every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


Leave a comment

Fathers and Daughters

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, whether you parent your own child, someone else’s child, or a child with more than two legs!  You teach your children more than you can possibly imagine, more than you ever intend them to know.  I know this, because I had a great dad.  He was not a frivolous guy, didn’t gamble or golf or bowl or boat or party hearty.  He was a hard-working man who had well-defined expectations of himself and of me.  I was to be a person of faith, hard-working, honest, kind, generous, try my hardest, do my best, and graduate from college.  I don’t recall him asking any more of me than that.

It seemed to me that my dad could do anything.  He could take a car apart and put it back together and made sure that I could change a tire and check the oil in the car before he ever let me drive it.   He was patient.  The second time that I backed the car out of the garage, I caught the outside mirror on the garage door hinge and ripped it off the car.  I burst into tears, of course.  But you know what?  He was more upset because I was terrified that he would be upset about the mirror than he was about the damage.

He could build anything.  He built that garage and added a family room to our house.  He also helped the Veterinarian and me build our veterinary hospital, from the cinder block walls in.  But I learned as much from observing how he lived his life as from what he taught me to do.

One sunny spring Saturday, as I sat at the big maple desk in our living room, writing a book report, I heard my dad stop the lawn mower and chat with someone.  Our house was on the corner of a moderately busy street, whose sidewalk saw lots of pedestrians and strollers and bicycles.  In our neighborhood, everyone knew everyone else by sight or by their kids or by their cars, if not by their name.  I pulled aside the sheer drapery to see who was passing our way and saw him with a white-haired lady in a lilac-flowered house dress, rolled-down stockings, and wool felt slippers.

My Mother came up behind me.  “Who’s Daddy talking to?” she asked.

“I don’t know.  Some lady.”

“I’ve never seen her before,” she said.  We watched my dad shake the lady’s hand.

“Well, why don’t you rest here under the tree in the shade?” he said to her and looked up at the window where we were standing.  My Mother raised her eyebrows and hurried out the side door.

“Lenore, this is my wife,” my father gestured to My Mother.  “Lenore lives at the nursing home down on Allen Road.”  Lenore had walked about two miles.

“Oh!” I heard My Mother’s surprised reply.

“She’s walking to her son’s house in Toledo,” about 50 miles away.

“Well,” My Mother replied, without skipping a beat, “that’s a pretty long walk. Let me get you a drink of water.”  She looked pointedly at My Father, who nodded, and quickly came into the house and headed for the telephone.  She notified the police and drew a glass of water.

“The home already called the police,” she whispered to me.  “They’re on their way.”  She hurried back outside, where Lenore was attempting to leave.

“Why don’t you have the water, first, before you set out again?” He encouraged her.  “It’s pretty warm today.”

“Yes,” Lenore accepted the glass. “You have such a nice yard.”  She sipped deeply at the water.  “You remind me a lot of my son.  I don’t get to see him very much anymore, you know.”

I stepped into the side yard, and Lenore looked up.

“This is my daughter,” my father introduced me.

“Hello, dear, you have a very nice father.”  I smiled shyly and thought she was exactly correct.  Within minutes, a police car pulled slowly to the curb.

“Well, Mrs. Ratkowski,” the driver called to her, as he took his hat off and approached her, “out for a walk again today?”  He smiled at my parents.

“Oh, yes, officer,” Lenore replied.  [That’s how we spoke to police officers in those days.  We called them “officer” or “sir.”]  “Yes, I’m on my way to see my son.”  She looked warily from the policeman to my dad.

“I see,” the policeman placed his hand lightly on Lenore’s elbow.  “Your friends at the home didn’t get a chance to say good-bye and are worried about you.”

“Tell them that I’m fine. I’m just chatting with this nice man and his family.”

“Well, ma’am, we need to get you back there.”  He started to steer her towards the patrol car.

Lenore stopped, her face confused, and she looked at my dad.

“I think you should go with him and let them sort it out,” he reassured her.  “They’ll make sure you get in touch with your son.”

“But he’s expecting me,” she didn’t cry, but there was such sadness in her voice.

“He’ll be very worried, if he doesn’t know where you are,” my dad took her arm and started walking to the car.  “And I’ll feel better, if I know you’re safe.”  Lenore allowed him to settle her in the back seat of the car.

“Well, thank you!”  She smiled and gave a little wave as the car pulled away.  We waved back.  My dad, who had lunch with his own mother every Wednesday, shook his head and returned to cutting the grass.

It seems like such an insignificant incident in anyone’s daily life, but it has stayed with me for 50 years.  I learned from my dad that we are all dependent on the kindness of strangers, especially when we are confused and lost and not ourselves.

About 10 years later, when I was confused, he gave me an excellent piece of advice.  Raised a Catholic, I was contemplating being married by a Presbyterian minister of whom The Veterinarian was quite fond.  I asked my dad if he would be upset, that I didn’t want to cause the trouble in our family that was raised when he married My Mother, who was not a Catholic.  He said, “You have to do what is right for you.  I appreciate that you’re concerned about it, but you have to live this life yourself and do what works for you.”

Always there

Always there

Here is a photo of me at that very confusing moment in my life, when I was about to be married by that Presbyterian minister.  I am 20 and terrified that I’m making a mistake.  You can see the tears in my eyes, but the show must go on, so I smile.  My Dad is not smiling.  He, too, thinks I am making a mistake.   We both know that I am too young to be married but that I had made a commitment.  We both know that God will watch out for me.  My dad knows that he couldn’t have picked a better man to be my husband, so, here he is, supporting me, whatever comes, waiting to pick up the pieces, to make things right.

What a great dad!

DATE UPDATE:

A recent date told me that some men just wink or write to women to see if they can get an answer, not because they’re really interested in them.  Oh, great!  This bit of information confirmed what I have suspected.  I couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t get any response when I emailed men who claimed to be interested in me.  Well, I’ve tried playing nice, and I’ve been honest about who I am and who I’m looking for.  Where are all the honest men like my dear old dad?  Herewith my new, totally honest profile:

“I didn’t know how to do this when I was 17, so I latched onto one guy and stuck with him until he up and died on me when I was 59 — yep, I was faithful to one, and only one, guy, so that kinda makes me a 63-year old virgin, if you think about it. Betcha don’t know many of those, do ya?

I have two more months left on this subscription, and my daughter says I am wasting my $$$ if I hide my profile. My friends say, “Surely, Mr. Right is on his way.” (I have the funniest friends.) So, instead of selling myself as the ideal woman, let’s see if I can entertain you. I am always entertained by reading some of your profiles, especially those of 60-something hipsters looking for women 25-45. Someone who is still engaged in life is a must, but I’m not into delusion. If you’re over the age of 12 and believe in love at first sight, don’t contact me.

