Saturday, September 29, 2007

Total Ellipse of the Blog

If I were going to steal a meme from Jocelyn...it would be this one.


If I were a beginning, I would be….intriguing enough to make you want to continue.


If I were a month, I would be…a month of Sundays.


If I were a time of day, I would be…the last few moments before drifting off to sleep while being spooned.


If I were a planet, I would be…Pluto, kinda far out there and people would not be quite sure how to categorize me.


If I were a season, I would be…turkey season just because I'd get a kick out of making big, burly men go camouflaging themselves and gobbling in the woods trying to outwit a creature with a brain the size of a cashew.


If I were a sea animal, I would be….looking over my shoulder for Great White Sharks.


If I were a direction, I would be….slower, baby, more like a tickle. Mmmmmm, yeah, just like that.


If I were a piece of furniture, I would be…something gooshy and amorphous like my belly and thighs, perhaps a beanbag chair or a water bed.


If I were a sin, I would be…chocolate covered lust. Hhhmm, good name either for a rock band or a new candy, dontcha think?


If I were a liquid, I would be…melted chocolate covering your fingers and mouth.


If I were a scare, I would be...an unintentional pregnancy. Wait, I was the product of a one night stand, no if about it. I got this covered for real.


If I were a gem, I would be…rough cut.


If I were a flower/plant, I would be…hoping that whoever was responsible for my care is better with plants than I am.


If I were a kind of weather, I would be….warm days and cool nights, good cuddle weather.


If I were a musical instrument, I would be...Bella
100_0334_1_1



If I were an animal, I would be…nocturnal.


If I were an emotion, I would be….raw.


If I were a vegetable, I would be…hoping no heroic measures would be taken.


If I were a sound, I would be…a whisper.


If I were an element, I would be…mercurial.


If I were a car, I would be…an old Chrysler Imperial, kinda wide, not built for speed, but a nice backseat for making out on and for kids to bounce around on. Or maybe a VW camper bus, again, wide and not built for speed but kinda fun to tour around in, one with some psychedelic paint job.


If I were a song, I would be…easy to sing and fun to dance to.


If I were a food, I would be...best if eaten fresh.


If I were a place, I would be…out of this world.


If I were a material, I would be…unbleached but high thread count cotton, all natural and common but surprisingly delightful to the touch. Hahahaha.


If I were a taste, I would be...acquired.


If I were a scent, I would be…earthy.


If I were a religion, I would be…peaceful.


If I were a sentence, I would be…25 to life.


If I were a facial expression, I would be…only one? You gotta be kidding. The smirk of death, perhaps.


If I were a subject in school, I would be…people watching.


If I were a colour, I would be...tie dye, duh!


If I were a thing, I would be…one of the Cat in the Hat's impish helpers.


If I were a book, I would be…personally inscribed, probably dog-eared (horrors!), possessing a cracked spine but one you kept coming back to over and over.


If I were an artist, I would be…covered in paint.


If I were a collection of poems, I would be…ribald, witty, and touching. not at all pretentious.


If I were a landmass, I would be…the Appalachians, looked down upon by those young supermodels, the Rockies, because I'm older and shorter and rounder, but I am so much more accessible and less likely to kill those who approach me. Show me just a little appreciation and I'll show you all sorts of lovely things.


If I were a watch, I would be…the night watch.


If I were God, I would be…blamed for what people do with the free will I gave them.


If I were a vowel, I would be...a big OOOOOOOOOOOO......


If I were a consonant, I would be…a sibilant or possibly a labio-dental fricative.


If I were a theory, I would be…relative or conspiratorial.


If I were a famous person, I would be…wondering why.


If I were an item of electronic equipment, I would be…an 8 track player, hopelessly out of date but my devotees are insanely loyal.


If I were a sport, I would be…bocce, slow pace and lots of rolling around in the grass.


If I were a movie, I would be…something that makes you think while you laugh like crazy.


If I were a cartoon, I would be...George of the Jungle.



If I were an explorer, I would be…a car I wouldn't want to buy because I have no need for a gas guzzling SUV.


If I were a scientist, I would be….mad and digging the latitude I'd be given for having wild hair.


If I were a relation, I would be…your oddball Aunt.


If I were a river, I would be…running through it.


If I were intoxication, I would be…dizzying without the hangover.


If I were alone, I would be…sitting here filling out this meme. Oh , yeah, I am, whaddya know?


If I were a question, I would be…open ended.


If I were a habit, I would be…the one Sally Field wore when she was flying.


If I were in an atom, I would be…quarky.


If I were you, I would be…glad this is over.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Da Count in 55-Refuge

The children can't get along.
The plumbing is leaky.
There was a call from the school.
Dinner's burnt.
Work is a grind.
The dog chewed my good shoes.
The car died.
The bills are piling up.
I'm glad you're home, honey.
It's good to be home, come sit with me.
I thought you'd never ask.



*'Intime Szene' by Felix Valloton



Thursday, September 27, 2007

HNT-Lime Dress #4

Sometimes I have the hardest time coming up with an exciting dinner menu, something that will please the different palates at House of Lime. It can be really frustrating trying to come up with something that will please one vegetarian, three omnivores and one carnivore ages 12 to 40-something.


When I slip on my lovely little lime dress dinner time preparations are so much more fun. Thank you, lime dress, for making me feel good even when folks are complaining about the menu.



HHNT







Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Limelets

Just a few of the observations on school, religion, literature, and life recently offered by my offspring...

ON SCHOOL AND ASPIRATIONS

Isaac: Do you know I got a conduct card in school today because I did the wrong homework assignment? Some other kid got one because he didn't pass out papers fast enough!

Diana: Yeah, I had your teacher when I was in 6th grade, remember? She gave me a conduct card because there was a tootsie roll wrapper under my chair at snack time. She told me I broke the healthy snack rule AND I failed to clean up after myself. I didn't even HAVE any Tootsie Rolls with me. So after I got the conduct card I took the dessert out of my lunch and ate it for snack. She yelled at me, 'THAT is insubordination!' I told her if she punished me again for eating unhealthy snacks it would be double jeopardy. She stood there speechless.

Mother Lime: My dear, you should forget becoming a nurse. You should be a lawyer.

Diana: No way, I'd be held in contempt of court every time I opened my mouth.

Isaac: I want to be an NFL quarterback or play Major League Baseball.

Diana: So for which crime will you need my services, steroid use, dog fighting or will it be a paternity suit?



ON SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS

Calypso: I don't have homework in English today. We had Mr. P as a sub and he is not very bright.

Diana: Yeah he always used to come in with a can of Diet Coke and then fall asleep. Then we'd steal his soda and put it all sorts of strange places. One time I sat it on top of his head and he never even woke up.

Calypso: I hope he is there again tomorrow so I can try that.



LITERARY CRITIQUES

Calypso: I can't believe the boring crap we have to read in English.

Diana: What is it?

Calypso: Captain John Smith's stuff. Man was that guy full of himself and he always speaks in third person. (deepening voice and speaking with bravado) So there was Captain John Smith being attacked by savages all around when he grabbed his savage guides as a human shield and at the last moment found a sword so he could handily dispatch the attacking wild men. (makes slashing movements and then flexes muscles)

Diana: That's not so bad. Did you read William Bradford's 'Of Plymouth Plantation' yet? I mean it has fights, interesting characters, people being thrown overboard, crazy people with German accents. It should be really exciting stuff but the guy makes it dull enough to put you to sleep.



UPON DRIVING PAST THE LOCAL CHRISTIAN SCIENCE READING ROOM

Diana: What do Christian Scientists believe that is different than us? (We attend church at a more mainline denomination)

Mother Lime: Well, they believe that illness is illusory so there is no real need for drugs of any sort, even aspirin for a headache. So you just pray that God would open your eyes to that illusion as a means to 'healing.'

Diana: You could have just said they are whacked.

Mother Lime: I prefer to give you facts as I understand them and let you come to your own conclusion.

Diana: Yeah but when I did that research on Mormon doctrine and found out I was more righteous than the rest of you because I am the palest person in the family you told me I was nuts.

Mother Lime: That was to keep you in check. You already have dictatorial tendencies.

Diana: Yes, but I'd still be the most desirable Mormon wife.

Mother Lime: (snorting and trying not to veer off the road while laughing hysterically) No, dear. You are not nearly submissive and demure enough to be a conservative Mormon wife.

