Sunday, August 31, 2014

One More Sleep Until the Fair

If I were any more excited, I'd surely pee myself! We have some severe weather expected tonight (a tornado watch is unusual this late in summer) so I think it best to harvest Son of Herman before I lose him to hail, downpours, or worse. I'm taking bread and tomatoes with me so Danny can eat sandwiches in the hotel room along with a couple tins of sardines. We have to bring our own meals when travelling (allergies) but he doesn't seem to mind. Most food you can get at stops along the Interstate isn't that interesting anyway. I was up at 4:30 AM baking granola, so he'll have that as a surprise.
College football started yesterday. There's going to be a lot of Husker fans with fresh breath out there. GO BIG RED!
I just brushed with a plain old, Oral-B. My breath is fresh, but it isn't Husker Fresh. You probably wouldn't want to kiss me anyway.

I got the fall issue of Vogue today, and for the first time in years, I didn't hate what I saw. I didn't like any of the fragrance samples (they all smell like tinned fruit salad and hairspray) but that's no surprise. What I do like are the rich brocades, feathers, glittery boots, blankets as capes, and the wide flares. Glitter and chainmail can be a look (I guess) if done thoughtfully. I guess fashion finally caught up with the chic part of the 70's.
 I always forget I have this sweet little bracelet. You would think, given the design it would catch on clothing, but it doesn't.
My baby's birthstone, so of course I had to get a gigantic one.

Outfit Particulars:

90's dress-bought it new when I still did that sort of thing.
Faux alligator belt-Goodwill
Bracelet-Thrift World, 90th and Maple
Handbag-Ruby Begonia's, Lincoln
50's hat from Brandeis Department Store-Hand-Me-Ups
Brooches-thrifted various places

There are a couple dozen sparrows at the feeder as I type. I wonder if they know a storm is coming?

See you on the off side?

 Sure, what the hell, it is a long weekend to go without one.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature

Margarine? No, no, you must be mistaken.
Don't even try fooling Mother Nature.
 You can't head off on holiday without an adequate supply of comic books, so we stopped at Krypton Comics to see what they had.
Danny scored a couple Woody Woodpecker comics from the 50's.
He was happier than this photo would lead you to believe. Really!

Would you look at the stuff they sell at the import store these days? Geez.
 Photo-bombed by the youngster pulling faces.
I bought this dress a year ago, but first got around to wearing it today. Cotton Candy pink isn't the easiest shade to wear, but between my favourite pink earrings and Marvella necklace, I think I managed it. Goodness, I suddenly have a craving for mincemeat...
I seriously thought about wearing pink hair flowers, but capturing the look of Fanny Cradock isn't really something to aspire to. I still don't know how she managed to avoid setting herself alight cooking in ball gowns. Today, you wouldn't be pulled off the air for insulting someone's cooking, but in the 70's, that was enough to get you cancelled.
Outfit Particulars:

1970's maxi dress-Thrift World, Millard
Marvella Necklace-Hand-Me-Ups
Rings-thrifted various places
Floral Hat-Goodwill, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Shoes-K mart
Beaded handbag (reversible)-Ruby Begonia's, Lincoln, Nebraska

As I was leaving the hardware store a dad with two young girls (maybe 8 and 10) were getting in their car. The younger one kept staring at me, so as they pulled away, I stopped dead in my tracks, looked directly at her, and stuck out my tongue in the most dramatic manner I could. She'll have a good story to tell when she gets back to school.  I don't really mind the stares, I mean if you go to a hardware store in Omaha wearing a full length, pink polyester evening gown, and a floral hat, it is understood that there will be a few stares. I don't think it is hostile-you can tell the difference between the looks.
 Sort of an up-do. Thank goodness for hats, as my hair isn't tolerating the 95% humidity very well.
 Am I wrong in wishing the sash were just a wee bit longer?
That's my rented-ride for the trip to Grand Island. I have it through Tuesday, so in theory I could go all sorts of places. I went to the comic book store. For a big car, it isn't all that comfortable of a ride. That surprised me. I suppose our old cars are heavier, and have better suspensions. I'm sure it will be just fine on the Interstate. I should go thrifting for furniture before I leave, as it has a larger trunk than the Tempo. It has (gasp) Illinois plates on it. I'm horrified, and having some sort of 80's flashback. I hope no one starts shouting, "Flatlander" or, "FIB*" at me.
*That's, Fucking Illinois Bastard. Ahem. Have a lovely weekend.


