Uncle Richard’s Meatballs and Sauce!

edited Uncle Richard in sauce stained apron

Uncle Richard and his son, Rich, in their fully equipped basement kitchen – because what’s an Italian home without two kitchens?

Today is my Uncle Richard’s 89th Birthday.  To honor him, I’m posting my most prized possession, my video of him showing me how to make meatballs and sauce. (It’s at the end of this post.) It was the highlight of my year!

Most people’s bucket lists are filled with things like: Stay in a Scottish castle, or dance in the sand in Greece. But at the top of my list has always been: Cook with Uncle Richard and learn the secret to his meatballs and sauce. The opportunity has eluded me for years, but every time I’d visit Pennsylvania, I went in hope it would happen.

To understand why, you have to know this man.  He is spry, sweet and sarcastic, with a wacky streak I love!

The way he rolls his eyes when I walk in the door and says, “Oh God, look what the damned cat dragged in,” is his way of saying, “I’m happy to see you.” Then he wraps me in a tight hug and we end up sitting at his dining room table drinking wine and eating home made Sopressata with chunks of sharp cheese while he tells me stories.  Aunt Blanche used to hover in the kitchen, constantly putting food on the table, and never sitting.  Now, sometimes she sits with us, but because her eyesight’s bad and she’s very deaf, she interrupts a lot without realizing it. She’s adorable though. And because Uncle Richard is her hairdresser now, her hair was an interesting shade of purple when I saw her last. God bless them both.

I love hearing my uncle’s stories about growing up in Italy during World War II. He tells the remarkable story of  how he blew two fingers and part of his thumb off playing with a bomb someone found and kept after the war. (You’ll see it hasn’t stopped him at all!) He has dozens of stories and remembers details like it was yesterday.

He is a wonder, with more energy at 89 than people half his age. And he is still a fabulous cook, but when I’m home I’m always so busy visiting people, I’m never able to make the time to cook with him and learn his secrets. You have to cook alongside him to learn, because he says he doesn’t use a recipe. And, if you’ve spent any time with Italians, you know, none of them measure. I don’t even measure, but I force myself to for this blog!

meatball and sauce on bread.jpg

Uncle Richard’s meatball

Every time I’d ask how he makes his sauce or his meatballs, he’d emphatically reply, “I DON’T HAVE A RECIPE, I JUST MAKE IT!”

But I got lucky over Labor Day weekend. I knew he was making pasta for a party my brother was throwing. I couldn’t wait, I called him within an hour of my arrival, to ask if I could finally be his sauce apprentice. He said he’d be cooking on Sunday and he’d call me when it was time to come over.

Finally circumstances came together perfectly and I was going to get the chance I’d waited for, for decades! The Holy Grail of sauce was near.

I didn’t hear from him Sunday morning, so I called at 10 a.m., hoping he hadn’t started. When he said he wanted to begin soon, I said, “I’m not showering, I’m coming right over!”

“I don’t want you stinking up my kitchen!’ he said, “Go take a shower, I have to take one too.”

When I arrived, we started in his garden with beautiful, fresh tomatoes that were red and gigantic. He said his neighbors were eyeing them, but he told them he was saving them for me.

We picked tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh parsley, and fresh rosemary. We put the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water to loosen their skins and make the sauce.  Then we rinsed the herbs, dried them, and added them to some chopped garlic in a food processor. Then he handed me two slices of Italian bread that he wet with water, then squeezed.

It was only then I realized he was letting me in on the meatball recipe too, I could hardly contain myself. (I know, I need to get a life.)

Once the herbs, garlic and bread were processed together, I scraped them into a bowl with about two pounds of beef, two pounds of pork and a few Italian sausages he said he’d had in the freezer for 17 years. (Let’s hope he was kidding.) He mixed them together, added a dash Worchestershire sauce, a dash of hot sauce, two eggs, some breadcrumbs, a sprinkling of cheese, some salt and pepper.

