Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day After Thanksgiving Report

We fed the coots!


We took a hike!


We went to the Mystery Spot!





We started collecting bumper stickers so we could create this look!




We went to the ocean!

Tonight: Pizza and TV!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hello Betty Fans!

Evan, HOB and I arrived at Sonny Boy's place last night. This morning I arose and made the Tofurky feast. The weather here was so wonderful, we moved a table out on the patio and ate there. We also had our traditional Monopoly game in the warm sunlight.

Want to take a ride on the Reading? That's going to cost you. Pay the Betty.

You want Electricity or Water? Pay the Betty.

Let's get rid of the trashy looking houses and go into the Hotel business. You may stay and play, but you must pay...the Betty.

Needless to say, Betty won! Betty won BIG!

Oh yeah. Don't worry--the gloating only lasts for a year.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgivings!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Yes, I AM a Maniac. Thanks for Noticing.


Today the English faculty at our college gathers for a mandatory meeting for an "Alignment Activity."

When I read the subject heading on the e-mail announcing this event, I thought it was finally an opportunity to work out the kinks in my neck caused from marking 1543 papers in a typical week. I had visions of a spa-like environment in the conference room, with all of us in big white fluffy bathrobes and slippers, taking our turns on the massage tables. There were pretty people to attend to us. There was chanting. There were candles, and soft music filled the air as we let the stress of the semester melt away while eating little dainty candies.

Ah, alignment at last.

Then I actually read the e-mail and found out we were meeting to discuss grading standards.

For four hours.

Oh.

So yesterday, I taught my 9:30-10:30 class, my 11:30-12:30 class, my 12:30-2:50 class, and then came home, and went into a baking frenzy to produce sixteen small loaves of pumpkin-cranberry bread for my fellow English teachers.

Because English teachers don't live by alignment alone. (Yes, that IS a sentence fragment and I ain't going to mark it either.)

Then I made a pumpkin pie.

Then I made dinner.

Then I collapsed into a heap on the floor.

It was a good night.


We are going up to celebrate Thanksgiving with our very own Sonny Boy and when since he is the vegan we love, I made this Tofu Pumpkin Pie. It's been our favorite for years. It's so yummy, I wouldn't go back to regular pumpkin pie now.

You heard me.

Here's the recipe:

Tofu Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1 (16-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
1 package (10-12 ounces) silken/soft tofu
1 9-in unbaked vegan pie shell

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Blend the pumpkin and sugar. Add salt, spices, and tofu, mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 F and bake for another 60 minutes. Chill and serve.

Don't use low fat tofu. Go crazy.

Align yourself with pie, even a fragment of pie, and you'll never go wrong.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Thanks" by W.S. Merwin


Thanks

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

-- W.S. Merwin

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Final Crow Down. Part Three of The Betty vs Rooster Trilogy


(If you haven't been with us for the last couple of days, we've missed you! More importantly, you've missed out on the first two parts of this exciting trilogy. Since you've been out, you know, doing those Very Important Things you've been doing, you'll need to catch up with our story by going back and reading Parts One and Two. Hopefully you can do that without straining yourself. We want you to be in good shape for this final installment. Pace yourself.)

Part Three

Finally, one day I had to make a trip to the barn. I surveyed the terrain. All clear.

Halfway to the barn door, I heard the spiny footsteps behind me. I turned and saw him, his laser-like eyes locked on target. Any thoughts of my standing up to the rooster left my head when I saw his determination, made clear by the forward tilt of his upper body. I sped up, listening to the talons hit the dirt with increasing speed. I jumped behind the plow but he was waiting for me on the other side. I took off across the yard, ran for the barn door and there, one second later, my father appeared, pitchfork in hand. It was too late for the rooster to switch into innocent poultry mode. Finally, I had a witness and better yet, a witness whose role on the farm included swinging an axe.

