Saturday, November 29, 2008

Differences Between Arkansas and Massachusetts

This is definitely one big one. I grew up in the Land of Opportunity (now called the Natural State) with mass quantities of this substance. No layperson knows the exact chemical makeup of Cool Whip. Those ingredients written in the tiny print on the side? HAH! A total laugh. Each batch is different. It's mostly sugar and Elmer's Glue, though, I know that much, with some wax and other nutrients thrown in. Cool Whip went on your Jello, it went on your pudding and ice cream, certainly on any pie and/or other dessert item, and that was just as a topping.
Strawberry Jello with Whipped Cream  (Not available in ES) - Image 114172

It was and is an integral ingredient in many recipes, such as my sister-in-law's Four Layer Delight, which can make you stuff yourself until you are sick. Cool Whip is meant to make you sick. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is meant to tell you that life is good and comforting and sugary and smooth, but not without a cost, which in most cases is acute abdominal discomfort and sometimes a headache. It is worth it.

Cool Whip is kept in the freezer like ice cream, though I don't think any harm would ever come from it melting. No Cool Whip container was ever thrown out in my house. They joined each other in paper sacks under the kitchen sink and then between the washer and dryer and then squeezed into the broom closet and on top of the counters and then a few tentative rows out into the dining room before my mother stopped cooking. For a few years the CW containers shared space with the coffee cans, but then the coffee cans retreated under the utility room sink and kept a sullen silence. The Cool Whip bowl parts nested nicely, and oh my, so did the lids. You could probably get a hundred bowl parts in one sack and twice that many lids in another sack. For some reason my parents cut their sacks down so that each one was rather short. You could really see the nested bowls at their maximum efficient best that way, ready to serve at a minute's notice. I always used to joke that someday my parents would move under the sink and when you knocked on the door, a Cool Whip container would answer. That never happened. Those containers knew who was boss and my mother displayed a fine sense of noblesse oblige.

They are great of course for leftovers and don't a lot of people wish they had some right now! My parents put every tiny remaining morsel into a Cool Whip container and my father attached a piece of masking tape to each one and wrote on it in calligraphy:

screws from lawnmower

When you opened the fridge, a vista of CW containers spread before you, stacked and lined up in an orgy of logic and frugality.

I miss it.

Here in Massachusetts, they buy heavy cream and whip it with a mixer. What fun is that?

Gosh, I didn't even get to the Velveeta. I'll save that for next time. I have to get back rocking on Rosetta Stone.
A bientot, dear reader.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Seduction

Oh, I shouldn't.

No. Really. No.


It's not a good idea for me.

Not that it doesn't look good, but............

Oh god.



Chocolate Cream Pie well, okay then. Just a bite. It doesn't count. I don't mean it.

Well okay, all right, sure. Just a little bit.

Yes. Oh yes, baby, yes.


Have a great holiday, dear reader. I will be in Arkansas covered in Velveeta and trying not to eat the total farm output of the state. See you next week. A bientot



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pet Report

Hansel and Gretel visit Camp Becky once or twice a year. They are brother and sister, husband and wife [Hansel was eventually cleared in that polygamist thing], and well known cat philanthropists. Both volunteer at a local cat soup kitchen and will be on duty next week to do their usual Thanksgiving handout of free Meow Mix [Friskies if you're there before 9am] to those less fortunate felines who show up. Some of these poor kitties have had hard lives. Some are close to the "nine" limit. They come from all walks--alcoholic, catnip-addicted, living in dumpsters. Hansel and Gretel are pampered, cosseted pets and they know it. But they're cats who want to give back.

Hansel volunteers on his own time at a sleep clinic. He does this for no compensation and you have to give him credit. At one time Hansel was a frontrunner for the Cat Olympic Sleep Team but he fell out with the coach, who was one of those bitchy Himalayans. Aaargh. Can you say hairball? H and G practice syncopated sleeping (see photo above) when they have time. And they are both heroes to us.

Okay, so these two are my daughter's cats, Dahlia and Violet, shown here sleeping in and around a backpack, their fave slumbering spot. Also very cute. They are sisters and sort of a Good Cop/Bad Cop duo.

Dahlia is the renegade, the risk-taker and pusher of the envelope. Though underage, her intentions are clear. She doesn't fool me. I know she wears my daughter's eye makeup and has tried more than once to steal my keys and take off with my car. No one wants to see her turn out to be some slutty airhead, but what can I do? The mascara should be kept under lock and key for starters. But I keep my mouth shut.

