Note: I read all comments and respond to most. --- New posts every 10 to 15 days...except when life decides to get in my way by dropping a log into my pond.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Z" is for Zoom-Zoom

After living in Alaska for 2 years, we felt somewhat estranged moving back to what the Alaskans referred to as the lower 48. Because of the cost of shipping, we had sold practically everything we owned -- getting even more for our Blazer 4x4 than we had originally paid. As we settled into our new home in Vancouver, Washington, we had a powerful commodity for purchasing another vehicle -- cash!  

I don't even remember how many days nor how many car lots we had been to, but I do recall it was the Fourth of July weekend and drizzling. There it sat -- a one-owner, low-mileage, meticulously kept, 5-year old, Ford Crown Victoria. It was maroon in color, just like the many unmarked police cars of that time. Only one problem: the sticker price 
was about $2000 out of our range.
The bottom line? Cash talked. I was in my first luxury Crown Vic with plush reclining seats, power under the hood and a tight turning radius. Somehow, it was slightly reminiscent of my first 2 cars I ever owned: a 1967 Mustang fastback, and my 1969 Chevy Malibu Super Sport 396 w/4-on-the-floor. That's when I first realized that children aren't the only ones who get to go zoooooOOM!

Did you know you can buy a car on Ebay? I didn't. Not until I decided to look for an upgrade to our seriously aging red Vic. We were now hooked on these fine over-the-road cars, wanting one in teal, and there...on Ebay...was exactly what we wanted! In Pittsburgh of all places. Yeah, the one in Pennsylvania -- 2600 miles away. But we went for the bid anyway...and won it!

Now, get this: I visited friends in Ohio, stayed at my folk's home in Minnesota -- getting to spend time with my dad over what turned out to be his last Father's Day -- enjoyed seeing a good friend (my mother-in-law) in Wyoming, said "hi" to friends in Montana, bought a plane ticket, covered all my food and gas, PLUS paid for a newer car -- all for only half of what we paid, many years before, for the older car! And to top it off, still made $500 selling our favorite Vic.

But, time moves on, and we had to face the facts again. Our move to Colorado had pushed the teal Crown Vic well pass her prime. So, this time we decided it'd be best to lease a brand new Victoria.

We thought we knew where the Ford dealership was when we left the house that day. But we thought wrong. Knowing the Mazda dealer was owned by the same people, we turned in...only to ask for directions. When my husband turned off the engine, I knew we were in "trouble."

Well, at least it was a lease like we had agreed on, just not a Crown Victoria lease. When I drove away in the 2008 MotorTrend SUV of the Year, a mica red Mazda CX-9 Touring, I felt like I was driving an SUV sports car! -- complete with power under the hood and a tight turning radius!

In fact, when I ordered my new pair of NikeID shoes that summer, I simply had to do it -- across the backs it read: Zoom-Zoom.

The lease was for only three years, and the time when we would need to decide what to do with the Mazda, was quickly approaching. Would we finally make it over to Ford for our infamous Crown Victoria?? contest! We were in love with our CX-9. 

We headed over to the Mazda dealer a few months early -- just to talk. That's when they decided to make us one of those offers that we -- quite honestly -- could not refuse. 
You got it -- a 2011 CX-9 Touring (Dolphin Gray) with the old familiar features of reclining seats (leather and heated!), power under the hood and...a tight turning radius :~)

Besides, I've always liked going...

(Hhmm...I wonder if it means anything for us to have gone from a red car to a sort of blue one -- again ?!! LOL)

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Y" is for Yesteryear, Yore and Back in the Diz-ay

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty hi-ho, Silver! The Lone Ranger with his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear . . The Lone Ranger rides again!" ~ Opening Narrative, The Lone Ranger, TV show (1949-1957)

To be honest, I only watched it because I thought Silver was the coolest horse anywhere! Seeing those dates, I realize I not only saw the first runs, but was already watching reruns when I was only 8 and 9. A common occurrence today, I know. But, for me it's hard to believe, since TV hadn't even been around that long. 

My "thrilling days of yesteryear" go back to the days when I watched Silver run across the TV screen. I am certain we can all relate in some way. But I began to wonder who ever thought of that phrase in the first place, and whether or not anyone ever uses it anymore. 

