Thursday, December 12, 2019

Apocalyptic Christmas Gift

How To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse: The Complete Guide To Urban Survival, Prepping and Zombie Defense. by [Jackson, Ben]
2016 was a momentous time for us. After my husband's mother died, we felt a tie being broken. That was when we decided we could move. We had been in our house for 27 years, our children were adults far away, and we needed to be in a community where we could settle for our (hopefully long) senior years.

Box after box, Goodwill trips, trash bins were all part of the experience until we handed our life over to the moving company. Soon our new house was a wall of boxes.

Finding another box to unpack had become routine in our new house. At first there would be a "OhLookatThis!" then there would be a moment of discovery and/or disappointment.  With big sighs or sadness, the box was either unpacked OR closed up to be pitched out.  When will  this stop, I had asked.  When. Will. This. Stop.


This was one of the many strange boxes, one that had been hidden in garage rafters, where dust and mites had settled.  Movers had followed blind orders and brought this one to here. On the lid of a battered cardboard box  were words written in our son’s peculiar handwriting, with his peculiar humor. This was a Christmas present for his father.

“If Zombies or commies or Red Chinese attack or Christmas 2013 comes first: Break the seals and open.  Open and prepare your body for Thunder Dome (That is probably the new law).”

I did open the lid, but all the warnings did not come to fruition. Written upside down (for the unfortunate opener) were directions:

(on one side) “These are for laundry, tourniquets, and needless hangings” with an arrow pointing down.

(next side) “Done cleaning? Make your broom do double duty to kill zombies.” Arrow pointing down.

(Last side) “ Instrumental CD which was a combination of music from Jaws + Dune + 1812 Overture.

Strangely, the only contents of the box missing were only the broom (s), but included two pair of binoculars.  And it did include some awesome knives, which were apparently the real present for his father that Christmas.  

Our son has grown to have a successful life and career, become a husband and father. and has maintained his peculiar sense of humor. 

Do we still have some boxes? I know that we do, but it may take a while to find them.  And then what, I ask. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December Winter and Our Old House

Our old house
“An old house is a cold house” and all farming families knew this to be true.  Cold seeped through every crack and crevice, between lathing and ancient plaster, around windows, even through the electric outlets, and our own old house was no exception.

Vacant since before electricity and plumbing, our old house was barely livable, but we would be moving in the second day of September.  After tremendous effort, only the first floor would barely meet our needs, with the second floor having only one bulb.

Winter was brutal that year.  Deep snow surrounded our house, challenging every board and window. Non-insulated water pipes froze along with the newly laid septic line. Now that 1958-59 winter was called the "mini-ice age".

It took our strong parents who had lived in other old houses to stoke coal and oil in kitchen and front room heaters, cover every bed with elderly wool quilts, and surround us five children with warmth and family.

In evenings, we all gathered together in the front room with books, blankets and sweaters, and an ancient black and white television. Nothing was different to us children.  This was life as we knew it. 
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Robert, Mary, Don, Bill, and me 1959
Even though upstairs was bitter cold enough to freeze a glass of water solid, our house sheltered us while layers of wool warmth covered three older children sleeping there. Below, our parents, with toddlers, slept in the darkness of a December winter.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people sitting, child and indoor
At Grandma's house
front: Robert, Bill, me
back: Don, Mary, Dad, Mom

I confess that my eyes are tearing up as this is being written.  Images sharp as the day our lives were lived out in this old house linger before me.  The wool quilts, heaters where we stood, and the laughter echoing in hollow walls surround me.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Santa! Oh, Santa, you rascal!

Santa and Satan
The year 1959 was a year of change for my family.  We moved onto a farm where we would live until 1995.  So many adventures and so many memories arise from that time.

But, here is one memory that we were fortunate to miss.  I never knew that side of Santa Claus’ life, which apparently originated from Mexico. “Santa Claus”, produced in 1959, and translated into English.  


Santa is preparing for his yearly journey at his Toyland Castle in space.  While children helpers from all over the world sing,

Santa plays the organ while leering at the screen. 

Merlin the Wizard does a little hop-dance to check stuff out at his magical telescope, fitted with a creepy blue eye.

Santa and Merlin the Wizard

Mechanical reindeer
When he needs help, Merlin the Wizard gives Santa a special powder to induce sleep and a magic key to open any door. Vulcan provides Santa with mechanical reindeers.

Nothing goes well or holds a modicum of possible logic.

YouTube trailer

YouTube in its entirety. 1 hour and 34 min. 

