Tag Archives: Friends

Emergency Chocolate Relief Act

Need some chocolate relief? Mix this cookie dough, form into cookies, freeze and then pop into the oven whenever you have a chocolate emergency.

Our annual book club Christmas party was on Monday night.  We exchange small, but wonderful gifts.  We bring a gift for each person, so we go home with a lot of loot. 

This year, Chris brought a recipe for “Emergency Chocolate Relief Act” plus the actual raw cookies in a plastic bag to put in our freezers.  The raw cookies were ready to pop in the oven whenever we were feeling faint and in need of chocolate. She even gave us a small cookie tray, which will fit into a toaster oven.  It was all wrapped in a festive tea towel.  Her mother, Judy, also a member of book club, gave us a small spatula to complete the ensemble. You can see it all above with the cookies hot from the oven. 

The recipe:

Take off all jewelry. Wash hands. Combine one roll of Nestle refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough with a roll of another brand (such as Pillsbury) in the same amount.  Add substantial amounts of pecans and chocolate chips or pieces of candy bars.  Squish all together into balls. Slightly flatten and put in freezer bags.  Freeze. When you need a cookie or two or three, break out of the bag.  Put on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Eat!  You’ll feel instant relief!

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Filed under Food, Friendship, Homemaking, Howto, Humor, Life, Personal, Recipes

My Horse Won!

My best was on "Mine That Bird," winner of the 135th Kenturcky Derby on May 2.

My bet was on "Mine That Bird," winner of the 135th Kentucky Derby on May 2. It was the second biggest upset in Derby history.

I’d never heard of “Mine That Bird” until my husband pulled his name out of a hat at a Kentucky Derby party today.   “Mine That Bird” was a 50-1 shot.   (I’d never heard of any of the other horses, either…)

“There goes the ten dollars we threw in the pot” was my thought when I looked at the odds.  It was fun, though, to watch all of the hoopla, the big hats, the race horses being led, the jockey parade, then one by one the jockeys popping onto the horses and then sauntering to the gates. The mint juleps we were drinking added to the glow.

imageSuddenly, the horses burst out of the gate.    My horse wasn’t a front runner,  I couldn’t pick him out of the pack (herd?) on the track, I assumed he was the last one, and I had no idea Number Eight was the horse that was racing ahead until he crossed the finish line. 

“That’s my horse, that’s my horse,” I yelled.  No one else was all that excited, because they all had losing horses. (Losers!)  They did agree it was certainly one of the most interesting Derbys they’d ever watched, and they watch the Derby every year. (I confess that I usually miss it, but I might be hooked now!)  It was fascinating to watch the race from a shot overhead afterward.  It showed “Mine That Bird” moving steadily and rapidly through the horse crowd along the rail until it broke through and took off.  (See video below.)Derby bet

According to the Associated Press story by Beth Harris, “Sent off at 50-1 odds, Mine That Bird pulled away in the stretch to score a 6 3/4 -length victory at Churchill Downs, the second-biggest upset in Derby history.  His margin was the largest since Assault won by eight lengths in 1946.

The gelding ran 1 miles on a sloppy dirt track in 2:02.66 and paid $103.20 to win—second-largest payout in Derby history behind Donerail ($184.90) in 1913.”

Calvin Borel, the Louisiana jockey who rode Mine That Bird to victory, won the Derby in 2007, using the same strategyof racing his mount along the rail, which is why he’s called Calvin Bo-rail.

 The last bet I made was on “Sunny’s Halo,” who won the Kentucky Derby in 1983, so I’ve been a lucky but very sporadic horse racing gambler.  Both Derby wins had nothing to do with skill, but were totally luck.  Now, let me check my Powerball ticket!

 derby-day

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Filed under Animals, Entertainment, Friendship, Life, Personal, Random, Sports

Starry, Starry Night

southern-cross-and-pointers1

In the center, the Southern Cross constellation and its two bright pointer stars (at the left) adorn the pale band of the Milky Way in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere.

It was almost midnight when we arrived at Macquarie Lighthouse in Sydney for the second time.  In the afternoon, we’d come as tourists to this spot, checked it off our list and hadn’t planned to return.

Old South Light Head.

Macquarie Lighthouse.

“We’ve lived here for decades and never seen this lighthouse, and now we’re seeing it twice in one day,” David said.

Okay, so we weren’t thrilled at this unscheduled second trip  — my fault, I admit — but even the locals had to admit they were charmed to see the lighthouse in action.  I’ve visited a dozen lighthouses, but I’d never seen one at work before.  It was a beautiful summer night in late January.

