“It Couldn’t Hurt” Cold/Cough Remedy

I know it’s only September, but the cold months are coming, and with them always comes coughs, colds and flu. Knock wood, the Crankee Yankee and I have not had a cold, cough, flu or bronchitis in over three years, and we credit that to our “It Couldn’t Hurt” cold and cough remedy.

You know how you suddenly feel that little tickle in the back of your throat that you know presages a cold? Here’s what stops it in its tracks for us:


tea tree oil

oregano oil

lemon oil

peppermint oil


Fill a mug with water, and add 5 drops each of the above oils. Stir and then put it in the microwave for a minute or so. Hold the steaming mug up to your nose and breathe in the vapors three times slowly through your nose, then do the same thing breathing through your mouth. Do this once an hour for 3-5 hours. Following that, you can repeat every two hours if you like. This remedy stays strong for 24 hours. You may also want to pick up a bottle of Elderberry and Zinc chewable lozenges (ours are from NOW products) as well.

Warning: it’s very strong, so breathe in slowly as it can make you cough. You may want to close your eyes as well so that they don’t water.

Usually one 24-hour treatment takes the tickle away and keeps us cold-free.

Also, chicken soup really does help as well. I’ve made gallons of it over the years, and will attest that we always feel better after having a mug or two of it. If you don’t feel like making your own, there are several brands of good chicken soup out there to try.

As with any homemade remedy, check with your doctor, especially if you are prone to flu, bronchitis, etc. Let’s all stay warm and healthy this winter!



Rudeness Begins at Home

As a baby boomer, I was raised in a time where personal technology didn’t exist. There were land lines, rotary phones; always black with a long curly cord. If you wanted to call someone, you dialed the operator first, gave her the number, and she got the call through. Also, no one I knew ever had more than one phone in the house.

In my house, I had to earn the privilege of using the family phone. I was ten years old before I was allowed to answer the phone. When I was given that right, I  was taught answer it in this way: “hello, Bullock residence; this is Jane. May I ask who is calling?” It was impressed upon me early on that the phone was not a toy.

Play time meant being outside playing tag, statues, Red Rover, checkers, marbles, dolls, climbing trees and making mud pies. Adults held all the cards, and you did what you were told. Kids had chores to do before they could go out and play, and at that time kids minded their elders and were taught manners, deportment and how to grow into a responsible adult.

If you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home as well. Kids were taught at an early age to toe the line OR ELSE.

But the biggest offense I can remember was being rude to someone, especially to an adult or older person. Parents told their children in no uncertain terms that adults were older and wiser (sadly this was not always true) and deserved our respect. And no kid I knew ever dared to talk back to their parents.

Needless to say, times have changed. Rudeness has become a sad normal, and it still shocks me to see how prevalent it has become. I can’t count the times I’ve heard grammar school kids shout obscenities to each other, and to teachers.  Rudeness has become so ordinary and accepted that often we don’t even realize the consequences of it until it is too late to change.

There are many ways of being rude, too. Years ago, I was in a doctor’s office for a physical. The nurse asked me all the usual questions, and then took down my height. Then, when she put me on the scale, she said, “Good GRIEF!!! Do you have rocks in your pockets or something? You certainly don’t LOOK that heavy!”

Well—didn’t that just make my day. I have to wonder whether people are intentionally rude or if they just plain don’t know any better. In the case of this nurse, I think she was trying to give me a compliment. It back-fired hugely.

I believe that, if we grow up in a household where everyone is rude and sarcastic, we accept that as normal. It seems sad that the usual response in traffic when you slow down to let someone else go ahead, the person behind you blasts their horn because you’ve caused them maybe a 5-second wait.

I think that rudeness is mainly frustration and wanting to be heard. By being rude to another person, it gives the one being rude a temporary feeling of ‘there! I got MY way for once!” I wonder if rudeness comes from not being listened to as a child. Maybe this is why so many people have a “me first, and the hell with all of you” attitude.