And so I stood the next day and watch axe come down. I thought it was Independence Day for me. The terror of the barn yard was going to our Sunday dinner. My mother took the body to the house and boiled the water to pour over it. (The hot water made it easier to pluck the feathers out--my job.) As she was carrying the water from the stove, she stumbled and the boiling water spilled on her upper legs. I watched as the pan bounced off the kitchen floor and my mother fell to the linoleum, crying out in pain and grabbing at her flowered house dress as though it were on fire. My sister screamed at me to go get my father as she knelt at my mother's side. As I ran down the barn, I felt the urgency of the moment. I had never seen my mother cry before. When my father helped her in the car to go to the doctor, I feared she would never return.

Our neighbor Mary came to take the rooster away to pluck and cook it for us and the next day my father and my sisters and I sat at the dinner table, the rooster, in pieces in Mary's casserole dish before us. Instead my our usual busy, bustling Sunday dinner, we were quiet, downcast and subdued. My mother was in bed and in pain from the burns and my older sisters had done the best they could, but the dishes were spare, burnt, and unfamiliar. I looked at the meat on my plate. When Mary had brought the cooked rooster up to our house, she had apologized, saying she had boiled the bird for a long time, but could never get it tender.

I looked at the steaming mound of flesh on my plate, understanding the sense of victory I had expected to feel was fleeting and inconsequential because it wasn't true victory at all. If instead of having my father kill him, I had faced this rooster down, if I had had the nerve to stand up to it, to give it one swift kick when it came racing toward me, it might have left me alone. Instead, it had ruled my life for five weeks and had resulted in my mother being burned, the overwhelming feeling of sadness at the table, the feeling of failure clinging to the inside of my stomach.

I forgive that little girl on the farm, but I keep her, and the sadness she felt in mind when I face a rooster in my life. The price of avoidance is high and I am still learning that it's merely temporary respite from the rooster who waits around the corner. Those roosters of self-doubt and fear get big fast and can shadow all else in our lives. When we run from them, they match us step for step. Convinced by their well-rehearsed show of bravado and authority, we forget we have power over them. Procrastination is powerful food for the rooster and makes it stronger. I wish I could say I always face my roosters head-on these days, but sometimes I let them dominate my landscape for much longer than I should.

Years ago I came across the skeleton of a rooster on display at a natural history museum. I stopped and looked at a skeleton of a rooster there strung up with fishing line, suspended in the air. I saw the small airy, fragile bones. The tiny head, the bony spine, the thin ribs, the twig-like legs--this had made up the foundation of the rooster who had terrorized me? I knew I could take just one of those bones and snap it between my fingers. What effect small muscles and a pretentious showing of feathers can produce on so small of a base! And we ourselves contribute additional muscle upon this flimsy architecture by giving the roosters in our lives more power than they deserve.

I stood for awhile, looking at the rooster skeleton.

I could see right through it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roosters, Roosters, Everywhere. Part Two of the Betty vs Rooster Trilogy


If you are just joining us on the Rooster Trilogy today, go back and read yesterday's post first! You'll be thrilled to read the tale of Betty vs Rooster and you'll just have better overall self-esteem knowing you've started at the beginning.


Part Two.

My days on the farm are finished, but roosters still appear on the landscape around me. They come in various shapes, forms, and degrees of intensity.

We all deal with the usual ones and they are manageable. We accept them as part of our lives: Drive into a car dealership and get out of your car. From all corners, the roosters lock their eyes on you, slowly rising to their feet, stretching. The begin to strut towards you.

There are the people we hope to avoid because of their rooster-like qualities--the ability to hunt us down and barrage us with conversations filled with relentless details, a neverending carnival ride of minutia. Try as we like to break away, the sheer centrifugal force of their whirlwind of words, knocks us back, suctioned to whatever surface is nearby.

Years ago, I was paired up with a co-worker on a prolonged teaching project. She and I were supposed to be equals, but she had definitely decided she was the boss and I would be the secretary. She was big, built low to the ground, wore colorful outfits and her neck jutted back and forth as she picked her way across campus throughout the day. I found myself scanning the quad thoroughly before leaving my office, but more often than not she'd be out there, see me emerge and stand stock still. Extending her neck, she would turn her eyes upon me, then bustle over at increasing speed, beak full of commands. As I stood there, watching her approach, the six-year-old mind came to the surface immediately. It was all I could do not to take off at a dead run.