I don’t lie. I don’t fake my photos, age, height, or weight. Yes, I’m short and old (as are most of you guys — old, I mean), but I consider myself a 30-ish trans-Brazilian supermodel, if that counts for anything, so you are not allowed to discriminate on my lack of stature. (Stop reading if you have to google “stature”).

I don’t have stretch marks.  [See?  I figured how to work that into my profile.]   All my body parts are original equipment, except one of my teeth (BMI-21). I own my own home and car. I dress nicely. I’m smart. My manners are impeccable. I am a lady, except when I’m swearing (in case that’s a turn-off). I think I’m kind and generous, but, who am I to say?

I’ve only visited four of the seven continents. I like the French, especially their wine. Of course, I’ll drink almost any country’s wine, but I won’t drink anyone’s beer. I don’t get seasick. I don’t faint at the sight of mice, spiders, or snakes. I don’t panic in emergencies, unless you find that exciting, in which case, I can shriek with the best of them. Sorry, I’m just not completely helpless, but I can pretend to be, if that helps. I try to leave the drama on the stage, where it belongs.

On the other hand, if you want a mountain-biking, rock-climbing, hog-riding, golfing/skiing/backpacking buddy with breasts, check out reality tv.

If you really do want someone beautiful inside and out, funny, intelligent, honest, confident, and financially independent (which most of you do want, apparently), and YOU are handsome inside and out, witty, honest, dependable, intelligent, financially independent, and know your way around a chainsaw, give me a call. (I live in the woods and am afraid of chain saws — hard to believe, I know) If not, my dog is a great snuggler, although also quite a snorer.

I used to answer every person who contacted me, but I think it was some kind of trick, because I rarely got a response to my response, so I don’t answer winks or interests or favorites. If you have something to say, say it in clear, grammatical English. (I speak two other languages, but let’s stick with English.) I dislike snobs, bigots, bad manners, and narrow-mindedness, this includes men who think they are hipsters (see above).

Don’t contact me if you’re married or still angry at your ex-wife. Don’t contact me if you don’t like to travel outside of a 25-mile radius of Baltimore.  If you can’t recognize the state of Michigan by its silhouette, pass me by.

That’s it. I have nothing left to say. I’ll start googling convents now. Maybe I can find one that will let me bring my dog and my Champagne. Thanks for letting me entertain you!”

So far, it’s working great, because out of 136 people lured by my sweet photo in the past week, only one has winked at me!  Think of all the bullets I’ve dodged, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 


Leave a comment

The Myth of Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting

There are red velvet cakes, and then there are Red Velvet Cakes.  In the past five years, that staple of Southern cooks has been co-opted by trendy websites, blogs, magazines, chain restaurants, and cooking shows.  Somewhere along the way, the original recipe has permutated.  I, myself, have adapted the recipe that was passed on to me by My Mother, who got it in the 1950s from her sister who lives in Atlanta. Turns out, it may not have originated in the South at all.

As in religion, mythology explains the creation of something.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t true, it only posits a basis for everything that came after.  A search on Google shows as much speculation about Red Velvet’s origins as it does about its ingredients.  Some say it is based on so-called “velvet” cakes of the 19th century, which incorporated a little cocoa or almond flour to soften a cake’s texture.  Some say that the characteristic “red” color began with the redness of the cocoa or that of the brown sugar that was used.  Some say it originated at the Waldorf-Astoria.  Some say it originated at Eaton’s Department store in Toronto.  Some say its current incarnation was promoted by the Adams Extract company in Texas.

As with religion, no one can agree, so I’ll stick with my own lore of what a Red Velvet Cake should be, how it should look, and how it should taste.  I simply NEVER buy one in a bakery or restaurant, because they never correspond with the mythological essence stored in my brain.  I am a Red Velvet connoisseur.  I’ve been eating them for over 50 years.  It is my birthday cake of choice, and a birthday cake should always be exactly what I expect it to be when the fork hits my mouth.

The red color has always been controversial.  Before anyone was talking about carcinogens in food, one of my fourth grade classmates objected to the Red Velvet cupcakes that my mother sent to my class in honor of my 10th birthday, in 1962.

“EWWW!!!”  Teddy Rollo (name changed to protect the innocent) shrieked, after biting into one.  “It’s OX BLOOD!!!”  He dropped it on the floor.

“No, it isn’t!”  I shouted at him, as kids all over the classroom spit out my favorite cake.

“Then, why is it red?”  He stuck his buck-toothed, freckled face in mine.

“It’s food coloring!”  I snapped.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” our teacher yelled over the clamor.  “It’s cake!  There’s no blood involved, Teddy.  Settle down, class!”

“It’s just too weird,” one girl said to me apologetically and shrugged.

I was horrified to see half-eaten and uneaten cupcakes dumped in the trash.  What was the matter with these kids?  My mother had slaved over three dozen cupcakes for nothing.  I felt bad for her.  I felt bad for myself, and then I saw several untouched cupcakes left in the box for me, me, me!

Ten years later, the Soviets released a study that concluded that Red Dye No. 2, whose common name is amaranth, was a carcinogen.  Responding to public outcry, the FDA began its own study, which concluded that, in high dosages fed to female rats, there was a significant increase in the number of malignant tumors in the rats.  It was banned in 1976.

Uh-oh.  Would this be the end of Red Velvet Cake?  Nope.  Even though Red Dye No. 4 was eventually also prohibited as a food dye, Red Dye No. 40 continues to be acceptable in the US, despite the fact that it is banned in Europe, which, along with Canada, approves of Red Dye No. 2.  Did you follow that?  I had to google them all several times to make any sense of it.  Long story short, I buy my Red Dye No. 40 in bulk, so you can’t take Red Velvet Cake away from me.  I use two full ounces of it in mine, so that I get that authentic oxblood color.  I see those wimpy pink imposters that only use one ounce.  Tsk-tsk.  smh

Perfection!

Perfection!

I prefer a good French buttercream or my faux French buttercream frosting made with hot milk and granulated sugar, because I’m not a cream cheese frosting fan.  I find that the tang of the cream cheese clashes with the almond flavoring in the cake, and, if the cake is made traditionally with buttermilk and the vinegar-baking soda mixture, it doesn’t need any more tangy-ness.  In my so-called research, I found Red Velvet cupcakes frosted with almond-flavored cream cheese that might be tolerable, but I’d still rather have the frosting that my brain and stomach tell me belongs on Red Velvet cake.  Why mess with perfection?

