Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thoughts on Weather

"I have discovered that the 

world over, unusual weather 

prevails at all times of the 


― Edgar Rice Burroughs

This has been a difficult winter, weather-wise, for all of the US as well as Canada, The UK and Europe.  So it piqued my curiosity when I recently came across this quote.  Most people think of Burroughs as the guy who wrote the Tarzan books, but he also wrote a lot of science fiction. And while there are some great quotes from his books... that quote about the weather doesn't come from any of his books, it's just something he said. And since he died over 60 years ago, weather has clearly been on people's minds for quite some time.

How long, you wonder?  Well - maybe you don't - but as I sat in front of a cozy fireplace with my nice hot cup of tea, I wondered how long people have been wondering about the weather.  

Hmmm.. well now, that's pretty stupid...  clearly, people have been wondering about weather forever. Cavemen had to worry about whether they were going to survive the drought, and when they had to move their cave in order to avoid being swept up by the annual floods.  Christopher Columbus had to keep an eye on the weather as he sailed to America.  After all, while he might have 'sailed the ocean blue', I'm certain that the skies weren't blue for his entire trip.  And in today's world, public officials take a lot of heat if they respond incorrectly to weather forecasts and open or close schools when they should be doing the other.  But that's not really what I mean.

Mr. Burroughs' comment is not merely an effort to survive the weather, and respond to the weather, he was musing about the weather.    I don't know whether he drank tea while he mused, but clearly he mused.

So who else mused?
Well according to Mark Twain, everyone.  Twain said "Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it."  But it turns out he's also said to be the originator of the phrase "If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes."

Wait!  Really?  I'm quite certain that when I was a child growing up in Colorado, we used to say that - except of course we substituted 'Colorado' for 'New England'.   So I explored this a bit further and found that people say this same thing, substituting their own city or state or whatever, almost everywhere  ... including Melbourne Australia, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania.... well, you get the idea.

But get this... while I was trying to find out who has mused about weather, I found a blog called Mike Smith Enterprises blog.  Sure you're trying to figure out what this blog has to do with the price of tea in china -- and the answer is  - nothing.
BUT the URL of Mr. Smith's blog is  He has over  SEVEN THOUSAND postings about weather, since 2009.  I don't mean viewings, or comments... but postings... Mr. Smith posts multiple times each day on his blog.  And it's almost always about the weather.

Wow.  Well that knocks my little musings out of the water.

But just as I was about to wrap up my thoughts on weather, I came across an Oscar Wilde quote...

"Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

Ouch, Mr. Wilde...  a bit harsh, don't you think?  What put you in such a foul mood?  Maybe you need a Snickers bar.  (If you don't get this reference, go to YouTube and put in 'Snickers commercial')  After all, we've got The Weather Channel that broadcasts 24/7, nearly every country (perhaps every one, but I got tired of checking) has its equivalent of the National Weather Service, and weather affects the livelihood safety and well-being of .. well --  everyone.

So, while I don't wish to be rude and disrespectful to Mr. Wilde's memory, I'll continue to wonder and muse about the weather, while I drink another cup of tea.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The best of the best... at their best

I'm not much of a football fan, but I generally watch the playoff games and the SuperBowl. After all, by the time you get to the end of the season, the various teams have had time to fine-tune their strategies, work out any kinks, and fully integrate any new players into their overall playing style.  By the end of the season, the teams should be playing at their best.  Then they go through the divisional eliminations, and regional eliminations...  and by now, the teams have been narrowed down to the best of the best. And that's when I enjoy watching football.  I don't care who wins... and it's not unusual for me to applaud and cheer for both teams during the course of a game.  I'm not really rooting for one team or the other, I'm applauding and cheering great plays.

But sometimes, you don't get that third 'best'.  This year's football finals and SuperBowl are certainly a case in point.  Some of the final playoff games were great games.. some were not.  Living in New England, I watched the New England Patriots play the Denver Broncos... and unless you're living in a cave (in which case it's unlikely you're reading this post), you know that the Broncos won.  And I'm fine with that, after all it's only a game.  But the part that I found disappointing was that the Patriots were not at their best when they played the Broncos.  Two weeks after watching the Broncos play a very good game, I then watched the Broncos play a not-very-good game in the SuperBowl.  They didn't play their best, and they didn't win.  Would they have won if they'd played their best?  I don't know, and I don't care.  I just know that they didn't play their best, and I was disappointed.

