Monday, November 30, 2009

More Music...

The Golden Years... makes me think of old lucky married couples.

If you are about 44 or older, this might give you a jolt: The BeeGees are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Well, not all 3 of the Brothers Gibb, because Maurice died in 2003.

The BeeGee's were among the many groups I saw in person in the early 1970's when I lived in the area around Baltimore and Washington, DC. Of course I was familiar with most of their popular songs, and danced to all of them. But it was a huge surprise when I saw them in person... the stage was first occupied by a medium-size orchestra before the brothers came out. I never would have imagined their rock music had background music made by an orchestra... string bass, violins, the whole kaboodle. But what a sound!

If you want to fool yourself into thinking that they (and thus you) are not really that old, you can ignore the early Bee Gees and just start counting from the year that “Saturday Night Fever” hit, sending the disco craze over the moon and producing six consecutive American No. 1 singles and the top-selling movie soundtrack ever.

Still, that would be 31. And how can you stop the rain from falling down? How can you stop the sun from shining? What makes the world go round?

Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive. We’ll rely on each other, uh-huh. You should be dancin’, yeah. Kinda dumb words to live your life by, but can you think of better ones?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of my all-time favorite vocalists is Ella Fitzgerald, and today I read that Verve has just released 4 CD's of newly rediscovered recordings done by Ella in a small jazz club in Hollywood in the early 1960's. The master tapes had languished in the vault all this time.

I saw Ella in person about 1960, not long before these recordings were made. The young man I dated worked at the Fontainbleu (hotel) on Miami Beach and over the course of a year or so, he took me to see some great performers at the hotel's dinner club. Ella was one of them, perhaps the best.
(Of course, Nat 'King' Cole wasn't bad either!)

When Ella sang, it was like the world shrank to just Ella, and me listening. She was totally captivating, and sang out joy with every note.

With the exception of
“Ella in Hollywood” and “Live at Mr. Kelly’s,” a 1958 Chicago date (which wasn’t released until 2007), there are no Fitzgerald albums recorded live in a small club.

I'm sure putting these recordings on my Wish List!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Waldorf Salad

I finally realized what I missed the most about a big Thanksgiving Dinner this year, besides the camaraderie. It's the Waldorf Salad!

For as many years as I can remember, my family always had a Waldorf Salad on the table at Thanksgiving. It's an easy salad, and like all dressed salads, it doesn't keep well.

If you aren't familiar with this salad, it was created at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York in the 1890's. The original recipe was just diced red-skinned apples, celery and mayonnaise. Later, chopped lightly toasted walnuts were added to this now American classic. Some folks add sliced grapes and use yogurt in place of some or all of the mayo, but I'm a traditionalist.

I generally use both sweet red-skinned apples, and green-skinned Granny Smith apples, for color diversity.

Waldorf Salad Recipe

1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced

1 sweet apple, cored and chopped

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice




Optional: 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced (or a 1/4 cup of raisins)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (or yogurt) and the lemon juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Mix in the apple, celery, grapes, and walnuts. Serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.
(I like Bibb, or Boston, it looks pretty.)

Serves 2.

Keep this recipe in mind, it's a great winter salad!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heritage Turkeys

Last year I ordered a small organic Heritage Turkey (locally from my Farmer's Market) to cook for Thanksgiving dinner. I must say it was the most flavorful turkey I've ever eaten, quite different that the standard 'butterball' type turkey. You can see my photos and story about it here.

I had intended to do a repeat performance this year but I'm "On Strike", refusing to use the kitchen here. Most of you know I love to cook, and it takes great restraint to refrain from making a daily issue of the nasty kitchen here. (I refuse to clean up after 2 grown women, capable of doing it themselves.)

Slowly (
very slowly) I'm getting set up to cook in my end of the house, but that won't provide a Thanksgiving Dinner this year. The important thing, however, is that I am Thankful for lots! What I will miss the most is sharing the day with friends, but you are always just on the other side of my computer screen.

I am invited several places to share the holiday weekend but I'd rather not travel on holidays. Nor will I feel lonely. In fact I hope to help deliver holiday meals to some who are shut-ins.

Wishing all of you a very pleasant Thanksgiving, early before all the kitchen work sets in!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chickees and the Everglades

While I was thinking about my father when writing about Veteran's Day recently, I remembered bits of the few times he was home on leave during WWII.

