The Accidentally Appetizing Series, #1

I guess this continues my love/hate relationship with facebook because I put this on a friend’s page first, adding that I wasn’t in the mood to blog about food.
Here is one of many recipes that I have adapted or destroyed, yet come up with something really edible. And delicious.
I had a basic and boring recipe, and here’s the what I ended up with- another Appetizing Accident! I know you have the world’s best blender (I used a food processor), so make this. You’ll love it. I’m not in the mood to blog about it right now! I basically used what I had in the fridge and herb garden.
GAZPACHO
3 tomatoes
1 large cucumber, seeded but not peeled
1/2 red onion
1 red bell pepper
garlic cloves to taste- I used three big ones
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (b/c that’s what I had)
1/4 cup olive oil
a generous handful of basil and cilantro (50/50- because that’s the
chives- gotta have ’em 2T?? I did it to taste because that’s the flavor I wanted)
3 cups tomato juice

It's better to wait until you get everything shopped to add salt and pepper. I stopped myself!

It’s better to wait until you get everything shopped to add salt and pepper. I stopped myself!

There was goat cheese in the fridge too, so I crumbled that on top. A good piece of bread is also useful just to make sure you get every drop!

Chop everything in small cubes and throw in a bowl. Blend or process in batches. Pour in another large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Maybe a pepper or three? Substitute some zucchini for some of the cucumber (the cucumber adds a lot). Use V8 for a stronger, saltier soup. I adore yellow tomatoes, but ours aren’t ready yet… The longer you chill this the longer the flavors mix and meld. Either way it is a light, sweet (in the way that only good tomatoes can be), and refreshing treat on those days when even thinking about food makes you hot.

Chill out!

Chill out!

 

  • A facebook comment
  • why in the world do you not just copy and paste that into your blog? there’s no law that says a blog post has to be more than 40 words.
  • My reply
     really? This would count? You mean I don’t have to win a war with every post?
    And just for fun, here is a picture of one of my horses, Sophia. She loves the water, especially when it’s 98 degrees in the shade. She doesn’t care for gazpacho.
    It's good to be me!

    It’s good to be me!

The Big Bang: A Lot of Noise Goes Ballistic

For the past few months I have really, really wanted to write about several topics which I ultimately deemed too “hot” at the moment and deferred. I have five half-written posts stored in my blog’s folder awaiting a cool spell. Although I have been sitting around not writing, I am still paying attention (sometimes) to things that are going on around me and farther afield. This post will either be my last gasp or just a small “yop” coming from my little corner of the universe. I happen to also believe that this post will articulate, however awkwardly, something that a lot of folks from all over the spectrum have been feeling if not actually saying. We’ll see.

I suppose that everybody has what I will call a tipping point that is reached at some point and causes us to act or react. Usually I just yell about something and move on. This time, however, that didn’t help. Too many other people are involved, and I care deeply about most of them.

It all started on facebook…

Yes, you read that right. I reluctantly joined facebook (fb) at the urging of my students. Now I love it. I really do use it to keep in touch with people from lots of different places. Unfortunately, I have caught myself coming close to engaging in some of the behavior that I most dislike on fb, to wit, posting things that clearly indicate one point of view while nastily condemning those who do not share that perspective. Snarkiness? That’s ok in my unsolicited opinion. Hatefulness? Not.

Not all of my friends share my opinions on things. Some of you may even find it strange that one of my best friends and often a moral compass for me is pretty much 180 degrees apart from me on a lot of issues. I do not find this strange at all, nor does… that person. We find it fascinating! I also have friends who tell me when I am doing something stupid. They do not call me stupid, or offer to pray for me (we’re not done with this one), make predictions about the torture that I will suffer in the afterlife (or this one), or attack me on fb. We talk about it.

A little over a year ago someone posted something on my fb page that offended me. So file a “Hurt Feelings Report,” right? I wouldn’t have cared if they had put it on their own page. It’s their page. This post definitely exceeded the snarkiness requirement and was at the upper end of the nasty spectrum shading into hateful. Because I disagreed with the post (on my page!), I was not only an evil person, but I could not possibly love my country.

Of course, I made a few adjustments in my fb settings, but I was still angry. I wanted to write something really sarcastic to this person and point out not only the flaws in logic, but the many- too many to be typos- errors in both spelling and grammar! HA!I didn’t. What I did was start paying a bit more attention to a lot of the political and religious things that people say, not just on fb, but in the media and in public.

I realized several things that are still a bit crossed up, but that I will try to untangle here. Let’s consider one comment that I hear and read a lot these days: “Pray for this country!” For the record, I have NO problem with prayers. My informal and unscientific observations show, however,  that this statement is usually launched by people who really mean that the president or whoever has done what they don’t like is an idiot. They are hiding behind their piety.

