How  To Kill  A Harmless Houseplant

On the off chance that you have any house plants you’d like to get rid of for some weird reason,  I’m your gal. I come with a 100% guarantee of satisfaction. I could almost work up a little sideline in plant removal if there was enough demand.  I’d get both of my black thumbs insured or patented or whatever might be called for.

My method is simple and humane. I kill with kindness and the very best of intentions.  No neglected, overlooked or forgotten plants on my watch. No dead, dessicated twigs or crumbling leaves desperate for water or food.  That’s not my way at all. My plants expire quietly.

Well, almost. They may strangle and drown, gurgling and holding their little plant noses as I pour more and more fresh water over them and they sink for the 3d or even the 4th time, but they do get watered.  As for food, my system is simple. If a pinch is good a tablespoon or maybe two will be even better. I’m so afraid the little dears will die of starvation.

I once killed a pot of artificial ivy. Real ivy is difficult to get rid of for most people, although it’s never been much of a problem for me with my particular talents.  However, the artificial type was a little more complicated. In a fit of absentmindedness I began to water it as faithfully as I watered each of my real plants, until I was finally forced to notice the water wasn’t going anywhere. It had filled up the container and begun to rust all the wire stems. The leaves had been made of  cloth coated in something and and were rotting away into a gummy mess..

The only plant I ever had any luck with was a Chia Pet my husband gave  our cat, Samson, one year for Christmas. The idea was that when the greens grew to full size, they be as tempting as catnip and Samson would love them.

I followed all the directions meticulously and grew a gorgeous crop.  The trouble was Samson was totally uninterested. Even as I plucked a few sprouts and nibbled on them myself to show him how tasty they were, he merely sat and gazed at me with that impassive cat look that says  “You know you’re being an idiot and you know I know you are but I’ll keep your secret.”

So much for the Chia Pet. It was exiled to the patio where even the neighborhood strays left it alone.

I’ve mourned each and every plant I’ve managed to kill. They never deserved a monster like me.  I do yearn for a home full of living, flourishing greenery and beautiful blooms. I drop in on my friends from time to time. They all have lovely plants and I’m welcome to visit, but I have to promise ahead of time that I won’t touch any of them.

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Blarney as Our Second Language

(This is a three-peat from the past two years. I still think it’s a good idea!)

Shure and haven’t I been speakin’ the Blarney since I was a wee lass?

Okay, enough of the phony Irish brogue.  I never was good at it anyway. I just wanted to emphasize the fact that Blarney, that soothing, delightful manner of addressing others, is a great way to communicate. You don’t have to be Irish to speak it but it doesn’t hurt.

Blarney just might be the universal second language our world needs, long sought after, a means of expression understood by everyone.

So what is Blarney anyway?  Well, all you need is a soft smile and a sweet, sly voice, or maybe a soft voice and a sweet, sly smile.  Sometimes called the Gift O’ Gab, sometimes schmoozing, or soft soap, it’s occasionally rather insultingly referred to as B.S.  The Blarney is a much kinder means of communicating, the idea being to establish a good feeling with the person to whom you are speaking.  A tiny white lie is never amiss as long as it makes your listener feel good.

Blarney is the perfect language to use with curmudgeons, crabs and cold hearts, or anyone having an off day.  When voices get tense and an argument seems imminent, lay on the Blarney and talk the combatants down. When spirits are low, Blarney is the way to cheer people up, flattering the bejabbers out of them.

For example, you haven’t slept, the bags under your eyes could hold bowling balls and you look like you barely survived The Perfect Storm.  Do you want to hear “Ye gods, what a mess. What happened to you? Go back to bed and get up again.”

Or would you rather hear  “Oh, you poor love, you aren’t quite yourself, want to tell me about it?”  That’s a no-brainer and that’s why the person now speaking to you just became your new best friend.  So you’re being schmoozed, you know it, it feels good and so do you.

There is a lot of Blarney going around right here at our retirement residence. I hear it all the time and I love it.  Whatever the reason, our age group, our similarities, the fact that we all have one foot on the proverbial banana peel, it’s beautiful to our ears.  Maybe we’re just naturally nice people; whatever, schmoozing is soothing.

Oh sure, there are always those who can’t resist a snide remark or a snarky comment but they’re few and far between and they just need a good dose of Blarney to calm them down.

