Cherries!

July 30, 2011

One of the best things about summer is the appearance of The Cherries. Those beautifully colored  dark red Bings and those gorgeous yellow and red blush Rainiers arrive in July and delight us for the entire month. Then, when the dog days hit they disappear for another year leaving us with only the memories of their complete, tasty cherriness.

I love cherries. Every summer, I look forward to their arrival and make visits to all the markets seeking out the freshest, tastiest cherries I can find. They are at their very best slightly chilled and eaten in their natural state. I have a pitter, and that works well, but you lose some of the juice with the pit. So, I prefer to bite them right off the stem and then use my teeth to negotiate the pit. My granddaughter, Kate can  tie the stem into a knot with her tongue. I can’t. But I can pretend to be eight again and see how far I can spit the pit.

Cherries  also make delightful additions to sauce or chutney accompaniments to all kinds of meats,  game and seafood. Have you ever had grilled, smoky prawns with spicy, cherry chutney?  

Of course,  after dinner for dessert, the cherries effect on vanilla ice cream is without equal.

My love for cherries goes back to when I was a kid and first tasted them on my uncle’s farm.  Since then, I have eaten cherries at sea and on four continents. My favorite cherry experiences have occurred  in Italy where they serve them very cold, very fresh and  sitting on ice chips; then  of course there are the unparalleled Washington State cultivars of the Pacific Northwest.

Cherries also deserve some credit for saving me during my sailing days when I was “lost” in the Caribbean Sea with only a  box of cherries I had bought in Key West  to sustain me. I am forever grateful for having those delicious orbs which kept me healthy and in good spirits during those weeks at sea.

Not only can cherries save your life when lost at sea, they are very healthy anytime.  Cherries contain anthocyanins, which give them their red color. Anthocyanins help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and can help protect against circulatory problems. Cherries have high levels of antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals in your body that damage cells.

It is not often you get to have something that tastes so good and is really good for you.

Cherries, you are just cherry!

OK, it’s hot.

 Everybody knows it is hot. It’s summer and it is SUPPOSED to be hot. Why then do these inane weather people insist on making everything so complicated just to tell us it is hot?

In the olden days,  before there was air conditioning, summers were really hot and you knew they were really hot. If the weather girl (yes,  they had weather girls back then) said it was 95, then you had some measure of heat, but you still knew it was hot.

If it seemed hotter for some reason, people would say, ” it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Now, not only do we have the heat and the humidity, we also have the heat index, the dew point, UV alerts and a bunch of  heat warnings and advisories. I was looking at a weather map the other day and I got so confused with all the heat related numbers and color codings, I almost got heat stroke.

Actual  at the time readings…  

St. Louis Temp 92;  Heat Index 102

New York Temp 80;  Heat Index 91

Miami Temp 88;  Heat Index 103

I think all these extra indices and warnings  the weather people add in an effort to make their jobs sound more important just confuse people. I know I get confused. Why do they give us two numbers to worry about???  I know it is hot in St. Louis whether it is 92 degrees or 102 heat index. Having two numbers requires twice the work to remember them, therefore you are working twice as hard. That extra work makes  you even hotter! 

The best weather forecaster I ever knew was this old Italian man from the Hill in St. Louis.  His name was  Joe Galatti and he had a fondness for Little Debbie chocolate cakes. Joe and his sons were tuckpointing my house one summer about 25 years ago.  Every morning before I would leave for work, I would chat with Joe about the progress of the project and how the weather was affecting it. If it was going to be hot,  he would say,

” It is going to be in the high 95’s today.” 

When Joe  said the temperature was going to be in the high 95’s I just knew they would quit work early.

Too bad today’s weather people could not be so clear and concise in their assessments of the weather.

Mr. Joe Galatti’s thermometer showing the temperature in the high 95’s.

Timeouts

July 26, 2011

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as Timeouts. If you misbehaved or otherwise crossed the line to deserve the wrath of your parents, you got a swift smack across the butt.

For major infractions, you received the dreaded, “Just wait till your father gets home” admonishment. That one struck terror in your heart. Not only did you have to sit around and wait for your punishment like some condemned Devil’s Island inmate, but when punishment was finally dealt it was usually severe and involved a belt or tree branch.

