Sunday, March 27, 2016

Women Folk

I was going through photographs on my mother's computer looking for one to use as a screen saver because she was tired of the one that had been looking at her for too long. Naturally, I was mesmerized and spent too long going through all of the pictures of our lives that she has stored or others have sent to her and appear, unbeknownst to her I'm sure, in hidden files.

Here is a photograph of my great maternal grandmother who is standing in front of a cabin in South Dakota. In beer'd tales, I tell of this woman who lived in both Iowa and South Dakota. She may be the one that is suspected of having two families: one to mind the business in Iowa and the other who helped her farm her claim further north. It is hard to make out this woman's face to determine if any of hers resides in mine. Of course, my face is taken quite directly from my father's tribe there is no mistaking that fact. But there is something in here in what looks to be a good height and a formidable countenance. I see myself in her. I wonder, for I don't know, what took her from Ireland to this life in what was a pioneering Midwest. My mother speaks very kindly of her, for the woman that she knew as a grandmother in a time that must have been a decade or two or three after this picture was taken. I wonder who even who took the picture? Who would have a camera out in what is the wild to capture a spirit standing in front of what took more work and effort than I think my hands have done in my whole lifetime.

And here is Caroline, my niece, who is 12 this April. She lives in the Caribbean with my sister, her 3 siblings, and Papi. She is a hybrid ... half Puerto Rican, half Irish American. Her little Irish dancing costume was made by a granny in Northern Ireland. I have dear friends there, and mentioned to them that in Puerto Rico, the schools celebrate heritage. All of the little boys and girls wear Spanish conquistador get-ups or flouncy Spanish skirts, and I thought that it would be kind of nice if my nieces could go to school representing their other half. One St. Patrick's Day after Tom and Margaret left the pub, they walked by a charity shop and the Irish dancing costume was in the window. Margaret walked back the next week and bought it for my nieces. Mary Katherine first wore it to school, and here is Caroline. The dress is made of a lovely, dark green woolen with hand stitched crewel work in Celtic designs and beautifully hand worked lace trimming. Can you imagine a wool dress in Puerto Rico? But Caroline looks to be a fine Irish lass. And if I look carefully, I believe that I see a bit of Grandma Hanson in her. Caroline is a force to be reckoned, not unlike the woman who came before her.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gwen Stefani

It's hard to believe that Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. was released in 2004. Jeez. Now that she's released a follow up solo album 12 years later, I have to consider the years that have passed since then.

I had never bought a No Doubt record, but when "What Are You Waiting For" hit the radio, I had to buy it. Something resonated about it with me ... could be that solo-Gwen sang about being a girl in a boys' world (check), fashion (check check), and fun (check plus). How many times have I thought since  'tic toc, tic toc, take a chance you stupid ho ... what are you waiting for.'

More then than now, a regular Friday feature for me was to drink a bottle of wine, put my headphones on, and dance until I dropped. One Friday night, I called a guy over  that I worked with.  He was a hot headed Columbian who was a certain number of years younger than me. He imagined himself to be quite  .... a latin lover boy, or something like that. I enjoyed his company. His hot head I may have mistaken for passion, but it was a good substitute. He must have been skint to come over on a Friday night, but he did. He even brought over a bottle of wine. 

It didn't take too many glasses before I put Gwen on. And I danced. He sat on the couch and watched. I was encouraged by his ... watching. And true to form as he would when we were together, he ripped his shirt off. This was my second favorite time when he ripped his shirt off. The first was when we were eating gyros late at night after having been at a club with his underaged brother and female cousin who wasn't so sure about hanging out with a gringa. They had left when we started to argue about something that seemed really important at the time. Realizing that he wasn't ever going to stop his rant, I decided to leave too. He followed me out on to the street, I jumped into my car, pulled out, and in the rear view mirror I saw him standing in the middle of the street, shirt off and still fussing at me. It was almost ... romantic in a  twisted Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate" kind of way. And on this night, I danced ... the whole album. He shirtlessly announced several times, the several ways that he would ravage me when I was finished. Oh, he was an entertaining diversion on a lonely old night, but he was hardly a Romeo. 