Violet is the "good" one, although she occasionally eats a few flowers. Hey. I can relate. I know what it's like to give up something I love, like carbs. When the craving comes over you for a begonia, a real one, pink and bursting with chlorophyll, there's not much you can do.

We do worry about bulimia sometimes.

This is Zoe the Wonder Dog, owner of my brother and his wife, whom I will be visiting next week. I have kept on good terms with Miss Z and trust she will allow me unfettered passage through the house. There's no guarantee, though, and I confess to a bit of nervousness. Zoe has
high standards and doesn't always grant papal dispensations when they are requested. If you're careful to speak to her respectfully and always say "Yes Your Grace" and "no, Your Grace," you might be okay. I'll keep everybody posted.
A bientot
love, Becky

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Are We Intimate? Tu or Vous?


In the US, we don't like to consider that question, at least not in any formal way. We all just kind of mosey along and don't get too deep about anything. Call it a state of non-analysis. We like it that way. Oh, we Yanks work together all right like everybody else and we have friendships and neighbors and normal social relations with our fellow Yanks and Yankettes. But we don't have special terms of address for really good friends and really not good friends. You know? "Dude" works fine for us. "Hey you" isn't so bad either. I think we do a lot of head nodding. We don't start going to the shrink unless we hear voices.

But en francais, you have to decide whenever you talk to somebody whether to address them with the informal "tu" or the more stately "vous."
Now maybe it's not as demarcated as I am making it out to be. I am deathly afraid of offending someone.
"Comment allez-vous?" means "how are you."
"Comment vas-tu?" means the same thing, but to someone you are close to.

But how close?
How are you, baby, gosh last night was great.
Oops, I mean how are you, monsieur, it is certainly fair weather. I am not looking at your zipper.

This is bothering more than it should.
What if I mess up and call the subway ticket taker "tu" by mistake? What if he thinks I am hitting on him? What if he thinks I am trying to sell him insurance and get invited for dinner at his mother's? How will I get out of it?

That is my biggest worry. But second biggest is how similar all the different words sound. For instance, "it is snowing"
sounds almost exactly the same as "he is swimming."

image of man swimming laps
I guess there is no way I could get in trouble by interchanging those two, but still, you can't be too careful.


I am now on Level Two, Unit Two of Rosetta Stone. Kiss my neige!!!
I am also reading Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. It is fascinating and heartrending. I love reading about how he worked so hard on his writing and how in love he was with Hadley, his first wife.
A bientot

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Horse Likes Me

Yes, it's true, dear reader. I, who have always been looked upon with suspicion by animals, have an admirer. He lives up the road from me. I believe he rents space at a farm there and so is a horse of means. He is allotted a modest corral of his own near the road where I walk.

He is brown with a white splotch on his forehead. I would like to say it is a star, but I don't want to misrepresent him. He may think it is a star, though.
Anyway, when he sees me, he walks over. He probably thinks I have food for him or is confusing me with some other pleasant foolish person who walks by.

But I am charmed, dear reader. I practice my French with him.
Salut, cheval. Vous etes brun. Je marche dans la rue. Le velo est jaune.
He nods wisely. Actually, he turns his head to the side to get a better look at me. I had the nerve the other day to put my hand inside the fence and pat his nose. He let me do it.
And so I am in love.

In other news, I am stunbling forward on Rosetta Stone, struggling every day with the male/female thing, but then, who isn't?

Isn't this bizarre? I found it on a defunct blog and hope I don't get sued for using it.

Some things you just gotta share, right?
Meanwhile, I have found my inspiration for living. This is who I was meant to be.

It's "Woman in Blue" by Matisse and it's very Queen Isabella having tea with Christopher Columbus, isn't it? "Look Chris--may I call you Chris--this thing about sailing across the ocean sounds rash to me. And how much did you say it would be? You can't be serious."
The cat in her lap looks overpowered by her strength. Is it a cat?

A bientot, dear reader.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Les Bloopeurs

Pablo Picasso, Bloch 1063
Recent papers were on various subjects, including art and artists.

"He was a graphic artist for the rest of his life and beyond."

