Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's In A Name?

My dear daughter, realizing that her mother was in a creative slump, threw me a lifeline. To wit, the Middle Name Meme. Appropriate, when you consider that her first name is my middle name. We had something different in mind for her when she was born, but when we saw her it just didn’t fit, and my middle name did.

Which kind of brought things full circle, as, growing up with my ordinary, dime-a-dozen first name, I heartily wished the parents could have used it as my middle name, and Elizabeth, so regal and elegant and dignified, as my first name. Of course [it just now occurs to me] maybe I just didn’t look regal and elegant and dignified enough.

Elizabeth was my paternal grandmother’s name. She was the epitome of regal and elegant and dignified. Having condemned me to ordinariness with my first name, they threw in the regal grandmother’s name as a consolation. Maybe they thought having it as my middle name would help me to grow up to be all those things.

It didn’t happen. She was a tall, tweedy, wool person. I’m a tall denim, chambray person. She was a smoker when it was cool and sophisticated to smoke. I despise tobacco. She died at fifty seven. I’m older than that and I haven’t died yet. I remember when I was very small, visiting her in Carlow, and having tea in her garden, with all the silver and relics of a passing age. The only other memory I have of her is when she came to the seaside with us, for a few days, one summer. She and I were walking along the road from the house we were staying at to the beach. I looked up at her innocently and asked her how old my dad was. But she out-foxed me.

“He’s as old as his tongue and a little bit older than his teeth,” she said airily, in a voice that didn’t encourage further impudent enquiry. Though her name was Elizabeth, she was known to everyone as Lily. She died when I was barely seven. In the photograph above she was about nineteen, and I have another of her with my grandfather, who had already died when I was born. Blogger dug it's heels in and would only let me upload one before the computer started straining and threatening to blow up. I also have a silver christening cup that she had engraved in beautiful copperplate letters with my initials, MEBW, a tarnished silver milk jug, and a beautiful, but very tarnished silver tray that she left to me when she died. And that’s about all I know of her. I hope my grandchildren will know more about me when I’m gone. Oh, and I also have her name! As does Liz, so she won't be forgotten. You surely didn’t think I could launch straight into a meme without any preamble…..Did you?

E Emotional. Very. Enough said.

L Law abiding. Especially since recent run-ins with law enforcement personnel. People still speed through our neighbourhood. But if they’re behind me I can almost hear them snorting with impatience. Because, if the speed limit is thirty, I’m probably doing twenty nine, at most thirty one. Let them crawl up my bumper. I have no desire to make further contributions to the sheriff's donut fund.

I Illogical. At least that’s what my menfolk would have you believe. Personally, I think I just have my own unique brand of logic. A little more convoluted perhaps, than male logic, but it gets me there. Eventually.

Z……zzzzzzzzzzz! No matter what life throws my way, as soon as I crawl under the covers at night I’m off to La-La land. You could say I’m the filling in a zzzzzzz sandwich. The bottom slice is my mother, who made regular nocturnal trips to the kitchen throughout my childhood, for cups of tea and a cigarette. If you heard the stairs creaking and crept down to join her, you’d know where she was sitting only by the glow of the cigarette in the darkness. She was a highly intelligent, high strung woman, to whom life threw too many curve balls. And so she couldn’t sleep. The top slice is Liz, who has inherited insomnia, not only from her maternal grandmother, but from her paternal grandmother too. If a monkey sneezes in Brazil, in the wee hours of an Ohio morning, Liz’s eyes will fly open in alarm. And I’m in the middle, all warm and cozy and oblivious, sleeping like a baby while the world burns.

A Allergic. Not to anything physical, but to insincerity, rudeness, sarcasm, yelling, politics and its practicioners, policemen with laser guns who lie in wait for the unwary in sleepy suburbia, while fifteen minutes away pimps and drug dealers and crack whores ply their trades with impunity. [Remind me to tell you sometime about Sherry, death on wheels to all of the above, whom Rise and I had the dubious pleasure of running into on our travels last summer.]

B Brazen as brass. As a child I wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but somewhere between there and here I figured out that if all these interesting people weren’t going to talk to me, I’d better make the first move. So I’m no longer shy and timid, and will strike up a conversation with anyone, which has sometimes caused untold embarrassment to my children, and not a little to the OC. But I’ve had some very interesting conversations…..

E Energetic, empathetic, enabling, encouraging. Guilty as charged on all counts. On alternate Thursdays, at least.