Ah, 12 years later ... I won't get a true test of Gwen's success unless I dance it for someone. The Colombian has long since moved on to ... a western suburb. No one has quite filled his shoes for a 'what are you up to' kind of fun. I"ll have to be on the look-out. Maybe then I'll know what the truth looks like, eh Gwen?!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Erin Go Braugh

When my youngest sister graduated from Optometry school, we decided that a sibling adventure to Ireland was in order. Lucky for her, she got a job right away and, in the end, didn't think that she could say to her new employer, 'sorry, I have to go across the pond and drink beer.' We carried on without her, but firmly in celebration of her achievement.

Here, my brother and middle sister and I are stading at the site of Saint Patirck's grave in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. Good friends of ours live there and visiting them was a part of the trip. That's me on the left ... remember, it was the '80's and it does appear as if I could be a River Dancer with my curly locks of strawberry blond hair. My sister is right there with me with the perm, and look at the stache on my bro! He looks like Tom Selleck.

When we visited Downpartick, we insisted that we stay in a B&B so that we weren't too much underfoot. By that point of the trip, our gullets were full of Irish breakfasts and Cadberry chocolate. My brother was still running every day. He met our Irish friend when he came over to America to run on the same college track team. Bill, my brother, has a huge sweet tooth, and he was the one who insisted on the chocolate breaks every day.

When we were staying in Blarney, he went out for his evening run. My sister and I relaxed and got ready for dinner. Darker and darker it became and no Bill. What could have happened to him? What would we do if he didn't come back? If you know anything of Ireland, you understand that once out of the village, you are out in the country with nothing but the cows and sheep. Almost to the point of calling the guard, Bill came home. He was walking ... oddly. And the first words out his mouth, 'I got lost and my thighs rubbed together!' He gained, if I remember correctly and remembering that I kissed the Blarney stone, 20 pounds on that trip!

Back in Downpatrick, we told our hostess that we didn't need the WHOLE Irish Fry every morning. Some fried bread and cereal would do us well. There is nothing like fried Irish bread. I wouldn't even try to copy the buttery goodness of it. On the morning after our request, we sat down to a table with every imaginable cereal known to man, heaps of fried bread, and bakery goods ... donuts and iced buns. She was really worried that wouldn't have enough to eat. What we didn't eat, she packed for the day so that we always had something to keep up our strength. Irish hospitality is quite ... friendly and fattening.

Ah, to be in Ireland today to go to mass and hit the pub with friends and famliy. We'd sing and tell tall tales of times when all of the grass was green


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring Ahead

Vogue March 2016
Spring may be a few days off, but these gorgeously styled fashions have put my feet firmly is saison verte. The rain is softly falling on the sidewalk out my window washing winter's grime away. I am listening to every Irish CD that I could muster up ... and I'm hopeful. I may have lost an hour, but what I get in return is worth the sleepiness that will catch up with me sometime tomorrow when I least need it.

Ah, the beauty of the petal.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring Cake

Oprah March 2106
Wouldn't you love a piece of one of these pretty cakes? I certainly would. I would like to see a pink one in the bunch as they look rather blue without a rosy companion. Surprisingly, these lovelies may be purchased, from, for a mere $60. That's not too dear if you consider what a normal layer cake from Whole Foods costs.

I like to bake cakes. I have a trophy on top of my refrigerator for winning a high school cake baking contest. For that, I chose a recipe from my mother's cookbook, probably Betty Crocker's, called a Nutcracker Suite Torte. It sounded festive, and one of the ingredients was rum flavoring. As the judges were teachers, I thought that they would appreciate the run flavoring in the middle of the day. I was right ... I won.

My mother was always one to encourage us to cook. I think that I made my first solo batch of chocolate chip cookies when I was in 2nd grade. And the tradition has held with my nieces and nephews who have been sitting on grandma's counter since they could ... well sit up. It was not unusual to have a 2 or 3 year old crack an egg into the mixture. Now, the kids fly solo, and we are given to challenging them with their culinary, particularly baking, skills. On a recent visit, my 17 year old nephew raised bread and made the dinner rolls. And at Christmas, my 11 year old niece happily remarked that the best recipes come from grandma's cookbooks. And batter tastes good too as evidenced from the chocolate smiles in the photograph.

I wouldn't dream of replicating the cakes that Oprah has shared with us. I don't have that kind of decorating skills. But i could try to get the taste and texture. The chemistry of it, I've mastered.