Tuesday, April 28, 2020

This and that

Finally, spring is here to stay.  No more frost or freeze is expected.  It's been an excellent morel mushroom year; the grandson ended up with a bushel or so of them yesterday, although the season is about over.  He's had his best morel year yet, and Cliff and I, and several others, have enjoyed his efforts.  

I was experimenting with raised-bed gardening this year, but I think I've seen all I need to.  The topsoil and compost I bought for the thing are going to get scooped up and thrown in my little garden out back.  It required too much watering to suit me.  Knowing me, I probably was doing something wrong, but I'm going back to what I know.  I have the tomato plants and pepper plants out back across the fence, and I planted a few green beans.  

I'm enjoying my walk a lot more now, since I can go barefoot.  I love feeling my feet touch the earth, and swish through the tall grass.  I love going barefoot in tilled soil, but these days I'd rather not blacken my feet the way I've done for years.  My mom used to scrub my feet with Comet of something (she called all the brands "scouring powder").  Even then, they stayed pretty black.  One thing about it, I know how to clean the bottoms of black feet:  Walk around in the early morning dew barefoot:  that makes my feet almost as clean as a newborn baby's.  

In current coronavirus news, Missouri's governor has more or less turned everyone loose to work, go to church, and go to work, except for the big-city dwellers.  Cliff and I will still take precautions.  I would, however, go to church here in town, for the simple reason that there's often no more than twenty people at either place I attend, and I have no problem with being in a room with people as long as we sit six feet or more apart.  The only time I get to sing with other people is when I'm in church, and I've missed that.

It's harder to think of material for a blog entry when we're really not doing much worth talking about.  Let's see, I just finished reading "The Museum of Desire" by Jonathan Kellerman.  It was a who-done-it type story, which I always enjoy.  Cliff asked me to pick a library book for him to read; I happened to see a book by a familiar author that was ready to borrow, and apparently I picked a winner.  When he reads while he peddles his exercise bike, I hear him chuckling frequently; I tell myself, "My job here is done."  If you're curious, the book is "The Lost Continent" by Bill Bryson.  I intend to read it myself when I get a chance; as I understand it, the guy just travels around the country to small towns and talks about them in a humorous way.  My friend Margeret, in Washington state, reads my blog and likes to know what I'm reading.  She and I like similar books; I've gotten some of my best reads off her list.

The hummingbirds are showing up now, and the ants have already discovered their feeders.  Some things never change.

I moved the chicks into a larger space.  The wire fence is on top because they can fly out now.  They really don't seem to need the light for warmth any more; I think I'll take it away and throw a blanket over the top of their little home at night.  I've moved them to the back porch now; when they're too big for the box they're in, I'm going to have to figure something out, because I'm not sure where I'll put them.  They are all the same breed, Buff Orpington.  It's a gentle breed, which is why I chose these.  I've shown no favoritism to any of them; in fact, I can't tell them apart.  But there is one chick who is much tamer than the others.  When I hold my hand in front of her, the other two run away, but she climbs right on my hand.  I guess even chickens are born hatched with differing personalities.  But wait, since I can't tell them apart, how do I know it's the same chick?  Well, I just do.  Call it women's intuition.

That's all I've got, folks!  Be safe out there!  


Friday, April 24, 2020

Adventure of the day

We just finished a dinner of nothing but mushrooms.  I had good intentions of making a square meal and having mushrooms as a side, but we got side-tracked by a trip to a granddaughter's house.  Since I'm doing everything I can to keep my stomach agreeable, I don't drink coffee now, but Cliff does.  We've bought coffee beans at Costco for years, and now we can't stand pre-ground coffee.  It's still possible, I'm sure, to buy coffee beans at the big grocery stores and Walmart, but we aren't going there while this virus is around.  Family members will shop for us, but how do you know what kind of coffee to tell others to buy for you, when you don't even know the choices?  I attempted to order our coffee on Costco online, but like most everything else, it wasn't available.  Searching on Amazon a while back, I found some Columbian coffee beans and ordered them.  For the amount that was in the bag it was more costly than our Costco brand, but not outrageously so.  Both of us liked it.  When we'd used about 2/3 of that coffee,  I re-ordered it and was notified it would be at least two weeks before we'd get it, but they did let me order it.  I finally got notice a couple of days ago it has been sent, and will arrive Monday.  I crossed my fingers in hopes our almost empty bag of beans would last till then, but it didn't.  

