OPTIONAL SUNDAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Optional

After getting up a dozen times this morning to try and convince Bonnie to stop barking — which only something crunchy will accomplish, it would seem — I began to wish I was deaf, too.

Normally when I get up in the morning, I take out something to defrost for dinner but I decided today is optional. I’m not doing squat. I am tired. I’m frustrated. I don’t want to cook dinner, put away laundry, or clean anything.

I’m sure by tomorrow, I’ll manage to get past this, but right now, I am feeling as un-housewifely as I ever have. Am I the last woman of my age who cooks dinner — a hot dinner — every night unless I’m hospitalized? Do other people get a day off sometimes?

Is any woman married to a man who actually recognizes that dirt is not something to be ignored because you-know-who will take care of it, but actually cleans it? Just wondering.

So today in Optional Sunday. I will do as little as I can. I might even go TWO days and option Monday, too. I think I’ll call it “Marilyn’s Weekend.”

EFFORT OR DOING IT THE HARD WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: EFFORT

As one of those people who has usually found an “easy” or at least “easier” way to do things, I’ve noticed as the year advanced, there are no more easy ways. The shortcuts don’t seem to work anymore and one is left with effort, or as I call it, doing it the hard way.

Let’s take cooking as an example. Back in the very long ago old days, I threw stuff together and it tasted pretty good, or so everyone said. I used a ton of prepared — cans and packaged — ingredients. That was just fine.

Maybe it’s the quality of prepared food that has degenerated. Or maybe my taste has become more discerning, but I use as little prepared stuff in my cooking as I can manage without getting weird about it. I cook food in the least amount of time I can and make sure to clean as I go to avoid leaving a mess behind, but I cook foods from scratch or very close to it.

I don’t, for example, peel my own tomatoes for sauces or grate the parmesan personally. but I use prepared marinades and breadcrumbs from jars and cans. I’m not a masochist, but I know how it should taste and something “kind of close” doesn’t work for me.

Then there’s reading. I can read very quickly. Not speed-reading, but fast reading. I always could … but eventually, I found that I wasn’t enjoying books when I read them that fast. One of my reasons for listening rather than reading was pacing. A book that is read out loud can’t be hurried. It’s a lot harder to skip a chapter and see what’s coming next. I didn’t know I’d become addicted to narrators and the charms of oral performance, but it’s funny how often you get more (or less) than you intended, isn’t it?

What brings this up? I’m now four books backed up in the review department. People — not just other bloggers, but actual authors — get in touch with me and ask me to review their books and unless it’s a close friend, I say yes. Close friends are a problem because what if I hate it? I can’t say that to someone I really like … so I try to never review a book for someone I really care for unless they are the kind of writer I know is going to give me a good book to read.

Writers are thin-skinned. I don’t care what you say on your blog. We are all thin-skinned about our art, whatever it may be. We put a lot of our souls into our work. We aren’t neutral and we tend to hold grudges. Don’t say you don’t. We all do. It’s hard to not get cranky when someone doesn’t like our book. Or painting. Or sculpture. Or dinner.

And the strangest part of all of this? I don’t remember how to do things any other way.

THE SCISSORS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Two nights ago, the kitchen scissors disappeared.

I hadn’t used them and Garry is certain he put them where they belonged, which is in the kitchen scissors slot in the wood block where we keep all the knives. He is absolutely positive that he put them there.

I’m never absolutely sure I did or didn’t do anything. As often as not, it’s what I meant to do, but somewhere along the line, I got distracted. I had the item in my hand, but something happened and I went somewhere else — like maybe the bedroom or the bathroom — and I just put the item down. Somewhere. I have no idea where.

But at least I have the sense to never swear I know where I put whatever it was because so many times, it never got there. It went somewhere, but not where it was supposed to go. Garry’s sense of total certainty aggravates me. Because the scissors aren’t there.

They also aren’t anywhere else in the house and we’ve done a pretty thorough search of the premises including bedroom, offices, bathrooms, basement, bedroom — AND the freezer and refrigerator. Don’t laugh. I’ve found all kinds of things in the freezer.

