Monday, August 31, 2009

Your Monday Morning Treetops Are Here!

(For maximum effectiveness, please lift laptop/computer monitor above head to view.)
Happy Mondays!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Steel Cut Oatmeal!! Nature's Curling Iron or Just Good Stuff?

In an attempt to get me to eat my oatmeal when I was young, my father told me that if I ate it, my hair would become curly. In a desperate attempt to get curly hair, I bought it and willingly choked down the globby stuff for about a week. Alas, it was a lie--a lie, I tell you as this semi-tragic third grade picture attests:

Long after I had exposed the lie, my parents continued to shove bowls full of oatmeal at us every morning. The only way I got through my bowl was to go to the kitchen, take the brick of brown sugar from the box, break it in half and surreptitiously slide it underneath the great steaming gelatinous mound. I would wait as whatever complex scientific properties of erosion went to work and broke down sugar enough so I could choke down the new heavily sweetened mound of gelatinous mass. Then I would run out to the school bus where I would wait for the corners of my vision to darken from the insulin rush occurring inside my body.

Needless to say, I was NOT an oatmeal fan. The only thing I liked was when the box was empty and I instantly inherited a bongo drum with a cool-looking Quaker guy on the front.

Then, I grew up and noticed people buying these:

Well, since I was in the market for a new pencil holder, I thought I would give it a try. Thus, I discovered steel cut oatmeal and found that I did like oatmeal after all.

I make mine in my appliance/best friend rice cooker, but you can also boil water at night, put the oatmeal in the pot, remove from heat and let it sit overnight. OR you can just follow the directions on the can.

I make a big batch, separate it into little containers and just microwave those when I get the urge. Yes, I still do slip a little bit of brown sugar in there, but also some cinnamon, and when I am feeling a little wild, some nutmeg and always some walnuts.

Hope this has inspired you to give steel cut oatmeal a try. I'm happy oatmeal is once again a part of my life. No, it's not nature's curling iron. If your hair is like mine, you won't even end up with wavy hair, but you will get all the nutrients mentioned yesterday and a cool container as well. (It does not work as a bongo drum, but with a couple of spoons and this tin, you might just find you're less of a bohemian and more of a rocker these days anyway.)

Happy Feasting!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grain of the Month: Oats!

Please memorize this chart today and tomorrow I'll be back to discuss our Grain of the Month for August!

Happy Saturdays to all!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Club Today!

Today is Book Club at Betty's house.

Not to sound like a Big Shot or anything, but it's true that I belong to TWO book clubs. They both meet once a month. In one, we discuss a common book picked out the month before. In the one meeting today, we all just bring books we like and share them with one another. I call this one my Neighborhood Book Club.

I get a big kick out of these women. Most of them are in the 60's and 70's and they are a hoot. We discuss everything under the sun, oh yes, and books too of course. However, as most people who are in book clubs know, it's not about the books. We gather just to, well, gather and talk. In this particular club we discuss husbands, what Trader Joe's is or is not carrying anymore, good movies we have gone to, or want to go to. There is also a lot of sharing of pictures of grandchildren and tales of their incredible feats.

I consider it a real honor and privilege to sit and talk to these women, and I often think how my grandmother and mother would have only very rare opportunities to get together with their friends and just sit around and talk. I know I am lucky.

Today the meeting is at my house and so that means I need to get out there and clean up some and go out and get snacks for the meeting because food also plays a BIG part in these gatherings.

Here's to women gathering to talk and share and eat. Whether it's a book club or not, at the end of the day, that's where all the good stories start and that's where you'll meet some characters who will help you out in whatever chapter of life you happen to find yourself.

Happy Fridays everybody!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Once More to the Fair

Since it's our last visit to the fair, let's just enjoy it without a lot of chit-chat. Shall we?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hang It All

Betty's no Luddite, you can be sure of that, but hanging out clothes gives me quite a charge. Not only am I helping out Mother Earth by not running the dryer, I get that fresh smell in my clothes that gives me an irresistible Eve-like aura wherever I go.

OK, OK, there are certain disadvantages to drying clothes on a clothes line. Sure, sometimes I can't sit down because my jeans are a little stiff. OK, sometimes people think I'm very, very, very tense because of the way the fabric on my shoulders pokes up, like very small circus tents, the result of hanging the shirt on the line via clothespins at the shoulder seams.

However, there's something renewing, something grounding about placing clothes side by side on a clothesline. There is no other time clothes hang so frankly, facing out into the world. When the boys were little I would step back to see their tiny shorts and shirts hanging there, connected by clothespins to our pants and shirts, blessed by the sun. They flapped against each other, seeming to celebrate being together.

