Much Better

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I finally rushed to the library to drop off the terrible book that took me ten weeks to read. It was time to change-up and get back to reading enjoyment, instead of pain, suffering and intellectual torture. I cruised the book racks looking for something to jump out and yell, “take me.”

Three rounds of staring at covers, titles and authors set a new record for me. Usually I find something within a round and a half. I finally decided to read Steven King. I have avoided him for years. Mostly because of all the things I have heard about his books being weird. It was time to break through the barrier of ignorance and decide for myself what he was like as an author. I know he is a progressive nut job in his politics which puts him on my hit list of people to avoid.

The book I picked up is “Elevation.” A mere two hundred and fifty-eight pages of very large print. It took me three hours to finish. What a joy it was to read a story and not some obnoxious author’s brain dump about a genius mathematician. Elevation is a story about real people with real problems except one who has an exceptional problem. The problem is so weird that the character is afraid go to a doctor to learn what it is. I guess this is the weird Stephen King coming into play. The story has a sad but happy ending which I loved. Elevation is a good short read well worth the time.

Honest, I only Had One Beer

A man walks into an old pub in Dublin, takes a seat at the bar and orders 3 pints. After he is served he takes sips from them in turn and when all 3 glasses are finally empty he orders 3 more. The barkeeper, who has been watching him, has never seen such a weird style of drinking and says to the man: “You know when you leave a beer for too long it goes flat, so they would taste better if you order just one at a time.”
“Well”, says the man at the bar. “You see I have 2 brothers who I used to drink with, but unfortunately one moved to America and the other one moved to Australia. Now we are on 3 different continents and we hardly ever see each other. So I drink a pint for me and 2 for my brothers. This way we at least try to keep this tradition alive and it feels like we’re still together.”
The bartender agrees that this is a beautiful explanation for his weird behaviour and the man becomes a regular at his bar. The other customers also get used to his ritual of ordering 3 pints and drinking them in turn.
But then one day “Mister 3 Pints” comes in and orders only 2 glasses. The whole pub gets silent and the by the time the man orders a second round of only 2 pints the barkeeper says: “I’m terribly sorry as I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I just wanted to offer my condolances on your loss.”
The man looks puzzled, but then a smile breaks through and he says. “Thanks a lot, but everyone is fine really. It’s just that my wife had us join the Baptist church and I had to give up drinking. But my brothers are still Catholics, so it didn’t affect them.”

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Yesterday, Peg and I spent a quiet day together. Just her and Me. We haven’t had such a day in quite some time. Peg’s caretaker hasn’t had a day off in over month and when her son called to say he was coming to  take her on an adventure she jumped at the chance. Being the outstanding employer that I am I jumped at the chance to get her out of the house away from me and Peg for a few hours.

The caretaker’s son owns a motorhome and he stores it in a barn for the winter. He planned to put it into storage this weekend. “What a great day to take mom out into nature to unwind before I put this thing away for the winter.”  Not that her job is that stressful, but it is boring and boring leads to stress. Her routine is to keep Peg fed, clean, medicated, and happy. She does three of the four exceptionally well.  Keeping Peg happy is a huge task. Only because we can never tell how she feels or what she feels. Peg doesn’t communicate, ever. The only time we know she is unhappy is when she experiences pain. Then she communicates with a yelp, scowl, or grimace.

The two of them left in this huge motorhome to places unknown to me. Peg and I were alone, all alone. In our better days before her dementia hit there is no question about how we would have spent our alone time, but this time we were alone and unable to fool around. I said a prayer that I would remain a good husband throughout the day.

I did fairly well in moving Peg to bed for her afternoon respite from the wheelchair. We force her to lay on her side only to get the pressure off her ass. Otherwise she develops a skin breakdown ending in a bedsore. We don’t like bedsores, neither does Peg. If you watch the commercials for lawyers looking for business, you will note that if your loved one in a nursing home has a bed sore it is grounds to sue for negligence. Therefore, we don’t like bedsores, not because lawyers love them but because they are painful, and ugly, and horrible to look at.

The caretaker’s son Freddie returned his mother to the job in time for Peg’s bed hour. To appease me for stealing his mother for a day he presented me with a bottle of Crazy Brewski beer. Brewed in his home country of Lithuania and bottled here in South Carolina.

Crazy Brewski, Lithuanian Beer

Of course Peg saved her daily BM for me. I struggled through the cleanup and re-diaper with a minimum of fuss and she was happy, I think. Supper was fun. I made it easy by popping a frozen pizza into the oven and literally threw shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar dressing into a bowl for salad. We ate together, She polished off one eighth of the pie, and in the same time I finished four eighths, or half the pie. She sipped on a glass of pink Moscato through a straw and I swilled two glasses of Pinot Noir. That difference in eating is why Peg never weighs more than a hundred pounds with a 28 inch waist and I thunder about at 198 and a bulbous 40 plus waist.

