Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Something You DO Want to Hear on a Job Interview

Interviewer picks up the phone and dials the main office:

"Hello, [secretary's name] can I fill out a transfer paper right now, or am I just supposed to give my recommendations to [principal]? I want her here--she is number one on my list."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fifty Fascinating Things About EarthSignMama

Some of the family bloggers have written "100 Fascinating Things..." but I'm such a blabber-mouth that I doubt there are 100 things I could write that you don't already know. At least things I'm willing to reveal, anyway. So, here goes:

1. I loved to eat sour cream herring when I was pregnant--but only then.

2. My ring size is 9 1/4; I didn't need to put tape on it when a boy gave me his class ring in high school.

3. I've always been afraid of the dark.

4. I took piano lessons from second grade until I was a sophomore in high school. I'm really good at hymns and that's about it.

5. One of my goals until about 10 years ago was to climb the Matterhorn in France.

6. I don't like anchovies.

7. I'm deathly afraid of snakes.

8. My horse (when I was a teenager) never, ever tried to buck me off. He did buck off everyone else who got on him. At least once.

9. The only broken bone I've had was in a finger that I smashed trying to unhook two shopping carts. I didn't know it had broken until months later when a doctor x-rayed my hand for something else and pointed out a healed fracture.

10. Um...does the knuckle I disintegrated with a 22 caliber bullet count as a "broken bone"?

11. The first time I swam in the ocean I was knocked flat by a strong wave that shoved me all the way up the beach and pulled my suit half-way off.

12. In third grade, I pooped my pants on the playground.

13. I've had a letter to the editor published in the paper in every city we've lived.

14. One summer, I was interviewed for a t.v. news report, a radio show, and something I wrote was printed in the newspaper--in just two months.

15. I learned to bake cookies when I was eight years old.

16. I interviewed for a job as a "receptionist" at a company that turned out to be a call-girl place. I didn't take the job.

17. I got to meet Pres. Harold B. Lee at the restaurant where I worked in the summer during college. He was really, really nice.

18. Even though it was against the dress code, I often wore jeans to class at BYU in 1971.

19. Never ever bring an insect or pet rat to me and thrust it into my face saying "Look at this!" Warn me first, please.

20. I always chewed off the erasers and then chewed the wood until the paint came off of my pencils in elementary school.

21. I've never habitually chewed my nails.

22. I sucked my thumb until I was almost 12.

23. I love to rub cold ear lobes between my fingers.

24. I wore orthodpedic shoes 6th--8th grades trying to help my hopelessly pronated, flat feet. They had no effect on my feet, but completely destroyed my ego.

25. The only foreign country I've been to is Mexico, just over the border a few miles.

26. I have been to 31 states, however.

27. I have a current teaching certificate for Maryland, California, and Nevada.

28. I've never been arrested, but once a cop threatened to do so if I wouldn't rat out my neighbor. I still didn't cooperate with him. He was bluffing.

29. I picked up brocolli off the side of the road once when several just-picked bunches fell off a big truck I was following.

30. My least favorite housekeeping jobs are cleaning the fridge and scrubbing the floor.

31. I'm very skilled at candling eggs.

32. I have made tofu from scratch. I don't recommend it. I had to throw away the pan.

33. I won the "Best Actress" award in my high school in 1970.

34. In my senior year of high school I was the FFA queen. (That's Future Farmers of America for those of you who have never watched Napoleon Dynamite---all 2 of you.)

35. I was also chosen the "Betty Crocker Homemaker" of SVHS in 1971. I just missed getting the scholarship money for the state of Wyoming because I came in 4th over all and they only awarded the money to the top three winners. (You took a test.)

36. I did win the money on Password Plus in 1979. I was champion for a week. It was a blast.

37. I also appeared on two other t.v. game shows. As the loser.

38. When we played grown-ups as little kids, my name was always "Judy Hill" and I was always a secretary. Then I started wanting to be a scientist.

