True stories with a twist!

When we went down for breakfast we faced the following gadget wrapped around the tea pot:IMG_0687What a charming and quaint addition to every day life: the tea cozy  It struck me as unusual from the way we use or see back home. I love the warm, protective, wrapped up tea pot cover that appeared on our table every morning.




The minute I turned eight years old I told people I was eight and a half: it sounded so much older, and everyone knows that anyone who was eight wanted more than anything to appear older. Older was more important. Older meant more freedom. Older was smarter.

Time went on and we all age. People shift their desires. They all want to be younger. Younger is more desirable. Younger is cool. Younger is beautiful. Fortunes are made by companies promising to provide a younger “visual effect.”


But not this year. This year I can’t wait to be older. All I wish for is to get beyond this birthday. I will feel so much better, so much safer when I do.


When my mother was exactly the age that I am right now, she suffered a terrible stroke. This cursed stroke robbed her of the ability to ever speak or walk again.

This was Mom and Dad in 1937.

2018-03-10 21.26.02.jpg

And nobody knew how much she understood. Did she comprehend anything we said to her? What could that damaged brain still process?

She could sing the words to old songs, astonishing everyone. Her favorite was “Oh, Susanna.” The nurses and aides loved visiting with her, loved singing the song and hearing her join in.

But could she play her favorite game, “Checkers?” If she could follow the rules of a game it would indicate that her brain could still process and follow commands. I decided to try. I remember fondly how patient Mom was with me when I was a child and she taught me to play. We always had a special place in our hearts for checkers.

I hesitantly set up the checkers board, afraid to know what I would find out. Soon I would have the answer from the way she responded to the game.

Mom saw that board and broke into the broadest grin I’d seen since she became ill. She was anxious to play; there was no doubt. With great glee she took hold of a red checker and began the game. She was childlike in her excitement. I thought everything was going well at the beginning, as she moved the red checker to its next position. But she didn’t stop there. She didn’t even stop for me to have a turn to move my checker. She moved her “men” indiscriminately forward and backwards, without concern, jumping my men at every self-made opportunity.

What a forlorn image I presented to the world after that game. Mom had no idea how to play the game she once knew so well. She was unable to comprehend the rules of checkers.

I called her Clergyman to tell him about this tragic event, and he asked me,

“Does she understand what happened to her?”
“Yes, I think she does.”
“That’s too bad,” was his uncensored reaction.

His response surprised me. I always thought clergymen were supposed to comfort their congregants and find something soothing to say. His reaction showed his true feelings: he had nothing hopeful to say and didn’t want to pretend that there was a chance for improvement when he knew that my mother’s situation was desperate. There was no hope left.

When my mother was exactly my age I thought of her in a way that I don’t feel now. It’s not that I feel young: I understand that I am not young. But I feel vital, energetic and interested in so much in our world. I still enjoy exploring and learning, just as she did when she was my age. She drove everywhere. She went into the city, saw shows, and visited museums. She travelled a great deal, spending winters in Spain. She had dozens of friends. And she exercised at the gym: swam laps and walked regularly.

Yet she had that devastating stroke. After that, the life she knew could no longer exist.

Someone had to help her with every human need. This once freedom loving, independent
woman was now pathetically dependent on others to care for her.

And so, although I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, I will unquestionably feel safer when this birthday is behind me. This is the birthday that marked the end of my mother’s freedom, and her life as she chose to live it.

The thought of having life pulled out from under you by an unknown, powerful force is the most terrifying thought I can ever imagine.

The day before the east coast was attacked by a brutal snow storm, we had the fortune to visit the Pennsylvania Flower Show. Being unaware about what was about to happen at home, we strolled through the spring gardens just as winter was secretly planning its  attack. Our community suffered a twelve inch accumulation. But I prefer telling you about the Flower Show.

Many spring gardens showed cheerful bulbs of varying colors.

But my favorite exhibits were the miniature plants and miniature gardens. There were Edwardian Cases. This one is planted with a Venus fly trap surrounded by pitcher plants.IMG_1637

The display of miniature iris plants in full bloom was cheerful and charming.IMG_1615

There were containers set at unusual angles that made for interesting viewing. This one was set on its side, showing a variety of miniature plants. The different colors and shapes made this display especially appealing.