And now we have the 2014 Olympics.  I don't figureskate, I don't snowboard, I don't ski, I don't luge... well, you get the idea.  But I do enjoy watching all of those activities, when they're done well.  And I don't really care who wins.. it's just a game.  And, just as with the football teams, the participants have been narrowed down over a period of time, by a number of competitions, and we will be seeing the best of the best.  But that still leaves one variable, one question.  Are we going to be seeing the best of the best... at their best?  I certainly hope so.  But I can't help recalling past incidents where outstanding figureskaters inexplicably fell, where athletes had a cold or a stomach bug which affected their performance, where somebody's equipment failed.  And I always cringe when that happens.

You see, I don't care which country wins the most medals, and I don't really care about someone's career, and I don't care about long-standing rivalries.  What I care about, is seeing the best of the best... at their best.  And after all, how could we expect any more than that?

So I raise my cup of tea in a salute to all the athletes from all the countries, with a fervent hope that each and every one of them is able to ski and spin and luge and curl and do whatever else they do, to the very best of their abilities.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Magic of Recipes

I like recipes.  

I don't mean the result of following a recipe  -- I mean the recipes themselves.  Oh sure, I like to eat, but that's not what I'm talking about.  And I very much like the process of following a recipe. You start off with bits and pieces, and you can end up with something that looks and tastes very different from the bits and pieces.  But that's not what I'm talking about, either.

I'm talking about the actual recipes.  That lovely list of ingredients, with the cute little abbreviations like t and T and c and oz.   Just reading through the ingredients, you get a sense of the potential, and the possibilities.  Then you get to the directions.  Ahhhh.  I love directions.  I don't always follow them - yes, I can be a rebel at times.  But I do like to read those directions.

I consider myself  a collector of recipes, although I will acknowledge that I may come awfully close to being termed a hoarder.  But - if you're going to hoard anything, at least recipes don't take up much room.  Oh sure, I have cookbooks that I've acquired over the years, but I prefer to collect individual recipes, not cookbooks.  Most of my recipes are newspaper articles, or magazine articles, or recipes that people have typed up and sent to me, or even recipes that have been written out by hand.

And when I read a recipe for a dish that I've made before, I am always amazed by the memories that are stirred up.  Yes, some recipes are just recipes.  When I come across my recipe for Mediterranean Cod, I merely think 'oh yum, I like that one'.  But sometimes I'll find myself thinking 'oh! this was the dish I made when the Johnsons came over for dinner, and told us they were pregnant', or 'this was what I brought to the picnic when we got caught in the rain', or even 'oh no, this was the dish that the dog wouldn't eat'.

But then... every now and again .... you find that special recipe.  That recipe that takes you way back.

The other day, I started looking for a recipe that I hadn't made in quite some time.  I knew the recipe was not in a cookbook... and my recollection was that I'd photocopied it from somewhere.  I started off by looking in one of the several 3-ring binders I have...  and moved on to the file folder (no, wait, that's just rhubarb recipes), and then to the loose stack of photocopies, and back to one of the binders... and somewhere along the way, an index card fell to the floor.  This was an old, yellowed index card, with some unidentifiable spots on it.  It was in my handwriting, and was labeled Aunt Rose's Coffee Cake.  I hadn't seen that index card in 2 decades.. maybe more, and I hadn't thought of the coffee cake in nearly as long.  I have no idea where the card was hiding.  If you'd asked, I would likely have told you that I lost it long ago, but there it was.

My Aunt Rose wasn't really my aunt - she was my great aunt... my grandmother's sister.  She was a very good cook, but her baking was phenomenal. My Aunt Rose made cakes, and torts, and a jelly roll that people raved about... but my favorite was her coffee cake. I don't recall ever seeing a cookbook in her home, and I don't know if she ever had any written recipes.  And although the family members cautioned me that Aunt Rose never shared her recipes,  as I was getting ready to leave for college I got up my nerve, and I begged aunt Rose to please, pretty please give me the recipe for her coffee cake.

That was almost 40 years ago.  My Aunt Rose has long since passed away.  But that stained index card made me a young girl again, sitting in her living room with a cup of tea and a plate with a piece of her coffee cake.

The combination of ingredients and directions that make up a recipe is like a bit of abra cadabra.  But the true magic of recipes is in the memories they carry with them.

I made Aunt Rose's coffee cake, and to my delight, it tasted even better than I'd recalled.  I ate some, and set the rest aside, for later.

I think I'll go home now, make a nice cup of tea and have another piece of coffee cake, and enjoy some more memories.