How much of any of this? Well, I’m going to approximate, but if you can eyeball it from the video or photos, better than my guess, more power to you.  I tried to get it all on videotape, but my battery kept running out. I think I deleted 10 apps just to get as much as I did.

jars of tomatoesThen came his sauce, which is so good, and so simple. (It helps if you have beautiful fresh herbs and  tomatoes growing in your yard and recently canned about 8 million jars of them.) He canned all the tomatoes you see here himself.

The video only gets most of the meatball action, I didn’t get to show our meatball taste test, or how he rolls the meatballs in wine, then flour, then fries them.  And while I was rolling the meatballs in wine and flour, he started on the sauce, so I couldn’t tape it all, but I did my best. If you’re wondering who the woman in the video is, she’s my cousin, Nancy.

When it comes to special people in my life, Uncle Richard, or Zio Riziero is one of my absolute favorites. The My Sauce is Better Than Yours apron is really perfect for him, but was inspired by my mom and the six simple words that can end your life story .

His sauce is simple, creamy (because the meatballs rolled in flour are cooked in it) and just wonderful. I can’t believe I actually got to cook with him and he’s finally sharing his elusive recipes. I am a firm believer that moments like this are to be treasured. I hope you enjoy him as much as I do. Here is the video:

 

Happy Birthday Uncle Richard. I wish you many more years filled with the good health you enjoy today. Cent’anni!

Uncle Richard’s Meatballs (WOO HOO, I can’t believe I’m writing this!)

4 cloves of garliccropped meatball ingredients with bread.jpg

1/3 cup fresh basil

1/4 cup fresh parsley

1 sprig of  fresh rosemary finely chopped

2 slices of white bread (soaked in water or milk then squeezed.

1 tsp Worchestershire Sauce

1 Tsp. Hot sauce

1 Tsp. of pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

3/4 cup of Italian style bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated cheese

2 eggspork cooking

2 lbs. ground beef

2 lbs of ground pork

2 sausage links (remove casing)

1 glass of red wine (cabernet or merlot is fine)

1 cup flour

2 to 3 cups of canola oil

2 to 3 large pork neck bones or pork ribs

Mix together the basil, parsley, garlic, and rosemary in a food processor. Then add the soaked, drained bread and process until combined.  Next, mix together the three meats and add the bread mixture. Then add the hot sauce, the Worchestershire sauce, the bread crumbs, the salt, pepper, cheese and eggs. Mix thoroughly. Then take a small piece and fry it in some oil in a pan, so you can taste it and see what it needs.

meatball in flourIf they’re good, start rolling them. Then roll the meatballs in the red wine, then in the flour. Set them aside until you’re ready to fry them (I think he used canola oil, for the frying, but I’m not sure. (I’ll get back to you on that.) Then add them to the pasta sauce and cook them about an hour and a half over low to medium heat, making sure the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom. (I always use a trivet.)

Uncle Richard’s Pasta Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 4 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh basil finely chopped

1Tbsp.  fresh parsley finely chopped

2 large fresh tomatoes peeled and crushed

2 large bottles of homemade canned tomato sauce

OR: 3 to 4  large cans Cento Pomodori Pelati with the seeds removed (or not)

Or 3 to 4 cans Cento tomato puree

If you don’t have homemade, Cento Pomodori Pelati (peeled tomatoes) are pretty good, but you have to process them in a blender before adding them (I remove the seeds, but it’s not necessary) .  If you can find Cento tomato puree, that works too.

Pour the olive oil in a large, deep pan and saute the garlic and herbs for a minute, then add the whole tomatoes, pulverizing them with a masher. Add the herbs and let the mixture cook down until some of the water boils off. Then add the canned sauce and stir to combine. Then fry the meatballs and add them. Then fry the pork and add it. Let it all cook together for about an hour and a half.

 

 

 

 

 

Judging Others — What’s That Say About Me?

I admit it, I am a judging judger.