On one of those visits when I was about 2-1/2, my dad took me out the Tamiami Trail to 40-Mile Bend in the Everglades, to a Seminole village where one of his friends lived. The road from Miami went due west straight as an arrow for 40 miles and then a bend in the road changed the direction directly towards Naples on the west coast. Some trading villages built up near the bend, and it adopted the name for identification.

My dad's friend was one of the grandsons of Osceola, and regretfully I no longer remember his first name. He had gone to high school with my dad, and he was a football hero. What I remember is that he played football barefoot!

The Seminole villages are small clusters of chickees built of upright bald cypress posts with a raised floor and a palmetto thatched roof. One of the chickees is always the Council House, usually round and on the highest portion of the camp. It is where the Council of Elders and Warriors met. Women and children were not specifically forbidden, but by tradition were not seen in the Council House.

My dad lost track of my whereabouts (the small villages were
very safe) and when he found me, I had crawled up the short ladder to the floor of the Council House. The Chief had me on his knee and was entertaining me!

Chickees have fascinated me ever since. There is always one larger chickee used as the cook house, and each family has their own personal chickee for living quarters. Chickees have side curtains that can be hung in rainy and wet weather, and stored when not needed.

The chickees are built several feet above the potentially swampy land which covers about 9 million acres of the Everglades. It is mostly sawgrass (early on it was called the
River of Grass) and just a few inches of rain/water enabled canoes and flat bottomed boats to traverse the area.
Dotting the landscape are hammocks, which are pieces of firm ground like islands a few inches to several feet above the water. Some hammocks are as small as a footstep, while many are an acre or more and support thick forests.

It's all very different now, and not just because of exponential growth. The Army Corps of Engineers had no idea what they were doing to the shallow flow of water in the 'glades by building essentially a barrier (road) across the 'glades, and still didn't know many years later when they built the parallel Alligator Alley a few miles farther north.

In the last several years I have read of several proposals (and some actual projects) to restore the natural waterways in central and south Florida. Marjory Stoneman Douglass wrote
The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947, which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp.

Douglas was an interesting woman; born in 1890, she came to Miami at an early age to work for the Miami Herald but soon became a popular free lance writer, working nearly to the end of her 108 years for the restoration of the Everglades. The River of Grass has been said to have the impact of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Health Care Legislation

Up to now, I have avoided following the fracas... it's all double-speak anyhow. Has to be, when the public words of our congressmen and women are penned by the lobbyists paid by the drug companies (which some of our representatives have actually admitted!).

BUT... today's mail brought a notice my Medicare Drug Prescription plan will be going up January 1st. so in the next few days I need to do some heavy research. The feds have already said there will be no COLA (cost of living increase) for social security and military retirement recipient. It also looks like the flat $250 our President bandied about in lieu of the COLA won't happen either.

I dare not try to calculate how much my 'real' normal and ordinary expenses have increased in the last year; I only know I have cut down to the bone and it's not enough. There are folks in worse shape, some even living in culverts and sleeping over heating grates in the big metro areas.

I could handle it better if we all shared in the deprivation equally. Instead, the Fat Cats are not only allowed but apparently encouraged to skim the rich, fat cream of the top, leaving a tiny dollop of skim milk for the rest of us... if we are lucky.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For a fairly bright woman, I can be pretty dumb sometimes

By 8 pm last night, I was back to having fever and chills, remembering that's how it started before... the pain under my scapula for a couple of days, then fever and chills. I really thought the back pain was from something I pulled while working on my short wall and door last week.

I don't know if the earlier round of Z-max didn't kill it all, or if I inhaled more bacteria when Mike and I took that nasty sheet of paneling to the dump about 10 days ago. Either way, I'm pretty sick again, and have no resources to see a doc for a script.

Well, I could go to the ER but they'll run $1,000 worth of tests again... I don't have a local doc; both of the ones I had before have moved elsewhere, and a new doc will want to do an expensive full work-up. Cwap and more cwap...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Egg Trivia

• There are now over 200 breeds of chickens.

• There is no nutritional difference between a brown egg and a white egg. Hens with white feathers produce white eggs; hens with brown feathers produce brown eggs. Exotic breeds like arucana vary in egg shell coloration.

• The color of the yolk has to do with the hen’s diet. The more carotene eaten by the hen, the darker the yellow yolk.

• An average hen lays 300 to 325 eggs a year.

• A hen starts laying eggs at 19 weeks of age.

• A hen must eat four pounds of feed to make a dozen eggs.

• Occasionally, a hen will produce double-yoked eggs throughout her egg-laying career.

• As a hen grows older she produces larger eggs.

• The mother hen turns over her egg about 50 times per day so the yolk won't stick to the sides of the shell.