39. For two summers, my cousin and I pretended to be nuns on a mission to the Indians. We sewed habits, had rosaries we made, and called each other by our "sister" names except at Primary. We had a cool playhouse with a fireplace we build fires in and roasted corncakes we made from corn we poached out of the cow's grain and then ground on a rock into meal.

40. One of my jobs as a pre-teen was to sweep out my dad's schoolbus every night after he finished his route.

41. I always ate lunch in our school cafeteria instead of going across the street to the hamburger store where many people ate, because I too afraid of looking dumb at not knowing how to order there, or what it would cost. Plus the guy who ran it scared me.

42. The only lab I did poorly on in college biology was the human reproductive system. I confused the female hormone cycle. Which probably is related to my giving birth five times in eight years...there's never a "safe" night.

43. I've been on the "Powdered Wig Tour." In which you visit the historic homes of T. Jefferson, G. Washington, J. Madison, and J. Monroe which are all within about 40 miles of one another in Northern Virginia. I didn't go on one day. But you could.

44. I can start a fire in a wood stove with one match.

45. I have a tiny cup of sand topped with a seashell that is scooped from the hoofprint of a wild pony from Assateague Island, VA.

46. I also have an autographed copy of "Misty, of Chincoteague" and have read the book (not necessarily that copy) at least 15 times.

47. One summer my sister and I started to count the haybales we hauled, but were so appalled when we got to 18,000 and weren't finished, that we quit keeping track.

48. I've seen the thermometer at -42 degrees, and still had to go outside and milk the cows.

49. I've never had to change any of the flat tires I've had.

50. I once replaced the air conditioner compressor in a 1967 Chrysler New Yorker-I only had access to Cool Guy on the phone-he walked me through it.

The Tangine Experience

I found this interesting recipe in Sunset Magazine for tangine, a food that my daughter eats often in Morocco. It is made with chicken, and many, many spices, as well as quite a bit of dried fruit--apricots and prunes. It was somewhat labor intensive to make: brown the chicken, then remove it and saute the onions and garlic and ginger. Then you add the spices and stir them a little in the oil to warm up and release all their aroma. Then you add chicken broth and return the chicken thighs to the pan, put in the dried fruit pieces, the chopped parsley and cover and cook. It is served on couscous, which is easy to prepare, adding toasted pine nuts and more chopped parsley. Some of the spices were quite pricey, too. Look in the Mexican food section and you can get some of them much cheaper than than on the spice aisle.

I followed the recipe faithfully since this was the first time I made it. And it was superb! Delicious! "More-ish" as my mother would have said. So we both had two servings and the next day, I ate the remaining large left-over serving. Ymm....

However--I do not recommend pigging out on this dish in the manner in which I did. You see, all that dried fruit...and the whole chopped onion and the four cloves of minced garlic...whew. It really promotes "digestion" if you know what I mean. If you choose to cook this recipe, just plan stay at home for a couple of days after you eat it, or at least if you can't stay home, be sure you know where all the bathrooms are in your immediate vicinity and make sure you can access them readily.

So, don't be afraid of tangine---it's delicious! But next time--I think I'll put in fewer pieces of dried fruit than the recipe calls for, or perhaps just limit myself to one serving.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Do You Think He Had The Crutches?

Tonight, we were driving on one of the major north/south arteries of the Big City. It has three lanes in each direction, with a concrete median most of the way. It was packed with cars and they clip along at a fevered pace. About half-way through one block, I noticed a person waiting on the median for a break in the traffic to jay-walk to the west side of this street. HE WAS ON CRUTCHES. Do ya think he's tried this before? Hmmm...slow learner, maybe?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Foods of Our Father

Today is the anniversary of my dad's birth. He would be 84 if he hadn't died twenty-three years ago. In honor of his birthday I thought I'd write about his favorite food.