I try not to judge people, but there are people who you instantly click with and people you don’t.  Some people I instantly make decisions about, based on what they wear, how they speak, how many nose rings, tattoos or piercings they have, or what their political party is.  It’s not good. Continue reading

My Peanut Butter Phase

When I was young, my mom went through phases in her food. There was the red wine and onion phase, the hot dog phase, the chocolate chip phase and the peanut butter phase. Although the hot dog phase made for some interesting combos, like the hot dog pizza she made once, it wasn’t her most shining culinary moment. But her chocolate chip and peanut butter phases still fill me with longing.

I think I’m in my peanut butter phase right now.  Last blog post was about peanut butter pie with peanut crumble topping. I think I even inspired my brother to make a couple of pies. Thankfully,  this week’s recipe is much simpler. It’s a peanut butter and apricot preserve roll.

Preserves.JPG

My apricot and white nectarine preserves with some labels that were my mom’s. The pen is from Wholey’s Fish Market in Pittsburgh!

I bought a bunch of apricots at Costco the last few weeks and made preserves because they’re so stinking good! I made the lower sugar variety this time and they were every bit as good as the regular preserves. I think 4.5 cups of sugar seems like plenty for 7 jars of preserves, right? Normally apricot preserves take 7 cups of sugar! Holy overload, even for a sugar lover like me!

The preserves were so tasty, it inspired me to make one of my mom’s old favorite recipes.  It’s a great one to make when you’ve made a pie and have leftover pie dough. children love this and can help make it too!

You just take the remaining scraps of dough, squish them together, then roll them out like a pie crust.  Then you spread it with smooth peanut butter and on top of that you spread a thin layer of whatever preserves you like. (I’m a real fan of apricot and I think it tastes the best in this recipe.) Make sure you leave about a half inch all around the edges with no peanut butter or jelly, so you can seal them. Then you start as one end and roll the whole thing up. Once it’s rolled, you dip your finger in water or egg, and run it along the edges and press them together to seal up the dough. You place it on a small cookie sheet and bake it for 20 minutes or until it’s golden brown.   Then you cut it up and try desperately not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Full roll cu.JPGYou could do a whole pie crust if you wanted to get crazy.  Even buy one at the store, if you don’t want to mess with the whole crust making ordeal. But make sure you roll it out a little more because store bought crusts tend to be a little thick.   Then get the kids to spread it with peanut butter and jelly, and you can all roll it up, bake it quickly, and have a simple, yummy summer treat!

Peanut Butter and Apricot Jam Roll-ups.

1 pie crust (bought or homemade)

Enough Laura Scudder’s Smooth Peanut butter to lightly cover the dough – about  1/4 to 3/4 cup (but the amount depends on how much crust you’re covering)

Enough apricot preserves to lightly cover the peanut butter – about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (again that depends on how much crust you’re covering)

Roll out the pie crust so it’s fairly thin, Spread the peanut butter, then the apricot preserves over the crust. Be sure to leave about a half inch with no peanut butter or jelly along the edge.

Starting at one end, roll the pie crust so it becomes one big roll of dough and seal the edges with a little water or raw egg on your finger.

Place the roll on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. For a larger roll made with a whole pie crust and not just scraps, you might need to bake it 30 minutes or more.  Just make sure it’s golden brown.

Eat it warm or cold, it’s great!

Blackberry Pie with Peanut Butter Crumble? – Oh Yes!

Good pie shotWhat pushes a mostly sane woman to wade into a flesh-tearing patch of blackberry brambles? The promise of hot, crisp blackberry pie with peanut butter crust and crumble. Add vanilla ice cream and you have a holy experience.

And I must say thank you to Brian and Pam Ellis, my former next door neighbors, who always let me know when the berries in their yard are ripe for picking. Good neighbors, are a treasure.

fresh berries in basket

Fresh blackberries, (or Marionberries – I think) so worth it!

I’ve written about pie before. This was one of the pies included in my Pies and Virginity blog. But, in retrospect, I think  blackberry pie with peanut butter crust and crumble really deserves its own blog post because it’s a delicious pie, that’s destroyed many a diet. It was pioneered by my mother, and proudly carried on by me.

