Angelina Jolie, meet Chris Christie. May 15, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie mastectomy, breast cancer, Chris Christie, Chris Christie weight-loss surgery, weight-loss surgery
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Our friend Ben was struck by the marked contrast with which the revelations of Angelina Jolie’s and Chris Christie’s surgeries were greeted this week. For those who aren’t following celebrity surgeries, here’s a recap:
Angelina Jolie, movie star, humanitarian, and mega-mom (as well as the partner of Brad Pitt), revealed in The New York Times that she’d elected to have a double mastectomy in February after testing positive for a gene that predicted an 87% chance of her getting breast cancer. Her chance is now just 5%, far less than the 50% the general female population must face.
Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, had lap-band surgery, a weight-loss surgery that involves restricting the capacity of the stomach without actually cutting it out as gastric bypass, which cuts down the size of the stomach to about a walnut, does. Those who have seen photos of the morbidly obese Gov. Christie and heard the testimony of the former head of Health and Human Services that she feared his life would be cut short because of his weight no doubt realize, as he has, that his excessive avoirdupois had become a life-and-death issue.
I think both these public figures deserve a huge round of applause for coming clean about their health concerns. My sister-in-law also underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, like Angelina Jolie, after her sister contracted breast cancer due to the same dreadful gene. My sister-in-law and her other sister both tested positive for the gene and both elected to have both the mastectomy and ovariohysterectomies to make sure that they’d remain alive for their families. (Fortunately, their younger sister has survived her round of breast cancer as well.)
I will never forget my brother discussing the pain and mental, emotional and physical stress involved in my sister-in-law’s decision. As Brad Pitt said, choosing to go under the knife when you’re healthy, for the sake of your family, is nothing less than heroic. And the press and breast-cancer and breast-health and cancer organizations have all been quick to agree, lauding Angelina Jolie’s decision to step forward and openly discuss what’s apparently a taboo subject, breast cancer, even though half the women in America can expect to suffer from it during their lives.
Chris Christie also came forward to discuss what he did to bring his weight under control. But far from being lauded for his candor, he’s been uniformly ridiculed by the press. Why didn’t he tell us all about his procedure while he was undergoing it? Why didn’t he just go on Weight Watchers, hit the gym and run a few marathons instead? Isn’t this just an obvious ploy in his bid for the presidency in 2016? Maybe he should have signed up as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.”
Excuse me, but both Angelina Jolie and Chris Christie waited until after their procedures were completed to reveal that they’d had them. Both underwent painful ordeals for the sake of their health and their families. It’s so easy to mock fat people—as far as our friend Ben can tell, only old people make equally easy targets, and there seems to be at least a tiny bit of societal shame over mocking them—but God forbid that we should fail to recognize a glamourous, young, thin star’s dreadful sacrifice.
Damn straight. Because of my own family, I know what Angelina Jolie endured, and why she endured it. She deserves every kudo there is. But Governor Christie doesn’t deserve the ridicule and abuse he’s taken for also choosing to be proactive about his health. There’s nothing funny about being fat, there’s nothing wrong with taking whatever steps are necessary to safeguard your health and well-being in a society that wouldn’t ever imagine electing a fat president.
Today, a Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t stand a chance at the presidency: You’d damned well better be tall and thin and young and look good, like the movie stars we all emulate. Damn our superficiality! It will bring us all to ruin.
The centrality of salad. May 14, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: breakfast salad, good salad, making salad, salad, salads, the importance of salad
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Silence Dogood here. Being on the road this past weekend reminded me of exactly how important salads are to my overall well-being. For some, a salad might be consigned to the category of pointless “rabbit food.” But for me, they’re the staff of life. Even as a vegetarian, I’m happy to eat in a steak house if I can have a crunchy salad and a baked potato. Yum!