IMG_1640Besides plants, this year’s show featured an exhibit of butterflies. Butterfly food was  placed on a Q-tip. Butterflies taste with their feet, so if one were to hold the dry tip and offer the wet tip to a butterfly, it would step onto the Qtip and munch away. I found an especially talented gentleman demonstrating this feeding technique:


It was a lovely show; much more lovely than the cold and snowy reality we are facing now.


Are you a gourmet? An oenophile? A coffee expert?

Gourmets describe food as, “Succulent,” ”Tender” or “Light.”

Oenophiles describe wine as, “Oaky,” “Fruity,” or Fragrant.images.jpeg

Coffee experts describe coffee as “Robust,” “Full Roasted, or “Bitter.”

But tea specialists don’t have a roster of adjectives for tea. Tea specialists don’t even have a name.

Lately, tea folks sound as if they are competing with wine experts.  images-2.jpeg

What there is to describe about tea? Tea is just tea. It’s what you drink with a teaspoon of honey when you have a sore throat! Are there really enough differences between brands that we need an entire new profession to describe them? As I look though the latest tea catalogue from a respected company, I am amazed to read the qualities regarding types of tea they offer.

Their new selection of teas from Columbia is unique because of “the rich volcanic soil in which they are grown,” states the company. It claims that the soil adds a special flavor to the tea. If volcanic soil could improve tea plants, I wonder if it would add a unique flavor to my Rutgers “Early Girl” tomatoes this summer? If so, where can I get some?

Would a new business importing volcanic ash from Columbia win support from any  “Shark Tank” investors?

Teas are often described as having “Good Mouth Feel.” My mouth feels fine, thank you, except for the canker sore I developed because of eating or drinking something too hot. Could have been the hot tea?

The catalogue goes on to discuss Bold tea. Is “Bold” a characteristic that leads to  “Aggressive?” Or “Powerful ?”

Or am I confusing tea tasting terminology with the “Me Too” movement?

After that possibility, it is clear that there is a need for comfort and calm. So the catalogue changes the pace and introduces a lovely fragrant tea with a toasty aroma. All I need is my slippers, a warm lap blanket and a fire in the fireplace and I’ll be ready to sip.

Don’t you love statements about flavors that “linger into the finish.” Are we discussing the Olympics again; which candidates finish, and who wins the gold?

All this talk about teas is very confusing and keeps mixing metaphors.

And I have never been able to detect characteristics such as “hints of spring flowers,” notes of pineapple and a hint of honey.” My taste buds are not sophisticated enough to appreciate these exotic qualities.

What is wrong with a good old fashioned cup of tea made from a Lipton teabag?

Mapuche Woman

It was a singular experience, unlike any I had ever had seen before. We were in Chile, and were invited to visit a Mapuche woman in her own home. Through an interpreter, she told us about the proud history of her people, and how they fared today.

At one time the tribe was isolated from other nearby cultures because of a wide river that separated them. Once a bridge was constructed the Mapuche were drawn into the educational system and wider cultural opportunities of the Chileans.

Our hostess, Sayen, (meaning “sweet woman”) welcomed us into her home. She was cheerful, friendly and warm, and, through a translator, spoke of her tribal history.2018-02-12 16.38.38Sayen, her husband and seven children lived in this one room structure, where they slept, cooked and ate their meals. Sayen spun cloth out of sheep’s wool, dyed it with berries and plant dyes, and wove the family’s clothes. Here you can see the dyed wool being stretched on the loom, the logs prepared to cook the next meal and the ponchos hanging on the wall. Children walked barefoot until they entered adolescence. The roof had to be replaced approximately once in twenty years. On top of the structure was an opening that drew smoke out of the dwelling.

Sayen invited group members to dress in Mapuche gear.2018-02-12 17.20.352018-02-12 17.25.17-1

Each Mapuche family was given its own piece of land for growing crops. As each child reached maturity he was also given a small plot of land for his family.

Medical care was administered by a local healer, who relied on herbal medicines and tales of healing techniques handed down from Mapuche history.

2018-02-12 17.30.25Here Sayen demonstrated the instrument used for tribal ceremonies. She blew through the ram’s horn attached to hosing covered with colorful woolen strands of thread, while drumming on a tautly pulled sheep skin secured to a basket.