But there’s an upside to this; we can choose not to be rude. Habits can be hard to break, but it can be done. I decided a long time ago that changing my outlook on rudeness made my own life better. I began to believe that rudeness is just a habit, and that many times it’s an automatic response, meaning nothing.

The Southerners have a wise and gentle way of excusing rudeness which I appreciate. I lived in the Carolinas for a while, and admired this technique. It was as simple as this: when someone said or did something rude to another person, that person on the receiving end would say, “Well, *bless your heart!”

Over the years I’ve found this response will cut the rudeness right out from under someone. They can’t get mad, really, and they are not getting a rude or spiteful response to keep their fire stoked. So they inevitably just grumble off to be rude to someone else. For the time being, problem solved!

*This is common Southernese for “well, f*ck you!”

Desperation Marinara Sauce

This year, our tomatoes have gone wild. We have been eating so many of them that we are starting to smell like them. We planted Roma and cherry tomatoes, and I can’t count how many we’ve given away (gladly, too).

Each day we end up picking an enormous bowl of them, and I have filled six large freezer bags full of them. These days I am making loads of what I call “desperation marinara sauce” with them; I don’t want to waste all that produce.

Also, since our garlic, onions and peppers have also been prolific, they are added right in with the tomatoes. If you ever need a quick and delicious tomato sauce, this is what I’ve been making for weeks:


Lots of tomatoes, washed and chopped

Lots of *chopped onions, garlic and green peppers

1-2 T. of olive oil

1-2 cans tomato paste

a squirt of hot sauce if you like

2-3 T. agave or sugar

chopped basil leaves (feel free to use the dried kind)

chopped oregano leaves (ditto)

salt and pepper to taste

a few generous glugs of red wine

1-2 T. balsamic vinegar


In a large saucepan (or smaller if you’re going to make a smaller batch), heat the olive oil (medium heat). Drop in the chopped garlic, onions and peppers; stir. Let them soften up, and then add in the chopped tomatoes.

A word here about peeling the tomatoes: since our tomatoes are Romas, which are usually about a finger-length long, and cherries, the skins are quite thin, so I don’t bother. 

Stir everything and let the mixture heat and spread their favors around. Add in the hot sauce if you like, stir, and then add in the basil and oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir as needed; the mix is going to be chunky at this point.

Next, add in the agave or sugar. Why? Because tomato sauce can be acidic, and the agave (you use a lot less than with sugar, BTW) can give the sauce a bit of sweetness to balance it.

Depending on how much sauce you have, add in the tomato paste. Why? Because tomato paste gives the sauce more richness and body. Plus it tastes great.

Next, pour in the wine and stir. If you feel that the sauce is too lumpy, then just grab your potato masher and smoosh the lumps down. Stir and add in the balsamic vinegar, which gives the sauce a nice finish.

Try it on raviolis or whatever kind of pasta you enjoy. And it’s easy to freeze, too!

*Do yourself a favor and buy one of those chopper thingys. This is the kind I use:

Prepworks by Progressive Onion Chopper




On the Edge

On the edge of ready tears

I am still learning to face my fears—

Bad dreams and worry

Only make me hurry

To stand on my own

Never really alone

I have not lost my powers—

Even when I’ve lost hours

Of sleep, peace, hope, dreams—

The present time is not what it seems

Only a pass-through to the light

Where I can rest, and leave the fight

That weakens and holds me fast

To the grief of future, present and past—

This must end; it can’t go on

This will not be my swan song—

I’ve lived with this for far too long

I believe my heart will let go its pain

Let go its loss and hurt, and breathe again.

(Happy birthday, Dad; you would have been 93 today.)



We Love County Fairs

This is the time of year when there is a county fair going on somewhere. There are fairs for just about every interest, whether it’s livestock, racing pigs, food trucks, agriculture, seafood festivals, pickle fests, food and drink events, hot dog eating competitions, beer fests, chili cookoffs, and so on. Many of the fairs are in the fall, so you not only enjoy the fairs, but the fall foliage as well.