In addition to these human roosters, we all deal with inanimate roosters as well. There are the roosters of Christmas shopping and housecleaning. Every April 15th when a rooster badly disguised as an eagle shows up on our yards, we all nod and exchange knowing glances. We share these roosters and commiserate with one another about them.

However, the roosters that are the hardest to deal with are the roosters no one else can see. One small incident can release roosters of shame, disappointment, sadness from the cages in which we had thought we had locked them so securely. The rooster of self-doubt sabotages our dreams. There are the twin roosters of skepticism and anxiety that strut into our lives as we are making major decisions. The rooster of depression paralyzes his victims for days, weeks, months at a time, trapping them in their homes, afraid to come out. Sometimes, the rooster of grief shows up on the anniversary date of a death, to crow his shrill cry, taking us back breathtakingly fast to a pit of mourning out of which we had fought hard to climb.

When I was six one of my sister said, "It's just a stupid rooster. I'll show you." We went outside and the rooster, thinking I was alone, appeared immediately. My sister took off, chasing the rooster across the barnyard, running so fast he was forced to make an effort at flying. "See?" she said, coming back to me. "Just chase him off when we comes at you."

Since we spend a good deal of our lives dealing with roosters I would like to believe that my sister was right--that is really is as simply as shooing them off. Well-meaning friends give us well-worn advice about the problems in our lives, but in their eyes it's just a pesky chicken in the yard, not the dominate and powerful rooster we see. The fact that my sister could chase off the rooster was not surprising to me; it wasn't her rooster. That rooster was not coming after her. But in mind, the rooster remained ten feet tall. The rooster had convinced me that he was stronger than I was.

So it is with all the roosters we face in our lives.


(Tomorrow: Rooster vs Axe. Who will win? Tune in!)



Friday, November 20, 2009

Rooster In The Yard. Part One of the Betty vs Rooster Trilogy..


I grew up in a family in which seeking attention was akin to worshipping the devil.

Children are to be seen and not heard.

Pride goeth before a fall.

While my parents made it seem as though this philosophy was based on a Biblical principle, I now see that it was also an awfully handy device for delaying any action on many issues.

Me upon discovering I couldn’t see very well: “I think I need glasses.”

“You just want attention.”

Me, limping in, blood dripping on floor: “I stepped on a rusty nail and think I might get lockjaw.”

“You just want attention."


And so when I was six and announced to my family that a rooster on our farm was chasing me, hunting me down each and every time I set foot outside the house by myself, I expected it:

“You just want attention.”

(The truth was I DID want attention. Oh, I did! God! I was desperate for it! As the youngest of five, I was dying for attention, but not the attention this rooster was doling out.)

“Don’t be silly,” my mother said. “That rooster is more scared of you that you are of him.”

Right.

The strutting town sheriff of the barn yard, cool and self-assured in his glossy feathers of red and black was scared of me, the little, spindly, stringy-haired blond girl whose knees knocked together each time he spotted her.

If you have never been singled out and chased by a rooster, you have no idea how harrowing it can be. When I stepped out of the house alone, he’d stop moving immediately. Then, only the long periscope of a neck would activate, lifting out of a ring of feathers, turning, turning, until his deep yellow eyes locked onto mine. As I slowly put one foot in front of the other, he brought up a low rooster growl, which sounded like a squeaky door being gradually opened. Then he’d slowly pick up his scaly feet and walk towards me. I’d walk faster and he’d match my pace. Soon, I’d be at a dead run, and hear his claws slapping down, like mad flyswatters in the dirt behind me. I’d scramble up a tree or on a stack of hay bales to wait for someone else to appear.

When someone else DID appear, that rooster would play it cool, go into innocent poultry mode. He'd pretend he was just in the area, hanging around. He had no idea what the screaming blond girl was up to.

“Kick him,” one of my sisters suggested, “Just stay out of his way,” said another. I liked the first suggestion, but dismissed it immediately. This rooster was bent on my destruction. To turn and face those fiery eyes, that determination was unimaginable to me. In my mind, that rooster was ten feet tall. So I decided to follow the second piece of advice. It wasn’t easy. He seemed to be everywhere on the farm and he was always on the lookout for me.

