Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Five: Pie-ola!

Pumpkin Pie Songbird at RevGalBlogPals writes: “We had three pies planned for a six-person Thanksgiving dinner, and there was some anxiety on my part about the need one had for gluten-free crusts. I worried, you see, that we would have pies no one liked, or run out of the one "good" pie (you know, with gluten). There was a last-minute trip to buy more pie crust that failed (sold out!). Then early on Thanksgiving morning, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, saying she wanted to bring something over. It was a beautiful maple pumpkin pie!
Now we were all set.
Later in the day, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. Someone said, "It's a pie delivery!"
And sure enough, it was a relative stopping by, and he had a pecan pie for us. Pie-ola!!!
Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?

Yes, especially at Thanksgiving. In my childhood, pie was also an important part of Christmas and Easter, but lacking my mother’s skill with piecrust and for other reasons, here’s what we have at Christmas: ris à l’amande with raspberry sauce, and later cookies, on Christmas Eve; and bûche de Noël for Sisterfilms’ birthday on Christmas day. And at Easter, if I’m at home, citronfromage (a very fluffy dessert with lemon, egg white and whipped cream.) By the way, it appears that Songbird’s family started out the day somewhat under-pied, as my grandmother’s rule was one pie for each person at the table. Yesterday at my aunt’s house we had: pumpkin, apple, mince, chocolate cream, coconut cream, butterscotch cream, maple walnut, pecan (for the seven diners) and when two more friends arrived they brought a “scrumpkin” pie (I was too full to try it) and a sweet potato/orange pie.

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.

My father used to say, “Cookies are for children. Cake is for ladies. Pie is for men.” I certainly like all three far too much, but given my druthers I’d choose pie.

3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?

Why not? Especially in February. I’ve also had and enjoyed date pie and pineapple pie and just yesterday heard about Jell0 pie. I guess there’s not much that can’t be improved by putting it in a piecrust.
4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?

Lemon. Both because I will choose lemon anything over chocolate anything on any given day, and because to me, whipped cream is what goes on chocolate pie.
5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?

It depends on the season. In fall and winter, I usually go with carrots and potatoes. But in spring I make “chicken pie primavera” with asparagus, new peas, little carrots, new potatoes – whatever looks good. I would not like to find beets in my chicken pie. Or anywhere.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Come-ona My House!

In the late 1980s, we were beginning to feel that our house was a little too small again. With one child in junior high, one in elementary school, and another in nursery school, and both of us working, it seemed a good time to look around. We went to quite a few open houses before visiting a 2 1/2 story house with ugly siding near SonShineIn’s school. 198806 Our new house at 4212 Lyndale

With some help from a couple of agents, we were able to sell our house and, on one of the hottest days of the year, move into our new one. It was actually the oldest house we’ve ever owned, having been built in 1905 (the first three were all built between 1910 and 1920). Although we still had only one bathroom, each of the children now had a private room and there were a couple of extra spaces on the third floor for excess books, etc. The nearby school was a K-8 magnet with an open school philosophy, and after a very brief sojourn at another open school, Cordeliaknits was reassigned there for third grade. When Sisterfilms started school it was a foregone conclusion that she would also be going there, so she is the only member of our family to have spent the first 9 years of school in the same building.

Here’s a picture of the three in the backyard. The older two delighted in dressing Sisterfilms up in outlandish outfits.

1988 10 Niels, Elinor and Cordelia in the back yard 4212 Lyndale

When we sold the house to move to Maine, it was to a contractor who had already spent several years fixing up the duplex next door. Five years later and finally on the market (just sold a couple of weeks ago), the house is unrecognizable from the outside, and only a few vintage features on the first floor remain to remind us of the house we lived in. (here’s a photo I snaffled in case the link is no longer active) new 4212

We did a fair amount of entertaining in that house, beginning with hosting the annual post-Showboat party for our church, continuing with my 40th birthday party, Thanksgivings and Christmases, confirmations, graduations, and children’s birthday parties. So here’s the song: Come-ona My House, sung by its composer, Ross Bagdasarian (later famous as David Seville of Chipmunks fame) and his cousin William Saroyan, the novelist, short-story writer and playwright of My Name is Aram, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Human Comedy, and The Time of Your Life. Of course, the song was made famous by Rosemary Clooney.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The House I Live(d) In

As the 70s drew to a close, we were expecting a second child and did not see how we could fit another into Tiny House, so we began thinking about moving. One evening on his way to choir practice, Onkel Hankie Pants was detoured from his usual route and spotted this house for sale by owner.