I remembered a conversation I had with granddaughter Monica a few weeks ago, when she told me they had gotten a Costco card and then showed me the coffee beans they bought there, the same ones we buy.  So this morning I instant messaged her and asked if we could have a cup of her coffee beans to get Cliff by till ours came; of course she said we could.  I made some snickerdoodles, we bagged half a dozen of them for Monica and Gerald, and off we went.  

I asked Cliff if he was OK with Gabe riding along:  Like all dogs, he always wants to go.  But we never take him if we'd be leaving him alone in the car.  Cliff said Gabe could go, and away we went, fifteen miles to Oak Grove.  Now, Oak Grove is not a large city.  It's big enough to have a small Super Walmart and several fast-food places, but it still has a small-town feel.  We lived south of Oak Grove for seven years, although it wasn't nearly as big then; but I thought we were fairly familiar with the town.  

We had only been to visit Monica and Gerald once, when they first brought their baby home from the hospital, but neither of us were quite sure how to get there again; so I had asked Monica for the address to put in the GPS.  Wouldn't you know, that particular address was one of those peculiar ones that the GPS got wrong  That usually only happens in the country; our trailer house, in fact, has an address that the GPS thinks is west of here in somebody else's pasture.  If we have to direct anyone here, we use the grandson's address at the old house.

So there we were, two geezers and a shaggy Schnauzer, driving around first one city block and then another after the GPS told us we had already arrived.  Cliff does not take this sort of fiasco lightly, so I called Monica before things got too serious.  She talked us the rest of the way to their house, and we got out of the car, leaving Gabe in there alone... but we weren't going in the house, just chatting with them outside.  We traded six cookies for a cup of coffee beans, and Monica brought the baby out so we could see her in the flesh again; this brightened up our day, even though we couldn't hold her.  I think Cliff forgot all about getting lost.  BUT...

As Cliff was getting in the car, he forgot Gabe was with us and stood talking to the kids with his car door open.  Gabe bolted, and Monica's dog Suzy came running out to kill him.  OK, she wouldn't have killed him, but she doesn't cozy up to other dogs easily and she seemed to think he was a threat.  Gabe wasn't a bit worried about Suzy, because for the first time in his life he was a long way from home in a brand new environment with no restraints:  He had to explore!

He went trotting briskly through the parking area where they live, stricken with a case of sudden deafness.  I tried calling nicely, then began threatening him loudly as I hurried limping after him the best I could, with Cliff in the background letting anybody within a city block what he'd like to do to my dog.  Gabe would stop to mark a spot in that uncharted territory,  I'd draw nearer, and he'd head off again.  He really wasn't running from me, he was just excited to see and smell all the new things, and never gave me so much as a glance over his shoulder.  And he trots faster than I can run.  Finally he stopped to mark a particularly intriguing clump of grass and I pounced, grabbed his collar, and ended his adventure.

 He is now demoted, and won't get to ride with us anywhere unless one or the other of us will be staying in the car at all times.  He does seem to understand that Cliff is mad at him, because he's sticking right by my side, which he hadn't been doing so much lately.

That's all the excitement I want for one day, and as Cliff naps beside me on the couch and with Gabe asleep against my leg, I realize it doesn't take much to wear these three musketeers out; I'm ready for a nap myself.