This road trip, our friend Ben and I had excellent food: an Indian feast at my brother’s house and wonderful Asian (Thai, Japanese, and Chinese) for supper on Mother’s Day. But something was missing, and that something, I realized, was salad. No big bowl of fresh, raw, crispy-crunchy lettuce, veggies, and toppings. By the time we got home, I was feeling seriously deprived.
So yesterday’s lunch was one of my typical “Silence’s Kitchen Sink” salads: A base of Romaine, arugula, watercress and kale, with yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped scallions (green onions) and red bell pepper, sliced cukes and radishes, green and black olives, pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds) for crunch (I also often use walnuts), organic celery (make sure it and the bell pepper are organic, otherwise they’re very heavily sprayed), diced avocado, sliced hard-boiled eggs, broccoli florets, sprouts, and, of course, cheese (feta, blue or gorgonzola, and extra-sharp white Cheddar are favorites).
OFB is not a fan, but on my own salad I often add pickled beets (yum) and horseradish (for extra bite). I’ll also add fresh herbs if I have them on hand, then top the whole thing off with extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, fresh-cracked pepper, and salt (we like RealSalt, sea salt, or Himalayan pink salt). If we really want to splurge, we’ll splash on Chef Tim’s delicious balsamic vinaigrette, locally available at farmers’ markets here but available everywhere online at http://www.cheftim.com.
A favorite variation is the sweet-and-savory salad, with Boston or butter lettuce, diced apples (such as Braeburn and/or Granny Smith), diced sweet onion (such as Vidalia, WallaWalla or Candy), dried cranberries (craisins) and diced dried apricots or mandarin oranges or grapefruit sections, diced avocado, and sliced almonds, topped with shredded Swiss cheese and fresh mint leaves and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and a citrus-infused balsamic vinegar. I know about the huge fad for “green juices” for breakfast, but I can’t face them. As far as I’m concerned, this salad, topped with an herbed yogurt “Green Goddess”-style dressing, would make a great breakfast, without having to confront a glass of green slime.
I have yet to try to recreate the sumptuous wedge salad available at the Texas Steakhouse chain (not to be confused with the Texas Roadhouse chain), a huge wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese, onion and diced tomato. (Mind you, it’s also typically topped with crumbled bacon, but of course I make them leave that off.) It is SO good, but it seems so decadent that I save that for road trips.
Anyway, I had salad for lunch yesterday—you can see why it could easily make a meal—and we had side salads with supper. I had salad for lunch today, and we’ll have salad as a first course again tonight. Whew! I’m finally starting to feel normal again. For me, most comfort foods are hot: pasta, potatoes, pizza, grits, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob, warm Brie and a crusty baguette to dip into it or hot dinner rolls and butter or corn cakes. But salad is the great exception: It’s comfort and comforting, all by itself.
‘Til next time,
Think he’ll friend me back? May 13, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Benjamin Franklin, blog humor, Colonial history, George Washington, Martha Washington, Mount Vernon
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood went to Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington, yesterday. It was the first time I’d been back since I was a child.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the architecture, the majestic setting, the fact that it was the home of our first and greatest President, or even that it was the seat of my own relative Martha Dandridge (Custis Washington), that impressed the youthful Ben. Yes, I loved Colonial history and architecture even then. But no amount of history or achitecture could compete with the stench rising up from the (then) foully polluted Potomac River. It was basically the only memory I took away from my childhood visit to this historic site.
Mercifully, it’s been decades since the Potomac has been cleaned up. Now joggers, cyclists, walkers, and picnicers enjoy trails along its banks, often with their families and dogs. Not a whiff of foulness and rot rises from the river. Instead, the whirr of power boats, the honk of towboats, and the majestic sight of yachts and cruise ships brings your attention to the great expanse of water that, legend has it, as a young man George Washington hurled a silver dollar across to show his strength.
