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Friday, August 24, 2012

How to separate a yolk from an egg white

This is so cool I want to do it just for fun! Pay no attention to the language (unless you speak it) - all you need is the video:

How to separate a yolk from an egg white

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ten Tips for Threat Assessment & Avoidance of Violence

This week I attended a mandatory training session on threat assessment at Waukesha County Technical College, where I teach creative writing. I did not want to go. The subject seemed so negative. I thought, "Has the world really come to this?"

It has.

To my surprise, the training was wonderful. It was led by Pewaukee police officer and WCTC instructor Christopher Jaekl, who must have gone home exhausted after his energetic presentation.

I purposely did not take notes because I wanted to force myself to lodge his ideas in my head. I think the officer's tips are useful for all of us. Each one of us could encounter someone who poses a threat at any time, anywhere. Here are Officer Jaekl's tips that I carried home in my head:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Police Beat, Markesan, WI, Aug. 9, 2012

I'll continue to record the "Police Beat" feature of the Markesan Regional Reporter, the newspaper of the town where my husband and I own a house trailer on a lake. Reading "Police Beat" may help us all get through this Silly Season of candidate mud-slinging. Mike and I find that these listings are most fun if read aloud. We punctuate each item with loud "Dum - dum - dum -" to the tune of the music from "Dragnet"...

Having a picnic with Mark & George

Don't read this if you think it's wrong to have a picnic on a grave.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My little book, Calling all Horses, available on Kindle

I'm delighted to announce the publication of my little volume, Calling all Horses, as an electronic book on Kindle. The book is a compilation of favorites from my award-winning syndicated column as well as some poems and quotations.

The tone is light and fun, with just a bit of philosophizing (I can never resist). I originally published the book as a paperback in 1993 - yipes, that's almost 20 years ago! Feels like yesterday.

To my amazement, every time I go through the book, I find surprises and I'm usually pleased by what I find. That's why I had the guts to re-publish it as an e-book. (Thanks to my dear writing student, Katie Rothschadl, for uploading it to Kindle.)

If you like this blog, you'll enjoy Calling all Horses. Same collection of this-and-that. And the price is right: 99 cents.

The book is good "bathroom reading" - it has lots of short bits. You can click on the link above to order the e-book.

I always think "real" books, rather than e-books, are better for the bathroom, but what do I know? I've never wanted to make the loo my library. Wherever you like to read, if you prefer a real book between covers, I still have some copies, available for $5 plus postage. You can order through my website, by clicking on the "Book order form" button:

Keeping it simple for a great 40th anniversary celebration

Chucky & Oliver & "the pee show" - their entertainment for our anniversary

On Sunday, Aug. 12, Mike & I celebrated our 40th anniversary. We kept it simple and invited only our children and grandchildren for a blessing at Mass followed by brunch at our house.
Five grandkids stayed in the nursery during Mass; two of them remained with us. There were nine of us adults in the pew. Our son Brian couldn't be there because he's serving in Qatar with the Air National Guard. Colleen and Des couldn't be there because they were on their honeymoon.

I should mention that the phrase "our children and grandchildren" includes some whom I refer to as "borrowed." It's like adopted 'cept different.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Clatite - Romanian pancakes with cottage cheese & fresh dill...and stories

I met Seana Stoia in spring of 1972, when I took a road trip from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Aberdeen, South Dakota with Mike, my then-fiancĂ©. Mike was Seana's grandson. Over the next two-plus decades, until her death at age 94, I learned her life story from her - and I learned to make some of her favorite Romanian dishes.

My adapted recipe for clatite is at the end of an account of Seana's remarkable life. (Clatite is pronounced Cla-TEE-teh.) Clatite are Romanian pancakes. Seana made them savory, with cottage cheese and fresh dill, as I do. My version is a little more "healthy" than hers, avoiding deep-frying. I just spent a week eating clatite because fresh dill is available NOW.