I may not remember the name of the actress in the movie I saw 20 minutes ago, but I never forget a life-altering food moment. One of them was the time my mom decided to put peanut butter in a crust she was making for a blueberry pie. I tasted it and knew my mom was a food genius, it was that good.

Then, I decided that if a peanut butter, double crust pie was that good, how great would a peanut butter crumble be, especially one with crunchy peanut butter? And if blueberries were good, wouldn’t blackberries be great? That question got answered a few years ago when I made it for a family get together.  Both my brothers, who don’t throw food compliments around liberally, said, “I think this might be the best pie you’ve ever made.”

You can also just make this a crisp, by eliminating the pie crust bottom. It’s also killer good, faster, and a lot less work.

As I’ve said many times, we are all ho’s for blackberry pie and the peanut butter puts a blackberry pie in a whole new category of yum. To make the crust, I just take my regular pie crust before it’s rolled out, put a tablespoon or two of peanut butter in the middle,  fold it over, roll it, and fold it again a few times, then roll it out. It leaves the crust looking swirled with peanut butter.

*Also, make the crust first, then the crumble so it’s easier to assemble quickly. You don’t want to put the berries in the crust too long before you bake it, or it will get soggy.  And bake it closer to the bottom of the oven so the bottom crust gets crisp.

Mary Tunno’s Pie Crust with Peanut Butter Swirl 

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup Butter Flavor Crisco

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. sugar

1/2 to 1 cup very cold whole milk (you can put an ice cube in it to make it colder but remove it before you add the milk)

Mix flour, salt and sugar together then cut in Crisco and butter.  Mix well, it forms small crumbs.  Add enough milk so that dough can be molded into soft balls.  Better that the dough is too soft and sticky than too hard. Once you add the milk and have made about four or five balls, wrap each one in flour coated plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc, and cool it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Then take one of the flattened, cooled pie crusts, roll it slightly, and add one to two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter to it.  Fold it over, roll it out a little,  then fold it over three or four more times. The peanut butter should look like swirls in the crust. Roll it out on a floured board and place it in bottom of a pie pan.  Flute the edges then fill it with berries.

Peanut Butter Crumble

1 cup flour

2 cups whole, uncooked Old Fashioned Quaker Oats

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 stick melted butter (not unsalted)

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (I use Laura Scudder’s)

 

Blackberry Pie with Peanut Butter CrumbleBlackberry crisp close up

6 to 7 cups blackberries or blueberries

1 cup sugar

2 1/2 Tbsp. flour

Mix together the berries, flour and sugar thoroughly, then place them in the bottom peanut butter swirl crust. Sprinkle a light covering of the peanut butter crumble top of the pie. You don’t want too much because the crumble absorbs a lot of the liquid, so you’ll have all crumble and not enough fruit.  (You may need to lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly on top of the pie or crisp, so the crumble doesn’t burn.) Bake at 350 for an hour or more or until you see the pie really bubbling and crust is brown.  Use a pie crust shield to protect crust from burning. And make sure you put a cookie sheet underneath or some aluminum foil to catch the drips!

How Safe is Your Non-organic Fruit?

I was just at the grocery store, drooling over all the beautiful nectarines, apricots and peaches that are out and looking ripe, juicy and utterly delicious. But I always wonder, is it safe to eat if it’s not organic? My friend, Dawn, a Key West artist, has always been a big proponent of eating healthy, which means organic food to her, and most people.

But do we have to eat organic? Dawn sent me a print out from a magazine article about what non-organic fruits and vegetables are OK to eat, and what should always be bought organic. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of buying organic food because it can be pretty pricey. I happen to be one of them,  but when you think of pesticide residue going into your body, I guess I can’t really afford that either because one day I may be paying for it with my health.

I wondered, do pesticides really hurt you? How could a beautiful apricot be bad for me?