I don’t know what’s more fun, people watching, taking in all the competitions, the food, the sounds and smells; it’s all wonderful. Along with all these things is the knowledge that Fall is on the way, and the holidays are around the corner.

And the “fair food!” We tend to let our our healthy resolutions go on the day we attend the fairs. After all, when else can you enjoy the following:

  • corn dogs
  • deep-fried pickles
  • fudge
  • sausages grilled with onions and peppers
  • bacon-wrapped hot dogs
  • fried dough
  • clam rolls with homemade tartar sauce, made and served by the Ladies’ Auxiliary
  • freshly made french fries, drizzled in malt vinegar and salt
  • kettle corn
  • burgers and dogs prepared by the local Kiwanis Club
  • homemade whoopie pies
  • crispy onion rings, splattered with ketchup
  • homemade doughnuts
  • “Three Alarm” chili, made and served by the local firemen

…and each year, the list goes on and on. At most any fair, you can buy your sweetheart a genuine stainless steel pendant, engraved with both your initials in a heart, made “While U Wait.”

There are toys that the kids clamor for; the adults sighing as they pay for them, knowing that in less than a week, the item will be lost or broken. There are endless games, rides from the safe and pokey to the hair-raising, and so on.

Usually there is a band, playing their own music or popular tunes or old favorites. Sometimes there is a dance hall, where you can hold your sweetie close and dance all you like.

Always, there are games of chance, usually surrounded by teenage girls who desperately want their boyfriends to win them a huge stuffed animal. This is one of the many “trophies of love” that fairs are famous for. Triumphantly holding that enormous teddy bear is proof that teenage love is strong and mighty; that is, for as long as it lasts.

Best of all, as you stroll through the fair, idly munching on a paper cone of kettle corn, you can take in all the sounds and smells of the fair. While you may be wearing shorts, t-shirts and sneakers, you can feel the tingle of the cold to come in the air.

But for the day you go to the fair, whichever one it may be; it is eternal sunny fall, you are happy, and all your senses are filled up with the sounds, scents and magic of the fair.

Like life itself, it only lasts so long, so enjoy it all you can.


“That Cat Needs a Job!”

Years ago, Mom and I were writing together, reading to each other and laughing our heads off about ideas for children’s books. This was long after our children’s book, “Shopping at the Ani-Mall,” was published in 1991.

We always liked funny story lines, and came up with the following story about an unemployed cat. I hope you enjoy it.


That Cat Needs a Job!

Everybody said it: “That Cat needs a job! That Cat does nothing but eat, sleep, and stare at the wall. He clearly needs something to do.”

Having heard this for years now, That Cat thought it over. “Maybe they are right; perhaps I should get a job. I’ll take a look at the Classifieds in the newspaper today and see what jobs I should apply for. After all, how hard could it be?”

So after he had eaten his dinner, taken a long nap on the Classifieds, and stared at his wall for an hour or so, That Cat decided that this was the day he would get himself a job.

He applied for a job as a plumber’s assistant and was given a large wrench and a white cotton hat. He looked at himself in the shiny wrench and admired his new hat. However, after a whole day of leaky faucets and clogged-up drains, he realized that plumbing had too much to do with water, and he had never cared for water or wet paws.

Next, he found a job in a restaurant as a chef. He found that he loved cooking, and thought that this indeed might be his dream job. The only problem was that he put tuna in everything, even the chocolate pudding. The customers all said, “That Cat has got to go!” So that was the end of his cooking career.

Walking by an office building, That Cat noticed a Help Wanted sign. After a short interview, he was hired as a secretary. While he was very good at licking stamps and envelope flaps, he was clumsy using the computer. All his business letters looked something like this: “BimMVOT Sln so whymmmmmmmmmm #$%@!*&?*!” Needless to say, his employer didn’t care for that.

Some of That Cat’s friends suggested that, since he was so good-looking, he might be able to get a job on television. Sure enough, That Cat was hired as an anchor person on the nightly news for that very evening. Unfortunately, he chose to sit under the chair instead of on it, so all the people watching at home were puzzled by an empty chair reporting the news, and thought there was something wrong with their television sets. Needless to say, that Cat went off the air.