Looking across what seems like miles of water, this story seems as much a legend as Washington cutting down the cherry tree as a child. (“I cannot tell a lie.”) Yet it was supposedly witnessed. And certainly the young, athletic, 6’4″ Washington (he had shrunk to “just” 6’2″ in his 60s) prided himself on his prodigious strength.
If you think this feat unlikely, consider that the young athlete Benjamin Franklin regularly swam across the mighty Delaware River in Philadelphia for exercise, something few Olympic swimmers would consider doing today (and not one, to my knowledge, has ever attempted).
History affirms Ben’s wholesome swims, quite a slap in the face to the picture of the portly elder statesman. And Ben in his youth was not only a vegetarian but a teetotaler, denouncing the consumption of alcohol and advocating drinking water instead, a radical (and probably misguided) idea in an era when raw sewage was dumped in the streets and polluted the wells, rivers, and other water sources.
The general populace may have been ignorant as to why, but they were right that drinking water could kill you. No wonder they drank massive quantities of alcohol—beer, small beer, hard cider, grog, ale, wine, fortified wine like Port and Madeira, sparkling wine, wine punches, rum, gin, and so on—from morning to night. God forbid that you should drink a drop of that sickening, polluted water!
But I digress. As a Colonial history buff, I was probably a bit more aware of George Washington the man than many visitors to Mount Vernon the day Silence and I came. I knew how tall he was, and that only that other great Founding Father, Gouverneur Morris, was as tall; I knew he had numerous sets of false teeth made, but they were made of ivory and human teeth, not wood. I knew he was a great gardener, farmer, and botanist, as well as a statesman, and I was aware not just of his keen interest in agriculture but of all the innovations he implemented on the Mount Vernon estate.
I knew he had the foresight to abandon growing tobacco, a nutrient-greedy and labor-intensive crop, on his land and turn it to more sustainable crops two hundred years before the idea caught hold with other American farmers. And I knew that he freed his slaves on his death, something Ben Franklin had done well before his death, but that Thomas Jefferson never did, his will requiring them to all be sold off to settle his massive debts, along with his home Monticello and all its furnishings, leaving his heirs with nothing. Washington by contrast not only left his widow and heirs well provided for, but also provided funds for the education and fortune of his freed slaves.
What I didn’t know, and what the tour of Mount Vernon told me, was that the house at Mount Vernon was made of wood, and that George Washington had had the planks planed, varnished, painted, and then covered with sand so that they resembled set stone. He also had the roofing shaped from wood to resemble Italian ceramic tiles, and painted red to match them. I can’t imagine the upkeep this would have required, but as trompe d’oeil (fool the eye), it was brilliant.
But there was something else I didn’t know, and it came as quite a shock. I knew that George Washington’s inherent courtesy caused his death. On a cold December day, he’d gone riding as usual over the lands of Mount Vernon to see how the plantation was faring. Rain, sleet and snow drenched his garments and soaked him to the skin. But Washington, who never regarded the weather or his own typically robust health, never thought to turn back. After a long day in this bitter weather, he returned to Mount Vernon.
Upon arriving home, Washington saw that his guests had already assembled for dinner. As punctilious a host as he was a commander, he refused to consider detaining them by changing into dry clothing. So he sat there, chilled to the bone, in wet, frigid clothes, for hours, entertaining his guests. By the next morning, he felt that he’d caught a chill. But colds and the like meant nothing to a man who’d never been sick and had emerged unscathed from barrages of bullets that had riddled his uniform and killed the horses he was riding. What was a little cold compared to that?!
Unfortunately, today’s doctors think that he caught a rare but horrendous bacterial throat infection. I’d always assumed it must have been a high fever that killed him so quickly in his prime, but the evidence says otherwise. Apparently a bacterial infection of the epiglottis caused the first President’s throat to swell shut and killed him by suffocation. (Contemporary accounts of doctors and slaves attempting to give him liquids and his being unable to swallow them tend to bear this diagnosis out.)
