Categories
Family Food

Cake

The National Day Today calendar tells me that it’s National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was my father’s favorite. He’d always request it on his birthday, and we’d cheerfully oblige.

I’m not sure why he liked it so much; his food preferences tended toward plain vanilla (literally – that was his favorite flavor of ice cream). He was also reluctant to step outside of familiar traditions, so you’d think that he’d favor something more classic, such as a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But every year, he wanted Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, and that’s what he’d get.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake can be a bit tricky to make. The recipe isn’t complicated, but the final step, the part where you flip the pan over to release the baked cake topped with the gooey melted butter-sugar-pineapple mixture, doesn’t always go as planned. My dad didn’t care too much about what his cake looked like, however. If some of the “good stuff” got left in the warm pan, he’d happily scoop it out with a spoon, smiling as he enjoyed each tasty, candied bite.

Here’s to Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, birthday traditions, and sweet memories of celebrating with the people we love.

Categories
Animals Nature

Thief

We’ve been robbed.

There were two strawberries in our garden, almost ready for picking. Now, there is only one.

I suspect that the culprit has brown fur and a bushy tail and lives in the trees surrounding our house. I also suspect that he’ll be back for the one he left behind.

It’s a bit disappointing not to be able to enjoy the fruit that’s grown in our backyard, but I’ll get over it. I simply can’t stay mad when cute and clever animals are involved.

I do hope he leaves our grapes alone, however. We have plenty of kale; he can have that instead.

Categories
Good Nature People

Treasure

Yesterday, I came across a story about a woman, Flora Blathwayt, who collects bits of plastic trash from the banks of the River Thames and various beaches in England. She cleans the trash thoroughly and then adds it in creative ways to greeting cards that she’s designed. On the back of each card she creates, she lists the location where the plastic was found.

Ms. Blathwayt’s hobby has turned into a business, Washed Up Cards. Her business has sustained her, emotionally and financially, during a furlough from her job.

She’s not just using her skills and imagination to make money, however. She’s also bringing awareness to the issue of plastic waste in rivers and oceans. She’s supporting the sustainability movement and it, in turn, is supporting her.

To learn more about Washed Up Cards, you can visit her Etsy site at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/washedupcards/ .

Here’s to those, like Flora Blathwayt, who use their creative talents to turn trash into treasure. They help to make the world a better place, one small bit at a time.

Categories
Life

98.6 F

I’ve never been more aware of my temperature than during this past year.

It seems that everywhere I go, somebody asks to scan my forehead to confirm that I’m fever-free. I understand; it’s a necessary step in these pandemic times. Like giving up handshakes, it’s just part of how things work now. But it means that 98.6 F is never far from my mind.

On top of that, I’ve taken my own temperature many times since the start of 2020, more than I ever recall doing in all the years before. Every time I felt a little achy, I’d whip out the thermometer. Most of the time, I’d breathe a sigh of relief at the “normal” results. At one point, however, the numbers were elevated, and they stayed that way for a while, signaling that my days of avoiding COVID-19 were over.

Then, after my vaccine, the fever returned for a short time. It was both discouraging and satisfying to see the numbers rising; a strange mix of relief that the medicine was doing its job and frustration at feeling rotten while the antibody army marshaled its forces.

I’ve learned something interesting through these measurements. 98.6 F is not my “normal.” My normal is lower than that; quite a bit lower, actually. Reading up on it, I’ve discovered that many people are like me. The 98.6 F mark represents some, but not all, of the fever-free folks among us.

This is not information I would have paid much attention to pre-pandemic. Even now, it’s not that big of a deal, but it is nice to know. Like masks and social distancing and vaccines, it’s become a familiar tool, influencing my decisions and minimizing the worry that can come from being unaware.

Here’s to the ability to adapt to new circumstances, to accept new information, learn from it, and apply it to the situation at hand.

Categories
Life Nature

Patience

Today’s cuppa reminds me to be patient.

Patience is not one of my strengths, but like most grownups, I’ve taught myself to act patiently in situations that require restraint and self-control. I stand quietly in lines, accept the reality of traffic, and allow for the fact that things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, I whine and complain and huff and puff, but most of the time, I’ve learned to manage my feelings and behave myself.

Growing a backyard garden is testing me, however.

The weather has been amazingly perfect, and our plants are thriving. We have teeny-tiny tomatoes, and zucchini, and cucumbers. We have four itty-bitty grape clusters and six or seven blackberries sprouting on their vines. There’s one strawberry shifting in color from green to red and several others that are not quite there but will be soon. The kale plants are enormous, and the pepper plants are blooming, promising a bumper crop.

Every morning, and several more times throughout the day, I inspect the garden. Seeing the baby fruits and veggies is thrilling. But then, my impatience takes over, and I lament the fact that it’s taking so long for everything to grow.

The plants are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, of course. The growing timetable is right on track. It’s my frustration that’s the problem.

