Thursday, December 20, 2007

Comments

I have changed the "Comments" settings to allow comments. I'm not sure why this became necessary because I don't recall setting to disallow comments. I'm sorry I didn't catch this sooner.

Comments

I have changed the "Comments" settings to allow comments. I'm sorry I didn't catch this sooner.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bruno's Lump

(This is the most viewed post on my blog - 772 views as of 4/10/2012.  I have no idea why this should be so.  If you are someone who visits this post, please comment or email to let me know how or why you landed on Bruno's Lump. Bruno passed away at the age of 15+ in June 2009.  Our new dog Benni is filling Bruno's paw prints and then some -  take a minute to visit Benedict Bentley -  Benni's Blog. Thanks.)

This is one of those obscure pictures like you see of the Loch Ness Monster or an Unidentified Flying Object. But wait, we can get clarity.
Or is it the Blob? It is currently an Unidentified Object of sorts and it is more or less permanently attached to our Dog Bruno.
The ugly black skinned growth started out rather small. Kids would yell, "Your Dog has a tick!" We had to correct them, saying, "It's not a tick, just a growth, like a wart". The vet was not concerned. Her reasoning was it would be worse to have to put Bruno under anesthesia to remove the growth, than to leave it alone. We agreed. That was early last summer.
Meanwhile, the thing has grown to the size of a small planet. There are undoubtedly tiny creatures living their ordinary lives and conducting business transactions on its surface as I write this. The thing is positioned high on Bruno's head over his right eye. It doesn't seem to bother him at all, and he seems to have no sensation or feeling as he does not yelp or react if you touch or squeeze it. As a matter of fact, he is totally oblivious to its presence and to its unsightliness. The Dog is like a person walking around with spinach in his teeth or a practical joke stuck on his back saying "kick me". Ignorance IS bliss, no doubt.
At nearly 14 years old, Bruno has earned the right to parade about with an ugly wart on his head, and not give a damn. I, on the other hand, would like for him to have it removed as I cannot think of any way to disguise it. I've thought of fashioning a little outfit for it, with a top hat perhaps, or painting it red and adding holly for the Holidays. We tease him about his brain leak, tell him not to eat so much, cuz it feeds the wart, and make him the butt of our jokes. But it doesn't faze him in the least. Bruno still is only interested in 1) Meals, 2) Snacks, especially his Kabobs or Beef Fillets which are his most expensive addiction, 3) going for a hike in the woods, and 4) making us get up off our butts as soon as we get comfortable to let him out to pee, or to close the door after he lets himself in. Oh, and 5) occupying his favorite spot on the couch, but only if the blankey is on.
In spite of being nearly 14 and having a science experiment growing on his forehead, Bruno is still cute, or at least we think so. And he knows it. He has always used his looks and expressions to get his way and he still pretty much gets what he wants, when he wants it. I guess he's got a face, lump and all, that only a mother could love. Or in this case, only his two Dads could love.


This is one of those Dog lessons: "The ones who love you, love you warts and all".

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Busy Few Weeks

Well, with winter upon us, the kitchen has been busy, partly to help keep the house warm without using too much fuel oil. First on the menu was Leon's Shepherd Pie, one of the many "comfort foods" we enjoy when it gets icy outside.














At Thanksgiving I made a fresh pumpkin cheesecake pie with an almond crust. It was good, but not my best. I blamed it on using half Splenda in place of sugar. I'm tossing the Splenda out...at least sugar is closer to natural.















Thanksgiving Day at My brother and sister-in-law. They have a real colonial house, built in the 1700's.














The snowstorm on Thursday the 13th meant we were let loose early from work. It took 2 hours to get home, which wasn't bad compared to the 3 to 8 hours other people spent in bumper to bumper traffic. But getting home early gave me a chance to make crispelli, a fried confection. Some people call them Angel Wings. They're made with flour, eggs, lemon rind and extract, sugar, BP. They have to be rolled out very thin and cut like wide fettuccine, cut in the center and twisted, then fried in oil and dusted with confectioner's sugar.











































Saturday morning we got out back for a hike. Bruno Dog loves it. For a 14 year old, he does good. Leon and Bruno, me and Bruno, and Bruno sniffing "Umm, there's something under this white stuff"











































Today, Sunday we had an additional 3 inches of sleet, snow and crud. After cleaning the driveway, Bruno decided to collapse under the tree. The tree is our non traditional contribution to the season. Decorated with silver bells and silver painted mountain laurel, red summac seed pods and other things gathered from the woods. Leon wants to add popcorn and cranberries.


















