Thursday, June 28, 2007

Major Fun in Minneapolis

I'm working on a laptop at the home of my friends The Actuary and Genealogy Buddy, where I've had a delicious breakfast

(and a wonderful supper last night, cooked partially by Cordeliaknits.) Cordeliaknits and I arrived nearly simultaneously on Tuesday evening, both our planes having been delayed. Sisterknits picked us up and of course we went to Little Tijuana, a terrific old Mexican restaurant just off Nicollet Ave. Yesterday, we saw the movie WAITRESS. I could have seen it at Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, but I held out for the fancy new hand dryers and the company of my daughters at Southdale Cinema. We enjoyed the movieand were sad that the fine writer, actress and director Adrienne Shelly is no longer here to get the praise she deserves. (I'm not linking because it's hard enough for me using a laptop without trying to do all that other stuff. So look it up, OK?)
Tonight I'll attend the Book club meeting from my old church and see a bunch of people, even though I haven't read the book (City of Falling Leaves by John Berendt -- hey, it's 414 pages long, and I am reading a mystery set in Venice, which should count for something.) The Traveller is coming too; she hasn't read the book either but has been to Venice several times.
One day soon I hope to figure out how to upload photos so I can make another and more visually interesting post. Till then, I hope everyone is having as good a day as I am!

Monday, June 25, 2007

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Your results:

I didn't want to do this because I was afraid I'd get just this result!

And now, complete with yodelers...

June 25, 1972, Brunswick Naval Air Station Chapel

(Note: This is a rather long post, and yet, I left out a lot. Perhaps someday Onkel Hankie Pants will blog his version.)

35 years ago today, Onkel Hankie Pants and I stood before a Navy chaplain, made promises, and prayed. Our vows were adapted from the old Book of Common Prayer with the addition of words from an even older version as used by Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. We have kept the promises, to the best of our ability, and our prayers -- especially the one about "the gift and heritage of children" -- have been answered. Here is the story of how it came to be.

In March of 1972, I completed the Russian interpreter course at Defense Language Institute-W est Coastas the only female in the class. Most of my Army enlisted classmates were headed for further training as members of the Army Security Agency. What to do with me? Well, in the Army, if in doubt, OJT -- so I was sent across the Bay to Fort Ord for On-the-Job Training as a clerk-typist. Now by coincidence, the lieutenant doing the assigning was a graduate of Beantown Jesuit College. He looked at my personnel file and said, "Oh! You went to A Host at Last University! I've got just the place for you -- Awards and Decorations. There's an English major from The Harvard of the Midwest* there -- you'll really like him."
* There may be many schools which claim the title, but I refer to the one which shares a town with Big Norske Choirs College.

So I began work in Awards and Decorations, where we used IBM Selectrics with a lovely typeface to compose and produce the citations that soldiers receive along with a medal when they have done something special. Onkel Hankie Pants (for it was indeed he) and I hit it off immediately, but soon after my arrival he left for a three-week leave back to Minnesota. Not long after his return, I finally received orders to use my Russian interpreting skills in Berlin, Germany. Energized by the prospect of my imminent departure, OHP first invited me and a friend from the WAC barracks to a party at his off-campus apartment (a one-bedroom which he shared with two co-workers). Someone brought a guitar and wholesome fun was had by all.

The very next day, OHP and our supervisor hatched a plan that he and I, the supervisor, her two junior-high-age kids, and the afore-mentioned guitarist would go out to dinner in Carmel and attend a production of Once upon a Mattress at a local college. I put on a new dress and high heels, and we set off in Onkel Hankie Pants' orange Austin America. Now, at The Harvard of the Midwest, OHP had directed and acted in this very same play! So, of course, he spent the entire play whispering in my ear about what he had done differently....Nevertheless, by the end of the evening I think we were falling in love.

We began to spend nearly every possible waking hour together (he had a part-time job at the Post Library and occasional Guard Duty at the Ammo Dump) and each moment was all the sweeter because of the impending separation. We began to talk about marriage at some unspecified future time, but nothing had been decided when, around mid-June, he put me on a plane for Oregon, where I would visit some old friends before heading to Maine and then Berlin.

