Archive for August, 2014

Cross Words

I am depressed… and it’s all the fault of Amazon.

I wanted to buy some crossword books and decided to check them out on Amazon. There were several categories of crossword books available, among them Crosswords for Seniors. I clicked on that and the first title I saw was Easy Crosswords for Seniors for Dummies. . Other titles were:

Easy Large Print Crosswords book

Crosswords for the Elderly

Special Puzzles Designed to Keep Your Brain Young


Alzheimer’s Association presents The Big Brain Puzzle Book

Failing Eyesight. Loss of Brain Power. Alzheimers. Is this what I have to look forward to?

No wonder I’m depressed. Thanks Amazon.

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Our garbage is picked up late in the mornings, usually around noon on Mondays and Thursdays. That gives me plenty of time to put it out; I usually do so around 9 AM. Last Thursday was also the day for pick up of the recyclables; so after I put the garbage out, I headed back to the street with an armful of cutup cardboard. As I was about to deposit it curbside, my neighbor Art came over and said ” They came early today but they’re just down the street and, if you hurry, you can catch up with them.” Sure enough, the garbage truck was only a couple of doors away so I galloped after it with the cardboard tucked under my arm, yelling at them to stop. Luckily, they heard me and waited and I was able to unload the cardboard. Just then , Art came jogging up with my trash can containing the bottles and cans. I was able to get rid of them too. As we walked back, I thanked Art profusely and thought to myself how lucky I was to have neighbors like him. We’re new in this neighborhood and , prior to last week,I’d only spoken to Art a couple of times. Yet, here he was , this seventy year old man, looking out for his new neighbors and even running after the garbage truck to help me get rid of my trash.
Art is very nice but so is everyone else we’ve encountered in this community. Next door to Art, and directly across from us, live Don and Sue and these people are exceptional in this or any other neighborhood. A couple of days after we’d moved in, they knocked on our door and welcomed us with a loaf of Sue’s homemade banana bread. When he found I played ping pong,Don took me under his wing and introduced me to the members of the local club. Don and Sue are always ready to help anyone in need and they do it without fanfare. Next door to them is a man who has been afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a terrible affliction that has left him completely paralyzed. Somehow, his wife manages to care for him at home with the help of 24-hr nursing care; it doesn’t leave her time for anything else. Don and Sue quietly take care of her garden shrubs, weeding and mulching and keeping it in good shape. They also help in untold ways whenever she needs anything.

This is a still growing development and several houses were completed and occupied around the time we moved in. A month after we did, Don and Sue hosted a wine and cheese party at their house for all the newcomers, us included. It was not only enjoyable but gave us the springboard to get to know several of our new neighbors. Prior to moving here , we’d lived in three different houses but never experienced this kind of welcome. People were nice but we never got beyond the ” Hi, how are you today ?”stage. I can only hope that our friendships continue to grow and that our neighbors come to like us as much as we like them.

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Summer Corn

I never think of eating corn except in summer and , when I do, I always remember the Virginia gentleman that Lucius Beebe the gourmand and historian wrote about. This gentleman had a standing order with a local farmer: every day, during the summer, the farmer was to deliver six dozen ears of his best corn at the mansion. All through the summer that was all the gentleman ate, morning, noon and night. Just picked corn still has all its sugar content ( unlike the supermarket corn which has been lying around for a day or more and could lose most of its sweetness) and the gentleman would eat it steamed, accompanied by drawn butter and copious quantities of West Indian rum. Not just any rum, but rum from a favorite distillery. When the distillery was forced to close down, the gentleman stepped in and bought all its already bottled product so that he would never have to be without it. I don’t know any more about the gentleman but I can visualize him at the dining table, a bib around his neck, a pile of golden corn before him along with a dish of melted butter and, close at hand, a brimming glass of rum. I can’t see myself eating just corn all through summer but I be happy to join him at his repast every now and then.

I do like corn in the summer, though I don’t much care for it grilled. Normally what we do is to boil it with a little sugar and a some milk. This leaves the corn sweet and juicy and, before eating, I like to rub it first with a stick of butter and a cut lemon which has been dipped in cayenne and salt. Like most people I eat it in a circular motion and I ‘ve never met any of the 5% who use the ” typewriter method” and eat it from side to side.

P.S Recently, a friend suggested another method of preparing corn. What he does is to remove the outermost husk, leaving the inner covering intact. He then heats it in the microwave for four minutes. He says that it leaves the corn moist and juicy .It sounds intriguing and I’m going to try it next time.

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Of all the kitchen utensils, knives are the most personalized. We’ve all seen what good care chefs take of their knives, honing them, cleaning them, and putting them away carefully. Other tools belong to the kitchen, the knives alone belong to the chef. Home cooks may not be as particular about their knives but they too have their favorites.

In my case ( and my wife’s), that would be the two dollar knife that our friend Sandy gave us almost two decades ago. She had picked up a bunch of them for two dollars apiece at a close-out sale and she let us have one. It is the best knife we’ve ever had, and we have had a few. Some of them have been quite expensive. There were two Cutco knives we bought from a friend of our son’s who was a high school senior working for a knife company that summer. They cost $ 108. Later , we bought some Henckel knives which were even more expensive. All of them were pretty good but the one that we prefer, the one that we always search for, is the two dollar knife. I don’t know its manufacture, never did, but it is just perfect to use. It has a serrated six-inch blade, has perfect balance, and is just as sharp, just as good, as when we first got it. We use it for everything. I only wish Sandy had given us two of them !

This whole issue of cost vs. value occurred to me the other day when I was out driving. It was stop and go traffic and I had plenty of time to notice the makes of the cars around me. There were all kinds : Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai when it occurred to me that if it weren’t for the logos I’d have difficulty telling them apart. No doubt the interiors were different and some had more options but, considering that some of them were twice or three times as expensive as the others, was the difference in cost worth it? Was an Avalon twice as good as a Corolla? A BMW three times as good as a Sonata? Not in my book but I know how cars can be a status symbol, proof that one has arrived.

What is true of cars is even more true of wine and food. Is the 300 dollar bottle of wine that much better than the $ 20 one? I can see that to some it might be but, any day I would go for fifteen twenty dollar bottles rather than a single three hundred-dollar one. As for the thousand dollar pizza which has toppings that include caviar and lobster I would not want at any price. It doesn’t sound good at all.

What something is worth is a highly individual matter and there are as many opinions as there are people. For me though, I’m happy with my two dollar knife.

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