Friday, August 29, 2014

See That Glow? That's A Proud Mama Beaming

The State Fair results have been posted
(Scroll to div. 4614)
Will you indulge me a second to brag about the youngster's accomplishment?

My baby boy's first prize-winning jams and nectar. It was, apparently a sweep with him taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place ribbons. The nectar took a blue ribbon, and it isn't clear which jams came in where, but we'll know that on Monday when we go to Grand Island. I have to admit, the apricot nectar was really good. I'm so proud of him (would have been even if he hadn't placed) for all the planning, and hard work developing recipes, testing, and finally bottling them up. He's already planning next year's entries.

In other news, I finally (after five weeks) got my second pair of specs back from the lab. First, they forgot to tint them. Then, instead of green, they tinted them yellow. Finally I ended up with sky blue and decided to call it a day. The line-less trifocal is insanely difficult to get used to, and even though they adjusted the frames, they are still sliding down my nose (because they're heavy) so I think at some point I need to find a new place to do my eyewear. They used to be good, but whatever happened, they aren't now.

We used to tease my mother that these were rapper specs, but I feel more like Elvis, if I'm honest. I have a polyester jumpsuit with rhinestones that may need a wearing soon.
I frightened the gardener today. He was attempting to sweep soaking wet mulch from the sidewalk after a rain when he saw me and said hello...then he saw the eyewear and kinda froze. Can't blame the kid. Last I saw of him he's given up sweeping in favour of one of those leaf-blower things, but it wasn't really helping. We've had very heavy rainfall of late, and wet mulch isn't going anywhere until it dries out. I hope I don't find him out there with a hairdryer next. So yeah, I've had a lousy couple of weeks but at least I'm not charged with sweeping wet mulch. Life could be worse.
Yesterday was full of excitement though. I was in the kitchen chopping the hell out of what must have been the world's hardest squash (I mean, the chef's knife wouldn't budge through it) when Danny came in to tell me he had a loose tooth. OK, no big deal, then he yells from the powder room, "I got it out." Great, I kept chopping away at the squash figuring the problem was solved, when he came into the kitchen with a soaked gauze pad and a worried look.
"I don't think I got it all."

I'm not the panic sort of parent, so I looked in his blood filled mouth, saw the piece of tooth that broke coming out and figured I'd grasp it with a tea towel and get back to my squash duties. It wouldn't budge. 4:30 in the afternoon, and I need to find a dentist. I found one-three minutes from the house. She cut away a bit of gum, pulled the tooth, and said if it ever happens again, just keep wiggling it, and it will come out eventually. There might be tons of blood though, depending how it breaks. I'll pass this vital bit of information along in case it ever comes up. I got home, covered the squash, put it in the fridge and dealt with it today. See? No big deal. Blood, teeth, broken bones-no problem. Asthma? Anaphylaxis? I will freak the hell out. Inwardly, of course.
Are these the best chartreuse earrings, or what? I wanted them at $3.99 but figured they'd go on sale-and they did. I wish all my earrings looked like lemon candy.
The Guardian had an article today in the fashion section about how opaque tights are back in style. When I stopped laughing, I realised they were serious. Well they never went out of style for me. Our winters are much too harsh for bare legs. Besides, this skirt would have been obscene with bare legs, where now it is just, "kind of short."

Outfit Particulars:

Ann Taylor skirt-Goodwill
Blouse-Sears (I think?)
Green 70's jacket (part of a suit)-Thrifted Salvation Army
Gaymode 60's shoes-thrifted
60's handbag-Thrift World, Millard
Cazal Eyewear-Mum's
Floral pin-Goodwill 108th and Blondo
Scent-Tabu (Still can't decide if I like it or not (on me). Probably won't buy another bottle).

Now, to select my clothes for Grand Island, and the visit to Red Cloud I guess it comes down to, Laura Ashley, or Gunne Sax? Either would work, just not with these specs.