1988 4401 Pleasant after painting and reroofing

Once again, we have a photo of the house taken after we left it – the new owner wanted it painted blue and reroofed in grey, whereas the house we lived in was white with a green roof. We were excited to be moving into a house with three bedrooms and a double parlor plus a dining room, with a kitchen big enough for a table. When we moved out of this house 8 1/2 years later, I was just shy of 40 and had lived in this house longer than I had lived in any one place in my life. We brought two baby girls home to this house on the corner. Our older two children had many friends in the neighborhood, there was a park nearby, and we could walk to church if we got up early enough.

This neighborhood was rich in economic diversity. There were a number of houses much nicer than ours, and others smaller and more modest. Across the street was a family in scattered-site public housing, while a few doors away lived Garrison Keillor’s sister. So I thought an appropriate song for our third house would be “The House I Live In,” with words by Lewis Allen (real name Abel Meeropol, the man who adopted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s sons after the execution) and music by Earl Robinson. I like Paul Robeson’s version.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bless This House

When we left Waseca for the bright lights of City of Lakes, we sold our house there. Since we had no actual jobs at first, we house-sat over the summer for a family friend in Home of the Coen Brothers. The most exciting occurrences of that summer were SonShineIn’s first steps and Bunter’s six-week vacation. The man we were house-sitting for didn’t want the cat in the house so she was living in the attached garage. She wandered off one day and after six weeks of worry and fruitless searching, she wandered back, a thinner and wiser feline. We think she probably got lost in the nearby golf course.

After the summer, we rented the bottom half of a duplex in a nice neighborhood to which we would return some years later. Our upstairs neighbor was briefly famous in City of Lakes for painting the Weatherball blue. The old Northwestern National Bank building downtown had a large ball mounted on top, which changed color with the weather forecast. (Natives will recall the jingle, the rest of you will have to go here and click the link under the picture. The colors were normally red, white, or green, but Phil, in an excess of post-breakup bravado, somehow climbed up and painted it blue. Someday when the Strib’s complete archives are digitized you could look that up, but for now you’ll have to take my word for it.

In those days, if you sold your house and made a profit, you had eighteen months to buy a more expensive house or you’d have to pay capital gains tax on the profit. So after 9 months or so in the apartment, we began looking for a house we could afford. We saw a lot of not-so-great houses, and then we found Tiny House.

4044 43rd Ave So

This photo was taken some years later; the house used to be grey, the stair rails were black metal, and the front garden was not as nice when we lived there. In all fairness to Tiny House, it was in good condition, having been owned by a carpenter who’d done a lot of fixing up. It was in a nice neighborhood near the river, with convenient bus service to both Capital City where OHP was working, and Da U, where SonShineIn and I were going to school – he Montessori, I library. But it was very small – the first floor, not including the three-season porch, was 400 sq. ft., and the second floor even smaller. On the other hand, there was a nice back yard with a garden space which the former owners had enriched with free manure from the Ag School, and where OHP grew some beautiful roses. Here’s a picture of SonShineIn and the roses:

1978 07 Niels and the roses

Some of my best memories of this house are reading to SonShineIn. When we moved in, he was just over 2 years old. Before we left that house we had read all the Little House books (I’d started with Little House in the Big Woods, which is written at a level most 3 or 4 year olds could understand, but since I had a whole set of the books he would not rest until he heard all of them.) Not only that, I read him Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. However, we did not neglect the more age-appropriate picture books; here’s a photo of us enjoying Robert McCloskey’s Maine story, Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man.