The closest thing we got to timeouts was being grounded for some specified period of time such a weekend.

Beginning sometime in the 1980’s, beatings went out of style and were replaced by timeouts. Nowadays, if you are a parent and employ corporal punishment, you could go to jail yourself,  so timeouts  have become the correction method of choice.

Last week I got my first timeout.

The incident occurred when I was playing with my grandson, Bennett Woodrow. We were doing some catch me if you can type game when I got hold of him and did not let go right away. Well, Bennett did not like this change in the game so he squawked a bit and cried out for his mother. I let him go and he ran across the room to Aimee where he turned and gave me the small eyes look.  Although, there is more than 60 years difference in our ages, I was able to get to his level and bark,

“Go ahead, go to mama you big baby.”

Well, you would have thought I blasphemed the name of the Creator himself, as mouths dropped open and the collective breath was sucked out of the room.

“Papa! We do not permit name calling.” Came his mother’s admonishment.

I started to defend my words but there was no chance. I thought, well OK at nearly three,  maybe he is not a baby anymore, but he is at least a toddler if not a pre schooler.

Too late.

Aimee pronounced summary judgement and said, “Papa, two-minute timeout for name calling.”

Bennett  was all too eager to point out his own timeout chair, which he invited me to use, but I elected to stay in my own chair and agreed not to call him a baby anymore.

Having been publicly humiliated, I served my sentence in silence.

Later, I achieved some degree of satisfaction, when Bennett himself was given a timeout for a minor infraction of the rules.  We then become bonded brothers in our timeouts.

Bennett Woodrow serving his sentence.

The Intervention

July 24, 2011

I have sometimes seen “interventions” played out on TV programs or in one of the few movies I have watched, but I never actually participated in one until the other day. It did not start out as an intervention per se, but just a casual conversation. We were a few minutes into the discussion when I realized to my distress that the intervention was about ME!

It was a sort of spontaneous intervention promoted by Trudy and Wendy. Two people who, up to that point, I believed  were among my staunchest supporters.  However, before I could gather my wits about me, my major faults were being assessed and pointed out  by them in extreme graphic fashion.

Now, you should know that this intervention was not about the usual obsession subjects such as drugs, alcohol, gambling etc. I am sure, I could have taken that tonic better. No, this was about my alleged grumpiness and impatience.

Well, I can tell you that I was shocked to find out that I was considered grumpy, too critical and lacked all manner of patience. Ok, I admit it that I am at times a curmudgeon. But I always tried to be curmudgeonly in the very best sense.

As for being too critical and impatient, I think there is fine line between assessing reality and being too critical. Situations in life are what they are. For example, if you are pressed for time say, for your hair care appointment and some oblivious bozo is driving 20 MPR in front of you, chatting about nothing on a cell phone, I think that is cause for a tiny bit of impatience.

Likewise,  if some grizzled, pushy old lady bulls her way ahead of you at the Deli counter and proceeds to order a dozen quarter pound slices of  different kinds of cold cuts, a 1/2 a cup of cottage cheese and a sliced kosher pickle, I think one has the right to be a smidge critical, especially when she sniffs the pastrami as says it is too fatty. Hey Lady, could you pass a test like that?

All of these and other of  life’s irritants notwithstanding, my severe “intervention” has caused me to pause and reflect on my harsh ( but I thought accurate)  assessments of my fellow citizens which have occurred at random moments during my life. 

Therefore, I pledge that I will try to be more tolerant of persons who appear dim-witted and annoying to me. I will certainly try to have  more understanding and a patient regard for self centered  foolish individuals.

This is my pledge.

……unless I am provoked.

Red Rocks

July 22, 2011

Red Rocks is a group of 280 million year old sandstone monoliths located near the town of Morrison, Colorado. The seismic events creating these gigantic stone structures formed them into an acoustically perfect natural amphitheater. The largest of its kind in the world.

In the early 20th century this natural setting was  enhanced to provide concert seating for about 9500 people. Over the years, hundreds of concerts have been held at Red Rocks with audiences hearing such diverse musical groups as John Denver,  Pat Boone, The Beatles and Jethro Tull.