Americans Against __________ (fill in the blank) know all about the stupidity, dishonesty, and downright evilness of ____________ (fill in this blank with whoever the first blank hates). My mama told me not to say anything if I couldn’t say anything nice. Many of the world’s faiths exhort believers to act toward others as they wish to be treated. Sarcasm (and the choice to use it) often keeps me from doing the first one. From sarcasm, it is but one short step into real disdain for those with whom you disagree. Some of the things I read and hear are truly hateful, and I do not understand it. Sarcasm does not help  here.

Things are not exactly rosy in the US right now, but let’s add the word relatively and see how well that holds. It won’t be 100%. (I can hear people coming up with examples of both now!) There are many, many ideas regarding how to make things better. Some make sense. Some don’t. I like some of the ones that make sense as well as some of the ones that don’t. I am human. Do I want to harm or kill those who disagree with me? No. I want them to shut up. Gotcha.

I don’t know many of the people out there saying such hateful things, nor am I likely to meet most of them. Some of them, however, are people with whom I share some important interests. I do not socialize with them on a regular basis, but I like them and am pretty sure that they are fond of me. Do the people who say and write such hateful things REALLY want such extreme consequences to befall those against whom they inveigh? Sometimes I truly believe that they do. They do not know those evil people, but they know all about them. Or do they?

People are still arguing and dying over interpretations of religious tenets all over the world. Here in the USA we just say horrible things about our fellow citizens who do not share our beliefs. Most of us don’t actually do anything constructive to make a positive change.

We seem to have accepted that different people can read the same religious text and understand it differently, so we do not refer to any authority at all. We just know. It’s the same with the United States Constitution (USC). I know (because I ask!) that many (another precise measurement) people have  never read this document. They know their rights. They know what is wrong (as opposed to illegal), but they are completely unable to provide a legitimate source for their arguments. Anecdotal evidence is an excellent bolster, but it will not change the law of the land.

Remember the old bumper stickers that asked if you had read your Bible today? Well, I would suggest that we also ask people if they have read their constitution today. Love it or hate it, it is the law of our land. Your rights and my rights, not to mention our responsibilities, are outlined, not defined therein. Calling each other horrible names and making predictions about what will happen to people after they die is not only mean, it is an exercise in futility.

I love and resort often to sarcasm often to express my views. There is none in this post.  My goal here is not to publicly shred anyone’s pride or argument. Rather, I wish to lead you to water and invite you to drink. Our domestic tranquility depends upon it.

Whew! I got through the whole post without being sarcastic!

Whew! I got through the whole post without being sarcastic!

 

This Gun for Hire: Thoughts on Becoming Less Young, Being a Girl, and Being Unemployed (Not Necessarily in That Order)

While I was still in Turkey, one of my students asked me in one breath what I do and why I was there. Even as a double, it’s a normal question, but I had been answering it all day, and rather boringly, I might add. So, to this genuinely interested younger person, I replied that I always tried to do interesting things. Sometimes I even succeed. I listed my most recent “jobs” which include a stint in Afghanistan as a cultural researcher and several years as an administrator/professor in a university leadership institute. There were nods and a collective vaaaay. That’s Turkish for wwwoww. I was confused. Up until that point, I have been relatively unimpressed with my interesting, but inconsistent and less than lucrative career history. It certainly doesn’t help me when I apply for other positions (No matter how many times the average person changes jobs. Who wants to be average?)

Before I could say anything (not that I had anything good to say here), another student said, “So, you’re sort of a freelance, yes?” Nods all around. Well, I said, feeling terra firma under me again, “Yes. That’s exactly what I am. A freelance. This gun for hire!” Only a few of them were fans of Westerns, so I had to explain the reference, and we moved on to discuss American movies.

Since that moment I have taken that student’s assessment to heart. Another friend here in the US put it more succinctly when she stated that she had great faith that I would find something “good” soon. “I mean you seem pretty motivated and dedicated to your career and such.” Later in that same conversation she also said that she thinks I am a genius. As is often the case, the truth in both of these instances is somewhere in the middle. I hate to be bored, and I’m no dummy.

There are just so many interesting possibilities (and realities) out there, but sadly, it just isn’t the thing to be seen  gadding about trying them all- even if you end up being good at some of them. I love the word dilettante and use it often when I can’t get the sarcasm font to work. Yet, contrary to standard definitions (look it up!), my dedication to the things that interest me is far from superficial. I even excel at a few things. So, I have decided to be a Freelance Renaissance Person! This talent for hire!