I decided it'd be wise to look at a little etymology on the subject.
Word Origin and History
Coined in 1870 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti from "yester(day) + year" in order to translate the French word antan (from V.L. *anteannum  "the year before") in a refrain by François Villon: Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? which Rossetti then rendered, "But where are the snows of yesteryear?"
Since the time literature wrote about the snows of yesteryear, dictionaries decided to extend the meaning beyond just the previous year, to: past years; time gone by; yore. I like that one -- yore.
"In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly day of yore;" ~The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) 
In Cummings' Study Notes on this poem, day of yore is described as the distant past. I like that definition the best. 

Looking at the years Poe lived and wrote, I arrive at yet another conclusion. Yore preceded the development of yesteryear. (Doesn't it sound like there should be some sort of double meaning there?) 

In an excerpt from A Story of the Drunk Curse, this short story writer also refers to the days of yore. (I add this one simply because I like the way it's written :~)
"As these visions of the happy days of yore passed like fairy dreams before her she heaved an involuntary sigh as she passionately exclaimed: Oh drink, thou hast been our curse; turning our happiness into misery; our Eden of bliss into a waste, weary wilderness of poverty and woe!"  
~From Wealth to Poverty by Austin Potter (1842-1913)
And yet, it proves rather interesting when one considers that the traditional beginning of a bedtime story also arose from the phrase, days of yore.
"In days of yore and in times long gone before there was a King...," or, "There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before..."; in England, where we strive not to waste words, this becomes "Once upon a time..."  
~Arabian Nights, The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night, by Sir Richard F. Burton
The question remains, are either yesteryear or days of yore still in use today? In response, I defer to what the Urban Dictionary coughed up when I made the query:
~days of yore isn't defined yet~  
But, it also rendered this phrase with its entertaining definition:
"back in the diz-ay" - n days of yore; olden times; mythical past where the girlies were hot, the beer cold, and the nintendo worked perfectly without having to blow inside the cartridge; the good old days
Does this mean I have to change my bedtime story-telling tactics? I hope not. Somehow, "Back in the diz-ay" just doesn't seem to have the same affect as, "Once upon a time, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone, before there was a King -- in the thrilling days of yesteryear..." 

A bit too long to start a story? Uh...what can I say...I'm not English :~)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"X" is for Xanadu, How Many Years Have I Known Thee?

It was my husband who gave me the idea of this post when he remarked, "certainly you've heard of Xanadu!" Admittedly, I had not. He told me how it's often used in reference to a mythical paradise. Well, of course this meant I had to go and dig for more info.

The search led me to the 1941 American film, Citizen Kane, directed by and starring Orson Welles. The black and white film is considered the greatest movie of all time, primarily for innovative cinematography, its music and narrative story structure.

In a review written by film critic, James Berardinelli:
The movie opens with an unforgettable image of a distant, fog-shrouded castle on a hill. It's a classic gothic shot, and goes a long way towards establishing Citizen Kane's mood. We quickly learn that this place, called Xanadu, is the dwelling of America's Kubla Khan, Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a one-time newspaper magnate who could have become President if not for an ill-advised extramarital affair. Xanadu, in the words of the faux newsreel that gives a brief history of Kane's life, is the "costliest monument of a man to himself." Any resemblance to The Ranch, William Randolph Hearst's real-life San Simeon abode, is not coincidental.
But I also learned that Xanadu is far more than a metaphor for Hearst Castle. Xanadu was a real place, designed by Chinese architect Liu Bingzhong to be a summer residence for Kublai Khan; built from 1252 to 1256 during the Mongol invasion. 

For just a smidgen more history, it was originally the town of Kaiping, China, and in 1264 was renamed Shangdu, the Supreme Capital. More than a hundred years later in 1368, Mongol history tells of the last of the Khans, Toghon Temur, lamenting the losses of both Daidu (Beijing) and Kaiping Xanadu (Shangdu), referring to Kublai Khan as founder, and himself as the cause of their fall.

Then I found this excerpt from what is believed to be one of the most complete descriptions of the city, written by Marco Polo, who is thought to have visited there in 1275.
There is at this place a very fine marble Palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment. 
This would partly explain why Xanadu has come to be a metaphor for decadence, or even a mythical paradise

The poem Kubla Khan or A Vision in a Dream, written (1797/1798) by English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge -- probably the main reason for the metaphoric meaning of Xanadu today -- has also inspired these other two references I discovered during my research.
  1. Xanadu, a song (pub 1977) written by the Canadian rock band, Rush, and
  2. Coleridge's poem is actually quoted in Xanadu, a 1980's Broadway surprise hit musical starring Olivia Newton-John.
This last is my favorite. The musical is about a Greek muse named Kira, who comes down from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980, with the mission to inspire Sonny, an artist, to design the first roller disco. (No, I am not kidding.) And of course she falls in love, which means her jealous sisters have to interfere.