Friday, April 17, 2020

We were tired of social distancing, so we got ourselves a new car

Our old 2003 Mercury Marquis has been dropping a few subtle hints she was getting tired, for the past couple of years; it was nothing major, like the Million Dollar Car mentioned in the previous post, just petty aggravations.  We were sitting around looking at our computers one day when I surfed right onto an advertisement for some kind of car, and I said to Cliff, "I wish we could buy a new car for a payment that wasn't over two hundred fifty dollars."

I was just talking to hear my own voice, I suppose, because we've been through this before and both of us know perfectly well that's an impossibility.  Then I said, "I wonder the monthly payment would be if we leased a car"

Cliff said, "Why don't you find out?"

Now, once you let dealers know you're in the market, we have learned they will pursue you until you either buy something or die.  It's like watching a hound after a raccoon; they just don't quit.  And yet, we kept talking.  "What make of car did you have in mind," Cliff said.  

"I can use the library to check the ratings on Consumer Reports; let's see which one is the best."

Turns out Honda seems to have the very best ratings.  They also have the highest price tag, which I suppose is only right.  Cliff told me to get hold of a Honda dealer.  I told him I thought there was some way you get a better deal if you go through Costco to find a dealer, so I found the place on their website to do that, typed my zip code in, chose Honda as my car, and five minutes later my cell phone started ringing.  The first caller asked if I was interested in buying a car, and told me he was calling from Jefferson City Honda.  I told him I couldn't understand why they put me in touch with Jefferson City, over a hundred miles down the road, but he said, "Oh, I can help you.  What are you looking for?"  I told him we were wondering how much we'd have to pay to lease the cheapest Accord they have, if we were to pay a certain small amount down (Cliff's sister has an Accord, and we like it).  He said he'd find out and call me back.  And when he did, he said, "Yes, I get that for you for $250 a month."

Well, I wasn't expecting that.  We've never leased a car, so we had lots of questions about how the licensing, insurance, sales tax, and so forth worked.  Finally I said something about going down there to look at the car, and he said, "Well, we had a hail storm, and have nothing right now to sell.  But I can get you a car and have it brought to you."

We had several back-and-forth calls, but it all went as smoothly as could be.  Costco didn't save us anything because the Accord wasn't on the list of special deals, but we are happy.  Of course, we can't go anywhere, because we have to stay away from people; but we went on a very short road trip yesterday, and love our car.  We are used to the 2003 Mercury, so Cliff has a learning curve ahead of him.  There are buttons all over the steering wheel on the new car, and a great big rectangle showing the radio controls and backup camera and I-don't-know-what-else; Cliff's phone is hooked up to it with bluetooth... wow!  They emailed me a link that has videos showing how to use all the fancy stuff that comes with the car, and Cliff found it helpful.  

By the way, the two guys who delivered the car to us said most of the car dealerships in Jefferson City are lined up along one road (I assume like the Miracle Mile in Kansas City), and the hail got all of them... baseball-sized hail!  

If Cliff is still alive in three years (he's the only driver in the family), and if we still like the car, we will probably just buy it when the lease time is up.  It would require a down payment to keep the payments where we need them, but we could handle it.

Hey, when you only buy a car every seventeen years, it's a big deal!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Million Dollar Car: a song

Many years ago, I rode to church with my friend Carol:  We watched babies in the nursery together during Sunday School.  We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  To non-church-goers, that may sound boring, but this was a Pentecostal church, and it was seldom boring; the singing was good, too; that New Life choir was amazing.  

Carol and l met when a neighbor steered me toward her as a possible ride to work at my new job in Lexington.  We went many places together over the years, and usually stopped by McDonald's on the way home to get an ice cream cone.

My daughter's boy friend at the time had an older car for sale for $500, and Cliff decided to buy it to drive to work, rather than put all those miles on his gas-guzzling pickup.  He tried it out, and it seemed to run just fine.  The following Sunday, when Carol came to pick me up, I nodded toward it and said, "Look, that's our $500 car."