Being a freelance and living in genteel poverty may sound fun and even cool when you are in your late twenties or even early thirties. However, by the time you reach ____ (more than a few birthdays before my most recent one), I can assure you that there is no charm left to that life. My few readers will know that horses and other animals do not care if you are eating soup from a can for the third night in a row. Horses want food, and they want and need it at regular intervals. As for shoes… one of my horses used to require the equivalent of a high-end pair of Nikes every 5 weeks.

In order to really completely embrace the idea of being a freelance, I also had to do some thinking about more superficial things. Like wrinkles. So many of my friends use Botox that it is no longer novel to me when someone else’s frown lines miraculously disappear (I know, First World problems). Because you know what? Secretly, and now semi-publicly, I am jealous. If I had a few hundred spare dollars every six weeks or so, I would have already worn a path to my doctor’s office and erased the visible evidence that I am less young (on the outside anyway).

Instead, I decry the double standard that gives wrinkles to women and character marks to men. And I still would use Botox if I could afford it. I adore being a girl. No sarcasm font there. I just hate some of the expectations. I also hate that I have some pretty serious frown lines. It’s bad enough being unemployed, ahem, being between gigs, but being expected to have flawless skin at ___ (my age) is just too much. Botox seems such an easy fix to a major insecurity of mine. Or is it?

While I was abroad I  met many men and women who, I assumed, were close to my age. I was mistaken. Often I was off by eight to ten years. These people were younger than I am, but life had been much, much harder on them. I have noticed this in many countries, actually. In most places, the ideals of female beauty, and to a lesser extent, male handsomeness,  are artificially inflated (or deflated depending on body part), but fewer people seem able to gain access to the means of “improvement.”  Folks who “look good” and are over the age of about 35 are pretty rare.

No pictures here. I leave this standard to your own subjective standards.

So, what’s a girl to do? By the way, speaking of double standards, I do come close to violence when people of the male persuasion call me a girl. Anyway… where were we? Oh yes. A person who is less young and more experienced (and more expensive) than lots of folks in a variety of fields, and, ahem, between gigs. Again. The answer sounds easy: get a job. How many of you are job hunting right now? The IRS does not care how talented I am. The unemployment folks assume that in 26 weeks one can find a job, or at least that’s the conclusion that I draw from the time limit they put on your payments. I don’t think that they make Botox strong enough to fully erase the signs of worry induced by the combination of boredom and worry that I am experiencing right now.

 

A Streetcar Named Güzelyalı: The Sequel

When I wrote Part I of this series, I did not have a sequel in mind. Indeed I hoped by writing that post I would somehow get over my intense dislike of public transportation (in any country). Little did I know that the C11G bus would become a metaphor for my time in Çanakkale, Turkey. I will bet your çay money and mine that I spent at least one hour every day waiting for a bus. A Turkish tourist visa is for 90 days max. You do the math.

The View from My Bus Stop

The View from My Bus Stop

Yes, that yellow building is the Kipa. Think small-town Wal Mart (not Target), Turkish style. I sat in “my” bus stop with all sorts of people, many of whom were quite friendly; some of whom were… less than warm. Occasionally, I would look to the left to see if C11G was at the stop light about 200 yards away.

And on your LEFT, ladies and gentlemen, there is no bus.

And on your LEFT, ladies and gentlemen, there is no bus.

So, I would look back across at the Kipa, then look to the right where I really wanted to go.

Look Homeward!

Look Homeward!

It is perhaps fitting that on my last day of classes, the city rolled out (haha) a new addition to the C11G fleet: a brand new, wider, Mercedes model with air conditioning, TV, and yes, an air freshener.

As I climbed aboard, nobody caught my eye and nodded. The driver was more secluded/protected behind a waist-high wall. If he had decided to yell at us we wouldn’t have heard him over the music videos. The younger passengers were enjoying the facing seats as were families and friends who were all heading somewhere. I chose one of the single seats on the right side. There was plenty of room for the old ladies to place their numerous grocery bags on the floor. When we careened around the tight corners on the one-lane “road” no one shouted as a result of being thrown onto another passenger. All in all, it was a peaceful, comfortable ride back to Dardanos.

My walk from the bus stop. I took the left fork to get to my room with a view.

My walk from the bus stop. I took the left fork to get to my room with a view.

During the walk from the bus stop to my room, it hit me- not the bus; the idea that things were getting better. At least on the surface. The people on that new bus were the same people I saw on most afternoons if I was lucky enough to catch the express bus. On that afternoon we all knew that we wouldn’t get that new bus every day, so it was best not to expect too much. The sun was shining, and there were signs of spring everywhere.

Whatever I say about having my professional and personal activities regulated by a bus schedule, I enjoyed every single walk home from the bus stop. There was always someone and something to see, and even on the nasty days (nothing compared to those in Kansas, for example) the weather always gave me a break.

