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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Dept. Of Nance Is Eleven

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The Dept. of Nance is Eleven! Trust me; that is far more astonishing a fact to me than it is to you. The Very Idea that I have been yammering on here for that long is almost as Crazy as the Notion that People Still Read Me. And often have Things To Say right back.

Incredible.

And so very Nice.

Eleven itself, as a Number, does not bring to mind anything I can use as a Theme, so I shall borrow a tired old construct and use the letters of the word ELEVEN and yada yada from there.

E is for Eternity. As in how long the Olympics from Rio seem to be lasting. This blog has seen SIX Olympics, starting with the Turin (Italy) Winter Games. I am absolutely certain that the Rio Summer Games are Eleven times longer. Rick has already complained that he cannot come home from work and unwind by watching Dr. Phil because our local NBC affiliate insists on having 90 minutes of news instead. And results are all over the Interwebs and aforementioned news, so unless the event is live, there is no point watching anything time-delayed. We already know the outcomes.

L is for Lists. I've done lots and lots of them on dozens of topics, both here and over at my now-defunct blog that I used to co-write with Jared, Stuff On Our List. Between the two of us, we've listed favourite pies, cakes, Christmas music, and most-hated songs played on the radio. We listed ways to turn around a bad day and Stuff That Is Dead To Us. In 2010 I listed my Five Most Dangerous Food Nemeses, and in 2016, they are still the same. But The List--you know The One--has changed a bit. I think it's almost time we Revisit that in another whole post.

E is for Elections. The Dept. of Nance is normally Very Political. While I make no secret of my Party Affiliation (Strenuously Democrat), I am so disgusted and disappointed in my country this year that I generally have refrained from The Politics this go-round. I have long decried The Wisdom Of The American People as nonexistent. This presidential Election proves it via the entire republican party and the media who had a major hand in creating its nominee, as well as the party faithfuls who continue to support and countenance him, even while they denounce his statements and sentiments. That they would sacrifice their entire country and its people in the name of a party victory or affiliation is revolting. And lest anyone think I am equating the republican nominee with the Democrat in any way, let me be clear: I'm With Her. And like Senator Sanders, I'm sick and tired of hearing about her damn emails. And all of it has caused me to break my Self-Imposed Ban Against Using The Eff Word. So there's That.

V is for Victory! The Dept. of Nance has long celebrated books, authors, poetry, poets, and all manner of writing and reading. It was with the Most Profound Sadness that I wrote about the deaths of some of my favourite authors like JD Salinger, Arthur Miller, and most recently, Harper Lee. Another Great Sadness was my inability for the past two years or so to read books. I mourned this loss so keenly; books were always a huge part of my life. Well, as of June, I'm back to reading as before! I'm so happy. And the book that broke the spell? My old reliable that I reread every June, Gone with the Wind.

E is for Eating.  In the early years of this blog, I wrote often about the protracted and terrible dramas our family enacted when trying to decide What To Have For Dinner. Unfortunately, though the characters are reduced by half, these skits are ongoing. Both Rick and I are bored with food a great deal of the time, and we are ashamed to say so, knowing that there are vast populations of the world going hungry. I try to snap myself out of it and, in bursts of Culinary Energy, create marvelous entrees to great admiration, but then back into the Slough Of Suppertime Despair I go.  Perhaps I need to take a Vitamin.

N is for Necessities.  When I first began writing here at this space, my Necessities Of Life were high heels, red pens, coffee, and martinis.  And, of course, the migraine drugs.  Now my Necessities Of Life still include the migraine drugs and coffee, but that coffee is half-caff.  I've pretty much traded in my martinis for wine because these days, I'm a very cheap drunk.  And I still have all my high heels, but I only visit them in the upstairs closet, like trophies in a case.  As far as red pens, I do all my editing and commenting on documents in a computer program, so those are another relic of a previous life.  (A friend just asked me, upon hearing that school started here this week, if I missed it. All things considered, the answer is still No. )  So, what are my New Necessities Of Life?  Migraine Drugs, Coffee, Wine, ... oh, that last one.  Such a Toughie.