"Monet painted the woman standing on a hillside with her dress filled with wind."
[All those crepes suzettes, I fear]

"At the age of five, his family moved."
[This is tragic in several ways, although think of the fun they must have had while it lasted, playing Candyland the whole livelong day, staying up past their bedtime, and never brushing their teeth]

"This painting does not provide any bright colors, which allows the viewer to study the painting with ease."
[Bright colors, well, what can be said? They are studied only with great difficulty, at night, on a mattress of nails, and with a headache. Even then, only the wisest among us will understand their brightness.]

"The Greyhound bus line fairs were cheap." [hop on the Scrambler where your fingers will do the riding]

"Laboring on a farm demands psychical work." [It's the cows. I've always known it. They predict stuff.]

"Health care is another griping issue."

"Marijuana causes hunger, happiness, and sense of well being. What is the matter with that?"
[What indeed?]

And finally from a young man who missed a submission deadline and had to turn in his work past the due date:
"I apologize for my latency."

Moving forward on Rosetta Stone, dear reader, and probably making all kinds of bloopers myself. Zeut alors!

Monday, November 10, 2008

So you're going to Paris.....

What do you think is the most common follow-up I get to this statement?

a) Don't miss the Mona Lisa.

b) It's so beautiful.

c) The fashion!

d) There's a lot of dog shit.

If you guessed d), dear reader, you are right. I will have to report back on this phenomenon but admit to being slightly worried. Merde de chien!

I tried to buy opera tickets to the Palais Garnier and they were $700 for two!!

We now have tickets for another show, far more reasonable, and it's On The Town, a Leonard Bernstein American musical!! I hope it is in French so I can sit there and recognize every fifteenth word. Okay well, perhaps every thirtieth word. If I really concentrate. Picture me leaping up out of my seat.


Okay, so I admit I have this thing with the yellow bicycle.

Sue me. Suez-moi. Chop-suez moi. Eat chop suey with me.

What is getting me down is this masculine and feminine obsession they have. It's getting on my last nerve. When you say the simplest thing, you have to know if the little geegaw you are talking about is male or female. And there is no rhyme or reason to it--a pen is masculine and perhaps that makes sense because as some might point out, that little stylo has a, well, shall we say a phallic shape?


Cuisine is kitchen and that is feminine and I suppose that makes sense too. But doors and windows are feminine....a sweater is masculine but a belt feminine. AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!

Here in America we have switched from "the fireman" to "the firefighter." Know what I'm saying? I thought we were trying to get away from all that...

I picture the lucky French person starting to learn English . Are you keeeding me?

Mais non! In English we don't do that, dude. You can just say "the yellow bicycle" or "the yellow bicycles," without going into massive meltdown minutiae trying to figure out the gender of your word or the plural of "yellow."

Le velo is one bicycle. More than one makes "les" velos. Again, why do they have to be so bloody specific?

Sacre Bleu!

From deep in Rosetta Stone I am yours,

with love, and preparing some bloopers,

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Lovely Men

Stay with me on this, dear reader.

The lovely men could be these guys, couldn't they?

Or the lovely men could be the US men's gymnastics team, which I would say qualifies nicely.

OR the lovely men could be the 04 Red Sox who vanquished The Curse:

The 2004 Red Sox team celebrates after winning the World Series in St. Louis Wednesday night.

They could definitely be the lovely men.

Or if I squish the requirements from plural to singular, this could be the lovely man:

But that isn't fair. And surely I want to be fair.

But what I am really trying to say is:

lave les mains which Rosetta Stone is trying to teach me.

It means to wash the hands. To wash MY hands.

wash my hands

En francais, dude.

That's what I'm trying to learn and the lovely men will help me remember it.

Je me lave les mains. I love the lovely men. Right?

When I try to remember how to say wash my hands, I will remember the lovely men.

And why not? Pourquoi pas?
There aren't that many.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night

I feel hopeful. I really do.

Something good is happening.

You know, dear reader, that I don't have TV, so I haven't seen much of the campaign coverage. And I usually leave politics out of CFTE because I prefer to speak of things that bring us together rather than push us apart.

Fighting the [no] thank you policy at Hannaford's seems more important to me sometimes than who's running for what office.
And it's wearying, all this campaigning. It's sickening. You wouldn't even think someone would WANT the office. I can well imagine President GWB can't wait to get out. MAN, I am hitting the golf course every day of my life from now on.