Two weeks later as I got in her car on Sunday, I said, "Well, now we have a $1,500 car; the motor blew up."

Two more weeks later, I said, "Well, now it's an $1,800 car.  The transmission quit."

It seemed like every Sunday, I had more damage to report.  Finally one day, as I was getting in the car, she said, "Well, Donna... how's your million dollar car?"

So Carol is responsible for this song being written; if she hadn't said that, I'd never have thought of writing a song about it; but now I had a perfect title.  

I like to include the lyrics because I never know how clear the words will be, what with me beating the guitar to death like I do.  Lyrics are below the video.  

Donna Wood

We bought a car from a friend of ours, an old blue Oldsmobile.
It didn't cost a heck of a lot, and we thought we'd found a deal.
I should have known, the second day, our future would be bleak
When it rained, and with the sun-roof closed, the roof began to leak.
My husband fixed that problem and my hopes began to rise.
She purred just like a kitten.  Why, we thought we had a prize!
And then one night, coming home from work, old Cliff got in a race,
And the engine blew, and he came home with grief wrote on his face.
    When we get one thing working, something else is bound to break.
    I don't know how much more of this our bank account can take.
    Don't count on her to take you if you're going very far;
    We've really learned a lesson from our million dollar car.

We figured maybe this was just a small streak of bad luck,
So we bought a rebuilt motor (for another thousand bucks).
Cliff's brother came to help him, and they put that engine in,
And before you know it, that old car was on the road again.
With all that money in her, why she ran just like a pup,
Until, two short weeks later, her transmission gave it up.
Cliff towed her out to Kansas to his brother's house, this time,
Three hundred dollars later, that old Cutlass ran just fine.
    When you drive her down the highway, though, the left brake seems to grab.
    I think we'd travel cheaper if we learned to call a cab.
    If she's just run for two days straight, I'd thank my lucky stars:
    We sure have learned some lessons from our million dollar car.

We've fed her enough freon to cool off an entire town,
Yet, every time it's hot, the air conditioner's broke down.
She still has rotten hoses and a leaky radiator,
And every time I see that car, I think how much I hate her.
Two hubcaps self-destructed; her new engine has a rattle:
Christine lives on, and I believe she's almost won the battle!
My ulcer's started acting up, and Cliff's not "up to par".
I think she'll be the death of us, this million dollar car.
    We could have bought a new car for the money this one's cost.
    Now all those bucks we spent on her are down the drain and lost.
    Now I just sit home busted as I strum my old guitar,
    And make up silly songs about my million dollar car...
    Oh, life's a big adventure with our million dollar car!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Chicks, and other distractions

I got a call Thursday telling me that my three Buff Orpington pullets had arrived, so I took my life in my hands, walked into a little small-town hardware store, and picked them up.  Look closely at the upper left corner of the box and you will see Gabe staring down at my flock.  He checks on them constantly.  And no, I don't trust him.

I'm afraid if he were left alone with the chicks, he'd just make a snack of them and be done.  (Obviously I hadn't combed my hair yet in this picture, taken Friday morning.)

My mother kept chickens until I was 12 years old; then we moved to Kansas City.  On alternating years, I believe, early in the spring, she'd order 100 straight-run chicks from a nearby hatchery.  I'd ride along with Mother to pick them up.  They'd be in a box with holes in it so they could breath, and their cheep-cheeping got louder all the way home; I'd stick my finger into a hole in the box and feel their soft, fluffy heads, and maybe feel a curious little peck.  We lived in old two-story houses in Iowa:  Mother get out the brooder and cleaned it up before we went to get the chicks; she always started chicks in the brooder, which she'd put upstairs in my room, so the smell didn't invade the whole house (didn't bother me); there was a metal sheet on the bottom of the brooder you could line with newspapers, like any ordinary bird cage you've seen . The brooder was heated with light bulbs:  Chicks ideally need a mother with warm feathers or a heated brooder for the first couple weeks.  You started out with the brooder at 95 degrees, and lowered the heat five degrees each week.  The one pictured below is similar to the one my mom used.  It was good for 100 chicks, and when it got too crowded, it was time to move them outside to the brooder house, where they would still have a heat lamp they could run under if the weather got too cool at night.  Most old farm houses had a hen house for egg-layers and a smaller "brooder house" for chicks.  I recall one year the rats found a way to get in with Grandma's young poults and killed several of them. Uncle Leo, or maybe Uncle Carl, helped her rat-proof the brooder house.