Innocent apricot

It looks so innocent. Apricots didn’t make the dirty dozen list, so there’s hope!

There isn’t much research on how harmful pesticides are when ingested with fruits and vegetables,  but there has been research on people who work with pesticides — either applying them, or picking the fruit –and that shows pesticide exposure definitely hurts you. I thought this article in Consumer Reports  called, “Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide,” was pretty good.

I did some research and it looks like the article Dawn sent me was also in some other publications, like this one from 2010 on PBS So Cal. There is The Dirty Dozen, which you should always buy organic, and The Clean 15, which don’t need to be organic.

I’m listing them because it helped me and hopefully it can help you. I just broke down and spent the extra buck fifty for organic strawberries at Costco yesterday, so I’m hoping the more common organics become, the less expensive they’ll be! Thanks Dawn. (Writing about food is much more pleasant than tackling politics!)

The Dirty Dozen (Always Choose Organic)

  1. celery
  2. peaches
  3. strawberries
  4. apples
  5. domestic blueberries
  6. nectarines
  7. sweet bell peppers
  8. spinach, kale and collard greens
  9. cherries
  10. potatoes
  11. imported grapes
  12. lettuce

There was a slightly different list on the publication she sent me. It didn’t include domestic blueberries, but did include tomatoes and hot peppers. It didn’t specify imported grapes — just grapes, and it included pears.

The Clean Fifteen (Doesn’t Need to be Organic)

  1. onions
  2. avocados
  3. sweet corn
  4. pineapples
  5. mango
  6. sweet peas
  7. asparagus
  8. kiwi fruit
  9. cabbage
  10. eggplant
  11. cantaloupe
  12. watermelon
  13. grapefruit
  14. sweet potatoes
  15. sweet onions

And on this list,  watermelon  is listed as clean, but on the list Dawn sent, honeydew melon and cauliflower are listed as clean, which are not on this list. But overall, the lists were very similar.

Listen, don’t worry too much. Just go shopping and buy a juicy, (hopefully) organic nectarine, take a big bite, let the juice roll down your face and savor the sweetness. Now that’s summer! Hope you had a Happy Summer Equinox!

Is Politics Worth Losing Family and Friends Over?

If someone had told us 50 years ago, that a news network, started by someone from another country, would come here and start a broadcast network that airs stories that are only in line with one party, we would have said, No, that will never happen, that’s propaganda! If someone said, Democrats and Republicans will be at each other’s throats, so much so, that friends are lost and family connections are strained and even broken, we would have all said, No way, never — that won’t happen in this country! 

But it has. News we see clearly as one-sided propaganda in countries like Russia and North Korea, we don’t recognize as propaganda here. And in March, when Fox News own analyst, Colonel Ralph Peters, quit after a decade of working with them because he claimed they were a propaganda machine, even stalwart Fox viewers must have been asking themselves, What motivated that? The New York Times quoted Peters as saying: “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” If you can’t believe a respected, retired member of our military, who can you believe?

I’m sure Peters resignation has been hashed out back and forth, and both sides came up with their reasons for either believing or discrediting him.  And, in fairness, MSNBC can be just as one sided as Fox.

I don’t usually talk about politics in my blog because I have family members and great friends, who I love and have the greatest respect for, who are members of the Republican party.  And yes, I’m a registered Democrat, (but did vote for a Republican once).

If we could just talk issues, without personal attacks, that would be great, but it doesn’t happen anymore.

I simply refuse to paint all Republicans with a broad brush. When your own family and best friends are registered Republicans, you just don’t do that. I know and love these people. We have similar values, we were raised the same way,  and if they feel the way they do, I’m sure they have valid reasons. I’m not about to slam them. They have every right to their feelings.

But, so do I.

And we have to ask ourselves as a nation: Are politics worth losing family and good friends over?

Sadly, this post started out with me answering, absolutely not! But something happened that changed my mind.

I don’t post political things on Facebook because I think it’s very destructive. Plus, if I can’t prove a story is real, I won’t post it. Posting untrue stories just furthers ignorance and is incredibly destructive, as is posting demeaning things.