One of my chores was to gather the eggs out of the chicken house—a dark, squat, dank, foul-smelling shack. Before the rooster’s reign of terror, I would go in, shoo the skittish chickens and then gather their eggs. However, I became so terrified of the rooster following me into the hen house as I collected his future progeny that once I got in, I shut the door immediately, trapping myself with 20 or so squawking, suspicious, desperate chickens. I squinted my eyes and bent down low, making my way to the individual nests. Walking though them, those flapping, swooping, high-pitched, feathered industrial fans set on high was a horrible routine. Even today, a down comforter shaken too vigorously will produce flashbacks that will require hours from which to recover.

Tomorrow: The story continues and Betty gets all metaphorical and stuff too!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Told You So...


Did I say this week was going to take a lot of cookies?

Oh, I meant it.

Keep 'em coming until I say it's safe to switch to salad.

That time has not come yet, nor do I see it coming in the next two days.

Focus on the cookie. Focus on the cookie. Focus on the cookie.



Chocolate Mint Cookies
from The Joy of Vegan Baking

1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer*
2 Tbsp. warm water
3/4 cup non-dairy butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter & sugars together by hand or with an electric hand mixer at high speed.

Beat in the egg replacer mixture & the vanilla & peppermint extracts.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, & salt. Add this to the butter mixture along with the chocolate chips. Stir until combined, but do not over-stir.

Drop the cookie batter by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for 10 -12 mins., or until the edges begin to harden. Although they might not appear completely done, the cookies will continue to cook after they're removed from the oven.

After removing them from the oven, immediately take the cookies off of the cooking sheet & place them on a wire rack to cool.

Yields: 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Betty's Note:
*You non-vegans can slip in an e-g-g instead of using the egg replacer.

These little gems are good for the upcoming holiday season. Chocolate and Mint. Yum!

I add lots of walnuts to this one.

You can leave the mint flavoring out completely if you don't like mint or if it brings back memories of a wedding reception where, out of nervousness, you ate way too many of the little mints on the table and felt physically ill resulting in photos in which you look stricken and queasy which everyone took as your non-verbal comment on the pairing of the couple who were, really, doomed from the start what with his three past failed marriages and her one-time romantic involvement with one of his ex-wives. Yeah, then you could leave the mint out.

Focus on the cookie.


Picture Takin' Betty







Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: Grapefruit


Grapefruit

--Ted McMahon


My grandfather got up early to section grapefruit.
I know because I got up quietly to watch.
He was tall. His hairless shins stuck out
below his bathrobe, down to leather slippers.
The house was quiet, sun just up, ticking of
the grandfather clock tall in the corner.

The grapefruit were always sectioned just so,
nestled in clear nubbled bowls used
for nothing else, with half a maraschino
centered bleeding slowly into
soft pale triangles of fruit.
It was special grapefruit, Indian River,
not to be had back home.

Doves cooed outside and the last night-breeze
rustled the palms against the eaves.
He turned to see me, pale light flashing
off his glasses
and smiled.

I remember as I work my knife along the
membrane separating sections.
It's dawn. The doves and palms are far away.
I don't use cherries anymore.
The clock is digital
and no one is watching.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forget the Flowers. This Monday Morning Delivery Includes Cookies!


Oh yes it's Monday and if your week ahead looks anything like mine, there's no time for flowers.

We're gonna need cookies.

And lots of them.

I found this recipe at the Real Simple Website and made some up today. Yow-Wow. They are good. They remind this girl of Pecan Sandies.

"Oh! Betty!" I can hear some of my health conscious readers say, "These sure don't look healthy!" OK, here's what you can do to remedy that:

Get the good kind of potato chips, crush the required 3/4 cup for the recipe and eat the rest of them as you make the cookies. Also, guzzle at least a liter of Diet Pepsi and gobble about a pound of chocolate as the cookies bake. By the time the cookies come out of the oven, you'll think of them as health food and they are--Mental Health Food.

Potato Chip Cookies

Ingredients

• 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for coating
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3/4 cup potato chips, crushed
• 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Directions
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. Lower to medium speed and add the vanilla. Add the flour and cinnamon to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Fold in the potato chips and pecans.