Diana: I'll just be the head wife and make sure my husband only marries dumb but hardworking girls so I can live in the lap of polygamous luxury.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Trini Tuesday-It's Here!

Thanks to all who rode along for the summer memories of the bike trip. It was fun for me to reminisce and I am glad at least a few of you enjoyed it. I have had a couple ideas for Trini Tuesdays percolating in my head but they all required a bit of work. I was wondering what I was going to post about today while I was grocery shopping and there on the shelf before me it lept out and screamed at me. See it? Right there! Those bottles are from Trinidad. The ones full of orange stuff are a kind of hot sauce. More specifically they are Matouk Brand sauce. that's straight from Trinidad folks. Now I will tell you I was always a bigger fan of Chief Brand but Matouk is the real deal and it is on my local grocery stores shelves. Next to it is green seasoning. I don't recognize the brand name but green seasoning is a distinctly Trinidadian thing and the map on the label is of Trinidad itself. Folks, Trinidad has arrived in my corner of Pennsylvania! Let us pause for a moment while Lime does a happy wine (that's a very pelvic sort of dance Trinis do) and gets on bad! Woohoo! Now for a few years we have had a specifically Caribbean market that is owned and run by Trinis and I have appreciated that and will continue to patronize them. That these condiments are on a big store's shelves though is pretty exciting to me.



We came back to the US in 1993. I have been back to the island to visit maybe 6 times and I have had friends from there visit me about 4 times. Now let me tell you, when you go to visit Trinidad, all your friends there call and say, 'Oh gosh gyul yuh could bring meh a few items in yuh bag? I would pay fuh dem on yuh arrival.' And if you are a friend at all, you pack your belongings in one bag and carry a whole separate bag full of the items on the shopping list from your friends. I have carried all manner of shoes, clothes, school supplies, baby items, electronics, and almost anything else you can imagine in my bags when I have gone back to Trinidad because I can get it cheaper here than they can get it there. Do I mind? Not at all because....

This leaves me an empty bag that I can now fill up in Trinidad with the stuff I either can't find here or I can find cheaper there. On my returns to the US I have lugged big iron pots in my bag. I've also loaded up on yards and yards of batik fabric and local arts & crafts. I've bought 4 pair of handmade sandals in one shot because if one pair wears out I want to have a next pair as backup before I get back there. And foods... I tellin yuh, I have carried back a grocery store in my bag. Hot sauce, green seasoning, guava jams, homemade pepper sauce, chutneys, freshly made roti skins (from aunty, fuh de chirren), Milo, oh and cocoa powder....oh gosh, I feelin' fuh it now! Now over the years I have found little sources here and there for some of these things. I will no longer have to carefully pack a one or two years' supply of glass bottled condiments in my luggage so I can season my food. I still can't find the cocoa I like here but that comes in a tin so now I just have more room for that in my bags.

I am very excited about all of this. One thing I have never carried back in my bags nor do I intend to buy in the store even though I see it is now available is the item below.


See what they are? Can you make out the label? Can you tell what's inside the package? Did you guess chicken feet? Good for you. Your prize is a nice plate of stewed chicken feet for dinner! Yes, people really eat them and yes I have too. It was quite interesting to watch them being prepared and realize that was going to be dinner. It's not the worst thing I've ever had to eat. I'd chose it over liver any day of the week. But I will not be spending money on them or ever having an intense craving for Pied du Poulet. It's just a nice indication of the Trini Arrival in my corner of the world though.

Tune in next week for the tale of Dave and the Fish Heads. Hhhmmm, sounds like a good name for a rock band...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Interviewed by Cindra & Zombieslayer

First of all, thank you to everyone for the well wishes. That was a particularly horrible 3 day migraine and while migraines aren't fatal, they kinda make me feel like I want to die or else kill people around me, especially when they last that long. Not nice at all. It took until Saturday evening before I felt human again. Sunday was a very lovely day and it was great to be able to enjoy it and not feel like my skull was being turned inside out.

CINDRA'S QUESTIONS


1. If the color and the fruit that we call Lime were banished from the earth, what color or fruit would you then be attracted to next that would then become your new name?

Hhhmm, well I don't actually take my moniker from the fruit, at least not directly (To Lime: Trini slang for hanging out with friends, coined by Trinidadians who saw British sailors lollygagging in port. The Brit sailors were called limeys because of eating limes to prevent scurvy, so ok, fruit is involved but way down the line....)

Alright, so my new name? Perhaps papaya because it is so yummy. I love the fruit and I love the color of a really ripe one. Only problem is 'Papaya' sounds like kind of a masculine name, so maybe I'd be Mamaya.



2. Let's say you are in charge of EVERYTHING, including rules and regulations at DMV. At what age would you allow people to get a driver's license? Why?

You have to be old enough to pay for your own car insurance and upkeep of your own vehicle and not expect your parents to shell out for it. So whatever age when you are ready to do that.




3. Is there any special treat that you adore so much that you would actually grab the last piece and eat it had it rolled under the edge of the refrigerator...just out of sight, but barely? If you answered yes, have you already done such a thing?

Are you kidding? I am queen of the five second rule. Now under the fridge where the fuzzies congregate I'd limit it to something smooth and dry (moist things attract the fuzzies). M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, Skittles, they all work. I mean after all, you're talking to the girl who used to share jawbreakers with her best friend when they were 8. Not one for you, one for me, but...I'll take the red and purple layers, you take the yellow and green layers. One time the jawbreaker fell in a puddle. We took it inside, washed off several layers of color and happily went back to swapping it. I'll pause now while you all gag.



4. Suppose our ecosystem could carry on and sustain us after losing one season...which season would you get rid of and why?

Bear season. I don't eat bear meat and don't know anyone who actually enjoys it so why do we have it (Yeah, I know, control the population, blah blah blah). If you hunt, then eat what you take. If you don't eat it, don't shoot it.



5. Even though you likely aren't interested in the plastic world of celebrity, let's pretend you HAD to choose one of these life paths...would you choose to be a Hollywood superstar or a rock goddess? Why?

Well, rock goddesses are allowed to have really bad and wild hair days. Janis Joplin anyone? So, provided I get magically endowed with musical talent by making this choice, I'm going with that. I can dress anyway I want, let my hair get out of control, not have to be forced to wear makeup and not be as dissed for it as if I were some plastic starlet who has to be a paragon of fashion with flawless hair and makeup. I don't want to have to look like I stepped out of Vogue just to run to the mini market for a gallon of milk.

6. If I were to come to dinner at your house, knowing we'd never met, what sort of meal/evening could I expect?

Well, I'd sort of try to tailor it a bit to what I do know about you so this isn't what someone else would get. I'd have a cookout with you guys. I'd grill some marinated chicken, grill up some marinated venison back straps (gees, I hope you all aren't vegetarians or anti-hunting). We'll have some nice garden salad, maybe some couscous. Bonnie Baby and the Limelets and your other kids can romp around in the woods or bounce on the trampoline. After dinner when the sun goes down we'll get a fire going in the fire pit so we can have smores and hopefully your hubby can make some music for us (he can either bring his guitar or play mine). Beer and hard cider to drink.



7. Can you roll your tongue into the shape of a tube?

But, of course. I have so many useless skills.



8. What is your stance on mixing M&Ms with popcorn?

I'm not morally opposed to it but I think M&Ms go better with nuts, dried fruit, and pretzels and things of a more similar weight to M&Ms. Oh yeah , I dig me some gorp. Popcorn is kinda lightweight so the candies will all sink to the bottom of the bowl.




9. If you could go back to any age, NOT knowing what you know now, what year in your life would you like to relive and why?

My freshman year of college was a joy. I got away from a very frustrating situation and had a chance to develop as an individual. I wasn't a kid who went wild at parties in college (in fact I avoided the frats and sororities entirely) but I still had a ton of fun. College is where I got myself together as a human being. I was pursuing the education I wanted and I was learning tons about the world outside my hometown. I had enough money in my pocket to take care of my needs and be giving to folks who needed it. It was a great time of life.



10. Do you believe in astrology?

That would be a fairly emphatic no even though I have been told I am a typical Libra.






ZOMBIESLAYER'S QUESTIONS


1) If you had all the money in the world, Pennsylvania, Trinidad, or somewhere else?

If I had all the money in the world I'd have a modest house in both places and spend a lot of time travelling to see all the other corners of the world I have always wanted to explore.



2) Tell me about your favorite movie. Don't just name it, but why do you love it?

