Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's Missing?

When I was redesigned my blog, I debated with myself as to whether I should change the description of what I do here from “musing on the life of a teacher, mother, writer, knitter, human being.”  My role as a mother has changed since I began writing my blog, but I am still a mother.  Fortunately for my children, they have moved on to college and beyond and no longer serve as an unending source of material for posts. 
 Though I don’t write about it much, I love being a teacher.  One of the reasons that I steer away from this topic is because so many teachers have gotten in trouble for posting comments about their students and their jobs on various public forums.  Granted, many of these comments have been less than complimentary.  That is not an issue I would have.  I love my job and love my students.  Enough said.  
Being worn down by the dreadful heat here, having a list of things I need to do, and worrying about various people and situations and knowing that I have no control over either, is making me feel pretty human right now so I guess I still can claim human being.  I am not going to speak one way or the other about  whether or not I can call myself a writer. 
 That leaves knitter.
I am still a knitter though admittedly I don’t knit as much as I used to.  In and of itself, that is not necessarily a bad thing; it is the result of having more (good) things to do - one of which is a heavier teaching load at school.  Did I mention that I love my job - and my students?  Anyway, the responsibilities of such cut into my knitting time.  For the record, let me state here that it’s not watching Clean House and Happily Divorced on TV, or doing crossword puzzles, or writing blog posts, or playing Angry Birds that is compromising my knitting time; It is definitely my school/job related activities.  Really.  It is!
I have knit.  I do knit.  I am knitting.  The problem is that I have not finished much lately so there isn’t really anything to write about or to show you.  My bag of unfinished items may be further confirmation of my humanity.  In my own defense, I have started and finished a few baby gifts.  I gave them away without photographing them so I can’t prove that.   They were cute.  Trust me.  I also have taught a couple of knitting classes but I myself have not yet finished these projects.  Does it make me a good teacher if I tell you that I have not finished my own sweaters because I have spent a goodly amount of my time at the knit shop helping others finish theirs?  I did finish one of Weber’s birthday socks in time for his June birthday.  Its mate is still unfinished. Well, truthfully, it is still un-started.  It is 105 degrees here.  He doesn’t need wool socks now anyway, right?  I know that wool has a wicking effect but trust me, he is not going to wear wool socks any time soon.
Despite the fact that I have several “overdue” knitted items to finish, I am looking ahead to holiday knitting.  The other day I committed one of the knitters’ deadly sins; I was looking at yarn at a “craft store” rather than at the knit shop.    Not only did I look, but I bought.  I bought yarn and a pattern book.  (More support for my human being status.)
While we were looking at the pattern books, Weber made a disturbing discovery.  Thumbing through a book he noticed that several pages had been ripped from its center.  We’ve all seen this kind of thing before - the page with the recipe ripped from the magazine in the doctor’s office waiting room, which is inevitably the page that, on its other side, had the conclusion to  the fascinating article that you were reading.  tThen there are the coupons that have been lifted from the Sunday paper and the missing journal article that you needed to finish your research in graduate school.  It’s all the same - selfish people doing selfish things.
The thing that made this whole scenario of the book with the ripped out pages at the craft store even sadder is that it was a pattern book of knitted prayer shawls, shawls that are made and given to those who are facing tough times.  The intent is that the knitter “knits” prayers into the garment as they work.  What kind of prayers does someone who has stolen the pages from a book knit into their prayer shawl?  Maybe Knit one prayer of hope and healing for you, Purl two prayers of forgiveness for me.  At least that would be a step in the right direction.
The mother, writer, teacher, knitter, and human being in me says, Please don’t steal the pages out of newspapers, magazines, journals, novels, or knitting patterns.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's Up, Doc?