My students informed me that they hated the buses. I should mention here that there are no buses after midnight. I can see how parents might like this one. For some reason, adults were not supposed to complain about the bus. It was… well, it was the bus in the room that no one would acknowledge. My students did not have cars. Most adults I knew did. Those who didn’t asked friends to take them places or took the bus to the Kipa and got picked up by friends. I did this many times because gas is terribly expensive in Turkey, and most people did not want to drive the 15 miles out to Dardanos.

Basically, in the little corner of Turkey that I explored, getting there (or anywhere) is no fun at all, but then I was among a minority of folks who expected the trip to actually be fun. I was among an even smaller minority of folks who actually complained about it. There is so much to do once you get wherever you’re going that it really is better to just hang on and enjoy the ride.

Yes, really.

Yes, really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camel… what?

Camel wrestling!

It usually takes me a while to process things that I put in my personal “adventure” category, and one of my recent outings is no exception. In brief, I went to see camel wrestling. As for writing about it now… it was either camels or a much more serious topic, and I am in no mood for serious right now. I have spent most of today (over)indulging in an activity that seems to be quite popular on a national scale- much more so than watching a bunch of camels push each other around. I am talking about brunch. There is one at every hotel and restaurant. Furthermore, friends invite friends over to their houses to, well… spend most of the day eating, drinking, and talking. I could get used to that, but then I would have to give up other adventures.

Like camel wrestling.

Pre- Game Festivities

Pre- Game Festivities

Before the actual event, there was a parade of sorts. Some, but by no means all, of the competitors were led around town then up the hill to city land-fill/camel wrestling grounds.

Walking up- looking down the hill.

Walking up- looking down the hill.

Notice all those snazzy orange scarves? They are quite the thing at such an event, and each town has these made in their official colors. Çan chose orange. On with the show!

The best spots go early!

The best spots go early!

When we got to the top, we found that we were nowhere near as early as we had previously thought. In fact, we were the end of the first wave! People had already staked out the prime hillside spots and were busy setting up their tables and grills. It was some time after 1:00 p.m.

We set out to explore the setting and see the camels who are tethered anywhere their owners see fit to tie them. Who’s going to tell them to move their camel?!

Camel Parking

Camel Parking

Last-Minute Preparation

Last-Minute Preparation

We were soon spotted by the mayor and some other important folks who insisted that we sit in the VIP tent. Who were we to argue? We took our seats just in time to see the final pre-game parade.

Introduction of the First Competitors

Introduction of the First Competitors

After watching the parade, we watched the first match. Two novice wrestlers came out and pushed each other a few times, then the whistle blew. Game over. I was considering asking,”Is that it?” when my friend explained that those two camels were basically clueless and that Turkish people use the phrase “young camel” to refer to such people also. Since the stars wouldn’t compete until later in the afternoon, we decided to walk around. We were also freezing and needed to move around!

Posing with a Celebrity

Posing with a Celebrity

 

Breaking Up a Match Between Two Youngsters

Breaking Up a Match Between Two Youngsters

Some words about what actually goes on in the ring: Camel wrestling may not be my favorite sporting event, but I am truly glad that I went and will go again if the opportunity presents itself. I must confess that I was a bit concerned about the prospect of watching camels shove each other around. Honestly, it seemed so strange, and maybe even unkind… not like chasing a poor, terrified calf, throwing a rope around its neck, and wrestling it to the ground! (Where is that sarcasm font when I need it?) Anyway, I decided that camel wrestling could have been a lot worse. Most folks were not really waiting as attentively as we were because they were too busy cooking, visiting, betting on the camels, or drinking rakı (and singing), the anise-flavored national drink that is 40-45% alcohol.

The two camels- always males- are led into the ring from opposite sides, preferably at a jog. The don’t really collide; rather, they just seem end up shoulder to shoulder. Like this:

Testing Each Other

Testing Each Other

This testing and tentative pushing can last for quite a while, but if you look away, you will probably miss something! The match in the photos here lasted for about five minutes, and at one point it seemed like it was over because one camel was “down.” We were all waiting for the whistle.

Watch this!

Watch this!

Then the camel on the left did something totally unexpected- to me anyway. Look at his neck. He put his neck and head down and shoved the other camel off-balance!

A Fast Move

A Fast Move

There was some scuffling, and they ended up back in the original shoving posture.

Basic Wrestling Stance

Basic Wrestling Stance

After a few minutes, the whistle blew and the camel with the tricky moves was declared the winner! But wait… the camels didn’t stop pushing! I was told that this is quite common, so men with ropes entered the arena and began to pull. Separating the camels took another five or so minutes.

It ain't over till it's over!

It ain’t over till it’s over!