If only our world leaders would learn to use the Blarney, think of the benefits.  Our legislators need to start addressing one another as “The esteemed gentlewoman or gentleman from the great State of Euphoria”  without the undercurrent of sarcasm we hear so often.

They could then communicate with representatives of the most powerful countries of the world at the next Global Summit in an equally sincere, flattering fashion, thereby setting the stage for success.  Imagine a Global Round Table discussion right here in our own country with current world leaders together.

A surprisingly affable Donald Trump is welcoming all the delegates with open arms.  Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu are questioning Kim Jung Un about the efficacy of Rogaine on male pattern baldness.  Jung Un, who resembles an overwatered Chia Pet with a bad dye job, is nodding vigorously, repeating over and over, “Is good, is good” in Korean Blarney.

Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping are happily trading recipes for Rouladen and General Tso’s Chicken.  Emmanuel Macron and Teresa May have set aside centuries of dissension to agree on the proper pronunciation of such common words as CHANNEL versus CHENEL or the usage of LOO versus PISSOIR.  Pope Francis and Italy’s Conte toast the fact that neither has ever owed the other rent or taxes; and so it might go.

The African contingent and the Scandinavians are smiling, deep in conversation, as are the Central and South Americans. The Canadians are arm in arm with the Greeks, learning traditional  dances. The bad boys from ISIS have been exiled to the kiddies’ table in the corner until they agree to shape up.

Each session begins and ends with the delegates clasping hands, swaying slightly and singing  “Kumbaya.” Pots of herbal tea and platters of Snickerdoodle cookies are consumed. The warm fuzzies break out all over, all because everyone is speaking our common language, the Blarney!

Hey, it’s worth a try!!

Erin Go Bragh!

Spring  Forward, Fall Back Redux

Or: Some Things Never Change;  Understanding The D.U.H. Syndrome

I wish I could remember the sequence of events that got me in so much trouble one recent Spring  evening as I busied myself changing clocks for the Daylight Savings Time switch. I clearly recall repeating over and over to myself   “Spring Forward, Fall Back,” even as I carefully turned every set of hands or electronic numerals back one hour on every clock I own. We all know how many timepieces that can be in this electronic age.  Little green, yellow and red faces blink and wink at us in every room. As I dutifully turned every one of those clocks from 9:00 p.m. back to 8:00 p.m., I smugly recited my mantra; “Spring Forward…..”

It was Sunday morning before I realized how badly I’d goofed, and I can only say it was fortunate I didn’t have a job to get to, or a plane to catch. I would have been very annoyed in spite of the extra sleep.

There’s a name for people like me who think one thing and do another.  We’re afflicted with DETAILS-UN-HINGED Syndrome, better known by its acronym  D.U.H. We’re also prone to saying one thing and doing the opposite. We turn left when everyone else turns right, and we always, always forget names.  We may have an I.Q. to rival Marilyn vos Savant, and the know-how to translate the Abyssinian alphabet into High German but when it gets down to nitty-gritty time we’re all candidates for D.U.H.   There seems to be no cure; we’re doomed to spend our lives apologizing and explaining.

Now don’t try to deny it, those of you who are even now putting your car keys in the refrigerator.  You know who you are, we’re all in this together. D.U.H. can strike anyone at any time, although advancing age seems to make it worse.  Male or female, country of origin, urban or rural background, income level, there’s almost no hope.

I seem to be especially bad with timepieces.  I spent weeks last winter staring at my new Timex, wishing the date would change at midnight instead of noon.  I even read the directions as a last resort. I hardly knew whether it was yesterday or tomorrow until some kindly soul suggested I advance the dial 12 hours.  Now why hadn’t I thought of that? D.U.H., of course.

I’m especially vulnerable when it comes to elevator buttons and seat belt locks,  A ride on an elevator with me, especially anywhere above Floor 2 is a real adventure as I push buttons with the abandon of a 3 year old.  I’m particularly adept at pushing OPEN for CLOSE, or vice versa. Symbols only make it worse. D.U.H. again.

I’ve always maintained that inanimate objects of all sorts are out to get me, seat belt locks being especially mean and nasty.  In the event of a real need I already know I’ll be a goner. Why couldn’t all seat belt locks have a universal fastener in case we’re in a taxi or some other vehicle we’re not used to? I refuse to bear all the responsibility for this by myself.

Ever stand in front of a rack of grocery items at the supermarket, reading all the info on a certain package, only to reach up and select the package right next to it, the one that contains a totally different product?  Yep, me too. One of the most infuriating examples of Details-Unhinged.