1978 11 Nikki reading Burt Dow Deep Water Man to Niels with a Down East accent

We lived in Tiny House happily for two years, but when Cordeliaknits was on the way we had to look for more spacious quarters.

One of the nice things about Tiny House was that it was only about a mile and a half from OHP’s parents’ house. So for tonight’s song, I’ve chosen a song that was sung at their wedding in 1946, Bless This House. I’d always associated this song with the 1950s as I heard Perry Como sing it so many times on Christmas specials back then, but in fact it was published in 1927. Englishwoman Helen Taylor wrote the words and her friend, Australian May Brahe, the music. The first recording was by John McCormack (and you can find that on YouTube), but, in the absence of a video of Bryn Terfel’s rendition, I’ve chosen another Welshman, David Keith Jones. I especially like the variety of houses the videographer highlights in this piece.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our House, No. 1

Considering what to blog about this week, I thought first about doing a Tuneful Tuesday of songs about houses. I came up with five songs – which would make a very long blog similar to last week’s about World War I – so I decided to have one song per day with something about one of the five houses we’ve owned during our marriage.

1990 Our first house, 415 2nd Ave NE

Here’s a photo of our first house, in Waseca, Minnesota. The photo was taken in 1990, long after we left it, but the only exterior difference is that the owners were apparently replacing or repairing the porch steps. We bought it for $10,000 in the fall of 1973 when Onkel Hankie Pants was teaching English in the local high school. I did not see the house before purchase, as I was in Maine visiting my parents after being discharged from the Army; we needed a place to live and there were few apartments available, so we became homeowners a bit sooner than we’d expected. The location was good, only four blocks from downtown with its library, small supermarket, Ben Franklin and the Busy Bee Café. The church we ended up joining was only two houses away, which was convenient in those days when we were still young enough to sleep late on Sunday mornings.

Not every song I came up with for this week is necessarily relevant to the houses we owned, but this one is:

This song captures a bit of what it was like for us, having only been together about 14 out of our first 64 weeks of marriage, to be making our first real home together. We had no money; OHP’s salary that first year of teaching was less than he had been making in the Army. Our furniture consisted of cast-offs from OHP’s parents and other relatives. Our glassware came from Shopko, except for a couple of heavy glass beer mugs that came from a gas station. (And we don’t really even like beer!) Our dishes would be very cool now, but in the early ‘70s when earthtones were in fashion, the white and turquoise modernistic dishes from Mom’s basement were just something to keep the food off the tablecloth.

The song talks about “two cats in the yard,” and we did have two cats in that house, but not simultaneously. Finn, a ginger cat, was our first. Sadly, he was hit by a motorcycle and died soon after we brought SonShineIn home from the hospital. That was a day of ups and downs, as it was also the day we learned that my parents were surprising us with a visit – the only time they were able to come to Minnesota, but then, a first grandchild is pretty special. A few weeks after Finn’s death, one of my coworkers at the library offered us a kitten born in a corncrib on the farm where he was renting a house. Bunter, a grey tabby (and female despite the name) lived to be 17 and moved with us to all our subsequent homes except the one we live in now.

I could tell some more stories about our first house – there was a cistern in the basement! Heat came up through a large floor grate in the middle of the living-dining room, and we sometimes had to bring the car battery in to keep it warm overnight since we didn’t have a garage. But that’s enough for today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nearly Wordless Weekend: World War I Film

Here's the trailer for the film I watched last night. I'll review it on my other blog,, tomorrow evening.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Five: Winter’s on the Way

Winter's on the Way SingingOwl at RevGalBlog Pals tells us: “The picture is of my back deck after the first heavy snow last winter. I am looking at the weather forecast with a sigh of resignation. You see, our glorious unseasonable stretch of sunny days is ending and rain mixed with snow is in the forecast. The weather guy actually said, "This is probably the last nice day till spring, folks..." So, I am trying to plan ahead. Help me out, please. When it is cold outside:”
1. What is your favorite movie for watching when curled up under a wooly blanket?