I have no idea what the temperature is for my three babies, but if they aren't making unhappy cheeping sounds, that usually means they're content.  The picture at the top of this entry shows what my chicks are living in:  a box!  Gabe checks them out often.  When there were chicks upstairs, I would lay on my stomach on the floor for an hour at a time, and talk to the babies.  I'd often reach in and grab one or two play with and cuddle under my neck to keep them warm... obviously, I didn't worry much about getting pooped on, back then.    Mother butchered the roosters when they got to the right size, and the pullets would join the egg-laying population when they were grown.  I played with the laying hens, too, although they didn't always appreciate my attentions.

The chicks are on my lap in this picture.  They are on a towel because they poop.  Gabe is right there, awaiting his chance to get a taste of chicken if one of these gets closer to him.  I want to handle them a lot because I'd like them to be tame.  This morning, Easter Sunday, I spread a towel over my chest and huddled the girls together right under my chin, petting them and baby-talking to them.  Gabe actually laid down beside me and relaxed, after giving them a good, lengthy  sniff.  

Before I paid for the babies, I was relieved to spot garden seeds of all kinds and asked an employee if they had Topcrop green bean seeds: they did!  That made it a perfect ending for our chicken run.  Topcrop is an older strain, developed by the USDA in 1950, so many seed catalogues don't carry them.  I know there have to be newly developed strains that are superior, but I'm being true to my mom and my Grandma Stevens.  Topcrop became their favorite kind of green beans when it was first introduced, I imagine, and they never tried any other.  A man standing nearby overheard me asking about it and inquired if that was a good green bean to plant.  "Oh yes," I told him enthusiastically, "My mother and grandmother used them, and that's all I ever plant."  

The store gave you a choice of half a cup of seeds for $2 or a full cup for $4.  I got half a cup, and the man said, "That sounds like an awful lot of seeds."  I assured him they'd still be good next year and the next, if he had any left.  Then he inquired how far apart to plant them, and I realized I was talking to a first-time, Coronavirus-induced gardener.  I told him I was pretty sure you plant them two inches apart, then thin to 4 inches.  "Do you have Internet?" I asked.  He answered affirmatively, so I told him he could find answers to all his gardening questions using Google.  I wish I had remembered to tell him to make sure he got the planting times for our area.  I didn't even think to tell him you wait until the danger of frost is past to plant green beans.  Oh well.

So there you have it:  I have chicks and green bean seeds.  Unfortunately, we have a hard freeze coming tonight into tomorrow morning, so that will freeze the peach and pear blossoms on my trees, and there won't be any fruit.  I wonder if this will ruin the biggest part of our local commercial peach orchard's crop.

This is sort of a rambling entry I've been trying to finish for three days.  Every time I was working on the entry, there would be an interruption  I'd come back hours later and struggle to pick up the thread of the story I was trying to tell.  That is not the best way to write anything, but that's what you're stuck with today.  

Easter blessings to all my friends out there.  Stay safe, won't you?