The next morning, That Cat followed some children to school, and decided he would be a teacher. Because the principal was away at a meeting in Cleveland, That Cat was able to teach for a whole week. All the children loved him. He taught them how to nap on top of their desks, chase bugs, and wash their faces. Even though he was fired, one of the mothers gave him a big kiss as she had never been able to get her son to wash his face.

“Perhaps I am not trying out just the right jobs for me,” That Cat said to himself over dinner that night. “I think I will try something completely different. After all, I am a cat and cats are very different than anyone else.” Satisfied with his decision, That Cat stared happily at his wall for a whole hour, and then took a long nap.

The next day, That Cat strolled into the circus that had come to town. He walked around and watched everyone working at their jobs and considered each one. First he saw the lion tamer with his whip and chair. Although That Cat admired the lion tamer’s shiny high boots and safari hat, he frankly thought that making a lot of big cats jump through hoops was beneath him.

The lady with the trained dog act bored him, and the clowns annoyed him, especially after one spritzed his tail with water from a big fake flower. He did like the ringmaster, who told everyone what to do. He was all set to ask for his job when he discovered that one of the duties of the ringmaster was to pay everyone. Since That Cat knew he wasn’t very good with numbers, he decided to look at some other circus jobs.

Finally he saw the bareback riders, trotting their ponies around and around the center ring, and doing all kinds of exciting tricks. He ran right up and asked for a job on the spot. They tried him out on one of the ponies, and, because of his superior sense of balance, he was quite good at bareback riding. He was performing wonderfully until in his enthusiasm he dug his claws into his pony’s back to get a better grip, and that was the end of his circus career.

That Cat decided he would try jobs that weren’t quite so glamorous, and went to work for the local telephone company. He was given a chair at a big switchboard with a lot of wires sticking out of it. While he enjoyed the comfortable chair, all those wires bothered his sense of neatness. He carefully tied all the wires together in a big bow, and, satisfied with his work, went to sleep in the comfortable chair.

Shortly after this, a lady trying to call her sister across town got a very angry man out of bed in another state. An old man calling the automobile club got the City Zoo instead, and the local police station kept getting calls about dance lessons. The problems were quickly traced to That Cat’s switchboard, where his big bow had mixed up all the calls. That day, That Cat was fired.

Undiscouraged, That Cat went to a large department store and got a job in the shipping room, where he was responsible for packing up items in boxes. There were hundreds of boxes in all sizes, rolls of string and plastic bubble wrap, and bins of plastic peanuts. He managed quite well on his first day, and packed up sets of dishes, ceramic angels, glass figurines, decorated baskets, and brass pots.

Then temptation got the better of him, and he had a fine time jumping in and out of the boxes, pulling all the string off the rolls, popping all the plastic bubble wrap, and scattering the plastic peanuts everywhere. Needless to say, he was asked to leave.

That Cat thought he might try his luck at selling. It looked easy enough; you just knocked on peoples’ doors and sold them things. He received his sample kit and looked it over. In it were dozens of toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste. That Cat never brushed his teeth or used dental floss, much less toothpaste, so he couldn’t understand why anyone else would. So he left the sample kit sitting on the sidewalk, and quit sales work then and there.

That Cat thought about jobs while he stared at his wall. As he washed his paws, he noticed a mailman delivering mail from door to door. He didn’t think that looked too hard, so he went to the post office to sign up. He was disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be a mailman right away, but first had to remove all the letters from the mailbags.

So he made the best of it, and spent the day happily digging all the letters out of every mailbag. Soon he had a nice big pile of empty mailbags, so he jumped up on top of them and went to sleep.

Later on, he was told that he was supposed to sort out the letters so that everyone would receive their mail. That Cat thought that was pretty stupid. All the cats he knew would have been delighted to receive a letter, and it wouldn’t have mattered what name was on it.

