Sometimes a Smile Can Be Your Defense

We’ve all experienced it; as the holidays grow closer, the shopping becomes more frenzied. The pressure: get everything just right, make the best Christmas dinner, get the Christmas cards out in the mail, buy the right gifts, wrap them, send them, etc. And the list goes on.

Each time I go to my grocery store, I can feel the tension in the air as people start looking for the best turkeys, prime rib, hams, etc. People clutch their lists and mumble to themselves as they move from aisle to aisle. The stress is palpable.

Many folks have just come from work, and are frantically shopping for the evening meal or are stocking up on treats for Christmas stockings. Everyone looks stressed and more than a little cranky. It may be the time of year when the world falls in love (as the song says), but more often it’s more crabbiness in the air than peace on earth, good will toward men.

I took me years to figure this out, but I have perfected the “defensive smile” for days like this. So what exactly is a defensive smile? It is a relaxed and ‘I’ve got this covered’ smile; one that may diffuse someone’s frustration while they are waiting, ticket in hand, to order their sliced ham, cheese, turkey, etc. at the deli counter. Since someone with an actual smile on their face is relatively rare in situations like this, it often makes other people smile.

Oh, of course there are going to be the Crabby McCrabbensteins who want to know what in the hell you are smiling about, but fortunately, they are in small numbers. Another plus for the defensive smile is that it is calming for the smiler. Knowing that I am smiling makes me feel calm. The smile works both ways, you see.

The defensive smile is also great to use at the checkout. Usually I have only about 18-20 items in my cart, so I go in the 20 items or less aisle to pay. Often there are folks who get behind me and only have a few things, so I tell them to go ahead of me. I’m not in any hurry, and it tickles me when the surprised person says, ‘really? It’s ok with you?’ I tell them that the delay is only keeping me from housework. And then we both smile.



The Kind of Day to Curl Up or Cook

There is something about a cold (well, frigid) day. The sun can be out, but the wind is cold. Your heaviest parka isn’t enough to keep all that cold wind from digging its icy fingers down your neck and into your socks. You’d like to go for a walk, but you fear you would turn into a creaking, cracking human-sicle if you did.

So, what instead? A good book and a cup of strong coffee with maybe a cookie to go with it? Wrapping Christmas gifts early? Brushing your pets (who make it pretty clear that they don’t wish to be brushed)? For me, it’s usually cooking.

Funny, when I was living with my parents, Mom would beg me to cook with her. At the time, I had zero interest in it. I knew it would have made her happy if I shared her love of cooking, but at the time it wasn’t anything I was interested in doing.

But that was then, this is now. These days I really enjoy cooking. Yesterday was definitely a day to make shepherd’s pie, one of the Crankee Yankee’s favorites. Mine, too, actually. I had all the ingredients; ground lamb, potatoes, onions, carrots, creamed corn (personally I like the touch of sweetness it adds), beef broth, and so on. It’s just one of those hearty and delicious dishes that are perfect for a cold day.

I also enjoy baking; bread, cookies, brownies, pies, apple crisp, and so on. Then there are the holiday favorites, such as my grandmother’s seafood chowder. We always called it “Christmas chowder,” because it was always the Christmas Eve supper. My grandmother would save coins and one dollar bills throughout the year in order to buy all the expensive ingredients for that chowder; lobster, crab, oysters, clams, fish, scallops, shrimp and a small bottle of good sherry.

It was a tradition that we all loved. On the cold dark of Christmas Eve, the icy stars winked and glittered as we drove to my grandparents’ house. When we walked in, the heavenly scent of that chowder warmed us to our bones. Along with it was my grandmother’s homemade watermelon pickles, and Mom’s homemade Parker House rolls.

So, this being another bright but cold day, it’s another excuse to cook, bake, or just curl up with a good book and a cat on my lap. Today’s lunch will be the heart-warming chicken soup I made a few days ago, with a side salad made with cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet onions and a sprinkle of feta cheese.

As my late great mother-in-law would have said about the chicken soup, “it couldn’t hurt!”



Savage Amusement

“Savage amusement” is what the Crankee Yankee and I call something or some situation that’s funny to us, but possibly not for someone else. It might have been Lou Costello (of the famous comedy duo, Abbott and Costello) who broke down comedy and tragedy in this way:

“So there’s a guy walking down the street, not noticing that there is a banana peel on the sidewalk. He slips on it, and falls hard on his back. That’s comedy. But if the same thing happens to me, it’s tragedy.”

I’ll admit that savage amusement is pretty snarky, but I find that, the older I get, the more snarky I get. I think it comes with age. Think of it this way; you spend your childhood and young adulthood being respectful to everyone, even the ones who treat you badly. That’s because you were raised to be nice to people.

But when you get older, you often find that ‘nice’ isn’t always how you want to be. There are times when the snarky gene kicks in, and you stop worrying about what people think of you—you just go for it.

For example, my mom got funnier as she got older. Sometimes she would say things that made me say, “MOM! How could you say that?” Then she would shrug and say, “I’m old, I can say what I want; who’s going to stop me?” (Not me, for sure!)

She once called me about something she read about smallpox. It said that, should smallpox came back with a vengeance, it would probably kill everyone under 30 on the planet. To which she said, “how bad would that be?”

She told me to never tell anyone that she had said such an awful thing; and of course I told everyone. And everyone laughed their heads off about it.

Ah, savage amusement; it’s not for everyone. But the Crankee Yankee and I are at an age where we can pretty much say whatever the hell we want to; it’s the privilege of being older. Moohahahahaha!

What’s For Breakfast?

We in America do love our breakfasts. It can be eggs and bacon with a side of hashbrowns, pancakes with sausage, waffles smothered in fruit, cereal, grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, leftovers, pastries; you name it, we’ll eat it for breakfast.

