Monday, August 29, 2011

"Well-behaved women rarely make history." ~NWHM

Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
Look at these two women!  Elizabeth Cady Stanton is looking right at you -- YOU!  Look at that face.  She is challenging you to get off your duff and do something to help women across the land.  And, if you look closely, Susan B. Anthony is slowly nodding her head up and down in agreement.  Yes, you are the one they want.  You can help promote women's causes.  Yes, you. 

How?  Well, here's an easy answer.  Did you know that Congress is on the verge of approving the building of a new museum dedicated to women and women's history? Spokesperson Meryl Streep is leading the charge for citizens to sign a petition urging lawmakers to take the final steps to approve the construction of a National Women's History Museum (designed by a female architect) next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Follow this link: <a href=""></a> for more information. The website has a vast array of delightful online exhibits and information about women and women's history. It includes details about the proposed building, and how you can help by becoming a charter member of the museum, donating to the cause, signing a petition of support or writing your legislators. The website itself is already a stunning bounty of information, links, photos and videos. The proposed museum promised to be a fitting addition to our national resources. Won’t you help?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"The Colonel"

Okay, I know this is the teacher in me coming out, but have you read Carolyn Forché's poem "The Colonel"? It is stunning, and that is putting things mildly. I promise you will never be the same again after this -- it's that good. Westminster College had the good fortune to have Carolyn Forché on campus last year for a reading. She was marvelous -- witty, warm and brilliant. She read this to us then and I am still haunted by it. Here it is for you to enjoy. And, if you're ready for an even bigger treat, click on the link below and hear the poet herself read her masterpiece.

The Colonel
By Carolyn Forché

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.
May 1978

To hear this poem, go to:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Appetizers with Tease

Look at this little lovely.  Isn’t it marvelous?  It was the recent star at a wedding and I must say that at first glance it looked too pretty to eat.  Wait staff walked among guests with trays of yum yums, but when the tray with these came out, people paid attention.  What were they?  Drinks?  Food?  How should one partake? 
It turns out the little delectables were both food and drink – the darlings of the bride and groom.  The wedding had a Texas barbeque meets Milwaukee gemütlichkeit theme.  Hence, the baby beer mug (shot-glass-sized) filled with Shiner Bock.  On top of that was a corn cake with fine shreds of barbequed beef topped with mini slivers of dill pickle.  A work of art.  A tongue tantalizer. 
You needed two hands for these wonders – one to pluck the goodie from the top of the mini mug and pop it in your mouth, and the other for downing the fastest beer in the north . . . or the south. 
Talk went on and on about these creative tidbits.  I mean, who thinks up something like this?  Have you seen similar amazements in your culinary experiences?  If so, let us know about them?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Trailer

Wanna see something fun?
Watch my real, live, youtube book trailer.
Enjoy . . . and then tell me what you think about it!

Monday, August 15, 2011


’Tis the season for fresh summer bounty.  Tomatoes are ripening.  Corn, too.  And the basil’s been going strong for a while.  What better summer dinner is there than BLTs, corn on the cob, and a nice side of pasta with fresh pesto sauce?  I’ve recently started growing basil every summer (not to be confused with mint, which I grew only once . . . it took over my yard so horrendously that I had to move to escape it).  The reason I grow basil is obvious – pesto.  I adore pesto.  I would bathe in it if I could make enough of it.  And while most people intuitively know how to make a BLT or corn on the cob without recipes (if you don’t know how to do these things, email me in private – this is not something you want to admit to other people), wars have been fought over pesto recipes. 

But, fear not.  I have the best one.  I know, I know, you probably think you already own the best pesto recipe yourself, but, unfortunately, you are mistaken.  This recipe that I have (and that I will share with you very soon) was given to me by someone who knows all – my hairdresser.  I mean, really, if a hairdresser hasn’t been able to find the best pesto recipe in the world, then (s)he can’t be much of a hairdresser, right?  And, my hairdresser is such a generous and kind person that she gave me the A-OK to share this recipe with you.  So get out your pen and paper, or copy/paste/print.  Then, make this and savor it . . . and tell me I’m right.  Or, go ahead and give us your recipe!  I promise to have an open mind . . .