I think I’ll have to go with Bell, Book and Candle with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.
2. Likewise, what book?
Mostly, I read new books. But I do like to go back to Jane Austen from time to time. And I have a book (actually a series for each season) called Winter: A Spiritual Biography which is nice to dip into – it’s an anthology of writings about the season.

3. What foods do you tend to cook/eat when it gets cold?

Beef stew, bean soup, pie, gingerbread, pot roast…you get the picture.
4. What do you like to do if you get a "snow day" (or if you don't get snow days, what if you did)?

In that case I’d really take the day off – bake or cook only what I wanted to, do some reading, watch a movie. Enjoy the snow with the dog.
5. Do you like winter sports or outdoor activities, or are you more likely to be inside playing a board game? Do you have a favorite (indoors or out)?

Inside, thanks. Board games are fun. We like Trivial Pursuit (I just got the “Lindbergh to Eisenhower” edition at a church sale, so watch out, Sisterfilms!), Scrabble, and Twenty-Five Words or Less. Cribbage can be fun too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Week IV: A Pitiful List of Movies

For a person who has two children who have studied film extensively in college, I’ve really seen remarkably few movies. I’m sure there were quite a few years where I may have only seen one or two. I’m trying to catch up via Netflix, but it’s a slow process when there are books to read and music to listen to as well.

My favorite World War I film so far is one I will blog about later on, in December, as it has a seasonal theme.

Lawrence of Arabia takes place during World War I and shows, at least from one point of view, how that conflict affected the Middle East in ways that continue to plague us today. I wish I had seen it on the big screen, but even on a television screen it is a stunning film.

I reviewed King of Hearts last year on my shamefully-dormant film blog, Queuing Up. It’s a rather ‘60s perspective on the war, but worth seeing.

My parents’ favorite movie was The African Queen, and it’s one of mine as well. I think perhaps my father saw himself as Humphrey Bogart and my mother as Katherine Hepburn. Set in German East Africa, the war at first takes a back seat to Bogart and Hepburn’s romance, but the scenes at the end where the African Queen engages a German warship are as tense and thrilling as any more traditional war movie.

I found several lists of World War I films, none of which seem to be definitive. So many books and films on World War I have come to my attention this week that I think I’ll take a couple of weeks and try to read and see as many as possible. I’ve already got Paul Gross’s film Passchendaele (I had to buy it as it wasn’t readily available otherwise) but haven’t yet watched it. A few others I’m planning to see, pending availability: A Farewell to Arms (I think I’ll go for Gary Cooper over Rock Hudson), All Quiet on the Western Front, Regeneration, Gallipoli, and All the King’s Men (not the Robert Penn Warren book, but a BBC production about the Sandringham Unit in WWI). I’m definitely going to read The Ghost Road and probably at least a couple more novels from the Guardian’s 1000 Novels list, as well as the John Keegan history when it arrives in the mail. Any suggestions for more?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Armistice Week III: World War I Books

This week I’m blogging on Armistice Day and the Great War. Today, a few book suggestions for anyone who wants to read more about that war and its after-effects.

To begin with, you must read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. In this far-from-dull history of the war’s beginnings, Tuchman paints a picture of Europe on the eve of war which includes not only the salient political facts, but the atmosphere of the times. I’ve read this book two or three times at least in the last 45 years, and may do so again, although I rarely re-read books.

For a straight-out history of the entire war, I’m departing from my usual practice and recommending a book I haven’t yet read, John Keegan’s The First World War. Having read other works of Keegan’s, notably The Face of Battle, I feel confident in recommending it, and have just ordered a copy for myself.

Why should we read about this war? Well, you can get in ahead of everyone else who’ll be reading about it about four years from now when the centennial comes along. Seriously, Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory shows us why. Fussell describes how the experience of the war influenced much of British, European and American writing for decades afterwards. I don’t read a lot of literary criticism these days, but I believe I will also re-read this book before long.