Today I made Aunt Stella's Secret Recipe Chocolate Cookies with Chocolate Frosting. They are made with flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, a whole box of raisins, sugar, BP, butter (or margarine) and black coffee. Its a very old recipe, and I'm sure it has an Arabic influence.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coffee Cut-back


So the economic pinch is finally rattling the Starbucks crowd. Welcome to my world. Well, almost. You're not quite there yet. I was never a Starbucks groupie, but used to frequent DD on regular basis. That was back when their mascot was the guy with the mustache who had to get up in the wee hours to "make the donuts". When DD went public, raised their prices and then got rid of Fred, I stopped visiting DD on a regular basis. Their objective shifted from the customer to the stockholder. Now, if I go there 6 times in year, that's a lot. We buy Chock-full-o-nuts at $1.68 per 13 oz. can on sale at Discount Foods. That's less than a cup at DD Starbucks or the 7-11 and it makes a week's worth of coffee. My only regret is that this is most probably not "fair-trade" coffee, so it comes with a guilty conscience. It does take some level of financial security to drink coffee that was paid for fairly and thus support the coffee farmers who barely survive to keep the rest of us awake.

Those of us in a lower income bracket than the Starbucks crowd, without any academic training in macro or micro or any other economics could have predicted the trends that the media is finally reporting on now. It doesn't take a genius to tell us that the economy is in a downturn. We're spending a zillion dollars on a friggin war while our domestic infrastructure crumbles and our most critical needs are becoming unaffordable, and I don't mean Starbucks coffee. Don't get me started. There are other blogs for that.

All I really want to express is my sentiment, "God, my heart bleeds for all those who must cut corners by foregoing a twice a day Starbucks habit!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NO-DOZE


Watching PBS's Nova documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial last night gave me a dose of adrenalin that kept me awake. For someone who's a light sleeper and has had a problem with insomnia, the program should have come with a warning: "May cause rapid heartbeat and sleeplessness in most educated, rational humans especially those who have experienced psychological and/or physical violence or other prejudice (e.g. homosexuals) at the hands of irrational, close-minded, fundamentalist, so-called "christians".

The movie follows the story of a school board in a Pennsylvania town which tried to interject "intellegent design" into the high school science curriculum and the science teachers that opposed the measure. Those on the school board pushing "intelligent design/creationism" as a legitimate scientific theory along side that of evolution, are of the same ilk as those who refused to believe Galileo , and those who today condemn gay and lesbian persons on the basis of some misinterpreted biblical passages and in the face of so much scientific and psycho-social evidence demonstrating that sexual orientation is a natural, morally neutral, human variation.

Seeing them twist language to make things fit their predefined mold was both frustrating and upsetting. These "true believers" are closed to any possibility of discovery, of learning, of actually changing their concrete, black and white, blinder-constricted view of the world. At least most intellectual religions have long ago reconciled reason/science with scriptural allegory.

I think these fundamentalists should forego taking advantage of any medical or scientific discovery that has been made on the basis of the theory of evolution or on the basis of the origin of species or on the basis of the related science of genetics. That would include most of the food they eat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Anti-Christmas Tree

Our Tree- December 2006.
We have this tradition that we don't have very traditional Christmas Trees. We especially don't pay more than $15 for a tree, unless it can be planted outdoors. Last year we had a tall thin Juniper that we planted in the corner where the sun-room juts out from the house. One year I used an inverted wire tomato cage and wired all kinds of greens to it that I gathered from 2+ acres of woods on our property.









This year we've already got our tree - fresh cut and for free, AND we did not purposely destroy a tree for this purpose AND its already in its recycle stage.













Two women across town asked Leon to help them with a dump run. We went to their house on Saturday morning to load up our truck with branches and trunks of two trees they had cut down in their yard. One happened to be a nice spruce tree. I had visions of wreaths and the prospect of selling them for $10 each, but the amount of work, or more importantly, time, that would be required made it unrealistic.













The tree-top however would make a perfect tree, well, our definition of perfect: less than $15 and preferably with an element of recyclability and a "Charlie Brown" homeliness. Leon wants to decorate it with baby's breath. He'd better not spend more than $15 on it, that's all.

We loaded two truckloads of wonderfully fragrant evergreens and headed to the dump. What a place to go for greens for the holidays. In addition to the beautiful spruce branches we delivered, there were holly greens and parchment hydrangeas. What a terrible waste. And people will be paying maybe $75 for a wreath or spray during the holidays. I'm keeping this in mind for next year!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Keeping warm




Baking biscotti tonight to keep the house warm. We've had a mild autumn so far, with a few cold nights here and there, mostly this past week. So roasting a chicken in the oven or a pot roast or oatmeal cookies or biscotti help take the chill off.