This would have been a horrific way to die, but comparatively quick, given the so-called medical treatments of most of the doctors of the day. (And of course they did bleed George Washington four times between the onset of his illness and his death, weakening him further. No doubt it was only his robust constitution that allowed him to hold on through the bleedings rather than dying like most people who were bled.)
But the real sorrow was that the account pointed out that, had antibiotics been known in Washington’s time, he could have been quickly cured and might have lived at least 20 years longer, like his contemporaries Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. The Father of Our Country died too soon, and pointlessly.
But there was something else our friend Ben didn’t know about Mount Vernon: That it was and remains the graveyard of George and Martha Washington and generations of other Washingtons. You can visit the crypt and pay your respects to the Washingtons. I had no idea. Thank goodness the site was preserved and not turned into townhouses or an industrial complex! Good grief. To think that a tour of Mount Vernon also includes a visit to George Washington’s actual grave! Yow. You can look into the crypt and see two plain marble sarcophogi. One bears the seal of office, carved into the marble, and says simply: “Washington.” The other is completely plain. It says: “Martha: Wife of Washington.”
Clearly, for a generation for whom George Washington was peerless, that was enough.
I’d love to end this post here, but I have to add one poignant and one humorous comment picked up during our trip. First, when I asked the hotel clerk, a pleasant, competent young man, how to get to Mount Vernon from our hotel in nearby Falls Church, VA (for those who think Washington and environs are somehow offshore, they’re actually in Virginia, George Washington’s home state), he seemed a bit bemused. As with all check-in desk clerks, he was very used to recommending restaurants and directing travelers. But this time, he was stumped. “Ah, ahem, is that a city in Maryland?”
Well, no. It happens to be the home of the Father of our Country. But of course, who wants to be rude? I thanked the desk clerk and turned to our maps.
Now for the humorous part. When Silence and I were lining up for our tour of the mansion, we overheard a woman saying to her son, “They want me to friend George Washington on Facebook. Do you think he’ll friend me back?” Oh, oh, oh. Classic! But if George were here, I wonder…
Carpenter bees are here. May 11, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: carpenter bees, controlling carpenter bees
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Shriek! Silence Dogood here. I was having lunch at a nice restaurant yesterday with a dear friend who insisted that we enjoy the warm spring weather by eating outside on the terrace. Unfortunately, we were dive-bombed by so many carpenter bees that I ultimately insisted that we eat in the indoor section of the restaurant.
Carpenter bees are harmless to people: They’re not going to sting you. But they’re as big as bumblebees (you can tell the difference because bumblebees are furry and nest in the ground while carpenter bees are smooth and prefer wooden structures), and they’ll definitely buzz you incessantly as they go about their business. They’ll also chew through your wooden walls to nest inside. If you don’t want your wooden walls and other structures to be destroyed by them, you have to stop them.
Sure, you could call a pest-control company and have them blitz them with toxic pesticides. But I wouldn’t recommend it, since you and your family will be blitzed with the pesticides, too.
Instead, as the University of Kentucky’s website notes, carpenter bees tend to be drawn to wood that is bare, weathered and unpainted. To protect your wood siding from invasion, make sure it is regularly painted. If anyone out there in the blogosphere has discovered your own method of nontoxic treatment, please let us know!
‘Til next time,
Splitting the estate. May 10, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: estate sentimentality, estate settlement, estates, how to divide an estate
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Families. Say what you will about how adult siblings get along in general, if things are going to really break down, the time they do is typically when it’s time to settle a parent’s estate. Unfortunately, our friend Ben will soon be heading down to Nashville to do just that, and meeting my brother and sister there.
It sounds so straightforward: We’ll head to our family’s Colonial home, hear how an appraiser values the antiques, then say which, if any, we want. But the reality is anything but simple. First, there’s the heartbreak of the beautiful house, sitting on three gorgeous acres of boxwoods, magnolias, and dry-laid stone walls. My parents loved that house and spent endless time adding period furnishings and making it a lovely, gracious place to live.