T Talkative. God gave us the power of speech for a reason. I wouldn’t want my tongue to shrivel up and fall off for lack of use. Besides, communication is one of the most important aspects of being human. So many people regret the things they never said when someone they loved was alive. After that someone is dead it’s too late. I think that refusal to talk with someone is cruel and hardhearted, if it’s obvious that that someone would like you to talk to them. And yes. Of course I have some very specific instances in mind….

H Humourous. Nothing much happens in life that doesn’t have a small twitch to it, somewhere. Even if I can’t see it right away, given time, I can usually find it. Maybe it’s a survival technique. Why keep weeping and gnashing your teeth if you can find a lighter way of looking at a situation? It’s probably not going to make the problem or situation go away, but it might make it more tolerable. And laughter is good for the soul.

There. I had no idea I would ramble on at such length. Sometimes it’s difficult to get started, but once on a roll, I forget where the “Off” button is.

Postscript to last post: "Excellent!" he said smacking his lips. No comparisons, so quibblings, just a resounding "Excellent!" Made me feel so special I'm hatching plans to open my own Hungarian Pastry Shop. If not in this life, then in the next!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Barefoot In The Kitchen

I'm at the library. I'm as uninspired to comment as I have been to write lately. But I have an hour. So what to do? Crazy idea strikes---blog! Huh? What's that? I think I've forgotten how....

Florida has been grey of late. The orchid above is the only spot of cheer I see when I look outside. I've been in a funk. Which only proves that if I ever tell you that, after a while, even sunshine gets old, I'm lying through my teeth.

Today is my F-I L's birthday. Eighty Five. And holding. What do you get for a man who's eighty five and has every thing he needs? I usually bake him a cake. Because he has a sweet tooth. But everything is measured against the Hungarian pastries and delicacies he remembers from his youth in the old country. Sometimes I want to scream "But you don't live in Hungary any more!" His particular part of the Ukraine was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so as a child he learned Hungarian. Then it was taken over by Czechoslovakia, so he learned to speak Czech. And even though he loves America and has had a good life here, more and more ,as he older and older gets, he pines to be with his "own people." To die among them. And I understand. You can feel very isolated in this country. Children scatter. Curmudgeons get restless in too early retirement.....and go off and rectify the situation.

So even though he makes me crazy, is the grand daddy of all male chauvinists, and eyes me with suspicion because I dare to argue with him, when his birthday rolls around, I bake him a cake.

This year's effort is at home, cooling on the kitchen counter. It looks inelegant in its nakedness. The recipe said it would take thirty minutes to make. Hah! Only if your name is Emeril and you have a fleet of lackeys standing by to grind the nuts, measure the flour, whip the egg whites into a froth, beat the daylights out of the egg yokes in another bowl, then delicately fold it all together and pour it into the waiting pans, greased and parchment papered by yet another lackey. In a word, it took me all bloody morning. And the entire baking time was eaten up with the cleanup.

So when they kick me out of here, I'm off home to melt the chocolate. Which has to be combined with an obscene amount of confectioner's sugar, some strong coffee saved from this morning, some coffee liqueur,and a few teaspoons of vanilla extract. This will be the dress the finished cake will wear to cover its present nakedness. But before the dress goes on some heavy cream has to be whipped into submission and laced with some instant coffee granules and plastered between the four layers I will have when I cut each layer into two thinner layers.......Oh lordy! I don't know how I get myself into these pickles.

When I go for the nightly visit I will not want to be hearing "But it's not like the cakes we had at home when I was growing up....." Of course I wouldn't hear that until he'd at least tried it. Neither do I want to hear in a few days that it upset his delicate stomach and he had to go to the doctor.....

Since he can be charming, and was well brought up by his mama in the old country, he'll probably say "Thank you" very graciously and I'll say "You're welcome." Then we'll all have a slice and with a little luck no one will keel over clutching their throat and I'll be off the hook for another year.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fractured Thoughts.....

Having just recently finished volume one of her autobiography, I was interested to read today that Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature. I was disappointed that nobody had anything to say when I mentioned her. I thoroughly enjoyed "Under My Skin" and now have volume two, "Walking In The Shade" on my night table. Have any of you read her stuff? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Having enjoyed the autobiography so much, I hastened off to the library [I know my way there blindfolded], to find some of her fiction. On that particular day, all I could find was her recent novel "Love Again." Clutching it happily, I was looking forward to a great read. BUT. I just couldn't get interested. Finally I tossed it aside in favour of "On Chesil Beach" by Ian McEwan, in which I was not disappointed. Maybe I'm just not intellectual enough.....? It is pretty amazing, though, that a woman of almost eighty eight [she is the oldest person ever to get the Nobel for literature] is still a mover and shaker.

