Langues Étrangères et Cuisine

Yes, that means foreign languages and cooking. Since COVID took hold, I vowed to learn a foreign language. I was coming off a bad head injury and was regaining my brain bit by bit, so learning something new and taking up crossword puzzles again was my plan to regain function and also plan for old age.

First I must say that I love to travel, and that Europe is my favorite destination for its history, culture and food. My first stab was five levels of Italian. It took a year, and I ended up learning a lot but unable to easily converse with anyone but the most patient Italian speaker. Sorry, Duolingo. So I took up French to help me understand the European mind. Permit me to explain.

Both Italian and French are Latin-based, so many of the roots of the words we use in English harken from how these languages evolved. That’s a plus for me. Of course there are many verb tenses to learn, also a ton of vocabulary, and that’s a given. Where I messed up was in possessives and genders. In English our nouns are not masculine or feminine, and that makes our difficult language easier, especial as one who grew up speaking English.

“I would have given you some of them, but you will have already bought some while you were there.” Try translating that into either French or Italian! Beats me.

It’s now been 2.5 years and I’m doing well at crosswords, not NYTimes level but hard enough. The French is a slog and when this is done I have to go back to Italian because of things like “I you go there to see” or “Can I borrow your pretty dress red.”

What is a blog but opinions? Sorry, Frenchies. I prefer Italian. It’s mellifluous and not as fussy as French. Interestingly, I find the people and cuisine the same. I quit my job in the 80’s and went to French cooking school and we had weeks just on butter, cream and eggs. Yes, I still do my mise en place and I know how to shop a grocery store. I love French stews like Carboonnade and have even made Cassoulet once for my Dad. But the cuisine of Escoffier began as ways to create sauces to cover rotting meat, because there was no refrigeration. Fussy.

Italians are easier. Few ingredients, only the best, and don’t screw it up. When I first traveled to Europe I started in Italy and Greece, the next year for my 25th birthday I started in England and ended up in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A fellow traveler told me that people get nicer the further south you go in Europe and I found it to be true.

So, learn a few words before you go. Hello, good morning, good evening, please, thank you, excuse me, check please, sorry, where’s the loo? Also familiarize yourself with the cuisine so you can order dinner in a restaurant. People will know without a doubt that you’re a Yank, but they’ll be pleased that you tried, well, except in France! Mangia bene! Dee

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Files and Moving

In our rush to blame certain high elected officials for inappropriate storage of government documents, let’s consider the following. Remember that the people who will be working on this are lawyers and politicians, both of whom don’t know what real people do when they move. I’m not a moving professional, but I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime, so here are a few thoughts.

When normal people change jobs and move they do it well or badly, but personal and job are well delineated. I won’t talk about the home move as that’s a disaster in itself. When I changed jobs (early retirement) I knew at least two weeks in advance. On the last day before my going away party (which I probably planned at my fav dive restaurant because I was the only one allowed to make reservations over the years) I packed a box with my personal wall calendar, address book, family photo, and hardy plant not even I could kill. Done. Government files were just that, I had 750 bills in one committee and had written up each of them many times. They all stayed behind. If I needed to know about the issue, I could look it up in my new job. There were no classified documents per se.

For politicians, there would be a transition if there is a retirement or change of representative due to a lost election. That person has two months to arrange to transfer the office to the new representative and clear out with staff. It shouldn’t be a problem. Ditto cabinet officials, they should work with professionals to separate the personal from the professional, but they usually have time if there is a new administration.

That leaves us with the President and Vice President. In our wisdom or stupidity, we give them homes and demand that they live there. They can’t leave until the last moment and still need classified documents for meetings on the morning of January 20, as at noon a new administration will be coming in, lock, stock and barrel.

Since the Presidential Records Act in the 70’s, we’ve made things even more complicated. It’s easier for the President, the rules for the VP give much less staff and leeway. as the GSA will only help them out for six months. A president usually wants to set records aside for a future library, not so much the VP.

