Category : Personal

POST CARD PARTY

Last weekend, writers Ann Parker, Mysti Berry, and I put together a Post Card Party through an ACLU program to GET OUT THE VOTE. This non-partisan venture ended in something like 1,000,000 post cards (that is the total from ACLU, not our little party!) being mailed to voters all over the country, who might need a reminder of how important is our civic duty. (Coincidentally, “Civic Duty” is also the title of my story in this anthology, released in July, with proceeds also going to the ACLU.) The messages on the cards were nonpartisan, simply urging people to VOTE.

Low Down Dirty Vote

Below are some photos marking the occasion.

The youngest citizen to write out post cards (r): age 9

Instigator Ann Parker, far left

Nothing says you can’t have food and fun while doing your civic duty.

PS: 750  cards completed!

LoCal Hamburgers

I mean very low calorie. Try these miniature “hamburger” cookies. How perfect for your Labor Day Cookout/in!

Note the spoon for scale.

Gerry Porter and her 11-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, love all things mini. The two stars of  Margaret Grace’s Miniature Mysteries were playing around in the kitchen one Saturday, unable to choose between vanilla and chocolate cookies. They came up with a new recipe that combined the best of both. Using two soft vanilla cookies and one soft chocolate cookie, they created a mini hamburger. After their day of creative play, and adding embellishments, here’s  the result!

NO BAKE MINI “HAMBURGER” COOKIES

TIME TO PREPARE: about 15 minutes

YIELD: 12 mini hamburgers

INGREDIENTS:

I box vanilla wafers

1 box soft chocolate cookies (SnackWells or the equivalent)

1 tube green frosting

1 tube red frosting

1 tube yellow frosting

1/8 cup sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Arrange 12 vanilla wafers, flat side up, on a tray or platter. These are the bottoms of the “hamburger buns.”

2. Using the green frosting tube, squirt a ring around the edge of each wafer. Using your finger or a toothpick, rough up the frosting so it resembles ragged lettuce.

3. Place 1 chocolate cookie (the meat!) on top of each green-ringed wafer.

4. Using the red frosting tube (ketchup!), squirt a ring around the flat edges of a dozen additional wafers (the tops of the “hamburger buns).

5. Using the yellow frosting tube (mustard!), squirt a yellow ring over the red ring of Step 4, allowing the two colors to mix in places.

6. Place each newly ringed wafer, flat side down (top of the bun!), on top of a chocolate cookie/wafer.

DONE!  You now have 12 hamburgers, with lettuce, ketchup, and mustard.

7. (optional) Dot the top of each “burger” with egg white, and use as adhesive for a few sesame seeds.

Other options: add a smooth ring of white frosting for an onion, a square of orange frosting for cheese, or smooth the red ring so it looks more like tomato.

A Good Sport

There was a time when I shunned everything to do with sports. Not that I didn’t ride my bike and even treadmill (v. i.) fairly regularly.

What I disliked was the pesky winner/loser aspect, especially where kids were involved. Because winning was so important, to the coaches and parents if not the kids themselves, some kids were left out. So, what was all the lip service to “they learn teamwork” if only the athletically endowed could profit? Didn’t kids with lame arms or poor eyesight also deserve to learn teamwork?

In the image of Luks’s painting, doesn’t it look like the boy isn’t at all interested in the baseball?

Boy with Baseball by George Luks, c. 1925, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Edward Joseph Gallagher, Jr., 1954

I’ve had a hard time avoiding sports metaphors, but I’ve succeeded on the whole.

Then the New York Times came out with a special article on the history of sports phrases and suddenly it feels very scholarly to say “That’s not in my wheelhouse.” *

You can read the complete article, but here are a couple of my favorites.

Talk about scholarly, how about this first one, from Shakespeare:

1. There’s the rub.

When Hamlet says, “To sleep — perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!” he’s talking about something that’s difficult. “The rub” is from lawn bowling, and refers to an unevenness in the playing surface. Or so they say.

2. Out of left field.

Why is left field the spot where kooky ideas come from? Why not right or center? Well, no one is too sure, but there are a couple of fascinating theories—left field was often deeper than right in early baseball stadiums; weaker fielders were put in on the left; and left fielders tended to play farther back.

* Wheelhouse comes from baseball. It’s the area in which a batter feels most comfortable hitting the ball.

Here’s a closing image:

From the Girl Baseball Players series for Virginia Brights Cigarettes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, issued 1886, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick

OR, Girls also want to have fun.

All Things Chocolate

Could you pass up a meeting like this? I couldn’t. Here’s where many sisters and misters from NorCal Sisters in Crime gathered last weekend:

Chocolate Seminar: Examining the myths, the realities, and the fantasies, as well as the usual suspects.

Tantalizing tastes presented by Janet Rudolph and Frank Price.

Frank Price, earning the title Chocolate Historian. Janet Rudolph is seated, far right.