Despite the fact that my grandfather was a doctor and I loved him dearly, medical doctors are not my favorite breed of human beings. Many of them are pretentious. Most of them think that their time is more valuable than mine or yours. And, a good many of them would rather be at the country club playing golf that listening to their patients enumerate their ills. The truth is that I don’t respect doctors any more or any less than I respect teachers, food servers, cashiers, airline pilots, or you. This is both the good news and the bad news for doctors with whom I come in contact. It is bad news because I don’t put them on a pedestal and worship the ground on which they practice. It’s good news because I recognize that they are human like you and me and can’t perform miracles.
Having said all this, I do have several doctors that I like and respect. Both my dermatologist and the surgeon who removed the skin cancer on my arm a few years back are awesome. Based on my personal experience they are fine medical professionals, but this is not why I think they are awesome. They earned this praise from me because they have a great sense of humor. If a doctor has no sense of humor, he or she is not the one for me. I put them all to the test first crack out of the barrel.
When I had my pre-op visit with the surgeon regarding the removal of the skin cancer, he went through all of the possibilities - if we do this the incision will be this big; if we have to do this it will be a little bigger. I told him that I wanted the scar to look like a Smiley face. He promised me that he would do his best. When I came out of recovery he greeted me with an apology that the incision more resembled a “whatever” face so he drew a smiley face on the bandage as consolation. I was amused and he earned my respect.
Nurses are even more uptight than doctors. It is my experience that wit and a sense of humor are detrimental attributes for those applying to nursing school. Knowing this, I love to harass nurses, especially those that work for pretentious doctors. Here is an example.
When I first was diagnosed with lupus I was seeing a well respected rheumatologist in Dallas. His waiting room was always packed with people who sat for an average of three or four hours to spend fifteen minutes with him. He is one of those who thinks that his time is more valuable that mine. As is often the case, his nurse does the routine vitals when you finally get to the exam room. On my first visit she sent me to the restroom to give the obligatory urine sample. She didn’t give me the usual instructions. You all know what those are. When I looked around the bathroom I saw that there were both paper cups and plastic containers. Unsure of which to use, I stuck my head out and asked her if she would lprefer this in paper or plastic. Rolling her eyes and preceding her response with a grand sigh she muttered “plastic.” She was not amused and I was not impressed. I don’t see this doctor anymore. My choice; they actually didn’t kick me out.
I had a similar encounter with a nurse when I had my skin cancer surgery. As part of the pre-op procedures she had to do a pregnancy test. I told her that if it were positive I would be rich since I could sue the doctor who had done my tubal ligation and it would be an immaculate conception. Her only response was “the sooner you cooperate and get this done the sooner we can get you in and out of here.” Okay then. Definitely no sense of humor and possibly no personality of which to speak.
Weber had cataract surgery last week. The doctor who performed the surgery is the ophthalmologist that he has seen since he was fourteen and whom he greatly admires and respects. I had met him once, very briefly, but did not see him the morning of the surgery. I did however have my customary fun with one of the surgery center nurses.
For some reason when they took Weber into surgery they left his street shoes on rather than giving him a pair of those $99 hospital footies. So, when I met him in recovery he had on a hospital gown and his Toms. In her most serious voice the recovery nurse told me that he was awake and I could talk to him. The sight of him in the hospital gown and his shoes made me laugh. The first thing I said to him was, “Wow, if you were going to wear a dress you should have shaved your legs.” He smiled. As usual, the nurse was not amused.
He came home with a hard plastic shield taped to his eye. It was kind of an injured pirate look. I decided that we needed to have a little fun with the look so we found pictures of eyeballs on the Internet, printed them, cut one out and stuck it to the patch.

I asked Weber if he thought that his doctor had a sense of humor. He said that he thought so but wasn’t sure. You know what’s coming next. I was going to find out for sure. We left the eyeball on the patch when we went the next day for his post-op visit. As he signed in at the office the reception giggled. She passed the test. The tech who did the initial questioning in the exam room was not amused. She failed the test. The doctor got a good laugh and greatly appreciated our sense of whimsy. So much so that he had me text to him the picture that I had taken so that he could show it to his wife. It was hard for me to imagine that in forty plus years of practice that he had never had a patient do something like this; but, that seems to have been the case. This doctor moved way up on my acceptable doctor list!