But perhaps you prefer fiction? When I looked at the Guardian’s list of 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read, Fussell’s thesis was borne out by the large number of these books (chosen by a group of British critics/reviewers) which dealt with the Great War. One of the classics, which I had not read until last year, is All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Here’s a link to my Goodreads review. This book has been filmed several times, but I have not seen any of the films yet.

Two American classics that I read so long ago I can’t really write coherently about them now are A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway of course) and John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers. Perhaps less well-known here is Englishwoman Pat Barker’s excellent Regeneration Trilogy: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road. I haven’t yet read the third book, which won the Man Booker Prize, but the titles will link you to my reviews of the first two. Wilfred Owen, one of the poets I posted about yesterday, is a character in Regeneration.

I must confess that much of my reading these days consists of mystery novels, but there is much to be learned from them as well. Anne Perry, famous for her Victorian mysteries, has written a five-volume mystery-espionage series set during World War I, beginning with No Graves as Yet. Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear, and Carola Dunn all have series that take place in the aftermath of the war – Todd’s and Dunn’s in the late ‘teens and early twenties, Winspear’s in the late twenties and early thirties but harking back to events of the war. Todd also has a new series featuring Bess Crawford, a nurse, which is set during the war. The series are all quite different from each other, so I’d advise trying one of each to see if you like it. I’ve enjoyed all three, but your results may differ.

Tomorrow: a few films of World War I.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Armistice Week II: Tuneful Tuesday - Songs of the Great War

Continuing this week’s theme, here are some songs from and about World War I that I think everyone should hear.

It may seem odd that two of the greatest songs about this long-ago war were written many years after it ended. Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle’s songs, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda and No Man’s Land (Green Fields of France) have been recorded by many other people. In the first video he sings And the Band…, which was written to commemorate the Australian troops who died at Gallipoli – NOT Winston Churchill’s finest hour. It’s often forgotten that the Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI (hence Lawrence of Arabia). Note, however, that the number of Australians who died is vastly inflated in this video – it was more like 8,000, which was plenty.

This version of No Man’s Land is unusual in that it’s sung in both English and German by Bogle and another singer named Wachol, about whom I couldn’t find any information. No embedding, click the title for a link. You can try one of the other videos for the complete English song.

If you are not familiar with the tunes mentioned in this song, The Flowers of the Forest and Last Post, here they are. Don’t play the first one if you hate bagpipes, though.

And I guess if you don’t like bugle calls, don’t listen to this one.

Well. That was really sad. But, going off to war, marching, and so forth, people often sing much more cheerful songs. One of the favorites of British troops in WWI was It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. Here’s the famous Irish tenor John McCormack, singing a song written by a British music-hall entertainer, Jack Judge. (You’ll see though, his grandparents did come from Tipperary.)

It seems to me I spent many happy hours as a child watching the James Cagney film Yankee Doodle Dandy, the biopic of George M. Cohan. One of Cohan’s most famous songs was Over There, celebrating America’s entrance into the war in April 1917. “Lafayette, nous sommes arrivé!”

And now, strictly for fun, one of the songs the soldiers really sang. As the singer notes, the many verses have “various degrees of suitability for family listening.” In other words, there’s something here to offend almost everybody. I love this Australian guy who has a lot of songs on YouTube.

I hope you have enjoyed these songs. Comments welcome, and do you have any favorite songs from or about the Great War?

Armistice Week I: Poems of the Great War

As we prepare to celebrate Veterans’ Day on Thursday here in the U.S., it occurred to me that nowadays, the holiday’s original name, Armistice Day, is all but forgotten. (I think my British, Canadian, and Down Under friends still term it Remembrance Day.) This is not totally surprising, as World War I (also The Great War) did not affect the U.S. as much as it did Great Britain, Europe, and countries connected to them. Although over 320,000 Americans were killed or wounded in World War I, that’s a small number compared to over a million killed or wounded in World War II. In my own family, I can count on the fingers of one hand the relatives, some fairly distant, who served in World War I. In World War II, my father and several uncles served, as well as many uncles and cousins of my husband’s; my mother worked in a defense plant. I have seen the World War I draft registrations of my two grandfathers; my maternal grandfather was a married farmer with three children at the time he registered, and my paternal grandfather was 35 years old and had a tracheotomy, so both were exempt. I do have a photograph of Uncle George in his doughboy uniform. He was (Great-)Aunt Maude’s first husband and never made it to France, as he died of the flu epidemic at Camp Devens. George Whorf,Maude's 1st Husband Grampie’s foster brother, James McClellan,