Let's enjoy some cake whilst we mull it over.  Happy Eleven, Everyone.  I think there's enough.

image via Bing/Pinterest

Sunday, August 07, 2016

V Is For Vanilla Ice Cream


About eleventy hundred years ago when I was a child, the Mr. Softee ice cream truck used to come down our street during the summer. It wasn't often that we could stop him and get a soft-serve cone ourselves, but a kid down the street always did. And he always got the biggest cone on the menu, the double one. And he always got the same thing, a double header of Vanilla Ice Cream. My sister Susan, his best friend, made fun of him for it every single time. As a matter of fact, whenever we went to get ice cream at Home Dairy or any other ice cream place, Curt always ordered the same thing, a double or triple dip of Vanilla. Even if the ice cream parlor had a vast array of flavours: raspberry ripple, mint chocolate chip, peach cobbler, peanut butter and jelly, daquiri ice, triple fudge brownie, orange pineapple, and rainbow sherbet, it didn't matter. Curt would wait patiently and with an absolutely serious face (he looked stunningly like Charlie Brown) he'd give his standard order, "I'll have a triple dip of Vanilla, please." Susan would exhale dramatically and ungraciously, roll her eyes, and sometimes even let loose a "Cu-urt!" out of sheer exasperation.

To Curt's credit he responded pretty much the way he responded to all of her outbursts and fits of temper; he merely looked at her, maybe blinked once or twice, and spoke calmly. "Suze," he would say, "I like Vanilla." This usually did nothing but provoke her into more pique. All the while, Curt placidly licked his ice cream and stayed loyally by her side.

My grandparents were also major Vanilla Ice Cream loyalists. I don't think there was another flavour in their house, ever. During strawberry season, berries atop Vanilla Ice Cream was the only dessert offered (besides the ever-present homemade molasses or sour cream cookies) at their house, and it was usually eaten on the front porch. When it wasn't berry season, the Vanilla Ice Cream accompanied one of Grandma's pies (usually elderberry, rhubarb, or apple) or the aforementioned cookies. I think if Grandma had ever offered me chocolate ice cream at her house on East Liberty Street, I'd probably have fainted, assuming she'd left the church or lost her faculties. Even now, I cannot even imagine something so patently ridiculous. Chocolate ice cream at Grandma's? Impossible.

Rick is also a pretty solid Vanilla Ice Cream guy. Once, when we stopped at our favourite soft serve stand, he shocked me by ordering a twist cone. "Are you surprised?" he asked me. "I thought I'd switch things up for a change." As I started in on my own small twist, I watched him. "Well?" I asked after a few moments. "How is it?" He looked at me, his face disappointed. "I don't know why you like this so much. It all blends together and just tastes like chocolate.  You can't taste any Vanilla. I'm going back to Vanilla." And he has, although he is relatively adventurous at our favourite hard ice cream scoop shop.

Vanilla Ice Cream...bores me. I do appreciate (and insist upon) a Really Good Premium Vanilla Ice Cream, but I need a little something to jazz it up. Like chocolate syrup. Or fresh berries. Or...Something. (Not sprinkles; never sprinkles. Ugh.) But in an ice cream shop faced with a staggering array of fantastic flavours like mango sorbet, lemon black raspberry, and toasted pistachio, I'm not defaulting to Vanilla. (Even superb Vanilla.) I definitely appreciate the role of Vanilla Ice Cream in a hot fudge sundae. You don't want any other flavour in there, really. But I don't want Vanilla Ice Cream mucking about in my pie or birthday cake. (And that goes for all ice cream and all cakes, by the way.)

Are people either Chocolate Ice Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream people? I know I'm a Chocolate Ice Cream Person. If I were stuck with only one kind of ice cream for the rest of my life, and it had to be either chocolate or Vanilla, I'd pick chocolate. No question.

Tell us your Vanilla Ice Cream memories. And which Kind Of Person--Chocolate or Vanilla--are you?

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Friday, July 22, 2016

U Is For Underwear

Underwear is one of the biggest scams out there. How on earth did this Necessity become so absurdly expensive? Honestly, if it were at all expedient and convenient to Boycott Underwear, I would Do It. And it's not just Certain Brands of Underwear. Then it would be easy. Then, those of us who view Underwear as Utilitarian and Not Part Of Our Signature Look could simply scoff and say, "Seven dollars for a pair for Underwear? Surely you jest. My derriere and I will do just fine, Overpriced Underwear Purveyor, without your wares. We don't need any fancy schmancy Underwear, thank you very much." And off we would go to Reasonably Priced Underwear Emporium, plunk down our few bucks, and walk out with Basic Underwear, happy and fulfilled.

Oh, if only.

