?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


I’ve decided to take a break from blogging, because it’s felt like a chore lately. And since I’m of the age where one can pick and chose how to spend one’s time, I’m exercising that option. Someday my interest in the blog form will most likely return; it almost always does.

Till then, here’s to 2020.

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Earl and I met some friends for dinner at Clementine’s this evening. I can’t remember the last time we ate at this St. Joseph institution. Since it’s right on the river – Boaters need walk only several steps from their crafts to the front door – we usually go there in the summer when the slips are filled and the sun hangs high. Tonight there wasn’t a boat in the water; and, even though it was early, dusk had erased any smidgen of sunlight.

The first thing we noticed was the new look to the menus. Maybe the previous ones became too dog-eared for use, but at least we all knew where to find our favorite dishes. Additionally, the cover of the menu now says “Clementine’s Too.” I always thought the South Haven location was the “Too.” But online research indicates I’m wrong. Not that it mattered to our appetites.

I imagine there are some people who visit Clementine’s and don’t order the homemade onion rings, but we were not among them. Earl ordered the twelve inch wooden peg’s worth for the four of us, which – if you’re a numbers person – equates to about four rings each. Clem’s website brags that it sold eight miles of these things last year. I suppose a real numbers person could also figure out specifically how many rings that is.

Since The Establishment, another local eatery, closed probably a decade ago, my go-to place for pan-fried perch is Clementine’s. It did not disappoint. So even if the tourists are gone, the menu is redesigned, and “Too” feels odd to me, the things I like most have remained intact.

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The Kennedy Center Honors

Tonight the forty-second annual Kennedy Center Honors bestowed recognition on five people or groups for dedication to their particular artistic endeavors and their commitment to enhancing the cultural world around them. (Note: The event was on December 8, but was televised this evening.)

It’s a lifetime achievement award, so someone like the current winner of a television talent show isn’t even in the running. Instead, these honorees are probably all closer to my age.

The first honoree was singer Linda Ronstadt, who no longer performs due to Parkinson’s disease. Next was actress Sally Field, who overcame being Gidget and The Flying Nun to be taken seriously and win Oscars for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart later in her career. Then came Sesame Street, the first television show to be honored in totem for its fifty years of work enchanting and educating children. Michael Tilson Thomas and Earth, Wind, and Fire rounded out the five nominees.

The format of the event was to introduce the honoree; tell something impressive about him, her, or them; and then recreate moments in their lives as they dissolved into tears. Tonight’s show featured Carrie Underwood channeling Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” Tom Hanks revealing his friendship with Sally Field, Big Bird trying to get onstage in time for his number, musicians mentored by Tilson-Thomas performing his work, and – finally – Earth, Wind, and Fire’s tribute which gave due to deceased founder Maurice White’s vision. It was all bittersweet and a musical catalog of my own growing up.

An Aside Here: In the past, sitting presidents from Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama have attended. The current White House occupant has had three opportunities to join them and support our ever-changing cultural heritage. He has never come, and I supposed it’s because he’s not really interested in culture and the arts. Except to slash their budgets.

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Sounds Good

Earl joined a community choir early this past fall, and he’s been practicing for a holiday concert ever since.

The criteria for membership were few. Singers had to be at least fifty years old and available for rehearsal on Tuesday afternoons at the local Area Agency on Aging. Auditions were not required, although a love of singing was.

Last night the group, called Sounds Good, performed its first local concert. It was spectacular!

Earl had jokingly said, “We’re pretty good, and if you close your eyes and just listen without seeing us we’re really good.” I think he meant some of the singers showed their ages. And they did. But that was the best part.

Here was a group of people who didn’t know each other in September that had come together with a common purpose. Some had trouble stepping onto the raised stage; their choir members helped them. Some didn’t read music; they learned the songs by ear. Quite possibly some had never been in a choir before; the seasoned singers welcomed them.

A second concert is being held tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll be there although I don’t know how the group will top last night’s performance.

A Spring concert is already in the works too, and I’m sure Earl will be involved.

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Today I held a luncheon/cookie exchange at my home. The guests were to make a cookie recipe of their choice and bring the results to share with others. I didn’t count, but I believe about ten kinds of cookies showed up, many with chocolate as the important ingredient.

We had a Champagne toast, ate a wonderful lunch catered by Savors & Secrets, and then delved into the cookies. Of course, we had to sample them before we divvied them. The problem was that we were already full, and each of us eating a sampling of ten different cookies didn’t appeal.

However, being creative types, we found a solution. The first cookie to succumb to it was a round Whoopie Pie, which was cut into six pie shaped pieces and passed around the table. All agreed it was good, but had we each eaten one it would have been way too sweet.

We divided the Maraschino/Almond cookie the same way. And then the cream cheese brownie. I don’t remember what came next, but we soldiered on. Finally, one of the guests commented that all we’d each eaten was only one cookie. That felt comforting and less guilt-ridden.

I believe each guest went home with more cookies than she brought. In addition, the remaining roasted asparagus – part of the luncheon – found new homes too.

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Restaurant Etiquette

We went to dinner at LakeHouse (There’s no space between those two words, for those who don’t live here.) with good friends tonight. Our table of four was seated next to a table of fourteen, which was probably a holiday party given the season.

We were seated before the fourteen arrived, although the table was set already and it rang a bell in my mind. So when we sat down, we asked our server if she was also tending the table next door. She was not. Which meant we were comfortable that our drinks and food would arrive in a timely fashion.

The fourteen ladies began to show up as we enjoyed our cocktails. At first there were only three or four, but the decibel level in the room increased tenfold. We looked at each other and soldiered on. More ladies came. More noise ensued.