This past week, I was bombarded with technology. Returning to work meant learning new codes for new computer programs. I also got a new phone which meant learning more codes and procedures. New pin numbers, new passwords, new access codes. By the end of the week, I was all done, fed up with with keyboards, and commands from disembodied voices, and lighted screens.

So, Saturday morning, I stepped out into the sun, on to the grass, shook out my laundry fresh from the washer and picked up a simple clothespin. I smiled as I felt the slightly rough wood between my fingers as I opened it, the small spring responding immediately to the force of my thumb and forefingers coming together.

I clipped the shirts and jeans and towels to the clean, elementary string tied to the solid metal posts. Then I stayed a few minutes after it was all hung, listening as the clothes began to whisper in the wind, sharing stories.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: Vegetable Love

Vegetable Love

-- Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Monday Morning Flowering Bush Delivery Has Arrived!

Well, mythology tells us that where you stumble, there your treasure is....The world is a match for us and we're a match for the world. And where it seems most challenging lies the greatest invitation to find deeper and greater powers in ourselves.

--Joseph Campbell

Happy Mondays to All and
a Happy Birthday to my eldest Sissy-Poo today!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bossy Betty Goes to the Theater.

I know you were all looking forward my views on dryers vs. clotheslines today, but that will have to wait since I went to the theater last night, and darling, I am simply exhausted today.

Thanks to a friend who had two extra tickets to Spamalot, HOB and I headed into the City of Angels last night to walk among the pretty people at the Ahmanson Theater. I liked Monty Python back in the day, but was not a fanatic like some of my friends. Still, I got a big kick out of the performance last night.

I love going to the theater though it's not something I seek out on a regular basis. I really should though since it is for the soul what drinking a lot of really great water on a consistent basis is for the skin. It clears things up and hydrates all those folds and crevices that can so easily get dried and wrinkly. Are you with me here, my people?

Plus, it's fun to get all dressed up and stroll around the grounds of great theaters like this one. I only got a couple of shots, but I think you get the general idea of the atmosphere.

So thanks, Joyce L for the tickets and thanks John O'Hurley and cast for a great show. Now, it's time to get on with this Sunday, doing mundane tasks such as giving the dog a good bath and scrubbing out that bathroom sink. These too are the stuff of life and as we breathe in the suds and sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dihydrate, we think about this glorious stage on which we all tread, working, working, playing our parts, hoping at the end of our lives we get a standing ovation and good reviews for jobs well done.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spray Paint: It's What's For Dinner

Our recent back yard renovation inspired me to give my clothesline poles a little face lift as well.

I am all about drying clothes on a clothesline, but I'll save that conversation for tomorrow.
(It's the weekend: We all need to pace ourselves.)

As you can see, rust and its relatives had taken over these poles and the result was not pretty. I remembered my grandmother's clothesline poles had always been a bright silver, so I decided to get a can of spray paint and just make a day out of it. I trolled the aisles of the hardware store, found the cage where they keep the dangerous creatures and asked that a silver one be released unto me.

I started spraying and discovered that spray painting a slender pole with a slight breeze blowing is not as easy as one would think. And, since I seem incapable of doing any art project (oh, it IS art!) with my mouth shut, I got a good taste of the tiny, probably poisonous liquid which tasted metallic and dentist-y which was psychological I am sure, induced because of the color. (Really, would I have thought a bright, glossy green would have tasted dentist-y? No, I think I would have thought it tasted Artificial Grassy.)

Soon heavily under the influence of aerosol paint vapor and propellant, I decided just silver would not do. I got out the masking tape, found a can of gold spray paint in the garage and had another snack of spray paint particles. (The gold tasted a little like old Ferrero Rocher wrappers--in case you were wondering)

Here is the final result. I am quite pleased with my project and more than a little fascinated with it too, spending just a little too much time out there, following the silver and gold lines around the poles until they disappear into the ground. Don't worry. When I get a little light-headed, I have sturdy new clothesline strings with which to steady myself.

Until Tomorrow, Betty Fans!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Parenting Your Offspring and Wanton, Law-Flaunting Citizenry As Well.

Betty's cool, so of course she has DVD's of ALL of the "The Andy Griffith Show."

I mean, who doesn't?

I have also subjected my children to nearly all the episodes. When they were little, it was easier. They liked to sit by Mummy's side and watch the shows, especially if Mummy gave them candy in a desperate attempt to get them to do so. Now that they are older, I have to catch them when they are sick, injured, or it's Mother's Day and they must do my bidding.