Which is why I recently confronted a Facebook friend over a video she/he posted. It was originally a commercial for Becel Margarine , a product of Unilever, sold in Canada and other countries. The commercial was developed by Ogilvy Canada. It was brilliant advertising, showing how people won’t bother to make an effort when it comes to their health. It shows two people, a black man and a white woman, on an escalator when the escalator stops running. Instead of walking up the stairs the rest of the way, they start yelling for help.

The commercial was then used by the Republican Party and labeled, Democrats on an Escalator during the 2008 election.

The Facebook friend was a relative. I’ve probably spent less than 24 hours in my entire life talking to this person, so I wouldn’t say we’re close, but she/he always seemed nice. Not only is the video insulting to me, as a hardworking Democrat, it’s insulting to the memory of my father, and my still living uncle, one of the hardest working people I know. All of us are Democrats.

I know this person was fond of my dad and my uncle, and I think, used to be fond of me, but probably no more. I reminded this person that people in the family, including me, are still hardworking Democrats and that she/he is better than this kind of post. I honestly did it thinking that if this person knew this post was hurtful, she/he wouldn’t post things like that anymore. I knew this person to be a good soul. I really didn’t do it to be nasty, and didn’t name call or demean, just pointed out that it was hurtful.

We went back and forth a few rounds, her/his friends chimed in that I had no sense of humor, then this person went on about how funny it was and how good the acting was, not knowing it had been an actual commercial first. She/he went on to post more things that just reinforced other negative stereotypes. When I commented again about the new posts, this person said, “Right or wrong, this is my Facebook page and I’ll post whatever I want.”

And even though I hated to do it, I unfriended this person because clearly whatever connection we had, that used to keep things civil and kind,  has disappeared into a haze of ugliness, prejudice and demeaning posts. And just like she/he has every right to post whatever she/he wants on Facebook, I have every right not to have to see posts that are insulting to me and the memory of my father.

In memory of the 50th Anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, I wanted to err on the side of love and compassion. There was a beautiful article in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday about the busboy, Juan Romero, who was in that last tragic photo of Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel. It made me sad all over again and I longed to honor Bobby Kennedy by mustering up all my love and understanding. I know that love always triumphs over hatred and that truth always prevails over lies, but love and truth seem to be losing lately.

Whatever hatred gets the most viewers wins, whether it’s on TV news or Facebook.Whoever shouts the loudest, or calls the other person the most demeaning name wins.  Behavior we would have disciplined our kids for we now accept from our leaders, and some of us do it in the name of Christianity. Being mean spirited, bigoted, lying, name calling, and posting things that are verifiably untrue, are all business as usual now. People have seen the lead taken by news media and our politicians, and have jumped on the bandwagon.

And we’re losing family and friends because of it. If Bobby Kennedy was here to see it, he’d be so disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanking a Couple of Soldiers for Letting my Father Live

Memorial Day usually makes me think of cook outs and barbecue, but this year, I’ve been thinking about soldiers.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching another Ken Burns documentary, this one about World War II. Or maybe its because I know how much being a soldier in that war meant to my dad.

He came back from World War II with an Army tent, his canteen, mess kit, a gas mask, a fork and knife with U.S. stamped on its handle, a very rough wool army blanket and more. He never talked about the war until he was about 95. All he would say was, “War is hell.” Then, suddenly at 95,  it was all he wanted to talk about. We would walk into doctors offices and he would strike up a conversation with anyone who’d listen about the war.  But there was one story I’d never heard from him until about a year before he died.

Cropped Dad in Marseille August 2 1945

My dad, in the foreground, in Marseilles, France.

After training in Ft. Lewis Washington he went to Europe. He spent time in Brussels Belgium, Marseilles France, England and probably a few other places I can’t remember. My dad served as a medic in the war in the European theater. He was under Gen. George Patton.