Why does someone want it?
So they can sit there and make a whole lot less money than their friends? So they can have 25 intractable problems sitting in their in box? [OH GOOD, WE'RE GLAD YOU'RE HERE. SOLVE THIS MIDDLE EAST THING, WILL YOU? THEY ALL HATE EACH OTHER AND HAVE VOWED ETERNAL REVENGE AND WANT TO FIGHT TO THE DEATH. CAN YOU GET WORKING ON THAT RIGHT AWAY? ]Get made fun of on TV shows? Not be able to go anywhere without some Kevin Costner Secret Service dude hanging around and yawning while you're trying to tell a funny story? I honestly can't imagine why they want it.

But they do.
They spend millions and millions and millions on ads and press releases and text messages and talking points and more ads and town meetings and YouTube and every cuckoo thing to get them there.
White House Picture
It's power, I think, the ultimate aphrodisiac for many.

And so we get these completely ridiculous two-year excruciatingly drawn out election cycles. Finally now for a few months anyway, we won't have a campaign. Until it starts again--who will be hanging out in New Hampshire and when will they start? GOD.

But anyway, Election Day itself felt really special today. The road in my town was clogged with cars, the young police officers were very busy (and looked very important) directing everyone hither and yon, the regular clutch of sign-wavers was gathered just outside the legal boundary for such things. My daughter's old boyfriend was there holding up a sign for Bart Simpson (I'm so proud). I had to park down the street at the old school and walk up in the nice weather, which was not a chore. The lady at the door yelled at the driver of the SUV which was trying to run me over.
"I'm trying to save your life," she said.
"Thanks," I said.
The ballot was big. It was about the size of the menu at Applebee's, but not laminated. It was a nice shiny clean white with black lettering. Thick almost like cardboard. When you finish voting, you really don't exactly want to put it in the machine. You want to hold it for a while, maybe walk around and let people look at you. Wow, look at her. She's just voted. You feel proud. In my town you don't have to show ID or anything. You just tell them your address and they look you up and ask you if you are that person. Well, yeah. I always imagine what I would say if they said, "Mary R. Motew already voted, lady." I always secretly hope that will be said so I can be at the center of a voting drama.

But eventually I walked back down the street, got in my car, and fought the traffic jam to get out of there. It occurred to me that in some countries you might see soldiers on the street to protect the order. The losers in some countries won't admit defeat and start civil wars. We don't do that here. Even if we don't like the outcome, we accept it and go forward.

I feel proud for that.
A bientot, dear reader.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Theory About De-Caf

There is no such thing. It's all bullshit. They don't take the caffeine out. How could they? With a strainer? Now admittedly I have not researched this and I find the Wikipedia explanation incomprehensible.

Therefore I stick to my theory.

If I drink one of these, I toss and turn just as tormentedly as if I'd eaten a bag of coco beans and chased it down with an espresso. I did this last night at the karaoke party I attended and I still haven't slept. That was not the only thing I drank, though.

So now today we have the Clock Thing.

I hate to sound like a sorry-ass complainer, but aren't we constantly changing the damn things? Spring ahead, fall behind, ho hum, AGAIN? And don't joke about falling!!!!! Someone at the karaoke party said that the reason your computer makes the change on its own is because it gets in touch with or connects or calls up some big clock somewhere, some time service, and gets the time without being prodded to do it. Here's my question.

Why can't the microwave do that?

Why can't it call up one of those big ovens in a nearby town, maybe one of those brick pizza ovens which really should know what time it is at ALL times, don't you agree?, and ask IT what time it is without waiting for me to traipse bleary-eyed into the kitchen and have to punch in numbers to make the stupid thing work.

Why can't my car clock call somebody else's car and ask?

"Hey, is this the BMW that lives on Berlin Road near the horse farm?"

"Why yes."

"Can you tell me what time it is?"

"I think it's 8:10 but have you checked with your microwave?"

Chitta BOOM.

New skins in Clock 2.3 preview release 2

So many clocks, so little time.

Here's a little tip for you, dear reader. I have lived successfully for over a year without having the correct time on my coffeemaker. It usually says 2:10 at all times and it hasn't affected my life. The same thing holds true for the VCR or the DVD or whatever that gadget is on the TV. I never go into that room anyway, although soon I may be having company but even then I will let 12:00 blink on and off into perpetuity.

In other news, I have passed the first two units on Rosetta Stone and just entered the third. It's heady stuff, though my level of sophistication remains at the "I am eating with a fork" level.

One last burst of sixty-degree weather is in store for us here in central Mass. I'm going to breathe in every molecule. Even if I do feel stressed out on caffeine or don't know the time.

A bientot. Don't forget to vote.