Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wildcat Sanctuary

Yesterday, a friend and I took the long drive out to the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone MN. I was really looking forward to visiting the facility on its 10th anniversary.

I prepared by buying a cap with a long bill to keep from getting my nose sunburned (as it is prone to do). I bought a big tube of sun blocker, plus water and snacks. Most important of all, I bought new batteries for my digital camera so I could take lots of pictures of my favorite animals, the cougars. I dearly love cougars (or mountain lions, if you prefer).

I was very impressed with the beautiful place they have created for all the rescued cats that have been treated so badly. The cats, born in captivity can't be returned to the wild so the Sanctuary provides habitat as close as possible. Many of them arrive at the Sanctuary sick or injured, distressed and hating humans. Some spent their lives confined in garages or basements, some were housed in cramped filthy cages and rarely fed. But with kindness and good care, they eventually begin to experience the joy of sprawling in the warm sun or in the shade of a tree, they can experience the fun of splashing in a pool or opening an "enrichment package" to stimulate their senses.

I really want to take some good pictures of the cougars. We were guided into the section called Cougar Cove which is still under construction. It's going to be fabulous when it's finished!

I was all ready to take lots of pictures to post on my blog. Well, as it turns out, digital camera screens are totally washed out by full sunlight. I couldn't see if I was aiming correctly, or if I needed to zoom in or if the subject was even in the picture. The pictures I wound up with were useless.

I think I had better luck using cheap "throw-away" cameras. At least, you had a view finder you could see through to snap a picture. I resorted to going on the Wildcat Sanctuary website and using some of their pictures for this posting.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ignore the woman behind the flowers

Every year for Mother's Day, my daughter gives me a potted mandevilla. They always do very well out on my tiny patio. This is me with last summer's plant in full bloom. I stood behind it so I wouldn't detract from its beauty.

The sad-looking plant next to it is a cherry tomato. My housemate puts out patio tomatoes and various herbs each summer. The herbs do well but the tomatoes never thrive. The leaves turn yellow and drop off. This plant produced a fair number of cherry tomatoes, but they weren't very tasty. Much as she has tried, the plants bearing bigger tomatoes haven't done well in past years either-not even when she bought expensive started plants. So, this year she got some Minnesota-specific tomato seeds and started the whole packet in plastic tubs on the dining room table (which made for much finagling when we had guests). They are outside now, scrunched together on the patio behind all the herbs. Time will tell if they produce-- but I'm not getting my hopes up.

The really odd thing about all of this is--she doesn't even like fresh tomatoes! Go figure.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In a perfect world, I would have been...

Once in a while, you hear people say that they love their job so much they can't believe they're getting paid to do it.

I spent my life doing a wide assortment of jobs: working in factory boning chicken for Campbell's Noodle Soup, working in a freight company office, hospital business office, and in an insurance company (interspersed by about 20 others over the years.) None of these were what you would call a "perfect fit" for me. Looking back and taking all of my interests into account, I've finally realized that in a perfect world, I would have been a world traveler and producer of wildlife documentaries.

I might have sat on a Rwandan mountainside with Dian Fossey and watched gorillas. I could have trekked through the jungles of Gombe with Jane Goodall to observe the chimpanzees. I would have gone on National Geographic Expeditions to exotic places to do award-winning films about thought-to-be-extinct animals.

Of course, this would assume that I was strong and athletic, that I had photographic/cinematic skills and that I had no family obligations. Oh well, it would have been great fun. So, tell me, what's version?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I won't get the H1N1 flu (maybe)

Good news! A recent news article states that blood tests on older people (over 52) show we have antibodies from previous flu epidemics that protect us from this new virus. Well, Hot Dog!

The first H1N1 flu epidemic in 1918 was called the Spanish Flu. Every flu virus descended from that strain until 1957 when the Asian Flu (H1N2) came along. I caught that version while I was in the early stages of pregnancy and had a miscarriage a few months later. I escaped the Hong Kong Flu (H1N3) in 1968 but was laid out for three days by the Swine Flu in the 70's.