No, that is Not The Way It Works. Because apparently, there is a Vast Underworld Underwear Cartel, and this makes it downright impossible to get a decently priced pair of Underwear anywhere. I mean, come on, IT'S UNDERWEAR. What do we really need from it? We need comfort, number one; we need utility, number two. That's pretty much it. (If you need some Sexy Prancing/Writhing Come-Hither Underwear, then by all means, pay top dollar for That Ensemble, but how many of those getups do you really need? And trust me, you could use a newspaper or a bath towel or a Got Milk sun visor and it would be just as effective, because...Men.)

But I digress.

There is absolutely No Way that my Underwear should cost what it does. Hell, even Rick's Underwear should not cost what it does. I just Don't Get It. Now, disposable diapers--that cost I understand. There is a lot of ongoing Research And Development invested there. Diapers are way, way thinner and better now than the ones I put on Jared and Sam back in the '80s. But basic Underwear has changed (no pun intended), relatively speaking, very little.

Unless you are speaking about the names of Underwear, and there, the changes have been stunning (Victoria's Secret, I am talking to you). Holy crap. I'm ready to pin the whole Underwear Inflation Scandal on that place alone. I feel like the whole Idea of that place is not only responsible for Underwear Price Inflation, but also some pretty major setbacks in Feminism. And Body Acceptance. And Sensible Budgeting.

(Is this a good time for me to go and holler at some kids to get off my lawn? I think so, too.)

Sigh.

My point--and I do have one--is that Underwear is a terribly overpriced Necessary. And once I find a source for a variety that I Like and Accept The Price Of, I buy a bunch of it because I know what will happen. That particular brand or style or source will completely disappear for No Reason Whatsoever, just like every single other product that I loved and lost.  And nothing lasts forever; certainly not Underwear.

(Although I know that more than a few of you have at least one pair of Emergency, Third-String Underwear in the drawer, right?  Just In Case?  Bonus points if it is actually maternity Underwear and the youngest kid isn't even living at home.)

Your turn.  Mention all your Unmentionables in Comments.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

T Is For Lots Of Things (And I Am On A Personal Mission)

Nothing compelling came to mind when I thought about letter T, so let's have a List Post of

Some T Things

1. Tomorrow
2. Tables
3. Towels
4. Tardy
5. T Adjectives

Here is the Chat Part:

1. Tomorrow. I'm more than a little bit annoyed that, when I hear this word, instead of thinking of the moody and fatalistic speech by Macbeth, I instead hear in my head the plucky and annoyingly obvious sentiment of Broadway Annie. Consider the absurd difference:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


-VS.-

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You're only a day away!


Personal Mission: Memorize again the Macbeth speech and recite it daily. I know the cats will love it.

2. Tables. How I wish I could eliminate coffee tables (aka Repositories Of Junk) from my life and the lives of others. They are also Obstacles To Efficient Vacuuming. Actually, it is astonishing how many Tables I have that I truly don't use. My dining room table is decorative and sentimental only. It belonged to my grandmother, and it holds a collection of antique books, empty bottles of favourite wines, and candlesticks. I have also a decorative book stand Table that looks as if it is made from books; a completely useless breakfront console Table under our fake Vermeer that holds leather-bound books and knickknacks; and two more small occasional Tables in the dining room that hold, yes, more beautiful old books and other Preciouses. We have a lovely custom kitchen table, but it is rarely used since Rick and I eat simple dinners together in the living room. I would also eliminate, out in the wild, Picnic Tables, which are not only ugly, but also ridiculously inefficient and stupid. And uncomfortable. And dangerous. And encourage outdoor eating, and we all know how I feel about that. What the hell kind of person attaches the chair to the Table? On both sides? With no backrest? And makes them out of wood and leaves them outdoors so that they purposefully develop splinters? Honestly, they are the worst. Want to eat on a teeter-totter? Picnic Tables are for you.

Personal Mission: Streamline my Table Situation. Holy crap. I sound like a Table Hoarder.

3. Towels. Pretty soon, Towels are going to be heirloom items like art and silver settings and fine china. This is not only because Towels are ridiculously expensive, but because they are also so stupidly thick and plush that they will be around for generations. It is as if you are using someone's velvet portieres or Oriental rug with which to dry off. And heaven help you if you wrap one around your hair and head, turban-style, after washing your hair. The massive, crushing weight will either unbalance you or give you a migraine. I don't require much from a Towel: dry me with soft efficiency and, if necessary, stay wrapped around me--briefly--if need be whilst I brush my teeth. I still have one of my bath Towels from college (1979-1981) that I use for my hair.