Armed with flashlights (or torches, as they say), we soon focused on finding Monica’s bracelet, lost on our first trip.  (Yes, my fault.) It had been a long day and a long drive, and we just hoped to find the bracelet and get home to bed.  Overhead, the old lighthouse steadily flashed its beacon.  Beyond was the dark Tasman Sea, pounding on the rocky shore below the cliffs.

Macquarie Lighthouse.

Macquarie Lighthouse is Australia’s first and longest operating navigational light. There has been a navigation aid on this site since 1791 and a lighthouse since 1818.

“I found it,” Monica announced, displaying the bracelet.  That afternoon she’d slipped it off her wrist so that her hand would fit under a fence to retrieve my camera lens cap. (I should buy my lens caps by the gross.)

“That was fast.”  Relieved, we turned to leave, but the night sky was so amazing.

We turned off the flashlights and stared at the heavens.  The pale ribbon of the Milky Way stretched across the sky. Even though we were on the outskirts of  Sydney with its light pollution, the clear, black sky was sprinkled with bright stars.  Despite my poor night vision, I could easily pick out Orion, although he looked a bit askew from this southern latitude.

“See, aren’t you glad you lost your bracelet here? ” I asked.

Macquarie Lighthouse.

Macquarie Lighthouse stands at the southern entrance of Sydney Harbour, which Captain James Cook missed while investigating the coast of Australia.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Monica fired off.  I was sure I could see her smiling in the dark.

She and David pointed to the Southern Cross and to its two pointers stars.  It was then that it really hit me.  Not only was I was 9,000 miles from home, but I was just a tiny blip in the cosmic picture.  I felt exhilarated!

You can’t see the Southern Cross from the Northern Hemisphere, even as the people in the Southern Hemisphere can’t see the North Star.  One of the pointer stars is Alpha Centauri, a star system that is closest to the earth,  “only” 4.37 light years away, which you can’t see from the Northern Hemisphere.

“Hello, neighbor,” I said to Alpha Centauri.  “Nice to meet you at long last.”

This aerial view of Macquarie Lighthouse shows the Sydney skyline in the background.  The lighthouse stands on the south head of Sydney Harbor. This isn't my photograph, though I wish it were!

This aerial view of Macquarie Lighthouse shows the Sydney skyline in the background. The lighthouse stands on the south head of Sydney Harbour. This isn’t my photograph, though I wish I could claim it!

The Down Unders certainly don’t feel that they are at the far end of the world. To them, the stars are as they should be.

I got my bearings at 33 degrees latitude south and felt right at home in Oz.

Who's on top of the world?  It all depends on your perspective.

Who’s on top of the world? It all depends on your perspective.

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Filed under Australia, Friendship, History, Humor, Life, Personal, Random, Sailing, Science, Travel

Round the Town from Down Under

When guests come to town, I usually take them to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, especially when it's below freezing and there's snow on the ground. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building.

Sure, snow is pretty, but the thrill quickly wears off when frost bite sets in. When it's snowy, sleety and frigid, what are you going to do with guests who don't know what real winter is? I took them to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the temperatures are balmy. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture on a curving floor in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building. In the foreground is Michael Cross' work, "Flood," which features light bulbs and brightly colored cables in vases of water. (Kids, don't try this at home!)

It was a dreary, cold, snowy night when we picked up our Australian guests from the airport in late December. To us locals, the snow was a nuisance, but our guests thought it was beautiful, like fairy dust, fluffy and bright.   (It was soon dirty and crusty…)

The first night, the boys raced through the snow in the dark with a flashlight, making tracks.   We’d gotten rid of our sleds long ago (probably in some garage sale for nothing!), but the next morning, the youngest boy found a piece of cardboard and “snowboarded” down a hill several times.  

Squirrels were fascinating creatures. Cardinals and woodpeckers were exotic.   It was wonderful to see the world with a new perspective.   When I drove them around, I pointed out what I knew.  They also asked me plenty of questions I didn’t know the answer to, so I spent some time online when we got home learning more about my own city.

We spoke the same language, yet we didn’t quite.  Jumper, biscuit, council, fringe, bum.  Familiar words, but with different meanings from American English. I’ve watched enough Masterpiece Theater that I knew what they were talking about, though.   Thanks, PBS!  New to me is bushwalking, which means hiking.

In Australia, they are surrounded by birds we only see in cages, such as lorikeets and parrots.  There are marsupials everywhere, while we have only one — the opossum.  They have mandatory voting and are fined if they don’t vote.