As Americans, we want to make sure our nation is safe and our military secrets are not broadcast to the world or certain nefarious characters. It would be in the best interest to not depend on traditions, which if you haven’t been looking have been tossed to the winds the past few years, but on sound legal policy and regulations put forth by the National Archives (NARA) to make the transition seamless and less prone to error or fraud. And yes, if Congress needs to vote dollars to assure that confidential documents remain confidential, so be it.

It’s damn hard to move your house and office at the same time while working and attending to the swearing-in of a new President of of the United States! Instead of blaming and political backstabbing, why don’t we deal with the myriad issues posed by former president Trump and former VP Biden and use it for the good of our country.

For the offenders, give the documents back, all the documents, acknowledge that errors were made, and fix the issue. It’s easy to see how an errant document fell through the cracks, and many “in the know” argue that way too much information is needlessly deemed “classified.” If there’s a briefing paper that says to remember at the meeting to mention, yet again, to the foreign secretary US disapproval of their human rights policies, do the American people really not know anything about this issue that has been campaigned on for years?

How about if we let the dueling DOJ Special Counsels do their thing and report to us what was taken, why, whether we have the documents back safely, and what recommendations they have. It’s ridiculous for politicians to dig into the investigative process, as we found out conclusively with the “special master” debacle in order to specifically politicize the issue. Then let’s deal with it effectively and plan for a non-political process that will help disappear the problem of missing documents. This is a serious matter, as some of these documents can save or lose lives. We, the people, deserve a solution that works for all and respects the difficulties involved with complicated jobs and life/work challenges. Always remember to VOTE! Cheers, Dee

Cooking, With Gas?

I’ve always believed that government has a limited role in our lives, but this is ridiculous. I near retirement age and the new House majority wants to take away my Social Security and Medicare. And I don’t even have them yet!

Finally get my near dream stove? CPSC wants to take it away because a small child I do not have, may have a chance of getting athsma.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies with some really crummy electric stoves. Too hot, too cold, not reactive enough. One goes from unable to boil to furiously boiling over. Water cleans up easily, milk not so much.

While not currently a professional chef, or certainly of the medical profession, might I ask the folks in government who purport to care about our health to consider the question of ventilation before banning gas stoves outright. Even banning new gas stoves is an issue for me, because I like to cook and electric coil stoves just don’t cut it for me.

I live in an apartment, a nice apartment that comes with a top-of-the-line gas stove with four round and one oval burner and a double oven. One burner even has enough BTU’s to get pasta water to boil quickly. But the vent, unlike in private homes, does not vent to the outside, only in on itself. For air, I have to open a window which is not possible some times of the year because of extreme heat or cold weather.

Kitchens are designed with cooking in mind. At least some of them are. Some I’ve had are so small and badly designed that they’re practically useless, others so large that walking is the principal activity. My time is spent preparing food. Favorite winter meals include a stew that requires pre-cooking of the ingredients top of the range, then a long slow cook in the oven. I don’t want to waste time taking a pot off the stove because it’s in danger of boiling over and holding it until the burner cools down. So, please consider the need for appropriate ventilation in all homes before banning gas.

Here, our maintenance department keeps us in air vents for the HVAC system. We don’t use them because they’re cheap. We buy our own MERV-14 filters at $18 a pop, that even catch COVID! Air and circulating air is important, and we have our own fans for the (air-conditioned) summer and three humidifiers that put 4-5 gallons of water back in our environment these cold winter days. Knowing the quality of our air and how things like stoves, gas or electric heat, washer/dryer et al would be nice so that we can assure a healthy interior living space.

There are many things to consider before an outright ban on gas stoves. Let’s put on our thinking caps and see if there’s a way to keep us and the planet healthier, together. Cheers! Dee

64

…Send me a postcard, drop me a line

Stating point of view

Indicate precisely what you mean to say

Yours sincerely, wasting away

Give me your answer, fill in a form

Mine for ever more

Will you still need me, will you still feed me

When I’m sixty-four

(The Beatles)

Guess what this year was? Yes, my 64th birthday. I’m already not supposed to collect Social Security until sometime between age 66 and 67. Medicare has been a big question, but now both are even bigger.

