Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dead of Night

Early in the morning (3 a.m.) the house phone rang. Remember how late-night phone calls were on my list of things I would not miss? This freaked me out, of course. Corey was spending the night in town celebrating his BD. So of course my first thought was god, something has happened...Excy never hears anything - the man could sleep through a tornado -- so I am sorry say I prodded him awake (hey, if it's bad news I don't want to hear it alone), and checked it out only to see there was no message and a phone number we didn't recognize. (I love caller ID).

Excy immediately fell back asleep but it wired me up. My darkest thoughts began to fester in the darkness. A week before, a gang member came into the restaurant/bar C works in, and acted all squirrely, and high. He drank a beer for which he didn't pay. When C ordered him out, this man threatened him, saying he'd be back with some of his gang members. It's bothered me ever since he told me the story.

Several years ago, the son of friends of ours was killed by high school gang members. Not content to murder their youngest son, these paragons of society called the house and told our friends where they could find their missing son (falsely, as it turned out), and while they raced across town to the location, they burgled their house.

My monkey mind began racing...thinking about murder...home invasion...

Last weekend, a friend of a friend was murdered in his leads yet...his three dogs taken to the pound...

It sounds like LR is a murder capitol, but it's really not...but I guess everyone knows someone affected by crime and tragedy. I wish I could say these were all the stories like this I know; unfortunately it's not.

After stewing an hour with these various scenarios in mind, I finally sat up and wrote a short story draft for a writing competition coming up. I had won second place for a 'Gimme the Creeps' story two years before, and now used my paranoid anxiety to come up with a suspenseful yarn I was fairly pleased with.

I got to sleep around 6 a.m. When I looked at the guidelines after getting up later that morning, I saw they were for submitting a ghost story. Oh well. I have several of those...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Apple Dumpling Gang

I assume you heard the national news on New Year's day about the thousands of red-winged blackbirds that were found dead in the woods of AR? Lots of people didn't believe the investigation's finding they died of blunt-force trauma caused by being startled from their roost at night and colliding into tree trunks, limbs, and each other. The assumption was the birds roost at night and noise from NY Eve celebration fireworks startled them. At the time I heard the story, I wondered if this could really be the case.

Last week for two days during the latest snow, we had a humongous flock of red-winged blackbirds in the back yard, all settling around our bird tree (what I call a cedar stob with lots of feeders, suet cages, and peanut butter smears on it). I've now seen firsthand these guys fly into anything. We didn't have bird bodies around, thankfully, but every few minutes one ran into the screened porch or a window...guess they don't call them bird brains for nothing...was kinda eery -- made me think of the Hitchcock movie The Birds.

One of those cold days I made a large pot of red beans and rice, and casting about for dessert, remembered this quick and easy one. If you like apple pie or cobbler, this is a real treat; usually people have the ingredients already on hand:

Apple Dumplings

pie crust
granny smith apples, one per person--peeled and cored (up to six or less for these ingredients)
1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
3 c water
2 c sugar
1 t vanilla

400 degrees. Preheat oven.
Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan.
On a floured surface, roll out pie crust into a large rectangle and cut into squares**
Cut butter in pieces. Place each apple in a square of pastry (or see below), and place one piece of butter in the opening of each apple and two pieces of butter around the base. Do this for each apple. Reserve remaining butter for the sauce. Divide brown sugar between the apples, poking it inside each core and around the base of each apple. Sprinkle each apple with cinnamon and nutmeg.
With slightly wet fingertips bring up the corners of each pastry around the top of the apple and press together. Seal each apple this way. Place them in the buttered pan.

In a saucepan combine the water, sugar, vanilla, and reserved butter and bring to a boil in medium heat. Boil 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved well. Pour over the apple dumplings.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes.

Place each apple in a dessert bowl and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with vanilla ice cream....enjoy the compliments.