Personal Mission: Have a Golden Anniversary Party for my Hair Towel. I will invite the matching Hand Towel, which resides with Jared and Sam.

4. Tardy. I have not used this adjective meaning "late" once since retiring from teaching. It is one of those Teacher-Specific Terms that have fallen from my lexicon. I do not miss it. It is retired, too, along with Semester, Grades, Attendance, Extra Credit and a few others.

Personal Mission: Never resurrect these terms.

5. T Adjectives. How much do we love The Interwebs? I came across an entire page of Adjectives Starting With T, and here are some wonderful ones I especially like:

tabby
tacit
talky
tarry
tertiary
tiresome
tawdry
temerarious
tenebrous
terse
thorny
tumescent
turgid
tedious

Personal Mission: Use more varied adjectives. I am getting lazy.

Can't wait to hear your Thoughts on any or all of these T's. Or if I've inspired you to go on your own Personal Missions. Your Turn To Chat now, in Comments.


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Thursday, June 30, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different: The Dept. Might Crash The Convention In Cleveland And Offer Its Own Nostalgic Nominee


Scene opens on a living room setting. Rick is in his big easy chair; Nance is curled up on the end of the couch. Both are watching the national news; its first story is another depressingly shocking one featuring a taped segment of the republican party's Presumptive Nominee.

Nance: Oh my god. You have got to be kidding me. What a--
Rick: I know. Disgusting. And--
Nance: How can anyone...? I mean, what can anyone see in that maniacal idiot that makes him think, 'This is someone I want as my President'?
Rick: (glancing over at Piper, the huge orange cat) Piper would make a better President than he would.
Nance: He really would. He is far more stable, and much more Zen.
Rick: Well, you'd have to be his translator. And nothing could get started until after 7 AM, when he finishes his breakfast.
Nance: And everything would have to stop again at 5 PM for his snack.
Rick: And again at 9 PM for his dessert.
Nance: And don't forget his Big Nap from 10 AM until 2 PM every day.
Rick: That's right. And sometimes he runs over and sleeps even longer than that. And gets another one in from 6PM until his dessert at 9.
Nance: So...basically, a rerun of the Reagan Presidency!

End Scene.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

S Is For Salad

One dinner in particular at my in-laws' stands out. I can't even recall if Rick and I were married yet, but I was sitting down to a meal of ham, wax beans, and probably mashed potatoes. My first glance told me that the ham--pale, sad, and already sliced--would be dry and a struggle. My eyes widened in alarm at the dish of beans: they were a colour that I had never seen wax beans take on before, sort of a sepia-toned, manila hue with a distinctly grey cast. Horrified, I pinned all my hopes on the Salad. How could anyone ruin a Salad?

The Salad, such as it was, was on a separate plate already made up. It was a limp leaf of iceberg lettuce surmounted by a single ring of canned pineapple. Inside its center was a dab of cream cheese upon which had been sprinkled some walnut dust. We each had one.

I was doomed.

I thought longingly of my mother's everyday Salads, served with every single dinner, even takeout pizza. They were huge family-style bowls full of iceberg and leaf lettuces, fresh onion, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes (when they were in season), and every once in a while, a Wild Card Ingredient, depending upon her mood, my father's request, or what was hanging around in the grocery store, farmstand, or crisper. Oh, and green olives. She made her own vinaigrette, too, and insisted on Regina Red Wine Vinegar. And measure? Ha! It is to laugh. Watching her shake and pour the oil and vinegar bottles over the salad and add her seasonings (always Lawry's Seasoned Salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper), then toss and toss and toss again and again was to watch a mad scientist at work.

What I wouldn't have given for one bowl of her Salad at that meal.

No one should be victimized by Bad Salad. A Salad should be a celebration of fresh ingredients made bright by its dressing. It should be flavourful and wonderful. It shouldn't feel like a punishment, and it shouldn't feel like a scavenger hunt or a rummage sale, either.

I hate those Salads that are basically a bowl of whitish-yellow lettuce, a pale crunchy tomato wedge, and a hunk of cucumber. Period. I wouldn't give a homeless bunny that crap. Add one of those sugary, viscous bottled dressings, and I think I'd rather have the pineapple ring with cream cheese.

