Friday, November 30, 2012

First, then Second...

We approach the season of directions. Directions for how to put something together, how to bake the soufflé so that it rises and doesn’t plummet to the pan bottom within seconds, how to find that illusive address, how to mingle in a crowd, how to make small talk.

How to solve the math problem: Able, Bob, Caroline, Daniel, Evangeline each ate two lemon meringue pies every other day for a week until Daniel switched to rhubarb pie for two weeks, Caroline was ill (no wonder) and couldn’t eat any pie for a week. Able, an intrepid person ate three pies one day. At the end of four weeks how many lemon meringue pies were consumed?

Remember the math teacher who said—just follow the road map. What do you do first? Then what do you do?

Writing clear concise directions, directions that neither confuses the reader nor result in hand wringing, yelping or resorting to a fetal position, demands a sense of compassion for the person reading those road maps.

My partner bought a new macro camera lens that came with a booklet with a few cryptic directions translated into a half a dozen languages. The terse statements assumed that the reader knew where things were positioned on the lens. We looked over the wording and I could almost feel someone over my shoulder saying—some things are better left unsaid.

Use the manual focusing for photos in the 1—1 range. That’s clear, but what wasn’t clear was how to arrive at this manual focusing. Ask Google—it seems that other people are asking the same question. After numerous attempts we drove to the camera shop where one of the salespeople admitted to a lack of knowledge.

With the help of two salespeople and a combined twenty or thirty years of experience the secret was unlocked.

Visualize all the boxes with directions—

I once put together a wood file cabinet. When finished three screws remained on the table. Two days later I noticed that the metal file holder in the top drawer wouldn’t stay upright. I used duct tape to fix the sagging file holder and threw away the screws.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crafts for Every Purpose

How many loop potholders are woven during the month of December? I do recall making dozens of them for sale—to my mother, grandmother and all their friends. I had a regular cottage industry going.

You can still buy the classic potholder loom and all those colorful loops. I wonder if they are still selling Creepy Crawler kits—although I don't think they make great items to sell.

My friend Myrna's mother knew how to Crochet Hat Shaped Toilet Tissue Covers, but I don't think she sold any to the neighbors. Myrna said she gifted them to relatives.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And the beat goes on...

I attended an Adult Education workshop and the Jesus Seminar was mentioned...

Will the arguments for and against the results of the Jesus Seminar continue on for years? My limited theological grounding doesn't allow me to enter into the fray, but I do have a few questions.

From what I understand 150 people were gathered—some academic scholars, some lesser lights in academic circles. How were these people selected? Did they represent a broad swath of Christian beliefs or were they the choir decidedly leaning in one direction. The leader of the group, Robert Fink, chose the participants—what were his criteria? Did he want to bring together a broad spectrum or a narrow band of followers?

Whether something was true or not was determined by a rather ingenious method—the secret voting by beads.

A red bead meant— Yes,Jesus said this or something like this
Pink bead— Sounds like Jesus. He might have said something like this.
Gray bead—Well, maybe. He didn't say this, but the ideas are similar to his.
Black bead—No, he didn't say this.

A rather interesting way to determine authenticity.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Context

Can we understand anything without context? Even something as simple as the New York Egg Cream—a delectable soda made without eggs or cream. In fact it only contains seltzer, chocolate syrup and milk.

First invented, or concocted by Louis Aster— a Brooklyn candy store owner, in 1890. His candy store was located in an immigrant neighborhood and most of the people who lined up to buy the drink spoke with Yiddish accents.

One theory of how the egg cream got its name comes out of that context. The Yiddish word "Echt"  means real or good or pure and "Keem" means sweetness. Echt Keem —pure sweetness becomes egg cream.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Last night I shredded papers. Included in my treasure drove of things to shred—nine sheets of address labels sent by various groups asking for support. Most of these groups were totally unknown to me despite their sheets of labels and monogramed  notepads.

I'm not a curmudgeon, but I do object to being bombarded with "free" gifts. I have a list of groups I support—groups where I know that most of the money actually goes to the listed charity. Giving me a sheet of labels is not going to do the trick.

Besides how many Americans would use up the labels? We know the post office is in dire trouble with fewer and fewer people posting letters. How many people do I know who write letters? How many people eschew email for a long snail mail correspondence? Personally I like the feel of a pen and the smooth sensual feel of good paper. Paper that accepts ink without allowing it to spread like a water seeping beyond its boundaries.

As for using the labels for bills—more and more people pay online. But I expect that the label mailers hope that their labels adorn holiday cards. Has technology cut into the number of cards sent—or has the cost of postage aided in the decline?