The flight was a Pacific Southwest Airlines wine-tasting flight, so I arrived at The CPA's house in Eugene in a bit of a state. I won't say I was a weepy drunk, but I had had a little more than I normally do. The CPA was then married to Laughing Boy, who had been a year ahead of us at Tiger High (the first of the three high schools I attended). Like many people in Richest County, Nutmeg State, Laughing Boy had an Eastern European surname; unlike many such, his was easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. So OHP was able to track me down. Early the next day, there was a phone call for me, and "yes I said yes I will Yes." But the wedding date was not set -- we thought perhaps in the fall, when I could get leave again.

So, after fun in Eugene, The CPA, Laughing Boy and I headed for Portland, to visit The Boss and her then-spouse, Bridge Fiend. I shocked and dismayed The Boss by showing up with 5 lbs. of bridal magazines. I had shared The Boss's phone number with Onkel Hankie Pants, and soon this phone call came:
OHP: "I think we should get married right away, before you go to Berlin. I have enough leave time to come to Maine."
AK: "Well, sure, OK, that sounds like a great idea, even though people will think we Have To Get Married."
OHP: "But we do! You're going to Germany! How do I know you won't get over there and fall for one of those darn yodelers?"

A month after our first date, we found ourselves, with our parents and our sisters, The Traveller and The Medic, in the Brunswick Naval Air Station Catholic chapel (it's smaller than the Protestant one), saying our vows in front of the Navy chaplain. The Traveller played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on the little organ. My sister and my new father-in-law "stood up with us" as we say here. We had a lovely, simple family reception (with cucumber sandwiches!) at my eldest aunt's farm, and my paternal great-aunt lent us a cabin at the shore for our honeymoon. All too soon, Onkel Hankie Pants had to return to "Fort Orc" and I had to fly to Berlin. The many letters we exchanged during the following year probably are what saved us from the proverbial fate.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

Answer: Anthony's Italian Kitchen and Cabaret in Portland, ME, where Onkel Hankie Pants and I pre-celebrated our 35th anniversary last night with a red-sauce dinner and a side of NUNSENSE -- AMEN. By day an Italian restaurant/sandwich shop, on weekend nights the tiny space (50 diners) is transformed into a dinner theater of sorts -- really the shows are more revues than plays. Michael Donovan, who directed the last 3 plays Onkel H acted in, is the director of the shows (which change monthly) and also acted in NUNSENSE as Sister Mary Amnesia. Three more of the 5 cast members had been castmates of Onkel H and the fifth was connected also to Portland Players and Lyric Music Theater. In fact, it appeared from conversations around us that many of last night's show-goers were theatre people in one way or another. The show did not disappoint, with over-the-top jokes, well-sung songs, and amazing choreography and dancing given the small space they had to work with.

However, I must say that I probably would have enjoyed the show even more were I a Catholic. For a liberal mainline Protestant whose last Catholic ancestor probably died sometime in the 1500's, it just doesn't seem quite right to make fun of nuns! (Not to mention that when I grew up, nuns in habits were still a common sight, and we were a little afraid of them.) Still, it was a fun way to celebrate. Photography opportunities were limited by my disinclination to injure the performers by taking flash photographs, but here are photos of my glass of wine

and the excellent small combo that provided the music (two of whom were also theater buddies of Onkel Hankie Pants -- I think he now knows more people in Maine than I do!) Tomorrow, at last, The Story of Our Engagement and Wedding!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Son, the Fanatic -- thoughts on a movie

Last night I watched My Son, the Fanatic, a short (hour and 20 minute) film based on a short story. In a north of England mill town, an Indian immigrant (Om Puri) is a taxi driver with a dissatisfied wife and one son in college. He is nominally Muslim, but assimilated to the point that he relaxes after work with a drink and Louis Armstrong records. Many of his taxi clients are local prostitutes. From the opening scene where Parvez and his wife are meeting their son's English fiancée and her parents, through the inexplicable (to him) changes in his son's behavior and beliefs, we see the disintegration of this small family. Parvez is hired as a driver for a visiting German businessman and becomes his procurer of women, especially "Bettina" (whose real name is Sandra), played by Rachel Griffiths. In their taxi rides together, Parvez and Bettina become friends. Meanwhile, his son Farid has discovered his Islamic roots and, disgusted by the prostitution, pornography and general meaninglessness of the English life as he sees it, slides further and further into fanaticism. (In this 1997 film, the fanaticism takes the form of protests against prostitution which turn violent). Father and son cannot understand each other. I won't recount the rest of the plot, but I wanted to note some of my thoughts on the film.

