Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday and canned corn

In the spirit of full disclosure, and as you may know, I am employed at a Big Box Super Store. It does not provide me with a great deal of money, but I have a very good Health Insurance plan, and a nice enough discount on purchases that I consider it part of my salary.

I worked 8am to 4:30pm on "Black Friday", and was very busy. But because many of our customers had already been and gone by the time I got to work and we were well staffed, it was not, what we refer to in cashier parlance, "crazy busy". Saturday was the same. I expect it to be thus all the way through to Christmas Eve.

Years ago, back in Ohio, I worked as a receptionist at a small company owned by a couple who seemed elderly to me; I think maybe they were in their sixties. The wife was the office curmudgeon. I remember she used to lament, daily, "Vat's the voild comink to?"

As I watched the T.V coverage of the BF openings all over the country, I felt pretty curmudgeonly myself. Pepper Spray violence, gun play, shouting matches, fist fights, and perhaps the saddest of all, a report of a man who collapsed from a medical condition as shoppers walked by, and in some cases, stepped over him in order to get on with their shopping.

I'm disgusted. I'm appalled. I'm sad, deeply sad. What's the voild comink to. Have we forgotten?

Instead of celebrating the return of light after the shortest day of the year by joyfully giving gifts to each other, are we fighting each other for a five dollar savings off a video game? For Christians, is the meaning of the holiday completely lost in the shuffle for the lowest price?

After I wrote the above words, I stepped away for a little bit. I reviewed the mission statement as expressed on the faceplate of this blog, "As I enter the last trimester of my life, I am working hard at having fun."

Sometimes it's hard work to have fun, but as I spend my holiday workdays ringing up gifts, I try to see the giving spirit in the items in front of me. The guest who just put $300 worth of toys on my conveyor belt, smiles broadly when I ask her if she would like them placed in an opaque "hide it" bag. She is relieved that we have such a thing.

Another explains what the "elf on a shelf" (http://www.elfontheshelf.com/) story is, shares a giggle with me as I lament that I am so old that that tradition wasn't invented yet when my children were small.

Last year, one of my favorite moments occurred just a few days before Christmas Eve. A gentleman in a suit, brought me a stack of gift cards and, list in hand, told me on much should go on each card. He had apparently put as much thought into the design of the gift cards as another person might have in picking out an individual gift. This person likes the Santa card, that person likes the one with the Snowman. A group of persons on his list got the ones with lights, and yet another group received the cards that can double as toys themselves.

Finally, a mental hug goes out to the almost elderly couple who put twenty dollars worth of canned food on my belt. Ten cans of corn, ten cans of green beans, etc. They too had a list. They grouped all the cans together so I could ring them up efficiently.

I'm here to observe, not here to preach. I observed that this couple did not look particularly prosperous, and I am observing that, depending on your circumstances, ten dollars is not a lot of money. I'm here to tell you now that ten dollars buys a lot of canned food. I know, I bagged it all. And they were having lots of fun!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hotsy Totsy Redux. A really Saucy sauce.

The Manly Spouse's brother has a neighbor who grew a ton of Serrano peppers last summer. Really. We had a bucketful sitting out in the garage. A five gallon bucketful.

"Should I throw them away?" my spouse asked. "Nooo", said I. I'm sure I can think of something to do with them.

Over the weekend I decided enough of them had finally turned a nice orangey-red to make some really saucy hot sauce. Here's what I did.

I picked through and got all the ones with color in them, about a pound. A nice four or five handfuls anyway.

I washed them and sliced away the yucky bits and threw them into a big pot. Then I smooshed three or four nice fat garlic cloves and threw them in too. I added two cups full of plain white vinegar and about a tablespoon of salt, set the pot to simmering, and left the room.

I have an electric stove, so it takes awhile for stuff to heat up, and I only turned the burner up to about four. In about an hour the peppers felt soft, so I turned off the heat and left the room again.

A couple of hours later, when the peppery mixture was cool, I pulled out my trusty 50-year-old Osterizer, and dumped everything in there and turned it on to the "liquefy" setting for a few minutes.

This brought Manly Spouse into the kitchen for a sniff, and then a taste. We had a brief discussion on whether I should strain it, and decided not to. The seeds give you your heat, and the folks around here who love hot stuff like it really hot. So, really, there was nothing to discuss; we were just being polite.

See the seeds? Zowie!

I funneled it into little jars and put it in the fridge. The little research I did on making hot sauce indicated that some steeping, or aging, is necessary. Like two weeks.

Did you know that some folks, and websites, claim that green chilis are hotter than red ones? I still had about half a bucketful so what the heck!

I started the whole process again.

There were a lot more of these peppers, so I used my mother's old VitaMix. This is only about half of it.

Ta Da!

Whether this turns out hotter that the sauce from the red peppers remains to be seen...in two weeks.

By the way, I don't know of you can tell from the photos, but it is pretty thick. I left it that way, but if you try this and you want it thinner, just add more vinegar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Football Sadness

Sometimes I feel compelled to write about the non-joyful events in our world. Today is one of those times. Today I want to write a few words about the events at Penn State. Events that are casting a pall over what is usually an enjoyable pastime for me, watching College Football.

