Monthly Archives: August 2013

Secondary Character Saturday: Mama (who Makes Up Her Mind)

WHO: Mama White

FROM: Mama Makes Up Her Mind, and Other Dangers of Souther Living

BY: Bailey White

Bailey White [Image courtesy: FreshFiction.com]

Bailey White [Image courtesy: FreshFiction.com]

PUBLISHED: 1993

PROS: Sweet, Southern, elderly lady who has a lot of experience and a lot of class.

CONS: She’s also stubborn and opinionated. (But you still love her.)

MOST SHINING MOMENT:  While Bailey White might charm you with stories of Aunt Belle and her bellowing pet alligator. Or Uncle Jimbuddy with hus appalling “knack for losing pieces of himself. ” [Amazon.com] You will “succumb utterly to the charms of Bailey’s mama, who will take you to a juke joint so raunchy it scared Ernest Hemingway or tuck you into her antique guest bed that has the disconcerting habit of folding up on people while they sleep. [Ibid]

Here’s a taste from Mama’s Memoirs…

For years we’ve been trying to get Mama to write her memoirs. she actually started once. She was writing them on old envelopes with a blue ballpoint pen. but she wold make her grocery list on the other side of the envelope, and she kept leaving her memoirs at the checkout counter of the Piggly Wiggly. [Mama Makes Up Her Mind, Bailey White]

WHY I CHOOSE HER: Bailey White is an amazing story-teller. She could spin a yarn from alphabet soup.  But she’s at her best when she pulls a story from something Mama did or said.  Why’d I choose Mama? In hopes that you’d go out and find one of White’s books and read them. You’ll be glad you did.

Other Books by Bailey White:

Bailey White used to be a contributor to National Public Radio, but not so anymore. I guess she’s gone back to teaching in her first grade class room full-time. Shame. We miss you Bailey.

She lives in the same house she grew up in, now with her sister. Her mother, Rosalee White passed away in 1994.

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Fiction Friday; Secret Watcher in the Sky

[Its Friday and that means a story prompt from ViewfromtheSide’s Blog.  This week we explore “Secret Watcher”.  I putzed around the house this morning wondering what the heck I was going to write about and then my hubby invited me along on a trip to the hardware store. Sure I said… but would he mind a quick side trip? Here’s our story…]

Trees

Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The trees were beginning to crowd the tarmac.

The road had gone from 2 lanes to one about a mile ago. Now the trees — lush with the previous night’s rain — had encroached on the shoulder. Their branches arched overhead playing a jazzy sonata of light/not light on the windshield as they alternately allowed or blocked the sun.

I’d reduced our speed to 25 (slower than the posted 30) to compensate for the fact that we really didn’t know where we were going. It wasn’t that we were LOST exactly, we just had never travelled this path before.

That was O.K. though because, although WE didn’t know where we were going, the GPS assured us that IT DID.

Our goal was a yarn shop in South Central Pennsylvania. I’d remembered how to get to their original location from a previous visit. Alas, that was a half a decade ago and the shop had since moved.

No problem. WE had an iPhone. WE were up for adventure.

After checking the yarn shop’s web site we plugged in the new address. In seconds our secret GPS watcher in the sky plotted a course over the scenic Seven Valleys to the new spot.

Away we drove.

The hiccup came when the roads of Pennsylvania decided that life is not as clear-cut as the GPS elves up in that satellite would have it be.

On the screen the little blue dot that represented our car passed the turn that would take us to the yarn shop. In the car we saw nothing but trees.

We RECALCULATED and found a second route.

One road crested  hill and turned from smooth asphalt to crushed gravel.

NO WORRIES — we had all wheel drive! And soon enough we popped on to another paved road.

Our blue dot moved along, obeying the GPS. It indicated a right turn. I made a right turn.

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite, image ...

A few hundred feet in the trees began to crowd us. The asphalt again turned to gravel.  We considered abandoning our faith in the GPS and turning around, but the road wasn’t wide enough.