My Sister made me a Red Velvet Cake for my birthday yesterday because she is The Best Sister Ever.  The cake was soft and tender; the frosting did not have a single crunch of undissolved granulated sugar (my biggest challenge in making that frosting).  And I had a big giant slice of perfection for breakfast this morning, also a family tradition.  After all, there are no calories on your birthday or the morning after, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 

RED VELVET CAKE

Ingredients:

2 oz red color

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (do not used Dutch-processed)

½ cup vegetable shortening, softened (I use ¼ cup unsalted butter and ¼ cup shortening)

1½ cups sugar

2 eggs

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 Tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease three 8” or two 9” cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with buttered parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend food coloring and cocoa to form a paste.  Add the shortening and sugar, and cream thoroughly.  With mixer running, add eggs one at a time until blended.

Mix in ¼ of the sifted flour mixture, alternating with ¼ cup buttermilk.  Stop mixer and scrape bowl and beaters.  Continue adding the remaining flour, alternating with the remaining buttermilk, beating thoroughly and scraping the bowl and beaters after each addition of buttermilk.  It’s important that the flour doesn’t clump into ugly white blobs in your pretty red batter.

Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and baking soda and then stir the mixture into the batter.

Pour batter equally into the prepared cake pans.  To decrease the number of large air bubbles trapped in the batter, run a sharp knife in an “s” shape through the batter in each pan.  Lift each pan about 1” off the counter and let drop onto the counter.  The larger bubbles will rise to the top and either break or can be broken with a toothpick.

Place pans in preheated oven and bake 30 minutes.  Insert a tester (toothpicks work just fine) into the center of each layer.  If it does not come out clean, bake another 5 minutes and retest with a clean tester.  In my oven, an 8” layer is usually done in 30 minutes.  The thicker 9” layers may take an extra 5-10 minutes.  But be careful that the edges of the cake don’t become brown.

When tester comes out clean, remove pans from the oven and place on a wire rack.  Let cake layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  You should see the cake’s edges pull away from the pan as it cools.  If not, gently run a plastic knife around the edge and wait 5 more minutes.

Place another cooling rack on top of the pans and flip.  Remove pans from the layers and the parchment from the cake and cool completely.  Frost with your favorite white frosting.

CAUTION:  I always lick the bowl and beaters, because I’ve been doing it for over 50 years, but it makes my mouth really red.  It also might give me salmonella, if the raw eggs in the batter are bad.  I don’t worry too much about it.  The red dye probably will kill me first.


2 Comments

Feelin’ Crabby

Chesapeake Swimmer

Chesapeake Swimmer

How ‘bout dem O’s, hon?  Baseball season started this week, and here, in Baltimore, it’s also the start of crab season, the crustacean, not the grass, although that is starting up, too, after a ghastly frigid winter.

Growing up in Michigan, my knowledge of fresh seafood was limited to fried lake perch and steelhead trout, the latter of which, by the way, is better than any salmon you’ll find in Alaska or Scotland.  Occasionally, you’d get frozen shrimp or scallops or, in the very best restaurants, you’d find a tank of cold water lobsters.  In the 70s, King crab and snow crab legs started showing up on seafood buffets, but the Veterinarian, a Virginia native, used to wax poetic about blue crabs, of which I’d never heard.

“Were they sweet?” I asked.  Yes.  “Did you swish them around in butter?”  No.  He told me they were steamed with a salty, spicy coating, unless they were soft, when they were gently sautéed in butter.  I couldn’t grasp what he was talking about.

One summer, when we were still in college, we made a car trip to Williamsburg, Virginia to visit his family. We ate all the local specialties, Smithfield ham and ham biscuits and peanut soup and, heaven forbid, cornbread loaded with sugar (the great debate of our marriage — sugar or no sugar in the cornbread).  Still, he was on a quest for crabs, which took us down the Colonial Parkway toward Yorktown, that flat bit of marshland where the British general, Charles, 1st Marquess of Cornwallis, surrendered King George III’s army to General George Washington, ending the war for independence.

The Veterinarian had childhood memories of a seafood restaurant called Nick’s Seafood Pavilion.  It was a quirkily elegant place of larger-than-life copies of Classical art and a vast menu of everything briny.  Not recognizing most of what I saw, I safely ordered the fried scallops.  My husband was beyond excited to have his fondest dreams come true; soft shell crabs were on the menu.  I knew he liked all manner of unusual food (he was the first person that I ever saw eat a whole lobster, and he ate really stinky cheese before stinky cheese was fashionable), but I had no idea what to expect.Nicks_Seafood_3

Our waitress brought me a beautiful platter of plump, delicately breaded and fried scallops.  I was oohing and aahing over them, when I was abruptly distracted by the platter she set in front of the Veterinarian.  It contained what I thought were two enormous insects that had been breaded and sautéed, a plate full of spindly legs.

“Oh, man!” he beamed.

“What happens now?”  I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Where’s the shell?  How do you get the meat out?”

“The shells are soft, so you just cut them up and eat them.”  He picked up his knife and fork and started slicing through the delicate little body.  “As they grow, they shed their shells periodically, which makes them soft and vulnerable but really tasty.”

“Oh, dear God,” I mumbled and stared at my plate.  I couldn’t even watch the carnage.  “If those were crawling on land, people would be swatting them.”

“You want to try one?”  I looked up to see a spindly, battered leg hanging from his lower lip like a cigarette.

“Of course, not!  That’s disgusting!”soft shell crab sandwich

But a more disgusting consumption of soft shell crabs was yet to come.  Not long after we moved to Maryland, we went to lunch at a little restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay, where he ordered a soft shell crab sandwich, which is nothing more than a sautéed crab on lettuce and tomato, between two slices of white bread slathered with mayo.  And, yes, the legs hang out of the crusts of the bread, and you eat the whole thing.  Well, I didn’t, but he did, and he even taught the Daughter, who hails from Colorado (long story), to enjoy them.

In Maryland, eating steamed crabs has its own etiquette.  Newspaper or brown butcher paper is spread on a table, usually outdoors.  The crabs are steamed by the bushel-full in a crust of Old Bay spice (a blend primarily of salt, red pepper, celery salt, black pepper, garlic salt, white pepper, onion salt, paprika, and more salt) and dumped on the table, with their bright red bodies and legs and shriveled up black eyes staring at you.  Then, diners take sharp knives and wooden mallets to pry open the shell, crack open the legs and claws.  They scrape off faces (of the crabs, not the people) and the lungs and all that other slimy-looking gunk that only an experienced Marylander recognizes.  The process takes hours.  No kidding.  Hours.  You can sit down at 1 in the afternoon and still be sitting there at 8 in the evening.