2. Form into approximately 1 1/2-inch balls. Dredge in the remaining sugar. Place on parchment- or foil-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart.

3. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Betty's Notes:

1) I added an egg yolk to the mix because the dough was super crumbly and I thought I might as well throw it in there for the glue-like effect eggs can bring to nearly anything.*

2) I formed these into balls as directed. When I looked in the oven after about 8 minutes I noticed they were still in uptight little balls, so I took a spatula and lightly but firmly slapped on the cookies until they submitted to my will and flattened out to look like normal cookies who could go out into society and lead normal lives.**


*When we were kids and ran out of glue for school projects, my mom would crack open an egg, separate the white and the yolk and we'd use the white as glue. Cool, huh?

**Attention Gals! This works on men too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bossy Betty's Binge

For My Own Protection


Betty's got a problem--a Big Problem. It seems to be getting worse too.

You see, I've been on a binge lately.

A Book Binge.

Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I sat for hours and hours devouring a single book. Front cover to back. I ate it up. I couldn't stop.

Yes, it was my day off and I had other things to do.

In fact, I had a list.

I had laundry, grocery shopping, general hygiene to accomplish, but I got my drug of choice in my hands in the morning and didn't do any of those those things. I didn't even go outside of the house until I had finished the last page around 6:00pm.

Now normally, Betty's a work-before-pleasure, delayed-gratification, eat-your-vegetables-before-drinking-your-cup-of-corn-syrup kind of gal. And I really did I used to be able to control myself--do the sensible reading thing. I could read a chapter or two, put the book down, go do other things, come back, read another couple of chapters, etc. etc. Lately though, the need to read good novels is SO strong. It's got a hold on me, man. Got to have it. Give me the stuff. Take my book away and I'll snatch your scalp clean off your head.

What happened?

I have several theories:

1) Depletion of necessary nutrients:
I read A LOT of student papers during the week. Many of these are very bad papers--no, I mean VERY BAD. A steady diet of these papers surely depletes some vital vitamin-like substance in my brain and so gorging on these novels is my body's desperate attempt to correct this imbalance. It's instinctual, and therefore, beyond my control.

2) Feline Mind Power:
Mable, my cat, is always beside me on the bed when these binges begin. Coincidence? Hummm.... Perhaps. Perhaps not. As we all know, she has the ability to control my actions though her thought-waves. It is clear she considers me merely a large, warm, human pillow upon which she can heave her incredible bulk. She knows my weakness and capitalizes on it for her own benefit. I read all day and she gets the Stay Put, Heat-Generating Body Buddy.

3) Use of Excessive Reading to Mask Larger Issues of Potential Mental Problems Due to Overwork:

Issues? What issues? Who wrote that? What's going on here? I'm normal, I tell you. Everything is just fine! It is! Lots of people chew on Crayons. That's why they're are so conveniently shaped and come in handy carrying packs just right for a meal or a snack.



Today I am trying to stay away from the stuff and rejoin society. I have already successfully gone to the bathroom without a book in my hands. It will be a slow process, but I can do it.

Wish me luck, people.

Better yet, is there, like, you know, a book or something I could read that would help me with this problem? You know, just to get me through the morning and then I'd stop.

Really, I would.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Table Setting for Everyone


So, there I was, with Friend T at a thrift store perusing the usual mish-mash assortment of books. The ratty Michener and garishly colored Daniel Steele books lined the shelves, and I was about to leave the low-rent area of used books when suddenly I spotted it--the old distinguished cathedral there in the middle of the strip malls.

The slender orange binding, the plaid cover bespoke certain air of jaunty 50's dignity. I pulled Table Setting for Everyone by Biddle and Blom off the shelf and opened the front over. Inside the front page was the inscription by the author Dorothy Biddle herself. "For Shirley Davis--a friendly greeting from Dorothy Biddle." There in the upper left hand corner was an address label for Shirley Davis, 518 Sunset Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas.


Hummmm....Manhattan was where I went to college and lived for four years. 518 Sunset Avenue was about three houses down from where HOB lived while in college. I explained this quickly to Friend T who said, "Well, I guess you sort of have to have that book."

I did indeed.

