I Got a Hitch in My Gitalong

Growing old is not for wimps. – Just About Everyone Who Has Reached the Age of 60

I’ve said this many times before on this very blogsite, but it’s worth repeating. As we Baby Boomers age, despite the fact that our bodies ache more than they did when we were 21, it just doesn’t seem like we are older. Not really. Our brains still think we are young; it’s our bodies that keep us honest.

I admitted to Bec just yesterday morning that I am constantly complaining about the old folks in front of me in line at Costco, or the old folks in Buicks who drive too slow, or too fast, or change lanes without looking. But as I told her, I have to remind myself that those old folks are ME! They are probably complaining about something I’m doing that’s getting on their very last nerve. Why do I think of myself as somehow being different when they are likely my very age?

I remember many years ago when Bill’s mother Wilma was visiting us at our Denver house. It has two stories, and back then I found the need to go up and down the stairs many times a day. One day she was sitting in our living room and I came down the stairs the way I always did in those days – full speed. Thump thump thump thump thump. She said to me, “I can’t tell you how much I envy the fact that you can run up and down the stairs as you do. I wish I could still do that.”

I didn’t think about it much at the time, but that conversation comes back to me nowadays when I don’t run up and down the steps nearly as fast, and in fact, try to limit the number of times that I walk up the stairs. Combine trips, donchaknow. And it’s more like thump….thump…..thump…..thump…..thump.

The reason I was with Bec yesterday is that I attended a meeting with her in preparation for surgery that she is having on Monday. She, along with some-852 other adults around the world, will be having a hip replaced. Thanks to arthritis, her old one simply wore out. Imagine that.

The good news, of course, is that we live at a time when hip surgery is considered no big deal. An hour-and-a-half or so in the company of the surgeon, a night in the hospital, and you’re sent home with care instructions and pain medications and painful physical therapy to look forward to. The doctors and nurses will have her up and walking by Monday afternoon. (Well, the nurses will. The doctors will probably be on the golf course by then.) She will be touring France by the fall…..

Bec traveled to China last year despite her arthritis. She’s a trooper!

I’m making it sound a lot easier than it will be, of course. But her friends and family know that she has been fighting with that hip for months and months. I’m pretty sure she is more than willing to go through the next few weeks in exchange for being able to get out of a car easily or walk around the park without pain.

As for me, I, along with her kids and other siblings and nieces and nephews, will take care of her any way we can. Meals are being prepared and will be in her freezer by Sunday night. We are all praying so incessantly that God is saying, “Alright already. I hear you!” She will be so sick of having helpers that by the end of the week, she will be telling everyone to JUST GO HOME. And thank goodness for Kindles and cable and Netflix.

Getting old might not be a walk in the park, but at least nowadays things can be done so that we can take a walk in the park even as our joints wear out!

Remember her in your prayers, friends.

Summer in the Sausage

My mom made dinner almost every night of the week when I grew up. On occasion, there would be a few things to munch on before Mom served our meal. Nothing fancy, mind you. Often she would open up a couple of cans of Vienna sausages…..

…..slice them in half, and we would grab them and eat them as fast as we could. Nothing fancy in which to dunk the sausages; just plain ol’ Vienna sausages. The first time I opened up a can of Vienna sausages and laid them in front of Bill, I believe he thought I’d lost my mind.

But perhaps more often than that, Mom would lay out summer sausage and a hunk of cheddar cheese. Actually, in the Gloor household, summer sausage might be an appetizer; it might be a picnic lunch; it might be a snack in the afternoon. We fought over the end pieces, for reasons I now can’t even begin to remember. What I know, however, is that to this day, if there is summer sausage available, I can’t keep my hands off of it.

I had never thought about making summer sausage or even how it was made; it was just one of those things you buy in your neighborhood grocery store’s deli. Still, our neighbor here mentioned that he made his own summer sausage, and shared his recipe with me. One of my challenges for 2018 was to prepare food I have never made before. With this in mind, I gave it a try this weekend…..

I had everything on hand except the home meat cure. I checked the grocery stores, but like the Elmer’s glue I sought last week, I couldn’t find it at Fry’s. I’m pretty sure, however, that it isn’t an ingredient in slime. Anyway where do you go if you want an unusual ingredient and you want it fast? Amazon, of course.  Dear Amazon: one bag of Morton’s Quick Tender Home Meat Cure, some Elmer’s glue for slime, and a kangaroo to give to Bill for his birthday please. Two days later – ding dong.

My neighbor stressed the importance of getting the fattiest ground beef, so I started with two pounds of 80% lean hamburger meat. To that, I added liquid smoke, mustard seeds, finely minced garlic,  coarse-ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. I shaped the mixture into two tightly formed logs…..

