?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Gardening Update

It’s past the middle of May and Memorial Day Weekend is in sight. Where I live it’s now considered safe to plant one’s gardens, although the farmers have been planting for some time. Perhaps wheat and soybeans are hardier than zinnias and marigolds.

I have put more than the usual effort into my gardens this year because we’re having company and I want them (the gardens, not the company) to look really good. I’ve been to three nurseries and bought 100 annuals, ten bags of organic potting soil, and 15 bags of mulch. I haven’t counted the number of hours that have gone into this project, but it’s fair to say that some of my other activities – like blogging – have taken a back seat.

As of today, all the hard work is done. Now only the regular weeding and watering throughout the summer remain. That and chasing squirrels away from digging in my pristine flower beds. I plan to sprinkle them (the flower beds, not the squirrels) with crushed red pepper flakes.

And return to writing . . .

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Bookmarks

Long before it was commandeered by Google®, Microsoft Word, and other residents of the internet, the bookmark was an essential aid for any avid reader.

According to Wikipedia, “Bookmarks . . . are thin marking tools used to mark a reader’s progress in a book and to help return to the previous reading session.” The entry goes on to describe some of the materials from which bookmarks are made.

Bookmarks came on my radar when I was looking for an appropriate one for the current book I started last night. It’s a visually lovely book, dense in content, and quirky; and I wanted more than a clipped coupon from the newspaper or an errant sales receipt to mark my progress.

I considered one with an owl that claims “I read banned books.” But this isn’t a banned book. Next was the one I bought in a small bookstore in the Upper Peninsula that features a beautiful line drawing of a black bear (actually two bears staring at each other) that has bear facts on the back. Or  the one from Barbara’s Bookstores, a Chicago staple since 1963 that is still going strong. And the one from Motor City Brew Tours that is not.

I almost chose the one I got in Omaha when we attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. It shows the ubiquitous Warren Buffet saying, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” But I decided to save that one for a book on investing.

In the end, I chose a leather bookmark I bought in Westminster Abbey years ago. It’s long and narrow and printed in gold on a blue background. It is perfect for my purpose.

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No Debate About It

I’ve read in more than one newspaper that Joe Biden and Donald Trump, both presumptive nominees for president from their respective political parties, have agreed to two debates. The first is scheduled for June, before either convention has occurred, while the second is slated for September.

We’ve been through political debates before. The first one was between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960, and it showed how the technology of the time could influence viewers. Since then debates have become part of the election circus . . . I mean election process.

By definition, according to Oxford Languages, a debate is “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.”

There are specific rules for debate, including providing factual evidence for statements the debaters make. When there is disagreement, it must be respectful by focusing on the topic and not the individual. Emotions should be kept in check.

Interrupting each other, shouting over a speaker, ignoring the time limit, and bringing up extraneous issues are not listed in any debate format I could find. Yet, this is what our political debates have degenerated into. So I’ve stopped watching.

Perhaps they should be called what they are. How about the National Verbal Slugfest? Or the Mudslinger Marathon? Or the Catcall Contest?

I still won’t watch.

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Life is Complicated

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve tried to move money from an investment account at one company to our saving account at another company. In the past, this took only a couple days. However, given current logistics, if we were using the  money to close a mortgage we would probably have lost the deal.

Which makes me wonder why things are so complicated these days.

I acknowledge that Earl and I are old and probably less savvy about how transactions occur in 2024. Still we bank online, and I used the websites involved in the scenario above to move the money. We have gotten umpteen emails assuring us the company moving the money has received our request.

But that isn’t the same as implementing it, because the company that is supposed to receive the money hasn’t gotten it yet. Grrrrr!

I do not find this process user friendly. Is it because of our age or because technology has supplanted customer service? I leave the answer to you.

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Multiples

It’s a sign of contemporary society that the single serving of a food item is readily available. You can buy mashed potatoes, soups, chips, beverages, for one. Also pot pies, Hostess cupcakes, and milk. Yes, the cost is probably higher; but you might waste less, especially if you live alone.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to buy a single roll of Scotch tape, one ballpoint pen, or one roll of tape for a calculator that prints. You can’t buy one banker’s box or one shirt box either. All these now come as multiples.

Then there’s Costco, the king of multiples. We bought three ketchups, two Romano cheese imitations, and two olive oils because that’s how they came packaged. Six pounds of ground beef is the minimum as is six packages of chicken breasts.

I realize Costco is geared for families, so I’m willing to excuse the excess in play even though I go home and repackage everything for a family of two.

And now there are BOGOs, the buy one-get one free phenomenon. If it’s really two for the price of one, I think that’s a great deal although the price of one is probably inflated. Additionally, these days many BOGOs are buy one-get one for fifty percent off. I guess if you need two in the first place it’s still a great deal. But what if you don’t?