Sadly, I’m the only one of the three children who wants it, and I can’t afford to maintain it, so it will be going to the block. To know that this is the last time I’ll be in it is like going in for major surgery and knowing you’ll wake up without some vital part of yourself, something that defined you, something you thought would always be there. From now on, all I’ll have of my family home is some faded photographs.
On top of that, there’ll be the issue of the contents of the house. I of course know what I want, but I have no clue what my brother and sister want. If I’m lucky, our choices won’t overlap. But I fear that’s magical thinking. So I proposed a system that may strike you as totally bizarre: Post-It Notes.
I suggested that each of us get a pack of Post-It Notes in a different color. Then, after the appraiser leaves, each of us can roam through the house, putting our own distinctive Post-It Notes on whatever we want. If, at the end of this, there’s just one Post-It Note on something, whoever wanted it gets it. If, however, there are two or three Post-Its on something, we’ll have to negotiate. This strikes me as the best way to assess how much each of us wants, as opposed to simply taking one thing at a time and haggling as if we were at an auction. (“What am I bid for this?!”) Obviously, if one of us gave something to our parents, that person gets it if they want it.
This doesn’t even address the things we want but know we can’t have. I, for example, love my mother’s everyday china, goblets, and silverware; I grew up eating every meal on them every day until I left for college. But Silence Dogood and I have no room for more china and goblets, and I know my brother would like to have the silverware. I love our antique sideboard and dining-room table and sofas and so on, but Silence and I live in a tiny cottage where such furniture would be completely inappropriate. We don’t even have a dining room.
Again, leaving such beloved possessions behind is a grief, but unless Silence and I win the lottery before I head to Nashville and can buy a fabulous Colonial stone home complex here in scenic PA that’s just begging to be furnished with antiques, it’s no way, no how. And let’s just say I’m not holding my breath for the winning ticket, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” notwithstanding.
There’s a scene in the first installment of the film version of “The Hobbit” where Gandalf rounds on poor Bilbo Baggins and demands to know when Bilbo’s mother’s china and crocheted doilies became so important to him. If I had been Bilbo, I’d have answered, “After she died,” which I think would have shut Gandalf up. It is after our beloved dead are gone and we can no longer enjoy their company that the things they chose to define their home life take on most meaning.
The home Silence and I share, Hawk’s Haven, holds some rather strange things as a result. In a kitchen cabinet with all our very carefully chosen china is a rather homely bowl, which matches the everyday china in my beloved grandparents’ home. In my wallet to this day is my grandfather’s Sacred Heart Auto League card. Silence has some of her maternal grandmother’s clothes hanging in a closet, even though her grandmother wore them long before she was born and she knows she herself will never wear them, and a collection of antique buttons from her paternal grandfather that she played with for hours as a child.
So what will I try to bring back from my family home? Some paintings, maybe an oriental carpet. A Pilgrim chest, a brass-studded chest, a brass chandelier. A blue-and-white Chinese bowl. A 15th-century wooden statue (but I’m sure my brother will want that, too). Will I get any of them? Who knows. Will sentiment swamp good sense and make me ask for things that I love but that are inappropriate for my circumstances? I hope not. (Silence would kill me.)
But there’s one thing that, ironically, my brother and I both want that we can both have, if only we can figure out how to transport it from Nashville to our respective residences. We both love gardening, and we both have a great attachment to a lush growth of a spectacularly variegated form of Italian arum that grows under the trees of our family home. There’s plenty for all, if only we can get it back alive. And frankly, if that’s the only thing I can bring back, it will be enough.
Words of wisdom. May 9, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: aphorisms, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Charles H. Spurgeon, wit and wisdom
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Apparently, our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, had a 19th-century imitator. But this man, a British Baptist minister, didn’t simply crib Ben’s sayings, as our friend Ben discovered this morning while reading a piece from The Week called “15 less-than-inspirational quotes from a book of moral advice” (read them all on TheWeek.com).