Well, anyone who knows me knows I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Princess Bride just for sheer comic value on both counts. But for a movie with a little more meat to it I'd probably say Simon Birch. It takes place in the 60s and is about two 12 year old boys who are best friends and social outcasts. Joe is illegitimate and has all sorts of identity questions related to not knowing who his father is. His mother is a beauty who lives above the town gossip. Joe's friend, Simon, is a dwarf whose parents neglect him entirely. Although he experiences a lot more prejudice than Joe does, Simon has an unwavering faith that there is some great purpose to his life. They each share a trauma and they each have a resolution to their great questions and expectations in life but not the way either thought it would happen. I just really love the way the friendship is framed. I love that the characters are able to challenge the thinking of the day in some really serious and some really hilarious ways. I've also always been drawn to stories that involve questions of identity as well as overcoming some adversity. I also appreciate how matters of faith can be called into question and the leaders or organized religion can be called to account for egregious behavior but ultimately it doesn't give the message that God is dead. I also identify with both Joe and Simon. In certain ways, they both address certain things I dealt with growing up.

Favorite quotes:

Simon to Joe: You're already a bastard. Might as well be an enlightened one.

***

Simon: I've been thinking.

Joe: Yeah?

Simon: Last year we were in the squirt league, and this year we're in the pewee.

Joe: So?

Simon: So what do they want us to do, play baseball or urinate? Anyway, I was just thinking.

***

Simon: If God's made the church bake sale a priority, we're in a lot of trouble.


3) Did you name your kids after anyone?

The names I use on the blog are not their real names but each of my children was named for a very specific reason. Their names were chosen for their meaning and as a prayer for each of them, for the kind of character we hoped they would develop. I more or less chose the names for the girls, both Greek names as a nod to my heritage. My husband chose a Hebrew name for our boy. There is a namesake involved for at least part of each of their names as well, yes.



4) Someone gives you $100 million and a fat salary to run a charity, a charity of your choice. What would it be?

Interesting question. Why do I need a big fat salary in order to run a charity? Pay me a living wage and I'll run it.

I don't think I could name a charitable organization specifically because there are so many good ones out there so I will describe what I'd want it to be. I love the work of Mohamed Yunis (gees, I hope I spelled his name correctly)who won the Nobel Peace Prize. His concept of microcredit is brilliant; loans so small in dollar amount as to be laughable to big banks but so significant as to allow a third world widow to purchase the machinery necessary to start a seamstress business and keep herself and her children out of poverty. I believe he also espouses the idea that loan repayment be at least partly in the form of passing it on to the next individual in the community who is looking for microcredit. Local people get the help needed to get out of poverty and stay out and then help other locals do the same. People's dignity is maintained. What's not to love about that?

I also think Habitat for Humanity is another excellent example. (Ok, I named one specifically) Folks who need housing and who may not qualify for other sorts of financing get low or no interest loans in return for their own sweat equity in building their own home or refurbishing a house alongside others doing the work with them.

I know a couple from Texas who work relocating refugees from the Horn of Africa too. I wish I could give them all the money they need to help folks get set up in their new lives because so often these families escape with just the clothes on their backs. I'd be facilitating things like this and the two above ideas as well as wanting to see grants given for medical research in other endeavors.



5) What have you done to prepare for the upcoming zombie plague?


Everyone at House of Lime knows how to load and shoot a rifle and a shotgun. Three of us are crack shots and the other two are at least half decent. We also know how to live without electricity and running water. We have at least basic outdoor survival skills and we all know first aid. Mr. Lime is hardcore enough to enjoy camping in the winter...without a tent.


If you want me to generate some interview questions for you say so in the comments.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday 55 & Da Count

The beast gripped her skull in its claws. She felt each claw pierce her skin, muscles, and bone as the wretched creature peeled back each layer seeking her brain. One inhumane hand pinned her head, the other tore at the flesh. Finally the beast sank its fangs deep and began its slow feast.
Another fucking migraine.

Ok, forgive me because I have a litany of complaints before I do any counting of the good stuff I have in life. Migraines make my nasty side come out. So in no particular order.

1. Sixth grade teachers who have a behavior management plan more appropriate for prisons. Isaac is a good kid who avoids trouble and who is already his own worst critic. This is only going to crush his spirit.

2. Nine migraine pills costing $230 dollars. Fucking criminal if you ask me. Would you like to buy groceries this week or would you like to be a functional human being?

3. Trying to take a shower and having the entire shower head assembly fall off the wall due to the pipe snapping off inside the wall. Oh joy. Did I mention that whoever built this house didn't include an access panel for the bathroom plumbing?

4. Little League coaches who can't seem to give us a damned practice schedule. They just call with less than 24 hours notice to say we are having practice. Oh, and they are not the great coaches we had in the Spring, the ones who help the kids develop skills and build them up and want the game to be fun. No, these are the gorillas dripping in testosterone who belittle the kids when they make mistakes and suck ever ounce of joy from the game. Jackasses.

5. Being laid out flat but this damned migraine after I thought I had it licked.

I could go on but I am supposed to be counting this week so again, in no particular order...

1. A friend who listened to my concerns for Isaac this year and gave me a pep talk to help me continue being Isaac's cheerleader. (Isaac tends to get really stuck in the negative thinking and can be hard to pull out of it.)

2. I'm going to go to the chiropractor today and have this wretched headache dealt the death knell. It won't make it go away immediately but it will take the edge off and will at least make things go in the right direction. I'm also glad that this thing didn't hit me on Saturday or I'd be in misery until Monday.

3. During the window I thought I had the headache beaten I told Diana and Calypso they could have a friend sleep over last night. THEN the beast came roaring back to eat through my skull. Fortunately my girls and their friend are kids I can trust not to flatten the house. I just asked them to please inhabit the den and keep things to a dull roar so I could sleep. They did that and I hit the sack at 8 PM. Bless them all.

4. Mr. Lime bought Chinese food so I was not required to function well enough to cook dinner.

Wish me luck, I have Little League practice at 5:30 and girls to get to marching band and football right around the same time. Hopefully by then I feel human again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

HNT-A Mom Jeans Free Zone Since 2006

Susie had a funny post about the fashion horror of 'Mom Jeans.' She suggested we do a joint anti-mom jeans HNT. She said she'd get Mr. Ratburn in on it too.


My girls hounded me about my horrid collection of jeans until I gave in and bought a more stylish pair. I have never much enjoyed shopping for clothes and jeans or trousers least of all. It's miserable trying to find anything that fits properly. Occasionally the clouds part, the sun shines down, angels descend, and I rejoice over finding the Holy Grail of denim.




The mid rise, boot cut (Bonus! It was on the sale rack...a certain mom-ish frugality lives on.)








If the heavenly glory was so blinding you had to avert your gaze, here is a less dazzling shot. You'll have to live with the shadow of my arm and cell phone...and the mom-mobile in the background (Hey, whaddya want? I got 3 kids and their accoutrements to be schlepping all over creation)


HHNT




Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weird Wednesday-Talk Like a Pirate Day



You scored as Mary Read,You are very unconventional, you defy the rules as often as you can and like to take as many risks as possible. You will probably end up living happily under a bridge somewhere laughing at all the unsavory deeds you once instigated.

What kind of Pirate are you?
created with QuizFarm.com





Here is a pirate-y song that somehow seems oddly appropriate for blogging pirates.









Here I am as a beer wench so I can manage that too. I have to say, though, I vastly prefer rum and I do know how to handle a sword. Avast, ye scurvy mates! Who would swear allegiance and serve under this pirate lass?



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bike Trip #13-Ramblings from the Road

I'll apologize in advance if this post seems to ramble or go nowhere in particular. In last week's installment Gus, Mr. Lime and I made it back to Pennsylvania safely and in time for the start of fall classes. You also know Mr. Lime had proposed to me in the ever so romantic surroundings of my local farmer's market though I had neither accepted nor rejected his offer....more on that later.

Being back in school, in one location for more than one night at a time, was a strange thing after the summer. The trip had been a really significant event. I left as a college freshman who had barely ever been more than about 100 miles away from home. I returned having seen more of the USA at age 18 than a lot of people see in their entire lives and I put all the miles on the car using a driver's license that wasn't even a year old. I learned to be comfortable not knowing exactly where I was headed. I saw the beauty of my nation's landscape and experienced the warmth and generosity of her people.