This blog could be summed up thusly: if my mother cooked it, it was his favorite. I honestly don't recall him complaining ever about anything she made. Once he made mention of not wanting much "rabbit food" referring to salad. But he'd always eat it.

He loved oyster stew for supper. (We ate farm meals: breakfast, dinner, supper.) After preparing full-on balanced sit-down meals for 8-10 at breakfast and dinner, my mother did supper in shifts. Little kids ate while the milking was being done and then they went to bed. The milking crew came in and foraged for ourselves or ate our helping of what she'd made earlier, and then, either she made daddy his supper or he'd make his own depending on when he finally got in.

Oyster stew was made by heating milk and butter with salt and pepper in a pan. Then he'd open the can of Standard oysters (don't EVEN think about buying Geisha brand...) and pour in the liquid, then gently slide the oysters in to warm up. By now, I have left the room--the smell was enough. But the sight of those icky things was the last straw. Weird how much I love them now...He could easily eat the whole pan by himself, crumbling up crackers into the bowl and slurping up the last drops.

Another standard supper was Bread and Milk. This is made by filling a tall glass with milk. Next, take a slice of my mother's homemade bread and break it into pieces into the milk, stuffing the glass full. Then you top the whole thing with a large spoonful of honey which is stirred in a little. It is then eaten with a spoon and a side order of sliced cheese. Another totally yucky concept to me as a child: soggy bread. I've never tried it, but Daddy ate this at least every day, I swear. A variation on this is Milk Toast. Make the mama-bread into toast. Heat milk on the stove in a pan. Place buttered toast in a soup bowl. Pour over it the heated milk. Eat. I didn't eat this food either. But I did love another Toast Specialty: Creamed Tuna Over Toast. We ate this for supper quite often, I've fed it to my children, and Cool-Guy and I will still occasionally have this for our dinner (city supper).

Cheese: ambrosia for the dairy farmer set. We did not have a day or a meal that didn't include cheese of some type. I was carefully indoctrinated. When we very first began to keep house together, Cool Guy and I both acknowledged that if we didn't have cheese, then it felt like we didn't have food. My dad is also of this school of thought. A favorite supper of his was Bread and Milk and melted cheese. This is prepared by lining a metal pie plate with thickish slices of cheese, and then sticking this pan under the broiler till the cheese bubbled. Then you ate it by sticking a fork into the gooey mass and twirling up a portion of it and sticking it into your mouth. Ymmmmm. Melted cheese sandwiches were another supper staple: spread Miracle Whip onto mama-bread, lay slices of cheese on it, slide under the broiler until bubbling. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top (and sometimes he'd even sprinkle vinegar too) and eat. With a glass of milk of course.

Afternoon snacks: he'd open the lid of the Karo syrup bottle and swig down a couple of chugs. He'd eat five hot cookies and a glass of milk. (yes, someone was always making cookies.) A dish of peaches with bread and butter. Bread and butter and raspberry jam (naturally made by my mother from berries she'd picked.) Root beer floats made with homemade root beer. Snack time was that starving time right before milking when we'd all need a little kick to get through the day.