I get a flu shot every winter, take lots of vitamins and supplements and take my prescriptions faithfully. Still, I spent my winter suffering with a persistent bad cold, followed by the flu, in addition to having a massive cold sore (on my nose of all places!) and a stye (for the first time in decades). These are all caused by different viruses so it seemed my immunity was unusually low. I asked my doctor why I was catching everything.

She smiled at me and said, "It's because you're diabetic."

It wasn't until later that I realized she had considerately refrained from saying, "It's because you're getting old."

So even though I'm happy to know that my age will protect me from the new H1N1 flu, all the other viruses are out to get me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This is not a horny toad

In reading yesterday's post, I realized that I gave the impression my dad left his family behind when he went to California during WWII. Actually, my mom and I also went. During the four+ years we lived there, my three siblings were born.

Even though I was five when we moved back to Minnesota, I have a lot of memories of California. Especially Walter Harrison Moore. Walter's dad was in the Navy and while his dad was away, he and his mom lived with his grandparents next door to us. Walter and I were the same age and great friends. We were going to get married when we grew up. I haven't heard from him since 1948 when he lived in Santa Barbara, so I think it's probably over between us.

My memories of the house in Van Nuys include the lemon tree in Walter's front yard and the fig tree across the street. I once picked a fig and bit into its gritty center--now that's a memory that lingers!

I also remember the dead horned toad in the gutter by the curb in front of the house. And I remember well how sternly my mother would correct me when I called them horny toads. It was many years later that I figured out why she was so adamant about it.

There was a big playhouse in Walter's backyard and my dad built a slide, swings and sandbox in our backyard. We had sturdy steel tricycles and concrete sidewalks to ride them on. That was a great time to be a kid. (So what if there are hundreds of glitzier toys on the market today? We had it good.

Recently I was going through some old documents and found a letter sent to my parents in Van Nuys with the street address. Out of curiosity, I went online and was able to get street level pictures of the neighborhood. What was once a quiet, tree-lined residential street is now blocks of adobe style condos and apartments, broad busy streets and no trees. It's certainly not a place where you'd want to raise your kids.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

My dad was never in the armed forces. He was a child during WWI and over 30 with a wife and baby when WWII broke out. He worked in a lumber yard in a tiny Minnesota town at the time. He decided to move to California and work at the Lockheed Aircraft plant after Pearl Harbor. (They needed workers badly and had even stooped to hiring women!)

I never knew what motivated him, whether it was high paying jobs, patriotism or restlessness. Probably a little of each.

After my parents died, I inherited all the small black and white pictures taken during the 40's in California. There's one of my cousin Norma looking really sharp in her WAC's uniform, another of my dad's cousin Leo in his Navy uniform, and my uncle Wes in his Army uniform.

Wes married my aunt Leona during the war and then shipped overseas. He was captured and held in a Japanese POW camp. I'm told he never talked about the experience. He went on to become a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy who died of lung cancer from the cigarettes he started smoking in the service.

Some years later, his son Steven went to Viet Nam and came home with his body and his psyche intact. He married and had a son, Troy, who has now served three tours in Iraq.

War touches every family, all generations, through all time. And it never stops!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pic-a-nic time

Here's my recipe for potato salad. Everybody says it's really good (although I suspect they say that so I'll be flattered into bringing it). It's time-consuming but lasts several days in the refrigerator--and even tastes better with time.
5 lbs cooked, diced potatoes (I prefer Yukon Golds or Red Pontiacs)
2 to 3 bunches green onions, chopped
2 to 3 ribs celery, chopped
6 to 8 hard-boiled eggs
3 or 4 c Miracle Whip
1/3 cup each vinegar, yellow mustard and sugar
1 t salt and pepper to taste
Peel and boil potatoes in salted water till done and cool completely. Finely chop onions and celery and combine with diced potatoes in a large bowl.
Peel boiled eggs and cool completely. Place egg whites on a plate and egg yolks in a medium-size bowl. Chop or mash the whites and combine with potatoes.
Mash yolks with a fork in the bowl and add vinegar, mustard & sugar, salt & pepper and the Miracle Whip (not mayo). Stir together and refrigerate.
(I often add the chopped onions and celery to the diced potatoes the night before so the flavors combine. Then I boil the eggs and add the rest the following day.) This recipe feeds my whole family with leftovers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No golf for me!