Conclusion: The 1200's, 1790's, 1940's, 1970's and 1980's may have had Xanadu...but we have Hearst Castle, Avatar and...Twilight. :~))

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"W" is for Whose Fault is it, Anyway?

Often I am amazed at the growing number of people who actually believe that circumstances, or even other people, govern who they've become and who they will be in the future. Whose fault is it, anyway?
  • If my neighbor hadn't ignored me like that back then, I'd probably be a little bit more friendly now.
  • If it wasn't so cold and windy every single day, the yard work would probably be done by now.
  • If you hadn't talked to me in that tone, I'd probably be more willing to listen to you right now.
  • If people were paying more attention to their driving, I probably wouldn't have had to cut you off.
Let's see how it works when I get rid of the "if." How about some really real stuff, like family...
  • My dad always yelled about everything; that's why it's really hard for me not to do the same thing.
 Here's the flip side, which isn't any better, because it's still for the wrong reason:
  • My dad always yelled about everything; that's why I refuse to react in the same way now.
Or, maybe it's siblings...
  • My brothers always treated me with such indifference; that's why I'm always struggling with low self-esteem.
Same thing, but a different angle:
  • My brothers always treated me with such indifference; that's why I refuse to let our boys do that to her now.
Whose fault is it, anyway!!?

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that none of these things ever cross my own mind. But what about those individuals who truly believe these are all genuinely good reasons for behaving the way they do in certain situations. My oh my...whose fault is it, anyway?
  • I wouldn't have to switch companies all the time, [if] someone just believed in good customer service.
  • I would probably get up earlier on the weekends, [if] I just had something more to get up to.
  • I would probably be more willing to get involved, [if] it didn't always feel like they're just using me.
  • I know I wouldn't be so sensitive about this, [if] people just treated me with a little more respect and consideration.
Just more of the right ingredients of life and I'd be okay. If I just had a better teacher, a better job, better friends, more money, my spouse acted differently, my kids weren't so crazy, my in-laws didn't live so close...I'd have a better life, and I'd be different. Enter in the infamous "grass is always greener" myth.
Over the years, I have diligently worked to root up each and every one of these horrid little parasites of so-called reason, out of my vocabulary and out of my thinking. They're like weeds. Somehow a new one pops up just when I thought I had them all licked! Or worse yet, 2 or 3 come back for every one I've  discarded. How unending! How frustrating! How tiring this can be!
You are where you are and what you are because of yourself, because of your own choices and decisions.” ~Brian Tracy, Author and Motivational Speaker
"We are what we are because of our believing, not other people's believing...We will sink to the depths or rise to the heights of our believing." ~Life Lines, Quotations of Victor Paul Wierwille
This gives me a strong sense of control in my life, regardless of what anyone else thinks or does. I am the architect of my own life.

In the midst of it all, I have found comfort and strength in a simple truth about circumstances.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” ~Brian Tracy
In short, I have determined within myself to stop re-acting to situations. Instead, I mentally take a step back, look at what just hit the fan, then carefully move forward in a manner that redirects or even resolves what just occurred.

"Oh! You're talking about being pro-active."

Call it what you may, it's still doing whatever works to keep my steps steady and out of the muddy clay of defeat. I am mastering change.

I am what I am...and changing! So...whose fault is it, anyway!!? All mine :~)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"V" is for Visionary Philosopher

Henry David Thoreau
For quite some time, I thought it silly when some analytical or IQ test I had taken, would tell me that the results revealed I am a Visionary Philosopher. Although this describes me quite well, I always thought the tests were, well, full of themselves. Finally, after seeing it often enough, and hearing from others how true it is, I decided to do a little research on the matter.

First of all, it's not a recognized term in philosophy.
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means "love of wisdom.”
The words "systematic approach" and "reliance on rational argument," pretty much nullify the concept of visionary. 

