Monthly Archives: May 2013

Waxing Nostalgic

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary I possess defines wax as: Noun- a yellowish substance secreted by bees or a substance used to polish. Verb- to polish or make something bright; also to grow larger (as the moon).

I had to search for the meaning I need for today’s post, finding it in the Cambridge Dictionary online: Noun- (old or formal use) to talk glowingly or with fondness. We don’t use that definition here these days; finding it written in classics or historical novels rather than in contemporary conversations. It is nevertheless one of my favorite phrases, reserved for good memories and events that marked my younger days. I could have used salad days here, but that would mean another definition and I really don’t want to bore you before I make my point.
What prompts this post is Memorial Day. When I was growing up, it meant much more than a three day weekend coinciding with the last Monday in May. It was, to us May 31, carved in stone and full of flags, parades, a day off from school most years, and the official beginning of summer. The weather really didn’t matter. As kids we pulled out shorts and t-shirts and sneakers, ignored the admonition to “take a jacket, it’s NOT July” from our parents, and celebrated the fact that school was almost over. My hometown had a Memorial Day Parade. Not as fancy or long as the Big One on July 4th, but still an excuse to walk to the main street and see veterans from wars as long ago as World War I walking or in some cases riding in convertibles, waving and smiling to us as we waved our dime-store flags and clapped in time to the music coming from a band or two. If the weather was particularly fine, we would head to the park later on that afternoon for the first day of swimming or maybe even a cook-out. But first, we visited the cemetery to put flags or flowers, sometimes both, on the graves of those members of our family who gave their lives so we could run around the tombstones, look at the names, and be admonished by family to “have some respect for Uncle Roy or Aunt Ellen” or someone equally revered as a brave and noble human being. For all our childhood antics, we knew the meaning of respect. We’d heard stories about them, about the wars through which they struggled, about how they came back as heroes. Somehow we wanted to be like them. Many of my friends grew up to follow in their footsteps in places like Cambodia or South Vietnam. It was a wakeup call for a lot of us when they were not as honored on their return. We’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. That’s another post altogether.
Today, Memorial Day is flexible. It moves as the calendar moves and not all that many children know the date 5/31 as any more than one of the last days of school, if not the first day of vacation. There are still cookouts, but not so many parades or children waving flags. People use the weekend to travel, take a trial run to the campground or hit the car sales, mall sales, and movie theaters. Or watch the Indy 500, usually run on Sunday but with a rain date for Monday so no one has to miss the thrills and spills. By the 31st, almost everyone has moved on to other things. We post reminders on Facebook, thank the troops for their service in church services and newspapers, maybe even buy a poppy from a local vet outside a supermarket. And we’re sincere. Without all those who ever fought for our side, from the Revolution to Afghanistan, we would probably be something other than what we are; a country which for all its faults and all our criticisms we hold very dear. I worry, as I often do, that today’s children will not see the true purpose of Memorial Day because it is simply just another weekend which changes from year to year and not an occasion for remembrance and honoring those who gave so much.
So please thank a veteran or soldier and give a thought to those who spend all their holidays serving this country. We owe them at least that. In the meantime, enjoy your Memorial Day however you choose to spend it and break out that swimming suit!

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You Gotta Have Friends

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately; how it can grow as we grow or be left behind as our life paths take different directions. How we can be friends with someone for years without ever seeing them and then pick up where we left off the minute we set eyes on each other again.
How one misunderstanding can derail a relationship just as easily as a crisis shared can cement one. And how we come together in hard times to share the burdens and often share the good things that come after them. Some friendships last a lifetime; others last as long as we make them last. Being a friend is hard work, taking the bad with the good and muddling through the murky times.
Not all friendships are equal of course. People aren’t perfect and we carry baggage from our earliest years. No psychobabble here if you think about it. As babies, we are “me” people. My blanket, my teddy, my bottle, my mommy. Thus when we are old enough to interact with other “me” peers, we are told we need to share. If we throw a tantrum we may be told by well-meaning parents or teachers, “If you don’t learn to share, you won’t have any friends.” And the pressure is on. So, we share our toys, our thoughts, our lunches, whatever we think we need to…because having friends is a good thing. Right? Maybe. Unless the person you choose to offer friendship to is having none of it. Hurts, but most of us move on. If we’re really lucky, we find that one perfect friend and live happily ever…well not always.
As I said at the beginning, sometimes friends just outgrow each other. There’s a mutual parting of the ways, and when we see each other years later, a simple Hi, how are you is enough. If we recognize each other at all. In my experience this usually happens with elementary and high school friends. There’s really no need to catch up because we haven’t thought of each other in years. Our worlds have spun away quite neatly in the interim, linked only through class reunions.
Most of my friends these days are people I’ve worked with, enjoyed common interests with, or just like being with in my free time. We all have that baggage I talked about but we take that for granted. We share thoughts, sometimes secrets, discuss books, go to movies and dinners (food somehow being a critical ingredient in my circle of buddies), and generally let each other know we’ll be there for them if the need arises. Generally, it works. When it doesn’t, we care enough about each other to confront whatever the issue is and then move on. When you think about it, friendship and life are a lot alike—good times, bad times, misunderstandings, rewards, and compassion. I’ve been blessed. I hope you have been too.