Here's the recipe:


PLAIN BISCOTTI – MOM’S RECIPE

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp of salt
¼ cup oil
2 eggs
1 orange, juice and rind or ¼ cup frozen OJ

Substitutions: Anisette
Preheat oven to 375o
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange rind and salt in a bowl
Combine the eggs with the orange juice and oil
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients
Mix till soft dough forms
Divide the dough in two and form into two flat loaves, placed side by side on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar
Bake for 25 minutes

Slice the loaf and turn slices on the side on the cookie sheet
Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes
For extra crispness, turn biscotti over and bake another 8-10 minutes.
(Does this make them triscotti?)

HAZELNUT BISCOTTI

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp of salt
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
¼ cup of hazelnut liqueur (Fra Angelico) (for almond use almond extract or Amaretto)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of toasted hazelnuts (or almonds, toasted)

Preheat oven to 350
Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet, do not allow to burn
Chop the hazelnuts
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl
Cut in the butter
Add the chopped hazelnuts
Combine the eggs with the liqueur and vanilla
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients
Mix till a soft dry dough forms (add a bit of flour if too wet)
Divide the dough in two and form into two flat loaves, placed side by side on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar
Bake for 25 minutes

Slice the loaf and turn slices on the side on the cookie sheet
Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes
(For a crisper biscotti turn over the slices and bake another 8-10 minutes)

VARIATIONS: dried cranberries, honey, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachio, chocolate chips

Tonight I made anisette walnut chocolate chip biscotti AND orange cranberry walnut biscotti.

Warm and delicious!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reluctant Reflections

I don’t know if it is just the time of year or the fact that a number of events have coincided, but in recent weeks I, and those close to me, have had cause to consider life and death. During this season we celebrate All Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls, which just about covers everyone who has passed away, at least in Christendom in the two thousand plus years AD. People seem to talk more about loved ones who have died, recounting their last days over the lunch table at work.

The tragic and sudden loss of a dear friend in the prime of life, just weeks ago, seems so unfair, so random and so cruel. And this past week, a close relative suddenly and without warning, developed a rare autoimmune blood disorder that ravished her platelets overnight and left her susceptible to a host of serious, life threatening complications. Though she is recovering, it was touch and go for a while. She had the “last rites” as the sacrament was once called, signifying the seriousness of the circumstances under which it is administered.

While this was all transpiring, we learned of a senseless and deadly accident on the Interstate involving two tractor trailers and several vehicles and leaving at least six dead and more seriously injured. It is the randomness and unforeseen nature of these happenings that make them so frightening, so unfair, so cruel.

These events remind us of how fragile life is. They shake us up. They cause us to pause. But rarely do they make us change course. Not that they should, but it is curious: in the face of death, we consider how trivial our pursuits really are, how silly in fact they look from the perspective of death. And yet we immediately return to our meetings and reports, our laundry and grocery shopping, watching TV and complaining about the price of gasoline. For most of us, life is a series of more or less ordinary activities.

Thornton Wilder in The Bridge of San Luis Rey explored the randomness of death. As I recall, the good Brother who investigated the lives of those who were “precipitated to their deaths” when the bridge broke sometime in 16th century Peru, came to no great revelations about the meaning or purpose of the event, about those who lost their lives or about life and death. I think we, in our reflections here and now have no more insightful conclusions to share. Life goes on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween 2007


Well its happening everywhere. Night before Halloween vandalism. I won't even dignify the practice by using its nomenclature. If these criminals didn't hit other homes in the neighborhood, we would have considered the possibility that it was a "hate crime" given the graffiti. We moved here seven and a half years ago, partly because of crap like this in the "borderline" neighborhood we used to live in. The camper is at the bottom of our driveway, pretty much out of sight from the house.

Here are some photos of the mess they made.




















Thing is, in 7 years we've never had a Trick-or-Treater come to our door. The first Halloween, we had five bags of Hershey bars and Kit-Kats and Reeses Cups, you know, quality treats, all ready for an onslaught. Granted there are not a lot of homes in the neighborhood; I figured on having a few leftovers for us. Not one little devil, or witch, or scarecrow or ghost.

The second year we only bought two bags. Still not a monster. But I still buy at least two bags of good stuff, cuz you never know.




















So, getting back to the vandalism -

Two local cops banged on the door at 7:30 this morning as Leon was getting out of the shower, running around naked, to inform him of the damage. I'd already left.

