Low Maintenance

I needed some alone time so I left the kids with my husband and headed off to Walmart for some retail therapy.

I’ll let that sink in a moment.

As I was backing out of my driveway I noticed that winter salt and mud were making it hard to see out the rear window.  So I treated myself to a bucket, a bottle of spray, and a window cleaner.

Go ahead, ponder.

There was a time when wandering around the automotive section or fiddling with my car in any capacity would elicit multiple offers of help.  Yesterday I heard – more than once, mind you, “You could make a lot of money doing that!”

Yeah, I’m bringing squeegee back.

So I threw some nail polish in my cart.

A Soup You Can Chew

Where did I hear this story?  There were two guys.  One often dined with the king and ate sumptuously on rich food.  The other stayed home and ate humble lentils.  The first guy said to the second, “You should learn to be nice to the king so you don’t have to eat lentils.”  The second guy replied, “You should learn to eat lentils so you don’t have to be nice to the king.”

Lentils are tasty, nutritious, and yes, cheap.  Here’s how I’ve been enjoying them lately.

After we’ve eaten a roasted chicken we* put the carcass and whatever remains on it into a large pot with celery, carrots,onion, and a quantity of water and we simmer it for a few hours.  This makes a stock that is probably not as good as using a whole raw chicken, but still pretty good.  Then we pour the cooled stock into muffin tins and freeze it.  When it has frozen we pop the stock out of the tins and put them into a zipper freezer bag.  Label and use when needed.

My lunch for the past few days has been reheated chicken stock with a handful of barley and lentils.  I should sing the praises of barley too.  So much texture!  Today I added some frozen spinach.  Actually, I added too much spinach and had to skim  some of it out.   We don’t season our stock so I added a little salt.  Be careful about that – it’s easy to add too much.

And TA-DA! a soup you can chew.


By the way, this is my favorite way to cook – winging it without a recipe.

*By “we” I generally mean my husband, but I do it when I have to.

I Hate the Movie Babe

I like animals.  And I like them for their innate animalness.  I like the catness of cats, the dogness of dogs, the sheepness of sheep, and the tastiness of pigs.

Why should an animal be vilified for being itself, for acting according to its nature? Why should its behaviors be attributed to malice rather than the fact that it is an animal?  Cats are not sneaky or evil – they’re cats.

Anthropomorphizing animals should be done carefully to bring out the characteristics of the animals (or for the sake of satire), not to make them screens onto which ridiculous human sentiments are projected.

If animals are just like people, then they are less lovable, not more and need less care, not more.

Finally, for me, animals are also food.  It IS a little sad to have to take a life for the sake of nutrition, but that IS the way it is right now.  I respect dissenting opinions on both sides of this statement, but I don’t want to debate it.  If you’ve informed and  examined your conscience, and you’re not trying to boss me around or manipulate me with talking animals, that’s good enough for me.

Cruelty is deplorable and I believe in limiting suffering  as much as possible – I moved to the country in part to have greater control over where my food comes from.  I slaughter and process my own meat chickens even though it is distasteful, in part so I don’t forget, and so I know that the animals lived as normal and healthy a life as possible before they were killed to feed me and my family, and because – what right do I have to ask someone else to do my dirty work?  I try to have the courage of my convictions.    And Babe tried to undermine that.


Interesting and Good

It’s not surprising that the Salem witch trials happened and it’s not exceptional that the macabre event, three hundred years later, is a tourist attraction and a marketing gimmick.  The most interesting thing I’ve ever read about the Salem witch trials is that several of those responsible regretted their actions :  one of the original accusers, several of the jurors, witnesses, judges.  Massachusetts even apologizes and “officially” clears the names of all the accused every once in a while – 1711, 1957, 2001.  (How long before it sticks?)  And even while it was going on, there were those who knew the whole thing was nonsense and a horror.  Of course this didn’t help the twenty-four people killed, but still interesting, and, well, good.

I found this interesting because I get the feeling that people of today think they’re superior to people then.  Less superstitious, better able to tell wrong from right, not fooled by charismatic speaking, not swayed by peer pressure, they never “catch” mass hysteria (I hate that word too.).  And so much smarter.

In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis wrote,

our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.

It’s only ordinary that we have our own “characteristic illusions.”  What will be surprising is when some of the perpetrators of unacknowledged evil today will regret and repent of their actions and when those who rightly recognized the nonsense and horror for what it is are vindicated.  It’ll be too late to take back the damage done, but it will be interesting and good.


The Marshmallow and Bluebird Trail

I didn’t take many pictures of our hike today because I was too busy bribing the kids with marshmallows.  Two ‘mallows for every ten minutes of hiking without complaint.  But only on the way in.  I figured they’d be motivated enough to hike the heck out.  And they were.