The movie is thoroughly ridiculous, Santa Claus is totally creepy, to the level that it feels like someone should report him.  You may watch the film in its entirety on YouTube if you are a glutton for punishment.  Fast-forward would be essential here.

So why did I post this?

We saw this at the theater in RiffTrax presentation. Movies of this lack of quality are narrated by the three guys from Mystery Space Science 3000. They bring a level of satire to this movie.  This is why I pulled this one out of my vault of Christmas movies.

Plus, Alex Cavanaugh recommended the RiffTrax movies generally because they are ludicrous.  I trust his judgment implicitly. 

P.S. On-screen text narrated immediately before "The End":

Blessed are those who believe
For they shall see God...

Go figure.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Peace or War or Peace

The world was tired of war.  When WW1 came to an end in 1918, people were ready for wrapping up their countries in a tight blanket and looking inward. 

Post image
Peace or War
As America recovered from the Depression, economy was up and down. Talk of war was hovering in the air, but it was "over there in Europe", it was their problem.

Newspaper headlines as Britain and France went to war with Germany 100 years ago...

Cost of living

Wizard of Oz facts from 1939
Wizard of Oz 1939

No to War

A day never forgotten

TV for all

YouTube authentic film Pearl Harbor

Dec. 11, 1941
 The blanket had to be unwrapped, people were enraged. So the world had to look around, again. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Oh, the Sin! The Decadence!

Carnival Cruise Chocolate Melting Cake
In 2016 we took a cruise, and personally, it was pretty good. For me it was a great way to get away and relax. I did fall down on the first day and develop a concussion.   It is a long story to tell another time.

Even so, the food was super excellent and every night for dinner I had this most amazing dessert. I had the dessert that many people enjoy when they go on a Carnival Cruise, I had their chocolate melting cake that just cries out to be eaten. You may know this as chocolate lava cake, and honestly it is amazing. It didn’t matter what else they were serving for dinner, this is what I wanted.

Did you know that these are very easy to prepare, and if you are hosting a dinner party, you will look amazing when you serve one of these chocolate desserts. Jean-Georges Vongerichten may not have been the originator of this recipe, but he certainly made this dish popular in the 1980s. This cake is done on the outsides, but the inside a filled with melting warm chocolate batter that you will love.

A lot of people serve this dish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While it does add something nice to the dish, I have served this many times without that scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Use only the ingredients as listed. You can’t use margarine, it won’t turn out as well. You need to buy a good quality bar of dark chocolate. I find this chocolate in the baking section of the grocery store. Don’t use milk chocolate, you will end up with enough sweetness to throw everyone into a sugar comma. I also like to start out with all of my ingredients at room temperature, I think it makes mixing everything up together go better.

If you are concerned about the eggs, please consider using eggs that pasteurized.

You really do need to let this rest in the refrigerator before baking. The texture will be better. I really suggest using ramekins for this dessert. This way you can make individual portions. These dishes are inexpensive, and you can also do things like bake eggs in them as well.

6 ounces baking chocolate (ideally 60% cacao)
2 whole eggs
2 ] egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons butter for ramekins
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

In a small bowl melt together chocolate and butter in the microwave. Melt for 30 seconds and stir, and repeat until chocolate and butter are melted. Whisk together eggs and sugar until they are lighter in color and foamy. Add melted chocolate to egg mixture. Stir in vanilla extract, salt, and flour. Spread butter in ramekins to grease the dishes. Pour batter into dishes.
Cover dishes with plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, you can refrigerate these for up to 4 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. The tops will be firm, but the insides will be melting. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve with a scoop of ice cream if desired.
Calories: 759kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 61g | Saturated Fat: 37g | Cholesterol: 184mg | Sodium: 509mg | Potassium: 393mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 1245IU | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 8.2mg
Yes, I know the nutrition write up is utterly sinful. It is a once in a few days fest of eating.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

News of Great Joy

Jones School Students Rehearse For Christmas Program, December 17, 1959 image

In classrooms throughout the nation,December marked frantic use of scissors, glitter, and paper in schools everywhere. Teachers reluctantly set out the peppermint paste, letting chaos take its course. And then...

Influenza and Christmas frenzy drove the pace.

Each classroom reflected garish joy and vacant student desks as days counted down to one big event: Annual Christmas Pageant.  If ever there were a bigger event, the community did not know of it.

The District Music teacher, Mrs. Harris, traveled to every school before settling on this one school to perform that year's pageant.

Mrs. Harris was relentless in her expectations and doling out various roles as fear hung in the air while performers marched to her music. Seventh and eighth graders became The Holy Family with younger students filling out as angels, elves, and sugar canes.

Influenza began wiping out the Holy Family and shepherds.  But Mrs. Harris did not break step or sweat; Mrs. Harris drafted the best of the next grade down.

In sixth grade, all girls were hoping,  Please oh please let me be Mary! Their hearts, minds and eyes pleaded.

Briefly, Mrs. Harris laid eagle eyes on a few, but moved on.  Those girls would remain angels that year.  The pageant took place with Holy Family intact, but still running fevers, while Angels waited in the wings, scratching silver garland halos. 

Day after Pageant Glory, angels' desks were vacant,  each absentee sick with influenza. A few elves were out as well.

I was always one of the angels, although I know I would have nailed Mary's character perfectly.  

Please note that this memory comes from a then 10 year brain.  I discovered that "Mrs. Harris" was kind and a very good teacher.  She taught us all how to read music, and as a result I learned to play the piano, due to her strong teaching.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A mouse? Roaring?

The Mouse That Roared. Tully Bascombe (Peter Sellers).
Peter Sellers in 1959

On a quiet night after kids were in bed, I was caught by a movie. Carrying a load of laundry through the room, Peter Sellers appeared on the screen and that did it for me. I sat down and started sorting socks as the movie unfolded.

The main characters are Peter Sellers (who plays three roles), Jean Seberg, William Hartnell, and Leo McKern, all talents in the English stage, TV and film. 

This is a standard movie trailer from 1959,

The 1959 movie, The Mouse that Roared leads the viewer through the country of Grand Fenwick, supported by its export of wine. A country the size of a town in Rhode Island, Grand Fenwick is a pre-industry state and darn proud of it. When California undercuts the product by selling its own wine, Pinot Grand Fenwick, the country is bankrupt.  

To save the country, Peter Sellers (prime minister, Count Rupert Montjoy) suggests that Grand Fenwick declare war on the United States. The thinking was:

"The surest way to wealth today is to lose a war with the United States, for that country's odd reaction is to pour aid, relief and rehabilitation on the vanquished."

But first, the Grand Fenwick army has to attack America. Twenty soldiers in medieval chainmail, carrying bows and arrows, catch a ride on a French tug. They arrive at the New York harbor during an air-raid drill, which confuses the heck out of the army since the streets are empty.

This is an image of Photograph & Poster of The Mouse That Roared 199102
Wandering through the streets of NY
The nervous army is mistaken for invading Martians (what?) and somehow a bumbling American general investigates. The Grand Fenwick army accidently shoot his tires out with bow and arrow. They capture the General and four NYPD officers. 

Meanwhile the G.F. army is frantically looking for a place to surrender. They somehow end up with the Q Bomb which is capable of destroying an entire continent. Beyond all expectations, G.F. wins the war.

The G.F. capture the scientist and his daughter, taking them AND the Q Bomb back to Grand Fenwick. When the conquering F.B. army returns to Grand Fenwick, things go a bit wild at this point.

It is exhausting to try to tell this story.  But  this is an English movie, crisp with tight dialogue, humor that threads through all the bumbling one can imagine.

Just watch it. It is a movie for a quiet night with a glass of wine or three, and no expectations. The socks can wait to be sorted.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And the possible side effects are...

27 Funny Minion QuotesThey will be very surprised. Me, me, me…I’m dead. Why ...
My doctor has prescribed medicines for me that sounded good until I asked "What are the side effects?" And then the list comes forward. I have looked at her, saying that if there are even 1% to 8%, I will have them. She always smiles and even giggles.

Here are some that I remember: May cause exploding diarrhea, May cause gangrene in male genitals, May cause immediate and extreme weight gain, May cause suicidal thoughts...a plethora of a whole bunch of bad side effects.

Reading some of those crazy side effects is a bit scary. Be prepared.

1. Severe blisters and peeling skin:  extensive skin loss over 30% similar to burns.

2. Toxic necrosis, death of cells spreading through the body.

3. Nerve damage, beginning in the hands and feet and later moving to the center of the middle of the body.

4. Hallucinations involving visual, smell, depression, sleep deprivation.

5. Priapism which is an unwanted, painful, persistent erection.

6. Birth defects

7. Compulsive behaviors, causing urges to perform a list of undesirable and intense excessive actions.

The list of medications and their horrible side effects is too darn long for this blog.

Lesson to be learned here is to read the information paper folded up in the box containing the possible effects. Lesson is to always discuss this with doctor and pharmacist. 

Seek possible holistic and natural aid.

Heck of a thing, isn't it? 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Time is the Fire is which we burn

Image result for star trek generations movie poster
from Pinterest
Time always propels us all, shoving us forward when we would be quite comfortable going backward. Because growing old(er) is so gradual at first, one day it is a bit of shock to find an old photo of ourselves and gasp.

Malcolm McDowell and Patrick Stewart confronted the issue in a Star Trek: Generations, one of Star Trek movies. Dr. Tolian Soran is seeking to connect with the Nexus, a spatial ribbon that would send him to the time to find his late wife (?). The rest of the plot can be expanded on plot summary

This movie unites Capt. James T. Kirk and Jean Luc to confront and prevent Soran from launching a rocket int this phenomena. 

The source of this exquisite quote is J.M. Willard, a pseudonym for a prolific brilliant writer, Jeanne Kalogridis. Her list of writings is varied, ranging from books, through a huge amount of tech, movies, and more.  You can find her on Wikipedia source.

She is the one who wrote the phrase Time is the fire in which we burn. If nothing else, this phrase resonates with its simplicity and honesty.

What do you see in this simple phrase? How would you respond if this was said to you?

YouTube, Key moment

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Wine and the Mind

The Balloon of the Mind
Hands, do what you’re bid,
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags
In the wind,
Into its narrow shed.
Wm. B. Yeats

Color of wine
A Drinking Song
Wine comes in at the mouth
And Love comes in at the eyes.
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift my glass to my mouth,
I look at you and I sigh.
Wm. B. Yeats

William B. Yeats—always a favorite of mine.  Enjoy, follow the balloons. Sip the wine.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Fine Eatin'

Source + recipes
In the backwaters of Louisiana, the place to eat was at Kalper's Kitchen, where unique and delicious fare could be found. Food was prepared by the man, Kalper himself.  He was always the force blowing full bore around his kitchen, letting no one and nothing get in his way. No one ever knew his secret recipe for award winning shredded beef and smoked ribs.
Not an easy person to approach, his manic brilliance gave new definitions to Southern fried catfish and smoked ribs.  AND all who knew Kalper also understood to stay out of Kalper's kitchen during these hours of inspired creation.

After other sous chefs--Alvin, Sanders, and Simon--got fed up and left, a short new sous chef, Whittier, joined the staff. Whittier was missing some brain cells, and stumbled into the kitchen whereupon Kalper promptly skewered Whittier with his newest blade, a nine-inch Miyabi Birchwood.

squelched scream gurgled. Hearing the thud,  Kalper's three brothers rushed in to grab Whittier by his sneakers, and drag him to the freezer. 

One muttered, “Damn! That’s the third one this month. Damn shame.""

They tossed Whittier onto the heap of Alvin, Sanders, and Simon. Soon they would finally be allowed in Kalver's Kitchen.

Wednesday Words was started by Delores, who closed her site.  Elephant's Child and at River along with other bloggers are providing pithy challenging words.These words were from 2015.

I took these words and using a dark humor hidden in my brain, put this into a new and unusual short story.

Great fun. 


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Someone Else's Home

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A house that once was, Illinois

The most difficult experience of going home to the source of one's beginning is realizing just how much home has changed. Where and when my life began was now someone else's home.

Traveling and living away from the hometown area meant that returning was more of a sadness. It seemed to me that while I have changed drastically, those places should have remained the same as if under a big glass dome, frozen in time.  The people I knew then should be the same ages, moving around the county while continuing those same bits of their lives as if I had never left.

In America farmland, houses and barns are made of wood, well made. They were homes for maybe three generations and then no longer occupied. The photos below are of those in Illinois, my home state. 

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Image may contain: sky, tree, house, snow and outdoor

Image may contain: sky, house, tree and outdoor

Family farms disappeared when cities held more jobs. Children who grew up in those farms moved away, leaving the houses empty. Empty houses fell down. Towns once busy and thriving failed when elderly died and their progeny traveled on.

It is inevitable that lives change, people find other opportunities. That would be me. But, in the places of those farms and homes, there are new homes and barns, just down the road. Their story is yet to be written.

Pike County, Illinois Courthouse. Stone masons had recently moved from England and settled in the county. Their skill built this building.

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Things change, but then things remain the same.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wisdom from Sunshine

Philosophy talk

Yesterday I held a sick child*** for almost the whole day.  ‘Sunshine’ had been sick with fever and vomiting the night before, and was staying home from kindergarten.  She lay across my lap while we rocked, and I caressed her face and hair.  In my grandma kingdom, this was a great day.

released in 2009
We watched a selection of Disney movies, starting with “Dinosaurs”.  We have watched this movie many times, but I have never been plastered in the chair by a five-year old with a fever of 101 degrees.

Usually, when Sunshine and I watch a movie, she gives me a running commentary on the movie along with her own unique insights.  You would be amazed by the perspectives a kindergartner has about life and theology.

The plot is straight-forward:
A dinosaur egg miraculously escapes many brushes with crushing, ends up hatching in the tree occupied by a family of primates.  They adopt the adorable newly hatched dino and name him “Aladar”. Then the meteor strikes, blows almost all away (except..d) They run and manage to escape. After that, life is difficult, but Aladar (who is fortunately an herbivore) develops friendships and family. 

There are some universal truths conveyed in that movie.  Go with me on this:

Everyone needs to love and be loved.

Everyone needs to know they are not alone.

Everyone needs to make conscious decisions for good or evil.

Everyone needs to be believed in and encouraged.

Everyone can change and grow.

Everyone has the potential to learn and the capacity to give to others.

Everyone must take chances, to make ‘a leap of faith’.

Everyone needs to trust and believe in something bigger than themselves, something they cannot see.

Okay, these are not a profound revelations.  I have never evaluated a movie for universal elements before, and I was struck by the way the movie displayed these characteristics. 

Then we watched “Night at the Museum (has a dinosaur)”, and “Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (no dinosaur)”.  We both nodded off before Tinkerbell was able to repair the moonstone.  


***This is a repost from 2010. Sunshine was 5 then and is now 13. She still has a unique perspective on life and would sit on my lap if possible. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Smoke always Rises

Wwi stereo195

Grandpa is old, real old.  

Nancy knew that because he had fought in a war called The Great War, the war he said was so big that it would end all wars.  Her dad went to fight another war.  War? What is war?

Nancy watched as Grandpa spread out his left hand.  He had big old wrinkly hands, with rough calluses and gnarled fingers, like any old man.  But she had never noticed the drawn white scars of burns, horrible burns. 
He lay a thin paper on the white scars, opening it with his other hand.  Again, she stared at it, in awe of the stripes and crude stitching it bore from wounds earned long ago.  Her four year old mind could not form any questions about scars, old and twisted.

Grandpa reached into the pocket of his flannel shirt, retrieving a drawstring bag.  Fingers moved slowly, easing open the drawstring, and then pouring a line of tobacco.

Copyright Susan Kane
Young man on his way the France

His hands never shook, not for one second.  They held steady and still as Grandpa licked the edge of the paper.  Hands so badly scarred had continued for fifty years, working, caressing, holding hands, living. Fascinated, Nancy watched as Grandpa placed the cigarette on a lip.  

Oh. Nancy gazed up at Grandpa, his creased face told nothing about the day. Grandpa was always silent around her, having nothing to say to a little girl.

He struck a match and lit up, breathing deeply.  She stared at his thoughtful expression and troubled eyes.

An old man walked by, tipped his hat to Grandpa.  Grandpa just nodded back, not even looking at him.  “Who’s he?” Nancy asked.

Grandpa blew out a ring of smoke.  “He’s a Goddamn coward.  His pa paid some other man to go fight instead of his own son.  Sonabitchgoddam coward…couldn't spit on his own shoe, and other words that Nancy did not understand.

“What’d you do in a war, Grandpa?” Nancy whispered, wide eyes searching for pale blue eyes staring off at the sonabitch.

He glanced sadly down at Nancy.  Turning his face away and  taking another deep drag, Grandpa mumbled, “I killed a whole bunch of men.  Lots of 'em…”

Nancy nodded.  The two sat there, one smoking and the other gazing as the smoke disappeared around them.

Copyright Susan Kane
Grandpa, age 60.
He died 14 years later when 75.
Grandpa had been gassed in trenches, and for such,
received a stipend of $25 each year. 

Grandpa in 1952
My brother Robert and I are listening to his radio. He was
in his ?s.

This is a repost from 2013. War has led to war to war to war for the entire history of humankind. Will there ever be a time when there is no war?
Not until the end of our time on earth, Matt. 24: 4-7 
Wars and rumors of wars