Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Football Was Meant To Be

If football went away, vanished from the map, it would take me a week to notice.  So imagine the stories my church buddy Rick tells  me about his family's ardent support for the hapless Cougs, Washington State University.  He said that they were masters at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, a thing they, apparently, do often enough their fans count on it.  It's a standing joke.  At one point, the Cougs were 120th. . . out of 120 in national rankings.  

Rick is working in my city because he has specific skills in operating and maintaining main frame computers. A lot of states have moved toward networks, and ours will too.  But that switcheroo is wildly expensive, and as a state we're slowly recovering from the recession.  So what we have is what we will have for awhile.  

Rick left a perfectly good wife behind in a nearby state, Washington, where she teaches and is the matriarch of a multi-generational family.  She's doing a good job.  Suzie and Rick met in college, Washington State, they married, reared two beautiful daughters, now in the process of creating their own families.  The latest member:  Baby Ellie, now a 2-year-old.   Rick and Suzie have been going to Cougar's home games, flying, driving across the state four or five times during the football season.  Grandma goes,  so do the daughters and their husbands, and Baby Ellie.  They've been doing it for about 30 years.  Still ardent, still willful supporters, still laughing.  All that flying is costly, even for a family who does well financially.  One of Rick's son-in-laws, the veritable Ray, gave Rick a whole big bunch of air miles so he could get home more often.

So last Friday.  The Cougs (3-9, 1-8 Pac 12) were on their home turf battling it out against the University of Washington, a fierce competitor and decades-long rival.  The guys who ALWAYS won.   Things went about as you would expect, and University of Washington was ahead at the end of the 3rd quarter by 18 points.  Then the unthinkable happened.  The Cougs recouped 18 points in the  4th quarter, leaving the teams tied.   The Cougs took it one step further, and kicked a 27-yard field goal on their first overtime possession.  

The Washington State Cougars, of all things, won The Apple Cup,  31-28. 

Now there's a football game for you.

Woot.  Woot.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank You!

Thanks everybody, for making my blog a growing and lively communication.  I love to laugh,  I love family (I have several), and I love food, things I'm grateful for today.    Apparently, you are too.  We're nearing 3,000 hits.  That will happen in the next couple of weeks.  We have new friends in Russia, Great Britain, Germany, France, The Ukraine, China (I know, how did they find us?), Malaysia, Columbia, India, Mexico, Canada, among others.  I can't tell you how much I love that.  All of that has happened since we started in February, thanks to the suggestion of my friend, Carla, in Germany.

So, a favorite Thanksgiving memory?  A couple of years ago, Julie, my cousin and I,  were invited to Thanksgiving with her bestie, Joanne  and her sister, Jeanne.  They've been friends with Julie since college.  They accumulated husbands, kids, grandkids, and the newly minted, baby Andrew.  When Julie was sick, it was Joanne who was sitting with me during the surgeries.  We were with Julie all day, from 8:00 A.M. to 5:30 — without eating.  Julie couldn't eat pre-surgery, so we didn't either.  I treasure that kind of help and support.

Fast forward, 3 years, and I get a call from Joanne, offering Julie and I an out, if we wanted it.
They'd been roasting the turkey, outside (all the inside ovens were full, you know the drill), and the chef had forgotten something important, made a fast-feets trip to the store, and while they were gone.  .  .  the turkey caught fire, burned itself into a hard and fast crispy critter.  Beyond retrieval.

I offered Joanna a ham I had in the fridge and said, "I'm not missing a second of this."  Julie still wanted to come too.  Joanne took me up on the ham.  I can honestly say, it's the only meal I've giggled my way through.  As did everybody else.  We laughed all day.  

How was the ham?  Marginal.  Didn't matter.  The turkey was still the star attraction and my main memory.  Can't wait to explain that to baby Andrew.

For all my friends, the ones I know and the ones I don't, for my church, for my community, for my family,  you are the best of the best and I know it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What's for Dinner?

I was looking for a book I'd failed to read when it was popular and was winding through the back corridors of the church.  It's a big place, with lots of halls shooting off in different directions.  I've got the main floor figured out, but not the top floor, and the basement where the kids go seems a maze.  Every Sunday the right parents get reattached to the right kids, and everybody goes home happy.  So it must be easier than I think.

Part of those back rooms house the choir and  the teens.  There's a little chapel and a lovely formal lounge, but I'm looking for the church library and the kitchen.  All churches will tell you to head towards the light, but in this case it's true.  It's Wednesday  night and not every room has the lights turned on.

As I near the library, I hear hoots and whistles,  a few shrieks, well-kept promises, and laugh-out-loud laughter. Somebody is having a good time.  Brent, our Australian chef, is playing pool with one of the guys, who is one of our refugees.  They are both stretching into impossible shots, kids and friends are urging them on.  I think that pool is a universal language. There are a few things that lend themselves to world peace.  Art is one of them.  You can tuck music in that one.   Brent will tell you that food is another.  It's hard to be angry with anybody who is feeding you good food when you are really, really hungry.  And I believe that sports and games is another.  People who play. . .

The pool table is in the library.  The library is doing double duty these days, decked out as it is with pool and fuzz ball tables.  There's some sensibility that supervised teens are in a better space than  unsupervised ones, hence the game tables.  Gotta have something for them to do.

And eat.  Brent and the gang  made Morrocan Beef (beef that's been braised all day in tomatoes and carrots and about a thousand spices) along with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The scent is enough to make me dizzy.  He's feeding about 200 people tonight.  It's a lingering fall day.