Do take a peek at the Cather Foundation website-you can do a virtual tour of Willa's childhood home. Last time I went, it was 104 degrees F. and I nearly passed out climbing up to that hot attic to look at her floral wallpaper. A virtual tour would have been nice. Monday looks to be better weather. Thank god.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brighten Up Those Buckets of Rain

Cats and dogs?! More like tigers and wolves, the rain we've been having. Doing my hair is pointless, and any fabric that can't be wrung dry sitting in the car won't be of much use. Umbrella? Forget it, better to just make a run for it and hope for the best. With the heat, it is a bit like stepping into a shower each time I go outside, so obviously a raincoat won't help either. Instead, I grabbed the lightest, brightest, silky dress I own and made my own damn sunshine.

This is my second Diane Freis dress. There wasn't much I liked about 80's fashion, but I really like these dresses. They're flattering with a waist that can be worn drop, or on the natural waist thanks to an wide elastic band, the drape is attractive, and the sleeves, well...
You know how I feel about massive sleeves. I didn't need to do any housework or cooking today, so I made the most of my impractical dress. I probably won't need to cook for a week-I made about 100 vegetarian dolmas yesterday (lentils and rice work as a nice substitution for lamb) in another bout of stress-cooking. Rolling lentils in grape leaves is therapeutic in the same way that making dumplings is. I've often thought I missed out on a career as a factory worker-I'm really good at repetitive tasks. But not in big sleeves. You don't wear big sleeves to cook. You wear big sleeves to go to the craft store!

Wide eyed anticipation?
Relax, I'm just going to crochet some dishrags, and I needed cotton yarn. I do wish I were making something more exciting, as I have this great close up photograph of my eyeball. Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into some surrealist film...
Blondin! You get the hell off the birdfeeder!
Sorry. Got a bit off topic there. I had a successful trip to the Hand-Me-Ups store as well. The 17 yards of yellow polka dot fabric I had my eye on when it was $14.00 moved to the 1/2 price room, so I pounced. I also bought a vintage Donegal Tweed blazer, a velvet and Lurex suit (because obviously, I needed that), two vintage cardigans (one, Amana Woolen Mills) three vintage blouses, a couple of patterned tops, a pair of shoes, two wooden bowls from Hawaii, vintage embroidered napkins, a deck of old playing cards, a pin, and a boatload of clip earrings. The financial damage was minimal. I really do adore thrifting, I feel a little sorry for the suckers paying top dollar at department stores though. OK, I really don't.
 Outfit Particulars:

Diane Freis Dress (80's)-Goodwill
Madden Girl shoes-Goodwill
Necklace-Von Maur ages ago
Red bracelet-can't remember
Green clamper bracelet-K Mart
Earrings-Mum's, Mexican Shop, Evanston Illinois
Red tights-Walgreen's store brand (and they're terrific tights!)
1960's Lucite handle bag-A thrift store in Western Massachusetts years ago
Rings-here and there

 Funny story about the wedding band/engagement ring. A woman commented that it was beautiful today, and I told her the truth-it is glass. She couldn't believe it, so I told her, "Everything I have is fake, except THESE" and I grabbed my boobs. It took her a minute before she could let herself laugh, but she finally did.
 I like these shoes a lot, but I wish my Goodwill would stop writing the price on the bottom with permanent marker. There's a limit to how much thrifty pride I'm willing to display.
This is my other Freis dress, which has some lovely beading on it. I know these dresses are sought after nowadays, but I don't think I'm ready to part with either. I'm not a fan of purchasing for a label (though obviously there are exceptions) particularly if I don't intend to wear it. I try never to say, "never" but I hope to get some good wear and enjoyment out of these before I consider moving them along. Clothes that flutter as you walk are worth holding onto if for no other reason than they feel great to wear. As I've grown older, I'm less willing to be uncomfortable in clothing. I may not be ready for a pair of yoga pants (unless in the very unlikely situation where I might find myself doing yoga-that made me giggle at the mental image just typing it) and a pair of gym shoes, but I'm not willing to cause nerve damage from a pair of tight fitting jeans. Have you heard about that? People are getting numb patches on their thighs from the skinny jeans.
This dress took all of ten seconds to pull over my head, and I was dressed. I'd still be trying to pull up a pair of skinny jeans if I'd tried to wear them. With a pliers to close the zipper.