He said the thing that really got him was the day Gen. Patton showed up and was choosing men for a mission. My dad was one of the ones he picked. He was about 29 at the time, about 10 years older than the other guys, who used to call him Pop. Two younger soldiers who were his buddies said, “No, Pop, we’ll go — you’re too old for this kind of stuff.”

He heard a few days later that his young friends had been killed in the mission and it left him wondering why they had to die and not him.

Dad's hat

I bought this for my dad a year before he died. He wore it proudly.

I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s just luck, or fate, or God’s will, but I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those two young men.  I wish I knew their names, so I could salute them properly.  If it wasn’t for their sacrifice, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here. I know my dad thought about them often. I think they would have been proud of how he lived his life and kept  his military bearing until his last years.

One of my favorite memories of him was from my last visit with him in New Brighton. I’d been home and done as much as I could for him in the few days I had. He was very appreciative and it was a great visit. As I was leaving we had our usual hug and tearful goodbye. Normally, he’d walk me to the door and wait there, waving until I pulled away, but old age changed that.

Dad Saluting.JPG

Dad, in the front yard with a flag my brother Bob bought him.

This time, as I was walking away, he struggled out of his recliner chair, wobbly without his walker. He stood as straight as he could in the middle of the living room, wavering slightly, and saluted me. It didn’t register with me at the time, but now I know that was the highest honor he could have given me.  It was the last time I saw him conscious.

On Memorial Day, I salute him, and all the men and women who’ve fought and given their lives for our country. I know I would’t be here without two of them.

Trashy Progress

Well, I can’t say I’m Eleanor Roosevelt, when it comes to creating change in the world, but maybe if I start, one street at a time, I can make a difference.

I just finished watching Ken Burns: The Roosevelts on Netflix and was absolutely mesmerized by these remarkable people.  I’ve been searching for political figures who inspire me lately, and I remembered my mother always speaking so fondly about President Roosevelt. I thought I’d watch and see why she felt that way.

It was a seven part series and I became totally engrossed in it. Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor were all truly remarkable people we were so lucky to have. They were all such stellar examples of how adversity can really test a person and make them come out that much much stronger. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

I was a little surprised to see that history pretty much keeps repeating itself and we keep having the same arguments and discussions. Too much government interference, not enough government, and on and on and on. It seems to me that things improve by tiny increments, instead of leaps, but they do improve.  We just can’t give up.

styrofoam cups

It’s as if they expected a waitress to come along and just pick it up.

Which brings me back to my trash issue.  I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been concerned about trash.  The giant pile of trash floating around in the Pacific Ocean is the biggest manifestation of the problem.  But I also worry about our landfills and all the plastic that’s not recycled there, and how all that trash is going to come back to haunt us someday. Then there’s all the trash I see when I go to the ocean or the river. Why are people so cavalier about just tossing stuff in the street? How do they not get that this is the only planet we have? I’ll never understand it.

So, since I’m so vexed about it, I decided to write to the City of Glendale. And guess what? They wrote back!  Two people wrote back, which thrilled me. The first response said that I was not alone in my concern and lots of people are complaining about the trash situation – so yay! And here’s what his supevisor said: “I agree with you, please give me a day or so to go up and assess the issues and get back to you on this.”

Then he wrote again and said: “Fran, we are putting together a Community Beautification team leader position and a crew for that person, for this kind of thing so it’s in the works! I went out today we have six litter baskets around the college area but none around the school so I will be working that. Thanks”

Well, it’s a start. I’m going to write to the elementary school principal down the street from me and see if they will start teaching their kids about the litter all over our streets and what they can do  to make a difference.

Like I said, we just can’t give up.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sitting on the couch tonight, I had my arms crossed over my head, thinking of what to say about Mother’s Day. My fingers on my right hand happened to be touching my pulse on my left hand and I could feel that tiny, steady, thump, thump, thump. And it occurred to me that that thump started with my mom giving birth to me all those years ago.

Fran & Mom

And I wonder where my kids get their inability to take a normal photo with me.