Now, regular readers will remember when I did a four part series on the 1941 edition of Etiquette by Emily Post. While I found Emily's tone a bit harsh and condescending at times, I delighted in the gentle tone of the authors of this book. For example, here's a selection from their chapter on dishes, entitled, "The Jewels of the Table":

Buy inexpensive dishes and glasses until you get acquainted with yourself. They are not so durable as the costly, but if they fail to represent your desires, you will not feel that you have burdened yourself with the patterns that may become an abomination to you in a dozen years hence. Lackadaisically or overcome with momentary enthusiasms, women often seal their fate to expensive dishes and glasses that have a personality not in sympathy with their own natures.

I love that!

Now Betty has been known to set a good-looking table. Did I not at one time cover the table with Astroturf for a picnic-like atmosphere for my Orange Food Only party? For a friend's Bon Voyage party I placed a world map accompanied by a collect of monies of the world under a clear plastic tablecloth. How tony! How chic! How absolutely global! Mint, anyone? Mint?

And let us never forget the traditional "Yam Bird" for a Thanksgiving centerpiece in which a yam is carefully selected for its bird-like appearance, placed upon wires woven together to resemble legs and given yellow pushpins for eyes. Just the right shape of yam can give your Yam Bird that nearly airborne appearance that will have your guests continually snapping their heads toward the bird to see if lift-off has indeed occurred.

Though the Yam Bird was not featured in this book, (????!!!!!????) I did learn about creating a Nautical theme, a Garden table, a Lilac Luncheon, Oriental Springtime and a Jeweled dinner.
I leaned about individuality in salts and peppers, sufficient candlelight and the mechanics of flower arrangements.


Since this book was originally published in 1949, cigarettes and ashtrays are also mentioned quite a bit, and I think this table arrangement is one of the highlights of the book:

Cigarette flowers was what we called one exhibitor's inspiration. She used a white cloth with gay red plates, a red plastic bowl in the center, and springing from this many stiff stems of the coral-red spider lily which grows wild in the south. In the midst of these light globes of cheery red were groups of three cigarettes, strung lengthwise on wires forming "flowers" that swayed as easily as nature's own blossoms. All these were held in place in a lump of floral clay fastened to the bottom of the bowl.

Betty just may have to go get a pack of ciggies, just to recreate this look for my next dinner party.

After all, as our authors note,

By enhancing the occasions when you break bread together, you are adding to the richness of living.

Yours in the Pursuit of Beautiful Living,
Betty


(This was tucked in the book. Apparently Shirley went to see Dorothy in Buffalo, OK. Lucky girl! I wish this was a magic ticket that would transport me back there to be among the carefully coiffed women. Hummm....a magic, time-transporting ticket inside a thrift store book. I need to call in sick today. Betty's got a novel to write!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Cranberry Crusade Continues...

Oh yes, oh yes, the campaign to infuse cranberries into your everyday life goes on. (OK, OK, maybe I am a little fixated. Don't worry. This will pass soon.)

I found this recipe for cookies using fresh cranberries on the Coconut and Lime Blog. I used regular-sized white chocolate instead of chocolate chips. I went to Williams-Sonoma to get the vanilla paste. As far as I can tell, regular vanilla would work just as well, but the paste is pretty darn fun.

I really liked these cookies. HOB had trouble with the intensity of the cranberries. I don't like that kind of weakness in man, but he has other good qualities, so I am willing to overlook this for the time being.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup semisweet mini chips
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg



Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in cranberries and chips. Place 1 tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the cookie sheet (about 1/2 inch apart) and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just brown. Carefully, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Poetry Tuesday:: "The Accolade of Animals"



The Accolade of Animals

--Maxine Kumin

All those he never ate
appeared to Bernard Shaw
single file in his funeral
procession as he lay abed
with a cracked infected bone
from falling off his bicycle.
They stretched from Hampton Court
downstream to Piccadilly
against George Bernard's pillow
paying homage to the flesh
of man unfleshed by carnage.

Just shy of a hundred years
of pullets, laying hens
no longer laying, ducks, turkeys,
pigs and piglets, old milk cows,
anemic vealers, grain-fed steer,
the annual Easter lambkin,
the All Hallows' mutton,
ring-necked pheasant, deer,
bags of hare unsnared,
rosy trout and turgid carp
tail-walking like a sketch by Tenniel.

