Tag Archives: Facebook

My UFO — my story and I’m sticking to it

In middle school, our language arts teacher introduced us to — among other important topics and skills — propaganda (and how to recognize it), how to structure sentences, J.R.R. Tolkien, and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
We thought Mrs. H was terrific because she always treated us with respect, was open-minded and encouraged us to read whatever most interested us — she had racks and racks of books we could borrow — and she was outspoken when it came to the subject of UFOs.

This was in the late 1960s, a good 17 years after the term was first seen in print, and there were frequently reported sightings of these unusual anomalies — sometimes referred to as “flying saucers.”

I never doubted that Mrs. H knew what she was talking about. She was wise and well-read. Not long after she first introduced us to UFOs, my friend, Karen, and I were sitting in the rear-facing back seat of our station wagon, feet stuck out the open window as we gazed up into the dark night. Suddenly we both screeched at my father to stop the car. We were sure we’d sighted some unusual phenomena. Fortunately, my dad, the scientist, acquiesced and in fact, joined us in our speculation.

Fast forward to December 2012…meteor showers were predicted for late night/early mornings. On our 6 a.m. run, my running partner and I counted four shooting stars. The next morning, I was alone and trying to keep an eye on the sky while avoiding bumps in the pavement.

And there it was…a slow-moving object flashing green and red. Moving so slowly that it appeared to be almost still. Over the next 20 minutes, I kept my eyes on it. At one point, an airplane flew directly over it — parallel to it.

And no…I didn’t see any alien green men. No one swooped down from the sky to take me to some unknown location. But for the rest of the day, I felt unsettled.

And this is where Facebook comes in handy…I sent out a message to my former 8th grade classmates and asked if they could guess what I saw in the sky that morning. Two of them knew exactly what I was talking about and that started a spirited discussion of our fond memories of Mrs. H.

And yes, I realize most of you are singing the “Twilight Zone” theme song right now. Go ahead and doubt. And snicker. I’ve got Mrs. H on my side.

Most hated word: The envelope, please?

There is a word that I absolutely abhor. In fact, I have difficulty convincing myself to write it, let alone speak it. For the longest time, I couldn’t admit this to anyone. If I heard someone use it or saw it written down, I’d cringe with horror. I am not making this up.

Ask my husband and daughters. Until now, I’ve never admitted this to anyone but them. In fact, I don’t remember how or when I admitted it, but it was long after my mother-in-law (who I loved dearly) first said it in my presence. This would have been more than 30 years ago, so obviously I’ve been hiding my feelings for a long time.

I’ve long suspected that there is a Freudian explanation for this. My brother-in-law, the psychiatrist, probably could explain it to me. On the other hand, maybe I’d rather not know.

So here’s the thing. My family knows this word irritates me, so they use it selectively. Sometimes they whisper it furtively in my presence, sneaking glances at me to see how I’m reacting. Or they say it really loud just for fun.

Well. I have been vindicated. It seems I am not alone in my disgust for this word. In the New Yorker‘s “Culture Desk” blog, author Ben Greenman asked readers for the word they’d like to see zapped from the English language. My word came up most frequently.

If that’s not enough proof that I am in good company, I am now one of 3,229 members of a Facebook page dedicated to those who shudder at the mention of this word.

THE WORD? Ugh. Okay…deep breath…here we go…moist. Yep, that’s it. Can’t stand it. Can’t stand the sound of it, the sight of it, the feeling that I get when I hear it. This is one of the first times I’ve actually written it down and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I could spell it correctly.

Sadly, my word was not the word chosen to be eliminated. That word was “slacks”. What’s up with that? How could they have chosen “slacks” over than “moist”? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

So now I’m really curious…what’s your word? What word would you like to zap from existence?

Simply in Season

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I noticed that a friend had asked for some “healthy, simple recipes” for summer meals. Very quickly, several friends suggested recipes from “Simply in Season,” a cookbook that focuses on using local, seasonal foods. It is categorized by season — spring, summer, autumn and winter — which can vary by geographical location. Though the recipes are filed under specific seasons, many use ingredients that can be found year round (but in that case, may not be locally fresh).

According to the cookbook’s authors, Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind, “recipes are living things that change with the season and with the preparer.  And while there are few completely original recipes, contributors were encouraged to submit recipes that were shaped by their own lives.”  Each recipe is accompanied by the name(s) of the contributor(s) and their hometown.

One of the first responders to the Facebook request, recommended the fajitas in the summer section. She used chicken in hers, but the recipe provides alternatives — a common thread throughout the book, as many can be adjusted for vegetarians/non-vegetarians. Likewise, many recipes suggest a variety of vegetable (i.e., what is available in your own garden, local farmer’s market or grocery store.)

To find out more about the cookbook, check out this website on “World Community Cookbooks” , where you’ll find a fruit and recipe guide, recipe of the week, related blogs, even a study guide. If you have children interested in cooking, I recommend getting them a copy of the “Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook”.  Not only will they learn to prepare food, they’ll learn where foods come from and begin to understand the concept of eating locally. Which, when you think about it, might be a good starting point for adults new to the concept!

I don’t have a favorite recipe in this cookbook, but there are certain ones I return to frequently — especially during the summer when my garden is overproducing zucchini, summer squash, basil, parsley, lovage, etc.

I can’t wait to try the current “Recipe of the Week”. Just for the record, I’ll be using parsley…for some reason, cilantro and I don’t agree. For extra protein, try the quinoa version. If you’re unfamiliar with quinoa, it’s an amino acid-rich seed that is often considered a grain. It has a fluffy, but slightly crunchy/nutty texture.