Part One, just to make it clear that this was a crime writers meeting, Janet Rudolph gave expert advice on killing with chocolate, even providing a list of mysteries where chocolate is death, or at least a prime suspect. Here’s the Dying for Chocolate list — dozens of novels for your reading pleasure.

Tasters

Part Two, the lesson, from Frank Price. Chocolate is one of those nutritional pleasures that has become a part of the fabric of life for many. Chocolate is a finite resource subject to the pressures of weather, insects, over-cultivation, and political forces. At one time, worldwide, there were only a few companies who were “bean to bar.”  Now the number of “bean to bar” companies is growing as is the geographical, political, and manufacturing forces. And the ever-changing weather has caused the sourcing and manufacturing processes to become more intense and more complicated.

Consumers are becoming more demanding. Production techniques are more refined. Manufacturers are researching many different techniques to create a demarcation for their brand. Industry-wide experts guess that the supply of chocolate will be ever changing and the price for the basic bean will fluctuate in the global economy. At the same time that new manufacturers are popping up, there are many larger companies who are trying to add small artisanal brands to their portfolio so that they can launch products, packaging, and advertisement to fill various consumer niches from the everyday chocolate snacker to a more sophisticated palate, and to the baker, confectionary artist and restaurateur.

Part Three, when the fun (eating) began. We were treated to six different taste samples. (You can have your wine tasting; this is my wheelhouse)(although, port was provided for those who chose).
The samples: The presenters started us off with a 33% cacao milk chocolate, followed by darker pieces, up to 73%. Assembled tasters were asked to rank our favorites — the hands raised for each of the six samples followed a bell curve! Isn’t math great?

High School? Who remembers?

In June I attended my college reunion in Boston. (Too scary to say which one!)

But I will report on one of the conversations, the one that brought us back to high school.

Who thought that was a good idea? you ask. Probably someone who was Prom King. Or Head Cheerleader. Not me. But there were some good things about my time at RHS in Revere Massachusetts.

The old Revere High School

1. Miss Wiley. A math teacher who singled me out, with a few boys, for a special after school class in solid geometry. No one even bothers with that anymore; freshmen are too busy learning calculus already. But at the time, a century ago, solid geometry was considered “advanced math.” I often think of Miss Wiley, who must have had her own math education in the 1940s, without much feminine company. No wonder she decided to include a girl in the group. Lucky me.

2. Miss Mafera. An Italian teacher who stayed with us for 4 years, guiding us through L’Inferno of La Commedia in our senior year. We were oblivious to the fact that not every 16-year-old in a public school read Dante in the original. Later, in college, I had to read a translation whether I liked it or not.

3. Uncool Kids. Can you say cliques? At the time, I thought I wasn’t in one—the Cool Kids didn’t talk to me, wouldn’t have lunch with me, didn’t invite me to their parties.

Later I realized, I was simply in another clique—the Uncool Kids. There were enough of us, so I can’t say I was sorry being left out of the beer parties on the beach. (We went bowling. How Uncool can you get?)

Here’s a photo of me (center) with some of the Uncool Kids.

Champion bowlers

I’m sad to report that one of my best friends (far left) died 5 years ago. We stayed close over many decades. The leftmost guy, who wanted to be a doctor, died very young. I still get holiday cards from the middle guy. I wish I knew where the others in the photo are. If you’re reading this, please let me know.

LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE

It’s still July, so I still have my red, white, and blue “things” around the house. That’s my also my excuse for repurposing a Fourth of July blog, which is also a voting blog.

Here it is.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt lived down the street from us in Revere, Massachusetts. He was the best friend our family had. Or so I thought growing up in the early 1940s.

“Roosevelt gave me this job,” my father would say, tapping a small brown envelope of cash, his week’s wages.

“If it weren’t for Roosevelt and the WPA, you wouldn’t be getting new shoes for school,” my mother would remind me.

I pictured a benevolent Mr. Roosevelt driving the old truck that picked up my father and his cronies, day laborers, from the corner of our street, taking them to the construction site of the day. I imagined the WPA, whoever they were, helping my mother shop for my school clothes.

My parents, as well as our neighbors and friends, were acutely aware of House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s All politics is local. My father’s (metal) social security card (below) was a prized possession.

It seemed to me that every year was an election year, every election important to us. My mother especially was always campaigning, urging people to sign this or that petition, to vote, vote, vote. Our front window was never without a sign, RUSSO FOR MAYOR, AVALLONE FOR COUNCIL, SIEGEL FOR SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT.

And it all came together on the Fourth of July. Independence Day and Voting Day were the biggest holidays in our lives, competing with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but better because there was no back-breaking food prep or lugging a tree up the stairs. My father died on July 4, 1981—I’ve always felt that he timed it that way, going up with the glorious fireworks on Revere Beach.

Following politics, debating issues, voting, are still a priority for me. Being invited to contribute a story to LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE has been a highlight of my year. Thanks to Mysti Berry and the grand array of colleagues in this anthology!