There was only one way to go and that way was FORWARD.

So we drove forward.

The road, if you could call it that at this point, got considerably worse. An irregular strip of grass and weeds grew between the tire tracks. The tire tracks became less gravel and more mud. My fingers tightened around the steering wheel.

Still, hovering miles above us Big Brother cheerily showed our little blue dot closing in on the little red dot of the yard shop.

The words “How the hell do they expect any one to find them out here?” were sputtered more than once.

Finally, FINALLY, we came out of the trees into a lane that skirted a barn yard.

A skinny black kitten eyed us than ran away (YES! a sign of life!)

We drove around the barn and saw a middle school aged boy hammering aimless at an old box

“Excuse me?” I said after rolling down the window. “Do you know where the yarn shop is?”

“Yarn shop?” He rolled the words around in his mouth like they were alien to him.

“Yes, we’re looking for a yarn shop.”

“I don’t know about a yarn shop… but the fiber mill is over there.” He waved the hammer in the vague direction of a long low gray barn. He was a pleasant enough fellow, but we had waisted enough of his valuable time. He had important things to do. That box wasn’t going to beat the hell out of its self you know.

“O.K. Thanks.”

Hmmmmm. The blue dot and the red dot appeared as one.  The GPS overlord seemed to think we had arrived at our destination.

We checked the web site again. This time we saw something further down the page that said “If you are interested in visiting please feel free to make an appointment.”

Ahh.

Beyond the long low gray barn was a paved county road and the GPS happily showed us the way back to civilization.

The eye in the sky didn’t get us to the yarn shop, but it was able to find us just a good. It had pointed us squarely at adventure.

compass


Farm Fresh Challenge: Mid Summer Harvest Stew

Chaos at the ritaLOVEStoWIRTE kitchen "studio" this week prevent my taking a "box shot" of our CSA goodies so I took a shot of the pertinent  ingredients  instead.

Ingredients from our CSA, Calverts Gifts included potatoes, cherry tomatoes and purple sage.  I added leak, broth and garlic salt (plus a bit more) to create a hardy summer stew.

Chaos at the ritaLOVEStoWIRTE test kitchen “studio” this week prevented my taking a “box shot” of our CSA goodies so I took a shot of the pertinent ingredients instead.

INGREDIENTS:

From the box:

  • 10 small to medium Potatoes

potatoes

  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/8 cup chopped Purple Basil
  • From the Pantry:
  • 1 Leak sliced

Leaks Basil toms

  • 1/2 cup Chicken Stock
  • Dash of Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound protein (I used sausage) COOKED and sliced
  • Garlic Salt, Salt, Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large pot bring 5 cups of water to boil. add the Potatoes and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the sliced Leaks and cook an addition 3 minutes. Drain  and set aside.

2. Add oil to the pot and put in the protein. Cook for 3 minutes (The protein needs to be pre-cooked == some might cal it “left over.” So you just need to heat it through for this recipe.) Add the Stock. Add the Tomatoes, Garlic Salt, Salt and Pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes.

Protien Basil Toms sauce

3. Put the Potatoes and Leaks back into the pot and stir. Allow several minutes for the Potatoes to reheat.

4. Plate and enjoy.

Stew on plate


Thoughts on Green Straws 8.28.13 Thought of the Day

Image

My current straw collection.

5 out the 7 days in my week start with a diet power smoothie. I’m not sure what it is about the smoothie that wakes me up really. Perhaps it’s the punch of nutrition, or the hit of chocolate. Most likely it’s the rather loud zoom and whirl of my blender (with ice, milk and power shake powder inside) at 6:30 in the morning.

When I started this little regime I bought a pack of 100 straws at the supermarket. Nice, happy, colorful straws to start me on my nice, happy, colorful day.

The pack contained bright blue, red, yellow, orange and green straws.