Finally, J asked if we would mind if he told the hostess to move us. Personally, I was thrilled as we could no longer chat among ourselves because of the noisy neighbors. As we left for another table in another room, one of the fourteen said, “I hope we haven’t chased you away.” Actually J was more cordial about that than I would have been.

I give kudos to LakeHouse for handling the situation as it did. I’ve been in other restaurants where I’ve felt I’m the interloper. Not here. We even kept our excellent server in the deal.

Note to ladies who party this time of year: You need to practice your “inside voice.”

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Deja Vu All Over Again

I’ve blogged since 2004, and I’m beginning to see how cyclical some things are. Here are excerpts from a blog I wrote on March 3, 2008 titled “Bush’s Library.”

“There is a hilarious article in the current issue The Chronicle of Higher Education. It asks readers to sketch their ideas for the forthcoming George W. Bush Presidential Library. All modern presidents have one, and evidently Bush’s will be at Southern Methodist University.

The only criterion for submitting an entry was that it had to be drawn on the back of an envelope. I see this as leveling the playing field, so that architects don’t have an edge. And, according to the Chronicle, “About 120 people sent in sketches that were good, bad, serious, humorous, abstract, or really angry.” That pretty much describes the electorate at this time.

One such entry revealed a couple small buildings above ground with an immense complex underneath. The key to galleries and exhibits included “The WMD Stockpile of Manufactured Evidence Library,” “The Big Oil Hall,” “The Telecommunications /Listening Surveillance Lounge, and the “The ‘We Don’t Torture’ Torture Viewing Theatre.” That’s certainly a lot to get on the back of an envelope. . .

While these drawings that poke fun at the president are in jest, the current proposed cost on the real thing, which apparently will be designed by Robert A. M. Stern, is in the neighborhood of $500 million dollars. I don’t think that’s funny at all.”

Now we are in You-Know-Who’s term, and I hope the Chronicle of Higher Education sends out another request for architectural drawings. I can picture cages and walls and revolving doors all done in orange papier mache in the shape of a house of cards.

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Holiday Greetings

I gave up sending Christmas cards almost fifty years ago. I felt obligated to include a note, handwritten with the particular recipient in mind, in each one. It took forever. So the December my ex-husband and I separated, I decided to chuck the entire process. News of our problems wasn’t something to share anyway.

Since then, I’ve held to the No-Cards Rule at the holidays. Even though I still get Christmas cards from people. Even though technology can solve the problem with charming ecards that don’t take forever and don’t cost fifty-five cents each to mail.

Until now.

I found a box of cards that I liked from the MOMA in New York City and another that called to me from an online company called Bas Bleu. Realizing this could be the start of a trend, I decided to order and send them anyway. But no lengthy handwritten message this time; just one sentence or so.

In the end I enjoyed sending my cards to special friends and family. There’s no promise to do it again, but in the scaling down of Christmas this year this is one tradition I may reinstate.


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Becoming Political

The House of Representatives announced today that it was preparing formal documents to impeach the President of the United States. This follows on the heels of weeks of testimony and refusals to testify. And months of tweets. There has also been a variety of public debates as the Democrats attempt to find a viable candidate for next year’s election. Then there’s Ukraine, Russia, Israel, and Afghanistan — among other countries — flexing their muscles. And all kinds of organizations asking for my dollar.

I have followed none of it, except for what I couldn’t avoid. It is a conscious decision because the state of affairs is most distressing. And there’s not a lot I can do about it.

Still, the question remains: At what point does a serious citizen need to become more involved? It’s appalling that almost half of the eligible voters didn’t vote in the last presidential elections. I was not one of them, nor do I wish to be.

But much of this Sturm und Drang is just that. I don’t want to hear it.

My political alarm clock will wake me when Iowa holds its caucuses on February 3. I plan to be up to speed by the end of March, because half of both party’s delegates will already be in place. I remember when none of this was that important and the nominee was chosen at the national conventions. It’s not that I want to return to the insiders picking a candidate, but neither do I want to be wooed for over a year.

One solution is to limit the weeks that one can legitimately campaign prior to election. The British do it in six. I’d be happy with eight. And while we’re at it, let’s limit campaign funding too. More on February 3.

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El Rodeo

Last night we had dinner at El Rodeo. We’d gone there recently, and Earl found the Nachos al Carbon much to his liking. Which is why we returned. It’s a very generous serving of nachos, beef, pork, and shrimp all in a sauce. Just perfect for a carnivore who likes fish on the side. Me? I ordered the beef tacos with sides of rice and beans.

It’s true the quality of the Mexican dishes at El Rodeo is growing on me. It’s more authentic than my former favorite restaurant for Mex. The service is very attentive too. But that’s my current complaint.

The host led us to a table away from the door as requested. It was a booth in the back, well lit, warm. Spacious. But we didn’t have a chance to sit down before a server came and asked what we wanted to drink. I usually like to remove my coat and settle in before making such decisions.

But this isn’t a place to linger. So I ordered my drink while fighting with the buttons on my coat. Earl followed suit (No pun intended). And, normally, we don’t order our meal until we’ve enjoyed our cocktail. But as soon as our drinks arrived, we placed our dinner request.

Date Night is our special time together. We don’t always have supper at the same time at home, so when we’re out it’s a special occasion. We like to linger at the front end with a cocktail rather than the back with coffee and dessert.

But if we return to El Rodeo, I’ll know neither will happen. We left our home at 5:06 PM and were back there at 6:07 PM.

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