What a cortege it was:
the smell of hay in his nose,
the pungencies of the barn,
the courtyard cobbles slicked
with wet. How we omnivores
suffer by comparison
in the jail of our desires
salivating at the smell of char
who will not live on fruits
and greens and grains alone
so long a life, so sprightly, so cocksure.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your Monday Morning Quote and Flower is Here!

Happy Mondays to All!


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

--Marianne Williamson

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Baking With Betty


My need to spread the cheer of cranberries goes on and today I found a recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. I immediately whipped up some mini-loaves for distribution around the 'hood.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Baking is good, clean fun. Do some today.

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Grease and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients, except cranberries, in a separate mixing bowl. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moist. Stir in cranberries.

Spread evenly in a loaf pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes one loaf.

(As noted above--I divided the batter and made mini-loaves instead. Each batch makes four mini-loaves.)




Friday, November 6, 2009

Shopping With the Vengeful Betty


Betty loves her students.

Well, OK, not all of them.

There are those who come to Betty's class, not seeking essential information about comma splices and fragments, but come merely bent on making Betty's life miserable by talking incessantly to their friends. Normally, Betty can squash this behavior like an old grape, but there was one student, many years ago whose talking nearly drove me crazy.

You see, it wasn't talking talking--the kind you can hear, distinguish words, and then repeat back to the student thereby letting him KNOW your hearing is akin to a bat's echolocation. I would be up there in front of class, giving essential information on writing well--the key that will unlock all the blessings of our modern society--and I would hear it: the low, steady, continuous buzzing of verbiage from his area. His lips barely moved and when I looked his way the buzzing stopped momentarily and then started again when I resumed my lecture.

I spoke to him over and over again about his behavior, putting on my best teacher look and tone. Bored and passive, he stared at me, obviously perturbed that I had come back to interrupt his important conversations. I continued to remind him to be quiet. He continued to ignore me. I bought power suits and wore them, in ascending austerity throughout the semester.

However, nothing stopped this verbal incontinence on his part--the slow steady leaking of whatever words he had stored up in his bladder-like cheeks. Akin to a Poe story, it went on and on, slowly driving me out of my mind. Near the end of the semester, he began to deny that he was doing it. Oh, but he was! I heard it, heard it, heard it, the low rumble, the burbling burning my ears. One day I heard it--the saw-like sound of his whispered buzzing. It reached my ears and rang there with its undertone of insubordination. I spun around in class to have my usual stare down with him, but he was not there! I looked around; he was gone. His friends said he had gone to the restroom. It was true, he was not physically in the room, but the sound remained, remained staining the very fabric of the air like bloodstains on the collar of the bridal gown of the doomed.

He made it through the semester--or I should say I made it through the semester and blessed each and every footstep he took as he exited the classroom for the final time.

(Change of mental music here: Go from loud, dramatic organ music to light Muzak, say, for instance, "The Girl from Impanema.")

NINE YEARS LATER:
HOB, my friend K, and I are all at the boxy, modern electronic store where all the employees dress like Mormon missionaries and practically embrace you as you enter the store. Friend K is getting her computer fixed and we have about an hour to kill in the store. We play with the massage chairs, and we go flip all the dials on all the cameras and camcorders. We cruise the aisles, each bearing a framed picture of an employee of the store, smiling, with the caption "This aisle proudly maintained by:" followed by the name of the employee.

In an attempt to continue to entertain ourselves, K and I head to the kitchen appliances aisle to make fun of the hot dog makers and green plastic margarita machines. Passing by one of the 97 cash registers, I stopped short. There he was! My nemesis! The low-talking pest from my class oh so long ago. He was dressed in the cult-like garb of the corporation.

Now, I am not a vengeful person. Well, not unless my blood sugar is low or you have a history of sitting in my class talking without end to your maladjusted friend behind you. He had made my workplace environment uncomfortable for me. He had raised my hostility levels. I have sat through enough employee training videos to know that this is considered some kind of harassment and since I don't see another avenue of recourse, I am thinking I have some sort of right to make his workplace environment a tad bit uncomfortable for him.