I also found out how cranky people can be when living in close proximity and under less than optimal circumstances. My travelling companions found out how cranky I can be when they all made demands on me at once. Early on in the trip there was a question as to how food shopping would be handled. I said I could buy groceries and divide up the cost for folks to pay me back. That was fine until the pettiness began...You know, she ate twice as much oatmeal as I did so I shouldn't be paying as much as her. Yeah, well you ate 3 bananas to her 1 so it evens out, cough up the dough... Then the group decided to pool all their money into traveller's checks and have me sign them all. I KNEW darn well they'd all begin to hate that inside of a week. So after developing writer's cramp signing all those stupid traveller's checks less than a week later I was signing them all over again to cash them out for people who didn't like having to come to me for their own money. I rarely, if ever, say this but...I TOLD YOU SO!! Eventually we settled on folks contributing a daily amount to a food fund so I could buy groceries for the group.

Although my job was to drive the support car, cook and launder for the group and find lodgings I did spend a single day on a bicycle because I wanted to better understand what the cyclists were going through. However, by the time I decided to do this they had already covered 1000 miles. They were a wee tad more conditioned than I was by then. I did a typical 70 mile day. I went uphill and downhill. I biked in rain and in sun. The real cyclists took good care of me. When it rained they all pulled out their rain gear. I had none but I needed to keep up with them somewhat so I wound up wearing a plastic garbage bag which sort of worked. I wound up pretty wet anyway and it was during a rest stop I drank one of only 2 cups of coffee I have had in my life and only because I was so cold and wet I needed to warm up. Later on when I dried out and was pedalling up what felt like Mt. Everest and I thought my thighs were going to explode (forget feeling the burn, I was waaaaaaay past the burn) Pete came up behind me and sweetly asked how I was doing. I snarled, 'This SUCKS!!!!' He just said he was gonna drop back a bit but if I needed anything he'd be there. Thank you, Pete for not throwing a bike pump at me or directing me off the shoulder into a pile of gravel or any other nasty retort to my growling.

Pete was like that. He was the oldest in the group and I was the youngest. He became like a big brother to me and more than once I appreciated his gentle spirit and good advice to me when I became frustrated with certain individuals or the group as a whole. If you recall, he was also a gifted musician. He had brought his mandolin along on the trip and many nights he either entertained us with his playing or went off on his own to soothe his own soul. Many times I hid in some dark corner to listen to his playing so I could find my own peace. He showed me more grace than I could possibly ever deserve when it became apparent one evening that the night before I had not packed his mandolin in the car. I thought he had taken it on his bike as he sometimes did. He thought I had packed it in the car. He was crushed. I was overcome with guilt. He never once threw it up in my face.

I mentioned early on that Gus and I got on each other's nerves in a powerful way since he shared the car and my duties with me. He had a very rigid, military bearing about him and then there was me, pretty much the antithesis to that. Throw us in a car for 4000 miles and whaddya suppose happens? Early in the trip things were fine. By the time we got to South Dakota I think we not so secretly wished each other dead. Each evening when the cyclists pedalled in to meet us we'd descend on the first arrivals hoping for someone else to talk to, anyone else to talk to. However, these folks had just gotten off a bicycle after 70 or so miles. They were not looking for conversation. They were looking for food and beds.

A more relaxed week in Yellowstone helped matters because we had nowhere we had to be and Gus and I could mingle more with the others or even escape each other entirely. When he and Mr. Lime and I left the rest of the group I was afraid we'd go right back to the animosity but that break really seemed to have some lasting positive effect. When time really became a problem he and Mr. Lime alternated biking. Gus would get up at dawn to pedal 70 miles and at lunch Mr. Lime took the bike and pedalled another 70 miles so we were able to cover twice the ground in a day. The added benefit was a daily break from each other.

I'd say we buried the hatchet completely somewhere in California when I saw a huge box of cantaloupes for sale. I asked Gus if he had ever used half a cantaloupe as a bowl for ice cream. He never had so we decided he had to try this. We found a smallish melon and went looking for just a pint of ice cream since we had no way to keep a half gallon frozen and were not going to eat that much. There were no pints to be had so we found ourselves with a half gallon of Breyer's Fudge Ripple. We didn't want to waste the ice cream and it was a hot day so we decided we could manage to each eat half a melon and a quart of ice cream. We were wrong. Mr. Lime found us sprawled out on a curb by the car groaning in the discomfort of our own gluttony, surrounded by melon rinds and a carton with half melted remains. Let the reader be warned, we demonstrated how such excess could literally lead you to the gutter.

Gus and I had reconciled but Mr. Lime was still a bit of a conundrum to me. I'll remind everyone that prior to the trip we were the best of friends. Immediately prior to the trip we decided maybe we liked each other more than in just a friendly sort of way. Then we left to pedal west with the understanding among members of the group that all relationships would be completely platonic for the sake of group harmony. Then Mr. Lime stopped speaking to me. Uhhhh, hello? *knocking on the bike helmet* Can my friend come out to play? Hello? Anyone? Dear reader, do you see why last week's proposal of marriage shocked me into silence? Good, then you'll understand when I tell you it took me a month to say 'Yes.' Oh, and halfway through the month I actually said 'No.' I won't bore you with all the thoughts that swirled through my head during that month but among the considerations was that Mr. Lime had seen me at my absolute worst during the bike trip and somehow that didn't send him screaming in the direction of escape but made him decide he wanted to spend his life with me. Go figure. However, I did have to know why he barely spoke to me for 65 days. He said he couldn't stand having to remain platonic and the only way he could deal with that was to avoid me. And you men say women are inscrutable.....

Well, obviously we eventually got married. It was 20 years ago yesterday that I said yes. By the time we traded 'I dos' the other members of out peripatetic group had scattered far and wide. Kristen was in Botswana with the Peace Corps. Tricia was back in the UK training to become a midwife. Tom had gone home to Texas. Del had gone back to Iowa, presumably to collect more hilarious tales of small town life (could that boy ever get us roaring in laughter...ask me sometime about his story of slaughterhouse jobs). We lost track of Mike. Greg talked about bicycling to Alaska. Christy ambled between Pennsylvania and Michigan trying to decide what to do since she had dropped out of the nursing program right before her final semester. Pete wandered between Colorado and New England, eventually settling in Maine long enough to have an address for a while. Gus and I finished our undergrad degrees. Long before we got married Mr. Lime took a long weekend to bicycle to the Atlantic coast in New Jersey and dip his tire there so he could say his bike had truly made it coast to coast.

Twenty years ago this summer I made an amazing trip across the country with a big group of really interesting people. I learned more than I ever imagined I would. Then I accepted a proposal to make a lifelong journey with one man and you can just imagine the learning experience that has been.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Toy Story

David McMahon had the idea of sharing about our favorite childhood toy. I also saw a lovely book a couple weeks ago that included 'portraits' and 'bios' of beloved stuffed animals and blankets and have wanted to do something similar ever since.




Isaac was 3 when my grandmother brought Fluffy for him after a trip to Alaska. She said, 'Every boy needs a dog.' Isaac was delighted that Fluffy was a husky because he loved the movie 'Balto' (about sled dogs in Alaska) at the time. In fact, Fluffy was almost named Balto. His soft fur, which is now matted and compressed after 9 years of loving and some washings, led to his given name. Fluffy has been a faithful and warm companion to Isaac ever since their introduction. He could most often be found tucked under Isaac's arm while they slept or pulling imaginary sleds as scenes from 'Balto' were re-enacted. Isaac was deeply concerned for Fluffy's well-being when an encounter with hostile visitors left his tail nearly detached. After a few minutes at the stuffed dog hospital a successful reattachment was achieved.





Gaby came all the way from Bolivia to live with Calypso when friends visiting from there realized they would be here during Calypso's 7th birthday. Calypso's eyes lit up when she saw Gaby's beautiful traditional dress. You'll notice Gaby is carrying her wee one, Karencita, in her aguayo. They were named for the wife and baby daughter of our visitors and were always given a place of honor in Calypso's room. Calypso enjoyed introducing Gaby to new friends and always wanted to make sure they knew how far she had come in order to live with Calypso.












Calypso also latched onto Lime's bunny Austin. Austin originally joined the family when Lime took a trip to Texas at age 10. From the bunny's name you can guess Lime saw the state capital. Austin was purchased with Lime's own money at a time when Lime was trying to decide if she needed any more stuffed friends or not because she was getting older. Being far away from home was interesting and fun but Lime kind of missed her friends from home. Austin's eyes were shining at Lime in the store and so a new friendship was born. Calypso found Austin in a box one day and decided the bunny needed more loving than she was getting so Austin went to live in Calypso's room. It's the eyes, I tell you....