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

They checked regularly online for the cricket scores.  There was a  big game in Perth, Australia, against South Africa.  Australia’s national cricket team is the highest ranked in the world.  Cricket is played in a hundred countries.  High-level “Test cricket” games can last up to five days with time outs for lunch and tea. I still don’t understand American football, so I can’t begin to explain cricket.  All I know is that they use bats and wickets, and that one of the incarnations of Dr. Who wore a cricket uniform.

We visited the National World War I Museum underneath the Liberty Memorial.  Again, I saw the world through a different perspective.   Their visit lasted too short a time. The next time I hope they can see our city in the summer.   Soon I’ll be seeing the world from their point of view (and be a lot warmer, too) when we visit them in January.

What is Cricket?

What is Australian English?

National World War I Museum

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view.   Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view. Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

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Filed under Art, Friendship, Humor, Kansas City, Life, Photography, Random, Relationships, Sports, Travel

The Strongest Links

These rock climbers are linked together in Zion National Park in Utah.  It's a metaphor for how we are all dependent on one another -- and a good excuse to use one of the photographs from my recent tour of the park!  I won't mention how crazy those guys are!

These rock climbers are linked together in Zion National Park in Utah. It's a metaphor for how we are all interdependent -- and a good excuse to use one of my photographs from my recent trip to the park. These three men are halfway up a half-mile tall canyon wall. They were barely visible. My telephoto lens didn't help much. The craziness of rock climbers is a topic for another post.....

Paula of Locks Park Farm bestowed a “proximation” award on my blog.  She explains it very humorously here.

The award is intended to link many people together who have become friends online so that we can all enjoy new friends.  It’s sort of like the blogging version of the chain letter, but nothing bad will happen to you if you break the chain.  You’ll just miss out on the fun! Okay, so it’s a little trouble. Get over it!proximade

The award seems to be translated from Spanish.  I won’t change the wording, because it has its own quaint charm.  I’m thinking “bows” means ties, for example. 

This blog invests in and believes in the “proximity,” meaning that blogging makes us ‘close’ . They all are charmed with the blogs, where in the majority of its aims are to show the marvels and to do friendship; there are persons who are not interested when we give them a prize, and then they help to cut these bows; do we want that they are cut, or that they propagate? Then let’s try to give more attention to them! So with this prize we must deliver it to 8 bloggers that in turn must make the same thing and put this text.”

I’ve been on the road for a week speeding through southern Utah, gaping and gawking at the magnificent scenery, so I’ve been out of touch. (My husband did the 1,500 miles of driving out of Las Vegas, while I had the hard task of capturing the sights on my camera….ha, ha.)  I’ll be posting photographs and my awe-struck thoughts and observations in a future post or posts.

In the meantime, I’m eagerly reading everyone’s blogs again and am thrilled to be able to share these blogs with you.  The honorees can bestow their own “proximation” awards, if they want.  Many have already earned numerous awards.  You’ll enjoy these blogs, I promise.

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Filed under Communication, Entertainment, Friendship, Humor, Internet, Life, Personal, Photography, Relationships, Travel, Writing

Confessions of a Savoholic

My friend Jan gave me this photo in a frame after we graduated from college, and she moved to California.  She said this would be us checking our mailboxes for letters from each other, back in the days before email. I've saved all of her letters, including emails. And I still check my emailbox often to see what hilarious tale she has to tell me.

My friend Jan gave me this photo in a frame after we graduated from college, and she moved to California. I've saved all of her letters, including emails. And I still check my e-mailbox often to see what hilarious tale she has to tell me.

My birthday is coming up, but don’t mail me a card.  Forget a Christmas card, too.

As much as I’m eager to hear from you — and I assure you that I am — I’ll be compelled to save whatever you send to me.  I miss as much as anyone the fact that almost no one sends a “real” card or letter anymore, but it’s like booze to an alcoholic to me.

Your card, photocopied newsletter of your trip around the world, photos of your kids and dogs, the rare actual hand-written letter — I keep it all.  At least I’ve given up stamp-collecting, so I don’t have to save the envelope, too. (Although I might!)

It’s bad enough that I save every scrap of paper that my children have ever doodled on, but I also keep the greetings of people whose names I barely remember from Christmas to Christmas.

Once in January while walking with friends, I saw a ripped trash bag, its contents spilling onto the grass.  Christmas cards and –worse still — photographs were swirling in the wind.  I was horrified.  Someone threw away photographs?  I have every photograph I’ve ever gotten, plus the ten thousand I’ve taken myself.

