pepper and individually packaged string cheese in his refrigerator and he now opines on the difference between four-year and five-year cheddar. Yes, I created a food snob.

That person, my dear husband, was not content with my laptop. Over my objections he got me a large monitor, arthritis-friendly mouse, and wireless keyboard. I fought each one and now cannot live without them, or him. Please type on your phone, whatever you do but create something. And please do not judge a person summarily.  In hope of a better world, Dee