Maryland Heaven

Maryland Heaven

Since I prefer not to dismember my food before eating, I am always the wet blanket at a crab feast for hours, a social problem that many transplants to Maryland never get over. If I’m lucky, there will be Silver Queen corn dripping in butter, maybe saltines, and, if the stars are aligned, there might be Maryland crab soup, or, if I’ve been living right, a crab cake or two.  If I can manage to look really pathetic, someone will pass me a lump of crabmeat, the prized nugget on the back of a crab.  There are only two per crab, so I must wait patiently for hours.  No one likes to give up their lumps.  Basically, I sit there for hours watching people play Whack-a-Crab for hours.  Did I mention how long it takes?

Traditionally, the Baltimoreans (not to be confused with the Baltimorons) crack open a Natty Boh (or something from my friends at Heavy Seas) to kill all that salt in the Old Bay and follow it all up with Berger cookies for dessert.  Any crabs that aren’t eaten are picked over for soup or crab cakes the next day.

You see, I love blue crab meat.  There is nothing better, but I simply cannot pick crabs by pulling off their spindly legs and ripping open their shells with my bare hands.  All through the long, cold winter, I dream about Crab Cakes (broiled, not fried, for me), Crab Imperial, Hot Crab Dip, Crab and Smithfield Ham, Crab Balls (no, crabs don’t have them, but you can make them), Crab Claws, Crab-Stuffed Rockfish, Cream of Crab Soup, Maryland Crab Soup, and Crab Quiche.  Now, if I can only understand the local fascination with lacrosse, I might become a true Baltimoron.  I already make the best crab cake in Bawlmer, hon, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

Maryland, My Maryland Crab Cakes

Crab cakes are controversial around here.  Fried or broiled?  Binding or not?  Old Bay or not Old Bay?  That’s the question.  Well, if they’re Maryland crab cakes, I think they need just a tiny bit of Old Bay, but not so much that it overwhelms the sweet crabmeat.  I broil mine, because it seems a shame to turn any crabmeat into dry crusty flakes.  And, if you’re a genius cook, skip the binding.  I am an experienced cook but no genius.  I like a little soft bread crumbs to hold the thing together as it cooks, so it doesn’t ooze into a mess on the baking sheet or fall apart when you’re trying to plate them.

For a special treat, make a sauce by boiling down heavy cream to thicken it, and stir in a little prepared stone-ground mustard to taste.  I like mine just slightly tangy, a perfect complement to the sweet little cakes.  And fresh Silver Queen corn sweetens the deal as an accompaniment in the summer.

I’m sorry to say, if you can’t get fresh, blue crabmeat, the other stuff just doesn’t work.  Also, gently pick through the crabmeat to remove all remnants of shell, cartilage, seaweed, or other unsavory looking items.  Nothing worse than a mouthful of shell.

1 large  egg

½ cup    mayonnaise

1 tsp      Old Bay seasoning

½ tsp     ground pepper

1 tsp      fresh lemon juice or dry vermouth

1 tsp      Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp      garlic powder

1 pound jumbo lump blue crabmeat, well-picked over

1 slice   soft white bread, finely crumbed

Preheat regular oven to 400° or convection oven to 350°.  Prepare a baking sheet with butter, cooking spray, parchment, or a silicone liner, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg until yolk and white are combined.  Whisk in mayonnaise, Old Bay, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and garlic powder until smooth.  Gently fold in crabmeat, taking care not to break up lumps.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the surface of the mixture and very gently fold in.

For dinner-sized servings, scoop crab mixture into six mounds on the baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  If using a regular oven, you may need to run them under a broiler until lightly browned.

For cocktail-sized servings, scoop crab mixture into 12 mounds on the baking sheet.  Reduce baking time to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Optional Sauce:

1 pint of heavy cream

2 teaspoons of coarsely-ground mustard (or to taste)

Heat heavy cream in medium-sized skillet until boiling and thickened.  Stir in mustard and remove from heat.  Spoon onto serving plates and top with crab cake and optional cooked, Silver Queen corn kernels and sugar snap peas.


Leave a comment

Not in My Easter Bonnet!

c. 1955 with my cousins in our Easter finery

c. 1955 with my cousins in our Easter finery

Many years ago, when no woman left her house without a hat and gloves and purse, when head coverings for women were mandatory in some churches, when women still wore stockings, when men knew when to wear a necktie and polished their shoes, dressing up was fun.  Now, everyone acts like it’s elitist or sexist or pretentious.  Except on Easter Sunday.

You can count on seeing hats on women and girls and even a few men in church on Easter Sunday.  People you don’t see the rest of the year will show up looking as if they stepped out of a Doris Day movie.

If you dressed up in an elegant hat to go shopping at the mall, your fellow shoppers would look around for the hidden

Easter 1959

Easter 1959

camera.  If you wore a cocktail hat to a restaurant, people would snicker over their martinis.  If you wore a hat to a wedding, you’d surely lose it when dancing to “Uptown Funk.”  (Unless you’re Bruno Mars, whose fedora appears to be anchored to that bandana beneath it, but I don’t think I’d wear a bandana to a wedding.)

Hats are sexy.  You can flirt demurely from beneath a brim or boldly behind a veil or avert your eyes entirely. A well-

placed flower or feather screams romance, although I once bought a straw hat with the palest pink flowers and a pale pink and sage checked ribbon.  The Veterinarian said that all I needed was a price tag dangling from the front, and I could be Minnie Pearl’s clone.

White for Easter 1962?  Rules be damned in the go-go 60s.

White for Easter 1962? Rules be damned in the go-go 60s.

Some people complain that they don’t look good in hats, but I think they just aren’t used to wearing them.  You need to go to a store with lots of different hats and try on every

single one of them to figure out which hat looks good on you.  I, for one, look spectacular in a large-brimmed hat but ridiculous in a baseball cap.  I just don’t have the right shaped head.  The last time I wore a baseball cap, to an actual baseball game, I stuffed the interior to give it some shape.  I’m much happier in one of my sturdy straw hats, which I always wear to the beach for sun protection and to pretend that no one can see me in my swim suit.

Google hats and find out how to wear them.  Don’t assume that they’re only perched on the back of your head.  And make sure your hair is styled to go with the hat.  The smaller the hat, the smaller the hairstyle.   A pony tail is great with a baseball cap.  A chignon (low bun) or French twist works with a fascinator.  Flowing hair works with a broad-brimmed hat.