It's a holiday weekend. Like almost everybody else, I'm staying home and not doing much of anything. I much prefer this to being out in the sun--like on a golf course, for instance.

Most of my life I had illusions that if I ever learned how to play golf, I would be very good at it. I wasn't particularly interested in golf (it looked really boring) but it seemed to be a sport I could handle since there was no running, jumping or actual physical exertion.

With that in mind, I signed up to take a golf class back in the 80's. The first day we all got a booklet with the rules of the game. As we went through them, I was flabbergasted at some of the rules. They seemed so ridiculous I wondered how anyone could take some of them seriously.(For instance, if the ball lands in a spot where you can't play it, you pick it up, turn around and drop it over your shoulder.)

By the time we got on the golf course and learned the tortuous way to hold the club, the awkward stance and the contortionists body movements, I was rolling my eyes. What was the fun of all this? How could anybody enjoy it?

I'll admit it--I'm a quitter. I dropped out of the class and never looked back. My half-hearted dream of being a golfer was done forever.

It's just as well; now I don't have to find an excuse not to go golfing in the hot sun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Queen for a day

Years ago I did the monthly newsletter for a nursing home. Each month they had a featured "Queen" whose picture would be on the front page. I would interview the honoree and write up a brief story of her history and family. It was always interesting and often humbling.

This picture was attached to a humorous email forwarded to me. I confess that I chuckled when I first saw it. How ridiculous to plop a tiara on an old lady like that. But then I looked closer and noticed her near-sighted gaze. She could barely see anything, especially since no one had even bothered to clean her old glasses that had been laying in a drawer.

Apparently an aide had pulled some clothes on her but didn't bother to straighten the collar. They also didn't bother to comb her sparse hair and simply stuck a bobby pin in to hold the tiara in place for the duration of the event. Most disturbing are the ridiculous eyebrows drawn on her forehead. What was the point of that?

We don't know what the occasion might have been, maybe her 100th birthday. However, I don't sense any joy or pride (or even interest) in that tiny face--only hardship and weariness. Where is the honor in all this?

Even though few of us profess to want to live to 100, there is something about the hardiness of the people who do that inspires us. Still, if by some outlandishly freaky twist of fate I should survive to 100--please don't prop me up in the Day Room with a tiara and take pictures!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My 101st post

Sunday's turkey was my 100th post and I didn't even know it. I feel kinda like when the odometer on your car is approaching 100,000 miles and you're determined to see it roll over and you always miss it.

We are finally having some sunny days in the 70's. I think I can finally put out the plants I got for Mother's Day. Late last week there were still frost warnings so I've been holding off. It will be nice to get all the house plants and tomato plants outside.

The lilacs and apple trees are in full bloom and most of the trees are leafed out. We really need rain badly. I'm worried that this will be a really hot, dry summer.

This morning I drove over to Target to get myself some new socks. The weather is finally warming up enough that I can start wearing light-weight socks. This means it's also time to dig out the summer clothes and pack away the winter duds. I love getting out all the seasonal clothes because there are always some things you fall in love with all over again. Since I buy all my clothes at thrift stores, I have a fair number of blouses, shirts and shorts to change over to. And since the summer weather lasts maybe four months, the clothes never wear out. So if I pick up a few things every year, it soon adds up.

Did I mention I hate summer? I absolutely loathe hot weather and I feel sick when I go outside in it. Even though I can dress for summer now, I'm still not going to like it!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wild turkey on a Sunday morning

(I didn't take this picture.
The camera was in another
room and the turkey was
out of sight before I could
go get it.)