Not just Garry looking, either. This is both of us looking. The thing is, these are kitchen shears and the were expensive. They don’t travel far and in the years we’ve had them (like three years, I think) they’ve never wandered outside the kitchen. I have box cutters that I use for unpacking stuff from Amazon. I actually have three box cutters: two in the kitchen and a third in the basement.

Note the scissors in the front slot. These are now missing.

We will continue looking for the scissors, but wherever they are, they shouldn’t be there. I can’t in all honesty blame this one on the dogs. They don’t have the digits to make the scissors work and anyway, that’s what fangs are for.

The spare scissors from the bedroom now occupy the scissors slot.

It could be those pixies again, but they tend to lift shiny things like jewelry. Earrings. Necklaces. I’m sure they are the ones that put my favorite necklace in the sock drawer of Garry’s dresser because I would never put it there nor would Garry.

I could be sleep-walking again. I have done some very odd things while sound asleep … but even so, what could I possibly have done with them, asleep or not?

At our age, it’s never a good idea to say you are 100% sure you did something because the truth is, maybe we didn’t. I usually blame the pixies or the dogs, depending on whether it’s glittery (pixies) or plastic (dogs) or paper (also dogs).

Assuming sleep-walking wasn’t involved.

The man who absolutely positively put the scissors back in their slot.

I’ll let you know should we ever find the scissors.

On another subject, I’m not feeling well and I’ve got doctors appointments on two different days and I have to get blood tests, too.

I’ll try to fit in writing and picture-taking, but I have a headache so bad my eyeballs hurt. I’ll do the best I can to provide new material, but honestly, I’m feeling not-so-great and it’s hard to be my charming self when my eyeballs hurt.

I was sufficiently sick that Garry opened a cookbook — VOLUNTARILY — and figured out how to cook swordfish with rice (he already knew how to use the rice cooker). It came out perfectly and tasted excellent. I needed a meal. I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and I was hungrier than I thought.

I ate it. It was good!

The scissors are still missing. I ordered a much less expensive pair. The other ones might yet reappear in some strange place. Maybe the dogs DID do it.

THE DAIRY FARM AROUND THE BLOCK – Marilyn Armstrong

As 2019’s first major winter storm closes in, memories of summer seemed in order, not to mention a recipe for one great and classic cake.


Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half-and-half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half-and-half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

farm an windmill

There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half-and-half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

EAT, DRINK, AND TRAVEL ON – Rich Paschall

Selfies, groupies, and foodies?

There are probably a few derogatory comments on social media about people who take food pictures.  OK, there are probably more than a few.

I may have even made one or two myself.  After all, these people are not writing reviews of the local restaurant for the New Yorker or Chicago magazines.  They are snapping pictures of their overpriced food from some overcrowded food court.  We, on the other hand, are snapping pictures of our excellent meals and truly excellent selves. If my brother were computer literate and online, he would probably be excited.

When I headed off on our recent adventure with a roommate who previously thought you could not have a meal without rice, we learned there are many things you can serve with your main course.  Below are just a few of from our gastronomic adventures.  You may even have seen some of this in our recent review of Frankfurt or will see soon in our Alsace travel report.

Be sure to click on any of the pictures to go through the full size of each.

Related: Frankfurt am Main

DON’T EAT THAT! – Marilyn Armstrong

Detrimental to Your Health 

Don’t eat eggs. They’ll kill you with all that cholesterol. No, wait. Eggs have the good cholesterol. Eat eggs. But not hard cheese. Wait! Real cheese is good for you … but not milk. Never milk. Except for those of you with calcium issues.

Calcium pills are better for you. Nope. We just discovered all vitamin pills are worthless. You need to get back to eating real food.

Except for animal fat (but butter is better) and eggs only on Tuesdays in a month that has 31 days or contains an “R” in it.

Everything is bad for you, good for you, dangerous, calamitous, fattening, helps you lose weight. Or will make you fat for sure.