This evening I popped for a couple of rib dinners from a local take out called Mindy’s famous for ribs. To go along with it I split the Crazy Brewski with the caretaker. Normally, I have a single glass of red wine with my supper, but I substituted the wine with the Brewski. A few sips into the beer, which was excellent, and sweet, I took note of the alcohol content. Crazy Brewski has 15% alcohol. A normal US beer like Coors has at most 4% and wine has 11%.  Needless to say, I am buzzed. 

That is my story, and I’m sticking to it. 

Remember When?


Children of the greatest generation

Born in the 1930's to the early 1940's, we exist as a very special age group.

We are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900's.

We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren't available.

We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

We are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the War.

We saw the 'boys' home from the war, build their little houses - Jones Park?

We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood "playing outside”.
There was no city playground for kids. Soccer was unheard of.

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

On Saturday afternoons, the movies gave us newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons that were at least a week old.
Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party Lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).

Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon.

The 'INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist.

Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Paul Harvey.

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.

The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled with new installment payment plans opened many factories for work.

New highways would bring jobs and mobility. New cars averaged $2,000 full price.

The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands.

Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

We weren't neglected, but we weren't today's all-consuming family focus.

They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on or Mom called us for supper - by hollering!

They were busy discovering the post war world.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where we were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in our future.

Although depression poverty was deeply remembered.

Polio was still a crippler.

We came of age in the 50s and 60s.

The Korean War was a dark passage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking under desks for Air-Raid training.

Russia built the “Iron Curtain” and China became Red China.

Eisenhower sent the first 'Army Advisers' to Vietnam.

Castro took over in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power in Russia.

We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland. The war was over and the cold war, Muslim terrorism, “global warming”, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

Only our generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty, we lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better, not worse."

We are “The Last Ones”.

More than 99 % of us are either retired or deceased, and we feel privileged to have “lived in the best of times”!

PSA-180616-The World Gone Crazy

No further discussion required 

 

PSA-180117-God’s Wisdom Revealed

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When GOD solves our problems,
we have faith in HIS abilities.
When GOD doesn’t solve our problems,
HE has faith in our abilities.
 
 One may observe God’s accuracy in the hatching of eggs…
those of the Canary in 14 days;
those of the Barnyard Hen in 21 days;
Eggs of Ducks and Geese in 28 days;
those of the Mallard in 35 days;
Eggs of the Parrot and the Ostrich hatch in 42 days.
 
 (Notice, they are all divisible by seven,
the number of days in a week!)
 
 See God’s Wisdom in the making of an Elephant…
The four legs of this great beast
all bend forward in the same direction.
No other quadruped is so made.
God planned that this animal would have a huge body…
too large to live on two legs.
For this reason He gave it four fulcrums
so that it can rise from the ground easily.
The Horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first.
A Cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.
 
 How wise the Lord is in all His works of Creation!
 
 Each Watermelon has an even number of stripes on the Rind.
 
 Each Orange has an even number of segments.
Each ear of Corn has an even number of rows.
Each stalk of Wheat has an even number of grains.
 
 Every bunch of Bananas has on its lowest row
an even number of Bananas,
and each row decreases by one,
so that one row has an even number
and the next row an odd number.
 
 Amazing!
There’s more…
 
 The Waves of the Sea roll in on shore
Twenty-six to the Minute in all kinds of weather.
 
 All Grains are found in even numbers on the stalks..
 
 God has caused the Flowers to Blossom
at certain specified times during the day.

Linnaeus,
the Great Botanist,
once said that if he had a Conservatory
containing the right kind of Soil,
Moisture,
and Temperature,
he could tell the Time of Day or Night
by the Flowers that were Open
and those that were Closed.
 
 The Lives of each of us
may be ordered by the Lord
in a Beautiful Way for His Glory,
if we will only Entrust Him with our Lives.
If we try to Regulate our own Lives,
we will have only Mess and Failure.
 
 Only God,
who made our Brains and Hearts,
can Successfully Guide them to a Profitable End.
 
 When you carry the Bible,
Satan has a Headache;
when you Open it,
he Collapses.
 
 When he sees you Reading it,
he loses his Strength,
and when you Stand on the Word of God,
Satan can’t Hurt you!

 
 Life without God is like an Unsharpened pencil – it has no Point.
 