What could I do with nine sheets of labels—half with some error in either my address or name?

I've placed the notepads in a drawer, but whenever I use one of the sheets for a list or note I do experience some discomfort. I did not support the group, yet write on the pad sent with a letter soliciting a donation.

I don't want to shred the notepads. Perhaps what I should do is send back the items with a polite note—Thank you for thinking of me.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Double Agent

It started with reading Harriet the Spy. And my fascination with spy fiction continues. Although sometimes I worry about my inability to recognize those characters who waffle between sides. I'm always the last person to realize that the nice looking, well spoken, trench coat wearer is really an undercover agent for the enemy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Thanksgiving is over and all over this country people are eating  turkey leftovers. A myriad of  recipes appear --conjured up by the food editors of magazines that cater to women. Want to know what to do with those bones or the white meat left over by dark meat lovers? Want to disguise the turkey the fourth day after Thanksgiving or how to create an international dish with the single cup of shredded turkey?

My mother really didn't like leftovers so she didn't pass on family recipes. For my sources I turn to the newspaper and the Internet. I even found a recipe for  a turkey-maki-sushi-roll.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Don't we love the underdog. The team that isn't expected to win, the spelling bee won by the person who you least expect can spell

To all the underdogs-- 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Several years ago we opted to have a totally non-traditional meal-- that included pea soup and a shrimp salad. It's important to make changes, albeit this was an easy change.

Some transformations aren't as easy as altering a menu. Imagine if all Thanksgiving football games gave way to jump rope contests.

Sometimes changes cause incredible damage.

War is what happens when language fails.
--Margaret Atwood

Perhaps someday we'll be able to give thanks because  Peace is what happens when language works.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Recollections On The Eve of Thanksgiving

My turkey once caught on fire.

A friend's cat ate a good part of the turkey she had placed on top of the fridge.

We once drove to New Hampshire in a raging snowstorm to meet friends from Canada and share Thanksgiving at an inn.

I loved the jello mold and sweet potato casserole covered with marshmellows at a family Thanksgiving.

When the Turkey caught on fire the skin really turned crisp.

I recall eating the skin and not thinking about the fat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Traditional Meal

Growing up my family never made a fuss around Thanksgiving. My mother was first generation American born and her mother never celebrated the holiday with special food.

 My father had no sense of smell and my mother really didn't care about cooking since everything tasted the same to my father. Given that and her lack of interest in cooking made meals quite predictable. They always included a vegetable, fruit, meat or chicken and potato or rice. The vegetables were either carrots, peas or string beans—the fruits came from a can and the meat was usually overcooked. No one could accuse my mother of ever undercooking anything. All meals began with a salad—lettuce, tomato and cucumber and usually ended with a mixed fruit medley.

In my sophomore year in high school my friend Muriel and I realized that neither of us had ever had a traditional Thanksgiving meal—that is one with all the fixings. Muriel was the first in her family to be born in the United States. Her mother didn't have a recipe box filled with family recipes for sweet potato casserole or cranberry relish. She did create marvelous Hungarian dishes.

So with the permission of our parents we went into Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day—not to see the parade, but to find a place that served a traditional meal. Given that neither of us had too much money we headed for a place that didn't spend too much time or money on decor.

I remember the place—a cafeteria with a sign advertising a full course meal for an extremely reasonable sum . We stood on line, took a plate and followed two men who seemed to know how the whole thing worked. We handed our plate to the server who doled out turkey, gravy, vegetables from large metal pans. and all the usual fixings. At the very end we received a roll and a choice of pumpkin or apple pie. Except for the dessert everything fit on our plate.

Save for the two of us everyone was older and most of the people were alone. We found two seats at a small table for four and soon two women joined our table.

"We're like a family," said one of the women.

She told us about growing up in the midwest and the family Thanksgiving.
"This stuffing is nothing like my mother made. She put raisins inside."

It took us awhile to realize that most of our eating companions were quite poor and lonely on this holiday. After listening to several stories of past Thanksgivings we said the meal tasted great because we had never had all the fixings before.

"This," said Muriel, "is my first American Thanksgiving meal. My mother makes the best goulash, but she doesn't know how to make these dishes."

"What pie did you get?"
"Apple pie," I said.

Tom who had been dishing out the food said, "You got to try the pumpkin pie." and he brought over an entire pumpkin pie to share with the table.

I think her name was Polly. She joined us and before we cut the pie said, "When I was a kid we always said grace before eating."

"We already ate," said one of the women.

"No matter." and with those words she bowed her head and we all followed.

"Lord," she said. "Thank you for this wonderful Thanksgiving."

