Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Monday, January 24, 2011

you can say that again

So we went to see "The King's Speech" (the title of which, it appears, refers not to his actual impediment but rather, to the important radio address he had to deliver to those countries of whom he was king, when Germany declared war on England.  Which you will understand when you see the film.)  Anyway, as always happens when I see a period piece, I was struck by how many things are nothing like we imagine them when we're being all misty about the good old days.
It was the only warm day of the year

For example:  It was terribly drafty and cold.  Everyone wore sweaters, jackets, mufflers, and gloves, all the time.  Even in the palace (those Windsors had many palaces, each more chilly than the previous one) woodfires crackled to keep frost from forming on the fingertips of the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

And speaking of princesses, royal life was  unbelievably complicated and the average citizen drifted through life gamely declaring either "God Save The King" or "God Save the Queen" because the gender of the reigning monarch was the only rule that was clearly apparent to all.  When dreadful old King George V finally died of confusion, his eldest son (whom you remember as Edward VIII) became king but, because he loved and was determined to marry an unattractive American divorcee with the horrid name of  Wallis, he was forced by the rulebook to abdicate the throne to his previously invisible brother, Albert.  It gets even worse:  Albert (whose nickname, I am sorry to report,was Bertie) was a stutterer (thus the movie, which I won't spoil for you), was forced to choose  a less Germanic official name (All European royalty, although kissing cousins in the hillbilly sense, were thanks to Hitler not allowed to be friends with Germany anymore) so he became the remarkably unimaginative 'King George VI'.  You thought choosing your child's name was a chore! You at least had "Beyond Jennifer and Jason"; they had to struggle with "Burkes Peerage and Gentry"   Promise me that you will never ever name your daughter Wallis. Ugh.

Two pieces of very good news: you are no longer required to identify or write roman numerals, also, the invention of tweezers, and not a moment too soon.

The olden days were a terrible time to have any type of affliction: syphilis, diabetes, cavities, acne; pretty much anything that was wrong with you was a really big problem. I just love modern medicine; say what you will about the health care crisis; in my opinion things are a hundred times better than they used to be.  Ever met anyone who's had dropsy?  Consumption?  Piles?  Of course you haven't.
I am not sure where the top half of this patient is.
 However, I like the sawhorses, as do all the support staff.

I won't tell you how the movie ends because I want you to see it.  As a consolation prize I'll tell you about the beef stew A made.  Determined not to repeat the chopped orange kerfuffle, we started with the most basic Betty Crocker recipe, to which I added a few extra ingredients like ginger, a slosh of red wine, a splash of soy sauce, a little black pepper, and a scant sprinkle of something labeled "Kansas City Seasoning". I was there, I saw everything go into the crockpot without incident. Hours passed.  We served it up.  It was so fiery our noses ran and our eyes watered but we ate it. Somehow that dash of demon seasoning had morphed into a shovelful of glowing goals. My mouth was galvanized but I managed to gasp my apology; now we were even.  Who knew dinner could become such a war zone? I'm going to go look at traditional English recipes, which have not improved over the years,  to make myself feel better.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What did you make for dinner? Reservations!

I have permission to tell this story.

A likes to cook for me and has good ideas; I also like to cook and have good ideas.  As the old saying goes, there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.

Yesterday we had several projects going and time got away; soon it was late and no dinner was ready.  He had planned to make tequila lime chicken in the crockpot but of course that requires putting everything in the pot early in the day.  Fortunately there are a million recipes on the internet and oh boy here was a recipe to make tequila lime chicken in a skillet.  There were some differences, so before he put it in the pan he showed me a plate with  the ingredients prepared and ready to go.  Chicken, mushrooms, garlic, and a chopped orange.  Excuse me?  With the peel.  Chopped. Hmmm.

I tend to be a little critical and gently suggested he read me the recipe. (His version might read: She rolled her eyes and insisted I read the recipe)  Chicken. Mushrooms. Garlic. One orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped. He didn't have a yellow bell pepper but he did have an orange, wasn't that lucky?  Indeed.  We agreed to try it without the orange this time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

new year, new chapters

2011 begins and I have plenty of time on my hands for all those projects that seemed so pressing, back when I trudged off to work every day and wondered how I could ever fit them all in before I expired. In six weeks, I could reasonably expect to have cleared my entire house and garage of clutter, painted all the remaining wrong-colored walls, painted the baseboards and my old bedroom furniture, built a new headboard, and read half a dozen books.  It has, however, become paramount that I spend hours each day watching HGTV, TLC, and a little bit of Discovery, MTV and the History Channel.  Anyone who has ever had a vacation understands this, but that doesn't make me feel any less discouraged.

Instead of new years' resolutions, I have ideas.  My idea is to do all the things in the previous paragraph, and look for work, and limit how much cable distracts me.  Can't you see the lightbulb illuminated above my head right now?

Today's idea is putting away Christmas.  I will pull everything out of the bins, set aside the items I love and want to see next year, and give away everything I don't love.  That's always a good guideline when deciding what stays and what goes.  Do I love it?  Naturally love (of people as well as objects) is one of those emotions that gets colored by the glass through which we look; it's seldom black and white.  Sometimes the keep-it criteria defaults to "do I need it" or "am I keeping this because someone else will need it"?   Someone being, of course, my children, who might eventually need this or that item.  I've got something I didn't have before: endless shelves!  I could keep it all, but I must not bend to the extravagance of storage space.  Amended idea:  keep the things that I love or one of them loves.  Or needs.  See why this is so hard!

Snakepit update:  No evidence of snakes in the house. So far. We have a lot of ants, however. Coincidence?

Cat update:  Joey throws up about half as often as he used to.  My wisest friend, conveniently a veterinarian, says a cat's favorite pastime  is wretching, and that  the idea (yet another!)  is to minimize it as much as possible.  We switched from Iams (Iams  has no dye,  which makes barf stains more manageable, if not more inviting) to duck-and-pea, which has no grain or chicken, common allergens and hurl-triggers. Another ingredient is, apparently, gold nuggets; their glow reflected in the price.  Doctor L recommended I wait until Joey arrived at some level of homeostasis:  no further improvement in his bailing frequency, before changing foods.  The next idea (!) is lamb-and-rice, which is priced  higher than Iams but lower than duck-and-pea.  All three cats eat out of a common dish on the common floor.  A cheaper plan would be to isolate them at mealtime and each cat gets something off the menu, but that's a little much for me.  One needs duck-and-pea, everyone eats duck-and-pea.  I might add I must prune my already frugal lifestyle by $100 a week. They should eat snakes and ants.

An unanticipated surprise is coming on Friday: PG&E, because I have a gas furnace and water heater and am also now officially poor,  offered to send a contractor here, for free, to make energy efficient changes to my house.  We shall see what those changes are. Insulation? New appliances? A Snuggie?  They said the contractor gets paid with grant money and is not selling anything.  I expect some sort of sales pitch--that's how the world works--but I am made of steel, remember?  Free or nothing. Someone gets it; so why not me?

Remember the guy who offered to mow my yard for $15?  That worked well for a while; even when I agreed  (prior to being canned) to give him $20 and get a little more work done.  Haven't seen him in a month.  I save money, but if he doesn't ever come back I'll need another plan when the grass starts to grow in the spring. It's always something, isn't it?

Back to the Christmas bins.  With the television on and facebook open in the background...