I won’t be wearing a hat this Easter.  When you sing in a church choir and are covered by cassock (black robe) and cotta (the white thing), a hat

Easter 1968 - I didn't get the memo about hats on the back of my head.

Easter 1968 – I didn’t get the memo about hats on the back of the head, but I’d still wear that outfit, if it fit (which it wouldn’t).

looks pretty stupid.  I guess I could wear it into church at 7:45 when we rehearse, but, by 8:30, I’ll be wearing my choir dress until 1pm, which defeats the purpose.  No one will see it, anyway.  After singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at two services (9 and 11, historic St. James Episcopal Church, Monkton, if you’re in the area), I won’t much feel like showing off.  And an Easter bonnet needs an Easter dress (which no one will see under the choir robe) and high heels (which you can’t stand in for four hours of singing).

I won’t be wearing my beautiful black straw with a black straw bow, attempting to channel my inner-Audrey Hepburn.  (Of course, Audrey was tall and elegant, and I am short and a pretender.)  I won’t be wearing the beautiful black velour felt that I got in the mid-60s, which remains wearable.  I won’t be wearing either of My Mother’s vintage 1950s hats, one black velvet with a sassy feather and veil and the other brown felted wool with a brown veil.  (It would take a lot of nerve, even for me, to wear either of them out in public, much less to church.)  Nor the navy cloche nor an azure and lime green straw nor an ivory straw with a fine cloud of dotted tulle circling the crown.  Geez, I wish I had somewhere to wear any of them.  sigh

Easter 1971, right after spring break --- too tan, too much white pearlized eyeshadow

Easter 1971, right after spring break — too tan, too much white pearlized eyeshadow

Come on, let’s bring back hats!  In the cause of sun protection.  In the cause of beauty.  In the cause of romance.  In the cause of civilization.  Hats.  They’re not just for Easter any more.


Leave a comment

Those Hills are Still Alive

Gaga flips skirtDid you catch Lady Gaga honoring the 50th Anniversary of the film version of The Sound of Music on the Academy Awards
last week?  Were you shocked?  I was apprehensive when she started to sing, because  I didn’t want to see a travesty made of a film whose score was embedded in my 13-year old brain.  As I listened to her well-rehearsed singing, I saw her nervousness in the amateurish way she flipped her gown.  Stefani Germanotta, the girl behind the outrageous Mother Monster disguise, could have been performing in her living room for the neighbors.  I saw how important this was for her, and I started rooting for her.  For the first time ever, I identified with her as a performer.

Of course, singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” for the neighbors in your living room is in no way akin to having your foibles aired to hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.  Still, your reputation as an in-your-face know-it-all is at stake, especially when you take on some of the most beloved music ever put on film.

When I was growing up in the not-yet psychedelic 60s, it was a treat to dress up in your Sunday best (i.e., pretty dress, coat, probably patent leather shoes, and gloves) and go into downtown Detroit to see a movie at one of the grand old movie houses.  The Sound of Music premiered in March, 1962 at the now-demolished Madison Theater, which was built in 1917.  I saw it on the huge, curved screen and wept for the brave family, as they escaped the Nazis. It was a triumphant, happily-ever-after kind of story with pretty scenery, pretty people, and pretty music.  Who did not want to be Maria?

I was raised as a Roman Catholic and taught by nuns who had no sense of humor beyond corporal punishment (so it seemed).  It never occurred to me that nuns smiled or sang or had fulfilling lives locked away in a convent.  I could well imagine that they would give “a problem like Maria” the heave-ho from their cloistered world.  I had not imagined that the heave-ho would send the problem into a beautiful home with a handsome father and adorable children, with evil Nazis threatening their idyll in the Alps.

In the days before VHS tapes, DVDs, and video on demand, the soundtrack album of a movie or stage show allowed you to experience it over and over again.  In 1965, The Sound of Music became my favorite, surpassing Mary Poppins.  I wanted to waltz with the sorely misguided Rolf in my family’s conservatory.  I wanted to ride through the streets of Salzburg singing about “bright copper kettles” (which I had never seen) and “warm woolen mittens” (which I owned).  I wanted to sing “Edelweiss” on a darkened stage with tears streaming down my face.  I wanted to laugh in the face of the Baroness.  And, yes, I imagined myself bravely walking down the aisle to marry the handsome Captain while nuns sang “How do solve a problem like Maria?”  With marriage, evidently.  Ah, Captain von Trapp…

I saw Christopher Plummer again onstage as Iago with James Earl Jones as the titular “Othello.”  What a performer!  Forget how good he was pretending onscreen that he didn’t hate playing Captain von Trapp in what he has described as potential “mawkishness.”  Here he was on a Sunday afternoon at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore in 1981, providing me with a lesson in stagecraft. At his entrance, the audience applauded enthusiastically.

However, the production capitalized on Mr. Jones’ notoriety as the voice of Darth Vader.  In my feeble memory, the stage direction had him boldly make his first entrance at upstage center.  Othello was wearing all black, including a black cape.   His first lines were delivered from beneath a helmet.  The audience went wild.

I turned to The Veterinarian and said, “Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy.  This production’s going south in a hurry.”  I was confused.  Were we to think that Othello and Darth are the same?  Or was it just a cheap ploy to entertain the audience?  Or, worst of all, were they going to upstage Mr. Plummer with their theatrics?

Othello 2 (2)There was more about the staging (especially the lighting, as I recall) that I didn’t like.  I recently noticed that Kelsey Grammer, pre-Cheers, played “Cassio” in that production, which, I am sorry to say, didn’t make an impression on me, either.  [I don’t recall who played Desdemona, and a google search was no help.] As the play progressed, though, its esteemed leads lived up to their reputations.  They told the story without gimmicks, although there were more theatrics, some unintended.

During a duel, one of the actors’ swords flew from his hand, off the stage, and into the lap of an elderly lady in the front row.  The theater went silent.  Ushers hesitantly moved forward.  Without breaking character, Mr. Plummer leapt from the stage and knelt on one knee in front of the startled lady.  He removed the sword and spoke quietly to her, then kissed her hand and ran up the stairs, back on the stage, and, still in character, haughtily tossed the sword to its actor.  The house went wild.  I swooned in my seat.   Mr. Plummer went on to Broadway and won a Tony award for his Iago.  I would have given it to him just for what I saw in that production.  Ah, Captain von Trapp…

Theatrics, used appropriately, can add excitement to a production.  Some, like the falling chandelier in Phantom of the Opera, are costly, yet “cheap tricks.”  Others make ordinary lives more interesting.  Apparently, the play and movie version of The Sound of Music were dramatized to make the story of the von Trapps more thrilling, as if defying the Nazis wasn’t compelling enough.  There was no dramatic escape across the Alps, just a train ride to Italy and a boat to London, then on to the U.S.  The Captain actually was quite genial, and Maria said in her autobiography Maria that she married the Captain for the sake of the children and learned to love him later, a different kind of romance.