One of the other women added, "This was like a family sitting down to eat together."

Murieland I added Amens.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I once taught with someone who —as she often told us—descended from people who came over on the Mayflower. And she continued, her family celebrated Thanksgiving by gathering in a state park and cooking their entire meal outdoors. Well, not the complete feast. Someone roasted the turkey at home and brought it to the park.

Despite the weather they gathered in remembrance of the ancestor. Since a number of generations had passed most of the clan couldn't directly connect to this relative. Rather than gather around the television after the repast they played tag football in the state park. I always wondered about the authenticity of that selection.

The last year of the tradition the meteorologist forecast an inclement day replete with rain and cold temperatures. A minor uprising occurred especially amongst those relatives whose relatives came over during the potato famine in Ireland. One Italian sister-in-law said she craved lasagna instead of sweet potatoes.

So another tradition needed to undergo changes. She said, the flag football game continued and lasagna was served along with the turkey.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

As You Are Able...

This Sunday morning I heard a sermon that was laden with words and ideas, intellectual and historical, thought provoking in an abstract way. The kind of sermon that allows me to merely react in a heady manner rather than an interior manner. I envisioned looking up some citations, doing further reading, and perhaps even writing some about the ideas.

Then the invited speaker who was giving the sermon switched gears and talked about doing as you are able-- being aware of too little or too much. That resonated.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Soon Thanksgiving Will Be Here

How many vegetarians will disguise lentils to look like a turkey?

I once tried to mold tofu into sliced turkey, but it quivered too much.

Friday, November 16, 2012


If it helps the post office and if it pushes against their mounting fiscal crisis I'll not rant regarding unwanted catalogues.

Who invents some of the worthless items in these paper wasting vehicles for persuading people to buy what isn't needed?

Years ago a friend on a long plane ride picked up the airline magazine that is often stuffed into a pouch in the back of each seat. I assume that the tedium of the ride caused her to pick out some gifts for friends.

She knew I played golf and carried two containers of ice water which nearly always melted. Given that information she read of a plastic container shaped like a golf club and just as long, but quite a bit fatter. I can envision the delight she experienced when she read that this hollow plastic golf club held 64 ounces of liquid.

The container kept liquids cold. I don't recall whether a straw came with the apparatus or whether the golfer removed the club from her bag and tipped it up to drink.

I do recall when this marvel arrived and only after reading pages of testimonials and a scant paragraph of instructions did I realize what my present represented—a white elephant.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why I Stopped...

After announcing that I'd once again write 50,000 words during the month of November—I stopped. Simply cold turkey. After 9,000 words I terminated my relationship with three characters. Why?

After all I left them in the lurch—unaware of the future, mired in one present moment. I just couldn't proceed.

I did not stop because 1600 words a day seemed too laborious. I did not stop because I ran out of words, nor did I cease because of time restraints.

I called it a day because I began to see myself as short changing three rather delightful characters. One can't go screeching across the page simply collecting words for a word count. I found myself wanting.

To write a novel requires some time spent thinking, some time finding the right word, the sentence that pirouettes rather than the sentence that simply accrues more words to add to a collection of words.

Certainly some people had spent time working out their novel, but I initially had one character who invited two more characters into the setting. These uninvited guests fell onto the page and I didn't know what to do with them once they arrived.

It isn't as if I hadn't proven to myself that I could take on the November challenge. I have a certificate from 2010 attesting to the completion of a 50,000 word novel in one month.

Where is the rush? What do we validate by this mad cap rush to an ending?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Odder Things Have Happened

Yesterday I saw a clip about several men who travel about the world looking for Big Foot. Who knows perhaps we should start looking for Little Green Men.

Wouldn't we all be surprised if they found Big Foot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

No Talking —

Today was our designated day of silence. No speaking for twelve hours. This experiment grew out of a book about silence and the rewards of turning inward for a day. We started out each leaving the house at a different time for a two mile walk before breakfast. I tried to make it a meditative walk and half succeeded until I began to count pine cones along the side of the road. Why pine ones? I also found myself fascinated with a closed gate that led to an open field and then on to a small pond. Why close the gate? It isn't as if the area is private. And the gate could easily be opened, but being closed it made the area behind more enticing.

The gate provided me with a metaphor for the day. Closing down in silence really meant opening up to an interior space.

Given that the weather accommodated our day with a balmy 70 degrees I headed over to Walden Pond with my chair, water bottle, pack of books, notebook, and camera. Leaving the house for my day included a number of trips back and forth taking half the house to my car: a sandwich for lunch, an apple, a huge container of water, a thermos of Assam tea, a camera, and finally a tripod.