By the time the match was over we were all cold as well as hungry. We had not planned a picnic, but no matter. There were plenty of options available for hungry fans who preferred to travel light. Most of the options in the meat category involved camel. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only meat there was of the camel variety.

Camel BBQ

Camel BBQ

The sausage is served on delicious, warm, crusty bread with some greens and some spicy sauce. The meat itself is mildly spicy and pretty tasty! See those stacks of green and white plastic tubs that  look like yogurt? Well, it’s ayran- almost yogurt. It’s a drink made of yogurt, water and a bit of salt. Just the thing with many meat dishes over here and quite easy to make yourself.

But wait! The hospitality didn’t end there. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there is no end at all to Turkish hospitality, and that, my dear readers, will require at least another whole article!

A Final Gift

A Final Gift

 

 

 

 

A Streetcar Named Güzelyalı

Going to a new place in which you know no one and only enough of the language to realize that you really can’t communicate beyond the basics may not be your idea of a fun time, but sometimes we have to take our fun where we find it. Like on buses in Turkey.

There’s still something in me that rebels at the loss of independence that comes with having to come and go according to a bus schedule, but such limited freedom of mobility can also provide an excellent reason to not do some things. Of course I have used public transportation before, but I would prefer to walk if I have the choice. I this particular case, I do not have the choice since my accommodations are within walking distance of nothing except the bus stop.

So, off I went. People said, “Don’t worry about it!” So, I didn’t. Actually, that’s not true. I am a fretter. I worry about things over which I have absolutely no control. Like the bus schedule. Too many ‘what ifs’ for my liking.

The Kindness of Strangers

Since my arrival in Çanakkale, Turkey, daily life has been a constant test of my ability to live by the venerable motto Semper Gumby. After getting settled in my new digs, I was taken, pretty passively, to get a bus pass and charge it with Turkish liras. Most news stands can charge your card for you. When I asked if there were other places to recharge my card… you guessed it. No worry!

My Bus Pass

My Bus Pass

A rough translation of the text at the bottom is: ” ‘Turkish Youth’ Your first duty is to preserve and defend Turkish independence and the Turkish Republic forever.” With such an exhortation always in my pocket, how can I not venture forth somewhere every day?

Whenever I want to get somewhere (which is every day)- mostly to and from town or campus- I walk up to the bus stop, smile, and state the name of the place I want to go. Actually I intone the name of my destination as a question. Then the fun starts! People hear me utter a few words of Turkish with a decent accent and proceed to tell me about everything from the bus I need to the dog lying under the bench (He is a nice dog. He does not like the rain.). Somewhere in there I get the number of the bus that make my wishes become reality. Occasionally I get sent to the other side of the street, sunny or otherwise.

A trip to the grocery store for a few basics: çay (tea), milk, and some fruit, is a 35 minute trip, each way. There’s a bus every hour, so if there’s a line in the store, or you have a longer list, or the bus is full… what ifs. There is no such thing as a quick run to the store here if you don’t have a car, and many people only have one or none at all.

KIPA- the Local Super Target

KIPA- the Local Super Target

Riding home on the bus after shopping is… well, it’s a pain. Don’t plan on buying a lot of anything because even if you can carry it (I use my back pack), you are expected to keep it all in your lap or under your feet on the bus. Seems only fair.

I learned something else on the bus last week. It was raining, and the bus was packed with hot (buses and buildings are always HOT), wet people all trying to get home for the weekend. One last man managed to squeeze himself through the front door, but when he swiped his card, the reader said something to him that I can only guess meant, “Today is not your day.” He stood there a moment and stared at his card in disbelief. Several of us held out our cards to him for him to use. It just seemed like the thing to do- it’s only a 1.5 L ride (about 85¢). My friends in Ankara said that it’s pretty much the custom everywhere to share your card and let the person pay you since the buses don’t take money. I never saw that happen in Europe. I have been lucky enough to not have to use buses in the US.

Turkish bus drivers like to drive fast. Very fast. Curves are not a good reason to slow down. Remember my comments about keeping your things in your lap or under your feet? On the ride home today, the driver was quite irritated because someone’s water bottle had rolled down the aisle and was going from side to side as he careened around the curves along the coastal road. By the way, as is the case in many countries, pedestrians decidedly do not have the right of way in Turkey! You cross streets at your own risk- sometimes even when you use the crossing lights.

Motor bikes and scooters are very popular here, except to go up the hill to campus, but that’s another discussion. For now, let’s just see where I end up, so to speak. My Turkish classes begin tomorrow, so soon, hopefully, wherever I go on the bus, it will be of my own choosing. This will just be one of those entries with no real point, but that is mildly interesting. To get to the camel wrestling this weekend we will not take the bus. Several of us will rent a car. (If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will!)