The theme that struck me in this film was the status of women in modern British culture and in Islamic culture. Except for brief scenes with the English fiancée and her mother, the only English (non-Islamic) women we see are the prostitutes. Minoo, Parvez's wife and Farid's mother, longs to return to Lahore and readily adopts a more Islamic style of clothing when her son becomes observant. Yet she is not a subservient wife. Farid (and the other fundamentalists) take out their anger at the sex-obsessed culture they see around them on the prostitutes, failing to see that the women are the victims. (Bettina/Sandra explains her choice of profession in economic terms.)

Parvez seems to be the only man in the film who views women as human beings. Although his relationship with his wife is crumbling, he is shocked and angry when, during a visit from a Muslim spiritual leader, she is made to eat separately, behind closed doors in the kitchen. And although he is sexually attracted to Bettina, there is far more to their relationship than that, and even his interactions with the other prostitutes are friendly and do not objectify them. Yet, he is still complicit in their being used by the German businessman.

This movie was billed as somewhat humorous, which it really isn't at all, though it's not a complete tragedy either. If you have seen it or do in the future I'd be interested in your ideas.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hot Town, Summer in the City (Friday Five)

This Friday Five courtesy of RevGalBlogPals:

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)
Just about anything from a charcoal grill -- which I don't get much of lately because Onkel H has been stonewalling about buying a new grill since we moved.
The food at West Denmark Family Camp, which is often not necessarily summery, but nearly always good (especially in recent years). Especially if we get rødgrød med fløde!

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
Songs from the summers of 1966 and 1967 -- Summer in the City by the Lovin' Spoonful, Red Rubber Ball, Bus Stop (Under My Umbrella), The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, and of course, all of Sgt. Pepper. Oh yeah -- "If you go to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!"
And -- my father used to sing "In the Good Old Summertime" to me and I thought it was written especially for me. Here is a picture of us fishing, at Pine Harbor, Georgia, when Daddy was stationed at Camp (now Fort) Stewart.

3. A childhood summer memory
Brownie Day Camp in Wiesbaden, Germany. Our leader, if I recall this correctly, was a Swiss woman married to a Norwegian who was in (I'm assuming) the U.S. Navy. The perfect person from whom to learn "Vreneli". Sit-upons, s'mores, the whole Brownie experience, happening "im Walde". (By the way, I could not find a suitable link for "Vreneli" in the Internet! Not even on Mudcat's Digitrad of folk lyrics! But if you can get hold of a Girl Scout songbook such as The Ditty Bag, or a copy of World of Song, you will see it there.)

4. An adult summer memory
Again it's West Denmark Family Camp, which has been a part of my summers for 30 years now. When the children were small, the freedom of knowing they were playing on the swings or in the sandbox, with numerous relatives and friends around to look out for them if I stepped away. As they grew older, sharing the crafts we made, singing and dancing together, and for some years now enjoying their thoughtful contributions to the discussions. I wish everyone could go to something like this.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)
I'll be heading for Minneapolis and West Denmark next Tuesday, so I expect to have some! I'd like to be able to bring some Maine weather along though, as Minneapolis tends to be quite hot and humid this time of year. But the location and activities aren't as important for me as being with my children, other family, and old friends, and I know all those things will happen.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)
Well, the choirs stopped singing two weeks ago, and I think this past Sunday may have been the end of the handbell choir for the summer. There may be some visiting musicians, and I especially enjoy the times when we have a hymnsing with people calling out their favorites (although I'm always too shy!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Day of Pleasure (mostly)

I didn’t post yesterday because I was busy having fun most of the day. In the morning, we picked up two of Onkel H’s writing group-mates for a trip to Christmas Cove (I believe it’s part of South Bristol, Maine – a few peninsulas up the coast). En route we enjoyed a vicarious trip to Italy recounted by Yoga Writer, who was the instructor for the class on memoir-writing that spawned the group. Even the 15-minute wait to get through Damariscotta, which is having its Main St. torn up and so has alternating one-lane traffic, was made enjoyable by good conversation. (An aside – if you ever want an outdoor job that pays about eight bucks an hour, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many street repair “flaggers” employed as here in Maine.)

The scene of our get-together was a quintessential Maine family cottage – beautiful setting, well-designed and comfortable but not fancy, with generations of interesting and lovingly-chosen deorative bits. I especially liked the American Gothic wall in the kitchen. Centered by a photo of our host and hostess dressed and posed as Grant Wood’s iconic painting, a wall (or was it a door?) was covered with representations of everyone from Bill and Hillary to Ken and Barbie in the famous pose. Each guest had brought a salad component, Yoga Writer had baked challah and seven-grain rolls, and there were several desserts as well.

