Monday, June 29, 2015

Saga of the Humble Tomato

Digging into the soil, pulling weeds, planting seeds and seedlings, watering a parched earth, impatiently watching plants peek out from the soil and reach toward the sun, eventually producing beautiful, colorful flowers and delicious edibles create a spring and summer delight.
Not from my garden, but the local farmer's market. 
Why did the tomato blush?
Because he saw the salad dressing.

This year our tiny patch contains mainly tomato plants, a summertime favorite. I cannot wait to enjoy the juicy, wonderfully tasting varieties.

Commercially grown tomatoes, especially those found in stores during the dark, dreary winter months and purchased for a dear price, are usually tasteless letdowns. Every year I make a pledge not to buy tomatoes during the winter, but perusing colorful produce displays, occasionally a large, red, juicy looking specimen beckons. I buy, but am always disappointed.

Marketing wins, my taste buds and pocketbook lose.

The humble tomato made its way to North American shores in a circuitous way. Native to Peru, the plant traveled North through Central America into Mexico. Spanish conquistadors introduced the plant to Europe, initially for ornamental purposes.

The plant generated a dark, negative history. Botanists believed the plant similar to a poisonous one called nightshade, and the tomato’s reputation was stained for centuries. The tomato was also considered an aphrodisiac, adding to the dangerous side effects of the round red fruit if consumed.

Europeans dubbed the fruit ‘poison apple’. By the 18th century European aristocrats dined on pewter tableware. The plates contained a high lead content. When a tomato, high in acidity, sat on a pewter plate for any length of time it would leach lead from the plate. The unknowing diner ate the tomato and died of lead poisoning.

At the time people believed the tomato was the culprit.

And although the tomato is not poisonous, the leaves are toxic.

European immigrants introduced the plant into North America, and our Colonial ancestors believed tomatoes poisonous. Legend say Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes on his plantation and used them in cooking, spreading their popularity throughout the colonies. Originally a cooked vegetable – although actually a fruit – tomatoes were consumed in soups and sauces long before gracing salads.

The invention of the modern pizza in the 1880’s in Naples, Italy, sealed the tomato’s international popularity. A poor man’s ‘peasant bread’, the main ingredient typically leftover dough, toppings included tomato, cheese and whatever else was available.

The introduction of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup in 1897 secured the tomato an honored position as an American food staple.

My tomato plants.
The tomato’s negative reputation still at times haunts the plant. In the 1978 movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes giant red tomatoes terrorize the nation.

My tomatoes never get that big.

Green tomatoes appear on my plants every day, and I cannot wait until they turn ripe red, ready for picking and eating, the perfect summer food. 
How do you fix a sliced tomato?
Use tomato paste.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Presidential Campaign Update 12

and a warning to limit campaign news time...

I paid little attention to Presidential campaign news during June. No major announcements emerged that will change the world, or the campaign. No one dropped out. Additional wannabees announced they were running for the coveted job.

Journalists wrote about campaign stops and speeches, money raised, babies kissed. Most of us yawned and went about our lives.

I understand journalists must earn a living too, so they can take the speeches, the campaigning and polls seriously. The rest of us can choose to ignore the hype. After all, the 2016 Presidential election is 500 days away (as of Saturday, June 27, 2015).

On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders of Vermont threw his hat into the 2016 Presidential ring. Sanders is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the cookie cutter guys on the Republican side.

Republican candidates sound alike, kowtowing to and making an effort not to rile but to please Republican moneybags and talking heads, such as the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Nordquist and others; otherwise a candidacy is dead in the water.

I do not believe most Americans want billionaire industrialists pulling strings and guiding voters from behind the scenes. These billionaires are the latest version of the cigar-smoking men of the past selecting candidates in smoke filled rooms.

Four candidates vie for the coveted Democratic Presidential candidacy: Sanders, Hillary Clinton, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

There are too many Republican contenders to mention each one. Check this website for a list of declared, exploratory, and potential candidates. As of Saturday, June 27, there were 26 declared Republican candidates, from the obscure (anyone hear of Skip Andrews?) to the well known (anyone NOT know Jeb Bush) to the pompous (Donald Trump, of course).
Others wait in the wings…

Meanwhile I will make an effort to limit my time reading about, listening to, and watching Presidential campaign news.

I advise my readers to do the same.