They suggested he clean it up right away. To minimize the impact and satisfaction the thugs might enjoy. Leon cleaned it up nicely, though it was a tough job and made him late getting to his first customer.

I'm tempted to go down to the camper tonight, turn on the heat and see who knocks. I have candy. Armed with Treats, I'll hold the Almond Joys and Reeses as bribes while I interrogate each kid who comes by, "What do you know about the nefarious neighborhood Spray-Painters? Have you heard of that rap group whose name was painted on the side of this camper? How much do you like chocolate? Talk or NO Treat!"

But its not worth it. There'll be no goblins tonight. But next year, the night before Halloween, we'll be waiting for them. I'll weave a giant spider's web, and they'll be sorry.



















May all the gay Saints bless you this Halloween evening.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

First Frost


The thing about living in the Northeast is that summers are excellent but way too short. In April and May we drag all kinds of things outdoors including house plants. In October we drag them in before the first frost. The cacti and tropicals that need to be brought in are not typical sized house plants




















The cactus garden in the backyard has potted cacti as well as in-ground specimens. The native Prickly Pear - Opuntia - stays in the ground all winter and flowers around Gay Pride Day - at the end of June and into early July.. They are indigenous to Martha's Vineyard, and I've seen them growing wild along the Jersey Shore. Mine have been propagated over the years from cuttings or pieces that drop off, which root easily.




















The other cacti have to be wintered indoors. They used to take over the sunroom until I tried storing some of the larger ones in the basement.




















Like the Dinner Plate Opuntia which I'm guessing weighs 30 pounds or more - it gets dug up in the fall, hoisted up with ropes, hosed off, and lowered into a large trash barrel, bare root, and wheeled into the basement. It takes two of us to do this. Each year, I swear I'm not going to do it anymore.




















The other monster is the Strelitizia nicolai, if I've got it right, a large Bird of Paradise type tropical. It's got to weigh 80 pounds. When we brought it out last spring, I promised it would never see another summer. But I just don't have it in me to let the thing die. So, here they all are, in for the winter, before the first frost.





















The thing about summers is, we have only a finite number of them.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Photos of the Car Club Meeting Last Saturday

Having some insomnia again, so feeling kinda wiped today. So here are some more pics of the Lambda Car Club Guys:
Peter V. ~ Jerry M. ~ Kurt R. ~ Dave B. ~ Dave & Leon Installing driving lights on the Mini ~














Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Apple A Day

That was about it. Well, two days, tops. Returned the iPhones today and re-did our ATT accounts again; it's still not simple. Back to ordinary cell phones that have voice recognition. And our retirement funds are SO much better off.

Today is also Leon's birthday, though we had more of a celebration on Saturday. Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you.

Today also marks one year at the job. I never thought I'd make it through the first week. When I took this job - writing grant proposals for a homeless shelter - it was out of desperation. And that desperation was exacerbated by the sense that I am on the shorter end of the life-line and that the time for dreams has past. I was still hoping that I would finally find my passion and a job that matched it.

I've always marveled at (envied) the 97 year old violinist (concert pianist, jazz musician) showcased regularly on Sunday Morning or 60 Minutes, who has been playing the violin (piano, saxophone) since the age of 5, and still can't wait to make music each day. (Why do they always seem to be musicians?) Their work is what they most enjoy doing.

By accepting this job I was admitting that I've run out of chips, that there is no chance left for luck, that the real possibilities of life have all evaporated. Another job. On Monday, waiting for Friday; at 8:30 AM, waiting for 4:30PM. To say the least, my heart isn't in it. So here it is, a year later, no closer to retirement, no richer, and still looking. The drawbacks of being a reluctant rebel.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing's Perfect


Well its cell phone time again. Leon's been having trouble with his cell phone... and mine's an old clunker - but it works... no camera, low tech as cell phones go.

Well, after checking out a few models, we went to the Apple Store.

The iPhone is quite the gadget (and, no you don't get a link from me on this one). After playing with them for a while and asking LOTS of questions, including about voice activation tags for calling people in your phonebook, we were ecstatic. The iPhone practically sells itself because it is SO AMAZING.

Went right down to ATT to switch to the family plan and bought 2 iPhones from Apple. This major purchase was justified - in lieu of my buying a new digital camera, and Leon buying an iPod and a new phone, and my having a separate phone account. Simplify. Right.

The iPhone has it all. EXCEPT - can you believe it!? - VOICE ACTIVATION!