When I went to look for Diana's 'Silky' I couldn't bring myself to disturb the set-up I discovered. Silky is the tuft of frayed satin edging on a blanket I cross-stitched for her before she was born. You can just see the white edge of it poking out at the left. Silky was carried most places with Diana. When Diana went to bed you could find Silky's corner carefully folded into a point and held a certain way so Diana could suck her thumb and flick the satiny edge until she fell asleep. When the original corner frayed away, only then did Diana begin using a new corner. Silky now serves as cushioning along with two doll blankets made by Grammy. The dolls who are provided this sancitifed bedding do not have names that I am aware of. I won the china doll when Diana was a baby and chose a red-haired one for her. The little Eskimo doll came from Alaska along with Fluffy and, according to Diana, is a treasured reminder of the last gift from Nana before she died.

Lime's mother made Debbie when Lime was 6. Lime fondly remembers picking out the fabric for Debbie's wardrobe. In addition to this simple dress and pinafore, Debbie owns a purple dress and matching bonnet. Unfortunately, her shoes were lost long ago but Debbie didn't seem to mind since she has always enjoyed being barefooted as much as Lime does. Debbie lived on Lime's bed along with Kermit the Frog, a small yellow dog, an enormous gray cat, and a huge purple and white panda bear named Captain Purple. Lime's mother wondered how there was room for a child to sleep in the bed with such an array but they all kept Lime safe from the horrible creatures who lived under the bed. Each had his or her own job as a member of the security contingent. Yellow dog was first alert. Gray Kitty was the bouncer. Captain Purple was the provider of general comfort (He has many matted down spots on his shoulders from tears and snot being wiped there.). Kermit was comic relief. Debbie's job was to keep order among the ranks and provide a girly ear to listen.



Hepzibah is a very old girl. She came to Lime from her paternal Grandmother (Mom-mom) who had received Hepzibah from her own maternal grandmother. Mom-mom remembers Hepzibah having a very special place in her house growing up and only being permitted to hold her very gently on her lap on special occasions. Hepzibah spent many years on top of Mom-mom's small China cabinet before coming to live with Lime. Mom-mom would greet Hepzibah each morning and about 25 years ago decided Hepzibah needed some nicer clothing since her original dress was terribly damaged. Lime is not entirely happy that Hepzibah's new clothes are polyester and have velcro fasteners but Hepzibah feels more ladylike being attired in a dress that is not falling apart. She is very happy her original bonnet is still in good condition. Hepzibah sometimes felt a little lonely since she didn't see a lot of play time but she seems happy to be surrounded by other friends at Lime's house. Here is a bonus picture of Hepzibah and Mom-mom ca. 1915.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday 55 (ok, not really) & Da Count-Isaac


I nuzzle your newborn cheek,
inhaling your innocence,
sighing out my thanks,
savoring the softness of your skin.
I realize one day
your cheek will scratch mine.








Isaac turned 12 this week and there just seems to be something about 12. Maybe it's just me. It's the last birthday before he becomes an official teenager. I've seen lots of changes in the past year. His interest in more childish pursuits has waned as sports and hunting have become bigger parts of his life. This week he also passed his hunter safety course and got his hunting license. He is looking forward to having a chance to go out with Dad this fall after watching Dad and Diana go hunting without him for the past few years.



Sometimes it is hard to be the youngest in the family and watch everyone else reach milestones before you. Having a couple of older sisters with strong personalities doesn't always help either. He really savors when he finally reaches something he's been waiting for. Just because his sisters have already attained the various skills or rights doesn't make his achievement less noteworthy and I remind them to celebrate with him rather than make light of a stage they may have passed already.


This boy of mine. He makes me laugh every single day. He's had a sense of humor since he could speak. His imagination has always been very vivid, whether it has come out in drawings, stories, or spending hours in the backyard single-handedly fending off invading armies. He has a keen and inquisitive mind that leads him to investigate everything from dinosaurs, to insects, to baseball and football stats, to ancient Mayans.


He is 100% boy but he has a tender side that makes me swell with pride. When I see him being gentle with a baby cousin or spending time playing with his best friend's little sisters who absolutely adore him I can't help but imagine him as a loving daddy some day. When the two of us were in the tree house and I fell and demolished my left arm he was my hero. The little boy who used to cry at the sight of a pinprick of blood grew up suddenly. He kept his wits about him, kept me safe and got help for me. In the months after surgery he was the one who was most inclined to offer me help without me asking for it. He was the one who most wanted to make sure I was comfortable.



He's 12 now and his cheek doesn't scratch me yet but his personality can be abrasive at times like it never has been before. The happy-go-lucky kid now gets kind of growly periodically. The cuddly boy bristles at public displays of affection. I'm not particularly thrilled by that but I know it's how it is for now. I trust by the time his whiskers come in thickly he will have evened out again.

This week, I'm counting my boy. He's been a blessing.


HNT-Lime Dress #3 Back to School

Buffy, Ashley, and Chad have gone off to school once again. Ta-Ta, my darlings. Have a good day at school. Mummy will miss you.





One must carry on somehow and a smashing lime dress seems to brighten my spirits so well.




HHNT



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Werd News Wednesday-Good News!!

I have to start by thanking TLP for making me aware of this important holiday. Today is National Sex Day!



BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- In an effort to fight Russia's birthrate crisis, a region on the Volga River about 550 miles east of Moscow has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third-straight year is giving couples time off from work to have sex. (Wow! I think I should go look for a job in Russia. I don't have to call in sick. I can call in horny! 'Hey, boss, I won't make it into work today. No, I'm not sick. I'm gonna screw my husband blind today.')

Ulyanovsk has held similar contests since 2005. And since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has risen. The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who "give birth to a patriot" during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes. (And those festivities would include stretch mark contests? Gurney races through labor wards? Tests of endurance like who can handle the worst contractions with the fewest drugs?)

Russia has one-seventh of the Earth's land surface, but only 141.4 million citizens, making it one of the most sparsely settled countries in the world. Because of a low birthrate and very high death rate, the population has been declining since the early 1990s. (Like I said at TLP's, take notice of where this was reported...China...where they penalize you for having more than one child. I say we tip Asia sideways by raising China several thousand feet and let some of the excess Chinese roll into Russia. That should even out the populations in both countries a bit. Of course no one ever asks for MY solutions)

In his state of the nation address last year, President Vladimir Putin called the demographic crisis the most acute problem facing Russia and announced a broad effort to boost Russia's birthrate, including cash incentives to families to have more than one child. ('Broad effort?' Why do I imagine all sorts of Mae West types out there encouraging hook-ups. 'Say, comrade...is that a hammer and sickle you're packing or are ya just happy to see me?')

Now in the interest of promoting cross cultural understanding I say we all, no matter of location or national origin, join in the celebration of National Sex Day. Gentlemen, start your engines!

In other news...


By ANI
Wednesday September 12, 10:54 AM
London, Sep 12 (ANI): Chocolate has already been linked with many health benefits, and now, a food scientist has given chocoholics another reason to savour their favourite sweet by suggesting that dark chocolate prevents heart disease. But the finding doesn't call for a cocoa binge; for Professor Roger Corder says that eating 'small amounts' of chocolate each day has "considerable potential to improve health and well being". (Then eating large amounts should have even better benefits)

After reviewing previous studies into chocolate and heart disease, Prof Corder calculated the perfect daily dose to an ounce, or 25g - around two or three squares. (Squares the size of my fist) He further says that the type of chocolate is also crucial as some contain more of the key ingredient, flavonoids. Cocoa flavonoids found in quality dark chocolate have a range of beneficial effects on the blood and circulation system - they cut the risk of dangerous blood clots and relax blood vessels, stimulating the flow of blood around the body. He said that flavonoid levels can even vary greatly between batches of the same brand, and called for manufacturers to include flavonoid content on labels. Prof Corder suggested that the best products to buy were those with at least 70 per cent cocoa, as they were the most likely to have high levels of flavonoids. (I think we should all just test the various brands and batches for our own independent verification....well, I should at least.)