I was intrigued by the title of the article and assumed it would be poking fun at some outdated moralist’s misguided ideas. Instead, the Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon had a wealth of commonsense wisdom of his own to impart, in Dr. Franklin’s famous homespun style. Here are my favorites:
“Eggs are aggs, but some are rotten; and so hopes are hopes, but many of them are delusions.”
“Expect to get half of what you earn, a quarter of what is your due, and none of what you have lent, and you will be near the mark.”
“Make as few changes as you can; trees often transplanted bear little fruit.”
“It is far better to work with an old-fashioned spade that suits your hand than with a new-fangled invention that you don’t understand.” [Yeah! Go, Luddites, go!!!]
“It is true you must bake with the flour you have, but if the sack is empty it might be just as well not to set up for a baker.”
“Every minnow wants to be a whale, but it is prudent to be a little fish while you have but little water.”
Wow. I think Ben Franklin would agree.
Why is it called Mount Vernon? May 8, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Colonial history, George Washington, Lawrence Washington, Mount Vernon, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon
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If you’ve been following Poor Richard’s Almanac, you’ll know that our hero and blog mentor is the great Benjamin Franklin, and that we’re obsessed with all things Colonial, Revolutionary, and Federal. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are going down to Washington, DC this weekend, and are contemplating a trip to Mount Vernon, which I haven’t seen since childhood and Silence has never seen, en route back.
Contemplating returning as an adult and seeing the property through adult eyes must have stimulated a few dormant brain cells, since I suddenly began wondering why the place was called Mount Vernon. As much as I’ve read about George Washington and his family history, it had never dawned on me to ask this question before. To my knowledge, no Washington ancestors were named Vernon, and there certainly was no mountain called Vernon bordering the Potomac. What the bleep?!
Fortunately, a visit with Wikipedia resolved the mystery fast enough. Turns out, the Washington plantation was originally called Little Hunting Creek Plantation after the Little Hunting Creek which ran nearby.
But George Washington’s older half-brother Lawrence, who owned the property before him, renamed the estate in honor of his revered Royal Naval commander, the British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon. (Where the “Mount” comes from remains a mystery.) Upon Lawrence’s untimely death and George’s inheritance, the much younger George, who revered Lawrence as Lawrence revered Admiral Vernon, elected to retain the name his brother had bestowed on the property.
This all sounds ironic in light of brother George’s Revolutionary uprising and defeat of the British forces, not to mention his becoming the first President of the United States. But you have to remember that, until the Revolution, all American colonists, even Doctor Franklin, considered themselves to be British citizens. Vice Admiral Vernon never attacked American citizens; rather, he won a number of major wars in their defense, with Lawrence Washington fighting under his command.
No doubt, those of us living in post-Revolutionary times would rather have George Washington’s iconic home named Mount Washington or Washington on the Potomac or something, rather than honoring a British Admiral. But let’s try to be fair as George Washington was fair, refusing to punish Colonists who sided with the pro-British Tory faction even during the Revolution. We owe our Founding Father that much at least.
Don’t fall down. May 7, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: avoiding falls, falls, preventing falls
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Silence Dogood here. On Sunday, I was going to drop my ancient red VW Golf off at its repair place to get the oil changed and the a/c reactivated. Our friend Ben was planning to follow me in his car and bring me back to our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven. I suggested that we take our beloved black German shepherd, Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special, along for the ride.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Ben went up first to get his car ready for Shiloh. When I followed, Shiloh, ecstatic at seeing OFB and at the prospect of a ride, raced forward, hurling me onto my face on the concrete and gravel and almost throwing me into the path of three cars which were rounding our treacherous bend at way over the speed limit.