**I was lazy. What I did, which made extra crust, was to wrap one large granny smith apple each in one Pillsbury pie crust and let the top overlap. Worked beautifully.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Be Mine, Valentine

According to an article in the paper, a handwritten love letter is the most sought-after gift a man could give a woman (national poll among women ages 18 to 70). I wonder why men find it easier to go with flowers and candy?

My close GF C. hit the romance bonanza when she married B. Although they've been married more than 17 years, he writes and mails her a sweet letter every single day. Let me repeat that: EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, B's a writer, but he's also a professor at a college and writer and director of a children's theater. He's a busy guy and the fact he makes time for this is all the more cherished by C. She once lamented foreseeing a future where the letters stop. Knowing B, he'll write some and have them mailed posthumanly. Like in that movie, P.S., I Love You.

The excellent McCullough book on John Adams revealed a loving couple and I don't think Adams would have been as successful without his Abigail. They wrote each other daily, exchanging 1,100 letters that we know of. She always began hers with 'Dearest friend.' Although they spent years apart during his political and diplomatic career, she was a keen businesswoman and confidant, and kept the home fires burning. In return he was devoted, and always let her know how grateful he was. They were married 54 years.

Mom and dad have been married 61 years. I came across a few letters he wrote her while he was away at college and she was teaching school. They were ardent and professed jealousy, though she only confided she went out with one other guy , once -- mom and dad have been together since they were 15 and 16 -- going steady, dropped, pinned, engaged and married. They are still so cute together. (They seldom remember their anniversary, which I take to mean they don't have to celebrate the day when they make each day count). Dad's never been much of a hugger or talker, but his actions count.

Excy and I are going on 19 years, and together for 20. He's never been big on writing, either - though I begged for one love letter early on. Does it count when one begs? The first 16 years he made me romantic drawings and cards. I hung them in my dressing area. I tease him 'the bloom's off the rose' because he hasn't done this in awhile. I'm sure he will eventually.

But he shows his love and devotion every day. After Thanksgiving dinner my niece told my SIL she wanted a husband "just like Uncle Excy, who pulls the chair out for Aunt Amy and gets her plate for her and is attentive." She's right, I am a lucky lady. Every morning he brews me tea and serves it to me in bed. Every time we go out he holds my hand, walks on the outside of the sidewalk, and opens the doors and car door for me. Right now he's making another hammered dulcimer stand, as my original one fell apart. I didn't even have to ask! I just showed him the plans and how much they cost to buy -- tee hee...He tells me every day I'm beautiful and that he loves me. If that's not a living legacy of love I don't know what is. I'd still love a letter, sometime, though!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my blogging buddies. I am thankful for you, too!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alta Memories

All this snow-snow-snow (up to six inches and counting -- went out to feed the birds and test it, but it's too powdery to make a snowman or snowballs), has me thinking back to when I worked at the Alta Lodge in Alta, UT. I left AR for the west with my then-BF after collage at age 21 (making me the black sheep of the family overnight). When we landed in UT to visit friends of his, I was instantly hooked and decided to stay for a season and learn how to snow-ski...

Alta is on top of a mountain range right next to the more well-known Snow mass, and down the way from the popular Park City. But Alta is the best-known secret (or it was then), because it was far less crowded and the skiing was excellent. The Lodge was run by a family -- whose patriarch was the then-mayor of the town, and the Lodge was very swank -- just spectacular.

Most of the guests were repeat clientele who came each season, staying the week in the same rooms etc. And many were very nice. We had a few celebrities. Unfortunately it seemed the majority were high-strung New Yorkers with an overbearing attitude and demeanor who thought paying through the nose allowed them the right to treat employees like galley slaves and servants. Disclaimer: I have nothing against New Yorkers in general. Every future trip and business trip I had to New York proved lovely, regardless of their occasional attitude towards out-of-town-ers, no doubt cultivated by necessity.