Actually, I did spend a few minutes madly snapping photos trying to catch a flock of Eastern Bluebirds.  They were so beautiful, so many, and so elusive to my camera.  I felt like we were walking in a fairy tale movie – they kept fluttering just ahead of us.  I finally gave up trying to photograph them and simply enjoyed the moment.

We hiked a little over two miles in and the same out.  That’s quite a lot for slow, old, and fluffy.  Our pace was faster than usual.  We only added ten minutes to our time but we added almost a mile to our distance.

Then I was useless the rest of the day.  Tired, hungry, and I couldn’t get warm even with two comforters and a hot water bottle.  It wasn’t even uncomfortably cold outside so I don’t know why it hit me like that.  But I ate a delicious, hearty dinner a little while ago and I feel much better.  Maybe I needed more calories.

Hiked A Piece of A Trail, Letchworth State Park

We’re slow hikers.  We’re old hikers.  We’re somewhat out of shape and fluffy hikers.  We’re hikers with children and a dog.  Our hikes are more like slightly steep walks in the woods than rough and tumble scrambles.  But we do like to hike.

“Buck” here took off after a couple of deer that were leaping down a ravine but was soon called back.

breaking from the pack

breaking from the pack

We heard huge loud honking of what must have been hundreds of Canada geese gathering on the Genesee River but I couldn’t see them because my glasses haven’t come in yet.

My middle boy asked me which trail in the park is my favorite.  I had to tell him, “I don’t know.  I haven’t hiked all the trails from beginning to end in every season.”  Wouldn’t that be a fun thing to do?  I’m not fit enough, don’t have time enough, but it is fun to think about.

tumble down wall

tumble down wall

It snowed last night so we’re going back to the same trail today to see how it looks now.

Even Children Get Older

I was looking back at some of my old, old stuff and it seems like it took a year or two of writing here before I started occasionally putting together words that don’t make me cringe to re-read them now.

But THIS from 2009 made me laugh out loud.  I had three kids four years old and under, one of whom was a newborn, at the time.

hoo hoo hoo hoo hoooooooo.  What’s that?  The noise my kids are making as they march around the living room.  Let’s see, it’s twenty after eight, so that means we only have about eleven more hours of incessant, unnecessary noise.  I am way too frustrated to be writing today.  The sick cat is looking for a place other than the litter box to pee; the baby just spit up on the couch; I’m still in my pajamas; I can’t remember if I took my blood pressure medicine.

Life has gotten a lot easier.  Who knew?

My Name’s Not O’Hanlon

Uncle Jim was a cop in the !@# precinct. Big, burly, smiling Irish-American cop. He wasn’t my uncle. He was my mother’s on-and-off boyfriend for a bunch of years. He was nice to me. He brought me stuffed animals and an electronic game called Merlin. He introduced me to his two little boys. He took us to Oktoberfests and festivals with Irish dancing. He’s why I know the words to The Patriot Game and why I do a decent brogue – all that Clancy Brothers had to have an effect. He’s probably the reason my first serious boyfriend was off-the-boat-Irish.

My grandmother says that when she looks in the mirror she’s startled by the old lady looking back. She feels young until she gets a look at herself. Well, I’ve been sometimes surprised to see this dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned woman looking back at me in the glass. I think she’s nice-looking but she seems foreign to me. I sound crazy or self-loathing, but I don’t think I’m really either of those things. I’m just someone whose culture is mixed.

My palate was trained, my tastes formed, in childhood.

My father hates that. He thinks I show a distinct lack of pride in my heritage. He thinks that because I feel more American than Italian or Sicilian, that I dislike or reject those parts of me. That’s not it.  What I know of it, what I’ve absorbed of it, I do love.

I love that when the Irish and the Bavarians I grew up around were chattering about the Ould Sod or telling the political history of why they had to emigrate, the Italians just quietly grew their tomatoes and figs.  In tin cans on the windowsills if need be.

I love the way at weddings my father would whisk his sisters around the dance floor in some joyful spinning, skipping dance that probably has a name but nobody told me what it was.  Why didn’t anyone tell me what it was?

I love the memory of reading the newspaper Oggi aloud to my Nonna.  I had little idea what I was reading but I was told my accent was good.

But I can’t deny that the lack of his everyday presence in my life when I was a child means that I did not absorb my father’s culture the way he would have liked me to.

Or maybe I did.  Now I think about it, maybe I picked up exactly what he wanted me to. See, my dad has no political or sentimental yearning for his homeland.  He says, “This is where my family is.  My children are American.  This is my home.”  And he means it.

But I’m just saying – a person isn’t born with a culture, she’s raised to it.