Notice the lamps in the pictures, which unfortunately don’t show up too well. The bases are figural bottles (look like Santa to me) which I remember from my childhood as holding either a syrup to make a fruity drink or possibly chocolate syrup for mixing in milk; the shades were made by our hostess, years ago, with delphiniums and a special kind of paper. Quaker Cousin and her mother had similar shades with autumn leaves, and I’m told the special paper is hard to find now. Advice from crafty people would be welcomed!

The host comes from an old and distinguished Maine family, and one of the most interesting things to me was that his mother was the “real” Miss Rumphius.

Barbara Cooney made her home on the same peninsula, and although she took several liberties with the biographical details (and also included elements of her own life and personality), she gratefully acknowledged the actual planter of the lupines. And lupines there were!

Here’s another picture of a very small detail that charmed me – shells on the path from the cottage to the driveway.

So, then we came to the less pleasant part of the day – a visit from the refrigerator repairman. Not that he’s not pleasant, and he’s the same guy who fixed our stove and saved us from spending $600 a while back. But this time he had to tell us that the occasional jet-engine noise was indeed the compressor, and if we wanted to fix it it would cost $300+, but on the other hand, the food is still cold, so if we can stand the occasional noise, we can wait a while to replace the fridge. Not the best outcome, but not the worst either.

After a light supper we went to Freeport to see a production of Oliver! Now, this was a production Onkel Hankie Pants had auditioned for, and they didn’t even want him for the Ensemble. While most of the cast did well, there were a couple of parts (non-singing, non-dancing) that Onkel H could have played better, in our humble opinion. The kids in the show were quite excellent, though. Three of them had been in the Lyric Theater’s production of The Sound of Music earlier this year. The show was also cut quite a bit, so I’m not sure if someone who didn’t know the story would have been able to follow it. Still, it was the preview evening and cannot be judged as harshly as Opening Night. We had a good time anyway, and I’ve added to my life list of musicals I’ve seen “live”.

At the end of the show, on the day before Summer Solstice, it was still twilight outside. Home, and not long after, to bed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

High Priestess? And a little book reviewing

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

I found this on another blog, and it reminded me that I'm eagerly awaiting my copy of David Skibbins' latest book, The Star. (His previous two in this series are Eight of Swords and High Priestess, so you see my mental processes are not that difficult to decipher.) The books' protagonist is Warren Ritter, a 60s radical fugitive who reads tarot cards on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, and thereby occasionally gets drawn into a mystery that he needs to solve. As you might expect, Warren has some Issues. He views his tarot readings as entertainment, except that every so often he gets an insight he can't explain. If you like mysteries with "woo-woo" (a little bit of the supernatural) you will like this series, but if you are not so much for the supernatural stuff you can still enjoy them. The books are full of fascinating characters and people who know Berkeley better than I agree that the setting is right-on (as we used to say in the 60s....) You can get these books at your local independent bookstore or public library, and if you don't have a local independent bookstore, why not order from Four Eyed Frog Books in beautiful Gualala, CA? I can attest to their friendliness and service.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Day of Remembering, and a Recipe to Remember

Bedstemor and Weaver Aunt, celebrating their joint birthday in about 1987 (above)

Elfin Cousin and Horsewoman (Weaver Aunt's
daughter) on Horsewoman's Farm (below)

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I wrote about my father. For most of the past 35 years, though, Father’s Day was not a big deal at our house. This was partly because, I think, Onkel Hankie Pants’ father was not a big fan of this commercialized holiday (although he often hosted a restaurant gathering on Mother’s Day), but primarily because we had a much bigger celebration that always fell at about the same time. Bedstemor and Weaver Aunt, the mother and aunt of Onkel Hankie Pants, married to brothers, also shared a birthday, June 18, one year apart. Some years we also got to celebrate with Elfin Cousin, who also shared that birthdate. Owing to work schedules, the celebration was usually on the Saturday or Sunday of the Father’s Day weekend, and that less personal holiday was put aside.