“I throw away everything after a couple of weeks, ” one friend, Karen, said as I picked up one of the tossed treasures.  I even knew the family, which made it more heart-rending.  These poor smiling people were on their way to the dump.  Karen saw nothing cold-hearted about a trash bag full of holiday greetings and carefully posed family portraits.  She never sends any of these items herself, so maybe it’s understandable.  Her weakness is sending beautiful party invitations, which I’ve kept, of course.

“You didn’t throw away my photo, did you?”  My children with their cat, Malcolm?

“You can’t keep everything,” Karen shrugged.

“You can’t?”  Well, I’m certainly trying to.

Recently, I looked through my Christmas cards from 1999.  I cried again over the loss of a friend’s father.  That could be a clue.  Research studies are under way on the nature of hoarding.  It must be a primordial fear of not having enough of something, whether food, memories or information. At least I use my saved stuff — when I can find it.

Sometimes, I read “how to de-clutter” books, patting myself on the back that I got them from the library and didn’t add them to the glut of books and magazines I already own.  I even take some of the advice — for about a week.

The internet has been a gift.  I love email from friends.  You can keep in contact with people throughout the world.  The mail is easily filed and stored, thanks to Yahoo and Google.  My husband was shocked one day to see that I had 10,142 read messages in my inbox. Why not?  Google can handle it.

A related problem is saving articles on various interesting subjects.  I call it “cliptomania.”  I won’t tell you how many file cabinets I own and how many stacks of clippings are waiting to be filed.

I also save articles in cyberspace, where they don’t clutter my office, although sometimes I save the “hard” copy, just in case.  I think this means I’m a “digital pack rat.”  The New York Times allows you to save its articles at no charge and even tells you how many others saved the same one.  I’m not alone….usually.

Well, at least I don’t collect anything else.  Oh, gosh, I forgot about matchbooks, but since smoking is being banned in restaurants (I never smoked, and I never used any of my matchbooks….) free matchbooks are hard to come by these days. Problem solved there.

Naturally, I married someone who can keep everything he’s saved in one file drawer.  Periodically, he happily does a purge and then looks at my stuff.  The scariest words my husband can say are, “I’ll clean your office for you.”

Still, one Christmas he gave me ten pairs of scissors so I can clip wherever I am. It’s like giving drugs to an addict.  I’d enter a twelve-step program, but I really don’t want to quit.

I was just kidding about the birthday and Christmas cards.  I’ll be waiting by the mailbox.

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Filed under Communication, Family, Friendship, Health, Humor, Life, Personal, Uncategorized

The Rolling Stones

J.A. got these autographs for me.

My autographed photograph of The Rolling Stones.

I never win anything, I don’t collect autographs, and I usually don’t know anyone who can get me past security…..But the rock n’ roll stars were in alignment at least this one time in April 1999. (Ok, so it’s an old story.)

 The Rolling Stones were bringing their “No Security” tour to Kansas City, their first trip to town in ten years.  Friend and neighbor KG was organizing a group to go. 

We were excited. We actually knew someone who knew someone — our friends and neighbors, the As. Their son-in-law, B.F., was a back-up singer for The Rolling Stones. We’d seen the family photos with the Stones in the A’s kitchen. Grandkids on Stones’ laps.

Mrs. A. offered to get us backstage passes, but told us we were on our own for tickets. 

I didn’t want to pay $250 each.  There were cheaper tickets, but KG wanted the best.  I was planning to sit in the nosebleed section. I’m cheap, what can I say?

KG chided me, “Come on, just pay the money, when will you have this chance again?” 

I never win anything, but I won these tickets in a drawing at a department store.  I\'d told friends my husband and I didn\'t want to pay $250 each to go with them, but I was counting on winning tickets.  Amazingly, I did!

These tickets say they cost 0.00, but they were priceless!

I told KG I’d win tickets. A local department store was holding a contest for tickets. I’d enter. I’d win. Easy.

KG laughed: “You’re out of your mind.  You’ll be sorry.” 

You know, I never doubted I’d win. (Although I’ve had that feeling about contests before and since and didn’t win, but that makes a lousy story.) The day before the drawing, I remembered that I’d have to actually enter to win — wishful thinking alone doesn’t work — so I hurried to the store and dropped two entries into the box — one for me, one for my husband.  This was in the days before most contests were online.  Then I waited. 

KG asked: Did you get tickets yet? 

“No, but I will.”