New Look, Same "Stuff"

I started this blog on December 27, 2006, a day before my 45th birthday.  If you do the math, on December 28th of this year All In A Day will be five years old and I will be fifty.  What better way to celebrate both of those monumental anniversaries than to give my blog a makeover.  So, why did I do it today, July 23rd?  The simplest answer is because I could.  It is too hot here to do anything outside.  Even getting in the car and going someplace that is air conditioned does not have much appeal. I could think of no better  way to spend a hundred plus degree Saturday afternoon than wasting time working on the computer.
Nothing has changed here except the look.  For good or for ill the content will remain the same.  I wish I could tell you more specifically what that means but I really can’t.  Someone asked me the other day what I write about on my blog.  My response, “Stuff.”  Makes me sound real smart, huh?  I thought for a moment and elaborated by telling her that I write about things I find interesting, funny, sad, scary, intriguing, stupid, edifying, exciting, joyful and worthy of sharing.  If you are reading this, hopefully you agree and this is why you are here.
Thanks for being here!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cookbook Confirmation

They (whoever "they" is) say that the way to a man's heart is through is stomach.  I've also heard it said that men want to marry someone just like their mother.  One conclusion that can be made from these two things is that men want a woman who cooks just like mom did.  In this era of frozen and packaged foods and three ingredient recipes, this is a tall order for modern young women.

I am definitely not a young woman; I'm not sure about the modern part either.  However, I am sure that I was nervous about the first meal that I cooked for Weber.  It was somewhat impromptu and therefore had to be pulled together from ingredients that were already on hand in the pantry.  I decided to grill steaks.  Does the fact that I can grill a steak on an outdoor grill make me a modern woman?  Anyway, steak was easy and a fairly safe bet since I knew that he was not a vegetarian.  As is often the case, choosing a side dish was my big dilemma.  Baked potatoes are the standard with steak but I was out of those. Maybe rice?  What other kind of vegetables did I have?  What kind of vegetables did he like?  I debated with myself for awhile and finally decided on a favorite at our house, broccoli and rice casserole.  It sounds healthy.  It sounds wholesome.  It sounds safe.  It's made with Cheez Whiz.  Cheez Whiz is neither healthy or wholesome.  And I'm not really sure how safe it is.  But, it is good, especially when you don't know that is what you are eating.  How much of a risk was I taking to use Cheez Whiz in the first meal I prepared for this guy?  I took the chance.  It all worked out.

Fast forward a couple of years to today.  As I was looking through Weber's mom's cookbook I came across a recipe for Rice & Broccoli.  It calls for one cup of raw rice cooked.  This means no Minute Rice.  Did I mention that my recipe also uses Minute Rice?  Another abomination in the cooking world.  Her recipe involves both cooking on the stove and in the oven; mine relies solely on cooking in the microwave.  As I continued to read through the recipe I suddenly felt redeemed!  It calls for Cheez Whiz!  Actually it calls for Jalapeno Cheez Whiz.  Is that still available?  It doesn't matter.  I learned that Cheez Whiz had been the secret ingredient of cooks from a generation past.

Here are our two recipes.

No. 1
Rice and Broccoli
from Weber's Mom's cookbook

1 C. raw rice cooked
1 pkg. chopped broccoli thawed

Saute 1 large onion in 2 T. butter.  Add 1 can of cream of chicken soup, ! C. milk, and one can of cream of mushroom soup.  Add broccoli and 1 small jar of Jalapeno Cheez Whiz.  Cook until it bubbles good.  Pour over rice in a casserole.  Heat in oven until good and hot.  350 degrees.
(This recipe was handwritten by someone other than Weber's mom.)

No. 2
Broccoli and Rice Casserole

I can cream of chicken soup
I soup can of Minute Rice
I soup can of water
I package of chopped broccoli
I small jar of Cheez Whiz

Place all ingredients in a microwave safe two quart casserole dish.  Microwave on high for 14 minutes.
(This is also good with chunks of leftover chicken added.  This recipe comes highly recommended by Offspring No. 2.)

In case you find yourself in a cooking bind I offer you this.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

History In Recipes

At Mother's Day I wrote a post lamenting the fact that I had never met my mother-in-law.  As Weber remembers stories about her he shares them with me.  And as we unpack more boxes at the house, things that she owned, made, and collected are surfacing.  With each discovery comes another opportunity to come to know a woman whom I greatly admire and will never meet.

Today's discovery was her cookbook.  You know the one; we all have one just like it.  Most of us got it as a wedding present  - The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook or the Joy of Cooking or something similar.  There is no doubt that the information in these cookbooks has been a lifesaver at least once in our cooking careers, but it is the recipes that have been clipped from newspapers or handwritten on now yellowed paper and stuck inside the book's cover that give us real insight into the woman behind the cookbook.