I’m thinking of making a poster of the LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE cover, and propping it on my lawn.

Where have all the flowers gone?

I’m tired of seeing this “poll question:”

If you could visit the past, whom would you have lunch with?

So I thought I’d answer it, once and for all.

If I could time travel, I wouldn’t waste it on the past. I’d go forward.

I’ve lived through a few decades of the past—I know what it’s like to get by without running hot water and electric knives and cellphones. And I’ve read enough about the days before plumbing and the zipper.

I’d like to know what becomes of women’s marches and noise-cancelling headphones.

I’d love to go away for a while and rest, and then come back and talk to the grandchildren of the Millennials. That would put us at around 2060.

PAPER, in widespread use in 2018 a.d.

Some questions:

1. What’s the official language of the United States?

2. Does Safeway still have two aisles of pet food and only half an aisle of cheese?

3. Did Jennifer Lawrence’s face ever wrinkle?

4. Does anyone use paper anymore? For what?

5. Did anyone stop the rain?

6. Did we ever give peace a chance?

What would you want to know?

All Hat

Note: this blog appeared earlier on Ann Parker’s website. Now there’s someone who has resurrected the Old West with her engaging Silver Rush series.

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I’m not the first person who comes to mind when delving into conversation about the Old West. Or even the New West, for that matter.
But I do have a stepdaughter who is a prize-winning horsewoman and here’s what she said about a newcomer to the ranch.
CC: He’s all hat and no cattle.
Me: Huh?
CC: You know, he talks big, but no action.

Camille, hat, and photobombed horses (courtesy CC and the Cable Guy)

So there it is. The West creeping into my personal lexicon. Here’s a bit (so to speak) of its history:
Originally used in reference to people imitating the fashion or style of cowboys. These people wore the hats, but had no experience on the ranch — thus, all hat, no cattle. Similar to talking the talk without walking the walk, also used in reference to wannabe gunslingers.

It’s going to be hard not to overuse this newly learned phrase.

It’s a Grand Old Flag

I think there’s a song about that.

Largest American flag in the world: 90 feet x 160 feet. (from the Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection)

Happy Fourth everyone. How about a quiz to help you prepare for your Fourth of July party. What? No party? Well, there’s no excuse now.

(No, this is not a duplicate of the quiz in my newsletter — separate questions; separate prize!)

1. Who is the artist of the painting printed on the $2 bill?

(a) John Trumbull;  (b) James Whistler;  (c) Winslow Homer

2. Who wrote “God Bless America?”

(a) George M. Cohan; (b) Irving Berlin; (c)Francis Scott Key

3. What creature did Benjamin Franklin recommend for our national symbol?

(a) bald eagle; (b) beaver; (c) turkey

4. Who was the first president to be born in the United States?

(a) James Polk; (b) Martin Van Buren; (c) John Quincy Adams

5. Who was King of England when the Declaration of Independence was adopted?

(a) Edward II; (b) George III; (c) William IV

Send answers BY JULY 4, 2018 to camille (at) minichino (dot) com, subject JULY 4 BLOG QUIZ.

A Book by Any Other Name

Some claim the e-reader dates back to 1949, when a Spanish school teacher, Angela Robles, wanted to ease the textbook-carrying burden of school children by spooling text into what she termed a “mechanical encyclopedia.”

Jumping ahead, Sony released its e-reader in 2004; the first Kindle appeared in 2007. Enough time for them to be welcomed into the world of readers.

There are many reasons to prefer e-readers to hard copy books, and vice versa. We have issues of eyesight, or cost, or the weight and manageability of one versus the other, for example. But I’m always amazed when I still hear this argument for a paper book:

“I like the smell and feel of a book. No one wants to curl up with a computer screen.”

The smell and feel. If you’re in the Morgan Library, maybe, where you can smell and feel fine leather from ages past.

From the Morgan Library, printable version

But inventory in the bookstores I frequent is made of fragrance-free paper, the same paper as a boarding pass or paper towels. The most you can count on is a bit of bling on the covers.

Fingering pages that used to be a tree seem important to some people, however, and I imagine taking taking a long, long time to get through a Harry Potter as they stop to fondle each page.

Curling up. Except for My First Book Ever, books are not soft and cuddly, but rather a constant source of paper cuts.

This nostalgia for technology past isn’t surprising. We see it with each new invention, that then becomes threatened by yet a newer invention.

I suppose there was a gathering of horsemen around the turn of the twentieth century, all bemoaning the arrival of the automobile.

“I miss the smell of manure,” one might have said.

“And the feel of the saddle under me,” from another.

“There will always be horses,” from a horse trader.

And they’d have been right. But stairs and elevators coexist, along with automobiles. And, yes, we still have horses, though you don’t find them used much for commuting any more.

My e-reader, with an old-time cover. The best of both worlds?