• “Free-range” has a wide legal interpretation. A large factory with a single window to the outside may qualify even if the hens are packed tightly on the floor area.

• The larger the farm the more crowding there will be, along with practices such as debeaking. The secret is to find a small local source (usually at the farmers' market or farm stand).

• Organic eggs are healthier since organically raised chickens are not given antibiotics (plus growth hormones for poultry are not legal in Canada).

• The new 2009 Canadian Organic Standard requires that organic livestock management aim "to utilize natural breeding methods, minimize stress, prevent disease, progressively eliminate the use of chemical allopathic veterinary drugs (including antibiotics), and maintain animal health and welfare.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That Glittery Stuff...

Yep, gold is in the news again with record prices.

What isn't so apparent is the changes that affect gold in production. Back about 1950, ore generally produced about 12 grams of gold per ton. That number has dropped to about 3 grams per ton in most mining areas, and even the quality of the ore quality had declined.

The picture above shows the most sought after gold bar for investment, the 100-gram bar. It will just about fit in the palm of your hand, and costs a cool $3,500.

Foreign governments continue to buy gold over US Dollars for safe investments. The Reserve Bank of India just bought 220 tons of gold from the IMF (International Monetaru Fund) for $6.7 billion. Sri Lanka recently disclosed it too is buying gold, and of course we know the Chinese are investing heavily in gold.

Gold has been around as a stable investment for over 6,000 years, while other monetary forms have come and gone as governments rise and topple. Despite the increased value of gold, if we adjust the price for inflation it will have to top $1885 to set an all-time record high.

Meanwhile, be very cautious if you choose to sell your scrap gold. Many folks are getting a mere fraction of the real value as fast-talking salesmen make their pitch.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Wanderings...

No, I'm not wandering... just my mind! Actually I would love to have enough gas to wander around these hills for the day, but that's not possible this month.

My 'extra' money for the month went for sheetrock, and 2 x 4's so I could finally finish the doorway and wall I put up to close off my end of the house. I got around to starting on it yesterday, not nearly finishing all I thought I could do in one day.

Did you know sheetrock gets heavier as you age? It must weigh almost twice as much as it did when I was 60! I actually think fiberglass insulation itches more, too. The harder part, building and sheetrocking the door jamb 90ยบ to the wall, will happen today. Fortunately, my wall is narrow enough that there will be very little mudding and sanding to do, mostly just the drywall screws.

Buying the trim for both sides of the door jamb was a real sticker shock. Real wood moulding was priced out of the question, so for about $1 a foot, I bought what looks like pressed and molded paper with a primer coat on one side. It's properly called "Medium Density Fiberboard" or MDF. I guess I'll have to drag out my pancake air compressor and finish nail gun to put it up.... I'm not sure the stuff would hold a real nail.

There's a wonderful door casing I would love to have used, called Howe Casing. Some of the big box stores carry it in MDF, but none local to me. Howe casing in real wood would probably run more than $3 a foot. It generally comes in 8' lengths and I'd need 5 pieces at a cost of around $150 for 1 door. Yikes.

Somewhere out in the barn I have a box full of very decorative antique bronze door knobs (similar to the ones pictured above but most of mine with escutcheon plates are nicer) and mortise locksets I've been carrying around about 40 years. I always thought I'd install them on the last house I ever planned to occupy. When I first lived in Baltimore in the 1960's, the old row houses were falling down and there were a couple of salvage yards nearby, in an area you didn't want to be in after dark. That was long before renovation was fashionable, and I was able to buy knobs, escutcheon plates and locks here and there, even at yard sales. There's probably a small fortune in that box!

I also have an old brass teller's cage window (think of the small banks in old Western movies), with a small hinged area across the bottom to allow passage of large sacks of coins or bills. I used to have a brass and beveled glass bank president's office door, but it weighed over 300 pounds and I grew tired of moving it.

I suppose it's time to think of selling some of that stuff... sigh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Hate Funerals

I hate funerals and I am so glad this one is over. It rained, of course.

It rained when we buried my dad; it rained when we buried my step-father; it rained when we buried each of my grandparents. The 7 young men who carried the casket had a tough time on the slippery slope, struggling to maintain control. Brent was a big fellow, 6'4", and not a light weight.

The little old country church where the graveside service was held is only about a mile from my house, and is really a lovely chapel. It's close to 200 years old, and maybe someday I can go back for photos of the wonderful woodwork on the interior.