The scandal at Penn State reminds me of the Lawrence Phillips debacle at the University of Nebraska back in the mid-nineties. Mr. Phillips beat his former girlfriend almost to death, then grabbed her by the hair, and dragged her down the stairs of her dormitory. The young woman, Kate McEwen, who was attending UNL on an athletic scholarship to the women's basketball team, was injured so badly she could no longer participate in her sport.

Back during those days, my voice was one of the many that was raised insisting that Tom Osborne, then head coach at University of Nebraska at Lincoln, resign or be fired from his position. Time has softened some, but not all of my outrage. In addition, the University initially showed a lack of sensitivity when it revoked Ms. McEwen's scholarship. After some public outcry, that decision was reversed, allowing her to continue her education.

Phillips has proved his lack of character, and is now serving a 31 year prison sentence for attacking another girlfriend and driving his car into a group of teenagers. Tom Osborne, who gave Phillips the benefit of doubt and tried to support him by suspending him for a few games, and sending him to counseling, is now the Athletic Director at Nebraska. His job, at the time, was to serve as a surrogate father to his players, as well as Coach, and I now believe his heart was In the right place, even if his judgment was less than sound.

I like to watch College Football. I really like to watch Nebraska Football. Disclaimer: I wasn't always a football fan, but I was converted by the manly spouse, with whom I learned to enjoy watching Nebraska Football so much, that I now watch it happily, sometimes all by myself.

It is a fact that football programs bring in substantial sums of money to Universities. Money that presumably contributes to academic, as well as athletic programs. I find it sad, and infuriatingly discouraging, that this apparently causes some people to think twice before reporting horrific crimes against children, or expelling star football players who commit horrific crimes against women.

Joe Paterno may have been thinking about the consequences to his football program, rather than the consequences to young lives when he showed such poor judgement back in 1999. The sad but appropriate fact is that he will now be remembered for this, overshadowing 45 years of excellence.

Lawrence Phillips may be no more than a blip on the screen these days. He is a footnote, a vague recollection to most of us. Although probably not to Kate McEwen.

Former coach Sandusky will undoubtedly answer to the law, and will be sent away to a place where he can no longer hurt little children. He will live In his private hell and we will forget about him. The young men who were his victims may find it hard to forget. Their mothers and fathers whose trust he betrayed will never forget.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cultural Icons and the Hazards of Growing Old

It all started yesterday while the Manly Spouse was shampooing the carpet in our front room. The living room of our home, where we spend most of our evenings, watching T.V., talking about our days, playing with our respective mobile devices....we have a mixed marriage: Android/iPhone, Wally World/Tar-Jay, lager/ale...oops, I digress.

I was moving out the clutter: the doggie beds, foot stools, and from under the bookshelf, the old, rather large, photo album I have from my first marriage. Naturally, I became distracted, and opened it up, looking for a favorite picture of my boys playing with their "transformer" cars, and a younger me in the "witchie" hat I have worn every Halloween for the past 30 years, which I still haven't taken back down to the basement after this year's Halloween festivities.

While going through this album, I came across an old picture of my ex-husband posing with a man who was one of his best friends when we first came to Omaha in the mid-eighties. I have a social networking "friendship" with that man, so I snapped a picture of the snapshot with my iPhone, and posted it on his "wall".

What followed was a series of comments and memories from folks whose names I find only vaguely familiar, but whose memories bring back sharp recollections of a time in my life that was uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearably sad, but for these old friends of his... something else entirely. It made me realize that my ex-husband is something of a cultural icon in this town.

A true multi-media artist, he painted with whatever he had handy. He had a couple of Art Shows here in Omaha back in the day, and made about two dollars. But I liked his work. He always said it was his Legacy to his children, but unfortunately, I do not think any of his children, mine included, own any of it. Once, about ten years ago, the Manly Spouse and I walked into a Gallery in the Old Market, a fashionable, artsy part of town, and there it was. An oil painting. On the wall. With a price tag of several hundred dollars.

Having had no musical training, my ex decided he wanted to become a jazz musician. Not the Dave Brubeck kind of jazz, but the Ornette Coleman "Harmolodics" kind. He taught himself how to play the clarinet and saxophone (with my help), and the drums. These instruments being too traditional for him, he graduated to monkey wrenches, pots and pans, and really any object that might make some sort of percussive sound. He became a professional busker, and in about 1991, actually raised enough money (again, with my help) to make a recording. In a Recording Studio with a real sound engineer.

Cultural Icon? Well, maybe a Counter-cultural icon. Today he is living his dream, I think. I found a web video of him a few years ago, busking on the streets of Portland, OR, where he is now living, making music. His instrument? An old bicycle. http://www.cosmicjoke.com/ShaneIntro.html

He came to Omaha a couple of years ago when my son's fifth child was born. For several years now, He's been living with Parkinson's Disease, and seems a little frail, although the fire is still in his eyes. My son says he's stronger than he looks, and does Yoga every morning, but sometimes he falls down. He can't play his instruments, or hold a paintbrush any more, because his hands don't work the way they used to. But he can, apparently, still dance. http://www.flickr.com/photos/interarts/with/4518095093/

I hope he comes back to town soon, not just to see his grandchildren, but because there's a whole bunch of people who want to help him relive some very wild days.

While they do that, I'm going to stay at home. I'll be sitting in my freshly shampooed front room, snuggled in with the Manly Spouse, watching T.V., talking about our delightfully hum drum days.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad