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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Cat is Like a Two Year Old?

 Yes, a cat and  a two year old are much alike. The closed bathroom door is an anathema to both the toddler and the cat, especially if Momma is on the other side.

Both creatures begin with wailing, easily interpreted as "Let me in!Momma? Momma? Open the door!" Cats and kids can cycle this endlessly with increasing volume on each repetition. Calling to them, "Relax, Momma is here. Just give me a minute!" might just as well be spoken in Hindi. There is no rebate in the noise level until the door is opened or Momma comes out.

If the door should not be flung open immediately, the assault goes to the next level. Hands or paws appear under the door clawing and scrabbling. Do they think they can haul themselves under the door with enough effort? The only respite from the noise is when they gasp a deep breath in order to increase their attack on the door.

Suppose you plan ahead and allow either of the creatures into the bathroom while you bathe to avoid the seige on the door. Peaceful? I think not. As soon as you're settled in your bubbles, child or cat is drawn to the tub. Pattycake on their bubbles is a favorite game, followed by ingesting the bubbles (either species do it), and climaxed by the small creature joining you in the tubby by design or accident.  Flailing, splashing, and gasping follow until you seize the miscreant and exit the tub-of-contention.

One could suppose the dripping, sudsy soul would be grateful for their rescue and grant you a break, but no, that's not to be. A hand or paw snakes out and pokes you in your marshmallowy mommy-tummy. Poking you again and again to watch the effect on you contours, they chortle, albeit the cat does silently.

As the bubbles slide down over your dripping abdomen (the one you keep covered and in the dark like a mushroom) the face gazing at you, furry or bare, takes on a look of wonder/horror. Momma, you hear them think, how do you do that? I saw that on TV once, but on the beach, and people were pouring water over it.(Kitties do watch TV, you know.)

Kitties and two year olds are alike in more redeeming ways, though. They do resemble  angels when they're sleeping. Best of all, you'll forgive them most anything because they love you, and you love them, too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Boogie - Before the Event

Thanksgiving time, the day before,
Miss Maggie and I go to the store.
The Wal-mart, fifty miles away,
The object of our shopping day.

We circle 'round the pack-ed lot,
Looking for that special spot.
Miss Maggie wheels her SUV,
The shotgun seat's the place for me.

The parking placard displayed clearly,
We seek a spot to park it near-ly,
To the portals made of glass.
I seek a cart to plop my ass.

I ride the magic 'lectric steed 
To the baking aisle for what I need.
The thickly milling, holiday crew
Makes it tough to drive on through.

They've glutted up the passageway,
And blocked the walnuts far away.
I charge right through, my head unbowed.
Wally salad's planned for the dinner crowd.

I must get them, despite the mass.
I beep my horn, I have no class.
Then apples, grapes, and whip-ed topping.
Move your butts, Helene is shopping!

I will indeed run over your toe-ses,
I part the seas like a Biblical Moses.
Don't stand there in my way and talk,
Move it lady, and start to walk.

If you catch up here on family news,
I'll have to overrun your shoes.
My patience, she is running thin,
Walnuts are my goal to win.

If beeping doesn't do the trick,
If your head is really thick,
I'll bump you right behind your cancle.
Your blocking traffic makes me rankle.

The produce aisle is not much better.
Make a phone call, write a letter.
Don't stand there, you-all in cahoots,
Move your shiny fashion boots.

You tell me patience is a virtue,
I will launch, and likely hurt-you.
You could have come another day.
I'm here right now; you go away.

Twenty items, and I have more.
The grumbles echo in the store.
My turn now; I'm almost free!
I don't care what you think of me.

The greeter waves, I zoom right out.
Safe at the car I give a shout.
"The marshmallows I have forgotten!"
The list I wrote  was misbegotten.

The Wally salad's short that item.
If folks complain I think I'll bite 'em.
We're in the traffic, headed home.
Time to end this little poem.

P.S. Matthew, I found some marshmallows on the shelf at home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christmas Footprint

During the plenty of the holiday season I am haunted by a footprint. The envelope containing the tracing arrived just after Thanksgiving 1956, when I was six years old. It bore the postmark of post WWII East Germany.

My father and uncle emigrated from Germany as boys, and came to the US. Letters traveled between them and their mother until the war and resumed once Germany was divided at the end of the war. we might get a birthday card, but always the holiday letter got through, letting us know what was most needed.

Dad removed the tracing of Grandma's foot from the airmail envelope carefully. Airmail paper was pale blue or white, and very thin and flimsy. I wanted to try my foot against the footprint of the Grandma I'd never met, but knew I'd be in trouble if I damaged it. Her foot had to be twice the length of mine and broad from walking everywhere she went.

Dad cut the outline out carefully and carried it to the Sears in downtown Milwaukee. I gazed at the Christmas displays as Dad slipped the footprint in shoe after shoe. Grandma knew the European sizes were different; hers was a 44. Dad found a sturdy brown pair in size 10 that he thought would last until next Christmas. Such ugly shoes for a gift, I thought. I felt she needed pretty slippers, so I asked to choose them.

I tucked the footprint into several pair, and found a softly shining black pair with red ribbon roses on top that were a perfect fit. Dad paid for our purchases, and asked for an empty cardboard box to pack the gifts we would send.

At home again, we placed things I took for granted into the box. Airmail stationary, toilet tissue, bars of soap, cannned vegetables and fruit, coffee and chocolate. To my six year old eyes, these were hardly the gifts I would have wanted. I couldn't imagine a world without these items readily available.