I have some wonderful movies for Birdy and anyone else interested. "An American Rhapsody," with Natassja Kinsky and Scarlet Johannson, filmed in 2001. I totally missed it back then. "Fracture" [and I'm feeling pretty fractured these days] was mesmerising with Anthony Hopkins, and "The Brave One," with Jodie Foster, had me on the edge of my seat throughout. Wow! Three good movies in one month. I'm getting better...

Chani, this is for you....I haven't been able to get onto your blog lately. Even at the library. The computer makes all kinds of straining noises, as though it's in the throes of childbirth. Nothing happens. Then a message pops up to say "this site is not responding..." So,I'll keep trying....I have a track worn to the library these days as our home computer seems to cower in dread at my approach. At least when I go on Blogger. The menfolk say it's because Blogger is a streaming feed...which means diddly squat to me....The OC is not here to lend his expertise, which would probably take the form of "Go to the library!" anyway. I don't want to screw things up so badly that the Bean cannot do his classwork on there, hence the track to the library. I'm still reading folks. The library ladies just won't designate one computer as MINE and let me stay on there all day. They're funny like that. Besides, we must eat occasionally, the elders must be visited and the house prevented from falling down.....Who knew I would become such a computer fan? And fall into such a decline when I'm deprived?

With November and NaBloPoMo looming I'm beginning to wonder if I should give it a miss and just cheer [comment!] from the sidelines. I'm feeling distinctly uninspired........And if you've slogged through this gibberish to here,I admire your stamina and thank you for your loyalty!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jugs I have Known

There was great excitement among the jugs gathered on my kitchen counter at the prospect of a photo shoot. A little gentle jostling, as the smaller jugs tried not to be overshadowed by the bigger ones. Of course, since they don't all hang out on one shelf, they had to be gathered up from the four corners. And since this isn't my mother-in -law's house, it goes without saying, they had to be dusted. And then a suitable location had to be found, where each would be shown off to best advantage. Oy!

So here they are. Molly bawn's jugs! No unseemly snickering from the peanut gallery please.

In the back row on the left we have a Wedgewood jug from a coffee set my favourite aunt gave us for our wedding. I have never used it. Okay, once or twice to pour water into the steam iron...I prefer the traditional blue and white wedgewood. But back in those ancient times nobody asked you. They got you what they thought you should like! Considering the source, I've held onto it and carted it around the planet and gamely found a place to store it for thirty seven years.

Next to it is a Polish pottery jug. Now that my hair is white,I'm what I would once have considered as old as Methuselah, I don't have to entertain unless I want to, I finally know what dishes I want. These . I love them. I pick pieces up whenever I find them on sale. I found them first at an international wives' charity bazaar in Brussels, and have been besotted ever since.

In the middle is a Delft jug my S-I-L brought me from one of her many trips to Europe when she worked for an airline. Years later on a trip to Holland, we watched, fascinated, as artists painted similar ware with similar designs, all by hand.

Next comes a jug from the Montana years. Montana has many wonderful potters producing this kind of stoneware. This one serves well as a toothbrush holder!
On the end is another Polish milk jug...

The large white one on the left, in front, is trotted out whenever we make sangria.....It's been too long! I think this is its first airing this year....and not for sangria. I like the raised pattern of grapes. I think it was made in Italy. In front of it sits a smaller Polish jug, and to its left a tiny one that holds a single serving of syrup or milk.....

At the back is a big agricultural number. He used to hold wooden spoons on the kitchen counter. Until I grew tired of his boringness and replaced him with---you guessed it---a much more cheerful piece of Polish pottery. He's been sulking in a cupboard in the laundry ever since.

The other large jug in front is from Portugal. Purchased by Youngest Son as a gift for me at the same bazaar in Brussels. Except it was carelessly tossed into a plastic bag instead of being wrapped in paper to protect it. And it got chipped before he got it home and he was very sad. Wouldn't you take care to wrap something with extra care if the purchaser was a small boy excited to buy his mom a present he'd picked out all by himself? Chip and all,it goes where I go.