He added that his research, based on studies of tribes in Central America whose diet is exceptionally rich in cocoa, has confirmed that these boost the elasticity of blood cells, and also cuts down the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes and heart disease. "Chocolate should be part of a balanced diet. (You read it here, folks!) It can't be your fruit and vegetable component of a chips and pizza diet. Lindt 85 per cent is what I have been eating. Their 75 per cent Ecuadorian chocolate is also very good," the Daily Mail quoted him, as stating at the British Association Festival of Science in York. Another study in the US has found that dark chocolate may also ward off age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly, and dementia. (I dunno, a really good piece of chocolate can make my eyes roll back in my head and make me forget my surroundings.)

And still more news...

TOKYO (AFP) - Generations have praised the wisdom of getting up early in the morning, but a Japanese study says early-risers are actually at a higher risk of developing heart problems.
The study, conducted by researchers from several universities and hospitals in the western Japanese city of Kyoto, revealed a link between wake-up times and a person's cardiovascular condition. "Rising early to go to work or exercise might not be beneficial to health, but rather a risk for vascular diseases," said an abstract of the study. The study, covering 3,017 healthy adults aged between 23 through 90, found that early risers had a greater risk of heart conditions including hypertension and of having strokes. However, the study also noted that early risers were usually older. The study is being presented this week at the World Congress of the World Federation of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine Societies, being held in Cairns, Australia. A separate study released in June by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that chronic sleep deprivation adds stress to the heart, putting a person at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and death. (If you'll excuse me, I need to go take a cardiac protecting nap...right after my husband and I take a bath in molten dark chocolate and lick each other clean.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bike Trip #12- The Road Home

If you read last week you know that 3 of us officially ended the bicycling part of our trip in Cambria, California. We spent 65 days pedalling from Pennsylvania to California in order to cover somewhere in the vicinity of 4000 miles by averaging 70 miles per day on the days we biked. We did have days off here and there and the week spent in Yellowstone. From Cambria we drove further south to the Los Angeles area. I spent a few days visiting a friend who had moved to Fontana before rejoining Gus and Mr. Lime who were visiting another friend in San Bernardino (the friend I mentioned yesterday who gave us the tea set, actually). We did some of the obligatory tourist things by seeing Universal Studios, the Chinese Theater (is it Mann's, Grauman's or what by now? I don't remember which it was back then), and we bought one of those books of maps to drive around and look at the homes and former homes of movie stars. All I can say is that of all the places I'd seen all summer, LA felt the most foreign so far. When we drove into the hills and looked down on the city and saw the thick blanket of smog covering everything I was fairly grossed out. It was great to see friends though and fun to be able to say we'd been there.





Finally it was time to head east in order to get back to school. Where as we ambled along at such a slow pace getting to California we now sped along at an unreal clip to reach Pennsylvania. We left LA and headed toward Las Vegas. We were driving at night and saw this eerie glow on the horizon for a ridiculous amount of time before we ever reached it. We hit Las Vegas at 1 AM and decided to just drive down the strip to say we'd seen it before we gassed up the car. Las Vegas at 1 AM made this 18 year old girl think she'd slipped down the rabbit hole. It may as well been 1 PM for all you could tell on the strip at that hour. The lights made it bright as day and the number of people milling around at that hour was pretty much like I'm sure you'd see in the middle of the day. The taxi cabs had ads on them so you knew where to go see live nude girls. I certainly wasn't in Kansas anymore...actually I never have been, it's one of the states I've never set foot in..but I digress. I was perfectly happy to not bother getting out of the car. A hundred kajillion megawatts of neon in the middle of a god-forsaken desert held no allure for me. If I wanted to see a live nude girl I'd find a mirror. Meh. Thus was my first visit to Vegas which lasted all of maybe 20 minutes. Many years later a one week visit did little to improve my assessment of the place.





We really just wanted to get home by now and it was decided we'd only stop for bathroom, gasoline and food. If those 3 things could be taken care of at a single location that was also the goal. Oh, and we wanted to see the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon too. So we devised a system. Whoever was driving would do so until gremlins started to threaten their sanity or the navigator caught their head nodding. Then the driver would move to the back seat and sleep, the sleeper would become navigator, and the navigator would become driver. So how long do you think it takes 3 people to get from California to North Carolina (where we would visit Mr. Lime's mother) with this system, and figuring in time to see those two major sites? Any guesses? Oh, come on, be brave.....the answer is (drum roll please)...3 days.




We saw the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon (roughly 300 miles apart from each other) in the same 24 hours that included Las Vegas. Our visit to GC was not unlike the scene in National Lampoon's 'Vacation.' Picture us standing at the edge, 'Wow! Big hole! Ok, let's go. Daylight's burning.' Doesn't Mr. Lime look like he is contemplating jumping in? When we got to BC, Gus went for a hike. We couldn't find him and for a moment I think we contemplated leaving him. Sorry, Gus.





From Bryce Canyon we found our way back to I-40. I-40 is an interstate highway that runs from coast to coast. It is flat, straight and pretty much devoid of much to look at. I am pretty sure that had we not made the detours to GC and BC we could have just gotten on the road in California, tied the steering wheel so the car wouldn't turn at all, put a brick on the accelerator, and made it to the east coast just fine. Now consider that we were in a Citation. This is a small car folks. It was August, the month during which asphalt temperatures are just a degree or two under that of the sun's surface. Did I mention the car had no AC? Well, it didn't. Interminable hours on a road through the desert in August with no AC, and no stops for sleep in a bed or showering. Oh yeah, it was more fun that 3 people should ever be allowed to enjoy.






A certain madness begins to set in. The road wobbles in front of your eyes. The stench of your car mates slowly roasting alive in a metal can flying through the desert assaults your nose. You would consider selling your soul for a radio station not playing country/western music. And the road stretches on and on and on and on.....and on. One of my shifts was the panhandle of Texas. My entire goal was to hit Oklahoma because when the scenery never changes the only way to mark progress is checking a state off the map. I was coming to the end of my thinly stretched sanity when I begged Gus to get out the map and please, for the love of God, tell me how soon we'd be reaching Oklahoma before I completely lost my grip on reality. He looked at me in amazement and said we'd crossed state lines an hour ago. I was sure he was messing with me. He insisted. I argued. He got out the map and showed me where we were. I veered over to the shoulder, got out and kissed the ground, opened the back door, kicked Mr. Lime out, handed Gus the keys and said, 'Goodnight. Keep the radio low.' I don't remember anything else until Little Rock, Arkansas.









*No reason for these pictures from Universal Studios to be here except to represent my tenuous grasp on sanity and to give you something to look at, which is more than we had on I-40.





We sped across Arkansas and were really disappointed to find I-40 cuts the long way across Tennessee but were glad to see something green at least. We finally hit North Carolina where we would make a stop at Mr. Lime's mother's house for a couple days. I was so looking forward to a bed and a shower. Don't you know, we came upon a traffic jam. Vehicles were backed up for miles. Bumper to bumper we crawled along at at rate slower than the bicycles could go. We began to descend a hill, saw the corresponding rise after that, and noticed the cause of the back-up. It wasn't construction. It wasn't some grisly accident. It was two tractor trailers side by side inching up the mountain. Neither one willing to drop back behind the other so people could get past in the other lane. I was suddenly energized by violent homicidal rage as the promise of of personal hygiene and being able to unfold my limbs during a state of blissful unconsciousness was delayed by a couple of dopes having a test of wills.








We finally reached our destination and Mr. Lime said we'd have to meet his mother at her workplace so she could give us the house key. He insisted we all go in to meet her, unbathed for three days, exhausted, and smelling to high heaven. This is where I pause to remind you all Mr. Lime and I were not married yet. I had never met his mother. His previous girlfriend was a well bred, upper class Long Island girl who was much beloved by my future in-law. Now he is bringing this stinking girl into the very swanky department store where his mother works. Great first impression to make, no? To her credit, she welcomed all of us warmly in spite of our pungence.






We spent a few days there. I basked in the unparalleled joy of running water and inner spring mattresses. We took off for Pennsylvania refreshed and arrived with a couple days to spare. I moved into my dorm room. Gus went back to the dairy farm where he was living. Mr. Lime found a new apartment and we all started classes. Mr. Lime decided, however, he needed to sell the Citation. He couldn't bear to look at it anymore after the summer and the return trip. I thought that odd since Gus and I were the ones caged in it, but hey, it was his car. He wanted to unload it fast so I told him about the farmer's market near my house that had an auto auction. We drove to my mom's for the weekend, went to the auction, and sold the car.