I pull K aside and tell her the story. Then I tell her my plan. I am going to find his aisle--the one proudly maintained by this ne'er-do-well and I am going to mess with it. K is a little appalled, but, good friend she is, agrees to at least help me find his aisle.

We find HOB who is a good person and wants nothing to do with this plan. He even says, "This is wrong on so many levels." He tries to convince me not to carry out my evil plan but just seeing that face--the face of the low-talking agent of evil-- again has ignited in me a vengeance that is running rampant through my veins.

We leave HOB behind as we look through the aisles, searching for The Face. We look computer component aisles, but none of the faces match up. We search the radio and TV aisles and I am secretly hoping he is not in charge of those--too heavy, too many cords; we'd have to really work hard switching them all around and the effect would be somewhat minimal. I'm not afraid of the work, but I want the payout to be magnificent. We search the computer game aisles--still no match, but I view with delight all the boxes, now lined up in neat displays, alphabetically arranged. Then, I grab K's arm and say with renewed fervor, "Let's check the CD and DVD aisles!"

Now, by this time, K is starting to lose interest, but my imagination is on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Vengeance Carnival. All those hundreds and hundreds of titles, alphabetically arranged, all those thin little boxes, all the categories. Just think: "I Love Lucy" ends up in Horror. "Nightmare on Elm Street" ends up next to "Sesame Street." The boxes, all turned upside down, sideways, out of alphabetical order. I run to the aisle and scan for The Face. I whisper to the Gods of All that is Wrong but Feels so Right, "Just give me this..."

Alas. This aisle is NOT proudly maintained by my sworn foe, but instead by a sad-looking nymph.*

By this time HOB has caught up with us and as he gently pries my fingers off the shelf I am now gripping as if I am experiencing a Moro reflex, he suggests we go and get a "good meal."

I agree, but vow to return to complete my life's mission.


Well, a meal of a Subway Veggie Max sandwich, Doritos, and a large Diet Pepsi pretty much has magical powers over me. I told K and HOB that had come to my senses and agreed to be a mature adult and forget and forgive.

They both nodded and smiled, proud of my growth as a person and my capacity to embrace life and let go of past hurts.

(I think I can cover more ground in the store next time I go without those two to drag me down, and as far as I could tell, they couldn't even hear that sound, that low, murmured string of sound, I heard, heard, heard throughout the store!)



*(In this case, we go to definition #4)
1. one of a numerous class of lesser deities of mythology, conceived of as beautiful maidens inhabiting the sea, rivers, woods, trees, mountains, meadows, etc., and frequently mentioned as attending a superior deity.
2. a beautiful or graceful young woman.
3. a maiden.
4. the young of an insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Little Red Friends

Oh, it's that time of year when the cheery red cranberry shows itself in the grocery store and brings a bunch of friends with him. I love these little red balls o' joy and take a great deal of pleasure in chopping them into bits and throwing them into bread batter.

I go into overdrive when it comes to the following recipe, making batch after batch of mini loaves and little squares--foisting them on friends, loved ones and people merely passing by who look like they could use a few good cranberries in their lives.

Lately, I have been wrapping them up like the little presents they are.




CLASSIC CRANBERRY NUT BREAD


INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).


So call into work and tell them you've got some baking to do! They'll understand.

Have fun with your cranberries and they'll have fun with you.

Betty salutes you!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Bright Star"

This Poetry Tuesday posting brought to you by Pure Lust....


I've always liked the poetry of John Keats, but after seeing the movie Bright Star I'm even more intrigued by it. OK, OK, the actor who plays John Keats is incredibly attractive which makes we want to place my old British Romantics text on my ample, heaving bosoms and just swoon for awhile. YOWWWWWW....

You read the poem. I'll just hang out here by the picture and think about, you know, poetry and stuff.



Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

--John Keats

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your Monday Morning Flower is Here: The Deluxe Simplicity Package.

Happy Monday!



“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

--Leonardo Da Vinci


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Video Time

You've got an extra hour today. What better way to spend part of it than with Barney?

Giraffes can be so selfish....