The allure of getting a bargain often overshadows the fact that if you don’t need two, then the price of one is the best investment.

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Help Wanted

There are several household chores that I absolutely detest, and I’m wondering if other women feel the same way. If so, perhaps there is an employment opportunity for some hardworking individual to address these needs.

The first is oven cleaning. I have a self-cleaning oven, so the oven itself isn’t the problem. Rather it’s the racks. The oven manufacturer warns that leaving the racks inside during the self-clean cycle turns them black. And it’s true, because I did this with my previous oven, the one that I also detested and didn’t care about the look of the racks.

Now I have a relatively high-end oven, and I feel differently. I could take the racks outside in warm weather, spray them with an oven cleaner, and then scrub them myself. But I never get around to it. Perhaps there could be someone who does that for me, just as there is a chimney sweep for your fireplace or a lawn care service for your fertilizing needs.

What other services are lacking?

How about someone to water your plants when the sprinkler system isn’t working? Or someone to do your ironing? Or someone to organize files on your computer? The ideas are endless.

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Mother’s Day and Baseball

I’m not super keen on Mother’s Day, but I am super keen about baseball. (If you read my blog regularly, you’re probably thinking, “Boy, does she belabor the obvious.”)

Anyway, I started this Mother’s Day by reading Heather Cox Richardson’s essay on the original Mothers’ Day movement in the late nineteenth century. You can read it here if you’re interested. And I hope you are.

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/may-11-2024

This afternoon Earl and I went to see the South Bend Cubs, a feeder team to Chicago’s Wrigley Field Cubs. It was the perfect day, weather-wise. Warm and breezy, but not too breezy. We had seats under a roof, so sun was not a problem. We also had the traditional hot dog, which was traditionally mediocre. But that’s what you do.

It was a great game, even though our farm team lost 4 to 2 in the tenth inning. On the way home, however, we learned the pro-Chicago Cubs won against Pittsburgh 5 to 4. Not a bad way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

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Meatballs, Part II

Tonight we had spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, salad, and shredded Romano cheese for the entrée. It was great, but this is what I learned.

I probably won’t make meatballs from scratch again. Not that they’re a lot of complicated work. It’s that I can buy meatballs at the supermarket we like just as well. Which led me to think about other foods I once made from scratch that I don’t anymore.

Pie crust: Pepperidge Farm makes a great pie crust. You simply unroll it and plop it in the pan. They come two to a package, so you have options.

Mashed potatoes: Bob Evans makes fine mashed potatoes in several varieties. There’s sour cream and chives, garlic, buttermilk red skins and a kind called loaded; but I’m not sure what that means. Usually I just purchase the original. My only complaint with Mr. Evans is that each variety has its own number of ounces, making some more economical than others.

Fresh fruit: I’ve moved from thumping a melon or smelling it to simply buying chunks that the produce department has cut and packaged for me. It may be more expensive but at least I’m not paying for rinds and seeds that are inedible. I never was very good at thumping anyway.

For the record, I still make my own spaghetti sauce from a recipe my Italian mother-in-law gave me half a century ago. It will never be replaced by a jar of Prego or Bertolli, because there are still some things that can’t be improved by convenience.

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Meatballs

What possessed me will remain a mystery, but I decided to make meatballs this afternoon. A spaghetti dinner was probably on my mind, but as a rule I just make meat sauce. It’s ground beef one way or the other.

Earl, since he is often the sous chef, and I got the ingredients together. And he mixed them as only he can. He can blend anything to the right degree, so I knew the recipe was well mixed. Then we made the balls and cooked them in the oven.

As an aside, Earl does all the things I don’t like to do. Chops onions for anything, shreds zucchini for baked bread, mixes ingredients for other recipes that I cook. It’s appreciated.

He made the meatballs with a cookie scoop and we put them on a cookie sheet to bake according to the recipe. Less than twenty minutes later, we had funky looking meatballs somewhat smaller than a golf ball and certainly more crispy.

I sampled a couple and thought they were really salty. But then Earl will love them, because he eats with a saltshaker in his left hand. Tomorrow we’re having the aforementioned spaghetti and meatballs. Review of same to come.

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Shred

My son, Kevin – poet, professor, runner, soccer and tennis aficionado – has finally seen the results of his four-year labor. He wrote a book about running and being during the pandemic, when he spent his sabbatical year in his sunroom. On May 1, NDSU Press announced its publication. It’s called Shred!

You might wonder how something written during the pandemic might be relevant today. But it is. The fact that it was written during the pandemic doesn’t mean it’s about the pandemic. It’s about running and how it could change the world.

Seriously.

I’m waiting for him to bring me an autographed copy when he visits in June. In the meantime, if you’re interested visit https://www.kevincarollo.com/.

If you know Kevin personally, you know how intense he can be. If you don’t know him, take my word for it. Which is how his book is. Intense. Literate. Thoughtful. Worthy.

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