We used to watch television back in a more benign news era and wait for the killer medical news of the day. Everything that would kill you on Monday (if it didn’t destroy your heart, it would probably give you cancer) and might very well be just what you need by Friday.

We concluded all food is detrimental to your health, but only if you eat it. The only possible solution is to not eat. Give up food.

No, wait. You have to eat, right? Damn, just when I thought I’d worked it all out. Okay, eat — but skip the bacon. It’s not detrimental to your health, but it’s really bad for the pigs.

FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Our Latest Adventure, by Rich Paschall

Frankfurt , Germany, or Frankfurt am Main (Frank ford at the Main), is the fifth largest city, but home to the busiest airport in the country.  This is not only because it is home to Lufthansa airline, but also because many other airlines have major presence there.  Almost 65 million passengers pass through the airport each year, making it the busiest airport in Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe.

There are many direct flights to Frankfurt from major US cities, so finding a flight at good price and transit time is possible through most of the year.  If you are visiting Germany or a neighboring country, you will want to consider this airport.  Bus and train travel around the region is quick and economical.

Frankfurt

In the past when we have headed to Strasbourg, France, we have used the Frankfurt airport for its proximity to our destination.  Only once did we stay overnight near the airport with a brief stop in the city.  We had considered the city to be just a financial center, which it is, and an industrial center.  This time we stayed longer to explore the city.

I chose an airport hotel because we could easily take the shuttle back to the airport where you can catch the train into the city.  Looking back on this choice, however, you can pick a spot in the city for the very same reason.  Transportation by train to the airport is simple because of the major train station right across from the airline terminals.   If we would do it again, I would try to stay near Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof station.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

The main station in the city is a mix of old world charm and modern efficiency.  Upgrades to the rail system in recent years have upset the reputation of the German railroads always being on time, or “you can set your watch by them,” but they are still reliable and we encountered no delays.

You can stop at McDonald’s in the train station if you like, but we did not come all the way to Germany to eat in an American fast food restaurant.  Our motto for travel has been “eat local, drink local” so of course that is what we did.

Eat local, drink local

My travel companion on this trip, who is always hungry, needed a food stop when we arrived in the city. We chose a restaurant right alongside the station for convenience.  We ordered Wiener Schnitzel.  My friend is from Colombia so he has never eaten food like this.  He found it goes well with the local beverage.

Fortunately, the old world train station survives and is a good spot for pictures before you head off on your exploration of the city.  Plenty of tourists were busy taking pictures of the station and surrounding areas.  I took a picture of my friend getting a picture of himself.  “Selfies” are popular at all the tourist stops.

Selfie

Frankfurt is a unique blend of old and new.  I suppose that World War II is partly a reason for that.  Some areas of the city were heavily damaged. Somethings were restored, other areas were rebuilt. This allowed for modernization and planning that would improve the quality of life for residents and eventually tourists.

There are many good shopping districts and we made our way to one of them to see what bargains we could find. The outdoor malls our popular and we picked up some items I probably did not need.

Shopping (or selfie taking)

We also stopped by the Alte Oper (Old opera) to see the lovely old building.  It was heavily damaged in the war and carefully rebuilt through the 1970’s.  It opened again in 1981 as a concert hall.  The opera was already in a new building nearby.

The large plaza in front and along side is a nice stop for locals and tourists.  We took the necessary pictures before stopping inside.

I joined a few “friends” for an opera house picture.

Following our walk around the Opernplatz, my hungry friend needed food so we made our way to the cafe inside the opera house.  It was ornate as expected.  Aside from the modern elevator in the building, it was hard to determine which parts were damaged and restored and which parts of the building were original.

Opera cafe

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are all larger and may hold more appeal for various reasons, but Frankfurt has a charm all its own.  With the Main River running through it and a large city forest, it is beautiful tourist stop.  If your flight takes you to Frankfurt, it would be wise to spend a night or two to see the culture and entertainment offered here.

A blend of old and new

For more pictures from our Frankfurt Adventure, jump over to Sunday Night Blog, here.