Shortly after our marriage and brief honeymoon, when Onkel Hankie Pants had returned to duty in California and I was about to leave for Berlin (stay tuned next week for the full story, if you haven’t heard it before), my mother told me “You’re lucky, you’ve got a wonderful mother-in-law.” She was right as usual. Although we differed in many ways (Myers-Briggs type being not the least!), Bedstemor (actually I called her Mom, but the children called her Bedstemor) was always gracious and helpful without being interfering. She had all the housewifely skills in abundance, honed to efficiency by the years spent in domestic and institutional housekeeping before her marriage. Although the Depression and some eccentric ideas of her father’s kept her from formal education beyond eighth grade, she enjoyed reading, discussing, and thinking about both fiction and non-fiction as well as current events. She loved sewing and needlework, and many were the beautiful dresses she made for our daughters (SonShine got some pretty cute overalls, too). Cross-stitched tablecloths and bellpulls she made are cherished heirlooms now in our home and her daughter’s.

I like owls, so Mom cross-stitched this for me.

In her honor and memory, here is my version of a recipe she often made, and shared with me. I’ve evolved my own way of making it over the years, but it’s essentially the same.

Æblekage (about the best pronunciation I can come up with is : Eh-bl-kaah)

This is a good nearly-last-minute dessert if you use purchased applesauce. But the version below is even better.

Peel, core, and slice 2 lbs. Cooking apples. Put them in a saucepan with about ½ cup water and maybe 1 Tablespoon sugar. (More or less, to your taste). Cook gently until soft, stirring frequently, adding a little more water if you need to. Set aside.
If you live in the Midwest, you will be able to get Jacobsen’s Toasts. Use the Original flavor, unless you are in a situation without spices, in which case get the Cinnamon flavor. If you are not in the Midwest, you may have to get Zweiback in the baby food section. The bags of Jacobsen’s Toast are larger and one bag should be enough. For the Zweiback users, you will need at least 1 ½ packages.
Pulverize the toasts in whatever way you can – blender, food processor, or put between waxed paper sheets and roll them with the rolling pin. If you are not using the cinnamon flavor, add a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to the crumbs and stir to combine.
Melt two sticks of butter (I suppose margarine could be used, but those imitation diet margarines won’t work) in a large skillet and then add the crumbs, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the crumbs are nicely moistened.. Turn off the heat.
Get out a nice glass bowl, if possible a clear one. Here's the one I use:

Then start layering the crumb mixture and the applesauce, starting and ending with crumbs. You can then refrigerate this if you will be serving it quite a while later, otherwise it’s not necessary to do so.
Whip ½ pint heavy/whipping cream with sugar and vanilla to your taste. Spread it over the top of the æblekage. Traditionally, the whipped cream was then decorated with dabs of red jelly – currant is more traditional, but raspberry or strawberry would do – to match the colors of the Dannebrog.
I have brought this to many potlucks and people always enjoy it.

For a few years now, we have had nothing special to do on June 18 but remember. Bedstemor died in 2003; Elfin Cousin died too young in 2001, and Weaver Aunt in 1993. But they did leave us with a lot of good memories. I hope you will make the æblekage and enjoy it!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why I Named Our Dog After My Father

About 8 weeks ago, Onkel Hankie Pants and I got our first dog. He's about 19 months old now, an English Springer Spaniel. His AKC registration name is Bessie's Sargent Dublin, and his former owner called him Dubie (rhymes with Scooby). We didn't like that name, so we call him Rusty.
My father's real name was Holman, and people from his family of origin always called him by it. He was named after his uncle, who was named for the Maine writer Holman Day. Because his career was as an NCO in the Army, some people called him Sarge. But to most of his friends, and to my mother's side of the family, he was Rusty, a name he got because of his many freckles.
Some of the reasons we named the dog for him:
  • Rusty the dog, like many Springers, has a freckled nose, like my father's
  • We got Rusty in Cundy's Harbor, a village in the town of Harpswell, Maine, where my father was born
  • Rusty (the dog's) father was Stonehaus Sargent Major. Rusty (the man) retired from the Army as a Sergeant-Major.
Since we've come to know Rusty better, we have realized some other ways in which he resembles his human namesake.
  • When he is in the house, you know it. Dogs are always present. If you find yourself wondering where the dog is, there's likely to be trouble. My father was the same way. He was an extroverted, loud, almost charismatic figure who filled any room he was in.
  • Rusty the dog tends to be a bit of a hell-raiser. He is headstrong, and if he is bored and lonely, he will find some activity such as chewing up candles to amuse himself. In my father's early years in the military, the tale is told that "he got awfully tired of sewing stripes on his sleeve and then having to take them off again." Daddy joined the 240th Coast Artillery of the Maine National Guard at 16 and had a lot of growing up to do his first few years in the service. By the time this picture was taken, in Inchon, Korea on March 3, 1953, he was 30 years old and much more mature.