I parked my car and made a mental note of where it was parked. Since today was Veteran's Day a number of people decided to go to Walden Pond. Many were trekking around the pond, a few families were sitting on the sand, and some other folks were looking for quiet spots. I finally set myself down and looked up to see two people swimming across the pond-- where despite the warmth elsewhere managed to be cooler. Then I spotted two women dressed in wet gear heading for the water.

After settling in I took out my Kindle and read several chapters of 1 Kings and then several chapters of John. A woman settled down ten feet away-- spread a blanket on the sand, took out a book, opened a brown paper bag and removed a sandwich, chips and an apple. A train on the other side of the pond interrupted the quiet. Then a couple settled down twenty feet away on my other side. The woman spread a blanket and the man opened up a lounge chair. They both took out earphones and settled into listening. I moved on to a novel. Two more wet suit clad people jumped into Walden Pond. Now four people were busy circumnavigating the pond. The woman on the blanket went to sleep on her blanket.

Since I had left my watch at home I had no idea of the time. Back at the car I took out my peanut bitter and jelly sandwich. The somewhat stale seeded oat bread needed a lot of liquid to make it palatable. But the apple was still crisp and the tea made the repast appear as a banquet-- or almost a banquet.

I avoided looking at the car clock.

Autumn leaves clog the edges of the water-- a reminder of the season.

Time to walk at Great Meadow where some ducks swim near the cat tails. Today, obviously is a day for swimming. Fewer people are here and those that are walking stop once the water disappears -- the view obscured by high weeds. It's quiet enough to hear the wind breathe between the leaves. I walk and meditate. Two ducks engage in figure eight moves. Too bad they weren't company for the wet suit swimmers.

Two benches suggest a place to stop--I pass on this chance and continue walking.

So what happened today? I counted pine cones, found a closed gate that could be opened, noted that swimmers are drawn to Walden Pond with its 110 feet depth first measured by Thoreau, stared at water bubbles on the pond edge, realized that seeded oat bread is heavy, wished I had an iced coffee, walked six miles, saw a wood duck and a mallard, watched a small boy totally engrossed in playing on the edge of the pond-- dipping his sneaker into the water, and realized that what I see and hear as well as quieting down takes me past the closed gate into the open field.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Evening of Silent Day

Tomorrow I'll write about the day, but tonight I'm processing the experience. We did decide to meet for dinner--twelve hours from 7:00a.m. To 7:00 p.m

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Sunday, November 11, 2012


After talking some more about silence we're going to try it for twelve hours tomorrow. I'm excited. How will it feel? Will I learn anything? Will I roam about or will I busy myself to such a degree that I'm not receptive o anything of value, Is this something that one grows into?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another Name

We attended an adult education class on the topic of noise and silence and then read a book about a woman who adopted the practice of silence twice a month.

When I was in the third grade my teacher called me a chatterbox and then called my mother to report that I was too social and prattled on when I should have been doing something else.

I never preceived myself as too talkative nor did I think I was a disturbance to the class. My conversations were quiet and only after I finished the work, but Miss Diamond couldn't abide any talk and we were, according to her standards, a class of chatter boxes. My mother wasn't the only mother to be brought into her classroom in order to hear the same comment.

For years I thought that the term chatterbox was derogatory, but recently I discovered that there is an orchid called the Chatterbox Orchid (Epipactis gigantea). It's all a matter of semantics.

Friday, November 09, 2012

New Car

After fourteen years we bought a new car. Our Plum Corrola served us well, but its creaks and sluggish behavior coupled with the sounds it made when it groaned made our choices limited. Invest in it or trade it in for a newer model.

I dislike car dealerships. I dislike the lack of a common price. I dislike when the salesperson goes into some side room to speak to the boss about the price. I dislike the fact that I know that no matter how adept we thought we were at haggling we lost.

So even with all these dislikes we did what all consumers do nowadays. We went on the internet and sought out the price we were told to pay for what we wanted. It didn't give us a level playing field, but it made us feel somewhat empowered.

Our salesperson was attentive, complementary, and on our side. It was the man in the bulletproof, closed in office who made the final decisions. We sat in the car, took it for rides, played with the seat-- up and down, sideways, forward, backward, wheel telescope in, telescoped out...

We conferred, asked for additional items, and finally agreed.

It has been a week. We don't want to go to malls where people are careless with their wagons. Cambridge is scary because of what I refer to as the Cambridge PArking push. If you're attempting to maneuver into a spot that is too short a driver is permitted to tap the car behind and inch it backward a wee bit.