2 cups basil leaves, thoroughly washed and patted dry.
4 good-sized (my hairdresser’s words) garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup pine nuts (or walnuts – but why would you use walnuts when you could use pine nuts?)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly grated imported Romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional:  You may add a “dollop” of butter to the mixture, although my hairdresser says this gets very controversial between those who favor butter and those who don’t.

Combine basil, garlic and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and chop.  Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.  Shut the motor off and add cheese, a pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper (and the butter, if you wish).  Process a few more seconds. 

Makes 2 cups – enough for 2 lbs. of pasta.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Callie the calico cat is 20!

Happy Birthday, Callie!  Our wonderful calico cat is 20 years old today, which, translated, is 100 in people years.  The average cat’s life expectancy is 12-14 years, but nobody would ever accuse our Callie of being average.  She’s a cat with “personality,” and that’s putting it lightly.

As a kitten, she immediately knew who the mom of the family was.  On her second night with us, I woke up to her standing by my side of the bed, looking up at me and meowing frantically.  “What?  What is it?” I asked her.  She looked at me like the upset little baby she was and threw up.  The poor thing felt sick and didn’t know what to do about it.  I cleaned up the mess and brought her back to bed to cuddle – and she was very happy.

Callie is known for her mischievousness.  When we were having our two-story foyer wallpapered, she somehow managed to climb the scaffolding, much to the work crew’s astonishment.  We had wars over her being on the kitchen counter.  I’d put down two-sided tape to thwart her and she’d carefully walk around it.  I’d take a few steps toward the kitchen from another room and could hear her jump down from the counter seconds before I could catch her in the act.  She sometimes waited for my daughter to climb the stairs and then she’d pounce at her feet, chasing her “sister” up the stairs to bed.  She had her share of stuffed mice and cat nip and, in her youth, she could spend hours playing with a piece of dangling string.

She was our chief bug catcher for years.  If she happened to be sleeping and I found a spider, I’d go and get her and she’d take care of it for me.  Most times, she found the flies and spiders herself and made sure to keep our home bug-free.  There was even a brief period when we had a little problem with field mice.  Our dear (declawed) darling would catch them all and would proudly bring them to us for our approval.

She knew the difference, though, between mice and the cute little chameleons my son kept as pets.  When one little lizard escaped and was missing for over a week, we feared he’d met his match in Callie.  Suddenly, one day, we were watching television and Callie came and stood right in front of us all.  Upon closer inspection, we noticed a squirming object being held daintily in her mouth.  It was Einstein the lizard!  She’d found him and was bringing him back to us.  She handed the booty over (he lost his tail from fright) and she received a heaping handful of kitty treats for her honorable behavior.

Callie is still in fairly good health.  She has a little high blood pressure, is partially blind and has the beginnings of kitty dementia, but all in all is doing well.  She travels back and forth from Missouri to Wisconsin with us, enduring the eight-hour car trip like a champion.  She adjusts to two houses and two vets and is happiest when all of her people are home, chatting, and she gets to sit on someone’s lap right in the middle of things.

Tonight, Callie Lou, we’re having shrimp, your favorite, and you will get your own whole piece to celebrate your amazing life and to show you how blessed we’ve been to have you as a member of our family.  No champagne toast, though – at least not this year.  You’ve got one more year before you’re legal.   

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weird worries!

Once, my sister-in-law told me about her secret worry.  (I have lots of sisters-in-law, so, sister-in-law du jour, your secret is still safe with me – if you don’t count me blabbing it on my blog, which I obviously don’t count.  Do you?  Of course you don’t.)  Anyway, she said she worried that she’d accidentally stick her hand down the garbage disposal.  While it was running.  At first I was perplexed.  Why would she ever do that?  And why would she worry about it?  She explained that she worried precisely because she was over-careful every time she turned on the garbage disposal.  She consciously told herself, “Don’t don’t don’t stick your hand down there” and she worried that in her obsession she’d get confused and her brain would instead cut her message short and it would say to her “Stick your hand down there.”  And, she would be so distracted/frazzled/unconscious that she would do just that.