Rock Groups are a big part of Red Rocks! (Sorry, I could not resist that.)

We visited Red Rocks the other day to give The Petits a taste of history,  geology and music.

Kate, (age ten) who is somewhat of an amateur geologist found the whole setting breathtaking and began collecting some sandstone samples for her impressive personal collection. I cautioned her however against using her rock hammer to chip away pieces from the standing monolith.

Sydney (age thirteen) on the other hand was a bit more underwhelmed in her assessment.

” I don’t get it. What’s the big deal about a bunch of big, old rocks?” 

After I explained to her the history and the natural beauty and wonder of the surroundings, she replied, ” Ok, the rocks are kinda cool, but it’s not like there is a mall here or anything.”

I tried to mitigate the sting by responding, “Well, they do have a gift shop.”

Good grief!

Sydney and Kate. Cool Rocks but where’s the Mall?

Some Summer Fun

July 20, 2011

The great Rocky Mountain road trip continues with a visit to Boulder, a little city with a big college campus. Home of the University of Colorado and a lot of people still caught, for better or worse in the costume and culture of the 1960’s, Boulder is an interesting spectacle and an eye-popping experience on a Saturday afternoon.

We enjoyed a light lunch at the Dushanbe Tea House. The iced herbal strawberry lemon twist was especially refreshing. The delightful herbal essence and the calm ambiance of the restaurant almost made me wish I had brought my yoga mat. Almost.

After lunch we mingled with the street people and street performers, with all the kids getting those balloon animals that twist together.

Then while everyone else watched a contortionist wiggle and squeeze into a shoebox, I sat on the park bench and listened to a nearby  unfortunate soul argue with himself. I think he lost the argument too.

Later that same day, saw massive amounts of swimming and squealing by young and old alike and the setting sun produced some tired but happy campers.

After a day of swimming, eating BBQ and enjoying ice cream the summer fest continued with a movie, sans Miss Ellie, who had the good sense to retire for the night.

Curious George

July 18, 2011

Last weekend, I was sitting in a  hotel lobby in Denver with Sydney and Kate having a coffee, when this elderly man happened by and sat in the chair next to me.  He was about 80 years old and walked with a shuffle and carried a well-traveled cane. He had a blue shirt and a  patterned tie that was held in place with a gold tie clip. Shortly after his creased khaki pants hit the leather,  his wife came by and issued the man his instructions.

“George, stay here until I come back and get you.”

“OK ,” George answered obediently.

George, looked over at me and said, “We’re from Jersey.”

He did not specify if  it was “Old Jersey or New Jersey” but I suspected it was the new kind because of his accent.

“We are going to a wedding today.” He added.

He seemed like a friendly, chatty type of guy so we  talked about nothing for a little while and then I introduced my granddaughters to him.

I said, “George, these are my granddaughters, Sydney and Kate. We are here visiting their cousins.”

George then wanted to give us all the details of his family’s trip from Jersey to the Rockies, but his words kept coming back to discussing the wedding. The wedding by George I just wanted to say!

He confided that he was very concerned it was going to be too hot for him because  the wedding was being held outside and there were no trees to provide shade. He further explained he just had a piece of skin cancer removed from his face and he picked at it to show me the evidence.

I advised George that he should get an umbrella to shield himself from the sun.  He thought that was a terrific idea, and got up and shuffled off to find some sort of  umbrella protection.

Somewhat surprised, Sydney said, ” Gee, George did not even say good-bye.”

I told her, George had a lot on his mind.

A few minutes passed and Mrs. George returned to collect her husband.  Observing the vacant seat next to me, she muttered, ” Now where did he get to?” I was about to answer her demand, but she breezed out the door before I could get a word passed my lips.

Sydney remembering his shuffle and cane said calmly, ” He could not have gotten far.” But, but a quick search showed that he was gone, nowhere to be seen.

Reminding me that I was the cause of George’s sudden disappearance, Sydney then announced cheerfully for all to hear,

” An Amber Alert has been issued for George, and it is all Papa’s fault.”

Oh, brother.