had Canadian connections and joined the Canadian forces. Here’s a photo of him wearing his uniform, with my grandparents, aunt and uncle.


So what I know of World War I I know, not from family stories, but from history classes, books, music, films and poetry. Today (in lieu of Monday, when I didn’t manage to post), I have some World War I poetry to share.

I think my first experience of World War I was reading the poetry that sprang from it. Four poets in particular caught my youthful imagination – one Canadian, one American, and two British. All died during the war.

John McCrae was a Canadian doctor serving in Flanders (Belgium) when he wrote “In Flanders Fields’ in 1915 as a memorial to a friend and former student who was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres. He himself died of pneumonia in the field in January, 1918. This poem was almost immediately popular and is probably responsible for the custom of wearing a red poppy for Armistice Day.

American Alan Seeger was leading a Bohemian life in Paris when, on August 24, 1914, he joined the French Foreign Legion so that he could fight for France. He died in battle on July 4, 1916. His most famous poem, “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” was published posthumously. It is read here by his nephew, Pete Seeger.

Rupert Brooke’s poems often speak of home, reflecting what must have been the thoughts of many British soldiers away from England for the first time (although Brooke had actually traveled quite a bit). His most famous poem, “The Soldier,” was sadly prophetic; he is buried on the island of Skyros in Greece. His death was hardly heroic (sepsis from an infected mosquito bite) but his poem stands as a song of love and gratitude to England.

Wilfred Owen (who is a character in the Regeneration Trilogy, about which I’ll talk tomorrow) was treated for shell-shock (what we now know as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and could have escaped further service in the trenches, but returned out of a sense of duty to the young men he led. He was killed one week before the Armistice was signed. His poems are shocking even today in their vivid imagery of the horror of war. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is one of the best anti-war poems to come from this or any war.

On Wednesday I will talk a bit about some books on World War I.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Almost Wordless Weekend: Why I Live Here

On this grey November day, which turned into a very rainy November night, I need a few reminders of why we live here, so here are some pictorial ones.

We have some great parades! There are boat rides to be taken all summer long. Many days during the year, the sky is a beautiful bright blue. And pretty soon, instead of rain there will be snow. Sorry Blogger is not cooperating and I cannot arrange these photos better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Five: It Is Well with My Soul Edition

At RevGalBlogPals, Kathrynzj suggests:

“We lead privileged lives.

True, some are more privileged than others but the fact that we are communicating right now via technological devices puts us in the privileged category.

There are many perks in my life for which I give thanks and then there are some that make everything right in the world during the moment I am enjoying them. I'm wondering what a few of those things - five to be specific - are for you.

To help you along here are just three of mine that I will write more about on my blog: drinking coffee out of a real mug, walking into my home after the domestic goddess has been there, participating in the RevGalBlogPals Big Events.”

So, here are mine:

1. A hot shower with nice bath and hair products. Last week’s New York Times had an article about people who have drastically cut back on their showering and shampooing. Like, to once a month or less? I can’t fathom giving up such a simple pleasure. I especially like the shower that came with our current house. As best I can tell, there is some sort of mixing valve in it so you just turn the hot tap and get (for me at least) the perfect temperature. Add a nice body wash (I usually get them cheap at TJ Maxx) and grapefruit or lavender shampoo and at least for a little while, all is well.

2. Fresh coffee. Since I’m the only coffee drinker in the house, I usually make a pot and reheat the leftovers till it’s gone. So that first cup of really fresh coffee is a special treat. (Don’t talk to me about those one-cup coffee pod things. Too fancy and pricey for me.)