Mercifully, I was able to hang on to the leash so Shiloh didn’t end up killed in the road. She was unhurt. My left leg was ripped open from the knee to the ankle, however, and embedded with tiny pieces of gravel. Eeeeewwww!!! The pain was so bad that I cried all the way to the service station.
As if that weren’t enough, the next night, I was heading for bed and OFB had turned off the light. We have a very high antique bed inherited from my great-grandparents, and, at just 5’5″, I have to use a somewhat rickety stool made by a great-uncle in order to launch myself onto it. If I don’t hit the precise middle of the stool, it’s likely to topple over, and that’s just what it did last night. But worse still, not only did I crash to the ground, but the legs of the stool caught the floor lamp, which fell on top of me, and that in turn pulled the cord of the fan, which also fell on me.
Yowie kazowie! I was okay, but was so stunned by the whole experience that it took me a few minutes to get untangled and get myself up, during which a terrified Shiloh rushed over and began compulsively licking my arms and face and poor OFB thought he was going to have to call an ambulance.
All of which is to say, if you don’t have plenty of padding to break a fall (like yours truly) or very good coordination (unlike yours truly), you might want to take the following steps into account:
* Light it up. If our friend Ben and I leave the house before dark, we often don’t think to turn on the front door light. And that’s a terrible mistake, since tree roots have pushed up the stones of our front walkway, making it easy to trip on the edge of one and go crashing down.
* Carry portable lights. Besides small, portable LED flashlights, you can wear headlamps or, as OFB and I do, carry LED keychain lights that not only illuminate the path to the door but let you see the keyhole so you can instantly open the door.
* Train your dog. Our Shiloh is such a smart dog, she recognizes dozens of words and follows every command except stay, come, and heel. This is obviously our fault, not hers. Training her to know the names of all her toys and treats and bring them on command, to sit, lie down, shake, speak, go to her bed, and so on, is great, but it’s not much use when it comes to keeping her safe. If you can’t teach the three major commands (stay, come, and heel), make sure the family member who’s 6’2″ and not the one who’s 5’5″ is holding the dog’s leash when you take her outside. (In my own defense, Shiloh obeys me on leash explicitly when her hero, OFB, isn’t around.)
* Don’t turn off the lights before everyone’s in bed. ‘Nuff said.
* Don’t panic if you fall. Take a moment (or a few) to assess the damage, and determine if it’s really an issue or just some minor cuts and bruises. In my case, it was a big, bad ouch, but no real damage. In a friend’s case, who slipped on the ice on her sidewalk a few years ago, it was a case of broken bones and steel rods in her leg. Don’t try to minimize the damage, but don’t maximize it, either.
* If you don’t have a spouse or partner, have a charged cellphone. I think it’s smart to have both a landline and a cellphone. If the power goes out, the landline will often stay up even though the cellphone fails. If you fall outside or can’t get to your landline phone, but have a charged cellphone in hand, it can literally mean the difference between life and death.
* Have a community. When my neighbor’s husband had a heart attack, she called 911, then she called me. She’s a nurse, so if anything happened to me or OFB, you can bet we’d call her, along with our other neighbor, who’s a gifted DIYer and might be able to think of something to do to help us that wouldn’t have occurred to us. Forming neighborhood connections is a great way to protect yourself.
I was lucky the past two days. Yuck, I’ve got a scratched-up leg, but that’s about it. Make sure you don’t end up in the same or worse shape.
‘Til next time,
Tags: blog humor, Donald Trump, F**kface von Clownstick, Jon Stewart, Martha Stewart, The Daily Show
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We may be Luddites here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, but we do read our daily Yahoo! news. So yesterday, we saw that Donald Trump had attacked Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” yet again, this time by announcing that Jon’s birth name wasn’t actually Stewart. This set off a viral reaction when Stewart responded by revealing that The Donald’s own birth name was F**kface von Clownstick.