Here's some really weird foods:
Headcheese--I remember being just the right height to stare a pig head in the snout as it sat in a pan on the kitchen table prior to my mother turning it into headcheese: boil the pig head till the meat falls off. Reduce the broth till it becomes a jello-like substance when chilled. Chop up the bits of meat, season with sage and salt and pepper and stuff, then combine the broth, and seasoned meat into a loaf pan, refrigerate until it is totally chilled and solid. Slice off pieces and serve on bread and butter. I recall it fondly. But when I got some from a deli once as an adult it was unbelievably nasty tasting...not my mother's recipe. My dad loved it! I don't know how often she made it, it seems like a lot of work.
Poached Egg Sacs: About every three/four years we'd have to kill all the laying hens because they'd quit laying. During one of these chicken killing extravaganzas (which lasted about three days what with the cleaning, cooking, bottling of the meat) my dad saved some of the egg sacs (basically the chicken fallopian tubes) that still contained the developing yolks from the one or two hens that hadn't quite come to the end of their cycle of productivity. He remembered our grandmother poaching these and eating them for supper when he was a boy---it would just a be a white-less egg with some organ meat around it. So, my mom brought them in and washed them and poached them for dinner that day. I'll never forget--#1 the icky smell of them, and #2 their even ickier appearance--all gray and shriveled laying on his plate. But he ate them and claimed they were tasty and my mom agreed. We had a whole other dinner, these egg sacs were just a little side item, but my appetite was totally ruined.
Jerky: Daddy was born in the wrong century. He'd have been completely content living as his grandfather had lived--up in the hills, trapping, hunting, fishing. Every year Daddy went hunting and usually got us a deer and an elk. It was fortunate that he enjoyed hunting, it enabled my mom to have meat to prepare for meals for the entire year. He used the deer mostly for jerky. Deer hamburger is okay, and deer liver is quite yummy, and one meal of little deer steaks is plenty for most. So the rest of the animal went for jerky. Again...I didn't like jerky. I still don't like jerky. Bleh.

I'll bet there are lots of other things my dad ate that stand out to my brothers and sisters. I hope they'll be inspired to write and tell me! In the meantime...happy birthday to Lynn Ray Welch--go out and have a chocolate covered orange stick in his memory.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Attention Husbands: Here's How to Do It

Cool Guy got home last night after a couple of weeks' absence. He noted my attire--all black--and asked if I were doing the Bohemian look today. I replied that, no I had been wearing a sweater, but it got hot.

"Well, I'm sure it did. I don't know why ALL your clothes don't just burst into flames everyday--you're such a hottie!"

There you go. Use this tutorial to your advantage.

Then it was accented today by the long-stemmed red roses delivered to the school where I work. This is all good.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

School Improvement Day

In a district that my children attended for several years in California, the official term for the in-service days (when the teachers attended for training but the children stayed home) was a SIP day: School Improvement Day. It was named after the ubiquitous School Improvement Plans that all districts are required to write and implement. Every district is mandated by the various levels of government to have on-going teacher training.

But, one of my friends used to laugh and say, "Sure, what better way to improve the school than to have all the students stay home!"

We had a SIP day today...they don't call it that here in Nevada. But the effect is the same when the teachers are all there, but the students stay home! But, seriously, we had a training day, and the presentations were uncharacteristically useful and interesting. It was a good way to end my four week track break. I even had a chance to reorganize my room and revise my lesson plans before diving back into the whole wild scene--that'll happen Monday when the students return. Tomorrow--another IMPROVED DAY!!!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Defense of February Written Five Years Ago--Still True