PS. What really prompted this post was the fact that I had to say farewell to my cat friend Rascal this past week. He was a funny, faithful cat who offered his friendship willingly to those people lucky enough to meet him. He never to my knowledge met a human he didn’t like. I miss him.

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Tea For Two….or Three…or Four…

Back in the day (my day anyway), tea was something you drank when you were sick or at your grandmother’s or maybe because you were going to “tea”, which really meant small delicate cups of amber liquid, trays of finger sandwiches and pastries and being admonished not to spill or drop crumbs on the carpeted floor. Lipton and Salada Black &Orange Pekoe boxes shared the shelf in our pantry, sometimes one or the other depending on which was on sale, or whether it was summer or winter. Salada was milder and Lipton made the best iced tea. My family thought so anyway. Bags only, no instant. If you couldn’t take the time to watch a bag brew in the cup, too bad.

I’m not sure when things all changed, or perhaps there had always been unexplored types of teas just waiting for someone to start marketing them. I don’t remember when green tea became “better for your health” or when white tea suddenly had “the most anti-oxidants”. I just remember that there was an avalanche of choices, each one more exotic than the last. Rooibois from Africa, Sencha from Japan, blends of herbs with cinnamon, cardamom, mint, yerba mate, all for the trying. Blends of black tea with fruit, white tea with flowers, caff, decaf, hot, cold, each with instructions to steep at varying temperatures for varying minutes…too little time, too high a water temperature the brew is less than stellar. Who knew?

You could say my own education with this lovely leaf began with my daughter, although I did occasionally buy flavored teas from Celestial Seasonings or our local tea shop. She and her husband travel on business and for pleasure and she began bringing back teas from other cities, always intriguing and many delicious. They received a Breville tea brewer as a present and shortly after that gifted me with one for Christmas. She also gave me a small packet of Holy Healer Lapacho Chai, a brew from Steeped & Infused in Toronto. I discovered a new addiction and have since ordered from them several times…and not just the chai. I am a tea snob. Which brings me to Portland.

Among her many virtues, Portland is a tea lover’s paradise….I’m currently sitting in a Townshend’s teashop on Alberta Street, waiting for an iced Highland Chai. My daughter has opted for a black tea flavored with Pear and Pomegranate. Their selection (hot, iced, chai, bubble tea) emcompasses pages and pages of their menu, and they offer herbal tisanes and tonics as well. Loose leaf teas and kombucha bottles are yours for the buying. Who needs coffee when you can live in a world of tea?

PS. Portland makes damned fine coffee as well…fine enough for me to drink it here…and take it home. I’ll extol the bean another time, :o)

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The Joys of Lardo, Fried Sage, and Solitary Bees

Portland amazes me. You’d think by now I’d be used to the beautiful scenery, temperate climate and good food. But no. I am constantly experiencing her RoseCity surprises including but not limited to what you see in the title.

Lardo is a restaurant whose name is taken from the Latin word for “salted pork” seasoned with herbs and spices. We went there for lunch today. Their menu includes more than pork although Catherine will tell you the Pork Meatballs Bahn Mi is one of her favorites. Along with the Smoked Copper Cuban and the Griddled Portabella  you can choose the Cold Fried Chicken or, as I did, the Italian Tuna Melt. Totally delicious and almost too much sandwich for one person (unless you skip breakfast as I did). They also serve Lardo Fries…a paper container of freshly fried potato strips seasoned with herbs and parmesan, Just to make it interesting, there are leaves of seasoned fried sage tucked in with the taters. One taste was all it took to convince me I need to try this at home. Crisp, and not a bit oily, the sage flavor comes through tempered by the seasonings used for the fries. Yum. And the bread. Some of the best ciabatta I’ve had anywhere.

A bit of trivia. Lardo started out as a Portland food cart back in 2010. There are now three restaurants and each one is busy. I can see why. The food is fantastic, the service quick and courteous, and the prices are, as they say, right.

Now for those bees. Given that the sun is shining and the breezes are light and warm, the chairs in the back yard proved too inviting for us to ignore. We chatted and watched the yard’s colony of solitary bees, hard at work buzzing around, pollinating and hovering, the males waiting for the females as they gathered the nectar from one place, took it to the next, reserving some for their own nest. No beehive? Nope. Solitary bees are just that. The female builds a nest underground, carries leftover nectar inside to form a ball of nutrition, and then lays a single egg on top of that ball, covering it with a cocoon-like substance. She repeats this procedure 20 to 30 times, a single egg each time. The little shells remain underground until it is time for the new bees to emerge, having been nourished by all that nectar. And the cycle continues on up to three times a year…before the bees are gone. They’re no threat. They don’t sting. Their focus is pollination. Watching them is a pleasure; the joy lies in their single-mindedness and in the gentle little buzz that accompanies their acrobatic flights through the greenery. I wonder if they ever need a nap?

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