Paying too much attention to campaign activity early in the campaign season can become addictive, leading to undesirable side effects, including but not limited to:

Mind numbness,

The inability to differentiate between the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain stupid,

Intermittent giggles and eye rolling over candidates’ misspoken words,

Curiosity about a candidate and/or spouse’s wardrobe, hairstyle, parents, children, neighbors, pets, dietary preferences, vacation choices, and favorite cars.

Plus – and this can be the unhealthiest side effect – the urge to suppress the silliness by consuming large bowls of chocolate ice cream.
Chocolate ice cream.
May not solve problems, or help figure out who to vote for,
but tastes good and soothes petty annoyances - like campaign rhetoric!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Silver Lining

Sometimes I jump the gun, as the saying goes. I misspoke in a previous post, or more accurately mis-wrote, noting the disappointment in not shedding any weight after being sick for several days.

My lament was premature.

After losing fluids pumped into my body in the hospital, inflating my already expanded torso, and discarding additional ounces from barely eating for two weeks, the scales were, finally, kind to me.

The silver lining to my illness cloud.

A warning/disclaimer: this is not a weight-loss method recommended by me or anyone else. Rapid weight loss may result in euphoria, clothing not fitting, comments from family and friends, and a sense of fear that the weight will sneak back on. Check out this Wikipedia article for a more extensive list of weight loss issues. 

If the weight stays off, and maybe a couple more pounds drop from various parts of my still overweight body, it will be great.

According to my doctor’s scale I lost 9 pounds. My scale, a bit more conservative, registered 7 pounds down.

I happily accept either number.

But now the challenge begins.

First I should start exercising again. My mind tells me it must be done, but the body remains in denial, expressing tiredness, laziness, whatever…anything but eagerness to move.

Second, food intake must be monitored. Carefully watched. Too many trips to the ice cream parlor can prove devastating. Walking three blocks to the store and home again does not begin to negate the additional calorie intake, even when indulging in kiddie-size low-fat dishes.

I scoured youTube looking for the perfect summer song reflecting my mood right now, and almost posted a 1960s Spanky and Our Gang song, Lazy Day. But then I came across the following video. The song is titled Busy Doing Nothing (definitely mirroring my current state) from the movie A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) starring Bing Crosby, the lead crooner.

Old song, recent political pictures.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Best of Boomer Bloggers Celebrate Father's Day and More

My Dad
This week's posts range from the Summer Solstice, to Father's Day memories, and a subject close to our hearts, or at least our heads, especially as we age - the need for hearing aids.

Check it all out at Let's Hear It for Summer! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Give-a-S**t Meter

 My give-a-s**t meter currently hovers near zero, a result of my recent illness.

Which, temporarily, is a good thing. There are a lot of people around my house now. One hub, three granddaughters, one son and one daughter-in-law. More descend beginning tomorrow.

My house has been taken over, but because my give-a-s**t meter idles near zero I do not care. Let everyone cook, let them play and run around my house.

My head is in the clouds, sort of, at least momentarily.

One day soon I will float back down to earth, look around, sigh, and begin reclaiming my house.

But not yet. I am content to let others take control.

I wonder what happens when others swoop down upon your home and start doing things. And looking for stuff…like cooking utensils, or scissors, or more toilet paper.

Is my home in a state of semi-organization that, with a bit of trying and ingenuity, items can be found? Are my drawers such a clutter it is difficult finding anything? I do not care, but the give-a-s**t meter on the healthy individual trying to find things might spike.

My closets are an unorganized mess, although I can usually find what I am looking for. Anyone else attempting to find whatever in any closet in my home may never be seen or heard from again, swallowed by the heap of stuff.

I guess this experience is a wake up call. Although I do not care people are using my house, I feel bad things are not exactly in good order.

Of course things could be worse. I like to look on the positive side…

So I guess the moral of this tale is that, although I may be satisfied with the state of my house, other people care about finding things around my house.

And a similar situation could happen again. So now  a massive home improvement project is on my agenda, not costing money but a big investment in time and energy.

I will begin when I am feeling better.

And my give-a-s**t meter begins moving again. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Timing is Everything

We make vacation plans, block out special dates like weddings on our calendar, and life goes on. We do not make provisions for special medical events, unless for a scheduled procedure we manage to squeeze in between holidays, work, and life.

I kept my calendar virtually empty last week in anticipation of cleaning the house in preparation for the grandkids and assorted other relatives descending the following week.

It is no trivial task. A week would barely be adequate.

However I got nothing done.

Welcome to the Cathedral of Laziness and Lethargy.

A.k.a. my body.

I spent a couple of days (maybe more, my mind is still a fog) at home sleeping, then a couple of days in the hospital. The emergency room doctor was so enamored of my cultures he declared, “We’re keeping you.”