I read another querulous quip maligning the second month recently. The writer muttered something about the dank, dismal slushiness and, as usual, sighed that “at least it is a short month.” But I, apparently alone, feel joy when January’s page can at last be torn away, revealing the freshness of February.
“Sure,” people say, “It’s your birthday this month; of course you like it. But wait till you’re old, then you’ll sing a different song…” Ah, but I am old, relatively. And my heart still leaps lightly when I staple those hot pink hearts on my classroom calendar poster, replacing the somber snowflakes of January. Besides, my birthday was never a solo event. It came at the end of an almost exhausting week of festive feasting at our house. First, on the seventeenth, we celebrate my dad. Birthday cake, new gloves, homemade cards, chocolate-covered orange sticks—one year my mom gave him a surprise party. It was an effort to dispel the tragic gloom that had descended in October after our neighbor’s accidental death. I don’t think it worked. But the birthday worked the year I was a senior in high school, and they’d been not speaking for several weeks after a big blow-up over some money problem, and my sister and I were worried. My dad had actually been sleeping in the spare bed upstairs. I think they were both sorry, but didn’t know how to end it, and on the morning of his birthday, my mom went about the day as birthdays were always done: presents on your breakfast plate, the cheery song, greetings from the whole family. By evening, the cake and ice cream had been consumed and a different atmosphere was in the house. The next morning, we noticed the spare bed had not been used. Whew…
The next event, just four days after daddy’s big day, is my little sister’s birthday. She was born the year of my seventh birthday, two days before. One of my aunts appeared bearing an elaborate confection of a doll whose enormous hoop skirts were formed from a cake all carefully ruffled with icing. Another aunt made me a new jumper and blouse—all mine—not handed-down—new! My just-about teen-aged sisters threw me a party after school. The living room was filled with little girls, and I got cool presents like a tiny bottle of Jergen’s hand lotion and costume jewelry. But my most vivid memory is standing with my forehead pressed against the cupboard under the wall phone, crying while I spoke to mom who’d called from the hospital to see how the party was going, and wish me a happy birthday. But all I really wanted was her to be home, where she usually was, and not gone, leaving our house bereft of heart and soul. Not even a party could make up for that. But that was the only crummy birthday my sister had. Usually, I loved her birthday. She was so sweet and cute. Also, it left only one more holiday before my Big Day.
You see, not only could my mother make angel food cake--(which was the birthday cake of choice), she was the queen of pies. So how could we possibly allow George Washington’s birthday to pass without a cherry pie? This of course was served on the REAL date—not that mushy “President’s Day” which tends to obscure the glory of the Father of Our Country. Yes, we ate two birthday cakes and a cherry pie, a la mode, all in four days. Which was followed by…yet another birthday cake!!
My birthday for many years has been a solo event, a day in which I decide to have a wonderful time, regardless of what anyone else may do. I pick a gift for myself, I bring treats to my students, I bake myself a cake. I celebrate me. Then, if anyone else remembers (and they always do—I have a terrific assortment of relatives and friends) it is like gravy. I already have the meat and potatoes and the smooth shiny flow of their good wishes just floods around me as an extra serving of yum.
But birthdays and food aren’t the only reasons to love February. In the Wyoming of my childhood, January was consistently the coldest month of the year. You could count on at least a week where the HIGH was –20. This cold drag (you can’t call something that lasted so long a “snap”) would torture us for an extended period causing the cows and chickens to consume extra food and still diminish their productive output simply because all their energy went into staying warm. The entire world became brittle. My dad would plug in the engine block heater of his school bus with a thick orange extension cord trailing from the house so that he could start the motor in the indescribably sharp morning air. People would never speak while outside because then the icy air would go directly to your shocked lungs without the brief warming when you breathed it into your nose first. January was every bit of 31 days long when your weather choices were blizzard or brittle.
But something else happened in February. One morning, you’d look out and the snow looked softer. And you stepped out of the porch encased in the many layers of milking clothes, and realize that you could breath without pain. The air was warmer. It was softer. A thaw was happening. During the day, the snow around the edges of the sidewalk would melt away, exposing a tiny edge of grass. You could smell the change in the atmosphere. The animals moved differently. The cows spent time standing in the sun chewing their cuds. The cats would lie at the opening of the hay loft and bask in the warm rays. You didn’t need to huddle. Coats went unzipped. With a bare sidewalk, you could get away with regular shoes. The eaves dripped loudly all day, and icicles fell to the ground in sudden startling explosions that woke up the drowsing students in the late afternoon. Of course, March always came, and the thaw was over and blizzards raged, again. But that little respite in February helped you to keep alive the hope that winter would eventually give way.
February is larded with the riches of famous people’s birthdays. Longfellow, Langston Hughes, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rosa Parks. Edison, Lindberg, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Four presidents: William Henry Harrison, and Ronald Reagan along with the celebrated births of Lincoln and Washington. Artist Grant Wood, musician Jascha Heifetz, singer Leontyne Price, and actor Jack Benny. There are so many more. I realize that everyone has to born sometime, and you can probably get into a contest with me over your favorite month’s famous. But there was something going on in our home town. In my high school class over one third of our 130 students were born in February. It probably had everything to do with the month that occurs nine months previous: May. Spring, at last…
But, seriously, who can hate a month with a great holiday like Ground Hog’s Day?? And I realize that Valentine’s Day is a relationship mine-field for adults, but school children still love folding and cutting those perfect little hearts from colored paper to decorate their bags and then the thrilling moment of examining their cards to see who gave who what. And the cards I receive as the teacher show careful thought: I always got the Steve Young cards and the Harley Davidson cards. It is the official holiday of chocolate: ‘nough said.
Yes, February is difficult to spell, and in many parts of the world it is slushy and grim. But it is short, and filled with celebrations if you care to look for them. And in San Diego, it is the month the jacaranda trees start to bloom. So, here’s to my favorite month, when you can really tell the days are getting longer, and every four years, you get an extra day to enjoy.