 

 

 

 

 

What I Did Instead of Starting the New Year with a Post (or, Well I Never!: The Sequel)

Happy 2013!

    The above purple text is supposed to be a video. Perhaps I should wish for more computer savvy,  because I’m told the link doesn’t work. I wish it did, but I’ve tried everything in my limited bag of tricks. In the meantime, here is a still shot from 1 January 2013. You will have to imagine the jingle bells!

Have some fun!

Have some fun!

Here’s to everybody out there who makes wishes!  One of my wishes has always been to go riding in the snow and for my horse to wear bells. Since moving to the mid-west, the chances of that happening have been in my favor for several years now.

Here’s the real biggie for 2013: a trip to Turkey. I’ll be at a university teaching, lecturing, and of course, traveling. Turkey has always been high on my list pf places I want to visit, but I never really thought it would happen. Nevertheless, I never moved it to the bottom of the ever-growing list. You should know that this “well, I never!” list is one that is fun to make. It is also unimaginably  exciting (for me, anyway) to get to check off an item.

Now I would like to talk (vent) about getting ready for such a trip. I will be abroad for 90 days! WOOHOO! Right? Eventually, that will be the case… case being the operative word here. I am limited to two bags no bigger than 62″ however you add up the dimensions to get that ridiculous limit. Also- 50 pounds per bag. And of course, I will have to pay $60.00 for these two bags. FAIL, American Airlines. FAIL!! There is no charge on Turkish Air, but the same limits apply.

Were I to travel without luggage, I would be suspected as a terrorist. I looked into sending myself a box of stuff, but Turkey charges a 20% customs fee on “stuff.” So, I’m back to playing mix and match with two skirts, two pairs of jeans, two dress pants and however many shirts I can cram in. Where am I supposed to pack my shoes???

 

I will also need my cowboy boots.

I am actually good at packing. I do tend to over pack a little for those “just in case” things that always become reality when traveling, but I also carry my own gear. As it should be. I take names when people laugh at me because there is another constant in my semi-well-traveled life: The people who laugh at your luggage are the same ones who want to borrow some of whatever it is that you brought just in case. Who remembers “The Little Red Hen”?

For now, the entire guest bedroom is filled with piles of items that I want to take with me. Every few hours I go in and put a few more things in the “reject” pile.

Stay tuned and wish me luck!

Maybe a few more items for the REJECT pile?

 

The Icing on the Cake

I have always been fascinated by the ways in which people experience and use guilt. Maybe it’s because I raised in a culture that specializes in both emotional self-flagellation as well as the transmission of life lessons through guilt. For example, abstinence from excess is rarely presented as something that is inherently good. Rather, it is something that should be avoided because “you were raised better.”

The guilt with which I am most familiar comes, I think, from a devout attachment to History and Family (not necessarily in that order), and whichever forms of ultra-conservative Protestantism one knows. My non-Protestant friends have also attested to a particular Southern form a guilt; however, my few Southern Jewish friends tell me that Jewish guilt trumps Southern guilt. So be it. Secular Southerners, who were raised better, struggle with the  sisyphean task of freeing themselves and their children from the ties that keep them bound to Family and History.

Some of my favorite Southern authors who have written about this topic are: William Faulkner, Walker Percy, William Alexander Percy, Willie Morris, Eudora Welty, Cormac McCarthy, Ellen Gilchrist, and Rebecca Wells. This list is not even close to complete. I just think of these men and women as some of the heavy hitters in Southern prose. Even here I am fighting the urge to go in and rank them. No! Just read some of them. You really should have done so already by now anyway. By the way, most well-read Southerners not only adore reading, they know instinctively, that willingly accept the responsibility of trying to “know.” I feel guilty when I am not reading!

Before I get wrapped up in a literary discussion, let’s get back to guilt… and cake. Just be patient. You’ll get your dessert after you eat your vegetables which no longer taste good because they aren’t cooked with bacon.

When I went off to college in Nashville, TN, self-proclaimed sophisticates- people from places like New York City, Philadelphia, La Jolla, CA, and even New Mexico (all pretty cool places in their own rights) actually asked me things like,”Do people really go barefooted?” and “Do you have indoor plumbing?” It never occurred to me to call these people idiots or attack the vices that existed in their backyards. I was so amazed that they didn’t know as much (or as little) about me as I did about them. I still felt guilty because, in more cases than anyone wants to admit, the answer to both of these questions was/is, “Yes.” I was raised better than to ask such questions of people whom I barely knew. One evening, Corretta Scott King came to speak at our college. A friend suggested that I go because of my Southern origins, not because it might be intellectually stimulating. I must point out here that guilt doesn’t always work with me. I didn’t go hear Ms. King for the sole reason that someone thought that I should (without really understanding why I should). And I still feel guilty.