See, the Chaos Caucus of the United States House of Representatives wants to eliminate the two programs I’ve spent money funding my entire life. And if they can’t do it by holding the budget and debt limits hostage, they’ll eliminate the IRS and its payroll deductions, and fund what is left of the government they haven’t decimated by a consumption tax.

I’ve worked for state government, the legislature to be exact, and I believe in a moderate government that does what cannot be done otherwise and pretty much leaves people alone to pursue their own lives as long as they don’t endanger others.

When kids are going hungry because their parents can’t afford to send them to school with a lunch, government should step in. Ditto when old people expect some money to live on and protect their health without dying in the poor house. Oh, I forgot, we don’t have poorhouses, that would be a social safety net like requiring business to offer paid parental leave.

I mistrust politicians by nature, ditto lawyers. With regulations and transparency, we, the people can endeavor to keep them honest and on track with what we’ve hired them to do. for us. What we voted for them to do, as our representatives.

All this to say I don’t give a whit about Hunter Biden’s laptop. As a voter, I embrace voting rights and the ability to force legislatures to do the people’s business by referendum if they won’t do what they say they’d do. I don’t know what “owning the libs” means in terms of constituent services. And I truly don’t understand why likes on social media make politicians money when they’re not doing anything to keep the lights on back home.

As far as I see it, old people who care about our future and that of our children must be educated about what our representatives do, hold them accountable, and vote them out if they lie to us or pull a bait and switch. If they tell me they care about health care, inflation and crime, do something about it. Don’t spend my money investigating investigators. Do something real, care about your constituents. If you do that one thing, you won’t have time for all this folderol. Vote! Dee

Bravo C-SPAN!

Imagine being an A/V professional at the U.S. Capitol, working for the House. House rules say you have two fixed cameras. You set them up, monitor them all day, every day. The Chamber is mostly empty, save for unknown members speechifying in front of empty seats to show their constituents how much they (don’t) matter inside the Beltway. Yawnfest.

All of a sudden there is no Speaker of the House, hence no rules. What did we get last week? Never-before seen conversations between AOC and Paul Gosar, of all the strange bedfellows to watch. Shortly before the 15th vote to elect a Speaker, two majority members nearly came to fisticuffs on the floor of the House!

All of a sudden, C-SPAN is must-watch TV! Hallelujah! Of course, these professionals will be put back into their cages as soon as a rules package is adopted.

I remember there being some opposition to having cameras in Congress back in the day. Then members got used to it, and used it to communicate with their constituents. Now I think having an open forum would be good for the American people, if only to show how our hired representatives are spending OUR money.

If this were to happen, all the “action” would move to the back rooms and we’d go back to the smoke-filled rooms of yore before FOIA and Open Meetings laws and letting the sun shine in.

I won’t go into this new House and its priorities, only to say that many of the rules that are proposed to be passed today will have an extremely deleterious effect on our country and national security. Until the rules change, I hope that C-SPAN will bring it all to us in living color. Cheers! Dee

Belonging

Growing up, there’s always a need to belong, to a family, in school, everywhere. In this fractured USA, we still need to belong. I only wish that it was belonging in the sense of a greater good and camaraderie, not excluding “others” and encouraging silos of like-minded individuals.

We moved from a small village out to the country, where of course up in the hills it snowed earlier than in town so I came to school dressed in hat, boots et al and was laughed at by the other kids. Likewise, choir and orchestra required a white blouse and black skirt to perform. Of course, everyone had a cheap polyester black skirt to wear but me. Poor me, I had to wear a black watch plaid kilt from Scotland so I wasn’t like all the others. I’d kill for one of those kilts now!