Stoplight Salad

The name refers to the colors in this tasty salad. Using grilled corn is optional but offers a lovely smoky flavor. Try this salad alongside grilled meats or as a light main dish.

Yields 6-8 cups / 1.5-2 L

2 cups / 500 ml tomatoes (chopped and drained)

2 cups / 500 ml corn

1 medium green pepper (diced)

1 medium red sweet pepper (diced)

1/4 cup / 60 ml fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil (chopped)

2 cups / 500 ml cooked black beans (optional)

Combine in a bowl.

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lime juice

1 clove garlic (minced)

Whisk together in a separate bowl. Pour over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve.

Southwest variation: Omit the tomatoes and add to the dressing 11/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 11/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Quinoa variation: Add 2 cups / 500 ml cooked quinoa. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Cathi Baer, Archbold, Ohio
Laura Tiessen, Toronto, Ontario
Kristen Burkholder, Norman, Oklahoma
Marjorie Liechty, Goshen, Indiana

© 2011 Mennonite Central Committee

The curse of the Mother’s Day plant

Last Sunday, the rain let up just enough that I decided it was time to do some planting. Despite a hankering for a new high-rise raised bed, I’d decided instead to do mostly container gardening. Having done this successfully several years ago, and bolstered by an article posted on the Stratton Greenhouses Facebook page, I headed out to the playhouse.

Okay,technically this is no longer a playhouse, but since I like to play in the garden, we still call it that. My dad built this A-frame “cottage” about 18 years ago, intending it as a playhouse for the girls. He told me we’d be lucky if it lasted for two years, but since my dad never did anything halfway or shoddy, it still stands.

Anyway, the toys housed inside have been replaced by gardening tools and equipment, pots of all sizes, bags of potting soil, and assorted spiders and bugs. So…Sunday, I shoved aside the spiders standing guard at the door and grabbed four big clay pots and a bag of potting soil.

This was to be an early planting of succession crops (I made that up to sound like I know what I’m talking about). In one pot went mesclun (a “gourmet” blend of greens, and in another pot I planted spinach. Then because I wanted to compare the success of basil grown in a pot versus that grown in my herb garden, I plopped some basil seed in the third pot. In the fourth pot, I mixed a handful of year-old buttercrunch with spinach.

Container garden pre-squirrel attack

Despite the fact that it was likely to rain within a few hours, I dutifully sprinkled water over the four pots. In the back of mind, a niggling voice festered. “Maybe you should put screens over the pots….just in case.” Since I’m so good at ignoring little voices I took some pictures of my pots and pleased as punch, went into the house to announce the start of my 2011 garden.

The next day, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the cell phone as I walked home from work. As I approached the patio, I excitedly told her about the plantings. My happiness suddenly turned to howls as I realized one of those wretched squirrels had decided to feed on my newly planted seed.

Her response? “Mom, it’s the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Remember?”

Pot post-squirrel attack

Oh, how I remember. Long ago, when she was about six years old, she’d planted a flower in a tiny pot at school and brought it home to give me for Mother’s Day. She and her dad had hidden it in the garage, locked the door, and forbade me to enter the garage. They forgot to tell that to the furry creature hidden somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage.

The next morning, the two of them sneaked out to the garage. There was a loud scream, followed by angry cries of frustration. Somehow, they’d unknowingly locked a raccoon inside the garage and he seemed to think that flower was his breakfast.

I honestly think if the raccoon had hung around, Anne would have grabbed the nearest shovel and smacked it.

It was Anne’s version of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” A Mother’s Day I’ve never forgotten.

Twenty years later, she’s obviously still hanging on to her memory of that day, but with a humorous twist. And so…there you have it…the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Guess I’ll have to wait until after Mother’s Day to re-plant.

Mennonites, farmers and Sunday night popcorn

On Sunday, my friend, Becky, who just happens to be married to my cousin, Gary, made the comment on Facebook that they were having popcorn for supper. She and Gary both grew up having popcorn for Sunday supper, sometimes accompanied by cheese and veggies.

That comment set off a slew of responses from other friends who also grew up having popcorn for Sunday night supper. Most of us still do. Coincidentally, all of those responded are (a) Mennonite, (b) grew up in the Midwest, (c) have farming roots, and (d) grew up having huge Sunday dinners.

Looking back, maybe the popcorn tradition grew out of sheer exhaustion on our mothers’ parts. They’d cooked for the family all week and by Sunday night, were ready for a night off.

So we discussed this a little bit more, and discovered that several of our families also deemed Sunday supper the one meal where we could eat wherever we wanted. Becky’s family often watched tv on their little black and white that probably got all of three stations. My family — the last in town to get a tv because my dad insisted on waiting until his boss — the college president — got one, played games or read.

Becky says she asked Gary where he thought this originated. He had two explanations: 1) that we were all members of the same cult, and 2) that “it started with the farmers, on the Sundays when the horses weren’t working they gave them a high fiber diet of bran. They figured if it was good enough for the horses it was good enough for the family, and so they used popcorn as the high fiber diet!”

Here’s the thing. There’s a slight hole in that theory. Gary and I share the same grandparents. Our moms are sisters. They come from a long line of “teasers” and I know for a fact that Gary has inherited that tendency. But hey, the horse idea is a good one.

When my husband and I married, I suggested we continue the popcorn routine. I suspect he never was crazy about it, because often he would bake cornbread. But our girls loved the idea, especially the option of eating wherever they wanted to.

And so…we carry on…popcorn, cheese, veggies, fruit and a good book. And for Fred, some cornbread with maple syrup. What better way to end the weekend?