And it’s not just me. I remember a time when everyone except the hostess laughed uproariously when a fellow D.U.H. sufferer showed up two hours early for our usual Bloody Mary get-together prior to a Sunday brunch.

I know a bright young female engineer who sat in a heavily mirrored restaurant one evening, wondering seriously why all the EXIT signs read backwards as if in code,  TIX3. And even my salty old sea-dog sailor of a husband actually confused port and starboard in his later years.

I tell you, no one is exempt.  If your life has been blighted by the D.U.H. Syndrome, stories about you are already making the rounds.  Details-Un-Hinged welcomes you to our group. While we have no advice for you or your condition, we do offer our heartfelt sympathy as we busily stir cat food into the tuna casserole for tonight’s dinner.  (That’s OUR dinner, not the cat’s.)

The  Junk Drawer

Every household has one, mine included. In fact I have several.  I’ve always questioned why the use of the singular “junk drawer”  when the plural “drawers” is much more appropriate. I also have junk shelves in junk cupboards, junk closets and junk rooms, all plural.  Obviously I’m not a very tidy person.

What may have started out way back when as a good idea quickly got out of control. One drawer, usually in the kitchen, to be set aside just for the accumulation of those necessary odds and ends that don’t seem to belong anywhere else.

My junk drawer started out holding a few awkwardly shaped kitchen tools that didn’t fit in a smaller drawer or belong to a set. It soon became a catch-all in which to temporarily toss anything loose that needed a home.

Recently, out of curiosity, I took a serious look into my several junk drawers and was absolutely floored by the variety and quantity of items which could only be called junk.  Most of the original tools were still there somewhere, hidden by more junk than seemed possible.

My potato masher, the kitchen shears, a wine bottle opener that really works, several spatulas, the world’s best little knife sharpener and a package of wooden skewers all belonged there, as well as several types and kinds of jar and can openers, including a pliers.

All well and good, but by now I was intrigued and began turning out the contents of several more drawers.  I found:

An empty prescription bottle

6 blue, 3 red and a yellow rubber bands

A used emery board

The long lost keys to a car I sold in 2013

Countless clippies of all sizes, meant to close bags

A wooden clothespin

Several pieces of string, random lengths

A book of matches from a motel in Lander, Wy. How old was that? Do

they still make book matches? Was it safe to strike one?

Several packets of mustard and mayo

7 packets of Splenda

Sample bottles of hand lotion, shampoo and laundry soap

A dog-eared shopping list reminding me to buy baby food. Since my

baby is now 68 years old, it had to be for a grand- or a great-grand

child.

Quite a few pencil stubs, all in need of sharpening

29 various colored plastic tabs to seal loaves of bread

Uncounted numbers of toothpicks

3 totally unidentifiable objects.

After this archeological dig, I’m convinced most of the stuff multiplies and divides behind our backs. It’s probably dangerous too, if not radioactive  or toxic. At least there didn’t seem to be anything living in my drawers…..not yet……

I’m a great believer in keeping things that may come in handy some day but I think even I’ve reached my limit. I’m very much afraid this can mean only one thing – a serious housecleaning.  Horrors!

More  Garlic,  Please

Is there any kitchen aroma more appetizing than sliced onions,  green peppers and freshly minced garlic sauteing in olive oil? Throw in some chopped tomatoes and just about anything else you want and you’ve created a feast fit for the gods. Call it whatever you wish,  pasta or pizza sauce, or, with the pasta added in it might be goulash, Johnny Marzetti, or All-American casserole. Add beans and you have the base for chili, taco soup and a variety of ethnic foods. Savory spices are a must  and there you have it, you’ve turned out a dish that can’t be beat.

The secret, of course, is to use more than enough onions and green peppers (for maximum flavor use only the green ones) and a whole lot of fresh garlic.  The fragrance alone will pull people in off the streets or, worst case scenario, drive them away permanently.

Before I retired from my kitchen due to advanced age and infirmities,  my claim to fame was my personal guarantee that I could give anybody heartburn.  They’d also get lectured on the health benefits to be gained from my favorites. Garlic is especially rich in nutrients.