I expect that in short order we'll be taking our coffee into the car, eating an apple or cookie, and generally becoming more laid back. But until then the nterior is pristine...

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Part of growing is the ability to recognize when society has changed and how that change affects what you do. Not all changes are advantageous and sometimes it's necessary to put one's heels down and dispute the change. But not to acknowledge that there has been a shift is to partake in a self-deception.

The Republican party needs to look around and note the changed demographics. They need to refuse to be led by extremists who rant and rave about the demands of citizens whose ideas may differ from their ideas.

I come from a long line of Democrats. On my mother's side there were relatives who cast their lot with unions. One drove a truck and was an early member of the Teamsters. I grew up with the admonition— Never cross a picket line.

Despite being a life long democrat I'd like to see the Republican party be more inclusive and rid itself of the groups that live on the way outfringes. We need two strong parties —both recognizing that our society is diverse.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Waking Up to...

Imagine a change of paradigms. Instead of people demonizing gay and lesbian marriage, voters in several states voted to be's only a matter of time before all married people will have equal federal rights.

So much is semantics.Suppose all marriages were called Civil Unions? It is afterall the state that declares a union legal and binding.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I wore my warm jacket, deep winter gloves, ear muffs and a hat and held my signs the proper distance from the designated polling place.

Some cars honked and some people put thumbs up and others put thumbs down. We watched the cars turn into the library parking lot and said hello to the people hurrying to vote after work.

Sure I had the candidate of my choice on a sign, but I was also so pleased to see the turn out. What a privledge and what a responsibility.

I stayed up until 11:30— cheered when my local state rep was elected, cheered when Massachusetts elected its first female senator.

It was too late for me to stay up to hear the concession speech and the acceptance speech. Now if we could have some aisle movement—if both sides could remember that we are sitting at home hoping that they can learn to work together.

Monday, November 05, 2012

No More...

I'm sick of political commercials and I'm tired of listening to half truths from all the candidates. Facts are distorted and events from long ago are paraded as if they occured yesterday.

In Massachusetts the two candidates together spent more than $70,000,000 dollars on a massive media blitz which I guess also includes bus fares and dinners! There's a disconnect when we view the storm ravaged areas of New Jersey and New York. People's homes gone -- lives in disarray.

Perhaps someday we'll see a spending cap on campaigns or even not an ad that talks about anything but the candidate.

Tomorrow I'll hold a sign for the candidate of my choice and wave-- it's low cost media.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Down to Earth

After several weeks of taking photos of inanimate objects I was asked to take some photos inside a church of moving objects—kids. What an awakening—not only do they move and squirm, but the light is dim and needing a fast shutter speed means a wider lens opening and higher ISO numbers.

I didn't exactly select all the right settings and more photos than not were blurred. Give me a polypore any day.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


We went to L.L.Beans today for some winter shopping. Did you ever notice that everyone who shops there looks the same—when they're attired for winter.

They have this incredible return policy that covers your purchase for life. I was returning two items and in front of me was a man was returning a pair of boots he had obviously worn for years.

He took off his boots and stood in his stocking feet.

"Are you going to buy a new pair?" said the Bean's employee.

"Depends upon how much money you give me."

I left before I found out if he left the store in stocking feet or whether they covered enough of the old boots and he bought a new pair.

Friday, November 02, 2012

First 3013 Words

Between my favorite coffee place and a long spell in the living room on a comfortable chair with my IPad and bluetooth keyboard I wrote all those words.

My character suddenly had her own mind and she introduced me to two friends—now there are three characters mulling around in my mind.

It's odd how characters turn their own way. The way people will ofttimes take an unexpected turn. "It's out of character," we'll say. Yet it may be that we aren't aware of all the facets and possibilities we have as unique individuals.

I know that if I ever sign up for one of those extreme events I'd be out of character—or if I volunteered to head a committee rather than be a worker bee it would be a change of character.

Yet there are circumstances that force a person to change—we say "They became a different person."

So when I started with Beryl I envisioned her one way and she's already, and only after 3013 words, proving that my vision was too limiting.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

It's Going to be Hard—

but after blogging every day since January 1st I can't stop now—even with Novel writing month looming ahead. Actually today is the first day and I'm chomping at the bit to begin my story.

This time I have some manner of an outline and at least two main characters. My protagonist is Beryl. Why Beryl? The name came to me one morning. I've never known anyone by that name , but did read a book by Beryl Markham who was an intrepid adventurer and the first woman to she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

At the time I selected the name I didn't consciously think of her, but then made the connection. My character will not be quite that daring—but who knows where a character will lead the author.