Secondly, when the word visionary is searched by Google (or any other engine), it comes up with meanings like unrealizable, impractical, dreamer, or a state of seeing the future through meditation or drugs. 

Extended meaning:
A visionary can also be a person with a clear, distinctive and specific (in some details) vision of the future.
In contrast, here is an apt description of a philosopher, by Henri-Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher and poet:
"The philosopher is like a man fasting in the midst of universal intoxication. He alone perceives the illusion of which all creatures are the willing playthings; he is less duped than his neighbor by his own nature. He judges more sanely, he sees things as they are. It is in this that his liberty consists—in the ability to see clearly and soberly, in the power of mental record."
Key words: sees things as they are.

Thirdly, if you do an internet search using both words together, you get a list of links to everyone else who has taken these tests and was told they were a visionary philosopher

Finally, the somewhat conclusive results of my short and simple scientific research into the matter are as follows:
Visionary Philosopher - Basically, an oximoron. Extended meaning: could be a paradox.
Like I was saying, I always thought the tests were, well, full of themselves. 
~ A Few Great Quotes on Vision ~
  • Vision is more than just a picture; it should capture your passion. ~me
  • The question is not what you look at, but what you see. ~Henry David Thoreau
  • The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going. ~Annonymous
  • Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens. ~Carl Gustav Jung
  • Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~George Bernard Shaw
  • Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. ~Ayn Rand
  • The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.  ~Henri-Louis Bergson (1859-1941) French Philosopher and Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Knowing your destiny is half your journey. ~Annonymous
  • Where there is no vision, the people perish. ~Proverbs 29:18a, The Bible
  • Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. ~Japanese proverb
  • Imagine no limitations; decide what's right and desirable before you decide what's possible. ~Brian Tracy, Author and Motivational Speaker
  • Yeah, a hell of a vision. ~Woodrow Call, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Monday, April 25, 2011

"U" is for Us

One of the musical groups I often heard on the radio, back in my high school days, was Herman's Hermits. I can even remember the songs they recorded that I didn't especially care for. (God forbid, I don't know how that's even possible, but I do.) 

One of their songs I liked okay -- written by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens -- was the last of their career to make it into the Top 10: There's a Kind of Hush. 

The line that always seemed to stick in my mind was, "Just the two of us and nobody else in sight." Us is sort of like braids and beads -- they're meant to go together.  

Another song that made it into the Top 10 that year, written and performed by The Turtles, and becoming the launch pad to their success, was Happy Together. Enduring the test of time, it became our song -- my husband's and mine. 
Ben Javens, Illustrator

Our favorite verse, including the chorus:

Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together 

I can't see me lovin' nobody but you
For all my life
When you're with me, baby the skies'll be blue
For all my life 

Neither of us enjoys watching Hollywood love stories though -- with the exception of an occasional romantic comedy. A bit strange? We simply feel we'll end up disappointed, because every time we've tried one, the film industry has seemed to come up short of -- us.

This year will mark our 25th Anniversary. It's rather exciting to think about! And, I have to admit, I'm almost narcissistic about this one, because it's all about -- us :~)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"T" is for Time, by Julius O'Hara

Click for more info
Directed by John Huston in 1953, is the little remembered movie, Beat the Devil. It's because of my love for the old Humphrey Bogart pictures that I even stumbled upon this one. Bogart stars, but the storyline doesn't amount to much, and my favorite Bogie co-star, Lauren Bacall, isn't even in it.

So, who is Julius O'Hara? One of the characters played by another of my favorites, Peter Lorre. There is one scene where he is spotlighted, that pretty much saves the far as I am concerned.

Mr. O'Hara turns his back to the others in the room and makes some rather profound remarks about time. He speaks so quickly, the viewer almost misses it. Being succinctly stated, I was compelled to recapture his words deeply:
Time (as Defined by Juilius O'Hara)
Time. Time. What is time?
Swiss manufacture it.
French hoard it.
Italians squander it.
Americans say it is money.
English say it does not exist.
You know what I say?
I say, time is a crook!

Friday, April 22, 2011

"S" is for Sanctuary

Wooded Refuge
 ~ Safe
                                          Yields  ~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"R" is for...Regret Not

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”   ~Alexander Graham Bell

Someday, I should actually put a list together of all my little personal Thou Shalts. Thou shalt remember that rules are meant to be broken. Thou shalt overcome fear whenever it shows its ugly face. But, at the very top of that list would be: Thou Shalt Regret Not

In fact, if this list is really all that important to me, I honestly know that my someday will definitely happen...otherwise I would be wide open for the possibility of a regret. And, that's simply not going to happen. 