The only silver lining I could think of was a loss of weight. I ate almost nothing for days, although in the hospital IV fluids entered my system 24/7.

I was cognizant enough when entering my home to find my scale. I needed some positive news.

What a bummer. The d**n scale did not move an ounce.

I am definitely weight-challenged. Fat cells, part of my body for so many years, refuse to leave. Or shrink. Or cooperate and do whatever happens when one loses weight.

So much for a silver lining.

The weariness and exhaustion experienced now, attempting to recuperate, is overwhelming. It is an effort to do anything.

Meanwhile life goes on. My son, his wife and granddaughter arrived last night to help with two additional grandkids arriving today. Three adults, three girls 3, 4, and 8, they will have a great time.

My granddaughter showed off her manicure, ten colors, one on each finger, apparently a trend with 3-year-olds nowadays. Examining my nails, she was appalled they were polish-less. She demanded I find polish, and after scrounging three bottles, she gave me a manicure.
A first-class manicure in three colors, carefully administered
by a three-year-old,
is a perfect antidote to the medical blues!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Alert, Blog Frustrations, and Money and Retirement on This Week’s Blog Round-Up

Summer is almost here and the weather (at least in the mid-Atlantic area) is finally cooperating. Sunday morning dawned sunny and cloudless, the first beautiful day in a week. I picked our first strawberries of the season. They are plentiful and sweet this year following a slow but successful recovery from near-death following Hurricane Sandy.

I cannot wait to stroll down to the beach with my chair, a book and sunscreen. Deciding which sunscreen to buy can be challenging, with stores displaying numerous options. This week’s Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide contains clues to choosing the best one.

Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, gives the recommendation of two consumer groups on which sunscreens are best. Consumer Reports tested 34 sunscreens and said the ones with chemical filters work best. The Environmental Working Group analyzed 1,700 products and found 80 percent offered inferior sun protection or contain ingredients the group calls harmful. The EWG thinks sunscreens with mineral filters are less dangerous.

Laura Lee is giving up her original blog, "Midlife Crisis Queen" for technical reasons. She is so disillusioned with what's become of the Internet! So much for freedom of expression, eh? She now blogs at Adventures of the New Old Farts. Check out her post Why Blogging Isn’t Much Fun Anymore

Tom Sightings of Sightings Over Sixty asks: Can you afford to retire? In his post How Much Money Do You Need in Retirement? he highlights some interesting findings from a recent report sponsored by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, which surveyed American attitudes about their ability to afford retirement. So, among other things, find out how much money people say you need in order to live comfortably after you retire.

Meanwhile enjoy some of the free aspects of retirement - the outdoors, fresh air, start of a new season. Take a walk or get together with a friend. Take a trip to your local library and get a stack of books for summer reading.

I am going to do some cooking. My family descends next week and I want to be prepared.

Have a great week!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Granny’s Unmentionables

Variety is (supposedly) the spice of life. American marketing gurus made variety an economic sweet spot by inducing consumers to buy, buy, buy. Get people to purchase the newest fashion fad, the latest gourmet food item, the state-of-the-art electronic gadget, and marketers are in economic heaven, translated into hefty paychecks and corporate profits.

There are a few of us who do not jump on the latest bandwagon. I am one of those individuals. My motto is: if it ain’t broke, why buy a new one?

And so a recent New York Times article on the latest fashion in women’s underwear caught my attention. Not because I wanted or needed new lingerie, but because I am always interested in the latest trends which will bypass my life and not shrink my pocketbook.

Many years ago a novel style of underwear became the rage – the thong. Not being young or trendy or willing to spend big bucks on a tiny piece of fabric, I had no interest in the new item. Furthermore I could not understand why anyone would place a narrow fragment of fabric across her private parts and consider it an article of clothing. Or think it looks good. Or feels comfortable.

Yet women paid money for a few inches of cloth that took the place of real underwear.

Fast forward a few years, and guess what!?

Women – including young women, the ones who spend lots of money in places like Victoria’s Secret – are buying what is deemed granny’s unmentionables - undies.

White cotton underwear, high waisted, that amply cover the buttocks.

The kind of underwear I grew up with.

The kind of underwear I wore for years decades.

The kind of underwear I still have in my drawer.

Along with white a variety of colored panties peek out of my lingerie drawer (a term used loosely. You would understand if you saw my drawer. Which nobody will. Ever.) None, however, are thongs or really skimpy.