I got up this morning, made a pot of coffee and picked up the Strib Sunday paper from outside my door. As I sat down in front of the CBS Sunday Morning Show, something passing the patio door caught my eye. I got up to look and two of my cats were crouched down in front of the door. It was obvious why. The huge turkey was less than 10 feet away! The sight really made my day.

I sometimes wonder what other strange things my cats see at other times when I'm sleeping or otherwise occupied. I've seen deer, raccoons, opossums, foxes and other less exotic animals around here. But the kitties who are watching out the windows at all hours of the night have seen far stranger things, I'm sure. If only they could talk.

Except...about ten years ago I read a book called, If A Lion Could Talk by Stephen Budiansky. The author makes the case that the consciousness of animals has evolved so differently from that of humans, even if they could talk it wouldn't make any sense to us.

How would the cats, hunkered down in front of the patio door watching the strange giant creature have perceived it? I can't even imagine. I try to imagine how they perceive me; the large presence that smells of soap and food and does incomprehensible things, and speaks to them in a high-pitched voice making incomprehensible noises. All the while I'm of the opinion that I'm the all-knowing mommy. They tolerate me and sometimes allow me to pet them. I am more than amply rewarded with purrs.

"When your kitty purrs to you, doesn't it break your heart that you can't purr back?" Candea Core-Starke

"Purring would seem to be an automatic safety valve for dealing with happiness overflow." Dronica Edwards

Friday, May 15, 2009


I know it looks like it's here, but the sign says it's not. I really wish it were here, but there you go. There's nothing I can do about it.

There are a number of sayings that I have posted on the wall around my computer. Most of them have been up for a while. I sometimes wonder what they indicate about me but they are so varied that I would guess they don't total up to much.

Anyway, here for your amusement are some of them:

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." Sylvia Plath

"Maybe this world is another planet's Hell." Aldous Huxley

"What happens when the future has come and gone?"

"I don't know where I'm gonna go when the volcano blows." Jimmy Buffet

"Do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." Jewish saying

"The greatest sin may be the unlived life."

"Happiness isn't something you experience, it's something you remember."

"Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me." Kermit the frog

"It's amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn't know what one can't do." Garfield

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Feeling whimsical

It's spring and for some reason, the aches and pains increase when the seasons change. I really can't complain too much, but gee, it would fun to just be carefree and playful.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Tres Leches cake

Well, the cake turned out OK. It had a soggy bottom (which I really didn't care for) but Samantha loved it. I topped it with a layer of Cool Whip and decorated it with upright slices of dried mango. They were like little sails in a sea of white waves.
The recipe that I got online is: Bake yellow cake mix (with pudding in mix) according to package directions in a 9 x 13 pan.

1. Cool cake and poke holes with a forks all over.
2. Combine 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can condensed milk and 1 cup heavy cream.
3. Pour mixture over cake and let it absorb completely overnight in fridge.
4. Before serving, cover with Cool Whip or whipped cream.
5. Sprinkle with coconut or fruit.
We have a bunch of birthdays coming up this summer. I'll have to find a new recipe to try.
Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday cake

I got busy running errands and almost forgot to post today. I am going to make a Tres Leches cake for the first time and had to get the stuff. I'm cheating by using a yellow cake mix and then swamping it with evaporated milk, condensed milk and whipping cream. It seems like it would get awfully soggy but I'll find out tomorrow when we go to cut it.

It's my granddaughter Samantha's 19th birthday tomorrow and it always works out so celebrate on Mother's Day. She doesn't have a favorite cake so I thought I'd try the "Three Milk" cake.

My favorite birthday cake has been the same since I was a kid. It's white cake with lemon pudding filling and fluffy icing. It is sheer heaven! A lot of people don't seem to have a favorite cake which is kinda sad.

I like to experiment with different kinds of cakes for people's birthdays. Several years ago, I made a Lady Baltimore cake for my son's birthday. It was very good. However, the following year I made him a birthday cake and put too much dry Kool Aid in it for flavoring and it was awful! I still owe him for that one.