A Good Time of Year

Today, I went outside at 5:30 P.M. and---drumroll----it was not dark yet! Yeah! I love this time of year! I always feel so claustrophobic when it gets dark at 5:00 P.M. I would definitely not do well near the Arctic Circle. I will revel in this increasing amount of sunlight until June and then, by August it will be possible to notice the decrease's so predictable.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Jerk Meter

How high on the Jerk Meter would you put him?

Today, on the way back from Yuma, I stopped in Lake Havasu City at a park that, according to the signs, was a "view area" in my attempt to view the London Bridge that someone imported there. I parked and walked all around, but obviously not enough "all around" because I didn't see the bridge from there. (I did see it later from another place...) BUT...I was in a park that had a fenced off area clearly labeled Dog Park and there were lots of people and their dogs there cavorting around and having a lovely late afternoon time. Outside the fence there were many offical signs stating "No Dogs Here" with the drawing of a dog covered in the red/slashed circle. It was really obvious. As I walked back up the rise from the river's edge toward my car, I stopped to photograph a huge flock of birds (at least 100) that were on the lawn busily eating. They were coots, about the size of chickens, really going to town on the bugs in the grass or the grass itself. It was remarkable because it was such a lot of birds altogether with identical behavior.

From the opposite side of the park, about 100 yards away, came a tall, buff, shaved head white dude with a lovely blonde woman accompanying him, and he leaned down, and unleashed his dog, I didn't recognize the breed--about boxer sized with pointy ears--and sicced the dog on the birds. And laughed uproariously as the dog went into the huge flock of oblivious birds chasing them into the water. (They're swimmers.) The dog turned and the guy sicced him on the rest of the birds that hadn't responded to the first group's frightened rush. The guy praised his dog and laughed loudly again and they kept walking toward a set of playground equipment covered with kids and the guy started hollering, to no avail, for the dog to come to him. They went around the corner of the hill and I didn't see if he ever got the dog to come back nor if he put it back on the leash.

You all would have been really proud of me for keeping my mouth shut. I was close enough to shout out "Hey---***hole! This is the NO DOGS part of the park!" And it took every fiber of self-control in my body to resist. But...I don't need the bad kharma.

But...I found myself thinking: I hope they never have children. I don't want to have kids raised by him (or her) in my class, ever.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

How to Feel Young

I'm visiting Cool Guy in Yuma where he spending a couple of weeks at the flight range test-flying the little airplane. I came down for the weekend because I could. Most of the time when he is gone from home it is too far away to go for a weekend, but Yuma is close enough to Vegas, Baby, that I just drove down here on Friday night and had a nice day basking in the sun here in the land of the snowbirds.

Lots of RV's and lots of mobile homes here for the people who don't want to live in their snowy homes during the winter. If you're feeling old...then, all you need to do is visit Yuma, or Quartzsite, Arizona and you'll be a whippersnapper if you're under 60.

Cool...I like being the youngster.