We walked around a while as I pointed out the local oddities. We took a seat on the bench whose previous occupant for many years would more accurately be described as the bench's permanent fixture. Week after week the guy sat there in all his greasy, pot-bellied glory with his special glasses that had sides shaped like ladies' legs as he leered at the real legs passing before him. He wasn't completely lacking in class. After all, in the winter he added tiny legwarmers to the glasses. Thoughtful touch, no? And so it was as we sat on this very bench, reflecting on the summer and what had happened and what it all meant, that Mr. Lime asked me to marry him and my jaw dropped to the peanut shell covered floor. When I regained voluntary control over my temporo-mandibular joints and realized he was completely serious I questioned his sanity, told him I had no answer and staggered out of the place muttering like a psych ward patient whose Thorazine levels are not quite right. In other words, I behaved like a significant number of the patrons of the Farmer's Market.




Last week a couple folks expressed dismay at the impending conclusion to this tale. Fear not, I have one more week of travel drivel to pour out since I got the return trip but not the loose ends tied up in this post. Tune in next week for tales of melons, mandolins, and making up. For those of you sick of this series, fear not, the end is near.

Show and Tell.


Yesterday, my two sets of parents came up to have a birthday dinner with my son, Isaac. My dad spent last week in China on business. He's been there several times and always has interesting things to tell us all about after his trips. Since gift giving is a very important things in that culture he also often brings home interesting or unusual items he has been given. He also often bestows upon me all sorts of special teas, which are frequent gift items. Right now I have about 8 various sized tins and boxes of Chinese teas on my counter because Dad is not much of a tea drinker. Yesterday Dad also brought along a fancy box containing moon cakes and tea. He said all he knew was that they were some sort of seasonal item and considered a delicacy.

We had dinner and birthday cake and after all that was cleared I made a pot of tea and served the moon cakes. Since we were enjoying special Chinese treats I used the Chinese tea set we were given for our wedding. One of our groomsmen had spent 4 months in Beijing right before our wedding and carried the box containing our tea set on his lap for the whole flight because he was afraid to check or stow it for fear of breakage.

Here are the 4 moon cakes with my tea set and the presentation box they came packaged in. Since we can't read Chinese we had no idea what was in the cakes except that Dad had been told there were two kinds, one was sweet and the other had meat. Here is one up close...

Here is the inside of the moon cakes. We all figured the one on the right was nuts of some sort and I guessed the one on the left was duck egg. The consistency of the one on the left was firm enough to hold shape but you could have spread it over toast or something if you wanted to. It was also very sweet. I preferred the one with nuts but my dad and Diana seemed to prefer the one with duck egg. The tea was very pale and had a very mild flavor but was a lovely compliment to the cakes.

After our little cultural experience I was compelled by curiosity to know more so I googled 'Moon cakes' and found out they are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is linked to the Chinese moon goddess of immortality. I had guessed correctly about the one containing duck egg. One or more salted yolks are put inside the moon cake to symbolize the full moon. Other traditional fillings can be lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, jujube paste or, as we tasted ourselves, 5 kernels (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, sesame, almonds, candied winter melon, dried ham, or rock sugar can be included). Apparently, the characters on top are symbols for longevity or harmony as well as indicating the contents and perhaps the bakery name. I also found out moon cakes had been used as puzzles to hide secret messages during the Han Chinese revolt that occurred during the Ming Dynasty. The four cakes would be cut into quarters and rearranged to give the message and then could obviously be eaten to destroy the message. Tea and espionage anyone?

So allow me now to share MY family's tradition and culture. The tradition in our house for birthdays is that the honoree gets to choose the dinner menu and what sort of cake they want me to make. Isaac wanted baked ravioli for dinner but said he didn't care what kind of cake he had. I decided to make Funny Cake, which is a Pennsylvania Dutch treat. It seems to be less common in Lancaster County, which is the most famous PA Dutch region. Most of the folks I have met from there have never heard of it but where I grew up in Berks County it's more well known. Some people are known to use lemon instead of chocolate. I find that rather disturbing. The recipe I use was my great grandmother's and it makes 3 cakes. The proportions in the recipe are such that they don't easily divide to make a smaller batch. Besides, it is so yummy one is never quite enough.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, who are really Germans but the English settlers misunderstood when the Germans called themselves Deutsch, are fond of putting cake batter into pie crust for dessert. If you've ever had a shoo fly pie, that is the most famous example of this phenomenon. Funny cake starts with the pie crust (And I'd never dream of using a store bought crust!). You then pour the cake batter into the unbaked crust before pouring a chocolate sauce mixture on top of the batter. As it bakes, the chocolate sinks though the batter to make the layer on the bottom and leave swirly patterns on top. Some people try to float the batter on top of the sauce before baking. This is an abomination. Please try to remember if you attempt the recipe.

FUNNY CAKE (yield 3)

3 unbaked pie crusts (sorry, some things have to remain a family secret, use your own recipe)

Batter

1 1/2 Cups sugar

1/2 Cup solid shortening

2 eggs

2 1/2 Cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

-Cream together shortening and sugar, cream in the eggs, beat in milk and dry ingredients alternately. Divide into the 3 pie crusts.

Chocolate Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup Cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-Mix all ingredients well. Divide by pouring over the three cakes until the top of the batter is just covered. Bake at 400 F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Fress (eat) up now!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday 55 & Da Count

FRIDAY 55


Perfectly coiffed-check
Tastefully accessorized-check
Dressed for success-check
Enthusiastic attitude-check
Air of confidence-check
Alright, off I go to conquer the world and dazzle the masses.
Look at all these people!
I have to be where? When?


Gees, kindergarten is absolutely exhausting!



*Click the pic to make it big enough to fully appreciate the difference in the 2 shots. My mom tells the story of how I skipped off so confidently the first day of kindergarten and then trudged home completely wiped out. She only intended to take the 'before' picture but when she saw me coming home she ran for the camera to document the effects of the day in the 'after' picture.



DA COUNT


I have several photos from my mom's old albums scanned into my computer. Apparently Tuesday was set aside as a day for folks to share dorky pictures of themselves. I certainly don't feel compelled to participate but in looking for the picture above I found an awful lot of evidence of childhood dorkiness. Serious dorkiness. In case I think I have outgrown my dorkiness, I have 2 teenage daughters who are compelled to remind me of my current dorkiness on nearly an hourly basis. Tie dye, my Birkenstocks, my unruly mop of hair, my tendency to dance in public places if good music is playing, it all qualifies me. Hey, I say if you hear 'Play that Funky Music, White Boy' while ordering your Mesquite Chicken hoagie from Quiznos you GOTTA shake your groove thang. 'Love Shack' plays in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store? You bet I'm gonna boogie. Oh yes, I forgot, phrases like 'shake your groove thang' and 'boogie' are also dorky. Well, too bad. I'm celebrating and counting being a dork this week.


*The Felix the Cat purse in the above picture was too subtle a form of dorkiness so for reading this far you get, absolutely free of charge and without further obligation, an extra picture of me in all my dorky childhood glory. If you are not completely satisfied simply click to the next blog, but keep the memory of my dorkiness as my free gift to you.

** If you are REALLY needing more dorkiness check that link up in the Friday 55 if you haven't already.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I am happy to report everyone at the House of Lime survived the first day of school yesterday. Honestly, I wasn't quite ready to see the kids go because it was a weird summer with no family vacation except a single day trip so I felt like we missed some reconnect time. Of course, I am no great fan of having my day commence at the ungodly hour of 5:30AM either so I was pretty much dreading that too.

That being said, it was delightful to have a quiet house. It was so quiet I could hear the neighbor's phone ringing across the front half acre of my property. I was also a paragon of productivity. I got 5 loads of laundry done before lunch. Ssssh, don't tell Mr. Lime, he will begin to expect this on a normal basis then how will I blog with any regularity? All you lovely people out there will be deprived of my daily drivel. I don't want to be responsible for upsetting the balance of the blogosphere like that. Do you?

One of the things I love about the first day of school is The Annual Report, Assessment, and Impersonation of Teachers (Hereafter known as ARAIT. Educational types really dig these acronyms. It makes us feel like we are high powered professionals like all you businessmen earning 3 times as much as us). Isaac and Calypso were fairly concise in their presentations. Calypso is already convinced her Spanish teacher is the unholy love child of Hitler and Leona Helmsley (may Trouble defile her grave during his daily walk). For two of his classes, Isaac has one of the same 6th grade teachers Diana had that year. I rather liked the woman and think he will have a good year with her. He informed me when the teacher called roll and got to his name she asked if he was Diana's brother. When he said yes she shook her head and walked away, in jest of course. He then let Diana know if her history makes his life difficult with this lady there would be some rather unpleasant ramifications for her.