Monday, April 06, 2020

Just settling in for the long haul

I'm not checking on the COVID-19 data so much now.  Seems like it's the same old thing, no matter what day it is, and it finally became meaningless to me.  I check how many cases are in our Lafayette County after 2 PM each day and leave it at that (it's 28 cases this afternoon).  Maybe I've had a little attitude adjustment.  Today I feel more settled.  Maybe now I can  read a book, because I just haven't been able to get interested in any book since this mess started.  Cliff, on the other hand, is reading like crazy.  He usually brings the iPad to me when he's finished a book:  I return it and pick out another book for him.  A while back he did his own book-choosing, and happened to like what he got; but usually that doesn't happen.  He doesn't type, so he isn't good at typing words in a search engine to find the sort of book he prefers.  I'm getting pretty good at knowing what he'll like, though.  The library has lots of books they recommend, but most of them are fiction, and Cliff finds about 75% of the fiction he reads to be silly, although he'll read a Virgil Flowers book once in awhile, or even a Chet and Bernie (there's another one coming out in July).  Today I went to the library online, typed in the word "football", and found a book he will probably like.  I don't accept the library's rating of a book; I go to Amazon's website and see what their ratings are.  They rate this one at almost five stars.  The entire title is Fields of Battle:  Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War.    It's non-fiction, so that's a point in its favor.  He likes reading about the various wars our country has fought, and he likes football.  We shall see.  I've told him to never feel forced to read a book if it doesn't suit him.  Library books are free, so we're not under any obligation to read a boring book.

I've been making lots of cookies, simply because I enjoy it; I share them with the grandson, which he enjoys.  Unfortunately, I've made so many, I broke the beaters on my hand mixer.  I paid under $10 (on sale) for the mixer over four years ago, so it doesn't owe me anything.  It has a flaw frequently mentioned in many of the reviews: it has five speeds, but none of them can be called slow.  So I have to use a bigger bowl or those speedy beaters will sling bits of dough, batter, and butter all over the kitchen.  The beater itself is as powerful as any I've had, with a motor that never slows down, gives up, or gets hot.  So all I need is beaters, right?  Imagine my shock when I saw the beaters alone are $20!  This left me debating whether to just get the whole mixer with beaters for $25 (it isn't on sale now), or pay $20 for just the beaters.  

Yes, I bought the whole mixer.  

My sister called to check in this morning; she doesn't have Internet, so one of her grandsons made a DVD video of her kids and grandchildren leaving messages for her.  She enjoyed that.  Yesterday our oldest granddaughter and her mom were in the shop with Arick, so we went out and sat 10 feet away from them and visited awhile.  The grandson uses lots of wipes and spray to de-germ the shop after he's been in there working, in case Cliff goes out there to do something.    

About once a week our daughter does a Skype visit with us and any of the rest of her family that wants to join in, so we get to see our newest granddaughter, who is growing like a weed already, and all the others.  I wonder what Brynn (the baby) will think when this is over and people other than her parents want to hold her?  Another couple of months and she'll probably be scared of us all.   

The grandson has been working a lot, even doing some overtime.  He works at the company Cliff retired from, and so does our daughter's husband.  The company is listed as "essential", but someone told Arick the other day, "It isn't if we run out of work, but when.  

On my walk today, I noticed gray and black feathers all over the ground covering a wide area.  Some feathered creature apparently lost its life, or else had a narrow escape.  I didn't see any blood around, so maybe it got lucky.  If so, it is surely naked and cold, because there are lots of feathers.

The woods are coming alive now.  Surely mushrooms will be found this week.

I'm not sure what is called.  These flowers have longer stems than violets... maybe sweet William?
violets... my favorite

We'll get through this virus thing yet.  We are survivors.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Life in Limbo

Everything seems sort of purposeless now, doesn't it?  Cliff and I really don't go a lot of places, but somehow knowing we can't leave home now bothers me.  Of course we could go for a drive, but as Cliff said, we wouldn't want to go very far or we'd end up having to use a strange, virus-filled rest room, because one of us always needs to go.  We went to Odessa the other day to get some things for the garden, simply because I hate to make somebody else go looking for some item they've never bought before.  Odessa has two stores selling the same kind of products.  We arrived at one store, and rather than go in, I called them from the parking lot and asked if they would send someone out to load some 40-pound bags into the pickup bed; I asked if we could just drive up to the front of the store afterward and meet them at the door to pay; that was fine, the lady said.  We waited and waited, but nobody came.  My cell phone rang.  I answered, and the lady I had just talked to said, "Ma'am, I don't think you are at our store."