I found the perfect place in the cupboard for them. Just in arm’s reach of the blender. Thus, even my sleep addled brain could find them in the morning without searching high and low. [… Bender… milk… ice… power shake powder… zoom…cup… straw… sip.] On really adventurous days I’ll add some fresh fruit. If I’m feeling really, really adventurous I’ll go with a teaspoon of peanut butter.

Not long into this breakfast ritual I somehow decided that the green straws in the pack were the cutest little straws that ever graced the earth. Look at them. Aren’t they the sweetest things?  (I mean for straws?) And I began to save them.

It’s kind of like saving all the Lucky Charms until you’ve eaten all the cereal bits then eating the marshmallow charms all at once for breakfast dessert. (Yes, I get the irony that I hoarded Lucky Charm marshmallows as a kid, and now I’m hoarding the green straws for my DIET breakfast power shake as an adult. Don’t judge.)

And it’s not like I didn’t appreciate those work horse colors of red, blue, yellow and orange. They are lovely, lovely colors. I’m happy to have them. I’m delighted to suck my somewhat chalky, diet drink through them every morning. I even try to be environmentally aware by hand washing them in very hot, very soapy water so I can use them multiple times. (Hint use a bamboo skewer to clean the insides of the straws.)

But now that I’m in the home stretch of my jazzy multi colored pack of straws I realize that even with recycling I’m only about a month away from this…

Image

The coveted neon green straws

MONO STRAW COLORATION! All bright green straws! There’s nothing unique or funky or even fun about that!!!

I know now that I have made a terrible mistake. I’ve allowed the lure of the pretty and the cool to influence my choices in straw color. This has ultimately lead me to (one by one) eliminate the diversity of my straw population.

I don’t want to wake up to a world where the only choice in straws color is bright green.

So, from now on, I’m going to celebrate every straw color I meet. Because with a straw it’s what is on the inside that counts, right?

Image

Celebrating the diversity…while I can. Multi colored neon straws.

———————————————

[Things have been a little random at my house this week. Both husband and adult child are home on staycation/break, so blogging time has been a bit off. That means my regular features have been — and will likely continue to be — a little out of whack. Thanks for baring with me.]


Tiny Houses 8.27.13 Thought of the Day

Floor plan for Penny, Sheldon and Leonard's floor (The Big Bang theory) [Image courtesy: Floor Plans of Famous Television Shows]

Floor plan for Penny, Sheldon and Leonard’s floor (The Big Bang theory) [Image courtesy: Floor Plans of Famous Television Shows]

I’m a sucker for a floor plan. I  don’t know what it is … but I love to read a floor plan and imagine what a house will look like when it is built. I get kind of the same feeling as I do when I read a well written piece of descriptive fiction and can let the words stew up there in my brain until the characters and action and setting are fully formed into a story. I don’t need a movie studio to come along and render it for me — I’ve got the imagination to that myself — but if some one comes along and does a particularly creative and inspired interpretation of the story I take note and give a little nod of appreciation. Same with floor plans. I don’t need a builder to assemble the bricks and mortar and flooring and marble — I’ve got that interior-ly designed in my head — but if some Architectural-Digest-art-editor wannabe does accompany the floor plans with a spread of 4-color photos or line illustrations that’s nice too.

English: Dana-Thomas House (1902) 301 East Law...

English: Dana-Thomas House (1902) 301 East Lawrence Avenue Springfield, Illinois Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dana-Thomas House

Dana-Thomas House (Photo credit: mstephens7)

The thing is… it’s not particularly likely that I’m going to need the floor plans I peruse any time soon. We aren’t on the hunt for a new house. But — to continue the novel analogy — I’m enjoying the fiction and fantasy of stepping into another lifestyle.

We have a fairly modest house in a land of mini mansions. The house across the street from ours easily boast triple the square footage of our humble abode. There’s another house, further down the road, whose garage is larger than our sweet little cape cod. So right off the bat you’ve probably guessed that, despite my anxiety over lack of storage space, I comfortable with smaller living. But lately I’ve been really fascinated with super little houses.