After the warm up acts from Calypso and Isaac were finished Diana launched into her famous ARAIT. She has a rather grueling academic schedule ahead of her this year and was more than a tad worried about it. She was relieved to say her Honors Chem teacher seems quite on the ball and approachable, which is good if she doesn't understand something. She will feel freer to ask for help. She was also glad to find the Algebra 2 teacher is from last year so she again knows she is one she is comfortable asking for help when needed. For Geometry she dismissed the woman as somewhat incompetent but said, 'I looked in the book, it's all triangles. I'm good with that. I know triangles.' Alrighty then, she is feeling comfortable about the 3 courses involving her weakest subjects...

She moved on to her favorites, Honors History and AP English. She was a bit panicked about AP instead of Honors English because she has heard horror stories, however, she had the man for Public Speaking and Debate last year. Her comments were, 'I walked in and there he sat with his excruciatingly correct posture and insufferable propriety and his hideous little tie and his weird fingernails, saying nothing. All he does is watch us. He doesn't give us any directions and everyone is just milling around stupidly wondering what to do but I noticed the table over in the corner had thick packets on them so I grabbed one and found a seat, at which point he acknowledged my presence and the tiniest smile eked out the corner of his mouth and he nodded ever so slightly to indicate I did right.' Ah well done, Grasshopper. You are on the path to AP English Enlightenment. The Journey of a Thousand Essays has begun.

As for Honors History, Diana is already seriously questioning the competence of her teacher. This is not a good thing. I fear for the mental well being of this poor woman by the end of the year. I know what Diana does to teachers she believes to be inept. She also reports the woman's voice has all the dulcet tones of nails scraping a chalkboard. Wait, they use white boards now. I wonder how fingernails sound on them? Not nearly so wince-worthy. Alas, the loss of such wonderful analogies with the advent of new and improved writing surfaces...but I digress. Anyway, apparently Diana actually began to plug her ears and was questioned when the teacher noticed. She is already working on a list of excuses for ear plugging. 'I was fixing my head band. I was brushing the bangs out of my eyes. I was trying to harmonize with your sonorous voice.'

She assures me she will not be able to learn anything from the History teacher's lectures because will carefully block out her voice. She intends to pass by reading the book and doing the homework, after all that's how she got through Honors History last year. She went on to inform me she, along with large segments of the class, fell asleep every day. This actually bothered her because she very much liked and respected the teacher, who she also said made the class very interesting, and she does have a true interest in American history. I know this teacher also liked her. She tells me classmates used to poke each other when they saw each other nodding off. (Ok, Joe, you're the Designated Poker today. If you see me nod off, hit me. If I begin drooling it's your fault and you'll pay for the textbook to be replaced, not me!) Apparently most of the class fell asleep on him though and one day he asked her what on earth he was doing to make all his honors students fall asleep during 7th period and if students dreaded his class. She responded, 'I look forward to your class partially because I know I will get to sleep and have some recuperation. Oh! That's not because the class sucks. It's great. You're great. I love history. It just happens to be scheduled when my circadian rhythms dictate I sleep, and I suppose the same for the rest of the class.' Anyone else see this poor guy have every last shred of hope sucked from him? I think he might want to invest in an electric cattle prod to give to the designated poker during each class.

Wish us luck! Maybe wish the teachers luck too!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bike Trip #11-California, Here I Come.

When last we left our 3 remaining travellers were pedalling westward after the Attack of the Idaho Spuds (confectionery, not tuberous version) and enjoyed the loveliness of The Garnish State (aka Oregon). At long last, on July 17, 1987 they entered California, The Golden State. I expected warm, sunny weather to greet me. It was, after all, July and this WAS California. I knew about the Beach Boys and how they sang about all the fun in the sun and the blonde surfer girls and driving around in convertibles. I was hopping with excitement at the chance to finally lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Such a naive and uniformed child was I. Imagine my shock when we crossed state lines with chattering teeth and bundled up in every layer of clothes we could find due to snow. Imagine my disappointment when I could barely find the ocean through the thick layer of fog. I'm freezing here! My shoes are soaked with slush! And where the heck is the water? What do you mean it is too cold to swim in?? This is a more southerly latitude than where I grew up visiting the Atlantic every summer! What is wrong with this place? You've got to be kidding me! No dear, we are not kidding you. These mountains are at a much higher altitude than those bumps on the east coast, hence the snow. The ocean currents in the Pacific are entirely different than the currents in the Atlantic, hence the cold water. The mountains are a coastal range, hence the fog. Sigh, ok....I have been educated. Well, it is very pretty and I am finally here. I can't believe I am finally here!




We chose to follow the Pacific Coast Highway to really enjoy the beauty of the scenery for the end of our trip. It allowed us a daily view of the ocean and the rugged mountains. We went through some beautiful places. As a person who had obtained her driver's license less than a year before embarking on this trip it also provided a rather fascinating opportunity to learn how to control one's panic response during tense driving conditions. Notice in the picture the way the road switches back and forth in tight hairpin turns as well as climbing and descending rapidly while hugging the curve of the mountains. Now realize there are no guardrails so if you leave the road you plummet off the cliffs to your death. Now add very impatient logging trucks closing in behind you as they attempt the maneuver I shall euphemize as 'the automotive colonoscopy.' It was such a relaxing, white-knuckled drive down the coast. I'm glad I took a picture or two during breaks so I could have a chance to recall the scenery since the main images seared into my mind involve truck grill filling my rear view mirror and Gus's grimaces of sheer terror.


We did encounter the massive bicycle eating trees known as Redwoods. That was fairly mindboggling and amazing to me. One night we camped along side of the road near Big Sur. By this time I had developed a really hideous cough which kept Mr. Lime and Gus awake at nights. The night at big Sur, with my sleeping bag on a cushy pile of pine needles, being lulled by the sounds of the ocean, I slept the most sound night of my life. The guys woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was having another coughing fit only to find a fox barking at my head. Apparently I had taken its spot or something. I never heard a thing though.




We continued down the coast and were beginning to run seriously low on funds. So low in fact, that we were not buying much food so we could gas up the car. The guys had pretty much already run out of all their money. I had money in my bank account at home but my cash was nearly gone. I had an ATM card but in those days machines compatible with many different cards were not common. We needed to get to San Francisco quickly to find a machine I could use. Along the way we found another church to sleep at. The deacon who gave us access owned a bakery in Gualala, CA. We did not say anything to him about our lack of funds but he was either very perceptive or just moved by kindness. We bought a small loaf of bread for dinner. He told us to stop by in the morning before we took off and so we could get some fresh goodies. Again, we bought just something small but he insisted upon giving up sweet rolls and three more loaves. That was all we ate that day, but I know the guys were especially thankful for the fuel for their tanks. Give us this day our daily bread, and He did.




We reached San Francisco and, after much searching, finally found a compatible ATM in Chinatown. We celebrated with a feast at a little restaurant there. We toured around the city a bit, seeing Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz from the shore. We were introduced to the concept of frozen yogurt at some trendy looking place there. (Yes, I have strong food memories from the last 2 days.) After experiencing the streetcars and the hills in San Francisco I just had to see Lombard Street too, which is billed as the crookedest street in the world. It has 8 cobblestone switchbacks in the span of a city block. The switchbacks were considered necessary to ease the incredibly steep descent and inadvertently created a tourist attraction. Bill Cosby says the flowers are there to decorate the graves of the people who died trying to navigate the road. He may have something there. Driving in SF is an adventure with all the hills, but I have to say it remains one of my favorite places I have ever visited. (I went back in 2000)




After San Francisco we continued south until we reached Cambria where we officially ended the bicycle pedalling part of our trip on July 22, 1987. We had covered roughly 4000 miles in 65 days and it was hard to believe we'd actually done it. We went to the beach and dipped his tires and all of our toes in the Pacific for our symbolic end. I marvelled over seeing the sun set into the ocean (east coast of the USA you see it rise over the ocean) and thought, 'This is indeed a golden state.'







Next week, the journey home, some odds and ends and tying up loose ends.