Pretty perfect, I'm thinking.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sisters and Their Sports Cars

So, three years ago, my mechanic refused to repair my 17-year-old Mitsubishi Mirage.  The old girl was blowing smoke, held together by bubble gum and wishful thinking.  She'd held up fine almost two decades and carted my cousin back and forth to the doctor and chemo treatments.  Those trips blew out the Mirage's  gaskets, as it did mine. So  I bought a used car, but what a used car. . .

When you have been unhappy or under intense emotional duress for long periods of time, you have no resistance to fun.  None.  You are a thirsty woman, and there is cool, clear water ahead.  It's nothing more complicated than that.  So when the salesman brought out a spiffy,  itty-bitty red sports car out for me to test drive, it was a done deal.  It was impossible to feel tired or overwrought when I was sitting in that little car.  Still is.  Big fun.  

I was in my closing-in-on my sixties years then, and I took my neighbor, in her mid-90s for a ride, two girls out for a picnic.  A peanut butter sandwich to share, a warm Coke, the sun roof open in May, two girls out to see the spring blooming trees and a deep blue lake.  I don't know who was happier.   It was a sweet, sweet day. 

We did merit some second glances from twenty-something guys.  It wasn't exactly desire (discounting the car); it was much closer to flat disbelief.   I'm still smiling about that.

Little sports cars give you permission, of sorts.  Mine did for two of my writing sisters, one of them bought a red sports car, the other silver.  Both of them convertibles.  When we talked about it  later; they said my little car gave them the notion that we have all reached the age of accountability, we have all lived through some pretty harrowing times, times that required the utmost in responsibility.  Now that their children were grown with lives and kids of their own; (just one of their supreme tasks) that it was quite all right for their moms to drive sporty cars, preferably with the top down or the sun roof open along beautiful, beguiling roads into the mountains or the coast.   

My friend, Julie, another sister in the making, just bought her sporty little car: a great music system and sassy rims.   She's raised two gorgeous girls.  The car she used to haul little girls to soccer and cheerleader practice was just not going to do that any more.  

She had a little unrepentant pleasure in mind.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Little Christmas Kindness

So,  I live in an apartment, sort of the funky variety.  It's over 40-years-old  and not everything is as up-to-date as it might be.  The burners on the stove have a peculiar heat sensitivity—some times it's hot enough to melt the metal from the bottom of the pan; other times the water does not come to a boil.  The fridge leaks.  There might be a mouse.

At any rate, it's home enough to Obi and I.  Obi is a ragdoll, which is a kind of Siamese.  They are immense cats with blue eyes, and the coat and coloring of exotic cats.  He didn't  do so well with his previous owners.  I expect they didn't pay him all the attention they could have paid.  It's taken him two years to understand hugs.  But he gets them now.

I have plenty of love: church family, writing colleagues, friends that go back twenty years.  Twenty?  Try thirty or more.  Two of my besties go back to college and post-college years.  Some of my friends are young, with little kids and I dote. My family is stellar and in town. I'm not a lonely woman.

But some of the people who live here are:   a woman who is single-handedly caring for her 90+ mother.  She just bought a puppy, a big one.  There's a guy here in his late 60s, maybe 70s, and his family is scattered.  He's still an athlete.  There's a young man from far-far away, missing his parents.  He's a hydrologist, studying water issues in our high-mountain dessert.  At any rate, there's nobody to celebrate Christmas with, for any of them.

But I'm guessing that a little Christmas kindness would not be out of line.   I'm thinking of my buddy Greg's Christmas fruitcake.  I know, I know, I just wrote about a fruitcake, but I'm thinking nobody is gonna set fire to Greg's fruitcake.  It's just too delicious.

Here goes, plus a few changes to accommodate my peculiar taste.

1 pound of sugar (21/4 cups sugar)
1 pound of butter (use the real stuff)

Melt these at very low heat, at least an hour.

Mix together.  4 cups of flour,  3 pounds of dried fruit (see my little note.  The recipe calls for candied fruit, but nobody in  my family will eat it.  So dried.)  11/2 pounds of nuts (see my little note).

Let butter and sugar mixture cool, add to flour, fruit, and nuts.  Mix it together.  Add 6 beaten eggs, one at a time, and 2 tablespoons of lemon extract and 2 tablespoons of vanilla.   Mix it well.

Line 5  small bread pans with parchment paper, leaving a little overlap, so the cooled fruitcakes can be simply lifted out.  Bake at 250 degrees to 275 degrees for 2.5 hours.  If the fruitcakes get too brown, cover with foil.  After you remove the fruitcakes from the oven, leave them in the pans 1 hour before removing.  Makes 5 small loaves.  Perfect for sharing.

Note:  I like different kinds of fruit.  So here are four different kinds of fruits you can add.  Of course, you can make up your own.

1st:  Dried blueberries, cherries, and apricots for the fruits; chopped hazelnuts for the nuts, sort of an Oregon fruitcake.

2nd:  Dates, raisins, figs, currents, golden raisins; almonds for nuts.  A three-wise men kind of fruitcake.

3rd:  Fresh apples (Honey Crisp or Jonathans), peeled, cored, chopped up,  dried cranberries, dried pears;  walnuts for the nuts.  Maybe one with an Idaho attitude.

4th:  Dried papaya, mangos, coconuts (flaked and toasted),  chopped and roasted Brazil nuts.  The exotic.

Anyway you go, it's a sweet way to remember people who are not as comforted or as encouraged as you are.