I'm off to do a ton of laundry, and start making dishrags (excitement!). Hope your midweek is treating you well.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Man Has a Name


Years ago, before answering machines, or call messaging my parents ran a food distribution business. Because it was a small operation, they didn't have the money to employ someone to do the telephone work so my mother took the position, along with the bookkeeping. My mother was an incredible bookkeeper, and she knew it. I would guess her confidence probably did lead to some heated confrontations when someone had the idea her accounting might have been off, with one particular incident resulting in her calling someone a, "Toothless Wonder" before slamming down the receiver. She was right though, her accounting was accurate, and the individual in question was a "Toothless Wonder." I believe they lost that account. As the business-speak people say, she wasn't a people person. Placing mother in charge of calling accounts to take their purchase orders for the week was a serious business gamble, but the way my dad saw it, there were a million restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin-she couldn't alienate everyone. Most of the customers would order the same thing regularly, and after a while my dad got to know what they needed, avoiding calling for an order, but there were always a few that had small cooler space and didn't want it taken up with food they couldn't use. Once a week to take an order-how much damage could she possibly do?

My dad was a people person. He may have been a mean son of a bitch at home, but people that didn't live with him really loved him. As a businessperson, he really did place the customer first so if they ran out of something on a Sunday afternoon, he'd hop in the truck and bring them what they needed. I remember him regularly bringing a pail of pickles to a frantic hot dog stand an hour and half away on a weekend, sometimes borrowing it from another customer with a promise he'd be back first thing Monday morning to replace it. You didn't get that sort of treatment from the large, corporate food suppliers, and people knew it, appreciated it, and were loyal to him. I'm sure he calculated that into whatever mental business plan he had when he asked my mother to start taking telephone orders.

I remember the green telephone book with the padded green vinyl cover that had, "Telephone Numbers" embossed on it in a loopy golden script. In the front cover, she'd written the days of the week, and who needed to be called when. Some were weekly, some monthly. To her credit, my mother kept all of that straight and running, so that generally the person she needed to speak with was expecting her call and if not available, had left the order with someone to relay it. It sounds so complicated today in an age of electronics, and computers but in the late 60's and early 70's even the simplest tasks required a bit of planning and several steps. This would often get complicated if the person doing the ordering moved on to another job-something that happens regularly in the restaurant business. A new person would have to be trained to deal with my mother as it was best not to just toss someone to her clutches, as it were. She wasn't a mean person, but she did have very strong opinions about the way things ought to be done which more often than not was, her way. Follow the rules, and everything was great. I get that, I really do. If you can't be orderly in your life when things are going well, how will you cope when the shit hits the fan?  The most important thing I learned from my mother was that you can't be an effective control freak if you leave people to do as they please. You need to guide people, sometimes subtly, other times less so, in the direction you want them to go otherwise you may have to compromise with what someone else wants. She wasn't having any of that.

My dad needed a new customer put on the call list. My mother got out her green, padded vinyl telephone book with the embossed gold loopy script, and asked for the cook's name as she'd done so many times prior.
 "Just ask for Ho Chi Minh", he told her. Flabbergasted, and quite rightly, she refused.
"I am not calling a kitchen,  and asking for Ho Chi Minh. The man has a name, what is it?"
"I don't know, that's what everyone calls him" he whined.

She wasn't going to do it. Not long before she'd called another restaurant asking for a Mr. Ali Baba, because that was what my dad swore his name was. His name was, Ali but the "Baba" part was added as a form of good natured ribbing around the kitchen. She'd soon become aware that, "El Greco" was a Greek man named, "George", and that she should under no circumstances trust my father when it came to supplying her with a customer's given name. There are a lot of Poles in Chicago, but they aren't all named, Roman. Not every German is named, Hans.  She knew the cook wasn't named, Ho Chi Minh.

Finally, my dad tells her, "His name is Mr. Chinn, but nobody is going to know who you're asking for because everyone calls him Ho Chi Minh." Satisfied, mother wrote it into her special telephone book and got ready to call him on Monday for an order.