I used a lot of lines from the show to parent these fine young men. Here's a scene from one of the shows. We know the lines by heart around here. Listen up!

This is another well-known scene around our house and you can bet we all yell this from inside our cars (windows up) when we see someone driving while talking on his/her phone. (It's illegal here in CA.) Try it! You'll find it's extremely satisfying.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to the Fair

Could it be that it was only a week ago that I attended the fair? Ah, how far away those soothing sounds of the carnival barkers seem now! How faded are the happy memories already!
Oh, wait a minute.
I still have that big grease stain on the front of my sweatshirt from the three pounds of Spiral Fries I ate.

Oh, yes, just one sniff of the fleece brings it all back.

How do you feel about Ferris Wheels? I have always wanted to like them since they seem like the most romantic, traditional rides. However, when I get up there, trapped in that cold, scratched metalic little death circle of a seat/booth, the one with the totally useless and potentially life-threatening steel umbrella above it, well, romanticism be damned. I just want down.

Ah yes, those of Latino descent must be so proud to have the tradition of Mexi-Cone Food carried on at the fair. One can get the famous "Bean Cone" here--a scoop of refried beans placed in a cone of fried tortilla and sprinkled with cheese. I myself have enjoyed more than a few Bean Cones at the fair. Viva El Bean Cone.

Is it me or do the prizes are the fair seem a little more tragic than they used to? Oh, I think so.
If you did hard drugs in college, this picture may seem somehow familiar and disturbing to you....

When my friend Marvin moved into his apartment, there was a drawing of a horse's head with a frame painted around it, and the painted banner beneath it that read "Bunky: The Wonder Horse." At first he thought it was delightfully campy and kept it. It was just above his bed. Soon, however, he found he could not sleep with Bunky The Wonder Horse looking over him as he slept and after many sleepless nights he had to paint over it. Even then, he had trouble falling asleep knowing that Bunky was just under that paint, looking down at him, his horsey thoughts hovering just above all of Marvin's dreams.

Here's Bunky, come to life at the fair.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Betty's Report on The First Days of School

Today is the third day of school at the community college where I teach. The number of classes we offer has been slashed, making for full classrooms, and disappointed students who can't get into any other classes. Despite this, there still lives a feeling of overall optimism. It's a fresh start and who doesn't love that? In the paragraphs I have my students write to introduce themselves, they share their dreams, their hopes, their true desires to succeed. It's pure heaven to read. I think they may also now appreciate their chance at education, as they look around and see those students who didn't get into the classes.

We've got a snazzy new building and a new cafeteria in campus. People have their new school clothes on, their new textbooks at their sides. The California sun pokes through mid-morning and brightens our lives. Oh yes, it's a pretty happy place, except for one area: the Copy Center.

I know Betty fans will remember my posting about the new copier. Each day I enter the Copy Center and see the scene: more teachers, realizing for the first time what we have been reduced to. Their mouths hang open as they stare at the Fisher-Price My First Copier that replaced our old, sturdy standard. One usually cool teacher, upon learning that this copier had no three hole punch, had to have immediate counseling by others in the area.

Meanwhile, the staff of the copying center huddles behind the counter, sending one person out at a time, and only for a limited time. The new sign at the desk reads, "For assistance, please ring bell only ONCE!" Something tells me there have been some fairly heavy hands/fists upon that bell recently.

There have been battle cries and I will surely update you as the weeks go by. In the meantime, if you've got a good copier at your workplace, give it some extra lovin' this week. You'll be glad you did.

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: you can take it with you

you can take it with you

2 little girls who live next door
to this house are on their trampoline.
the window is closed, so they are soundless.

the sun slants, it is going away;
but now it hits full on the trampoline
and the small figure on each end.

alternately they fly up to the sun,
fly, and rebound, fly, are shot
up, fly, are shot up up.

one comes down in the lotus
position. the other, outdone,
somersaults in air. their hair

flies too. nothing, nothing, noth
ing can keep keep them down. the air
sucks them up by the hair of their heads.

i know all about what is
happening in this city at just
this moment, every last

grain of dark, i conceive.
but what i see now is
the 2 little girls flung up

flung up, the sun snatch
ing them, their mouths rounded
in gasps. they are there, they fly up.

--Josephine Jacobsen

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning Flower Delivery: The Back to School Collection

It's time to get out the shiny shoes, the Tupperware, and the positive attitude. It's back to school today!

"Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself."
--Chinese Proverb

Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing.
-- Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shopping With the Flying Betty

Betty Fans know I was recently encased in an airplane and whisked across the country by some fine men and women in nifty uniforms. I look forward to airline travel, not because of the magic of modern travel, but because I get to sit and read my favorite catalog, Sky Mall.