  • Rusty the dog is loving and loyal. That's something we expect of dogs. Rusty the man was a loving and demonstrative husband and father. (I can still remember him embracing my mother in a tango-style move and saying, "Kiss me, you fool!" The quotation was slightly inaccurate but the emotion was genuine.) This was borne out during the last two years of my mother's life, as she was fighting (and losing to) colon cancer. For 38 years of their marriage, Mama had cooked his favorite foods, starched and ironed his uniforms *, brought him his coffee, and as we say in Maine, "tended out on him." When she became ill, it was his turn to do the "tending out on" and he rose to the occasion. Other family members helped a lot, but it was his doing of the daily chores, both pleasant and unpleasant, that enabled Mama to die in her own home, in the house she helped build. Just a few months later, he too died there, on his 65th birthday, both literally and figuratively of a broken heart.
* (After Daddy retired from the Army, he essentially refused to wear anything that had been ironed or starched ever again, so Mama retired from ironing.)

It's been nearly 20 years now since my parents died -- the first confused months of grief, the dreams where they were only joking about dying, are far behind me. But I still miss my mother and father very much.
When we were looking for a dog, we talked to several owners who'd advertised dogs for gift or sale in Uncle Henry's. Nearly every one of them described a paragon of dogdom, who never ran off, was entirely obedient, and was only being let go because of some great exigency beyond the owner's control. We were not thought worthy to receive any of those dogs. Then one morning I called a man named Frog who had this beautiful dog whom he just couldn't handle. We heard about his inclination to run off, the window he broke, and other havoc he might wreak. But Onkel Hankie Pants took him for a walk, we saw that he had a sweet nature, and our fate was sealed. He may not be perfect, but he's actually a pretty good dog, and he's ours, and we love him.
My father certainly wasn't perfect. But he was a pretty good father and a pretty good man, and I loved him. So that's why I named the dog after my father, and that's my Father's Day blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I've Been to the Mall!

The Ursuline Mall, that is. It's the rummage sale portion of the St. John's Bazaar. The Ursuline Mall refers to the Ursuline Sisters of Waterville, ME, who staffed the St. John's School from 1915 to 1998. The school is still going strong, but is staffed by lay teachers (as it was at its beginning in 1882). I spent $13.50 at the Mall, partly on future gifts for Cordeliaknits and her roommate, and mostly on something I may set up and photograph for a later post.
There are many food booths at the Bazaar, and most of them are run by parishioners, so the prices are right. Here is a picture of two of the booths, with part of the school in the background. I did have a mocha shake from the ice cream stand, but I skipped the pizza in favor of a lobster roll for $5.75. (For those of you who don't know, this is a fantastic price for a lobster roll.) Of course, it was not such a roll as one could purchase at the Dolphin Marina or Red's Eats; the lobster was in smaller chunks and there was probably more mayo, but it was still a nice supper.
There is quite a bit of entertainment available at the Bazaar, from games (which Onkel Hankie Pants partook of) to rides (see below). There is also music from noon to 10 pm every day. When I was there, the music was being provided by Wild Horse, a country music cover band (at least the songs I heard). Yes folks, Maine is and has been for many years a hotbed of country music, and there is a Downeast Country Music Association. Wild Horse doesn't appear to have a CD out, but one of the musicians from Dirigo Highway was sitting in so I bought one of their CDs. Here they are playing:
If you followed the link to St. John's Church in the previous post, you can see some photos of the magnificent interior; it's almost a cathedral. The present building was constructed between 1913 and 1927. At that time the church was almost entirely French-Canadian. (Of course Mass was in Latin at that time, so any non-Francophone Catholics could understand most of the service). Most of the French-Canadians in Brunswick at that time lived in our neighborhood and worked at the mill which forms most of the view from our guestroom window. They had large families and low pay, yet they built this lovely church. Some people might disapprove, but I think it's admirable. The Ecumenical Service of Lessons and Carols is held at St. John's each year and we get to enjoy the amazing architecture and decor. Here is a photo of the church and the ferris wheel. The only downside to having this lovely church so near us (and the Episcopal church which is just beyond on the opposite corner) is the bells. We thought the sound of church bells was a neighborhood amenity, until we got Rusty. Along with people on wheels, church bells are one of the things that drive him slightly mad. Several times a day he barks and runs about -- he hears the bells before we do and he just doesn't like them.