As he walked back to his wall, That Cat noticed a white truck with “FBI” in big blue letters printed on the side parked on his street. He wondered what the letters stood for, then decided it must mean Feline Bureau of Intelligence since he knew so many smart cats. He jumped up on the hood of the truck and tapped on the windshield with his paw. The startled driver stared at him for a moment, then opened the door. That Cat walked into the truck, and decided he liked what he saw, and asked for a job.

The driver explained that the truck contained lots of expensive spy equipment for listening to secrets. That Cat nodded; he knew all about secrets, having told many of them himself. The driver explained that, since That Cat was small, he might be able to work the tiny switches on the radar equipment in the truck. So he fitted That Cat with a tiny headset (which That Cat thought made him look very dashing indeed), and showed him how to work the switches.

Pretty soon That Cat was having a great time listening in on everyone’s phone conversations. He got so comfortable at it that he stretched out on the console, and in doing so, he accidently pushed the switch for the loudspeaker.

In a second, everyone’s conversations were blasted out over the neighborhood. The driver hastily grabbed That Cat, flipped the switch back, and put him firmly back outside on the sidewalk. That Cat watched as the white truck drove away, and said goodbye to another job.

That night That Cat watched television and saw the Major give a speech. All he did was stand in front of a big flag and talk. When he was done, he waved to everyone, and they waved back. He didn’t think that looked too difficult, so the next day he trotted down to the Major’s office and asked him for his job.

The Major was on his way out for a much-needed long weekend, so he told That Cat he could take over his job while he was gone. He figured that nothing much could happen over a weekend anyway.

That Cat loved the Major’s office. He settled into the Major’s nice brown leather chair, put his paws on the speaker phone and asked the secretary to please bring him a tuna sandwich and a glass of milk. Since the Major always yelled at her and made her run lots of errands all day and never said ‘please,’ the secretary was very happy to bring That Cat his lunch.

After finishing his sandwich and washing his face, That Cat noticed a very important-looking paper on the desk. The bottom part of the paper was empty, so he turned over
the Major’s inkwell, dipped a paw into the blue ink, and decorated the empty space with a neat line of his paw prints. That done, he took a long nap in the leather chair. When he woke up and stretched, he looked around for something else to do.

The longer he sat there, the more bored he became. So he called the Major’s secretary again, told her to give everyone the day off, and went home.

That Cat said to himself, “Well now, I have tried very hard to get a job, but so far not one of them has worked out. Worst of all, trying to get a job has kept me so busy that I have missed a great deal of naps. What’s the point of having a job that keeps me away from the things I like?”

After staring at his wall for two hours, That Cat decided that the jobs he was best at were these:

• Eating dinner
• Chasing bugs
• Washing
• Napping
• Staring at his wall

That Cat knew that no one could do those things as well as he could, so that’s exactly what he decided to do for work from then on. So the next time anyone said that he needed a job, he just smiled at them and told them that he was already hard at work.

Beauty Everywhere

I hope that you saw the sunset last night. I was driving home from visiting a friend, and the sunset was incredible. It was as if the sky was on fire; the clouds were tinted gold and saffron and fire-y pink against a china blue sky. It was, quite simply, amazing.

When I pulled up in the driveway, the Crankee Yankee was leaning on the bannister on the deck, gazing up at the sky. We both said, “wow! Some sunset, huh?” Then we both smiled and kept on looking up.

This time of year the leaves are turning their gorgeous autumnal colors. In what we call “the williwags” (the small ponds surrounded by trees and brush by the side of the road), the swamp maples are a deep garnet red. Many of the summer flowers are still blooming, and our neighbor’s red and pink roses are still magnificent. Even down around the pond where I walk is a riot of golden rod, orange-y jewel weed, milkweed pods bursting with silver-white fluff, ecru Queen Anne’s lace, blackeyed Susans, daisies, pink clover and more.

The pond itself is a deep azure blue, and the ducks and cormorants still bob on the surface, occasionally going under to snack on the foliage below. The turtles lie out in rows along the logs, blinking slowly as they soak up the warm sun. In the reeds by the pond’s edge there are always a few dignified long-legged blue herons, standing in the shallows and watching for lunch to swim by.