Someday, I'm going to get rid of all the clutter I've accumulated around the house...including the basement and garage. I'll have one gargantuan garage sale, perhaps at one of those community locations that draws in thousands of people each year during the month of May. 

And you know what? If I'm really serious about this, I know that my someday will definitely happen, otherwise I would be wide open for the looming likelihood of regret. And, well, that's just not going to happen.

Someday, I'll buckle down on my diet and exercise, and actually shed the excess off these tired bones. My new found vitality will carry me off into my greatly anticipated adventures and discerning discoveries, to satisfy and fulfill the muse within, and to share with my best friend. 

And -- I already know there's no *if* on this one -- I absolutely know that my someday will arrive, otherwise I would end up wide open for that sorrowful probability of regret. And, that shall absolutely not happen.

Actually, there is a fairly simple formula for decreasing the probability of acquiring regret(s) in life. Either, I decide from the onset, to not put so much importance on the task or desire -- at least not so much that there would be regret if it didn't happen in my life time -- or, I organize and plan all the Somedays into my daily life. 

Anything worth doing -- anything I want to have happen in or to my life -- is worth doing now. At times it's just a matter of loving myself enough to make room for it. Or, seeing my life big enough -- important enough -- to put the work into it to make my life the best it can be.  

The enemy is procrastination, but it cannot co-exist in this regret-less realm.

But how can I be so convinced that regret will not happen? Because, if today I make the best decision I can about a matter, and I find out later down the road, that perhaps it wasn't the *best* decision after all, does that make it not the best decision? No. It doesn't change a thing. Remember -- it's only by hindsight that we see everything 20/20.

Whatever decision I make, I let it rest. Any information that later comes to my attention about my decision, is only for learning in moving forward. That is all. What is already done, is done. That is my vow to myself, made many many moons ago, that enables me to enjoy my life,
                                and.............Regret Not :~)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Q" is for Quirky?.....Quite.

Have you ever had a friend live with you where it should never have worked out, but it did, and neither of you really know how or why? In fact, no one else can figure it out either? Well, I have. And, I'm not talking about my husband ...although he could probably fit this scenario equally well.

There were actually 3 of us (including my husband) who considered renting this wonderfully large one-level home we affectionately called, The Hacienda. Entering from the portico, the front door opened into a 27'x25' room with a massive, 3-way, red brick fireplace, towering up through a custom made skylight, right in the middle of the 15-foot ceiling.

I saw right away how it could work. But the 2 of them? called it strange and the other said too weird. Apparently, they were trying to convince me that it was a bit, uh...quirky.

We looked at a number of other cute cottage-like homes, rambling ranches, and even upscale condos. None seemed to compare to The Hacienda, in both size and character.
Finally, we all agreed and moved into this exquisitely quirky house, complete with an enclosed courtyard, Swedish sauna and step-down patio opening to the 18th fairway of someone's private golf course.

I divided up the huge room, which provided for an entry foyer plus 3 living areas -- one for conversing, another for dining along side the long wall of patio windows, and the third for comfy entertainment -- all with imaginary walls. We decided quirky was good and loved it.

In the days ahead, I began to discover just why our friend could accept quirky so easily -- it's what she was. Quirky? Quite right.

          "Every man had his own quirks and twists." 
                                                      ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe 

This may be so. But having a few, and being one, are slightly different concepts. I'm talking about far more than just a peculiarity of behavior, you idiosyncrasy. What I'm talking about are consistent, yet unpredictable and unexpected, uniquely strange, oddly funny, somewhat cute and always present...character traits! 

In today's terms, I believe it's called: random. But the 3 of us decided the best word at the time, was...quirky

And that became her very endearing nickname: Quirky.

Big Chief, he loves squaw
Here's the unexpected part. Quirky decided that each of us had to have a nickname because she had one. For my husband, she chose Big Chief.

It was partially taken from a childhood nickname his dad had tagged him with, so others would be aware to watch what they said when he came into the room...Hi there, Chief Big Ears! 

She labeled me as The Deepster. If a person was willing, I could lead them down enticingly unfamiliar yet intriguing paths of thought, into the wee hours, without blinking an eye. It became a sort of trademark of mine. 