I am a now a fashionista! An up-to-the-minute underwear trendsetter.

Of course no one knows I was ever out of style, until now. I do not broadcast my undergarment preferences on Facebook. I have never shot a belfie (a selfie of one’s backside) and posted on Instagram or anywhere else. Underwear is not and has never been on my birthday or holiday wish list.

I am glad, however, thongs are not the only undies of the in-crowd. It is inspiring to know models and actresses may be wearing more than a thong under their designer apparel.

They may sport underwear similar to the ones in my drawer. And I bet they are secretly thrilled not to be wearing a thong.

Thongs are such a unique piece of apparel there are articles on how to wear them. One two-part article includes information on Understanding Thongs and Wearing Thongs Safely.

Seems like too much work to me.

The only item of clothing I ever needed instructions on is a scarf. I would love to be able to tie the garment various ways, but lack the knack. I have a booklet but still cannot do more than wrap the fabric around my neck.

My underwear, on the other hand, needs no instructional booklet with pictures or how-to video.

I am glad the younger generations discovered the coziness and convenience of old-fashioned underwear.

I could have told them, but young’uns so rarely listen to us old folks.

Interestingly, young people don't come to you for advice.
Especially the ones who are related to you.
- Meryl Streep

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Up, Down, All Around Seattle

Final random comments on my Seattle trip.

Seattle is hilly, flat along the waterfront and abruptly rising, steep streets creating challenging hikes. Or cab or bus rides.

An economically vibrant city, construction cranes, retail shops large and small, eateries, businesses and busy streets create a happening place. Seattle is a serious container port, one of the largest on the West Coast. The cruise industry likewise has a significant presence on Puget Sound due to the proliferation of Alaska-bound ships. 

Major employers include Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, and the University of Washington. Seattle is the birthplace and home office of the Nordstrom department store. I strolled through the flagship store, but did not buy shoes, a recommended Seattle to do.
The fuselage of Boeing plane transported by rail.
Alexander Calder sculpture The Eagle in background.
The Space Needle, now a city landmark, constructed for the 1962 Worlds Fair, rises 520 feet to an Observation Deck, the cost $22pp senior price. We were counseled to experience the ride only if sunny and clear weather prevailed. Cloud-covered days saved us a bundle.

A highway separates a section of the city from the waterfront, an urban renewal development-in-progress. A major project will reroute the aboveground road into a tunnel, providing unfettered access to the many Elliot Bayside attractions, but construction problems have delayed the project. Shades of Boston's way-over-budget Big Dig...

Fran's Chocolates are touted a local specialty. Hub and I stepped into one store, a sleek, modern storefront. My first impression was wow, those prices! I decided my body did not need the calories.

Paul Allen, the other Microsoft guy, founded the EMP Museum (Experience Music Project also Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame). The Frank Gehry-designed structure houses an eclectic mix of displays and hands-on activities. My 11-year-old grandson would love it.

We viewed a costume display from the various Star Wars exhibit of objects from fantasy-themed movies...and fooled around with musical instruments. We did not play any video games

But performed a three-minute Twist and Shout rendition in front of a faux audience using real instruments, singing karaoke-style. I never realized how heavy a professional guitar is!
The Baer Band perform Twist and Shout.
Richard Serra sculpture titled Wake
in the Olympic Sculpture Park
I spent a couple of hours walking along the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park. The weather was warm and dry (meaning no rain, always an issue in Seattle). School groups congregated around sculptures, dog walkers eased their animals between bikers, joggers and walkers, people sat sunning themselves on strategically placed chairs and benches, and of course lots of people communicated on electronic devices, phones and iPads everywhere. But I guess for employed folks, working outdoors beats the office most days.

Before flying home on the red-eye, an overnight flight, we enjoyed dinner at Portfolio Restaurant, the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle. The fifth-floor dining room provides a panoramic view of Puget Sound. Our three-course gourmet dinner ($23pp) was excellent. Between the two of us we sampled beet salad, seared tuna appetizer, sea scallops, roasted hen with seasonal vegetables and, since dessert was included, sumptuous, calorie-laden concoctions.

It was time to go home.

The flight home proved difficult. I usually have no problem sleeping on planes, but perhaps because my body was wedged into a window seat with no legroom, the uncomfortable accommodations prevented any kind of restful slumber.

Arriving at the airport exhausted and bleary-eyed a few minutes after 6:00 a.m., we grabbed our bags, retrieved our car from a secured lot, drove home and, after a quick breakfast at a local café, collapsed into our own bed.

It was good to be home.