Impatience isn’t helpful; eagerness isn’t an effective fertilizer. And so, I do my best to focus on the fun of watching the progress, slow as it is, and celebrate each milestone. Soon enough, we’ll have a full-grown bounty. In the meantime, each day is an opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I’ll admit, however, that I sometimes whisper, “Hurry up, we’re waiting” to the leafy, blooming stalks and vines. I don’t want them to assume they have all the control in this situation. Somebody’s got to remind them that this is a group project.

Here’s to patience and to the rewards that come from giving things time to become what they’re meant to be.

Categories
Life People

Tools

It’s Anne Lamott’s birthday.

I don’t always agree with everything she’s written or said. More often than not, however, I find myself nodding in affirmation, feeling connected to her words.

Like this, for example:

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said, ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

Happy birthday to a woman who’s brave enough to embrace her humanness and forgive imperfections, even as she strives to do better. Her generous words are in my toolbox, helping me on this ongoing journey of doing the best I can.

Categories
Animals Fun Nature

Scurry

Yesterday, as I was watching the antics of a group of squirrels that live in our backyard trees, I realized that I didn’t know what to call them in their collective state. So, I looked it up.

A group of squirrels is called a “scurry.” Based on the way the squirrels in my yard were acting, this is an apt description.

After that, I became curious about the collective names for other groups of animals, birds, and bugs. So, I did some more investigating and found some delightful and amusing descriptions. These are a few of my favorites: A group of giraffes is a tower. A group of jellyfish is a smack. Zebras in a pack are called a zeal. And, a collection of ladybugs is called a loveliness.

Here’s to the fun of language and to watching the scurry of furry tree rodents that live in my backyard.

Categories
Fun Life

Classics

Today is Francis Ford Coppola’s birthday, which reminds me that I’ve never seen The Godfather.

I’ve also never seen Rocky or Casablanca. In fact, although I love movies and have seen many, there are quite a few classic films on my “never watched” list. There’s no particular reason that I haven’t seen them; I don’t have an aversion to watching them. I just haven’t done it.

So, I’ve decided that is something I will remedy. I will fill the gaps in my motion picture awareness. It’s a somewhat frivolous goal, but goals don’t always have to be about serious objectives. Life should include a bit of fun.

Given the many streaming sources and classic tv channels out there, it should be relatively easy to find the movies on my list. The next steps are coordinating my schedule and stocking up on more popcorn.

Here’s to the classics and making time to see what you’ve been missing.

Categories
Life Nature

Woodpecker

There’s a Woodpecker that visits a couple of trees in our backyard every morning. He spends hours tapping away at the branches.

Most of the time, it’s charming, the rapid rat-tat-tat-tat-tats that echo across the backyard. I confess, however, that I sometimes become irritated by the sound. It’s surprisingly loud, starting at the crack of dawn, and it goes on and on, all morning.

Nevertheless, I’ll keep my complaints to a minimum. I like that our backyard has become Woody’s favorite breakfast joint. It’s fun to watch him as he hops around the trees, assessing the branches, choosing the best spot. He’s an entertaining sidekick during the morning gardening routine, even though he is a noisy neighbor.

Here’s to nature’s simple pleasures.

Categories
Good Life

Something

For me, one of the hardest things to get used to during this pandemic is the uncertainty.

I’m one of those people who wants the news, even if it’s bad. I sometimes search out the spoilers before deciding whether to watch a show or movie. I feel a kinship with Harry, from the movie When Harry Met Sally, as I flip to the last page of a book and read the ending first.

“Not knowing” bothers me. I’ve thought about why this is, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because “knowing” is a component of decision-making, which is a component of action, and action is the best way (for me) to manage my feelings. From an emotional perspective, doing something is a coping mechanism; it keeps me from being overwhelmed or getting stuck in sentiment. From a practical perspective, doing something allows me to (hopefully) make a difference, even if only in a small way, even if only for a moment.

There’s been a lot of uncertainty, a lot of not knowing, in this pandemic. It is better in some ways now; we’ve learned more about the illness and are more capable of protecting ourselves. Some of the jobs that were lost or on hold are returning. Some of the challenges have become easier. We’ve made progress, but we aren’t completely out of the woods yet. The uncertainty still exists.

Which is why I was excited to volunteer at a local COVID-19 vaccination site yesterday. I have no medical training, so I directed traffic. In terms of “big picture” impact, it was not the most important task. Judging by the hundreds of cars making their way through the vaccination line, however, it was a needed and helpful chore.

As each car passed, I felt a little hiccup of delight. Each car represented one more number on the pandemic scorecard. Instead of it being a negative number, however, it was a positive step forward…and I was doing something to contribute. It was just a little something, only a minor something, but it was a thing I could do to help us all get to where we want and need to go.

Based on the smiles of people in the cars, and by the overall happy mood of the other volunteers at the site, my feelings weren’t unique. We each had our own specific reasons for being there, our own emotions and experiences that had brought us to that place at that time, but we had all chosen to be part of this hopeful process. We were driving away the uncertainty, together.

Here’s to the power of doing something.