I sang The Sound of Music around my house for three years, until I became captivated by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, a much edgier story line for an adolescent girl who was “sixteen going on seventeen” in the more cynical, psychedelic late 60s.  I saw myself on that tugboat in New York Harbor singing my lungs out, chasing down my star-crossed lover, a bittersweet story, a different kind of romance.  Both movies were based on real people, but fleeting happiness is not as compelling in the long run, so I went back to Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s more hopeful story.

At the end of her Sound of Music medley, Stefani looked humbled at the appearance of the fabulous Julie Andrews onstage with her.  All the time she was singing the iconic songs (my only complaint is that she mimicked Ms. Andrews’ English accent, as I mimicked Ms. Streisand’s Brooklyn accent), she knew that the icon, herself, was standing in the wings.  How much braver is it to be yourself than to hide behind outlandish costumes and snarl at your audience, “cheap tricks,” all of them?  Brava, Ms. Germanotta, brava!

While I sing in choral groups (and once sang in a chorus on the stage at Carnegie Hall under the direction of the great John Rutter), I will never sing a solo in front of anyone except the BFF, not even in the shower, never again in someone’s living room or basement or garage.  And no one is asking me to, so who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

DATE UPDATE:

It’s a boring week.  I’ve discovered that I can test my prospective dates by making them read this blog first.  I say, “Read my blog, and let me know if you’re still interested.”  The blog is a deal-breaker, which makes it the perfect test.  My profile photos are catchy, my text clever, but the “real me” is just too much, apparently.  “Real Suzanne” is not coming over to your house on a first date for a drink and does not want to have sex with you within the first several months that I know you, if ever.  “Real Suzanne” can tell if you’re a phony.  “Real Suzanne” is probably a lot smarter than you are, which is a real turn-off, for her.

I got lots of scammers this week.  Anthropologists have missed the best marker of all to attract a mate, good grammar.  One had a well-written profile in which he said he flies his own airplane, so, after he emailed me in broken English, I responded by asking what kind of airplane he flies?  Naturally, he did not respond.  They never do when they know you’re going to catch them in a lie.

I did not respond to an email from a guy with no profile photo that said, “I lie if I not tell you your sexy!! [sic]”

From a guy whose photo looks like a young Paul Newman, ” i hope the weather is getting better over there for you too. [sic]” He lives in NY and shows a photo of himself with a recently deceased celebrity whom he identifies as his father.

I reported another one who stole a woman’s photo and profile and claimed that she was his intermediary.

I had two emails from different men who claim to have post-graduate degrees with this explanation, “I have tried to upload more pictures but I really do not know how it works been my first time on a dating site. [sic]”

From the geographically-challenged, a guy named “Pedro” who lives about 40 miles south of me, “do you have a lot of snow back there? [sic]”

And this:

Scammer 2 (2)

Yep, go away Forever!

 

 


2 Comments

Cooked by the Book

How did you learn to cook?  Maybe you didn’t.  Some people learn from their mothers, but My Mother wasn’t very experimental.  She knew what she knew, and that’s what she cooked.  She made the usual comfort food, pot roast, fudge, and spaghetti.  She also made foods unique to where I grew up in Detroit, like stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut and City Chicken, and food from her old Kentucky home that no one north of the Mason-Dixon line had seen in the 1950s, like cooked eggnog, Red Velvet cake, and unsweetened cornbread.  She only owned one cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, so my exposure to international cuisine was limited.

The book that started it all for me.

The book that started it all for me.

The summer that I got married (1972), I worked for a lady who had traveled the world and who insisted that I needed a copy

of The Joy of Cooking, the 1971 edition of the classic by Irma Rombauer.  I had never heard of it and found it daunting, as I leafed through it.  Make my own stock?  What was wrong with Campbell’s soup in a can?  Béarnaise sauce?  What was tarragon?  Pâté à choux?  Cabbage paste? They seemed so exotic.  So time-consuming.  So uncomfortable.

The Veterinarian knew how to cook bacon, eggs, and that mid-Atlantic mystery food of his childhood, scrapple (Rapa-brand, of course).  His mother made the food of her Virginia childhood, fried chicken, fried chicken livers, and scrambled eggs with shad roe (the accompaniment to the scrapple).  She passed along to her son her mother’s recipe for chip dip, cream cheese flavored with Worcestershire sauce.

Armed with Joy of Cooking and the current edition of Betty Crocker, we set up housekeeping.  Within months, we gave our first dinner party for another couple.  We decided to have ham (because who can’t heat up a ham?), scalloped potatoes, a vegetable that escapes memory, and cheesecake for dessert.  From Betty Crocker, I had learned to make a medium white sauce for the potatoes, and the results were a revelation of creaminess.  The cheesecake was an easy recipe from my best friend’s mother.  I put the softened cream cheese in the blender with the eggs, sugar, and vanilla, and, when it stuck to the sides of the jar, I scraped it down with a wooden spatula, WHILE THE BLENDER WAS RUNNING.

That’s right, at our first dinner party, we served a dessert with extra fiber, wood chips.  We ran it through a sieve and were able to get out the big chunks.  I was near hysteria, until The Veterinarian pointed out that the graham cracker crust disguised the very tiny splinters that were left.  After all, he reassured me, the spatula was clean, and the wood was organic.  Washed down with enough Blue Nun wine, our dinner was a success.  (And the other couple remain dear friends after 42 years.)

Soon, we branched out.  We couldn’t afford to dine out often, so we cooked for ourselves.  There was lots of trial and error, but, mostly, we found that, with regular practice, cooking wasn’t so hard.  We watched Julia Child, Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet), and a wacky minister who went by the name “Frugal Gourmet.”  We delved into that Joy of Cooking, whose step-by-step directions and explanations of buying and storing food revealed techniques and tastes that we had never imagined.  We started cooking with wine, real wine, not that salty stuff labeled “Cooking Wine.”  We started drinking better wine, too.