There were greater differences for me but I won’t go into them. OK, just one. I was raised Catholic but Dad was Lutheran. Mom checked out the schools and chose public because it offered a better education than the Catholic school. So we had to walk to CCD every week for religious education.

We walked with two kids of like age, my little sister with the girl and me with the younger brother. They made such fun of him and I told him to ignore them, we would tell our own stories and forget about their meanness. Twenty years later I heard from the sister, thanking me for taking her gay brother under my wing and protecting him from the other kids, including herself. They ended up best friends. I certainly didn’t know he was gay at the time, or even know what the word meant, but he was different. So was I,

Parents love telling their kids they’re different. Remember saying “all the kids get to stay out until dark, why do we have to come in early?” only to have them say “You’re not like all the other kids.” How is that an excuse, Doesn’t work for an eight year-old or eighteen.

In this season of giving thanks and sharing, I hope that you enjoy your uniqueness in the knowledge that different people can coexist quite nicely and it makes for a richer experience for all. Enjoy the holidays with much cheer, Belong! Dee

Go Bulldogs!

I just read that Fisk University, an Historic Black College and University (HBCU) is the first to field an Elite women’s gymnastics team. It’s about time! There’s so much talent out there and now at least some girls/women of color will have a chance to succeed in this fine sport.

Before Title IX whenever the gleaming wood floor of the boys gym was replaced/refinished we girls had to go sit in temporary classrooms because it was unthinkable that the boys go without exercise for six weeks.

After Title IX and even now, there remain vast inequities in how girls sports are funded and treated. The boys still had wood floors in their gym and we had linoleum tiles over concrete, so I lived my high school gymnastics “career” with constant shin splints from the vault.

My parents thought it necessary to pay for private piano lessons. That was in the sixties and seventies when public schools still had music programs, so my violin lessons and orchestra and choir were included. I also had to attend private ballet lessons for comportment, or as my mother told me, so I wouldn’t grow up walking like a truck driver. But most parents couldn’t afford that for their kids.

Outside of the high school gymnastics team, of which for some ungodly reason I was made captain, I chose to also take lessons at a private gym owned by a former Olympic champion. That wasn’t deemed necessary by my parents so I taught the little kids two classes each Saturday so I could take my class for free. I was never a good gymnast, but I fell in love, as did many young girls, with Olga Korbut at the 1972 Olympics, and I made a very good captain and teacher regardless of my limited athletic abilities.

Now little girls have so much to look forward to as they strive to emulate Simone Biles, Dominique Dawes and many others. I wish the girls at Fisk much success. Go Bulldogs! Dee

Memories

When a loved one is gone, he/she tends to come back via memory at the oddest times. It’s always welcome to remember a favorite moment, saying, quibble or foible.

A couple of weeks ago my sister asked for an old recipe. Since we moved, I found and cleaned up an old plexiglass 3×5 card holder with recipes I started collecting in high school. Many are from my Auntie L, who not only cooked us many family meals over the decades but catered for our family’s formal work receptions as well. She had one rule that moms everywhere should use with young children. “Try it! Then I’ll tell you what’s in it.”

I learned not to ask the ingredients first and allow my taste buds to be the judge. First thing she used it on was a bleu cheese dip for a party. I hated that cheese, but loved the dish so incorporated it into my repertoire.

A prime example that reminds me of her every day is the dictionary in the “loo.” She always placed one in the powder room (she was a high school English teacher) so to use the loo, we had to ask politely, then upon our return give her a word, its meaning and use it in a sentence.

In our new place, I’ve a large powder room so I expanded on the theme. I brought in one of my husband’s nightstands that were hand-made by his great-grandfather and placed several books atop, along with a decorative plate of Mom’s. The current Loo Library includes the aforementioned Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, The City of Florence, The Prince and for a bit of light reading, James Patterson’s The Chef. Also Orwell’s 1984 and Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

Wouldn’t you know it, a friend used the loo and suggested a complement to Sun Tsu’s The Art of War with The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It’s about breaking mental blocks to unleash creativity, by the author of many books which include The Legend of Bagger Vance. This book is required reading or recommended reading in all the military academies. News to me, so I recently purchased it to add to my collection.