Nearly 9 years later, and that nickname grew into my inspiration for the title of this blog  -- all from those months at The Hacienda. I probably should add, one of her favorite movies back then was The Wizard of Oz, and I hadn't even thought of that when I went and picked out the picture for this post! Now that's quirky.

Well, there you have it. Three unlikely characters -- Quirky, Big Chief, and The Deepster -- living in an equally quirky, yet magnificent house. We don't know how or why, but it worked. How awesomely cool is that!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"P" is for Punky's Dilemma

Click here for more lyrics from Bookends
Ever since I first heard this song, I liked it. Especially the part about the toaster...ease myself down, comin' up brown. I mean, how cool is that! I pictured myself getting a scrumptious tan -- for just once in my life. I was about 18. That seemed to be a big deal at the time.

Well, here are the lyrics, taken right off the original Bookends album by Simon and Garfunkle.

Punky's Dilemma (2:17)
P. Simon, 1968 

Wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake
Floatin' in my bowl takin' movies
Relaxin' a while, livin' in style
Talkin' to a raisin who 'casionally plays L.A.
Casually glancing at his toupee 

Wish I was an English muffin
'Bout to make the most out of a toaster
I'd ease myself down
Comin' up brown
I prefer boysenberry
More than any ordinary jam
I'm a "Citizens for Boysenberry Jam" fan 

Ah, South California 

If I become a first lieutenant
Would you put my photo on your piano?
"To Maryjane-
Best wishes, Martin"
(Old Roger draft-dodger
Leavin' by the basement door)
Everybody knows what he's
Tippy-toeing down there for 

In comments, leave the title to one of your favorite nostalgic songs and a link to the lyrics for myself and others to check out :~)

Monday, April 18, 2011

"O" is for Olive Oil

For some of us, when you say Olive Oil, a shapeless, skinny-as-a-bean-pole, round-faced, rather homely gal (Olive Oyl) comes to mind, who had a big hankering for an even more homely spinach-eating sailor guy, who used lousy English, named Popeye. Cartoonist, Elzie Crisler, came up with the beloved female character in 1919 and brought the sailor into town in 1929 -- 10 years later.

But today I'm actually writing about Homer's "liquid gold" -- rubbed on the bodies of ancient Greek athletes, engaged as fuel for Herodian clay lamps, profited by soap makers, and endeared in Mediterranean cuisines.

Some sources say the Island of Crete is where the production of this unique oil began, about 3500BC, then later migrated to other areas because of Greek colonization. Others claim the trees were first grown for oil in Canaan (Israel) as far back as 4500BC. Why the concern? Because it is believed that if one finds the origin of the tree, you will have found the best tasting oil.

I was told that every brand will taste slightly different, so I went through a few to find my favorites. Also, I figured it would be okay to have more than one on the shelf, because they keep about a year before going rancid, as long as they're stored away from direct light.
A good Greek label, not too difficult to locate, is terra medi. Spain, presently the world's largest producer, has quite a few interesting brands as well. The oils from France and Turkey have not yet hit my palate, but I'm sure they are equally competitive in both price and flavor. Among the few Italian store-brands I've tried, I always come back to Filippo Berio.

Extra Light is exactly what its name implies -- it doesn't override the flavors of other foods when sauteing and cooking, and can tolerate a higher heat. Extra Virgin has the most intense flavor, and is usually chosen for salads, bread dipping and a bruschetta drizzle. But -- WARNING -- all Extra Virgins may not be what they claim to be as this report shows: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli. 

Olive oil is much like wine in variety, and I was really quite surprised to discover actual tastings are becoming popular. In fact, Filippo Berio even has a link to Host your own tasting. And just like wine, the craft has carried over to the states, with California out front. One I need to try is Williams-Sonoma, but perhaps Corto-Olive will be even better.

Click here to purchase book
My husband and I started our new year of 2011 with the intention of turning more toward a Mediterranean way of preparing foods, which is actually quite low in fat -- the bad kind anyway :~) So, I enthusiastically bought the two best books I could find on the subject:  
  • The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by Tess Mallos (Absolutely to die for if you don't know a lot.)
Click here to purchase book
  • A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright (If you're interested in the fascinating in-depth story from birth, of the merchants and the cuisines plus over 500 recipes, this is totally it.)