 I pray God bless you in ways you never even Dreamed.
I didn’t think twice about forwarding this one.

Pita or Potica?

I challenged my grandson Joey to a bake-off last week and guess what? He beat me. Joey is a student in the school of Culinary Arts at Joliet Junior College. I really thought he could pick up a few pointers from the Old Man (me). He stepped into the kitchen, I handed him an apron which he donned immediately. I thought for sure he would wimp-out and hand it back to me, but he put it on and made me proud. The challenge was to bake a walnut-roll from the recipe found in my mother’s (his great grand mother’s) cook book.

Every year at Christmas and New Year I get a strange yen to eat walnut-roll. Most likely because Mom raised me eating walnut roll, and many other beautiful baked goods. She was an excellent baker. How she became one is a mystery. She came to the USA when she was sixteen, so she didn’t have a lot of time to develop epicurean cooking or baking skills while still in her native Hungary. She married my Dad when she was twenty-three. Until then she worked as a domestic for families in the Chicago area, and might have developed some experience during that period.

My parents lived in a neighborhood called Burnside on the far South side of Chicago. Burnside had a very heavy population of immigrants from many European countries: Hungary, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Slovenia, and few I forgot. The name of the Catholic Church in the neighborhood was Our Lady of Hungary, so a lot of Hungarians lived there. My guess is that Mom learned to cook and bake from her girl friends in the neighborhood. If they shared something, or baked something at a bake sale which she liked she would ask them for a recipe, and make it for my Dad. He was a man who never disappointed her because he ate every experiment she put in front of him without a complaint. Being the observant type, she would notice how quickly he devoured her experiments. Being a quick learner she kept making the things that disappeared from the table fast.

My brother, sister and I were also willing test subjects. I can honestly brag that she brought me up on her walnut roll, blackberry and apple pie, poppy-seed or apricot kiflik, and a myriad of other delectable bakery. Her white bread was to die for. She didn’t bother baking small loaves in those wimpy nine by four-inch bread pans, but rather a turkey roasting pan. The image of a giant loaf of white bread still warm from the oven makes my mouth water.

We two Joe’s set out to bake the best walnut roll made by any human on earth. Because Joey was in a strange kitchen, I obeyed his requests for tools, and ingredients. He never looked back and jumped into the process with a vigor I had never seen him have before. Being a good grandfather, and a believer in the benefits of positive reinforcement I became his assistant. I never said anything, but observed as he steadily assembled the ingredients. I merely asked if he finished using the dish, spoon, pot, etc so I could rinse it clean.

When it came to deciding when the dough was ready he became frustrated by the elasticity, and I finally chastised him for his impatience with a “nothing is perfect comment.” He bought my argument and proceeded to work the dough into a beautiful thin sheet ready for spreading the filling and the last roll up. Finally, I was able to teach him my technique of rolling the dough on a sheet of waxed paper which made the last windup easy. We popped two finished rolls on a greased cookie-sheet slid it into the oven and anxiously awaited for it to bake. I set a timer for thirty minutes called for by the recipe. Joey just opened the oven door occasionally and lightly touched the surface of the dough with his fingertip. He pulled the rolls from the oven at twenty-five minutes declaring the rolls done. It seemed an eternity for the them to cool enough for us to cut, and when we finally did it turned out he was right, the rolls were fully baked and ready, and delicious; just like my Ma’s.

I sent Joe home with one of the rolls, and wrapped the other to keep it moist. There was enough filling left over to make another loaf. I decided to make it the next day, but I wanted to try a different recipe. My mother’s recipe did not use yeast in the dough, so I chose a Slovak recipe using the same ingredients plus yeast. To make this loaf totally different I added cinnamon and honey to the filling. This dough was very elastic and would have met Joe’s requirements. The recipe made enough dough for two loaves, but when I spread it out into twelve by sixteen inch rectangle I realized I could have made four loaves by thinning the sheet.

I used up all the filling on one loaf and baked it using a timer. My walnut-roll came out browner on the top but still very soft inside.

Another eternity passed as I waited for the loaf to cool enough to cut. To pass time, I cut a slice of Joey’s to make a comparison. The slice almost didn’t make the side by side as I had not yet eaten breakfast and my mouth started watering.

Eventually, I cut the new roll and took side by side photos. It is obvious to see which slice had the yeast. Next came a taste test. Honestly, they were nearly identical. I didn’t taste the honey or the cinnamon. Joey’s roll tasted a bit more of flour than did the yeast dough. Both were good and I look forward to devouring them in the days ahead.

So, which is it Pita or Potica? My mother’s cook book calls it Pita, the Slovenians, and Polish call it Potica.

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