All the way on the right is a beautiful jug we bought at the Grand Canyon eons ago. Handmade and hand painted....The beige and brown one is also from Montana and sits on a shelf in another bathroom.

The pretty Prince Albert with the gold trim and roses is from a china set my parents got as a wedding present in 1947. It was used only on state occasions as we were growing up. Christmas and Easter. There was another china set also but I loved this one best. Rise has the other one, which she claims to like better. But maybe she said that because she knew I wanted this set....

The tiny one in front, with Mr. McGregor brandishing his garden rake, is from a doll's teaset I bought one year for our California girl. She was more into Breyer horses, so that may just have been a convenient excuse for me to buy it. Peter Cottontail ran around to the other side to escape the wrath of Mr. McGregor.

The silver [tarnished] jug to Mr. McGregor's left is from my maternal grandmother's house. I have a faint memory of sitting in her garden when I was very young, having tea. All the silver was in use...."relics of ould dacency" is what the wags in Ireland would say. But I was mightily impressed and thought my grandmother a very elegant, if remote, lady.

I didn't think I'd blather on so long about jugs, but there you are, if you haven't fallen asleep.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Woof! My Name Is Limerick...

You've seen my picture on Woofless Wednesday. I'm a three month old Irish wolfhound puppy. Molly Bawn and I met at an Irish festival in Western NY some time ago. She was there with her Old Curmudgeon and her Old Curmudgeon's equally curmudgeonly colleague. They were strolling around, listening to Irish music, watching Irish dance performances. Molly was entertaining herself taking pictures of mad Irishmens' shirts---to her husband's mortification.

I was with my Mom and Dad---the two legged variety, who were more than happy to talk to Molly and tell her all about me. We sat near them at one of the shows. I sat in Mom and Dad's combined laps. I could tell from the way Molly looked at me that she thought I was a big baby, that I should act more grown up and not be disgracing the nation. I'd bet if she was my Mom she'd make me sit on the cold, hard ground----heartless woman.

I ignored her. Her vibes told me that she wouldn't be having any of that kind of nonsense. No donkey sized puppy would sit on her lap! I just avoided her eyes and snuggled deeper into my doting parents' combolap. I love my Mom and Dad and they love me. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

Wandering In Western New York

Our intrepid explorer sets out, steering wheel in one hand, map in the other and wends her way southwest along the Seaway Trail. She is just beginning to mutter about Mapquest, when, around the next bend flashes a sign. No. Our heroine is not speeding. It came up suddenly, that’s all. She comes to an opening in the hedgerow and deftly executes a u-turn. Long time readers will recall she is a dab hand at the u-turns. The sign declares in elegant letters that this is Graycliff, proving once again, for those of little faith, that she can indeed read a map. Even if she does sometimes find it necessary to turn it upside down in order to get her bearings.

Graycliff is the summer home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his friends Isabelle R. & Darwin D. Martin. They don't live there any more. Nobody does. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and our intrepid explorer has applied steely eyed determination to the task of finding it. She is very happy to have succeeded.

Dawdling a little, so as not to be caught in the middle of the chattering tour group, she gazes up at the window above the entrance.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair," she silently cries, but Rapunzel doesn't reply. Must be working furiously on her knitting......

Our heroine pauses in the doorway, glancing back before stepping inside. Such a lovely view. She imagines for a moment that she is Isabelle, long deceased mistress of Graycliff, and Jeeves has just dropped her off at the front door......A tour guide comes and breaks the spell, urging her to keep up with the group.

"Oh, Oh!" Here we are, on the inside, at the top of the stairs. Turns out Rapunzel was never even there.....

....which really is a pity. These rooms are so full of light. She wouldn't even have needed her glasses.

That Frank , he had the right idea, bringing the outdoors in.

Washing dishes must have been painless with flowers like these crowding the window by the kitchen sink......

When the dishes were done you could take a stroll in the back garden. Nice how the windows reflect the lake. And turning away from the house you have this view before you.

You'd think Isabelle would have been happy as a clam. But, by all reports, she was not. Our heroine was. Happy as a clam that is, to have found her way out here. Loath to drive back to the city too soon, she went trespassing on private beaches, studiously ignoring signs that proclaimed them as such. The rich can have their mansions, but she'll growl at them if they tell her she can't walk along the shore. Nobody did. She had a lovely time, our intrepid explorer.