But by the same token, what is going on with some of these Salads that have a ton of junk in them? Lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach, chow mein noodles, cashews, golden raisins, cheese, tortilla strips, blueberries, shredded carrot, chicken, pita chips, and sprouts? Do you know that some restaurant Salads clock in at over twelve hundred calories? Holy crap.

As soon as the weather gets warm, Rick and I opt for Big Salads for dinner a lot of the time. I follow the same kind of recipe handed down from St. Patsy with a few variations. I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar for my dressing, and because I am more picky and exacting, I measure. Every time. I do use Lawry's for that familiar taste, but I use only freshly ground black pepper always. For our Big Dinner Salads, I add a chunked-up chicken breast or piece of steak or whatever protein we fancy. And rather than iceberg lettuce, I use romaine. The rest of the ingredients can vary like St. Patsy's now and then, depending upon what is in season and what I have left over. Once in a while, I make an Asian-inspired dressing, and we vary the Salad ingredients to accommodate that. Summer means lots and lots of options since the farmstands are full of produce: roasted yellow and zucchini squash, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes--the list is truly endless.  But always, I strive for taste and balance.

The only time I buy bottled dressing is to make this terrific Salad, introduced to me by my friend and fellow blogger Shirley. I make one addition to it, and that is to add chunks of crisp apples. It's a terrific Salad, especially in the fall.

Oh, Salad! What a bad rap you've gotten! From turgid Jell-O molds holding shreds of vegetables in suspended animation to ascetic scoops of cottage cheese cradled in cantaloupe halves, you've been dismissed as Diet Fare, labelled as Lady Lunch, and eyed askance as a source of Salmonella In A Sack.

But I still love you. I love you even though you are worky to put together, despite my Salad Spinner and the help of Rick, my Salad Sous Chef, a man always happy to help with anything that doesn't end up looking like stuff his mother made.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

r Is For republicans


Even in the title, I cannot bring myself to capitalize the R and give this political party any respect whatsoever, especially now.

My longtime readers have journeyed with me through both terms of the Angel Of Death (Bush 43), including my Despair of the Election Of The Dark Times. We watched my Countdown Clock until a Democrat finally sat in The Big Chair in the White House, and together we mocked the teapartiers with great mirth, critiquing their sad, poorly-executed signage. I declared my own suitability for Vice President, my love for past Democratic Presidents and Presidential Candidates, and offered to serve as a nonpartisan government Department of my own.

All of this Good Fun aside, for me The Politics is Serious Business, especially Presidential Politics. To put it into perspective, let me share a brief story with you:

In April, Rick and I were visiting a winery in Ontario, Canada, whose owner/winemaker was born in Poland. As we tasted and chatted, he wanted to talk Politics. He conveyed a deep dismay with the United States' embrace of its current republican standard bearer. "I don't understand," he said. "This guy is a clown, a television personality. He has no political experience, no diplomatic intelligence."

I assured him that I, for one, was not only disgusted by this candidate, but alarmed by him. "The American press and media have created a monster," I told him. "Because he makes good TV and good copy, they have legitimized and inflated his candidacy. And the republican party fringe element has found its Poster Boy. I could not be more disappointed and embarrassed."

"But Americans," my host continued rather passionately and knowingly, "they have to remember. They are not just electing a president of their country. They are, in fact, really electing a President of the Whole World. Don't they realize or think of that?"

Sigh.

I have to say, I seriously doubt that any of the republicans who have endorsed the current Presumptive Nominee of their party (however tepidly or reluctantly) have thought of that. At all. These pompous, cowardly, self-righteous self-preservationists have blindly put Party before Country and Position before Constituency. They would rather Fill The Chair than Help The Country. Or the Whole World.

It is repulsive.

Even as some republicans meekly condemn this yahoo nominee as racist or bigoted or wrongheaded or whatever, they always conclude their remarks with a statement of support. Even so-called Christian groups are conflicted, some conditionally withholding support, depending upon whether the presumptive republican nominee woos them effectively. Ugh.

How dare this party call itself The Party Of Lincoln? It bears no resemblance whatsoever to that assemblage, the one which railed against slavery and passed the Thirteenth Amendment. It was President Lincoln who said of one political party:

"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

It is a short bit of editing to make his remarks ring true for Today:

I am not a republican. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of women, be in favor of degrading classes of any people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except Muslims.” When the republicans get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Muslims, and women, and Mexicans.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

No, this republican party is not The Party Of Lincoln. It's more like the Know-Nothing Party; the name--with this nominee especially--is a much better fit by far.

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