I wasn't the least bit surprised at this news.  Nothing I do surprises me any more.  But since we now knew the other store had what we needed, I suggested we just drive over there and buy it from them.  It's only about two blocks from one to the other.  Once we got there, we found out we were saving fifty cents a bag on our purchases, so all's well that ends well.  Except that I did go inside the store after all, because as I stood at the door to pay the lady, I saw right inside the store a rack full of every kind of garden seed I might need.  In I went , and came out with my seeds.  I told the woman,  "Just put me down in the system as Crazy Lady, since I'm the one who got the two stores mixed up."  One of them let me use her hand sanitizer, and then I washed my hands thoroughly when I got home.  

I will be going to the other store next time, though.  I ordered three Buff Orpington pullet chicks from them on the phone (I hope it was them), and they're going to call me when the chicks arrive.  So I'm looking forward to that.  Yesterday it rained and turned cold; last night we had a freeze that probably nipped the peach blossoms.  If so, there'll be no peaches for us this year.  I think yesterday was the only day this week I didn't take a walk.  Next week sounds very spring-like, so maybe I'll be in a better mood.  

We usually catch the news when Cliff gets up in the mornings, but lately the only subject on the news seems to be this COVID-19, Cornonavirus, or whatever name you want to give it, so we turn it off after hearing the weather.  I generally check the numbers of new cases in our county, Lafayette.  For three days, we had 20 cases, but today it jumped to 26.  That's a higher number than most of Missouri's rural counties.  I can understand why our numbers might run higher, since a large percentage of people in this area work in Independence and Kansas City, and would be more likely to have been exposed to more people.

I guarantee you I am going to appreciate our freedom when we get it back!  I don't like the feeling of being unable to visit people or go to church or do my own shopping.  I'm going to appreciate how good we have it, if I live through this.

Oh sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

What's the worst that can happen?

That phrase is what Norman Vincent Peale once suggested that people going through a scary situation should ask themselves:  What's the worst that can happen?

When Cliff was out of work for an extended time many years ago, we discussed that scenario and felt better about things.  At that time, the worst that could happen would have been that we could lose our home: the kids were grown and no longer with us, so we only had to worry about ourselves; just the two of us, but we had one another and liked one another.  We agreed that we probably wouldn't starve to death, so the worst thing that might happen at that time was we'd lose our place.  But we could start over, settle into a different home, even live in town if it became necessary.  Cliff was trying hard to find a job, with no luck, but as long as we had one another, we'd manage somehow.  Knowing what the worst was made us feel better and we got through it.

The phrase "what's the worst that can happen" doesn't make me feel better about the pandemic at all, because there are many worst-case scenarios I can conjure up, depending on how long it lasts.  I'm sure it bothers all of us that we don't know how long this thing is going to last, which means we can't see a light at the end of the tunnel.  We like knowing, don't we?  We can handle it if it doesn't last too long, right?

I go out of my way not to think about that, but it's hard.  I wonder what things will be like when it's over.  How many companies will close permanently?  How many jobs can exist after being closed down for months?  They're printing up money like crazy;  inflation can already be seen in the grocery store prices.  Will the high prices stick around when the pandemic is over?  Will there be no funds for Social Security?  Will we all lose our homes?

I wonder if all the rich people will be poor, so we could all be poor together: That sounds nice, but from the hoarding that's already going on, I don't see us all sitting around singing "Kumbaya" together when things get real.  

When I allow myself to worry a bit, those are the things I go over in my mind.