Now here’s the strange one. Auntie L was known, on our annual family reunions, to rearrange hotel furnishings and pictures. She always made it better but we were aghast, as kids, that someone could do that. I came to thank her for it later on. Mom was in the hospital after her first cancer surgery. She was on morphine for the first time and a particular painting on the wall of her hospital room gave her nightmares. Auntie L went to a local art museum gift shop, bought a calming poster and taped it over the offending artwork. It made a difference.

I know there’s no canidae in our family gene pool but my dog has become an Auntie L with bed linens. I make the bed and she always has to help me fluff the down comforter. Once settled, all the pillows situated atop, she waits for me to leave. Then she rearranges everything to her specifications. Mostly knotting it all up in a ball. Upon my return, I merely say “thanks, Auntie L.”

Thanks for the memories. Hang in there, teachers! Especially English teachers. Until we can get the banned book situation under control, perhaps the fact that certain books (even the Bible, in one Texas school district) are banned, it may induce students to read them! Cheers! Dee

Toto

We’re back in Kansas! I clicked my ruby slippers three times and now Auntie Em and everyone on the farm made sure I have reproductive rights and can even have a career when I grow up! Wow!

At least I know how to go back to Oz and return when it comes to securing my right to have my vote counted fairly in true democratic fashion as the Constitution intended. Or maybe we can do it all on our own. All we need are strong women who don’t want to go back to the dark days of kings and queens, or back alley abortions.

What, Toto? Yes, I’ll try to get you some more local dog parks, too.

I’d better hang on to those ruby slippers, they sure came in handy. Cheers to democracy! Dee

Make Wisconsin Trump’s Again

And again. Again. Again. Again. Again.

I’ve been voting for over forty years and have never wondered what happened to my ballot once it entered the local precinct office. I do here. Never before has a losing candidate spent nearly two years trying to invalidate 3.3 million votes in one state.

I thought it was over after the last time Trump called Robin Vos, Republican Senate leader, to try to make him get the friendly (to Trump and Vos) legislature recall and invalidate our ten electoral college votes, and that was a couple months ago.

But no, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. First our trusty (ahem) U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who’s done nothing for the past six years but deny COVID and call for investigations into Hunter Biden, oh, and run for reelection, wanted to hand-deliver fake elector certificates to former V.P. Mike Pence on the floor of the House on 1/6/21. And not just a fake certificate for his own state of Wisconsin but for another state as well. Bravo, Ron, you represent your people so well.

Now the State Supreme Court has invalidated drop boxes so when I drop my absentee ballot into the box in the elector’s offices downtown, my husband has to keep the air conditioning on in my car for the dog, then we have to switch places and he has to go to the 5th floor in the creepy elevator and repeat the process because otherwise I can be arrested for “harvesting” ballots.

Our former governor Scott Walker made sure the place was gerrymandered so the Democrats will never see power in the legislature, now the Supreme Court is taking up a ridiculous position that only the legislature can decide on electors, voters be damned. If we don’t keep a Democratic governor, Wisconsin will cease to be a democratic state in that voters will no longer choose their elected officials and electors for the Electoral College.

Aside from Milwaukee and Madison, this is principally a rural state, they don’t call us Cheeseheads for nothing. Drop boxes were a godsend during the pandemic when we had no vaccines and no therapeutics for treating COVID-19. It wasn’t a conspiracy, it was a public health crisis.

If you don’t think we’re backwards yet, consider that the abortion law that is now in effect, since Dobbs was overturned, hasn’t been revisited since 1849. Yes, 173 years ago. I told my husband that if our votes no longer count and a woman’s health is worth nothing, it’s time to move. But first we need a Democrat for governor, and to get rid of Sen. Ron Johnson.

I just got a button that says “Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.” Never truer than now. Vote! Dee