There’s a company called Tumbleweed that I’ve been watching for a while. They do a line of awesome cottages and tiny houses (houses so small you can build them on a trailer base and tow them with a RAM pick up.) Take the Cypress 20 for example…

Tumbleweed's Cypress 20's floor plan

Tumbleweed’s Cypress 20’s floor plan [Image Courtesy: Tumbleweed]

How the heck did they fit all the essentials of living into such a little space?

Tumbleweed's Cypress

Tumbleweed’s Cypress has a wee footprint but a lotta style. It has 144 sq ft on the first floor plus room in the loft. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

Tumbleweed built their first tiny home in 2001.

Cozy loft bedroom in the Cypress 20 lets you get in touch with your "shabby, chic, and romantic" sides, all while camping.

Cozy loft bedroom in the Cypress 20 lets you get in touch with your “shabby, chic, and romantic” sides, all while camping. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

They produce building plans and ready-made tiny homes.

A bookshelf hides the sliding ladder that gives access to the sleeping loft in the Cypress 20. In a modern age of Kindles and Cloud storage small living becomes ever more possible.

A bookshelf hides the sliding ladder that gives access to the sleeping loft in the Cypress 20. “Bookcase” is, perhaps, not the best choice of words… In this modern age of Kindles and Cloud storage small living becomes ever more possible — your entire book collection can fit into a device the size of a slim paperback and your movie collection can be stored virtually. [Image courtesy: Tumbleweed]

I don’t know that I’m ready to commit to a Tiny Home lifestyle, but I do think one would make an awesome studio. Hmmmm Christmas is coming….

To see more Tumbleweed Houses click here.


Muffin Monday: Date Granola Muffins

Granola Muffin on plate single

When we went to Williamsburg last winter we stayed at one of the Colonial Houses and ate at the Williamsburg Inn for breakfast. They had the most wonderful Granola and I charmed a recipe out of the very kind staff at the Inn. I won’t share it here as it may be proprietary and I wouldn’t want to give away any secrets. But I will say that it was super yummy and if you ever get a chance to go to Williamsburg you should treat yourself to a stay at one of the Colonial Houses and breakfast at the Williamsburg Inn. [Click here for a link to Colonial Williamsburg]

My attempt at Williamsburg Inn Granola

My attempt at Williamsburg Inn Granola

That reminded me of a Granola Muffin recipe I came across a bit ago and I decided to adapt that for this week’s Muffin Monday offering. So without further ado I give you… Date Granola Muffins…

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup dried Chopped Dates
  • 1 cup hot Water
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of Granola
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour a 12 cup muffin tin.

2. Soften the dates by adding them to the hot Water. Let sit 5 minutes. Drain.

3. In a large bowl mix the Flour, Granola, Baking Powder and Salt.

Granola muffins dry ingredients

4. In another, smaller bowl, combine the Milk, Vegetable Oil, Egg, and Vanilla.

5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.

6. Stir in the Dates, carefully folding them into the mixture.

7. Divide into 12 muffin cups.

Granola muffins in pan

8. Bake for 20 minutes.  The muffins should be golden brown and pass the toothpick test. Remove from the oven and let cool a minute before loosening them from the pan (they should come right out.)

9. Serve with butter or applesauce.

Granola Muffin Side view 2

These muffins are delicious, but on the dry side so the butter or applesauce is a must.

The original recipe called for sugar. I took that out when I added the dates, and I’m glad I did. These don’t even register on the ritaLOVEStoWRITE Muffin Monday saccharine scale, but the dates give them just a hint of sweetness. Because of their dry texture and their lack of sugar pop taster Maggie suggested we come up with a new category: the “Buffin” (the Biscuit / Muffin). Since I love both biscuits and muffins… I’m down with that.

Taster Bill states simply that they are “Yummy with butter.”

This morning I had mine with tea and an egg over easy. It was a pretty nice way to start the week. IMHMO. (In My Humble Muffiny Opinion).