Back to Alta; Everything about the place fascinated me. I started out in the late summer working in the office, helping summer guests, making reservations, stocking the bar, and making their renowned Alta Guacamole Dip*. The Lodge was glass and timber and nestled into the slope of the mountain. To get to the entry you walked down a billion stairs, or could enter through the service entry at the top of the parking lot. This kept the Lodge from being struck by avalanches. (Avalanches did wipe out a few cars and some buildings at street level, though. Most were planned, set off by Ski Patrol with howitzers, but some, as described above, were not). The buildings standing at street level all had doors instead of windows for the second and third stories, and I was thrilled to discover we would be walking out of them after the snows came. By the third week of October the snows began that year and by December we were using the upper window-doors and rooftop windows.

I had quickly figured out over the off-season that waitressing in the dining hall got me better ski hours (working as a maid was out of the question), and I hated the snob I had to work with in the office anyway, so I switched over just before the season began and the Lodge would open. Everyone working there was in their late teens and twenties - I think the eldest ski-bum holdouts were in their 30s -- seemingly ancient to me at the time. The manager/maitre'd of the dining room was one of these 'old men,' and for weeks he coached his staff on how to walk with heavy trays, how to open wine bottles and pour out glasses, how to put down plates and clear them away, and most importantly, how to be discreet and polite and make sure our guests had a sumptuous dining experience, drilling into us how the guests were always to be treated like royalty.

Working as a waitress I learned just why you should never, ever, offend your waitress, and what is likely to happen if you do. I have seen with my own eyes just what some can do -- or some chefs -- if people are obnoxious. But back to our story...

Opening night, we all donned our uniforms of long skirts and unitards for girls, hair neatly back in buns, and stood at attention before the doors opened while the manager made one last minute inspection of his staff and the dining room and tables. Finally the door opening. Our guests poured forth. The first table was seated. The manager clicked his fingers at his favorite -- I don't know why -- maybe they were sleeping together -- a whiny nasal-voiced New Yorker with haute attitude who proved to be a huge slacker over the season...we all hung back to watch her in action...striding over to the full table of noisy, chattering guests, she waved her hands in the air. "SHUSH-SHUSH-SHUSH!! Whadd'ya want??!" She screeched at the now shocked patrons.

The manager/maitre'd slumped against the wall.

* I'm too lazy to find it now but if you want the recipe send me an email and I'll send it to you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Partial Listing

Borrowing an idea from the Ephron book, I am submitting two lists -- things I know I will miss when I'm gone, and things I never shall. Though hardly conclusive, the only changes would be additions...

I hope everyone is doing well. At this rate I think AR should change its initials to AK, as we are all sick of the weather, which threatens to continue today and then again on Wednesday, getting down to 4...yikes...have had to make many cancellations and adjustments the past two weeks...we are all over this 'winter wonderland.' Maybe not school kids -- I remember how exciting snow days were...

cats taking a sunbath
cats talking
bread pudding
Pride & Prejudice (book and BBC version of film)
sitting on a beach and watching the ocean
fresh sheets
iced tea
clear blue skies
Ella Fitzgerald songs
dining with friends in nice restaurants
driving fast
the smell of burning leaves
reading in bed
really good chocolate
jordan almonds
going to the theater
hand-written letters
decorated Christmas trees
balmy summer nights
fires in fireplaces and in outdoor fire pits
Abbot Also's caramels with nuts
all music but rap and heavy metal
steam baths
green tea
traveling to a new city with Excy
pink lady apples
watching movies from the '30s and '40s
lap blankets
frozen margaritas
finishing exercising
I'd better stop...

drunk people
people yelling
bad drivers
long fingernails, especially on men
fake nails
reality shows
calves liver
stepping in dog poo
cell phones
chronic interruptors
new technology to master
walking with a cane
Fox news
Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and their lot
barking dogs
clueless people
standing in lines
bad movies
cleaning toilets
late-night phone calls (never good news)
asparagus pee
forgetting a birthday
losing your train of thought
being late
dead flowers
a dirty house
worrying over money
trying on clothes
religious fanatics
no money for charitable giving
telemarketing calls
bad food
ringing telephones
I'll stop now...