Oct 13, 2008

God Bless the USA and Happy Columbus Day

Why? No reason. Oh yes, we'll call it "Happy Columbus Day". Why not? I was going to save this for July 4th, but heck, that's a long time from now, so we'll just have a replay when Independence Day rolls around.

Feel free to listen to "God Bless the U.S.A." (see left column) while you gaze. I'll wait. And if you are in the USA and wishing you weren't, then go away already.

Why am I not complaining about this image not sporting a head and shoulders? Because it is cropped attractively. Yes, I know I complain whenever a book cover chops off the model's head. You don't cut someone off at the eyes, nose, mouth or neck. Look at the image one more time--this is attractive cropping. Also, don't cut people off at the ankles. Not pretty.

Oh yes, back to Columbus Day. Some time in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That is what I remember of my history lessons, folks. And if it did not rhyme I would probably have forgotten that. I know more about Catherine of Aragon (daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who financed Columbus' expedition, and first wife of King Henry VIII) than I know about Columbus, thanks to Philippa Gregory's novels.

Gregory does a wonderful job of maintaining the historical facts while adding a bit of fiction, filling in those bits that we just have no way of knowing what exactly happened or what was said and making a wonderful story. I have always liked reading about that period in history even though I do not really care so much for monarchies. (And I managed to work books into this multi-natured post, also.)

Speaking of monarchies, we do have a major election coming up in a few weeks, so be sure to vote. I will not tell you who to vote for (well, really, if you want to vote like me you can always leave me your email and I'll tell you who I think you should vote for). I am one of those definitely on the train of 'if you don't vote, don't be complaining'. I am even on the train, or maybe this is just a bus, of 'vote for the lesser of two evils' if that is how you look at it.

I will admit right here and now, there was once a Presidential election where I did not vote, and I felt guilty for four years. Four. Long. Years. I should have put my foot down and told my boss I couldn't go on that business trip that week, that they were crazy for scheduling it during an election. (It was too late to vote absentee by the time the trip was planned.)

Here's a stamp from 1892 in commemoration of Columbus, which at the time, commemorated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World.

Oct 10, 2008

my green bicycle

I have been waiting for this moment, to write about my green bicycle, for half a century. In the day of disposable everything, even bicycles, it seems, my bicycle has lasted a lifetime. Literally. I found my bicycle next to a real pine Christmas tree in 1959, when I was six years old and in the first grade. Of course, it was too big for me. And it wasn't green; it was a bright shiny blue. (I've always wondered if pink was for girls (traditionally) and blue for boys, then why did boys get red bicycles and girls get blue.). This bicycle was a gigantic 24" height, much too big for me at six years old. My dad put some training wheels on it, the little set of wheels on either side of the rear tire. At first, the training wheels were even with the rear wheel, meaning I could ride along and just stop and the bike would stand by itself. Of course, I could not sit on the seat, as my legs wouldn't reach the pedals, so I stood up, riding my bike around and around the block. When I got more comfortable with the training wheels, Daddy adjusted them so that I could ride without using them, but they were still there just in case.

I had many skinned elbows and knees those first few summers of riding my gigantic bicycle. Then one day I grew enough to be able to ride it, by sitting on the seat and with no training wheels. By this time I had scratched and dented it a bit, so Dad painted it green. He used whatever paint he found in the garage, and it was a flat Kelly green left over from another project. I didn't care. Green was my favorite color.

During the elementary school years, my green bicycle was my best friend and took me all over the little town of less than 100, and the surrounding countryside. I hauled bread from the little store (twenty-five cents a loaf), I gathered discarded soda bottles from the ditches along the country roads (two cents redemption fee), and I carried my books to school in the wire basket on the front of my bike. As long as it wasn't raining, I would ride my bike to school, gliding across the gravel parking area, hopping off and leaning it against the brick wall of the cafeteria.