My mother in law's cookbook is titled Household Searchlight Recipe Book, published in 1938 by The Household Magazine in Topeka, Kansas.  I have not yet had time to digest all that lies within the pages of this book.  I am looking forward to all that it has to offer.  Today I want to share one of the first clippings thatI I found when I opened the book.

Right inside the front cover, on that characteristic yellowed paper that I spoke of earlier, is a collection of favorite recipes from the First Christian Church of Carrollton, Texas.  It is an example of what desktop publishing looked like in 1975.  On the first page of that collection is the following:
At a time when this country is mourning the passing and celebrating the life of Betty Ford, I found this to be a synchronistic finding.  If you are interested in cooking like a first lady, here is Betty Ford's recipe.

Mrs. Gerald Ford's recipe for
(Quick Cooking)

2 ruby-red grapefruit
1/2 whole cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 fryer, disjointed
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Peel and section grapefruit, squeezing all juice from membranes into saucepan.  Add cranberry sauce, honey, cloves and salt, mixing well, then bring to a boil.  Stir in grapefruit sections.  Brown chicken in butter in fryer, then place in a shallow baking dish.  Baste with grapefruit sauce.  Bake in 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, basting frequently.  Serve chicken with remaining grapefruit sauce.  Serves 4.

I'm amazed at how many of our memories reside in food, both that we liked and disliked.  How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of "Do you remember that awful jello casserole with the cottage cheese and walnuts that Aunt Lulu made?'  Or, "I have grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe but they just don't taste the same when I make them."  I remember thinking the first Christmas after my mom passed away how much I missed the jar of bread and butter pickles made from cucumbers from my dad's garden that she always gave me at Christmastime.  And now I'm on the hunt for her cole slaw recipe.  Cole slaw was something that I didn't care for as a child so I never asked her for her recipe.  Now I love the stuff!  Go figure!

To all of you cooks out there who make a family favorite that has become a tradition, make sure you write it down.  Stick it in the front cover of your "work horse" cookbook.  It will make someone smile once you are gone.  I promise!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's A Bird. It's a Plane. It's . . .

. . .A Cloud
I thought that this one cloud that, to me at least, looks like a plane soaring across the horizon was fascinating.  Thank goodness for the camera on my phone or I would miss many cool sights like this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our First Anniversary

Today we have been married a year. Well, actually we have been married 47 years but only one to each other. A few days ago someone asked me how we were going to celebrate our first anniversary. Though both Weber and I aware of the significance of this day, neither of us had any notion that it would take on an extra-ordinary feel. After I was asked how we were planning to observe our special day and after I had to reply with the truth, that we had no special plans, I started pondering whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.

TV shows, movies, and comic strips find much material in the husband who forgets his anniversary. The opposite is the couple who plans an expensive getaway to some exotic location hoping for some fairy take adventure. I will admit that I don’t want to be the wife whose husband forgets our anniversary, but is some extreme celebration, particularly on your first anniversary, really necessary. Maybe my attitudes are coming from the fact that I am nearly 50 and not 20 something or maybe they are coming from the place where I feel loved every day and don’t need one day a year of ceremonial gestures to remind me of that. I don’t know. I do know that however we spend our day it will be perfect.

So what did we do?

We slept late and did not go to church. This was not some gift to ourselves. It had to do with the fact that the dog felt called to go outside every hour from about 12;30am to 7 am. Needless to say, when the alarm went off at 7:15 there was very little discussion about whether we were going to get up.

We went out to breakfast at one of our favorite gourmet restaurants - Waffle House. This really was a treat. At Waffle House you can get a fried egg. It takes a cooktop to fry an egg, or anything else for that matter. We still don’t have a cooktop. Well, we do but it is in the box. In fact, we just paid for the extended warranty just in case it doesn’t work when we finally get it installed.

Then we went grocery shopping at Central Market. Celebrating this way is a family tradition. The one thing that Brooke wanted for her 18th birthday was unlimited time and unlimited spending at Central Market. Her wish was granted. We had neither unlimited time nor unlimited spending but we did have fun. I think we experienced the same feelings of joy on our special day as Brooke did on her monumental birthday.