Granola MUffin with egg


Leonard Bernstein 8.25.13 Thought of the Day

English: Leonard Bernstein

English: Leonard Bernstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louis Bernstein was born on this day in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. Today is the 95th anniversary of his birth.

His parents, Jennie and Samuel Bernstein, were hard working Ukrainian  immigrants.  Although his birth cirtificate said ‘Louis’ everyone called him Leonard or Lenny. He officially changed his name when he was about 16.

His love affair with the piano began almost by accident when he was 10.

His Aunt Clara was going through a divorce and needed a place to store her massive upright piano. Lenny loved everything about the instrument, but his father refused to pay for lessons. Determined, the boy raised his own small pot of money to pay for a few sessions. He was a natural from the start, and by the time his bar mitzvah rolled around, his father was impressed enough to buy him a baby grand piano. The young Bernstein found inspiration everywhere and played with a voracity and spontaneity that impressed anyone who listened.  [Biography.com]

He attended Garrison Grammar School and Boston Latin School before going to Harvard University. In college he studies Music theory. 

In 1937, he attended a Boston Symphony concert conducted by Dmitri Mitropoulos. Bernstein’s heart sang when he saw the bald Greek man gesture with his bare hands, exuding a rare kind of enthusiasm for every score. At a reception the next day, Mitropoulos heard Bernstein play a sonata, and he was so moved by the young man’s abilities that he invited him to attend his rehearsals. Leonard spent a week with him. After the experience, Bernstein was determined to make music the center of his life. [Ibid]

After Harvard he went on to  the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study conducting with Fritz Reiner and  Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.

Leonard Bernstein, 1944

Leonard Bernstein, 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He landed a job with the New York Philharmonic and conducted his first concert on November 14, 1943. He went on to conduct internationally.

Bernstein wrote his first operetta, Candide in 1956. His second work for the stage was a collaboration with Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents andStephen Sondheim, the beloved musical West Side Story. When it opened, the show garnered unanimous rave reviews, matched only by its movie version released in 1961. [Ibid]

Here’s a two hour plus concert presentation of Candide…

And here’s a cool 10 minute mash up of modern day and original Broadway casts of West Side Story rehearsing for a Broadway Cares event…

[ANITA! 3:46  she still rocks!]  [Click here to see my BioBlog on Secondary Character Saturday: Anita]

Rehearsal photo for West Side Story

Rehearsal photo for West Side Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Secondary Character Saturday: Inigo Montoya

"Hello..." Mandy Patinkin brilliantly plays Inigo Montoya in the 1987 film version of The Princess Bride

“Hello…” Mandy Patinkin brilliantly plays Inigo Montoya in the 1987 film version of The Princess Bride [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

WHO: Inigo Montoya (The Spaniard)

FROM: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (Photo credit: Rev Dan Catt)

BY: William Goldman (Movie directed by: Rob Reiner)

WRITTEN: 1973 (Movie produced: 1987)

PROS: Inigo is mysterious, dedicated to his friends, has a high sense of honor, is an excellent — ambidextrous — swordsman, and (despite two disfiguring scars on his cheeks) is handsome as all get out.

He has a nice sense of ironic humor — as evidenced in this passage from the book as Inigo, Fezzik, Vizzini and Buttercup are escaping from Florin to Guilder.

“No one could be following us yet?” the Spaniard asked.

“No one,” the Sicilian assured him. “It would be inconceivable.”

“Absolutely inconceivable?”

“Absolutely, totally, and in all other ways, inconceivable,” the Sicilian reassured him. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” the Spaniard replied. “It’s only that I just happened to look back and something’s there.”

They all whirled.

Something was indeed there. Less than a mile behind them across the moonlight was another sailing boat, small, painted what looked like black, with a giant sail that billowed black i the night, and a sing man at the tiller. A man in black.

The Spaniard looked at the Sicilian. “It must just be some local fisherman out for a pleasure cruise alone at night through shark infested waters.”