Old friends

Old friends

Then, I acquired a copy of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and we were off and running into heart disease territory.  I can still reproduce her signature Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Carottes Vichy, and Coquilles St. Jacques à la Parisienne without looking at the recipe.  The Veterinarian perfected Vichysoisse [btw, you pronounce the final “s” because an “e” follows it — don’t let a snooty waiter bully you into saying, “Vishyswa”] and turning ordinary granulated white sugar and water into the perfect golden syrup for Crème Renversée au Caramel.  [Helpful hint:  Use a microwave.]

We acquired even more cookbooks, such as Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet, which taught us to cook efficiently with fresh ingredients, and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, which explained the chemistry of baking.

Within 10 years, we were full-fledged foodies.  As we began to travel, restaurants famed and unknown were always on our must-sees.  We returned home to reproduce our favorite dishes either from memory or from their cookbooks, such as Union Square Café  in NYC (for the Tuna Burger and Garlic Potato Chips), The Inn at Little Washington (for the Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce), Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (Etouffée and Blue Cheese Dressing), The Ivy in London (Roast Poulet des Landes), and Hawaii’s Roy’s (Chocolate Soufflé).

The two very best recipes came from Chef Cindy Wolf of Baltimore’s Charleston.  She shared her stock and lobster bisque recipes, which The Veterinarian adapted and left me.  Yep, he actually left lobster and veal stock and a Paul Prudhomme gumbo in the freezer, proving you can’t take it with you.

We also created and adapted traditional recipes.  He used melted butter and added coconut to Toll House cookies to give them more crunch, and I used almonds in the graham cracker crust and folded in beaten egg whites to the filling of the classic Key Lime Pie recipe.  Over the years, we learned that there is no kitchen disaster that can’t be remedied, even if it ends up in the trash 10 minutes before your guests arrive.  The cheese course becomes the appetizer or the dessert, or, maybe the main course, if you turn it into fondue or pasta.

With the advent of Google, there is almost no recipe that you can’t find online.  In fact, you can find hundreds of recipes for the same dish and can pick and choose between them to create a unique version.  I learned to make my own Tom Kha Gai soup that way and have lowered the fat in the Cheesecake Factory’s Louisiana Chicken Pasta.

Some things never change.  I still use the Betty Crocker fudge recipe that My Mother used.  I still make the best real Red Velvet cake with Buttercream Frosting and an awesome stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut.  I’ve adapted the City Chicken to simmer in white wine and veal stock, unheard of in 1950s Detroit kitchens, and I actually learned to make that pâté à choux to reproduce Detroit’s favorite Sanders’ Hot Fudge cream puff shells.

Several years ago, a friend gave me a vintage copy of The Joy of Cooking, which started The Veterinarian collecting them.  Imagine my surprise to find, in the 1931 edition, the recipe for his grandmother’s cream cheese chip dip.  It survived the 1943 edition, but, by 1971, it had disappeared, maybe because it says to spread the mixture on the potato chips.  Who in their right mind would do that?  Not even the most ardent foodie, I suspect.  [Hint:  Stir a little milk into the softened cream cheese, add a few drops of Worcestershire and some grated onion, and the mixture will be thin enough to serve with chips.  Wouldn’t Irma Rombauer be surprised to know that it’s my good luck charm whenever the Baltimore Ravens play?]

DATE UPDATE:

My one month trial to chemistry expired, so the site “treated” me to a free month.  When I declined to renew my match subscription, they offered me three free months.  Good.  I’ll still have something to write about.

This morning alone, the scammers are either cloning each other, or there’s just one guy or gal with a lot of time on their hands.  The theme is “I will love to know you better [sic], as long as you have a pulse”, although I suspect that may be optional, if I, the “lonely” little widow, can provide access to my bank account.  You be the judge.

It’s not the distance that’s the potential problem.  It’s your multiple personality disorder:

photo (5)

His profile disappeared because someone else complained about him before I opened the email.

From a man whose name leads me to believe that he is not the Catholic that he claims to be in any way, shape, or form:

Anything with a pulse

Anything with a pulse

From a man who is only slightly more discriminating, but pulse may be an option in the 105-year old date:

105?

105?  Really?  I’m soooo flattered to be included!

Finally, we can agree that this guy is still a “boy”:

photo (8)

Well, I’m not lonely enough for that, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


2 Comments

All Creatures Great and Small and Online

As open and loving and nurturing as my parents were, we never had any pets, which is probably just as well, because we couldn’t keep goldfish alive.  My only childhood experiences with dogs were a neighbor’s biting boxer that was kept on a chain and a little mutt that one of the neighborhood boys used to sic on me when I walked past his house.  (You know, boys are soooo mean!)

In dating The Veterinarian, I hit the weird pet jackpot.  His indulgent parents not only had a sweet collie, but they allowed him to keep snakes, turtles, rats, mice (guess what they were for), a tegu lizard, and a spider monkey that had been known to swing from the dining room chandelier.  His interest in veterinary medicine began when he was unable to find a doctor who could/would treat them.  I was eager to keep them all at arm’s length.

When we’d only been married for a week, without checking with me, my bridegroom took in a stray dog, a 14-pound Shetland Sheepdog.  I was completely freaked out and convinced that she was waiting for me to fall asleep so she could rip out my throat. Instead, she would sit at my feet, looking at me with a perpetually dazed expression in her enormous brown eyes and ripped out the arms of the loveseat that my mother-in-law loaned us.

In 1973, my young husband and a friend were accepted into veterinary school.  Spouses of the new students were invited to the “New Student Spouses Tea” at the home of the dean and his wife by the wives of the other deans and faculty members, a quaint custom that surely doesn’t happen in this 21st liberated century.  Most veterinary students are now women, and I doubt if any of their spouses/significant others are comfortable, not to mention willing, to sit on little, straight-backed chairs balancing delicate china and hot tea on their laps.  Unless they’re Downton Abbey fans, of course.

Late one afternoon, our friend’s wife and I drove over to the dean’s house together.  I was barely 21, the youngest woman there.  Many of the new students were veterans of Viet Nam, and some even had multiple children.  My friend’s husband was a Navy vet vet student [great alliteration, eh?].  Knowing none of the other women, we sat together as the presentation portion of the program began.

“We are all so happy to welcome our newest families,” Mrs. Dean began in her soft, southern drawl, always a classy sound way, way north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  “We want to get to know you better, so we’re going to go around the room and introduce ourselves. Please give your name, what you do, and tell us something about you that no one will forget.”

“What should I say?”  My friend whispered.

“I don’t know,” I replied, “but I’m going to tell them that I don’t like animals.”

“What???”  My friend’s eyes widened.  “You wouldn’t, would you?”

“Well, it’s the most memorable thing about me.”  Had there been an empty chair, she would have steered clear of me.  Guilt by association is always a painful thing.