Growing up in the upper Midwest,  I learned to cook from my mother, grandma and many aunts, all of whom were remembered as excellent cooks.  I dutifully followed their methods: Onions? Sure, daringly dicing up as much as a whole teaspoonful for a recipe; Green peppers? Well, maybe they’d risk a slice or two in a very few dishes; Garlic? are you kidding?  If they’d even heard of it they knew no one used it but the newest Americans and you couldn’t get near them for the lingering after-smell. Admittedly, second hand garlic odor can be pretty pungent unless you eat it too, in self defense.

Marrying into a family of equally good cooks, I felt right at home with my few skills until I got out into the world and realized what a difference a few spices and my three new favorites made in a meal. True, I was inclined to go overboard for a while there, and went through quite a few food fads.

My kids accused me at one time of never feeding them anything but liver and brussels sprouts. This was back in the day when liver was known to be good for us  because of the iron content. I still like brussels sprouts, sorry, kids. My cooking was already being liberally flavored with onions, green peppers and garlic, but sometimes enough is enough.

My husband was always up for anything  and went along with most of my fads, being as fond of the big three veggies as I was.  Garlic being his favorite, but even he had his limits. I recall a time when I was in the throes of my  “only the healthiest of basic foods” kick. Our meals began to get a little boring and monotonous.

One evening, after sampling everything on his plate, he stood up from the table, walked over to the sink and scraped the whole mess into the disposal without saying a word.

I guess a bowlful of mixed dark green leaves, with eight or more chopped veggies added, including my Big Three, as I now called them, splashed with a little balsamic vinegar, couldn’t really be called a salad.  Plain poached chicken breasts didn’t do a whole lot either for a man who grew up on breaded, deep -fried everything. I always had to learn my lessons the hard way.

Somewhere along the way, I’d been gifted with a clever little domed pottery garlic cooker to be used in the microwave. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet when that dear man decided to experiment without my knowledge.

We were in the habit of having Bloody Marys with a group of friends on Sunday mornings, taking turns in each others’ homes, followed by brunch in a favorite restaurant.  The gang was arriving at our place one Sunday as usual. I assumed my busy-body husband was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the drinks as everyone got seated.

He did make a mean Bloody Mary and was just passing them around when a tremendous explosion from the kitchen had us all jumping out of our seats. Fortunately we had the the vodka to calm our nerves  as we looked around in confusion.

He’d decided to try out the garlic cooker,  hadn’t bothered to read the instructions, and put the biggest bulb he could find in the microwave, turned it on full blast  and come in to pass out drinks. It turned out that he should have sliced the bulb open across the top first so each clove was free to steam as it cooked.

The microwave was full of pottery shards and garlic shreds clinging to every surface, top, sides and inside the glass door.  The smell was overwhelming, to say the least. He spent most of the afternoon cleaning up the mess. The odor lingered for days.

So it is possible to get too much garlic.  For normal purposes, though, nothing can take the place of my 3 favorite veggies, onions, green peppers and extra garlic simmering away on the back burner as I open a bottle of pinot noir.  I do miss it, smell and all.

The Happiest Love Songs

(A belated Valentine to all of you and a favorite re-run)

“Love, Love, Hooray For Love,  Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?”

Love songs should all be happy.  You want to belt them out with so much energy and enthusiasm  that everyone joins in. They never get old.

Thinking back to the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s,  who could ever forget a song like “Hooray For Love?”  The lyrics were written by the great Harold Arlen, who also wrote a little something called “Over The Rainbow.”  The second line in “Hooray For Love,” “Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?” has to be one of the most delightful lines in popular music. The imagination that wrote the word “blase”  into a love song and made it work is what made Arlen such a great songwriter.

There were so many other talented  songwriters of that era . We can all recall  Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin,  Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein,  and the list goes on. They turned out one unforgettable song after another.

Maybe it was the times,  the Great Depression, followed by  World War Two, that gave us such an appreciation for simple, joyous music. The promise of sunshine and silver linings ahead kept us going through a lot of very dark days.  Whatever the reason, those songwriters knew how to cheer up an entire nation with their words and music. Funny, isn’t it, how the spirit of an era could be lifted by a few happy songs.

Remember  “Get Happy,”  “Old Black Magic,”  “Million Dollar Baby In The Five And Ten Cent Store,”  “You’re The Tops,” or “ It’s Delightful, It’s Delovely?”   and how about “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” ” You Are My Lucky Star,”  and “Fit As A Fiddle And Ready For Love?”