[in the movie Vizzini gets the punch line, but this is the way Goldman wrote it.]

Map of Florin and Guilder.

Map of Florin and Guilder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONS: His single-minded need for revenge against the six-fingered man (the man who killed his father) has consumed his life. Clearly Inigo is man of great passion and talent, if that passion and talent had been used for something other than revenge just think how much he would have been able to accomplish in life. He’s headstrong and doesn’t think things through.

Inigo awaits the Man in Black at the top of the Cliff

Inigo awaits the Man in Black at the top of the Cliff [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

MOST SHINING MOMENT: It’s hard not to pick the scene where Inigo gets his revenge on the six-fingered man, but I’m going to go with something that happens earlier in the book.

As INCONCEIVABLE as it seems the Man in Black (Wesley) has almost caught up with the Inigo and rest in his boat. Buttercup, Inigo and Vizzini have hitched a ride on the giant, Fizzik, as he climbs a rope up the Cliffs of Insanity, and Wesley follows them up the rope. Once the group of outlaws gets to the top Vizzini orders the rope cut. But Wesley manages to grab onto the cliff before he falls. While Vizzini and Fizzik take Buttercup inland Inigo is left to deal with the Man in Black. He waits (somewhat impatiently) for Wesley to finish the climb and even throws down some rope to assist him. When, at last, Wesley has gained the top of the cliff Inigo could have easily slain the exhausted rescuer. Instead the Spaniard waits for him to recover… before engaging in the MOST AWESOME SWORD FIGHT EVER FILMED.

QUOTE:

WHY I CHOSE INIGO: I love that Inigo is flawed but determined. With out his (and Fizzik’s) comic relief the book would have sappy.  His history gives the novel some tender depth. And he is brilliantly played by Mandy Patinkin in the 1987 movie.

 "I see you have studied your Agrippa."

“I see you have studied your Agrippa.” [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

If you’ve never read the Princess Bride I strongly suggest you add it to your “must read” pile. It is just too fun not to read, and like most books, it gives you more for your buck than does the movie. That says a lot considering the movie is fabulous. Click here to get to the Amazon Princess Bride page. (Try and get the book in hard copy it is something you’ll want to have around for your children and grandchildren.)


Gene Kelly 8.23.13 Thought of the Day

Promotional photograph of actor Gene Kelly.

“I got started dancing because I knew it was one way to meet girls” — Gene Kelly

Eugene Curran Kelly was born on this day in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1912. Today is the 101st anniversary of his birth.

He was the third of five children  born to James and Harriet Kelly. His mother enrolled Gene and one of his brothers in dance classes but the boys bulked. Gene would rather play baseball than dance. He dreamed of playing shortstop for the Pittsburg Pirates. He returned to the dance studio by the time he was 15.

Kelly put his lessons to good use in college, teaching at a local studio to help him pay for his education. He also performed with his brother, Fred. [Biography.com]

Kelly went to the University of Pittsburg as an Economics  major. He also participated in the Cap and Gown Club which put on musicals. He recieved his BA in Economics in 1933 then went on to Law School at Pitt.

Gene Kelly's senior picture in the 1933 yearbo...

Gene Kelly’s senior picture in the 1933 yearbook of the University of Pittsburgh (The Owl). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His family opened two dance studios (one in 1932, the second in 1933) and Gene taught dance when he wasn’t studying. He eventually managed the studios. But in 1937 he moved to New York to make his way as a full time entertainer.

After “small roles in Leave It to Me! starring Mary Martin, and One For the Money” [Ibid] Kelly hit it big with the lead in Pal Joey. By 1942 he’d landed a movie contract with MGM and had made his film debut in For Me and My Gal with Judy Garland.

Other highlights in Kelly’s amazing career include:

  • Anchors Aweigh
  • On the Town
  • An American In Paris
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Inherit the Wind
  • Brigadoon
  • Summer Stock

Here are few clips to get your toes tapping…

And…

Kelly had a temperature of 103 when they filmed that btw.


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