3. Recorded music. I certainly enjoy live music as well when I can get some. But I’m daily amazed and delighted by the rich variety available to me.  As I have rather eclectic tastes which lean toward folk music and the Great American Songbook, I also appreciate recordings because they allow me to hear, not only current artists, but Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Leadbelly, John McCormack, Kate Wolf, Mahalia Jackson – and many others now singing “upon another shore and in a greater light.”

4. Good used book sales. We have a plethora of these around here, nearly year-round (actually one of the nearby libraries has a bookstore instead that’s open all the time.) I’ve found all kinds of treasures from recent hardcover mysteries and novels, to vintage editions of classics, to cookbooks and coffee table books that would have been too expensive to consider new. I do plan to patronize my local independent bookstore this very evening, though.

5. My wonderful public library and the systems that expand it.  Our library, like many in Maine, is a sort of public/private partnership which began as an endowed institution. The participating towns allot money each year for building upkeep, staff salaries, supplies etc. The Friends of the Library raise money for the collection development (partly through a huge book sale each June). It seems to work well, not least because of Minerva and MaineCat, the two systems through which borrowers can acquire just about anything our local library doesn’t have. Make a request online or at the library and usually in a couple of days it’s there for pickup. The library also puts on interesting programs for all ages and has special resources for job hunters and those with health concerns. And the best thing is, I can walk there from my house and from September to May, it’s open seven days a week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mama’s Birthday


Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday. However, she died of colon cancer four weeks before her 62nd birthday. I spent some time today making pumpkin pie and beef stew. My pie is not as good as hers – I did not acquire her light hand with piecrust and also just haven’t had as much practice. It was common for us (a family of seven with an occasional guest) to have a dozen pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My beef stew is thicker – hers was more like a really hearty beef/vegetable soup, whereas I use the recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook I’ve had for nearly 40 years.

A few more things about my mother: she taught me to read when I was 2 1/2. She made homes for us in Army quarters and rented houses as far away as Texas and Germany, and then back in Maine in the house she and my father built together. I also failed to acquire her skills in knitting, crocheting, sewing and quilting, and gardening, among many others. She taught me my multiplication tables and, with her memories of the Palmer method, changed my handwriting one summer from illegible to not-too-shabby. When I talk with other women, or read memoirs or stories, about mothers who are difficult, judgmental, demanding or otherwise cause problems for their daughters, I can’t really relate. What I got from my mother was unconditional love and support.

Here are some pictures of her.1950s Anne Petroff on lawn of Billings farm, Millay Road

1951 Anne and Stephen Petroff, Fort Hancock, NJ1954 06 A much needed rest

Annie Billings 1940 RUSTY AND ANNIE PETROFF CA 1964

I still miss her a lot.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

The folks at NaBloPoMo suggested that those of us attempting to post every day in November do “Wordless Weekends” to make it a bit easier on ourselves. Wednesday is a busy day for me so I’m planning on Wordless Wednesdays.

Here are a few photos from our trip to California for the ordination of the Rt. Rev, Cordeliaknits.  I was too busy and emotional in church to take pictures, so these are from Saturday and Monday when we did touristy things.

Santa Cruz Farmers' Market

Farmers’ Market in Santa Cruz: note price on scallops (almost twice what I would pay here). They did have local fish, which was less.

Santa Cruz Wharf

Cordeliaknits, Salt Lake Liz, and Sisterfilms on the Wharf in Santa Cruz.

Henrik's Old Home

With so many changes on the Monterey Peninsula, I was surprised this place was still here – Onkel Hankie Pants and two buddies lived here in a one-bedroom apartment for much of their Army service.

Cordelia's Dream House

We took the 17-Mile Drive and Cordeliaknits found her dream house! Only several million dollars away….

Lone Cypress

The Lone Cypress still stands (albeit supported with ropes and cables.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuneful Tuesday: All I Know about Math and Science I Learned from Songs

Well, that’s not quite true. But it did occur to me that there are some fun songs dealing with math and science, two subjects about which I actually know fairly little. I’d be happy to hear suggestions about some more songs in this vein.