The meat logs were wrapped in aluminum foil, shiny side against the meat. I placed the aluminum-wrapped meat into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

The next day, I punched holes into the bottom of the foil with toothpicks and placed them on a broiler pan into which about a half-inch of water was added to the bottom…..

The meat was baked at 325 degrees for an hour-and-a-half, and then removed to cool on the counter for a bit before it is once again placed into the refrigerator for another 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I unwrapped the meat, and there’s what I found….

Friends, it is good. It is, in fact, delicious. Even made from scratch, I can’t proclaim summer sausage to be health food. I haven’t had the guts to look at the ingredients in the curing mixture, but I’m pretty sure salt is the number one ingredient. Remember, that’s how Laura Ingall’s mom preserved her meat over the long Missouri winters. I don’t remember ever hearing Laura say, “Ma, I’m a bit concerned about our blood pressure. Could you cut back a bit on the salt?”

But the flavor is delicious and I haven’t even tried it with cheddar cheese and a piece of melba toast. Yum. Here is the recipe I used for my sausage…..

Homemade Summer Sausage

Ingredients
2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
2 T. mustard seed
1 T. finely-minced fresh garlic
2 T. liquid smoke flavoring
2 T. meat curing mixture (I used Morton Tender Quick)
1 t. coarse black pepper
1 T. red pepper flakes

Process
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients using your clean hands just until thoroughly combined. Form into two equal logs, and wrap each log in aluminum foil with the shiny side facing the meat. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Poke holes in the bottom of the logs using toothpicks. Place the logs on a broiler rack into which you have added about ½ in of water.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly on the counter. Place the sausages into the refrigerator to chill for 12 hours.

Enjoy!

 

You Talkin’ to Me?

A few weeks ago, I somehow came across an article with a headline that caught my eye: REPORT: IT’S NOT OKAY TO JUST START TALKING TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW. The article went on to explain that a study conducted by a major university analyzed conversations between strangers over a nine-month period and concluded that conversations with complete strangers is not acceptable.

This headline caught my eye because I am constantly embarking upon conversations with strangers in the grocery store, the library, Target, or while waiting for a table at a restaurant. You name the place, I have started conversations. As you can imagine, it was with great relief that I noticed that the article was attributed to The Onion, a digital media organization that offers completely satirical news stories. They were fake news before fake news was a thing. The difference between The Onion and Katie Couric telling the world as she hosted NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics that the Dutch people are so good at speed skating because the people ice skate to work is that The Onion is unapologetically fake, and hilariously funny.

The truth of the matter is that, though the article was tongue-in-cheek, it really almost never works to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Ask me. I know. Does it stop me, however? I am sorry to say that thus far it has not.

You might recall that I recently mentioned, for example, that I complimented a man for opening the car door for his wife. It turns out that it was a rare example of an unsolicited conversation that seemed to end fine.

I have many examples of times when my conversations haven’t panned out. Take the time on the cruise ship when I said to the stranger standing next to me in the buffet line, “Have you ever seen so many delicious looking items in your life?” She gave me a dour look and replied, “I am legally blind, and can’t see the food at all.” Or on the same ship, when I was carrying an ice cream cone to my room and said to the man riding in the elevator with me, “I can’t seem to go by the ice cream machine without making myself a cone,” and he replied, “Well, then you’re just going to get fat.” Maybe the worst example was when I asked the cashier at the grocery store if her shift was almost over (something I often ask as if it is ANY of my business). When she responded that she was going home soon, I cheerfully said, “Well that’s nice. You have the whole rest of the day to enjoy.” Her response? “My husband passed away a month ago. I actually hate going home and having all that time to fill without him.” Really….how do you come back from a gaffe like that?

I have fallen flat on my face in so many unsolicited conversations that I have really been working with myself to stop doing it. I know the article was fake, but what it said is absolutely true: “Ninety-five percent of the time, the people being talked to experience an extreme spike in anxiety. The only thoughts going through their heads during these unwanted conversations with strangers are ‘Stop talking to me. I don’t know you. Please go away.’’

Perhaps even worse than the people who put me (properly) in my place by a response are the ones who simply look at me like I am either nuts or a pain in the rear end, or perhaps both. I’m afraid that look is very familiar to me. Familiar enough that you would think that I would have learned by now.

I will continue my quest to learn to keep my mouth shut, even if the person in line next to me is wearing the same t-shirt as I. I will remind myself that The Onion is correct when they state that “the study confirmed that in 0 percent of cases do individuals ever want to be spoken to by someone they don’t know. And if you see me coming, definitely look the other direction.