The adjacent cemetery is full of very old, tilted, fallen and weathered markers; many have not been readable for maybe a hundred years. There are a few shiny new markers scattered about, and an occasional bronze military marker partially hidden in the overgrowth here and there. It is a rich history of people who lived, and loved, and died.

From the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (and based on Genesis 3:19):

"... we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes. dust to dust..."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Freedom is not Free

Photo: Creative Commons License by Elessar

Today is the day we set aside to honor the men and women who have fought for our freedom. Why those men and women, who often gave their lives for the effort, are only remembered on a single day once a year is a mystery to me.

I come from a military family, in fact many generations of them. All 3 of my brothers were in the Viet Nam war although only was one deep in the combat zone, and became disabled. My father fought in the Pacific during WWII, and the picture below of him shaving using his helmet as a vessel was taken in the Solomon Islands. You may not recognize that name, but surely know Guadalcanal. My father had rolls of snapshots of the Japanese (and American) dead but he would never talk about the war.

All my mother's brothers fought in WWII, and all the husbands of her sisters. Thankfully, they all survived. My young mother worked for a factory that made women's bras, and during the war they converted the line to make parachutes. Her father went to Ohio and packed munitions at Atlas Powder. My other grandfather, although a bit long in the tooth, was in the US Navy.

I remember the blackout curtains every night because we lived a mile from the ocean. here were enemy submarines off our coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember squeezing that nasty orange pellet into white stuff called margarine to make it look more palatable (it wasn't), and I remember my 5th birthday cake made in a coffee can because that was all the sugar and flour my grandma could get with her ration stamps.

Both of my great grandfathers on my mother's side fought in the Civil War, along with over 90 cousins (a third of them died). Among my blood ancestors, I count over 20 who fought in the War of 1812, nearly that many in the French-Indian Wars, 7 in the Frontier Rangers who protected the western flank (around the Great Lakes) for General Washington, and 6 men that I know for sure fought in the Pennsylvania Continental Line during
the Revolutionary War.

So, here is my question for Veteran's Day: How many of you
actually own a printed copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (besides the one in that dusty antiquated encyclopedia set)? How many of you have read it again within the last 2, or even 5, years?

I will confess that only recently did I buy a pocket-size copy to re-read and keep handy. I still cannot tell you all the amendments and when they were voted into law, although like most of us who watch TV, I am familiar with at least some, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and the right not to self-incriminate.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788

"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves." ~D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Genealogy, Nutrition and Longevity

I have had quite a bit of time lately to just ponder, and one persistent thought has to do with the genealogy I've been doing. In tracking one man and his descendants from 1706, several things have become apparent.

Before the mid-1800's and the time of the Civil War, they bred like rabbits. Almost all of them married, and if a wife died in childbirth, the husband just married a spinster or widowed sister to take care of the brood and perhaps add to it. A family of more than 10-15 children was not uncommon, nor was living a 100 years or more.

After the Civil War, all those numbers changed dramatically. WHY?

We know that before the war, the majority of most household's food was home-grown. If a man grew grain, he took it as needed to a local mill to be stone-ground for bread. If a man didn't grow grain for his family, he probably pitched in with several neighbors in his community for grain. In all cases, they ate whole grains because mass-milling and de-germed grains were not heard of at the time.

They ate locally grown food and humanely-raised chicken, eggs and meat. Fresh, full-bodied milk was available daily, and clean, potable water. Everyone had a garden on land that was teeming with microbial life and had not been over-worked. They knew to let alternate fields lay fallow to replenish the soil.

It was a lot of hard work, and I'm not surprised how easily newly-invented machinery became 'essential'. A team with a wide row of plows could do more work than a man with a single mule and plow. Imagine how much more they could do with machine-drawn equipment!

The local stone mill had a limited capacity, although usually adequate for their community. As men were able to grow larger amounts of grain, the need arose to mass-mill it... then they discovered milled grains soon grew rancid from the exposure of the germ and oils to oxygen. So they de-germed it. I doubt most folks realized the change in nutritional value of de-germed wheat bread, and once bread itself was available from a merchant, I'm sure the over-worked housewife was delighted.

So I believe nutrition was an important factor in the overall decline of longevity. Of course, nutrition is much more than just local availability. The land itself is the contributing factor. As a man could farm more land, he also unintentionally destroyed the viability of that land by removing (within the crops themselves) some essential elements that were not replaced. After all, the tractor didn't produce tons of manure to put back on the fields and it would have been impossible to compost a thousand acres. Chemical fertilizers didn't come along until after WWI when they needed to make money from old munitions factories.