As young teenagers, my friends and I often listened to Tom Lehrer records. My friend The Decorator’s claim to fame was that Lehrer had been her father’s math TA at Harvard. (In the second clip, Lehrer speaks amusingly about his job.) He must have been a good instructor, since said father had a successful banking career. The first Tom Lehrer song, however, deals with chemistry, in fact, the Periodic Table. (Click on link to go to YouTube.)

Tom Lehrer: The Elements

I actually did study a form of New Math, the subject of the next song. In 9th grade, we learned algebra from Mr. Spencer and the SMSG (School Mathematics Study Group) from Yale. (Yes, kids, even though we were so much smarter in other ways, we didn’t get algebra till 9th grade.) In 10th grade, it was geometry from Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, with Mr. Swett. But in 11th grade I was in a different school and had a “normal” Algebra II text, and Mr. Reisinger, who came from Pocatello, Idaho to teach in Germany. My experience with college math is one I would rather not discuss.  Here’s Lehrer on

New Math

Back to chemistry, here is a great song about what happens when two elements combine. I believe the late Kate McGarrigle wrote this song, and sings it here.


I couldn’t think of any songs about biology or physics or geology, but there are two fine songs about astronomy.  Why Does the Sun Shine? was written by Tom Glazer (who also wrote On Top of Spaghetti). This rather better-known recording is by They Might Be Giants, who have also issued an update song with more current scientific information, The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma.  And now for something completely different (well, not that different really) -- The Galaxy Song  by Eric Idle of Monty Python, but done here with some fine scientific photos by Dave Hardy and Colin Farrow (about whom I know nothing else.)  I hope someone enjoys this Tuneful Tuesday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Undeserved Blessings and Other Random Thoughts


It's been a while, but I'm determined to restart this blog during NaBloPoMo November. Here are a few of my random thoughts to be going on with.

Recently I've been sorrowing with several people, some of whom I know only or mostly through the Internet, over various losses. On Hallowe'en afternoon I was walking Rusty down Maine St. and was offered hot chocolate and candy by some teenagers at a card table set up on the sidewalk. Of course, there was a price: the adult with them wanted to talk with me about where I would go if I died today. I'm afraid I wasn't very articulate in explaining my ideas about God's grace. She gave me a tract with a "Sinner's Prayer" at the end so that I could be sure of spending Eternity in heaven. I know, none better, that I am a sinner. And I know that God's grace is sufficient for me and for everyone, and that I get it even though I don't deserve it. That's a lot like the good fortune I have had in my life. For example, thinking about the people who are grieving right now, I am fortunate that my three children all lived through infancy and childhood to productive adulthood. I did my best for them, but so did the parents who are grieving now that their babies have died. It's also hard to articulate what I believe about bad things happening to people; I certainly don't believe that "God wanted another angel in heaven" or any such meretricious baloney. I don't believe God punishes people on earth in this way. I guess I think God set some things in motion, including the laws of nature, and does not randomly or readily break those laws. And sometimes those laws break hearts.

Since I last blogged, Onkel Hankie Pants and I have had two wonderful short trips: one to California to participate in Cordeliaknits' (henceforward the Rt. Rev. Cordeliaknits) ordination, and one to Minneapolis to celebrate the centennial of our long-time church home there and incidentally, the premiere of a hymn and anthem with text by OHP and music by a friend and fellow churchmember. Both events were truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I can't think of any complaints (except the flying part, never much fun these days, but well worth it).

I could actually manage a blog post every day this month just by listing the things I'm grateful for. Here's one: after Christmas our younger daughter, Sisterfilms, is moving East to live with us for a while, not because she has to, but because she wants to. We are all looking forward to this, although with some trepidation about how Rusty will get along with Sisterfilms' aging but still lively cat Winifred (and vice versa).

2006 Winifred is helping the felting process A smooth head and curly ears

More tomorrow as we reinstitute Tuneful Tuesday!