There are beautiful monarch butterflies everywhere now. I remember that during one of Mom’s and Dad’s summer vacations in Maine, there was a rare monarch butterfly migration. Mom said that they were everywhere, and it was really something to see. Dad told her that they looked like “Halloween kites.” I remember that each time I see one.

Our garden is still bursting with tomatoes and green peppers and small sweet ears of corn. The tomato patch looks like Aladdin’s cave of jewels; all rich reds and golds. The pepper vines are heavy with emerald green peppers, and still there are creamy white blossoms on the vines, signaling more to come.

A New England fall is a singularly beautiful time of year. No wonder all the city folk like to visit and take in the sights. Years ago, when Ruggles Mine in Grafton, NH was still open, a friend and I went up for the day. After we went through the mines, we found a sunny spot on one of the bluffs and stretched out in the sun. It was in the fall, and down in the valley the trees were all in full color. From where we were, it looked like endless scoops of red, yellow, orange, umber and gold.

During this beautiful season, be sure to look around. Take in the sights, smell the flowers while they are still blooming, check out the trees for colors, and look up at the stars at night against a velvety deep blue sky. It’s a feast for the senses, so eat it up while you can!

People Who Talk to Themselves

Don’t get me wrong; I talk to myself all the time. When I’m at home, I can tell myself that I am only talking to the cats—even when they are sleeping. But I don’t always do it out in public; at least not so much.

However, I notice that a lot of people DO talk to themselves in public, and loudly, too. Once I was in a bathroom stall at work, and two stalls over I could hear a woman muttering to herself. Now she had to have heard me open the door and walk in. But there she was, talking away. At one point she exclaimed loudly, “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!” I did not want to know what that was all about.

While food shopping, I hear a lot of people muttering to themselves. I would, too, if I didn’t bring a list of stuff I need. But for the times when I forget to bring the dang list, I have to quickly make up a mnemonic so I can remember what I need, such as ASPIRINS:

  • Apples
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanuts
  • Iodine
  • Rice
  • Ice cream
  • Nasal spray
  • Soap

Of course, even using that, I have to keep muttering ‘aspirins, aspirins’ to myself.

Then there are those people who not only talk out loud to themselves, but they look right at you while they’re doing it. I can never figure out if they are really talking to me or just using me as a sounding board.

All this talking to oneself thing seemed to me to happen around the time of Blue Tooth technology. I would see people talking animatedly, with no one around. Once I saw their earpiece, I knew that they were not crazy, just plugged in.

Like anything else, talking to ourselves becomes a habit; it becomes so ingrained that we don’t even know we’re doing it. In my case, I often have to go into “public mode” when I leave the house so that I don’t start yapping to myself.

Back when I was living in the Carolinas, I noticed that a lot of people talk to themselves. Even when you catch their eye, they don’t look a bit ashamed; they just go right on with their one-way conversation. Early on, I was still too Yankee to appreciate the difference of living in the south. But you get used to it, even to the point where you sometimes answer back to the talker, or at least make a joke about it with them.

If anyone reading this used to watch “Designing Women” back when, you will remember the fabulous Delta Burke, who played Suzanne Sugarbaker. In one episode, the women were talking about craziness in general, and someone said that, in the North, they hide their crazy relatives away so that no one knows about them.

Suzanne just laughed and said, “well, here in the South we-all are proud of our crazy people. In fact, we put ’em right out on the front porch so that everyone can see them!”

Talking to oneself out loud in public does not always mean that the talker is crazy or off their meds. Sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism like rattling keys or whistling (the latter is my own coping mechanism; I whistle soft and low and try not to look nuts when I’m doing it).

The older I get, the more I notice things like this. I realize more than ever that we all are just trying to get through the day, and we all have our own ways of doing it.

So to all if us who sometimes talk out loud in public places, occasionally or all the time; I say this: “crazy is as crazy does.”