Saturday Smile: Slime With a Side of Chips

Thursday, I spent the morning and part of the afternoon with my great-niece Lilly, who is 4. My niece Maggie asked me if I could watch her so that she could volunteer to be a chaperone for Lilly’s brother Austin’s field trip, and I was happy to oblige. When I saw Lilly the day before, I mentioned that perhaps we could make slime, and SHE WAS ON BOARD. Did you know that slime has become such a THING that now it is hard to find Elmer’s glue on the grocery store shelves? I can confirm the truth of this statement because I tried buying it at Fry’s Thursday morning, and it was no-go. Just an empty space where the Elmer’s glue should be. Luckily I was able to find a couple of bottles of this essential ingredient of slime at CVS Pharmacy.

While I have watched two of my granddaughters who are Slime Makers Extraordinaire — Dagny and Kaiya — make slime on numerous occasions, I will have to admit that my effort on Thursday was just this side of being an epic fail. The recipe I used calls for four ingredients: Elmer’s glue, shaving cream, contact lens solution and food coloring…..

I’m blaming my failure on the contact lens solution that Lilly and I found in Jen’s bathroom. I think it might have been too old and the boric acid didn’t work properly. At any rate, for the most part, Lilly was happy with our final product (though she didn’t particularly like the Getting Dirty part of it all…..

But you know what kind of dirt doesn’t seem to bother this little girl? The mess produced by eating a meatball sub from Subway. She informed me that she always gets potato chips and a Sprite along with her sandwich when her mommy takes her to Subway. I later learned that she might have stretched the truth about that just a smidge.

This face made me smile…..

I think she’s making this face because I fell for her story about potato chips.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The English Wife

Everything seemed a bit more scandalous in the 19th century, and The English Wife, by Laura Willig, tells a great story that takes place in the 19th century, rich in interesting characters and a lot of unexpected twists and turns served alongside the scandal.

The novel opens as the rich New York City aristocrat Bayard Van Duyvil and his English wife Annabelle are found murdered in the garden outside their home the night of their Twelfth Night party. They are discovered by his sister and his cousin, who hear his last word: George. The crime is initially considered a murder/suicide. However, Annabelle’s body was nowhere to be found. Still, the rumors of her having an affair with the architect who is building their fancy new home continue to feed the flames of speculation.

Bay’s sister Janie is certain her brother would not have killed his wife, and she also doesn’t believe that Annabelle would have had an affair, and sets out to solve the mystery. Assisting her is a journalist who is interested in solving the murder to have the scoop of the century.

Via flashbacks, we learn that Annabelle met Bayard in London where she was working as a burlesque dancer. After a brief courtship, she and Bayard move back to New York City where they live a perfect life.

Or is it? As Janie begins to investigate, she learns more than she ever imagined about her brother, his wife, and she and Bayard’s mother, a woman who thinks so much of herself that she looks down her nose at the Vanderbilts!

Willig dishes out the twists and turns with subtlety and imagination. There were times when I would read something and have to stop to think, “Did I know that?” Little by little, the mystery is solved and I found the ending to be quite unpredictable and satisfying.

I enjoyed this story very much.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Where’s the Beef?
Yesterday Bill and I celebrated Valentine’s Day by going to morning Ash Wednesday Mass which included receiving ashes on our foreheads, and then eating a decidedly un-Valentiney lunch (at least for Bill) of fish tacos. Not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent is absolutely no sacrifice for me. However, Bill struggles a bit more with the no-meat thing. He did seem, however, to enjoy his fish tacos. He announced Tuesday night that he was giving up sweets for Lent. Now THAT, my friends, is big for him. His enormous sweet tooth will make that a sacrifice, indeed.

Wash Your Face
Every year after Bill and I receive our ashes, we disagree on how long to wait before we wash our face. In elementary school, I was instructed that I should proudly wear the ashes all day long, thereby proclaiming my love of God and willingness to sacrifice. Bill always removes his ashes immediately, citing the gospel in which Jesus tells us not to be like the hypocrites who act like they’re holy but aren’t. Yesterday I found myself agreeing with Bill. In the Gospel from Matthew, Jesus said, “But when you fast, anoint your head and WASH YOUR FACE, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.” Boom. I promptly washed my face when I got home.

Eating Sausage
After eating dinner last week at the German restaurant, I have been craving sausage. I ordered (and ate) the knackwurst and it was delicious. But my favorite sausage (well, next to bratwursts, which will always be my MOST favorite) is landjaeger, a sausage with the texture of a hard salami. I began thinking about where I could find landjaeger. Suddenly it occurred to me that you can get anything from Amazon. Sure enough, they had landjaeger. I ordered it, and thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, received the sausages yesterday. I wanted to tear them open immediately, but see above. Ash Wednesday. I will indulge later today, with my Dad watching me from heaven…..