No matter how long it lasts or how bad it gets, though, there will be good things come out of this unique time.  I will appreciate my freedom to go to church, or to get in the car with Cliff and go to a grocery store safely.  I will remember to appreciate my relatives who are willing to go shopping for me in order to keep the two of us safe at home.  I will always appreciate the fact I have my husband here to keep me company through the "social distancing" phase of this.  

And if, by some stretch of the imagination, we ALL have to start over because we are ALL poor, let me paraphrase something my Uncle Leo said:  If someone were to take all the money in the world and divide it up equally among the entire population, in one year the same people who were rich before will have most of their money back.

For now, I'll settle down, take a deep breath, and hang on, because it's going to be a wild ride.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

I wouldn't want to live in a world without biscuits

Long-time readers might remember my quest for the perfect biscuit.  I've made ordinary baking powder biscuits ever since seventh-grade home economics, which is the only year I took that particular subject because it looked like if I signed up for another year, I might have to learn to sew, heaven forbid.  My first effort making biscuits was successful.  Years later when I moved into my own apartment, once in awhile I'd make myself some biscuits to eat with butter and jelly.  After Cliff and I married, I kept on using the same basic biscuit recipe for Cliff, who liked them as well as I did.

But in the back of my mind, I knew my biscuits could be better, because I had twice tasted biscuits made by southern cooks that were better than mine.  I surfed the Internet looking for clues to what I was missing in my own biscuits, and finally learned most southern ladies use self-rising flour and buttermilk to make theirs.  I took tips and tricks from several different cooks, and was finally satisfied I had reached "Biscuit Nirvana", because my biscuits couldn't possibly get much better... I thought.

Then came the pandemic, when crazy men and women, most of whom had never made a biscuit in their lives, hoarded all the flour, including the self-rising kind.  At the start of this hullabaloo connected to the epidemic, I doubt any or them had tried making a biscuit in their lives, but now they're getting ready to have their own cooking show, apparently.  My Russian friend sent me a recipe to make my own self-rising flour, but I superciliously told him, "It isn't the same."
(In my junior and senior years of high school, we had ten vocabulary words to learn every week;  supercilious was one of those words.  We were to find the word in the newspaper if possible, write the meaning of the word, spell it correctly, and use it in a sentence.  I graduated in 1962, but I still recognize every Henry Hornet word when I'm reading, and sometime remember to use them.)

It's the truth to say home-made self-rising flour isn't the same; there is something in the commercially made stuff that turns out better biscuits than the old-fashioned baking powder biscuits made with regular flour.  But this morning, after getting up at 3 AM and starving until seven, I needed a biscuit.  So I scolded myself for being silly, and headed to the kitchen to make ordinary biscuits:  they might not be the very best, but they're good.  On the way to the kitchen, I realized there might be some fantastic recipe on line I haven't tried that is just as great as what I'm used to, and Allrecipes.com wins again!  It turns out this was the day for a revolution, when I learned there's more that one path leading to Biscuit Nirvana.  I halved the recipe because it's just me and Cliff, and used Crisco because I'm out of lard (because I can't do my own shopping).  Make no mistake about it, lard makes better baked goods than Crisco.  Yeah, it'll kill you.  So will Crisco.  And biscuits in general, for that matter  

I believe the secret ingredient is cream of tartar.  These biscuits are so light, they could almost float up and away to become clouds floating in the blue Missouri sky.  Who needs self-rising flour?  Not I!

"This country fair award-winning recipe was perfected by my grandmother on the northern Canadian prairies. Sadie's advice - leave little chunks of lard the size of peas when cutting the flour in. Can be served at breakfast, lunch, or dinner."


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup lard
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and baking powder. Cut lard into flour mixture using a pastry blender until crumbly; stir in buttermilk. Turn mixture onto a floured surface and knead just a few times to form a moist dough.
  3. Roll dough out 1-inch thick; cut biscuits with a cookie cutter or round glass. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until tops are golden, about 12 minutes.