I remember my grandfather, who had been a Kansas county ag agent, talking about growing food in the rich muck of south Florida when he moved his family there about 1920. The muck was so rich that vegetables grew rapidly, to the point of splitting and spoiling in the field. (
Muck is the soil made up primarily of humus from drained swampland, easily blown away when dry, and also burns easily.) Fortunately, we no longer destroy as much of our wetlands by draining, for they are a valuable wildlife habitat in the natural cycle of life.

Another thing I notice is after the Civil War, many men married much later in life, and had fewer children. Many men and women did not marry at all, and I doubt availability of a spouse was the big factor. So what was?

Was there a mass PTSD across the land? Or some kind of evolutionary switch that controlled the population rate?

In my research, my solitary ancestor of 1706 had generated over 6,000 people in my database by 1900, 46% of whom bear his surname, and with no more than a generation or two traced who do not bear the name. (i.e. Hardesty women who married into a different surname.) What if all the men had lived, and had offspring at the rate the earlier families did?

The estimated death toll of the Civil War is around 600,000-700,000. More than a million Americans died in WWI, and nearly half a million American servicemen numbered among the 60 million total deaths from WWII.

I am still convinced nutrition was the big factor in the decline of longevity. I just wish I had a better understanding of all the factors in the reproduction rate... not that we need more people to feed
, but just that I wonder why?

Monday, November 9, 2009


My friend Buster lost his son yesterday.

For 6 weeks, Brent put up as much fight as he could, but in the end his body was just too broken. For that entire time, his parents stayed at his bedside around the clock, holding his hand and encouraging him even though Brent was in an induced coma. He knew they were there, though. Any time his mother got upset, Brent's vital signs wavered.

As Brent became weaker and weaker, clearly losing the fight, his mother and dad finally told the doctors "no more"... poke no more holes in him, no more CPR, just DNR. I hope his transition was peaceful, as I believe it would have been since his parents let go.

Sadly, that's the third boy between 18-20 on this street within 2 blocks of my house to kill themselves in an automobile or motorcycle accident in less than a year. No matter how much legislation is passed about drunk driving, it seems to have zero effect.

I don't know the local tradition, but in most of the South, neighbors bring food. (In North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia the food always includes fried chicken and peach pies.) I think I'll buy a stack of disposable plates, utensils, cups, napkins and even trash bags, along with a nice ribbon arrangement for the mailbox out by the street.

I hate to go over there because I never know the right thing to say.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FDA Cracks Down On Misleading “Smart Choices”

Photo is by Mikelight, Creative Commons License

I wrote here about how smart is the "Smart Choice" label about a month ago. Now it seems the FDA is taking action, arguing that the labels may mislead the public by implying that sugary foods are healthy.

This is from another writer, but the words could have been mine if I was feeling better already:
"I’m amazed that the “Smart Choices” label has gotten this far, considering it was trying to suggest that Froot Loops are somehow nutritious, and happy that the FDA is taking decisive action to curtail the manipulative marketing scheme. However, given that Kraft has announced that they are phasing out the label, and General Mills, Kellogg and Unilever plan to follow suite, I have a feeling the label will not be around for much longer regardless of what the FDA does.

Navigating the supermarket to find healthy food and deciphering additive-laden labels is already challenging enough without deceptive packaging. A great way to steer clear of unhealthy ingredients is to stay to the outer perimeter of the supermarket, where you’ll find fresh produce and more whole foods. Better yet, take some advice from Diane Hatz, founder of Sustainable Table, and learn how you can eat more local and sustainable foods that truly are smart choices."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Feeling a bit better...

Thanks everyone for your concern, and the birthday wishes!

We have found the source of my infection: bacteria on a sheet of paneling I had stored in the barn for 3 years. When I moved in here 3-1/2 years ago, I removed all the pet-stained carpet and padding, and took out the wall between this tiny bedroom (now computer room) and the hallway so it didn't feel like a closet.
I saved the paneling because it matches the LR.

Recently I installed a door across the hall to give me some privacy from the rest of the house, and that created a very short wall. About 2 weeks ago I brought up that piece of paneling from the barn, sprayed it with clorox clean-up, and then washed it down. It was literally covered in a greenish powdery substance which I apparently breathed.

Don't even ask why I wasn't wearing a mask, since I know better. I can only assume my mind was partially elsewhere!

The paneling will go to the dump this week; it would be impossible to ever get the bacteria out of all the wood pores. So when I feel enough better to work on my wall again, I'll make a trip to Lowe's for sheetrock.

What an expensive lesson in stupidity.