January 28, 2008

The Wrong Stuff

The space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida 22 years ago. Hundreds on the ground, including Christa McAuliffe's family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a plume of smoke and fire. We were among the milllons watching at home as the tragedy unfolded on live television. My attention was riveted as were the cameras, on Christa's Mom and Dad. They looked puzzled and did not seem to comprehend what had happened. Officials came to the stands to escort them away. My heart broke for them.

In the movie The Right Stuff, filmed just three years before, Chuck Yeager as played by Sam Shepard says, "You think a monkey knows he's sittin' on top of a rocket that might explode? These astronaut boys they know that, see? Well, I'll tell you something, it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that's on TV."

It has always bothered me that Christa McAuliffe left behind two little girls.

January 26, 2008

Hot and Cold Tuna Melt

Years ago, a relative visited, we made stuffed mushrooms and her co-worker on hearing what we'd eaten exclaimed, "She's just a gourmet cook!" Not so. We eat whatever's here.

Thursday, TIME magazine online suggested that we eat more Tuna:

...studies showed that fish consumption was still protective against cardiovascular disease. Overall, the evidence indicated that people who had higher mercury levels had less protection than people who had lower mercury levels. What those studies suggested is that mercury might lessen the benefit of fish [and omega-3 fatty acid] intake, but they didn't suggest that fish intake was harmful overall.
Light tuna is low in mercury, compared with white (albacore) or red (bluefin) tuna. On average white tuna has three times the mercury as light tuna. But on average white tuna has three times the omega-3s as light tuna — and all the evidence that we can see suggests that omega-3s have more benefit than mercury has harm.
TIME, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008

So I have both in the cupboard.

I suggested to Lane that we'd not eaten tuna in a long time and needed more fish in our diet. He agreed to Tuna Melts -- I not sure he really knew what's a Tuna Melt. I went outside and pulled some shallots out of a flower bed where I'd tucked tiny onion sets in the fall, chopped a wedge of dill pickle and created a tuna salad.

Not wanting to smell hot tuna the rest of the day, I spread tuna salad on two cold slices of whole wheat bread. I sliced some jalapeno jack cheese over two more slices of whole wheat bread and melted the cheese under the broiler. Explained to Lane why his sandwich was hot on one side and cold on the other; he nodded and accepted it. Even the dog agreed it was tasty when he got his usual 'last bite' when we finished.

January 25, 2008

Country Visitors

We've had many visitors since we moved to the country some 13 years ago: Various dogs and cats, none of whom hung around long when confronted by the unhospitable Cur. A hen, escapee from a commercial chicken house nearby who lived across the road in the woods, flying across the highway to get water and what she could glean from spilled cow feed and back again to roost. A yearling steer, escaped from a feed lot when a truck unloaded a herd that was crazed, who finally found his way back from across the creek and jumped in with our cows until cowboys came with horses on a trailer, unloaded, roped the calf and loaded up again. A fawn, dropped one night by a doe. He couldn't jump the fence to return with her to the woods, so she came under cover of night to feed him and he was on his own in daytime, ignored by cows and watched from a distance by us. When he was finally strong enough to jump the fence, he ran in front of a car.

Yesterday we had visitors, announced by the ding of the motion sensor at the end of the porch. I looked out to see two large white dogs with long hair and furry tails. They stood politely, looking as if they wanted to be welcomed while Cur barked hysterically inside the porch door. They never came closer, turning to explore the upper lawn. The bigger one found a dirty puddle and drank, then the other one drank. She squatted at the far side of the yard to relieve her bladder, then they circled back across the driveways and disappeared down the highway.

They were not matted and dirty like strays, but they had no collars. They had bright, inquisitive eyes, not a cowed look of mistreatment. I looked up large white dogs online and while they looked like Great Pyrenees, they were either not, or they were not full grown. They could be white retrievers. I hope they have a home nearby and somebody just left the gate open and they found their way safely back home after they explored.

January 23, 2008

Entertaining Children on the Road

Years ago, when Foxes Earth was simply the farm and we lived in the Metro area, we made frequent tedious four-hour trips by car with pre-adolescent males in the back seat. This was before the days of hand-held electronic games. They entertained themselves using only their imaginations.