It is in this refined publication that one can sit back and enjoy reading about all the innovative products available to the well-bred, polished clientele that frequent the air waves. (They don't publish Train Mall, Bus Mall or Bike Mall if you get my drift.)

Here's just one example of the sophisticated products available:
The Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier

Improve your hearing - and enhance your image!

If a conventional hearing aid sounds like an embarrassment to you, try the Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier. It looks just like a cell phone ear adapter and works as a sound enhancer so you can join conversations and even hear soft voices from 50 feet away. Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a more youthful appearance and better hearing. Comes with charger (no batteries to replace) and three ear tips.

All this for only $39.99! I can't wait for this guy's Jitterbug to go off as he is leering across the table at a woman, and watch him slap it against his ear--the one with the Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier in it, permanently jamming the image-enhancing device into his ear canal.

Don't worry! I'll have more goodies from the Sky Mall coming your way soon!

Happy Sundays everybody!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy 28th Anniversary, HOB!

Hey, Baby! Glad we took the leap 28 years ago.

Yep, I'd do it all again!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Copy This

School starts soon and at this time of the year, all over the place, teachers are feeling like this little big sitting on this big white globe. There is a lot to plan, to organize, a lot to control, a lot to try and balance. You feel small when you think about all you have to do, but all you can do is look ahead and hope the winds are kind.

It's a challenge, but a good challenge--most of the time.

Some of you will remember a version of this picture when we had "Hope" by Emily Dickinson as our featured poem on Poetry Tuesday. There's a reason.

Teachers as a whole are a hopeful, positive group. We have to be. And we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to start over every year with new students, new plans and new hope.

This year is a tough one at our school. Classes are packed and none are opening up. Lots of part-time employees have been laid off and more and more classified staff are told their jobs are gone. We are told over and over again how much less money our district has and how we must scale back in all areas.

It's OK.
We can handle it.
We're plucky.
We balance upon that big ball of responsibility and practicality.
We gather up our materials and vow to make do with less.
Our enthusiasm will get us through.

Daily we receive e-mail messages from school administrators about the bad economic situation.

We attend more meetings in which we are told about cutbacks and are warned things are likely to get worse.

Still we prepare our syllabi, our course information sheets, our first day welcome handout and swear that we'll still make this the best year ever for our students.

We can do this.

Then, we take those handouts and head to the copying center.

We enter.

Hummmm.... Things are eerily different.

We search for our the familiar copier, the sturdy, reliable one that we know and love that cranks out our copies with speed and efficiency. However, we find it has been replaced by a small, flimsy machine that seems to be made with the leftover trimmings of Dixie cups. Noooooooooo!

We turn to the head of the center who shrugs and says this is what the school ordered to save money. Noooooooooooo!

A lump in the throat, mist in the eyes, we put a paper in the document feeder and wait. Whereas our former machine was a slick, fast rainbow trout coming swiftly to the surface to slurp up the paper, this one is a drugged manatee.

Slowly the paper S L I D E S out of sight and then we wait.

There surely must be tiny monks living within the machine, copying the text by hand, then sending it out the slot. You want that handout stapled? That will take two more monks working overnight.

Oh, this, THIS, my friends is what can finally send perfectly sane, normally relentlessly happy, positive teachers over the edge. You can take away our support staff, limit the number of markers we can have, turn down our air conditioning and we march onward, into the dragon's den of ignorance to slay the demon, but take away our favorite copier and replace it with a toy and that is when even the strongest teacher breaks down.

It's too late for us. What's done is done, but to all my fellow teachers out there I leave you with this prayer:

May your year be a successful one.
May your students be motivated and eager.
May your administrators be wise, kind and judicious.
May you have many shining, glorious breakthrough moments in your classrooms.
And may your copier be one hell of a powerful, paper-sucking, clear-printing, speed demon, bad-ass beast that lives forever.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fair Time!

Oh, it's the home of glory, tragedy, tattoos and personal hygiene items sold in bulk. It's the fair! We have a great one here. It's right on the edge of the continent, so that ocean breeze blows through the palm trees and the Ferris wheel sends you up to look over the Pacific.

Betty luvs the fair and goes every year! This year all my playmates were busy, so I hitched a ride with Sonny Boy and GOBS (Girlfriend of Betty's Son). We had big time fun walking around, looking at displays and generally soaking in all the culture that the fair had to offer.

We stopped by the canning display and were dazzled by the brilliance that IS canning.

These three beauties were lounging in the livestock area.

The midway had lot of action, including these Ninja Frogs floating about.