The smiles just kept coming.  Who could forget “ Oh, Mama, It’s The Butcher Boy For Me,”   “A Bushel And A Peck,” or “Buttons And Bows?” Some of the most memorable songs came out of World War Two,  such as “Jeepers Creepers,” and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.”

And what about the  happiest, most exuberant  love song of them all? Written in 1929 and made famous in 1952 with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown,  it made every one of us want to run out, splash in rain puddles and swing around lampposts. As danced and sung by the one and only Gene Kelly,  “Singin’ In The Rain” has to be the most unforgettable, inspirational, lighthearted love song of all time.

If “Singin’ In The Rain”  doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will!!

“What A Wonderful Feeling To Be Happy Again!”

Auntie Jo’s Advice to the Aging Lovelorn

( February being the month for lovers, I decided to re-run my first and favorite  Auntie Jo story. Hope you enjoy it.)

Elder-amour,  is that a real expression or did I just make it up?   Whichever, it sounds good and love can be such a rewarding addition to the aging process.  It might sneak up on any of us at any age and when it’s returned, these later years of our lives will be enriched.  Auntie Jo, my all-knowing advice giver friend, has some suggestions for us.

But how do we tell what’s real  from a passing fancy? I have another friend, using the word loosely,  who latches on to any man who comes into her orbit like a Venus-Fly-Trap sensing life.  When he gets that deer-in-the-headlights look, it’s too late for him. Auntie Jo frowns on this.  He’s been hooked and the rest of us hardly had a chance to notice whether he had hair, chewed tobacco or wore white socks with his wing-tips.

As a boon for those of you ladies who are looking, but may not be as fast a worker as my friend, I’ve prepared a checklist of priorities:

#1 Does he still drive?

#2 Does he still drive the family sedan, circa 1998?  OR Is the ratio of dents to original paint overwhelming?  If either of these is true, and you value your life, drop the guy.

#3 If the answer to #1 is Yes, he still drives, and you feel daring or desperate enough to ignore #2, don’t hesitate to make your move, white socks or not.  It’s worth a try. Trust Auntie Jo.

In the interest of fairness I’d also like to present a list that you men can refer to, especially those of you who are Not Looking.  You can call it your “Keep-Out-Of-Jail” card.

If your idea of retirement revolves around a quiet evening in front of a fake fireplace, clad in your rattiest sweats and worn down slippers while you sip a single malt and enjoy a crime novel,  Forget It! You’ve already been scouted and appraised, and you need to be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.

Desperate measures are called for here, guys, and you have only two options open to you:

#1  You could consider entering a monastery, although they might not approve of the single malt.

OR:

#2  You can discreetly drop a few hints to the effect that you’re allergic to VIAGRA.

However, all of you, if you Are looking, and you Do spot your perfect target, (pardon me), choice, you might be out of practice, so bear in mind that a certain amount of decorum is called for.  Holding hands in public is good, it’s such a comforting thing to do, and it always gets an “Aw-w-w-w, How Sweet!” reaction from everyone. Auntie Jo highly approves!

Any moves beyond gently clasping your loved one’s gnarled fingers with your own are frowned upon and will bring into play an instant  “cringe” reaction from observers, not to mention scaring the BEEJABBERS out of any offspring who might be counting on an inheritance.  In other words, keep your best moves to yourselves. No hanky-panky in the corners or behind the potted palms.

If, after long and careful thought, you both agree to cohabitate, give yourselves plenty of time to adjust to having another person in your space. This is not as easy as it sounds.  Somehow, someway you find you’ve turned into a bit of a slob. Or just the opposite, your life is now ruled by O.C.D. Whatever has happened to you, your new partner is sure to have experienced the reverse.

One of you stands at the kitchen sink to eat lunch, digging peanut butter out of the jar and licking it off the spoon.  The other one still uses cloth placemats.

One of you flails all night and throws bedding around the room.  The other one carefully tucks the sheet under a double chin and doesn’t move until morning.

One of you wears the same outfit for 2 or 3 days in a row, finally discarding it in a wrinkled, smelly pile in the middle of the floor.  The other one changes 2 or 3 times a day, carefully putting the already worn clothes back on a hanger until it’s time to do laundry.

And so it goes.   It’s called adjustment and no matter how difficult it might be, or how long it takes, the results are more than worth the stress.  To those of you lucky enough to have found a new life together, I wish you only the best. Don’t let it bother you one little bit that Auntie Jo is sitting home alone, miserable and green with envy.

And so am I.