During the summer, my bike became my horse named Star, and took me on adventures on country roads far out of town, much farther than I ever allowed my own children to venture on their bicycles. I would go visit friends, and sometimes enough friends would band together and we would have our own little bike parade up and down the street where the most people lived. Back then, it wasn't against the rules to drop in on someone unexpectedly for a visit. If they were home, you were welcomed, fed a snack and a beverage, and sometimes asked to stay for supper. I do remember though, that one time I went too far and was gone too long and my father (notice the serious 'father' is used here) came looking for me, driving his car slowly along the road and blowing the horn. As soon as I heard the horn sounding and saw the light green Chevrolet, I knew I was in trouble. As punishment, I couldn't ride my bike for two weeks.

However, ironically, my dad took those two weeks and freshened up my bicycle for me with a new coat of green paint, a slightly different shade, and put new tires on it. When my punishment was over, I was riding in style. Ever since that first paint job, my bicycle has had so many coats of green paint on it, nobody remembers how many it actually is. I rode that same bicycle through high school and when I started college, I would still ride it occasionally. When I began moving around the country, my sister kept the bike in her garage, and she would ride it with my nieces.

Do I still have the bike? In a way. It is currently in my sister's garage. It may have flat tires, and be covered in dust, but I'll bet it is still one of the best bicycles around. It just needs a little TLC.

My boys are grown now, but every time we bought them a new bicycle (I don't know how many we ended up buying, as theirs was either worn out or out grown) I was always reminded of my one and only bike I had that lasted me from childhood to early adult, and is still around, and made it to 50 years old.

Green Bicycle image copyright darkscott at iStockPhoto.

waffles or pretzels

Shhhh. Don't tell Cap'n. He went out of town today and as soon as he left, I got the urge to make waffles. Homemade. From scratch. Now, ladies and gents, as you know, I do not like to cook, nor am I good at it. (In fact, I was just whining to the First Mate that he should row ashore and fetch me some supper from some main street strip of neon lighted mortar, glass and steel structure with a window on the side. Really. Yes, pathetic. I know.

Back to the waffles. I found a recipe in my virtual recipe box (www.anywherewitharecipe.com). (Note—that was sarcasm and I do not know if that is a real site or not.) I selected an easy recipe that just included the basic ingredients, which I had on hand. I expected the waffles to look something like this (look at photo to above left). But they didn't. I wanted nice squares, with the waffle pattern, crispy and golden brown.

I think the recipe made 10 waffles on my waffle iron. Did I mention I had to go into the garage and dig around in the hot October heat (it's Florida, okay, so still hot), and get all dusty and sweaty to locate a waffle iron, which I wasn't even sure we had one, but generally we have one of everything, so I figured the odds were with me. Brought the waffle iron inside, and then sat down to cool off and rest and drink some tea. Iced. Cold. Yesssssssssssss!

I get the waffle iron washed up nicely and centered on the work island ready to make the waffles. The recipe took three bowls, several measuring cups, and something to hold the melted butter. Had I any foresight, I would have melted the butter in the bowl that was going to hold the 'wet' ingredients, but, it's me, so that didn't happen. Back to the 10 waffles. The first two (the iron had two spots for waffles) went into the trash they were so bad. Tasted more like pretzels than waffles. Too much salt maybe? I guess I have a generous pinch. I added some sugar and tried again.

The next two were rather rubbery and doughy, very chewy. I can't really describe them accurately, but I managed to consume one, once I dipped it in the remains of the melted butter and some syrup. The next pair I cooked longer. They looked pretty at least, but again, didn't taste wonderful. (I wouldn't be going back for seconds if you know what I mean.) So I added some vanilla extract. Ooooh, pretty! The vanilla did make them a nicer golden color, which made them more appetizing to look at. I left this pair in the iron for four minutes, instead of the two minutes I had used previously, which was what the recipe instructed.

Now those were some pretty waffles. I haven't tasted the pretty ones yet, since I'm still kind of, ummm, feeling the doughy ones still on the way to my tummy. I put the first couple of waffles back into the waffle iron, and heated them some more, and eventually they looked pretty enough to eat after they had browned and crispied up some more. And they probably need lots of butter and syrup. Some fruit and whipping cream probably wouldn't hurt either.

Next time I want waffles—it's Bisquick time; or better yet, Eggo.

Waffles image copyright Matka Wariatka at iStockPhoto.