Laser Hot
The other thing that I ordered was one of those cool laser thermometers. Usually Bill is the one who orders cool high-tech things, but I take full credit for this particular item. My oven at our AZ house is highly unreliable, and I read on the internet (so you KNOW it’s true) that those laser thermometers are the most accurate way to know how hot your oven is. We’ll see.

Black and White
I just finished a very good book entitled The Woman in the Window, which I will review soon. As part of the plot, the main character watches old movies, and they are described in great detail. In particular, the author talked about a movie entitled Laura, starring Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews, and Vincent Price. I had never heard of it, and learned from Wikipedia that it had been named as one of the top 10 mystery movies by American Film Institute. I checked the public library, and sure enough, they had a copy available. I watched it on Tuesday. I really enjoyed it, mostly because I really love old movies. But Gene Tierney, an actress with whom I was unfamiliar, was exceptionally beautiful and reminded me of my mother…..

Something about the eyes (though admittedly, I never saw my mother wearing false eyelashes). The music, particularly the title song, was amazing……

Vincent Price, however, has the worst southern accent I have ever heard.

Ciao!

Can I Help You With That?

The other day, I was leaving the grocery store. I was walking behind a man and a woman, about my age. They reached their car, and the man accompanied the woman around the car so that he could open the door for her. She got in; he closed the door and began walking around the car again to get in himself. I was so taken aback by this unusual act of old-fashioned courtesy that, without thinking, I blurted out, “I can’t remember the last time I saw a man open the car door for his wife.”

Now, this was kind of a risky thing to say. For one thing, I had no idea whether or not she was his wife. Also, the fact that they were complete strangers to me allowed for the possibility that he or she could have gotten very insulted by my words. But I lucked out. Instead of being insulted, he smiled and answered, “I know. I’m really proud of the fact that I always open the car door for my wife.”

That night when Bill and I sat outside to have our cocktail party, I told him about witnessing this action. Bill was kind of insulted. “I open the car door for you,” he said. That is quite true. Bill will often open the car door for me, especially if we happen to walk up to the passenger side of the car together. Frankly, I wouldn’t even begin to think that he would – or should – walk all the way around the car to open it for me. I am perfectly capable of doing so myself.

Courtesies such as opening car doors or walking on the side nearest the street or opening and/or holding a door for a woman have become not only outdated, but insulting to some. The old-fashioned side of me is sort of sad about that. I remember 30 years ago when someone – probably Bill – told me he appreciated the fact that after letting me into the car, I would lean over and unlock the door for him so that he didn’t have to fiddle with the keys. Remember those days before all you had to do is walk up to a car and it unlocks itself?

I wonder if boys and girls are being taught those traditional manners these days. I know that all of my grandkids learn to say please and thank you almost as their first words. That’s nice. And I noticed that when we were at Wilma’s funeral, every time 12-year-old Alastair was introduced to someone, he put out his hand for a handshake. Man, that made me proud.

I think I did a pretty good job of teaching Court manners. I recall teaching Court to step back to let me go first when we would get out of the church pew to go to communion. But I certainly didn’t teach him to pull out a chair for a woman. I wonder if he’s ever done such a thing. I wonder if anyone does. I remember that as part of his Catholic elementary education, he had to take Cotillion, where he learned a lot of etiquette, or did if he was paying attention.

I also encouraged – no, really MADE – him sit down and write thank-you notes for Christmas and birthday gifts that he got in the mail. My rule was that he didn’t need to write a note for all the gifts handed to him by uncles and aunts and grandparents. However, the gifts from grandmothers and great-grandmothers and aunts and uncles that came in the mail required a hand-written thank you note. That way they would know that the gift arrived safely.  I’m pretty sure it’s been 20 years since he wrote a thank you note. I’m not a whole lot better, I’m afraid. It’s too easy to email. Sigh.

There’s that fine line you aren’t sure whether to cross, you know, about courtesies such as pulling out chairs and helping with coats. As women continue to try and break through the so-called glass ceiling, the last thing a woman might want to do is to appear helpless. Still, courtesies such as these can go both ways. I often help Bill with his coat if he’s struggling in a restaurant or putting it back on at the end of our church service. He does the same for me.

Times change, and usually for the better. I will admit I miss some of the old etiquette customs, however. The days of men removing their hats when they enter a building are long gone. In this day and age, I’m just happy if the person sitting next to me at a restaurant isn’t talking on their cell phone or sharing their music with me.