“You’re delusional.”

A while later — it seemed like forever — someone from a New York office called to tell me I’d won two tickets. Actually, she told me that my husband’s entry had won, so now I had to twist his arm to take me.  Forms were FedExed, signed, notarized, FedExed.  I practically lived on my front porch one weekend, waiting.  There were deadlines that had to be met, or we’d lose out. I had no idea how complicated it was to win something. Finally the tickets arrived by FedEx.

On the concert’s eve, I was in KG’s kitchen, when we saw a long limousine pull into the A’s driveway.  Who was it? We took a walk, hoping we could catch a glimpse in the window of someone from the band.   We couldn’t see anything.  I felt like an idiot.  We laughed at ourselves.

When we got to Kemper Arena on the night of the concert, we pushed our way through the crowds to meet Mrs. A. in a large dining area — the band lounge.  But there was no band, of course.  A lot of people were eating and drinking.  We weren’t hungry so we passed on the refreshments. We didn’t recognize anyone.  We could hear the echo of the opening act, Jonny Lang.  We weren’t actually in the real back stage, but, hey, we had a pass! Still, I was sorry I had missed Lang. We were here to hear music, not watch people eat.

We hurried to the concert floor.  It was crowded, shoulder to shoulder. I could see Dr. A., in a suit and tie, and  Mrs. A., in a jacket and skirt, near the front in the crush of people.  At a break, Mick Jagger introduced B.F., who called out, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” 

Dr. and Mrs. A. had faithfully attended all of The Stones concerts when the band came to town, whether in Kansas City, in L.A., where the As had a home, or in Tokyo, where they had relatives, although Mrs. A. confided that it really wasn’t their kind of music. I think it grew on them, though, over time.

Twenty thousand fans were there, and I think they all squeezed onto the stage floor.  Who was left in the cheap seats?  Mick Jagger was electrifying as he pranced, pouted and shouted on the long stage!  What if I hadn’t won tickets?  I would have missed out.  It was an unforgettable, not-to-be repeated experience. Part of our exuberance was feeling a connection to our generation, resonating the patterns already imprinted in our brains since the days in 1965 when I first heard “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at Dara’s birthday slumber party for all of the girls in the eighth grade at St. Mary’s.

The following week, Mrs. A asked us whether we wanted band autographs.  I said, “Sure.” A week later, I got the photo above, signed by Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in gold ink.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, although I’m happy to have the photo. It’s been in a file drawer ever since, until I scanned it for art for this post.  I’ll have it archivally framed one of these days.

In August 2005 in Boston, my daughter’s boyfriend, R.H., worked on the crew to erect and then take down in Fenway Park what was one of the largest stages ever constructed for a rock concert.  The Rolling Stones were kicking off their “Bigger Bang” tour there on Aug. 21 for a two-night stand.  R.H., a college student and musician, was a lot more excited by the work than he was by the music which was not of  his era.  He was happy to climb to the top during the take-down.  He joked about seeing the members of the band hobbling off to their limousines. By the time R.H. had been born in 1984, the Stones had been making music for twenty years. 

R.H. and my daughter, L.L., are in a generation that seem to have infinite music choices.  They can find it anywhere.  Are there any bands that unite them, any common soundtrack to their lives?  They seem liberated by it.  They probably won’t be gathering twenty years from now in a huge stadium to re-visit the music of their youth.  Now, though, when I see their music “mixes”, I see as many songs from my youth as I do from theirs.  Too bad, the old dinosaurs of our age will be gone.

Our long-time colleagues, friends and neighbors got these passes for us.  Not much was going on backstage, but a lot of people eating and drinking while the opening act, Johnny Lang, was playing. No musicians were in sight!

We got into the band lounge where we saw a lot of people lounging and eating, but no Rolling Stones.

On a trip to Chicago in October 2006, my husband and I stayed in a hotel full of Rolling Stones fans, who were going to an outdoor concert at Soldier’s Field, still the same “Bigger Band” tour that had kicked off in Boston.   I was wistful. There were tickets left. Should we get some?  We’d come to Chicago to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Field Museum. I hadn’t even known about The Stones. The temperature had dropped into the teens. The wind was howling.  We watched from our hotel window as the crowds trudged toward the stadium, which we could see from our room.  I sighed.  The moment had passed. The next morning, the fans were enthusiastic. They’d made their own heat.  I rationalized that we couldn’t have recaptured that night in April long ago when everything came together.  But, except for the cold, I wish we would have gone.

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Filed under Life, Music, Personal