That's all for now.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Return of the Green Bowl

One day recently, in one of our many long phone conversations about Important Things and Nothing Much, Sisterknits reminded me of a green FireKing jadeite mixing bowl we used to have. I think maybe it came to us from Onkel H's aunts' estate -- much of which had been stored in his parents' basement awaiting a time when it would be needed. We liked it a lot. But one day, when Sisterknits was just about old enough to do some cooking, she somehow dropped and broke the bowl. Upon telling her father about the accident, she was greeted with histrionics along the lines of "Oh, no! Not my favorite bowl!" and of course she burst into tears and had to be reminded once again that Onkel Hankie Pants is a big joker.
I had been wishing for a bigger mixing bowl or two and so I went on eBay and did a little bidding. Here is the result, displayed on a felted mat that Sisterknits gave us for Christmas.
I am looking forward to using it. I'm working on a piece of writing for the blog, but later today I will be going to the St. John's Bazaar at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church a few blocks away. So after I've taken some photos you will be able to see what fun is!

Oh we of little faith

You may have seen on Onkel Hankie Pants' blog that he planted a large number of bulbs last fall, and that we were afraid none of them would come up. You've also seen the grand display of tulips and daffodils, now gone by. He also planted a small "blue and white" garden near the sidewalk on the south side of our house. We had some nice grape hyacinths, and a few English bluebells, but the tall green stalks did not seem to be producing any flowers. Then yesterday -- wowie! Returning from a walk with Rusty, I saw a number of iris buds! And then, today, even better... There are also some bell-shaped flowers that have taller stalks than the original bluebells, so I may be a bit confused. Now I want to get more irises planted this coming fall so that we can have a nice stand of them next year.
Meanwhile, Quaker Cousin has graciously dug a garden behind the garage, where she originally planned to plant vegetables. However, the soil test revealed some lead contamination, either from Route 1 car fumes or from houses up hill from us with lead paint, so we decided not to risk it. Therefore, she came yesterday to plant marigolds, dianthus, cosmos, zinnias, and bachelor buttons from seed. (QC recently sold her house and moved to an apartment near us, and needed a place to garden. So I have achieved my lifelong ambition and have not one, but two gardeners!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

BRP Update

Lo and behold, when the local paper came yesterday there was another article about my nephew! Read it
by going to the Times Record site
and scrolling down till you reach the article on Alex Petroff, or you can use the archive search for Petroff. (For some reason the original link here didn't work).

Friday, June 8, 2007


(Blatant Relative Promotion)

On the DorothyL mystery listserv, writers will occasionally headline their posts “BSP” for Blatant Self-Promotion, when they have a new book coming out, a short story published, a reading scheduled, or some such. Well, as Onkel Hankie Pants’ father used to say, “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.”

Today I’m going to engage in a bit of BRP – Blatant Relative Promotion. I have nothing of my own to promote just now, but several of my near and dear, and slightly farther away as well, do have.

Onkel H.’s first cousin, Julie Henriksen Bowe, has published her first book for children, My Last Best Friend. It’s a good read for the 8-11 set, involving the sort of daily friendship dramas that I remember only too well from Cordeliaknits’ and Sisterknits’ elementary years at Red Cross Nurse Open School. There’s even a bit of a mystery. And, it's not too-too problem-y. Actually, it was a good read for me, too!

On the other side of Onkel H’s family, his first cousin’s daughter-in-law, Athena Kildegaard, has published a book of poetry based on the Fibonacci sequence. You mathematicians will enjoy this one!

Let the Sonshine In, our eldest, has just joined the Board of Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis. I hope to take in at least one night of their 10-Minute Play Festival while I’m in town later this month. Their production a couple of years ago of The Flies by Sartre was one of my peak theatrical experiences of the decade, at least.

My nephew Alexander is one of many young people in Maine (and elsewhere) who have started non-profit organizations to help people in other countries. Working Villages International is having quite a bit of success with its first sustainable village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Take a look and find renewed hope. (Make a donation if you wish!)

Alexander’s second mother and her Temple Truck as decorated by my brother and some others will be making an appearance in Cambridge, Mass. on June 16. Read about it here. (Scroll down till you see Kris Wills).

