Friday, November 30, 2007

Sewing in Literature

"She hem-stitched, she cat-stitched, she feather-stitched, she lace-stitched, she tucked and frilled and embroidered, and generally worked her fingers off; while the bride vainly protested that all this finery was quite unnecessary, and that simple hems and a little Hamburg edging would answer just as well. Clover merely repeated the words, "Hamburg edging!" with an accent of scorn, and went straight on in her elected way."

(Clover, by Susan Coolidge)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

There are few sights sadder

Than an 85 lb German shepherd puppy with a hopeful expression on his face, dangling his rope chew toy in front of a 10 lb cat.

The cat’s reaction is of course to be expected.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable." — Clare Boothe Luce

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prairie Life, part 1

Myvillage is a very, very small place. There isn’t a house in town that is more than three blocks from a cornfield.

We don’t bother to lock our doors. My niece once had an expensive sports bag stolen at school and her mother tracked down the culprit and got it back before sundown.

I nearly ruined my social standing for good the first year I was here by bringing a bottle of champagne to the Methodist church New Year’s Eve potluck.

The teller at the bank drive-through keeps a bucket of Milk Bones next to the till for the many customers that drive up with a dog in the back. If we are out for a walk and we cut down the alley behind the bank, the Pup of the Baskervilles pulls me up to the window and puts his front paws up on the shelf until she gives him a biscuit.

My younger sister (who lives in a sizable Detroit suburb) phoned one night, and upon getting an obviously wrong number, apologized and mentioned who she was looking for. The man on the other end of the phone accepted her apology and then informed her “You know, it’s Monday and they’re not home. They’ll be at the school board meeting.”

When a young resident was diagnosed with a deadly disease and she and her mother had to spend several months at a specialty children’s hospital 400 miles away, the town started a sign up sheet and made sure that Dad and the three kids left behind got home-cooked meals.

When people ask where I live, I reply “The old C--- place.” They immediately know the house to which I am referring even though no member of the C---family has lived here since 1987.

When the dog got out, the woman who caught him called the BIL because she knew a) whose dog he was, b) the BIL would be home from his job on the night shift c) the spousal unit was at school and d) I was out of town. The intelligence network here could give the CIA pointers.

The postmistress walks over from the post office every morning with Mr. and Mrs. R---‘s mail because she has Alzheimers and he is disabled and has trouble getting down the steps and across the lawn to the mailbox. Another neighbor with Alzheimer’s gets away from her husband occasionally and is always returned, promptly and safely, by whoever sees her out wandering.

If you grow up here your family’s entire financial, moral, scholastic and marital history for at least four generations back is a matter of public record. The name you bear labels you forever; if you are a H--- you can do no wrong, if you are an S--- you can be smart, honest and hardworking and it won’t make any difference, you’re still a bum.

The winter the spousal unit was in Norway and I was on crutches, the people down the street sent their teenager over to dig me out after each snowstorm.

No one moves to Myvillage; you’re born here or you marry into it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

In which I am a shill

If you are contemplating whipping up some scarves as quick Christmas presents and you live in the eastern three-quarters of the US, Hobby Lobby is having a 99 cent sale on several different varieties of novelty yarn.

They are fun and unusual, but I am not myself a fan of novelty yarn. I once made a pair of fuzzy pink slippers for one of my favorite SIL's out of something that was a cross between a chenille and an eyelash. They turned out great and she loved them but chacun a son gout. I used the Pocketbook Slippers pattern which is turning into one of my favorites.

You can knock a pair out in two evenings if you knit as slowly as I do, or maybe one if you are an Alison Hyde*. This is also a great pattern for a beginner knitter who wants to try a small project and learn increasing and decreasing.

(*Ms Hyde, for those who have not met her, is not only one of this world's most wonderful people but also an astonishingly productive knitter. She is the one who coined the phrase "drive-by knitting" to describe unexpected gifts of hand-knitted items).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friendship Cake

If you want to make any Friendship Cakes for Christmas parties, you need to start now. Take a non-reactive container with a lid (I use a plastic jar that once held biscotti). Put in one can of pineapple (drained), one can of peaches(drained), one can of apricots (drained), one can of maraschino cherries(did I mention drained?), 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 1/4 cups of brandy. Put the lid on it and stick it under the stairs.

Come back in five weeks and I'll give you the recipe for the cake. You will not regret this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I finished a biography of Fanny Burney last week that included an analysis of her friendship-gone-wrong with Hester Thrale and copious references to Thraliana.

So what's just been posted on the University of Penna's online books page?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dulce et Decorum Est

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them

Lest we forget.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Order No. 47

…The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name “Marine”. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant

Happy Birthday, you wonderful bastards.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shub Diwali

My workplace is, to say the least, highly diverse when it comes to religion. We have Christians of course; we have lots of Hindus, quite a few Israeli Jews, and a sprinkling of Muslims and Buddhists. One would think management would try to tippy-toe around holidays, but the opposite is true. The company deals with diversity by celebrating everything. Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, Chinese New Year, you name it and we throw a party for it.

One of my personal favorites is Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and it just so happens to start this Friday. Tables will be spread with Indian food brought in from up north (the local samosas evidently are only good enough for every day) and during the afternoon there will be a cricket match.

Diwali is an excuse for the many Americanized employees to wear traditional dress. It’s usually too cold here in the fall for saris but the salwar-khameez are sure to be dazzling. I think salwar-khameez are the most comfortable and the most becoming things ever designed for women. They look good on any figure and they can be as spectacular or as low key as you wish. They are ideal for hot sticky climates; my Indian colleagues always look cool and pulled together in them on the muggiest Midwest summer day.

While on a business trip to India this summer to I bought three sets, two for everyday and one for dress-up. None of them, alas, are warm enough so I will be in my traditional native dress; jeans, running shoes, and a grey sweatshirt with MARINES on the front.

Since the prediction for Friday is cloudy and 50 degrees, I will be making the following recipe, adapted from one I saw on an Indian website, to fortify me. It is a great quick supper dish and without the rice makes a good low-carb breakfast.

Beans and Eggs

One medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 T oil
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
¼ t. red pepper flakes
(I sometimes substitute Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning for the red pepper flakes)
¼ t. turmeric
1 can diced tomatoes
Pinch sugar
4 eggs
Pinch salt

Sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat until golden. Add the pinto beans, the red pepper flakes and the turmeric. Stir and cook for about two minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with juice and a healthy pinch of sugar. Stir and cook for about five minutes longer.

Make 4 depressions in the simmering mixture with the back of a ladle. Break an egg gently in each depression. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook for five to eight more minutes until the eggs are set.

Serve over rice. If it were earlier in the year I’d make mint chutney to go with it but we’ve already had two heavy frosts and the mint is wimping out on me. Otherwise I would put two big fistfuls of mint leaves in the food processor with a heaping tablespoon of dried coconut, a dollop of homemade yogurt, a very small jalapeno, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Buzz it up to a thick paste and add more yogurt if needed.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sunday Dinner

Suggested menu for a November Sunday:

Scotch Broth
Pork Chops in Casserole
Baked Apples in Ramekins
Turnips - Potatoes - Boiled Onions
Lettuce Salad
Washington Pie

The recipe for Washington Pie is given verbatim: ***Beat 3 eggs for 1 minute, add 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour measured after sifting and beat 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup hot water, another cup of flour which has been sifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat 1 minute. Bake slowly in a deep pan. Cut in squares and cover with whipped cream sweetened and flavored.

*** indicates that the recipe is copied from the original cookbook and I have not, myself, tried it out. Caveat baker. Woman's World Book of Tested Sunday Dinners, copyright 1927, Chicago, Illinois