Just for fun, I took a digital tour of some of the world’s breakfasts (from Quorum):

In China: a typical breakfast in eastern China can include items like dumplings, rice in vegetable soup, fried sponge cake, steamed creamy custard bun, and porridge.

A typical breakfast in Guyana is bake and saltfish. Saltfish is whitefish preserved in salt, and bake is bread dough, fried.

In Iran a typical breakfast consists of sweet black tea, bread, butter, feta cheese, and sometimes fresh fruit and nuts.

A French breakfast includes tea, coffee, juice, or hot chocolate, with bread and butter or pastries.

Japanese breakfasts fall into two categories: Wafuu (traditional) and youfuu (Western). A typical Wafuu breakfast has rice, fish, miso soup, sticky soy beans, and nori seaweed. A typical youfuu breakfast has buttered toast, eggs, coffee, and potato salad.

A traditional Polish breakfast is scrambled eggs topped with kielbasa (a sausage) and potato pancakes.

A common South Indian breakfast is idli and sambar, a vegetable stew served with steamed lentil and rice bread. Also popular is dosa, a thin crunchy crepe with a spicy potato filling.

In Turkey, breakfast consists of cheese, olives, honey, jam, bread, an omelette, and fruit.

A typical Philippine breakfast consists of bread rolls and coffee. Tapsilog (rice with dried meat and a fried egg) is also common.

And so it goes; to each his own. The Crankee Yankee and I often have leftovers for breakfast, and I suspect that many others do as well.

To finish out this breakfast post, I hope that you will enjoy the lyrics from the Texas-based singing duo, Trout Fishing in America. Here is their famous “Breakfast Blues” song:

“You give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
Yeah, you give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You just hot buttered grits your teeth and bear it girl,
I doughnut love you no more.
(Now don’t get that glazed look on your face!)
Ham bacon you to leave me,
I never sausage misery.
Ham bacon you to leave me, darlin’,
I never sausage misery.
Well, you treated me so ungrapefruitly,
You gave me a raisin to be free.
Well, what do you Eggs Benedict me to do now?
I’ve got muffin else to say.
Yeah, what do you Eggs Benedict me to do now?
I’ve got muffin else to say.
Yeah, you left such a waffle toast in my mouth,
You biscuit out of town today.
(You know I ain’t gonna keep those home fries burning for you.)
You give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You give me hard eggs in the morning,
Cheese omelet you go.
You just hot buttered grits your teeth and bear it girl,
I ain’t gonna quiche you any more
(Jelly roll it again?)”


*From BuzzFeed

The Case for Adopting Older Pets

I have had a lot of cats in my life and not one of them was a kitten. I’ve always had older cats, and they are wonderful. I know that a lot of people worry that adopting an older pet may mean high costs if the pet is sick, needs special meds, and so on. Of course, that can happen, but not always.

But here’s the flip side of adopting an older pet: they are all grown up, they have their own routines, and they are far less likely to climb curtains, unroll all the toilet paper, pee on the floor, and so on. They seem to understand that they have been given a second chance.

While older pets enjoy playing with toys and love chasing the light from an LED pointer (remember, NEVER point the red light in their eyes), they will eventually calm down and sleep until the next meal time.

In the shelters, too many people overlook the older pets. When I lived in San Antonio, TX, I went to a shelter which was beautifully kept, and all the animals there were healthy and well cared for. A black cat with one crooked ear caught my eye, and I asked about her.

It turned out that she had been in the shelter for over four years! I asked why, and was told that she was usually passed over because of that crooked ear and two long incisers. But I thought that she was adorable. Long story short, I brought her home with me. Her shelter name was Blackie (I know; how original!), and I had her for fifteen years. She was a wonderful, affectionate and loving cat, and loved to sleep beside me at night.

So the next time that your heart longs for a pet, do look at the older animals. Chances are that they are loving and sweet companions who would be quite grateful for a safe home and a family who loves them. You won’t be sorry.

Surprised by Capella

Just the other night, the Crankee Yankee and I were driving around dusk. We noticed a winking star in the sky, and we also noticed that it flashed red and green. So we thought it might be a plane or <insert spooky music here> something else…perhaps an observer from another planet?

We have had discussions over the years about aliens, outer space, and whether or not we humans had assistance from unearthly beings who may have helped us on our way. We often talk about the pyramids, Stonehenge, the Easter Island figures, and much more. We believe that we probably had help from others more advanced than we were at that time in history. We also believe that there must be many other sentient beings on other planets as well. It’s all fascinating.

We were pretty intrigued with the winking star, and, as we both are interested in things like this, we looked up what this interesting something might beTurns out that what we saw was a star named Capella. I looked up the information about Capella on EarthStar. Here it is:

“Capella is the brightest star we see at night of the same spectral type, or color, as our daytime star, the sun.

Like our sun, Capella appears as a yellow or golden star. It is the brightest yellow star visible in our sky – much bigger and brighter than our sun in absolute terms, but of course much farther away, about 42 light-years in contrast to the sun’s 8 light-minutes.”

“Science of star Capella. Like so many stars that appear single to the eye, Capella actually consists of two stars. Capella A and Capella B, as they’re called, are similar to each other, both roughly 10 times the sun’s diameter. They emit about 80 and 50 times more overall light than the sun, respectively. Another component to this system, a binary of small red stars, orbits about a light-year away.”

“Capella is the brightest star in a five-sided star pattern, which we know as the constellation Auriga the Charioteer. Capella is the Latin word for ‘nanny goat,’ and this lovely star is often called the Goat Star.”

Pretty cool, isn’t it? It certainly gladdened our little alien conspiracy-theoried hearts!