Coincidentally the Resounding Harmony end of the season/beginning of the new season party was today. In some ways this was a perfect way for us to celebrate our first year of married life. RH is the first thing that we decided to do together after we were married. It is the only group that has known me only as married to Weber. I did not have to transition through the name change thing. It is the one place where we have a completely clean slate. For this reason, nobody at the party this evening knew that today is our first anniversary, but we did. And we were able to enjoy our time together with new friends pretending that the party was being thrown on our behalf.

When we got home I prepared for school and did the laundry. It was like any other evening. And like every other evening I give thanks that I have someone whom I deeply love to share my life. Each day that we fall asleep and wake up together, share a cup of coffee and work the crossword puzzle, stroll through the grocery store discussing whether we should buy Gala or Fuji apples, fold a basket of laundry together, or take turns sweeping the never ending wads of dog hair is a day of celebration. What more can a person ask for?

Our wedding day was an amazing day but life keeps getting better!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Week's Time

,I seemed to have lost track of time. I was shocked when I realized that I have not posted here in nearly two weeks. Like most of us when we fall short of our goals I have tried to figure out what went wrong; what the heck have I been doing for all this time? What makes this whole situation even more curious is that I have been at home the entire time, except on the days I teach, because Weber has been without his contacts during these two weeks in preparation for cataract surgery and has not been able to drive. As I have reflected on these past couple of weeks, I realize that I have accomplished a few things. The fact that I have done so in a leisurely way is so uncommon for me that I have the feeling that I have not done much when the truth is that I really have. Calm feels really nice!

What I Have Done Over the Past Two Weeks

  • Though I have not written a blog post, I have done some writing for some projects whose identities are not yet ready to be disclosed. If and when they are, I will gladly share them with all of you.

  • I have walked to and from school. The morning walk is a fabulous way to start the day. The temperatures are cool, relatively speaking, the birds are singing, and I get a little exercise. The afternoon walk home is not quite as pleasant but it is certainly not unbearable.

  • Through the miracle of Netflix we watched several Michael Moore films, all of which were eye-opening, maddening, powerful, and very well done. We also watched a documentary titled, “America’s Most Hated Family.” This chronicled the doings of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. I don’t recommend this film to anyone who has high blood pressure, a heart condition or anger management issues. It will make your heart hurt, your blood boil, and trigger even the slightest inclination toward a fit of rage. Because we could not go anywhere to get ice cream, chocolate, alcohol or anything else to calm our souls after watching this, we opted to watch something much less controversial, something focused on the process of creation rather than destruction. “Between the Folds” is an amazing documentary on the many facets of origami - everything from its beauty as an amazing art form to how it is used as a teaching tool in classrooms across the world.

  • I unpacked a few more boxes, probably not as many as I could have or should have. But, every little bit helps, right? Please say “yes”!

  • Adidas and I have taken our individual obsessions and formed a meaningful symbiotic relationship. He is an compulsive shedder and I have become a compulsive sweeper. This may be where 99% of my time has gone during my days at home. The upshot here is that all things considered, the house is pretty darn clean right now. And watching Clean House on the Style channel makes me want to keep it that way. Many facets of my life may make for a hit reality TV show; Clean House is definitely one that I don’t want to be on!

  • I did not do much laundry. When you don’t leave the house, the dress code reads, “Same shirt. Different day.” And, several other articles of clothing are, lets just say, unnecessary.

  • We did all of the daily New York Times crossword puzzles - even Friday. I have not decided whether is comforting or disturbing to have come to the point where we can do a successful mind meld with Will Shortz.

  • FYI - sells my new favorite cookies. (I am getting my money’s worth from my Amazon Prime membership.) The UPS man is my new best friend. He brings my cookies that Amazon sells and he brings coffee too! This is just a public service announcement. I did n ot spend time ordering these things. The truth is that it takes very little, probably too little,time to order just about anything online - especially books. Enough said.

  • I knit, therefore I have one sock. I need two socks. I needed two socks a month ago. I did not knit enough.

  • We also spent time watching our garden grow. Though we have yet to see tomatoes or cucumbers, the okra and jalapenos are doing great. We also picked our first crooked neck squash. I have to admit hat this was very exciting. It was so exciting that Weber took a picture of our first squash.

With that we give thanks for the fruits of our garden, the fruits of our time, and the fruits of our imagination!