Did you like the way I slipped in a few more points before getting down to the sweet stuff? Well, that’s how it goes. By now, if you haven’t just skipped down to the bottom of this post or moved on to Facebook, you may be too frustrated to wonder what I want you to be wondering now, to wit: why are you writing about Southern guilt and cake? Well, now that I’ve planted the question, here is one answer. The two are inextricably linked in my life and, I suspect, in the lives of many of my cultural compatriots also. So, without further ado, I give you Katy Boone’s Caramel Cake. Oh- Katy never used a written recipe. My grandmother wrote this down, and my mother shared it with me in a phone conversation.

CAKE
1 stick of butter                      1 T milk                           1 t vanilla

1 3/4 c flour                          1/2 c Crisco

2 c flour                                  6 eggs

pinch of salt                             1/2 t baking powder

Cream the butter, Crisco, and eggs. Add the sugar, then eggs and milk. Mix and add dry ingredients then vanilla. Bake in two greased, 8 inch cake pans at 350 for 30 minutes or until set.

Who is Katy Boone, you ask? Katy Boone was my grandmother’s cook. Katy Boone saved cookie dough for me and my sister so that we could have a taste. Katy Boone was one of the type of black women the women that insipid movies like The Help tried and failed to portray adequately (I did not read the book. For better and worse, I lived my own version of it which had a lot more shades of grey that I remember in the movie. I hope the book was better.) Katy spent much of her life with us, all of us, but we only knew her when she was with us, not with her own family. Katy Boone was the kind of woman who would go to the trouble to make cookies because a little girl asked for them, or make a cake with the following icing for special occasions like my uncle’s birthday.

ICING

2 1/2 c sugar, divided

1 egg

1 stick of butter

3/4 c milk or half and half

1 t vanilla

Mix 2 c. sugar, egg, butter, and milk in a deep, heavy (that means cast-iron!) skillet. Bring to a boil.

In another heavy skillet, brown the sugar (i.e. cook it slowly over a low fire. STIR, or it will burn.)

When milk mixture boils, add browned sugar. Cook on high until “a bit dropped in cold water makes a soft ball.” (I’m told that a such wonder called a candy thermometer will actually tell you when you have something that qualifies as a “soft ball”)

Add vanilla and let the mixture stand until cool.

Beat until it is of spreadable consistency. “Do not stop to soon or stir too long.” (If you stop too soon, you will get syrup. If you stir it for too long, it will turn to a lump of sugar.)

Guilt free? Not by a long shot. The eggs and butter alone is probably making some of you shudder. I would feel guilty if I shared the recipe without telling you about Katy Boone.

Sex, Lies, Leadership, and eMail

One of the things I remember about Afghanistan is the entourages that followed important people and “leaders” around. I even think I saw the nexus of the current Petraeus debacle; however, I can’t be sure. What I remember clearly- in the instance of more than one star (a general) as well as a small flock of birds (colonels)- was the presence of at least one attractive woman. Sometimes she was a civilian. Sometimes she was in uniform.

I also remember being told that when people downrange see a man and a woman together for more than five minutes, that couple is assumed to be enjoying more than conversation. Before we continue, if you don’t already know this, it’s time that you did: At least on the bigger bases, there is ample time and opportunity for people to enjoy more than conversation. I’m not saying that it’s one big fun house (especially after a 14 hour day), but humans will be humans.

Here’s one more memory that may be helpful to us all as we careen down this slippery slope. Male officers almost always managed- within minutes of making my acquaintance- to do two things. First, they made sure that I knew they were married, happily or otherwise. Then, they asked about my marital status. (I did not wear my rings because I had no wish to lose them. Apparently this was questionable in the eyes of some The decision of some females to wear “fake” rings was equally questionable to them). Anyway, asking my marital status was a just prelude to asking what my husband thought about my deployment.

Yes. They really asked me that. But wait! There’s more! Their reactions to my reply ranged from shock that I was married and that my husband would support such a thing (again, really!) to understanding, and even one apology. However, when I turned the tables and asked how their wives felt about them being deployed, to a man, they all were taken aback. After all, military wives, especially those of officers, are expected to cope with the absence of their spouse. Many of the male officers with whom I came into contact reeked of fear of being caught in a compromising position, so to speak.

This brings us to David Petraeus et al. People were so frustrated with his predecessor, that relief was the predominant feeling in my area when he took over. The fact that COIN’s hearts and minds strategy just wasn’t working was lost on more than one leader then, as now.