We listened as the wwivves each described their admirable jobs as teachers, nurses, researchers, librarians, and managers, citing their interests in “knitting,” “being from Ohio,” “reading,” or “camping.”  Then, it was my turn.

“My name is Suzanne, and I have been married for less than a year.  I’m a full-time English major and just finished my junior year here at the university.” I very briefly hesitated, as if I were racking my feeble brain for a thought, “And…um… the most interesting thing I can tell you about me is that I don’t really much care for animals.”  I shrugged and crinkled my face in apology.

There was dead silence, a stunned “Did she really say that?” silence.  Then, there was polite laughter, and they moved on to the remaining women.  No one else launched a missile as explosive as “Gee, animal lovers, I don’t relate to animals,” but, as we stood to say our good-byes, women rushed over to ask me if I was serious.

“I didn’t grow up with pets and am very uncomfortable around them.  We have a dog, but I’m still not sure she’s not going to attack me at any moment.”

“Does she bite?”

“So far, just shoes.  And the sofa.  Her name is Fleurie.”

“What kind of dog, dear?” A faculty wife asked.

“A Sheltie,” I replied.

A Sheltie?”  There was more laughter.  “But Shelties don’t bite.  I thought you meant a Doberman.”

I shrugged.  My friend was standing off to one side looking mortified.  In fairness, my friend has put up with my nonsense for 42 years.  In fact, she, her Veterinarian, and I are going on vacation together next month.  But, I’ll tell you what.  No one ever forgot me, and, when the class graduated, I was awarded the “Outstanding Wife Award”, given by the Auxiliary to the American Veterinary Medical Association.  It’s a pretty little silver Revere bowl with my name engraved on it. They gave it to me because I wrote the class newsletter for three years, which is more than I get for writing this crappy blog.  I bet they don’t give the “Outstanding Wife Award” any more, either.

Veterinary medicine has been very, very, very good to me.  I’ve made hundreds of friends around the world, veterinarians, spouses, clients, and countless others in the veterinary industry.  I’ve also heard and seen the most disgusting things imaginable, usually during a fine meal in an expensive restaurant, with other diners staring, open-mouthed, in the background.  Veterinarians just can’t leave their work in the office.

Ever eaten lunch with a dead a cow?  I have.  Ever seen a dog whose owners, high on God-only-knows-what, tried to cut off its tail with a kitchen knife?  I have.  Ever seen an owl puke up a pellet?  I have.  Ever seen warbles wriggle under the skin of a rabbit?  I have.  Ever had a great blue heron try to spear your eyeball with its beak?  I have.  Ever seen an eight-foot long python relieve itself and fling it all over the exam room?  I have.  Ever had to throw a deranged woman out of your clinic because she wanted the doctor to collect semen from her vicious dog, who had just bitten the doctor before said activity could take place, so she could breed it to her even more vicious bitch?  I have, AND I tacked on a huge surcharge to her bill for bringing them in for such a stupid undertaking.  As the Veterinarian (who was not present during the visit) told her when she complained, “You have no business breeding these vicious dogs, and we’re not going to help you do it.”  Hard to know who the real bitch was.

The Daughter meets Hedwig in the clinic.

The Daughter meets Hedwig in the clinic. Hedwig recovered and was later released.

I’ve also held a bald eagle more than once (they’re surprisingly heavy), helped deliver puppies by C-section in the middle of the night (frequently), watched a dog’s heart beat in its open chest (more than once), seen many a joyous family reunited with a blocked cat they thought was a goner, and watched countless parrot chicks peck their way out a shell.  And how many brownie points can you earn by letting The Daughter hold one of your patients, a (sedated) real-life version of Harry Potter’s beloved snowy owl, Hedwig?  The poor thing had flown off course and ended up, malnourished, on a pier in Baltimore Harbor…the owl, that is.  The Daughter remains on course as of this writing.

DATE UPDATE: 

I’ve had some interesting conversations with a man I met online who teaches communication.  I actually invited him to read a good chunk of this blog, and he didn’t flinch!  As far as I can tell, he doesn’t think I’m insane.  I, on the other hand, am not so sure.  Read on.

Someone emailed me that he does “informal portrait photography as a hobby” and called my really tasteful profile photo “a terrific image.”  In his profile, he says that he enjoys “photographing freaks and hipsters at local festivals.”   Can’t he see that I’m “Outstanding Wife” material? Maybe he follows the blog.

The goofiest profile photo was of a garbage can with a duffle bag arranged over one side so that an American flag decal was displayed prominently.  In the lower right-hand corner, you can see what appears to be a man’s shoulder in a fluorescent green T-shirt and a human ear. That’s it.  No face. Maybe he should meet the portrait photographer.

Then, there’s a modest-looking man with a middle-aged woman wearing matching Hawaiian print shirts.  I don’t think it’s his mother.  Maybe she’s his daughter.  Maybe she’s his sister.  Maybe she’s his ex.  Who knows?  Who cares?  Sheesh.  If I have to ask…

The creepiest profile photo appears to be an 80-year old woman in an embroidered peasant blouse and the profile name “viciousprez.”  The written profile says he is 62 and a “widow/widower,” “athletic and toned,” last read “Holy Bible,” and “For Fun” he says, “I have two sides.”  Honey, that’s what bothers me.  In “Additional Photos,” he shows a couple shots of an attractive gray-haired man with his arms around the waist of a pretty blond and two more photos of the older lady.   I wrote, “All right, I have no sense and just have to ask.  What is going on in your profile?”  No one ever answers my emails, so I will probably never find out.  If I do, you’ll be the first to know.

But my absolute favorite was the photo of a 50-year old man who looked a lot like The Veterinarian did at 50.  I was stunned and took a closer look, not because in my wildest dreams do I think a 50-year old man would be interested in me, but because, in the selfie, taken behind the wheel of a car, my late husband’s doppelgänger is wearing a gold band on the third finger of his left hand.  I kid you not.  If I was braver, I would have saved the image and posted it here for all the world to see.  Maybe it is The Veterinarian’s doppelgänger, or more accurately, his zombie, because, certainly, a man who posts a selfie of himself wearing a wedding ring on a dating site is brainless.

A friend at church asked me if online dating is safe.  I told him much the same thing that I have written here and showed him a “like” that I had just received.  It showed a slight, obviously young (20-ish) man who described himself as a “54-year old former marine.”

“You can tell he’s a fake, right?”  I asked.  My friend was incredulous.

It’s time to update my own profile, I guess.  I’m going to polish up that tarnished Revere bowl and take a selfie of myself with it to prove that I’m certifiable.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!