My mother spent years developing her speaking voice. She may have been the daughter of a milkman, but with years of careful attention she managed to sound at least upper-middle class. This would disappear five seconds after you put her in the same room with my grandmother, but for everyone else, and particularly on the telephone her manner of speech was, for lack of a better term, posh. She might have been calling you a toothless wonder, but it was done so in those soft tones that the well-bred adopt and use so carefully that people would almost want to thank her following a dressing down. I recall an unfortunate police officer that once pulled her over to try and point out she had been speeding being so caught off guard, he let her go without so much as a warning. I learned to speak late, and with great difficulty so I never acquired my mother's verbal gifts, but I wouldn't possess the confidence even if I had the accent. She could be positively terrifying without ever raising the volume of her voice.

Monday morning rolls around, my mother takes out the puffy green vinyl telephone book with the gilt embossed script, turns to the front cover and dials Mr. Chinn first on the day's list. She asked for "Mr. Chinn" and as my dad had warned her, was met with a person asking, "Who?!" Finally, she explains that she needs the cook, and the person on the other end of the line finally gets it and says something like, "Oh, Ho Chi Minh, Let me go get him for you."

My mother waited, and waited, and finally the man returned to the line telling her he wasn't in, and would she care to leave a message?
"That's quite all right, I can call back" she informed him, and went about the rest of her daily calls. For several days, she'd call back, ask for, "Mr. Chinn" only to be told he wasn't in. Becoming irritated with the additional work of calling after someone who seemingly never worked but had the responsibility of ordering supplies, she lost patience and left a message that he would have to call her if he wanted any bloody pickles!" It didn't take long for the telephone to ring with an apologetic Mr. Chinn on the other end of the line.

Between the formality of her voice and the use of his proper surname, poor Mr. Chinn was convinced that anyone calling his place of employment looking for him was from the government, and given his immigration status the news probably wasn't going to be good-so he avoided her. When he asked why she called him, "Mr. Chinn" she replied, "because you have a name, and it isn't Ho Chi Minh."

By the mid-1970's my dad made the wise decision to purchase a home answering machine. It was a gigantic, hulking black piece of office equipment with keys and levers and two cassette tapes (incoming and outgoing messages). It was so huge it wouldn't fit on my father's desk and still leave room for the telephone, adding machine, and perpetually overflowing ashtray, so instead it went in the kitchen-atop the free-standing dishwasher that could be wheeled around, but not so far that it would rip the telephone line out of the recorder. I remember it was Halloween, and I was supposed to go to a party but was instead at home with my sister waiting for the stoner sent to install the thing to finish up and leave. I don't know how complicated wiring an answering machine to your phone line could have been, even back then but I suspect it might have gone smoother if  Phineas of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers hadn't been sent to install it.

Eventually my mother worked it out so that people would call to leave orders, and she's have them tallied and scheduled for my dad. A few people still needed a call, among them Mr. Chinn, though I suspect it was not exactly necessary. I doubt their conversation ever extended much beyond, "How are you?" and "May I take your order?" but my mother always figured he enjoyed having someone (that didn't work for the government) call and ask for him by his proper surname. And she did, for many, many years until he retired because the man had a name, and it wasn't Ho Chi Minh.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Know You Have Better Food In There...

...come on, let me in!
Look what a mess our little friend has made kicking breadcrumbs from the platform feeder. I'm not worried, he'll have it cleaned up in no time at all. We are now having a nightly visit from this fellow, right as we sit down to our evening meal there he is, peering through the glass doors. He isn't the slightest bit shy. I've taken to calling him, Blondin after the pet squirrel in Doreen Tovey's books *.
Now I need a pair of Siamese cats to keep him in line.

I want to thank everyone for your kind words of encouragement of late. I do try to keep my moaning on the blog to a minimum, and I do appreciate the kindness you've all shown me. I can deal with just about anything (tornado, moving house, unemployment, major illness, dental work, bank hackers) but toss a sick kid into the mix and I just get overwhelmed. I mean, obviously I don't just shut down, and I do deal with it, but this cycle of asthma/virus/asthma/virus has been going on since April. I know a good part of it is his asthma medications which suppress his immune system making him a magnet for viruses three states away. On the positive side, he's been tearing through reading which is great (believe me, when I was nine I wouldn't read Moby Dick if I had been sealed up like the boy in the bubble) but it has been a very, very, long spring and summer. I'll get him to the fair on Monday come hell or high water, but it will probably be a very quick visit, and then straight home. We'll see.