Ridiculous?  Well . . . not until I remembered my own weird worry.  I worry that I will accidentally put diesel fuel into my car instead of gasoline, thereby ruining my car, my life, and maybe, somehow, the world.  I pull into service stations and plainly see the “Diesel” signs in red.  Even though I trust my ability to read, I worry that I am somehow misunderstanding something.  I even understand that the nozzles are different, that they probably wouldn’t fit – but I worry that I would make the nozzle fit, oh, I would.  After I drive past the diesel pump, I stare at my pump’s gas choices before making any dire mistakes.  Regular, super, premium – yes, this is gas.  I slide the nozzle into the gas tank opening – it fits easily and well.  But, before I squeeze the trigger, I look wildly around.  Where’s the diesel, again?  Where where where . . . oh, there.  But, wait, maybe there are two pumps?  No, my pump says regular, super, premium.  This is gas.  It is, it is.  Eventually, I fill the tank, pay my $50 (gulp) and drive away – a little apprehensively for the first few blocks . . . just in case my car explodes.

Do you have a weird worry?  Something that doesn’t require therapy but is an interesting character trait you wouldn’t mind trading away?  Share, please!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Greenie in the Green Room

Today I got to appear on a television show for the first time.  What a great experience!  After I went through the angst of trying to figure out what to wear – nothing too dark, they said, or starkly white . . . no small prints which jump around on camera – I tried to think about how to prepare for the show.  And I don’t mean prepare what I would say . . . anyone who knows the littlest bit about me knows I can wax on and on about Fanny Fern.  (Seriously, you do not want to get stuck in an elevator with me.)  I mean, I tried to think about how to prepare for the hour or so when I’d be sitting in the green room with strangers, waiting for my five minutes on camera.

It turned out to be a lot of fun.  We all sat there – the two young guys promoting a Lung Association fundraising bike ride, the country singers who would compete in a State Fair battle of the bands, the Journal Sentinel guy who had a long list of events to remember to name off, and me.  We decided we should all cross-promote.  The singers could sing about the evils of smoking and the bikers could confess to reading a certain historical novel during rest periods.  I’d rattle off Milwaukee events that Fanny Fern might like and the Journal Sentinel guy could quote a country song or two.  We all gushed over each other’s astute wardrobe choices (after seeing the singers, I wish I would have worn jeans) and took turns running to the bathroom.  We watched each other live, on the air, and hooted triumphantly when the song was nailed, the events remembered, the ride details flawlessly recited. 

I understand why they stuck us all together in one room for an hour.  We all kept each other from getting nervous and the hour literally flew by.  But, the bonus was that we all got to meet each other and got to be in a room overflowing with passion.  And, that, to me, was the best part.

To see a clip of the show, click here:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Peony in Love

Oh, Lisa See, I am in love with Peony in Love.  I read a lot of books, some under duress, but not many past my bedtime.  See’s story defines love – and not in the Hollywood infatuation romantic way.  See’s story defines love in ways that push readers to expansion.  See’s narrator, Peony, who spends most of the story as a ghost, is shunned and forgotten by her family members and must scrabble to survive in the afterlife amid well-tended ancestors of other people’s families.  True, she died stereotypically lovesick, in that Hollywood romantic tradition.  But, in death, and as a hungry ghost, Peony learns to understand that real love means wishing all good things for the loved one, even at the expense of the self.  It’s the old story about the lover with the long hair selling her hair to buy a watch chain for her lover who sells his watch to buy her hair combs.  All of that, yes, in a story that is historically accurate (the foot binding details alone are worth the read) and that beautifully illustrates the spirit of women – women with thoughts, opinions and talent who want to work, love, and be taken seriously – in lushly-drawn seventeenth-century China.