Their most spectacular game had no name. They invented two imaginary characters, named Mat-tel and his brother Hasbro . Everything seen along the road had a connection with Mat-tel and Hasbro.

"That's Mattel's grandmother's house."
"That's Hasbro's dog." A running commentary on the dog lasted until they saw: "There's Hasbro's Uncle Arthur and Aunt Minnie on that porch."
"There's the feed store where Mattel's daddy buys feed for his chickens."

The longer we stayed in the car, the more outrageous the stories became. A group of people on the side of the road meant a long string of names were invented. The country nightclub we passed invited many inventions of what went on there and who got stabbed.

It was a much better game than the brief one-sided episodes where Daddy Junior whispered in his younger brother's ear and the Monkeyman erupted into uncontrolled giggles and gasped, "Mama, make him stop saying weinie," The quick response from his brother was "Weinie-weinie-weinie," causing more hysterical laughter.

January 22, 2008

Hemming Blue Jeans and Growing Rabbit Tobacco

The most frequently searched subjects in this blog and my garden blog, Secrets of a Seed Scatterer are 'how to hem blue jeans' and 'rabbit tobacco.' I just comment, I don't instruct.

There are some excellent tutorials on hemming blue jeans to be found elsewhere that show exactly how to salvage the original hem, which I haven't attempted. Just be careful not to sew the bottoms of the britches closed.

There are some herbalist sites that repeat some hundred year old literature about possible uses of rabbit tobacco, none of which I've tried. I grow it as an aromatic ornamental. It comes up in the lawns and I scoop it up sometimes to grow with other plants like salvia leucantha which it compliments in a garden bed.Rabbit Tobacco and Mexican Bush Sage in the Butterfly Garden

A search for why there is so much interest in rabbit tobacco revealed one source that suggested that the fresh juice might be a possible aphrodesiac. I'm not sure how one would go about extracting the juice of such a dry, woody plant. Of more interest was this excerpt from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute:
"A case-control study involving interviews of 207 men with esophageal cancer and 422 control subjects or their next of kin was conducted to identify reasons for the unusually high rates of esophageal cancer among men in coastal South Carolina. Tobacco and alcohol, including moonshine, were identified as the major determinants of esophageal cancer risk. Increased risk was also associated with low intake of fresh fruits but not with drinking of local herbal teas."

Buy and eat some apples and oranges, y'all.

January 14, 2008

Hemming Blue Jeans, New Tricks

I spent the morning hemming blue jeans for Daddy Senior. After all these years, my neighbor told me how to manage the thick double-felled seam that's so hard to sew through: smash it down with a hammer before you sew. Only a few hard taps mashes it flat enough that the presser foot will pass over and the needle will go through.

After all the cutting and making new hems, which I sew with navy thread, not the original orange color, I googled for 'hemming jeans' and found some tutorials on using the original hem by tucking up the amount needing shortened inside of the leg, sewing along the original hemline and then cutting away the excess. I guess you could zig-zag or serge the cut edges. The tutorial just said to leave enough to fray -- my mother would twirl in her grave!

January 12, 2008

Old Time Radio: Beulah, Amos and Andy

According to the History Channel, today is the anniversary of the beginning of Amos and Andy, created by Freeman Gosdin and Charles Carrell. I wonder if Freeman Gosdin was a relative of country singer Vern Gosdin, whose cousin was once my patient?

The only old time radio shows that are clear in my memory are The Lone Ranger, The Shadow (Knows) and the Green Hornet. I think it's the sound effects. William Tell Overture is forever etched as 'the Lone Ranger Rides Again' as the little boy said. The Shadow's deep chortle and the Hornet's buzz are unforgettable as well.

The reason that I remember Beulah is that Daddy Mack's son-in-law Lyle, known for innovation, bought the first tape recorder I ever saw, back in the nineteen fifties. He surreptitiously tried it out at a family dinner. When he played back what he'd secretly recorded, Tanky exclaimed, "Why I sound just like Beulah!"

January 10, 2008

Peer Pressure from Sally Field

There is a raft of favorite movies that we watch over and over when they happen along. The other night we watched the last several minutes of Burt Reynolds and Sallie Fields in 'Smokey and the Bandit.' Just the part from where all the patrolmen in the state are chasing them and Jerry Reed and that dog are leading the way.