Another year, I made a chocolate ganache cake for my housemate. It was extraordinarily rich and gooey. Everybody loved it. But, it was a lot of work and I only made it once.

So, what is your favorite birthday cake? I'd really like to know.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Plagiarzing myself

This piece is taken from my Family Cookbook and Memories. I self-published it and gave it out as Christmas presents in 2007.

"When I was a kid, my three siblings and I took turns doing the supper dishes--one night it was my two brothers, and the next night my sister and me. Of course, we would sometimes have big arguments over whose turn it was or who left all the crusty pans hidden in the oven.

Years later, the same thing would happen with my own four kids, so when I found this poem I put a copy up by the kitchen sink. (It didn't really help.) "
DIRTY DISHES (Anonymous)
Thank God for dirty dishes
For they have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,
We shouldn't want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence,
God's been very good to us.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cock-eyed rainbows

We had a light rain last evening. I was watching TV when a neighbor rang the doorbell and said, "You have to come outside and see the double rainbow!"
It was spectacular. I ran back inside to get the camera (the one I'm such a putz at using). I snapped some pictures landscape but couldn't get both rainbows in the picture, so I did this one portrait but captured only half of it.
I was all enthused about showing it to you on my blog today. It took me an hour just to get the picture off my camera and into My Pictures. There was no way I would ever be able to figure out how to rotate the picture.
I hope you can enjoy it anyway.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Getting "Dressed" up

I have a confession to make--I don't own a dress. I don't even want to own a dress. The wearing of dresses carries a lot of "baggage" for me.

Edith Bunker always wore dresses as she scurried around the house waiting on her bully husband, Archie. When I was in high school the popular, well-to-do girls wore dresses: I remember in particular the trendy chartreuse sak dress a classmate wore or the girls who fairly floating down the halls in cute skirts with multiple "can-can's" underneath. I never wore anything stylish.

I learned at an early age that I was not worthy of pretty clothes. For my 8th birthday, my mom bought me a pretty white plisse dress with pink flowers on it. There was a little bow on the skirt.
She removed the bow saying, "This will just fall off in the wash". Since she could never throw anything away, she saved the bow in her sewing table with assorted buttons and other useless objects. It lay in there for years and years, a symbol of my unworthiness to have a bow on my dress.

My mom wore cotton house dresses, often with an apron. I remember seeing them in the Sears or Wards catalogs--pages of simple floral-patterned cotton frocks for $1.98 or $2.98. They were the very essence of dowdyness. It reminds me of the song Try a Little Tenderness:

"She may be weary, Women do get weary,
Wearing the same shabby dress.
So, when she's weary, Try a little tenderness."

I'm proud to say I have never worn a house dress. But, the childhood lesson stuck--I buy all my clothes at thrift stores. I may dress shabby but it's my choice.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Peter Coyote, this means you!

There's something that's been bugging me for a while now. Is it ethical for a Drug Company to hire a distinguished narrator from TV documentaries to do the voice-over for their commercials? Or conversely, is it ethical for narrators to lend the authority of their recognizable voices to said commercials?

Somehow this seems like "dirty pool" to me. The FTC (or some-such Federal Agency) banned actors posing as doctors from doing commercials a long time ago. Yet, when the familiar voice of a respected narrator of a Nature or National Geographic Special is touting the latest allergy remedy, it subliminally lends credence and respectability to that product in the same way.

This is just one of the ways that Big Drug Companies try to sway us into asking our doctors to prescribe the latest new drugs. The newest drugs don't have any generic counterparts yet so they can charge top dollar. This is fine-and-dandy if you have good prescription coverage. If you don't, you must stick to the lower cost generic drugs even if a newer one is more effective.

The Big Drug Companies say the high cost of new drugs is justified because of the expensive process of developing them. They gloss over the high cost of advertising said drugs on TV, magazines and newspapers--not to mention the pricey "seduction" techniques they use on the medical establishment to promote their products.