Trump was apparently outraged and responded with a torrent of childish tweets. But the entire episode could have been easily avoided. If Trump had just done his homework, he’d have found out that Jon Stewart changed his surname to honor his mother after discovering that he was actually the love child of Martha Stewart. Then The Donald could have gotten back to more important things, like working on his hairdo and practicing to replace Albert Finney in the musical “Scrooge.”
A new twist on Cinco de Mayo. May 6, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: blog humor, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo recipes, great easy guacamole, great easy nachos
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Silence Dogood here. I’ve written many posts about wonderful recipes for refried beans, guacamole, margaritas, and the like for Cinco de Mayo in the past; search Cinco de Mayo or refried beans, margaritas, burritos, salsa, fiesta, guacamole, palomas, etc., in our search bar at upper right to find a wealth of options. Yum!!! I’ll share a couple of quick, luscious options in a minute.
But for now, I’d like to talk about my latest Cinco de Mayo escapade. Our local library has an area outside the actual library where you can drop off books and pick up books for free. I wanted to drop off a book, and persuaded our friend Ben to let me run into the library yesterday while we were doing our usual weekend errands. Unfortunately, I saw that someone had dropped off their entire Spanish-language library, from Gulliver’s Travels and Ivanhoe to War and Peace to The Iliad to Love in the Time of Cholera. Let’s not even try to picture OFB’s horrified expression when I staggered back to our car with a dozen Spanish-language classics.
“Uh, Silence, what are you doing with all those books? What are they?!” a horrifed Ben asked.
“They’re classics in Spanish, Ben! Even The Iliad!” I replied with some false bravado, given that our books already overflowed from our wall-to-wall bookcases.
“Silence, can you even read Spanish?”
Well, no. I’d been making good practice with the Pimsleur Spanish CDs, until I got derailed by Pimsleur’s Japanese series. I’d studied French, Italian, even a little Latin, Spanish’s sister Romance languages. But, ahem, no, I couldn’t really read Spanish. I’d been hoping that having read these books in English might help me advance in Spanish, especially when I take up the Pimsleur Spanish language CDs again.
Can’t hurt, might help, right? Er, assuming OFB doesn’t consign this latest giant book pile to the burn pile.
Meanwhile, let’s get back to two simple and scrumptious treats for Cinco de Mayo: nachos and guacamole.
The best nachos I know how to make are also the simplest ever. Layer some Tostitos round tortilla chips in a 9-by-6 ovenproof pan. Spoon over lots of shredded white Cheddar, diced scallions (green onions, including the white part), and sliced jalapeno to taste. Repeat. Heat in the oven at 250 degrees F. until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Top with fresh cilantro and sour cream, if desired, before serving. Enjoy.
As for guacamole, here’s everything I’ve learned about making fast, fresh, amazing guac that can take on the best any restaurant has to offer. Best of all, it’s super-quick and easy! Get two ripe Hass avocados, a container of fresh hot salsa, half a sweet onion, a bunch of cilantro, a tomato, scallions, and some Key lemon juice, Key lime juice, or fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice.
Put half the container of fresh salsa in a bowl. Mince the sweet onion and add it. Chop the cilantro and add it. Chop the scallions and add them. Dice the tomato and add it. Add lots of lemon or lime juice. Mix all well, and add a spalsh of hot sauce (we like Tabasco’s Chipotle Hot Sauce for this) and a dash of salt (we like Trocomare or RealSalt). Stir all well.
Then take two avocados, split them in half lengthwise, and pop out the seeds. Next, cut each avocado half in half, so you have four sections. Now, using nothing more complicated than your fingers, peel off the avocado peel and add it to your compost bucket. Chop the flesh into coarse dice, then mash it with a potato masher until half is mashed and half is still chunky.
Add the avocado to the other ingredients and stir well to mix. It’s essential to make sure the avocado is coated with lemon or lime juice so it won’t brown, so mix well. Now you’re ready to break out the chips and enjoy Cinco de Mayo anytime! Spanish translations of classic works optional.
‘Til next time,