Seana's story

Seana Stoia was born Seana Biliboca in Dragus (Dra-GOOSH) in the Transylvania mountains in Hungary - now Romania - in spring of 1900. (You pronounce Seana as "See-ANNA.") She was an ethnic Romanian who was never told her birth date; she picked May 9 as the day.

Parasciva (Para-SEE-va), Seana's mother, was the second wife of John Biliboca. The couple had buffalo for pulling the plow and for milk. Paraseva would run when John came home drunk. He beat her.

One day when Seana was nine, she and her mother were outside hanging clothes when suddenly they saw a certain bird (I think it was a blackbird; my husband thinks it was a stork). 

Parasciva started crying and asked Seana to forgive her; the bird was a sign to the mother that she would soon die. And it was true - Parasciva died within weeks. She was 50 when she suffered a stroke, on Seana's 10th birthday.

Seana was pulled out of grade school and went to live with her older brother, where she did the work of a grown woman for her brother's wife. She knew that if she stayed in Dragus, she would continue living the life of a slave. The tradition at that time was that any woman who married went to live in her husband's family home and became a servant to her husband's mother. That was not the life for Seana Biliboca.

On October 2, 1920, Seana was 20 years old, and she and her cousin left Dragus. They traveled by train from Romania to France. The two young women had tickets, but climbed to the top of the train car because they were afraid of being raped by the soldiers who filled the train. They lay on top of the car and held on, soot from the smokestack blowing into their faces. They ended their land journey at Le Havre, France, where they boarded the ship Niagara. It took nine days to sail to New York. Seana's brother, George Biliboca, had long settled in a Romanian neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and had sent Seana the ticket for her passage.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to write a memory book for a child after the death of a loved one

When a beloved grandparent dies, how do you keep that person’s memory fresh for your child who is very young? I recently talked to Stephanie, a friend who was struggling with her own grief and wondering how her six-year-old daughter would remember Grandpa, who had just died.

I suggested that she interview her daughter about Grandpa, and preserve the girl’s responses in a little memory book complete with family pictures. I told her I’d made memory books for four different children. My hope was that the parents would read the books to their children so the memories would never fade. The grandparents would remain “alive” for the kids as they grew up; the wisdom of the elders would stay vital in the young people's ives.

Stephanie had a lot of questions for me. She wanted a sort of template. So here goes….

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

Nearly every weekend from April 15 through October 15, my husband and I take a mini-road trip to our estate – er, trailer – on Little Green Lake in Markesan, Wisconsin. For those of us who grew up on the concrete sidewalks of of Milwaukee, Markesan, pop. 1,479,  is “Up North.”

Wisconsin folks always argue about where Up North starts. I grant that Markesan is not True North like Minocqua, Wisconsin, separated from Canada by only a couple of hours of lonely road.

But it’s Up North for us, and paradise.

our trailer on Little Green Lake

This is our fourth year at the lake, and we’ve developed a tradition to start out the weekends. After the hour and a half drive through corn fields and cow pastures, our first stop, before we arrive at the lake, is the town gas station, where Mike jumps out of the car and purchases that week’s issue of the Markesan Regional Reporter.

The high point of the Regional Reporter is a weekly feature on page three. It's called “Police Beat.” This is the high point because after being subjected to a week of world, national, and city news full of murder, mayhem and misery, well…

… It’s a relief to read about “crime” in a little town. My favorite listing of all time was the account of the herd of pigs that got loose in the street in front of the post office.

Broken by the heat

In September 2003, Mike & I went to “Festivals Acadiens” in Lafayette, Louisiana. Our aim was to spend three days dancing to live Cajun bands. That we did.

But we did something more.

We sweated.

We sweated like we had never sweated before. We were dancing all day long outdoors, on grass, to live Cajun bands. We couldn’t believe the heat. It was 88 degrees Fahrenheit and so humid we could hardly breathe. Still we danced along with hundreds of people old and young who surrounded us in a happy throng.

Then we heard a guy nearby saying, “Thank God the heat broke.”