Dad placed the shoes on top ,and I added the beautiful slippers. He sealed the box with tape, wrapped it in brown paper, and tied it with string. he well sealed package was mailed the next day, sure to reach Grandma long before Christmas itself.

No matter how carefully dad sealed the box, it would have been opened and some things removed  before
Grandma got it. It happened every year. Grandma would report empty spaces in the box he'd packed so tightly. Dad referred to it as "the price of doing business with those 'stunks'", in the East Zone government.
He always packed extra food to make up for the pilfering. I was outraged anyone would steal Grandma's things. Dad said the items were taken for personal use or traded on the Black Market. I imagined a black painted store, with blackened windows where people met at night to trade for things they needed. It sounded so ominous when my parents discussed it; it had to be a terrible place.

I wondered if her wonderful slippers had been stolen. I sat quietly next to the piles of presents under our tree as Dad read and translated her letter. She was happy with the gifts, especially the coffee and chocolate, which she  coud not buy there. She didn't mention any hardships directly in her letter. If she had criticised her situation, her letter would have been discarded after it had been read by the officials censoring the mail.

It seemed the reading of the letter slowed time itself. I tried hard to sit still as Dad went on paragraph by paragraph. Finally he read the last page. I recognised "Danke" as thank you, and "Hausshoes" as slippers.The Christmas tree sparkled, wavered and danced through my tears of relief. Grandma had her slippers, and I had my first Christmas when the needs of others truly impacted my life.

The memory of Grandma's footprint on flimsy airmail paper has visited me every holiday season since. I realize I am so blessed to have what I do, both material goods and freedom. I remember the needs of others, and donate to food and toy drives. This year I remember as I get ready to seal a brown cardboard box for a special soldier I know. I give thanks for his service to protect my freedoms, the ones Grandma lost, not to be regained in her lifetime.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Andrew Zimmern - Grasshoppers

Dear Andrew Zimmern,

I've admired your show" Bizarre Foods" for several years, and also enjoy your new series "Bizarre World. You seem to be up for any challenge.

I'll bet you have a file of recipes from your world travels. How many are for grasshoppers? An adventurous man, such as yourself, would be sure to have many interesting and delicious ways to prepare them.

Central Texas reigns as the foremost grasshopper capital of the continental U.S. Hoppers hatch out in early spring, and persevere into early winter. The supply is endless, both the crawling variety and the flying type.  Sizes vary from smaller than a Raisinette to as large as a Tootsie roll, and I don't mean a midgie. They got that size from eating my garden.

I'd like to invite you to the Central Texas Hopper Fiesta, held here at HomePlace. Response to our event has been remarkable; we'll be running the event for two days. Bring a few recipes of your own to prepare for the huge crowds expected the first day. Surely you have some prize winning ways to tempt the folks, like a Chinese marinade, or maybe a sour cream topping with caviar? Something international would be a delightful way to open the festival, as day two will have a  Tex-Mex flair.

I've admired the way you've eaten hoppers sauteed and grilled on skewers, smacking your lips with relish.  I believe you'd be the perfect judge for the contest on day two. There are categories for appetizers, entrees,  deserts, and snacks, all with a Texas accent. We'll provide some palate cleansing Lone Star , and you'll be happier and happier as you test dish after dish of Texas Hopper cuisine.

Do you enjoy desserts? I'm not trying to influence you, but I've been working on a recipe for German chocolate cake that I think is a winner.  The frosting is crunchy, yet tangy, and sets the beer off well. Who needs pecans?

Please respond by e-mail ASAP. We need to get a tent set up for you on the back of the property. A tough explorer like you would be sure to decline a hotel room with pressed cotton sheets in favor of snuggling in your sleeping bag listening to the coyotes singing. You'll have a campfire and access to a porta-potty. Nothing is too good for our honored guest!

You can build up an appetite for the cook off by swatting our mammoth mosquitoes in the dark. Who knows, you might even come up with a recipe or two for them as well. The wings aren't much, but the drumsticks are unbelievable.

Looking forward to your response.

Yours in the culinary tradition,

Helene Burnett

Thursday, November 5, 2009

October Update

The Pumpkin Shoot and Writers Bar Camp are over, so it's back to work on the projects around the HomePlace. The beautiful weather is encouraging outdoor work. I hate outside work in the summer -- blazing sun and stifling heat encourage sipping iced tea and hiding in the AC. Those excuses are invalid now. So out we go!

Pumpkins continue their growth. the one hanging off the fence needs support to continue onth vine. We've used fabric hammocks before to grow watermelons off the ground before, so that might work.
David suggested we might have pie at Thanksgiving since we missed Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. I hope so.

Seedlings are up for the winter garden. Since we still have weather in the 80's, the grasshoppers ate my first set of broccoli I transplanted. I'm going to cover any new transplants until those hoppers are dead, dead, dead. They are evil, armored, plant gnashers; most likely they're demon spawn .

Art's putting up in insulation in the Hut. I'm excited to think about furniture arrangement soon. I'm going to love an organized craft area away from my good friends the cats. They are so helpful.

My basket collection and some artwork can go up again, as soon as we have paneling. Quilts on the bed and walls would spark the decor, too.

No puns about Art Work, please!

The first course of the herb garden is down. The grandbabies came last weekend to help me paint tires. Amazing how fast the painting goes with two helpers. Twenty tires down, eighty to go! Guess I'd better get out there and swing a brush, hmmm?

I adore this cool weather. The projects are moving along well, and some new ones are waiting in the wings. Let's get to it, menfolk. I have an idea!!!!