The Mapuche fought the Spaniards for land. Mapuche fighters were renowned as brave and clever warriors, finding ways to ambush and defeat the enemy for many years.

Sayen invited us to a home prepared meal of herbal tea, fresh baked bread, a spread made of mashed beans, and a dessert of lemon pie. It was a feast!

We had a meaningful day, unlike any we had witnessed before. We all felt respect and affection for the Mapuche.

I’ve heard writers say
“It just wrote itself…”

and thought how absurd it sounded.

So when I started this post, meaning to tell you all about the exciting trip I just took, the words started pouring out. But they weren’t what I had planned. There were no words about the trip; only words about what happened at home while we we were away.

Emails began splashing across the ocean into the new environment we were experiencing,  forming stories with rather frightening scenerios.

Our house was the scene of an attempted break-in. The police answered the call sent by our alarm system and began investigating the crime scene. Meanwhile, we were thousands of miles away, full of fear and apprehension. “What is happening? What are they not telling us? Should we cut the trip short and go home immediately?”

No matter what we decided to do, it was impossible to get a flight out of Chile during the high season. We had no recourse but to stay where we were, seeing new sights, while constantly searching for new information from our mobile phones, and counting on the professionals back home to manage the crisis.

When we got home several days later, it was time to confront the truth.

This is what we found: luckily, the sliding glass door in the kitchen couldn’t be forced open. The wooden dowel we had previously placed on the track blocked the door from being pushed along the track to open it. Breaking the glass would set off the motion detector, so that option was impractical for criminals who prefer time outside of jail.                                                  2018-02-20 14.01.49.jpg                                                      Failing to gain access through the back kitchen door, the thieves moved to the front of the house and tried to pry the master bedroom window open. They were able to break the window lock 2018-02-20 14.02.50and open the window about two inches: nice going, thieves! But then the alarm went off and scared them away.

We are now in the midst of a police investigation while fielding questions from worried neighbors and learning whatever we can about how to increase security in our homes. Top suggestions so far are increased outdoor lighting and cameras focused on all entries to the house.

Has anyone found other deterrents to keep personal property safe when you are away?






It was just a month ago that everyone was talking about the delectable treats they looked forward to eating during the Holidays. Magazines were stuffed with recipes of all sorts. They tempted their readers to eat ingredients that nobody should put into their bodies: But Would. And Did. And now suffer from “Eaters Remorse.”

Now, in January, a mere one month after the holiday magazine articles appeared, magazines are reversing their stance. Instead of encouraging readers with new fattening recipes, they rant on about how to lose the weight THEY helped you put on by encouraging you to prepare those dishes. Most of us gained weight during the holidays and most are anxious: even desperate, to lose it.

Losing weight is the number one subject of magazine articles.Unknown-1 So many weight shedding techniques abound. I even heard of a hypnotist who advertised that in a few sessions he would help you lose weight by convincing your brain to believe that chocolate tastes like tobacco.

Everybody is getting into the act: there is the “This and This Diet,” the “That and That Diet,” and the “Dr. Such and Such Diet.” Diet experts pen articles, write books, appear on TV talk shows and drop from the sky! You know what I mean;images-1 you’ve seen them yourself.

But I have a technique that is different from the others, specially if you are health conscious in any small way.

Suppose you see a beautiful chocolate layer cake topped with a creamy, delicious looking icing. What its your first reaction? Is it “Yum Yum,” or “No No?” Rather than thinking how marvelous the cake would taste, I propose that you think of the ingredients that go into that cake. Consider what you are willing to put into your body. Your poor, hard working, unappreciated body.

Ask yourself “Would I take a whole stick of butter out of the refrigerator, unwrap it, and gobble it down? Would I pour a cup or two of sugar into a large mug and swallow every bit of it? Maybe not, but that’s what you’re doing if you eat that cake. Now when I see a tempting cake I mentally reconstruct its ingredients and think of them one at a time.

Somehow the cake no longer appeals.

The big advantage of my diet is that you don’t feel deprived. That’s because YOU, not somebody else, made the decision to forego the cake. You chose not to eat it because the individual ingredients didn’t appeal to you, even though you know that the final product tastes so good.

If you like my concept for making cake seem to be unappetizing, just wait until you hear my plan for de-appetizing pot roast!

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