Along with that pulse, I was lucky to get love, encouragement, a wonderful family, a twisted sense of humor, and a serious appreciation for delicious food. They’ve all been essential in my life, but none more than encouragement.

My mom always encouraged me. Always told me I could do anything and be anything. The only person who doesn’t agree lives in my head. She’s been there forever. I’ve tried to evict her, but now I just let her say her peace, then tell her to shut up.

As Franklin Roosevelt (a man with a mother who encouraged him) so wisely stated, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

So, I salute all you moms this Mother’s Day. If it wasn’t for your encouragement, sense of humor, and  love there wouldn’t be people out there daring to live life and make a difference in the world, with whatever gifts they have. God bless every one of you. Happy Mother’s Day!

Fran and mom with horns.jpg

My poor mother. Here she is trying to give me a dollar so I can buy her a lottery ticket. But I had to get his shot first.

 

 

At What Age Does Crankiness Set In?

Street trash.JPGI celebrated Earth Day by picking up all the crap stupid people have thrown in the street in front of my house and cursing them under my breath. Then, I came upon an empty cardboard box in the street with a name and address on it. I wanted to drive to this person’s house and drop it in the street in front of where he lived with a note that said, “How do you like it when people throw trash in front of YOUR house?”

But I could just hear my daughter saying, “Mom!  That’s what a crazy old lady would do.”  So I did the slightly less crazy thing and sent the man a letter, enclosing the label from the box I just recycled for him.

styrofoam cups.JPG

As if a waitress was on every corner.

I couldn’t help it, I was so ticked off! . My block is only 287 steps long, I only picked up my side and it totally filled a kitchen garbage bag!

So, below is what I wrote. Please read it and let me know if I’m getting pissy, or what…because I think I might be. At what age does getting cranky/pissy/irritable start? I know some 20 year olds who can be pissy, so I don’t think there’s an age limit. I think I’ve just been too nice all my life and finally, I’m fed up. Especially when it comes to littering our beautiful earth with trash.

Dear _________

I was out walking this morning and saw you left an empty cardboard box, with your name and address still on it, on the street near my home. Why would you do this? Do you not have recycling or trash cans in your home? Was your car so full you couldn’t have taken that small box home and disposed of it there? There’s a garbage can right down the street from where you carelessly dropped the box, could you not have dropped it in there, at least?

In and Out Trash.JPG

What the hell?

You must be somewhat intelligent, you’re ordering things for your computer, so how do you not understand the effect of dropping your trash in the street?

The world, and my street are not your trashcan. When you leave trash in the street, it gets pushed into our rivers and oceans, polluting them for our children and grandchildren. Maybe you don’t have any children today, but you may someday and you’ll have to answer to them about why our oceans are so polluted. It’s because people like you don’t care at all where you toss your garbage. Please think about it and do your part to save the environment, while there’s still something to save.

In the meantime, please keep your trash to yourself or in the trashcan, not on the street where I live!

Sincerely,

A Concerned Resident

He is probably laughing his head off, or maybe it got through. I ‘m an optimist, I like to hope it got through to him, particularly since it cost me 50 cents to send it.

Trident trash.JPGI remember the very first Earth Day. I was in ninth grade and through the window I could see high school kids scurrying around on the fresh spring grass, picking up trash. I was so hopeful that people would start caring about the environment, but I definitely don’t see much evidence of that on my street. And it’s a shame. As French President, Emanuel Macron so eloquently put it, “There is no Planet B.”

So, a belated Happy Earth Day to you. I plan to contact my local government to see if we can get some trash cans installed or someone (besides me)  to come and clean up the area, or get an education program started, or something, so I don’t get really cranky and start accosting people on the street. And I think a Sierra Club membership may be in order. If nothing else, it’ll be a group of people equally cranky about the environment, and we can all rant together.

I wish you and all of us an Earth that gets more beautiful as time goes on.

Bag O Trash.JPG

This was all the garbage on my side of the street –one short trashy block.