I have a friend who has been on older psychotropic drugs for some years now. They no longer have much effect. Her psychiatrist told her some of the newer drugs might help her but they're so expensive she's stuck with the kind she can get at Target for $4.

Sometimes Capitalism sucks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gracie on a spring day

It's a gorgeous spring morning. The trees are rapidly leafing out and the birds are singing with the singular exuberance of the nesting season. It seems all of Nature is filled with joyful purpose. As I sit at my computer, Gracie (the adopted winter cat) is sitting in the open window soaking it all up. Strangely, she has never shown any desire to go outside since that bitter cold day we took her in. She is content to be an indoor kitty... and I'm a big fan of contentment.

Snuffy is an older male cat that my daughter Paula gave me 8 years ago when she moved off the farm. Snuffy, a fluffy black kitty, was used to roaming far and wide on the farm. He still gets the wanderlust. Sometimes it overwhelms him and he paws furiously at the patio door to get out. The condo association rules forbid outdoor cats. So, I try to comfort him when that happens.
Tweedy (pictured above) is the other cat I got off the farm from Paula. She's a shorthair tortoise-shell and has little desire to go outside. She's quite lady-like and a little shy.

The fourth cat is one my housemate Sue got from her parent's farm up in Northern Minnesota.
Her dad found a litter of kittens in a shed the mother cat had entered through a hole in the floor.
We got Sunny when he was 8 weeks old. As he grew (and grew) he seemed to have many characteristics of a Norwegian Forest Cat. (They are a large breed like Maine Coon Cats.) Sunny is a chunk--picking him up is like holding a twenty pound turkey. Always hungry, Sunny is the cat who comes to wake me up in the morning. He crawls up in the bookcase headboard and purrs very loudly in my ear. If I ignore him, he will gently tap my head. When I finally sit up in bed, he will take off running down the hall to the kitchen. You can almost hear him yelling, "Yah Hoo, breakfast!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday cleanup

My granddaughter Lindy and her family are on their way from Breckenridge to St Paul (about a 4 hour trip). She and her husband raise African Grays for sale. They have a potential customer who lives in my area so they're bringing the little fella to the Cities for "inspection".

It's always a treat to have them visit but it means having to clean house. Now I'm not a total slob but I do have tendancies. That means that when company is coming, I have to get busy and scrub the kitchen floor and clean off the dining room table. (It's currently covered with plastic containers of started tomato plants that can't go outside for a couple weeks yet.)

So, I better "hop to it". Several hours from now the three little girls will come rushing through the door clutching their blankeys and ready for hugs. I gotta bake a cake and, finish cleaning and take a shower. Then both the house and I will be squeaky clean when they arrive.

(ps: Lindy has lost 30 pounds since her bariatric surgery a month ago.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day!

Pickles is one of my favorite cartoon strips. I just had to share this one with you.

It's May Day today. When I was a kid in school, we would have an art project making May baskets with the intention of putting candy in it and hanging it on the door knob of a friend. Then, you rang the doorbell and ran away. I think Stephen King calls that Tommy Knocking.

As usual, I'm multi-tasking. As I blog I'm also paying the first-of-the-month bills. I actually enjoy paying bills when there's sufficient money in checking to cover them. Nothing puts me into a depression like not having money to pay bills. My heart goes out to all the folks who have lost their jobs and can't pay the bills.

I'm also writing a grocery list. I love going grocery shopping (in fact, whenever I travel I have to check out a grocery store). When I and my three younger siblings were kids, we never got to go into to the grocery store. We had to sit and wait in the car while my parents went shopping. When I got to be older (8 years) they would go into town to buy groceries and leave me in charge at home. It was exciting when they unpacked the boxes to see if they brought home any treats. Once in a while there would be a bag of candy. The best was when they got two square pints of ice cream. One would be cut in half for my parents and the other cut into four thin slices for us kids to share.

I have a couple lottery tickets lying here that I have to check online. Typically I will have one number correct or less. But, I always say, "If God wants me to win the lottery, the least I can do is buy a ticket!"