As for my friend the squirrel...

I can hardly blame him wanting in the house, what with all the wonderful aromas wafting out the window. Faced with more rosemary that I can dry and give away, I had to get creative.
I spread a layer of red grapes on a baking sheet with a (very) generous amount of rosemary. I tossed it with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkled it with salt. An hour in a 300 degree F. oven did the trick. When cool, I worked them into a bread dough with about a cup of semolina flour and extra olive oil for a light texture. Here's what I got
I did steam in the oven to get a crackly crust, though the breads themselves are quite light. I'm planning to serve these with cheese-maybe something like Havarti. So that took care of a few sprigs of rosemary-now to figure out something to do with the rest of the madly growing plant. We won't discuss the madness that is the out-of-control oregano.

I don't think I ever showed you the bottles I bought within a week of each other (ever notice how thrifting goes that way?). Both were from Goodwill (one in Iowa, one in Nebraska) and I think the folded bottle is particularly nice. It is almost feline looking.
School is starting again, which will be nice to have a routine if only to keep me from obsessively baking and scrubbing floors (my kitchen floor is brown-if I never scrubbed it again, I doubt anyone would notice). We're starting with WWI, so I'm sure I'll work some baking into the lessons by way of a Trench Cake or some Anzac Biscuits. I'm less sure how to work floor scrubbing into a lesson, but where there's a will there's a way.

*If you aren't familiar with Doreen Tovey's writing, you're in for a great delight. Yes, they're children's books but you would have to be a terribly grumpy adult to find fault with them. I'm as grumpy as they come, and I find them charming so if that isn't a ringing endorsement I don't know what is.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Orange You Happy?

Well, I don't know if I'd go as far as to say I'm, "happy", but life goes on and I'm making due. You know what would make me happier, if not outright happy would be something fab to wear. Let's just go have a look and see what I have...
Oh, a scooter dress. Those are nice on an obscenely hot day. Speaking of obscene-this dress isn't because...
Ta-Da! Pervert-proof! Yes indeed, those are shorts under there. I could do cartwheels and headstands (not literally, of course as I might dislocate something) and no dirty old farts can so much as catch a glimpse of my gigantic cotton granny pants.
Look what we had falling from the sky last night. The plants are mercifully all OK, and I won't need to be watering for a while (3 inches of rain!) but going out to fetch samples of hail mid-storm was not my best-ever decision. As hailstones go, these were quite pretty.
I'm still working through my stress in the kitchen, so I used the leftover cherries and chocolate from yesterday's cookies to bake buns. It didn't help, so I made several batches of pot-sticker dumplings for the freezer. If things don't calm down soon I'll have to open a bakery.
 There's still plenty of summer left, I'm afraid.
 There's a cold front headed our way in the first part of next week, but until then, it is hot and humid. I got in the car today and my glasses fogged over. I'm not sure I've ever had that happen. Very strange.
I couldn't stand being home any longer, so I hit the Goodwill at 108th and Blondo which is often good for vintage. I came home with an orange and white 70's maxi (I'm sensing an orange theme here) and a vintage Pendelton suit. Then, because the Universe owes me for all the shit being tossed my way of late, I found a pair of beautiful Valentino peep-toe suede pumps with the most gigantic bows I've ever seen. $3.99
Thanks Universe!
Outfit Particulars:
MPC Fashions of Warren Pennsylvania Scooter Dress-Thrift World
White Sara Coventry necklace-long-gone Venice Antiques Mall
Rings-here and there
A rather cheeky squirrel found his way onto the bird feeder, so I went to shoo him off. The little(_____insert insult of your choice) looked at me and continued munching on his raisins as though I were chatting about the weather.
"But those are for the birds" I tried to reason with him. Eyeball to eyeball less than a foot from him, the furry bastard continued eating, his chubby cheeks packed full of dried fruit and yesterday's bread. "You really need to leave now" I scolded. He just stared at me and sat there casually shoving raisins into his mouth, until finally I advanced on him enough that he took off. It was only then I realised the neighbours on their patio were listening to me attempting to reason with a squirrel. Yeah. That's just. So. Great.
 Crazy squirrel lady.
Damn this week.