We missed the part where Jerry Reed stops and the dog goes swimming in a pond by the side of the road. The last time I was on Highway 54between Fayetteville and Jonesboro, there was a realtor's sign on the property with the pond.

We didn't miss the part with Sally Field smoking a cigarette and making a rude gesture to the patrolman. She's come a long way to where she just takes a pill for her bones once a month, we agreed.

January 08, 2008

Historical Fiction

My fictive blog Zelda Mary is turning out to be more of a muddle than I expected. It starts in the first decade of the twentieth century, with three little girls, as told by the eldest. By 1913, they have a new brother and their glamourous aunt has a new husband. In 1914, they are exposed to terrible sadness. Not to give away the plot, but the voice in this blog experienced more than her share of terrible sadness, not to mention three husbands, all of whom died.

There is a time line so bits and pieces can be dropped in. Is the term fictive blog sufficient? It isn't a novel or a dissertation, just a dotty story using old photos from a family album. Historical Fiction sounds as if one should be recreating Henry VII, who has been done to death.

The research is frustrating. History departments focus on flappers and jazz in the twenties and poverty in the thirties. I'm looking for rural life that includes peddling milk in a mill village, going on picnics and fa-so-la singing.

January 05, 2008


When I was a child, Little Women was one of my favorite books. It was 50 years later that I realized that the "War" that Major March had gone to was not World War II, the only War that came to my mind when I read the book.

Recently, I was looking up 'shebang' as in 'the whole shebang' and the explanation mentioned a 'char a banc.' I immediately remembered the passage in Little Women where Amy is going to borrow Lawrence's char a banc which Hannah calls the 'Cherry Bounce.' Naturally I looked up char a banc as well and the passage opened up when I Googled.

Little Women is still as freshly charming as when it was written more than a century ago. I wish my memory was as sharp for current events as it is for a book read long ago. I'm still having trouble remembering that Barack Obama is not some other Obama, and separating Ron Paul and Ru Paul.

January 03, 2008

Clark's Old Knotty Thread

Mama used to say that they thought Clark's O.N.T. meant 'Clark's Old Knotty Thread' because they tended to get knots when they sewed as children.

I've resumed my Mary Zelda blog with an advertising piece from Clark's O.N.T. borrowed from Duke University's Ad*Access Project, funded by the Duke Endowment "Library 2000" Fund. My intent for 2008 is to keep all my blogs up to date, or delete the ones that are not viable.

January 02, 2008

See You in the Funny Papers

Today in the office supply store, I almost bought a Maxine daily calender with a laugh a day. For $12.00. Good sense prevailed before I picked it up.
Sometimes I can relate to Maxine and I'm afraid I look more like her than I'd like to admit: grey hair, glasses, dog and so on. On the other hand I'd like not to be thought of as quite as rude and crude as Maxine can be. I'd rather be, um, shall we say, Classic?

When I was a child, I used to imagine I'd grow up to be Mopsy. I loved Mopsy paperdolls in the Sunday paper. Just as I reached what I imagined to be Mopsy's age, Gladys Parker died in 1965 and Mopsy died with her. It's just as well, I had a toddler and a baby by then.

January 01, 2008

Dotty Pants Goes to MIT

I said that when I turned 65, I'd go to college again. By state law, seniors at 65 may audit classes for free. Considering that getting dressed, a twice weekly round trip of more than 30 miles and dealing with another round of teenyboppers lay in the road to free courses, I was loathe to start. Meanwhile, Open Course Ware came on the scene while I was approaching 65.

I "signed up" for a history class on American Consumer Culture and a writing class called Food for Thought. Actually there's no signing up and the professor has no idea you're there. It would be wonderful for the Invisible Man; he could remain invisible to be sure.

As much time as I spend rambling the net, I may as well add some methods to my madness, along with a bit of structure. School will be out by the time I'm ready to really hang out in the garden again. I can skip finals if necessary and give myself an E.

OCW is a large-scale, Web-based publication of MIT course materials, and is not a degree-granting or credit-bearing initiative.

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