Time to eat! We had to stand in line for about 20 minutes to get these Spiral Fries. To tell you the truth, I think they made us kind of sick, but it's all part of the fair experience.

We saw this guy a few times throughout the day and he always had the same look on his face. I just think if you are going to wear a jester's hat, you've got an obligation to look somewhat happy. Apparently, those instructions did not come with this hat....

I have lots of pictures of the fair I want to share with you in the future, so keep those walking shoes on. We aren't finished yet!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Betty Is Home and Betty Has Questions

Is there anything better than coming back to your own home after being away on a trip?

As my readers know I have just returned from my sojourn to Colorado and Kansas, where, believe me, I had great accommodations. The beds were incredible thrones of white sheets and the comforters were indeed comforting. The showers were wonderful: mini, highly controlled waterfalls and every floor was clean and smooth. For three days I had maid service to make my bed and clean my sinks!

However, when I walked through my front door, (the door that needs a good coat of paint) I was one happy girl. My comforter has cat hair on it, my shower could use a new shower head and no maid has touched the sink for a long, long time. (Long time readers will remember that my sink has a blob of caulk in it from where HOB "cleaned" it with a screwdriver.) In addition, I must remember to hop over the section of carpet that meets the Pergo since there are tiny, piercing nails sticking up, ready to bite. When I got home these were leaps of joy. I was back! I was happy! I was home!

All of these things that should be on the "to fix" list are now (probably temporarily) on the "happily familiar" list.

Betty loves to travel, but Betty likes coming home even more. Is it because of my love of routine, of the familiar? Is it because I live in a Happy House? Would I feel differently if my house was House of Strife? Do others feel this way? When you come home from a trip are you ridiculously happy to slip your hand around the ordinary coffee cup that comes from your own cabinet? Do you feel giddy just to walk by your bookshelves and run your fingernail across the spines of your books? Do you crawl into your bed and make a sound that makes your neighbors blush when they hear it through the open window?

I know many of my regular readers are travelers too, some going away from their nests for as long as a month or two. Tell me, when you come home what makes you happy? What do you miss when you are away? What do you reach for when you come through your own front door?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: My Home

My Home

THIS is the place that I love the best,
A little brown house, like a ground-bird's nest,
Hid among grasses, and vines, and trees,
Summer retreat of the birds and bees.

The tenderest light that ever was seen
Sifts through the vine-made window screen--
Sifts and quivers, and flits and falls
On home-made carpets and gray-hung walls.

All through June the west wind free
The breath of clover brings to me.
All through the languid July day
I catch the scent of new-mown hay.

The morning-glories and scarlet vine
Over the doorway twist and twine;
And every day, when the house is still,
The humming-bird comes to the window-sill.

In the cunningest chamber under the sun
I sink to sleep when the day is done;
And am waked at morn, in my snow-white bed,
By a singing bird on the roof o'erhead.

Better than treasures brought from Rome,
Are the living pictures I see at home--
My aged father, with frosted hair,
And mother's face, like a painting rare.

Far from the city's dust and heat,
I get but sounds and odors sweet.
Who can wonder I love to stay,
Week after week, here hidden away,
In this sly nook that I love the best--
This little brown house like a ground-bird's nest?

--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vacay Update: Final Day in Kansas

It was our last day in Kansas. We went up to go to church with my mom. This is an artsy shot of a sunflower growing in her back yard. I had to just hold the camera up under the flower and shoot since the sun was so bright and it was drooping.

After church we just drove around town waiting for the restaurant to open. Here's an original hitching post for horses.

After lunch we took Mom out to the country where we used to live. Here's the road to our place.

There's our farm!

This afternoon I visited with my best friend from high school. After that my nephew came by with two of his girls and we visited. Sister K and Niece Kasey came too. Tonight the sky bid us goodbye and put on quite a show over the grain silos across the river.

Soon we board our plane for California.
Thanks for a great time, Kansas!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Vacay Continues: Day Two in Kansas

Our fun in Kansas continued. This is my Mom's cat, Blue Eyes. He was a scared, skittish stray she lured in with a hot dog around two years ago. Now he is feasting on canned food every day and rolling around, granting us permission to pet him. He's a beauty.

We managed to make it to the Threshing Bee in time to watch some of the threshing with the old time steam engines. It was only about 100 degrees at this time, perfect weather to stand and watch the process.

There I am with two of my sisters I on a tractor like the one we drove on the farm. Our dad would have been so proud to see us on this John Deere!

No travel update from Kansas would be complete without a picture of a windmill....

Here's the rock that sits in the middle of the street in McLouth. Like so many other things in life, you just accept it and drive around it.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update!