My brother Stephen has work in the latest issue of Café Review, which you can read about here.

And Onkel Hankie Pants will be appearing as Sitting Bull in LACLT’s production of Annie Get Your Gun later this summer!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Animals on the Breadbox

In the last post, I mentioned the ceramic animals that come in Onkel Hankie Pants's boxes of tea. Today, my digital camera arrived in the mail and I have taken a few pictures, one of which shows the animals. We have been here fulltime since about Columbus Day, 2005, and did not bring any animals with us from Minnesota. So you can see that we have bought quite a bit of tea!
The breadbox is one I bought many years ago (early 80s I think) while yard-saling with my father. I am so happy finally to have a kitchen with enough counter space to use this breadbox!

Thinking Globally, Eating Locally

If you also read Onkel Hankie Pants’ blog (see sidebar), you will know that we have been buying all our meat from Bisson’s Meat Market, a farm/meat processor/market in Topsham, our neighboring town across the mighty Androscoggin. Tonight we’ll be having a meat loaf made with beef, pork and veal, all from there. The poultry at Bisson’s comes from a farm in another town less than 100 miles from here. Bisson’s also makes their own butter, and sells unpasteurized milk and chicken, pork and salmon pies (three different pies) made by the elder Mrs. Bisson. As we drive to the market, we can often see the cattle grazing in the fields. The Bissons, of French-Canadian ancestry, have been farming these fields for over 75 years.
I’ve been reading several books touching on this subject lately. Bill McKibben’s Deep Ecology was probably the most relevant to our situation, since he and his family live in northern Vermont, near Lake Champlain. One section of the book relates their experiment in local eating – I believe they used the 100-mile limit, which in their case let them go into New York State and Quebec. They were actually able to find flour made from wheat grown inside their limit, though with some difficulty. And apparently they are not addicted to tea or coffee, as Onkel Hankie Pants and I are.
Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, while not specifically about local eating, did touch on the subject in addition to discussing meat from huge industrial feedlots, organic growing, and foraging for one’s own food. And the book I’m reading now, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, describes another year of local eating in a slightly more temperate climate, that of Virginia. (They get asparagus in April there!) The family did allow themselves one non-local item each. Recipes are included, and I would highly recommend this book as a readable introduction to the “locavore” movement.
I’m not quite ready to be quite so stringent, but we do try to buy as much locally-grown or at least Maine-produced food as possible. My coffee comes from Wicked Joe, who roast their organic, fair-trade beans over on Water St. where we sometimes walk the dog. (They also sell tea, but Onkel H. is loyal to Red Rose, because he gets a little ceramic animal with each box.)
In our refrigerator right now there is Winter Garden mustard from Eastport, ME . When we want lobsters, we go to Allen’s Seafood because Dain was a good friend of my father’s, and the lobsters are really fresh!
Maurice Bonneau's Sausage Kitchen in neighboring Lisbon has a wide variety of sausages, though we have not yet succeeded in persuading Mr. Bonneau to make us any medisterpølse!
We can always find Aroostook County potatoes in the supermarket, and from May to October there is a Farmer’s Market twice a week on the Mall (Brunswick’s version of the Common or Green, as they’re known in other New England towns) on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Saturday there is a larger market at Crystal Spring Farm.
As you can tell, this has been an exercise in linking! I didn’t link the books, though, because I think you should buy them from your favorite local independent bookstore. I like Gulf of Maine Books and not only because my brother works there.
So, think about it. How can you eat more locally this year?

It's all about me

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Seven Random Things about Me

1. I have over 202 hours of Christmas (including Advent, Hanukkah and random winter theme) music stored on my computer.
2. Two things I can't do, despite multiple tries at lessons for both: drive a car and swim.
3. I did not go to kindergarten, but attended three different schools in first grade. Fortunately, my mother taught me to read when I was 2 1/2 or I might be illiterate to this day.
4. I have had a decades-long interest (infatuation? obsession?) with the members of the Algonquin Round Table.
5. This is my first blogpost and I don't really know what I'm doing, so you'll have to look up the Algonquin Round Table yourselves.
6. In 1961, I came in 8th in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. After having watched the finals on TV the other night, as well as a documentary and a fiction movie about the Bee, I believe it has changed immeasurably since my time. I'm not sure it's for the better.
7. The word I missed was integer. (This year's winner, who's also a math and music whiz, probably knew that one in his cradle!)