And here we are, living in a state that has a "hands free only while driving" cell phone law. The iPhone is definitely a two-handed phone. Even without the Law, it would be insane to try to make a simple call with the iPhone while driving! (I think I may be insane.) For $400 it ought to have voice activated software, not to mention a longer battery life. Yeah, ATT has a cumbersome, dysfunctional voice command system for an ADDITIONAL $5 each per month, but that doesn't cut it.

For $400, Apple should at least cover the lousy ATT voice feature on their plan, as a half-assed good will measure. What a disappointment! It actually made me feel ill, knowing I had spent good money on something so COOL, yet so DEFICIENT in such a major way. (Not to mention that registering 2 iPhones and 2 AppleCare Plans was almost impossible as the registration site kept defaulting to the previous registrant.)

Well, the purchase was not an easy one, as that is a CONSIDERABLE sum for us, and was a stretch on the budget, to say the least. I won't deny that the iPhone is a fascinating piece of electronics. But it looks like we're going to return them. We were led to believe that the phone had the voice activation feature, so the Apple Store'd be wise to waive the "restocking fee". Nothing's perfect.

The thing that disturbs me more than anything is that, as much as we try to simplify our lives, we get sucked into complicating them. Yeah, its that feeling of being sucked in, cajoled, duped, persuaded, that makes me cringe. Buying things we really don't need. Having things that require registrations, accounts, warranties, passwords, updates, batteries, chargers, docks, connections, accessories, etc. etc. Things that take more time and leave you with less time. Things purported to make life easier, but in fact end up consuming life. My fear is that it is becoming impossible to simplify or to keep it simple.

I fear that all the complexities of life in the 2thousands are so insidious that they infect us without our full awareness and we find ourselves possessed before we know it.

It takes vigilance, fortitude, determination and a good dose of rebelliousness to keep it simple.

I remember when there were no cell phones. Imagine. Somehow we survived.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

LAMBDA CAR CLUB and HUBBY'S BIRTHDAY

My hubby is president of the Nutmeg Chapter of Lambda Car Club and I'm the reluctant first lady. Cars are practical machines; sure some vintage cars are works of art, but, well give me flowers.
Garden flowers are scarce in the Northeast in late October, but I try to make do with what nature has available. Every so often my flower arranging gene take over. Yeah, I believe there's some genetic connection between this urge to arrange vegetation and the attraction to other males...especially when I'm hosting the Car Club guys.



We held this month's meeting at our place today and I got to cater the event. We expected 25 to 30 but there were only about 14 of us. Some of the guys hiked up back, to the junkyard to look at old cars. Now can there be a genetic connection between the urge to look at junk cars and an attraction to other males?...The weather's been warm for October, so we sat outside.



I made baked shells with ricotta and sausage. And the hot legs were a hit.



It's hubby's birthday on Tuesday, so for dessert I made him a Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. This thing has every food group in it and can be considered a completely balanced meal! One pound of carrots, eggs, orange juice, walnuts, raisins, flour, crisco, hazelnut oil, cream cheese, and of course sugar to make it delectable. I don't have a gay cake decorator gene, so candy corn had to do.

Leon is about to blow...I didn't have 46 candles, thankgod. Carrot cake is his favorite. The guys liked the cake so, my day of catering was a success. And the "car-talk" didn't dominate the conversation...so I actually had a good time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

RELUCTANT BLOGGER


Choosing a name for this new blog was worse than the grocery store dilemma of "paper or plastic"

Reluctant – feeling or showing no willingness or enthusiasm to do something, unwilling, unenthusiastic, disinclined, hesitant…lots of negatives, describes me too well; the definition should be no enthusiasm to do anything…I think I was born kicking and screaming and I’ll probably die that way. When I was exploring career possibilities, which I’ve been doing for 37 years, I used the process of elimination: I eliminated everything. Still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I really am enthusiastic about doing something – I just haven’t figured out what it is.

Rebel – somebody who rejects the codes and conventions of society…who defiantly protests against authority, radical, dissenter…at first glance “rebel” and “reluctant” seem contradictory. But they’re really not that dissimilar. Except for the fact that to be a rebel requires at least some enthusiasm or willingness to behave defiantly. Is a reluctant rebel merely passive aggressive? I marched. I protested. I carried signs. I purposely avoided getting arrested on purpose. I was chicken.

I can find lots to rebel against, but ah, one worries about having health insurance coverage. Maybe I’m a just a gutless tool.

Hey, I had to choose a name for this blog, and that one was available. Something with the word “Troll” in it was a contender, but I’m reluctant to take on the cause of rebellious trolls.

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