When a leader makes rules, the legitimate expectation is that no exceptions will be made when it comes to accountability. Those of us who are more cynical still dare to hope sometimes that if we must force people to be “good” then the consequences of being “bad” will be applied fairly, if not equally. I was just one of a few favored targets of a certain boss bird who really hated the fact that I was his peer and behaved as such, in spite of the fact that he treated me and anyone else who didn’t stroke his feathers, with sarcasm and disrespect. Then he would take me shopping to buy things for his wife.

Once again, our current leaders have failed us. Or have they?

If a person is willing to accept the role of leadership, does that person automatically become subject to a different morality too? Was Petraeus selected to lead in Afghanistan because he didn’t give embarrassing interviews or because he had an idea that worked once before? Or both? Put another way, what, if any, connection is there between an extra-marital affair and the ability to do one’s job? If Petraeus cheated on his wife, would he cheat on his country (as one of my friends put it)? Have I been hurt by his behavior? Have you? Has the world at large?

Quite frankly, I don’t really care about the details of this sordid, (inter?)national drama. I have seen some really “good” people do some really “awful” things and continue to torment themselves long after the public airing of the laundry was over. I also know that most of us have at least one soiled hanky tucked away somewhere that we just can’t get rid of. Our muddled morals and ethics have somehow let us think that it’s OK for us to throw rocks at the glass houses in which we ensconce our leaders.

We are missing the point in this, I think. The more we  learn about our most recently toppled leader, the more evidence I see proving that people with power do stupid things. Leaders are no exception because they have both power and influence. The surprise is that we continue to be shocked by their humanity. Do we really want/need leaders who are “better” than we are? In every way? I do not believe that we can or should have that expectation. I don’t care how far Petraeus or his PT partner could run, or how fast. I do care about his effectiveness as a leader. If, in that assessment, he is found to be lacking because of the incredibly stupid decisions he made in his personal life, then we all deserve to know. Otherwise, shred the evidence. Burn that hanky. Just don’t hit send!

Busy! Busy! Busy!

“How busy?” you ask. Well, I am so busy that I can’t possibly find the time to do something like keep a blog. NOT! Actually the preceding exchange was constructed to illustrate the paradox that is my life right now. I do not have an income-producing job; however, I am quite busy. I am so unaccustomed to being in (almost) complete control of my time that my brain simply can’t accept it. Even writing it doesn’t make it any more real. Certain family members, however, are convinced that am decidedly not busy and should be on some sort of grand tour of relatives (see #1 below).

The compulsion to be productive has taken over my life! It has displaced the desire to be in control of my own time, so much so that I have settled into a daily routine. I get quite irritated if anyone or anything upsets it. I think I am in control, but I am being very productive for most of the day. I am my own intern. This isn’t quite a case of “be careful what you ask for” because what I want is to be financially independent and in control of my own time. Hey! A person can dream.

So, what do I do with all this time?

1.) I look for a job that will take up a lot of my time, but bring me an income so that I can cram everything else I like to do into what time remains. I have lost count of how many versions of my c.v. are in my computer c.v. folder. If I am not job hunting, I feel guilty. Some day I will write more about the Southern version(s) of guilt.

Nope. No jobs here.

2.) Those of you who are devoted listeners to my noise (out of guilt or other reasons) know a bit about my horses. To their dismay, the training has been turned up a few notches. My Spanish horse still hates my Quarter Horse, but we are working on it. That’s all I can say about that. You’re going to have to trust me here: if you click on the IMG 1732 below, you can see 22 seconds of a warm up session.

IMG_1732

If the video doesn’t work, here is a picture of El Bastardo, the Spanish Snob, hard at work with Gris Gris in what used to be our pond.

You come get me!

3.) And of course Gris Gris gets his own picture because he has, I think, reached the maintenance stage of our rehab plan. He must be lunged a few times a week just to burn calories. His feelings get hurt when I take “the other guy” out instead of him! We had our first trail ride recently. It was really just a few miles through the fields. All went well!

It doesn’t get much better!

4.) I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve always done that, so maybe we don’t need pictures or details here. The next big thing will be a birthday cake for a friend. Her only request- something with white chocolate and raspberries. I can work with that!!

5.) Studying Turkish. Yes, Turkish. If I remember correctly, Benim hoverkraft yılan dolu means: My hovercraft is full of eels. I don’t know which I find more amusing; the fact that I know this or the fact that someone thinks I need to know this. On the other hand, some of you have seen my posts on baklava. Next time you hover out my way…

6.) Reading. Everything.

7.) And finally, I have NOT been doing housework. But then I never did. Housework makes me a mess. I have been entertaining quite a lot. That’s my excuse to clean up. It has always been acceptable to those who show up.

I have no immediate plans for the future except to not feel guilty about not having plans and continue with 1-7 as listed above. Too bad horses have to eat, or I would delete #1.