Both books have been used and enjoyed frequently over the past few months, as we have become thoroughly amazed at the exceptional difference olive oil makes in a recipe. The amount of butter and sugar I used to use in a month, now lasts an entire year!

Currently, I'm just waiting for a little of that old Olive Oyl image to start showing on me...not much...just a little. I guess it's another one of those things much like wine -- not before its time. LOL

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"N" is for... What's in a Name?

What is in a name? If the meaning of a name always described the person, then everyone named Mary would be bitter, and all called Barbara would be barbaric. That cannot be all there is to a name. 

James Smithson, Smithsonian Institute
The names given to towns, streets, parks and even buildings have frequently been chosen just to recognize a certain individual or to commemorate a particular surname. Of course, this garners considerable significance for the name someone is given or born with.

Often names are chosen simply to honor someone in their family tree. My grandfathers' names were Cyril (German) and Gilbert (Danish). The first named his son, Cyril, but gave him a different middle name, disannulling him as a "Junior." 

There are 5 grandchildren in my parents' tree. Their names, from oldest to youngest, are: Christopher, Christa, Carrie, Chad and Chelsey. All "Cs" -- not planned, we didn't sit down and have a discussion about it -- it just happened that way.

My contribution to the mix was Christa. I wanted to give her some way she'd never forget Jesus Christ as she went through life. Such a simple thing to have it as part of her own name, I had thought, so that each time she wrote it she'd remember.

The names of my grandmothers were Hulda (German) and Uarda (Danish). Does anyone ever give their kids names like that anymore?! I haven't heard of this country anyway. But that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I would think it would be a bit tough going through school with names such as those.

I'm just as guilty for thinking up an odd name, as my next choice for a girl was to be, Tapestry Rose. "That's a hippie name," my husband insisted. He didn't appreciate it like I did. I loved the meaning that was conveyed by the concept of a tapestry -- beautifully and intricately woven together -- yet as soft and supple as a rose.

I have one final thought to consider...

Be careful not to laugh too hard if you hear of someone naming their next baby, Snicklefritz, because it just might become the name of the next school, park, or even the street that your great great grandchild decides to live on ;~)

Friday, April 15, 2011

"M" is for Moose-face!

Note: Okay...this is a re-post, as some followers might have noticed. I have tweaked it ever so slightly to post it in the A to Z challenge, because I believe it's worth revisiting. I trust you'll enjoy it as much as I.

My husband and I had this happen in the first year of our marriage... about 25 years ago. I could swear he called me -- right out of the blue -- a moose-face

When I exclaimed, "What d'ya mean, I'm a moose-face!!" he couldn't figure out why I (that's right, I was supposed to be the culprit now) -- why I suddenly brought up the word moose-face.

"Moose-face?" he retorted, "Why'd you call me a moose-face!"

Quickly and vehemently I replied, "I didn't call you a moose-face! You're the one who called *me* one!!"

He yelled, "When did I ever call YOU a moose-face?!!"

Shocked at his question, I shouted back at him, "Just now!"

In disbelief he cried out, "I was only repeating what YOU said!"

It soon was like the old Abbott and Costello routine Who's on first? -- only with mega-volume, in a car parked next to a public park, and quite late at night.

But, in only a matter of another minute or two, we had completely stopped arguing and had begun to laugh sooo hard we were both crying -- trying desperately to catch our breaths. To this day, when that word pops up in conversation, we end up nearly ROFLOAO, even as do our friends who've heard us tell the story many times.

We never did figure out what word he actually said that night. It didn't seem to matter anymore. Funny how it often works out that way. And, we still cannot -- for the life of us -- recall what we were even arguing about in the first place. Does it matter?

It's nice, though, to remind myself of these things, because humor is good for the soul. It somehow relieves pressure and makes life a lot more worth living :~)

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..."  ~Proverbs 17:22a

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"L" is for Learning, But Not to Have Learned

A great number of years ago, I was talking with a friend who wondered what I had been up to lately. In my reply I used the phrase, "I've learned that..." My friend listened intently, but every time I said learned, he interjected the word, learning

This continued as we hung out together over the next few days. Finally, I began to catch myself, saying, "I've been learning that..." or "I am learning..."

Why would this be such a big deal? My friend explained to me that to learn is a continuing process because life is always changing, and that to say learned -- ed -- is past tense, as if it's a done deal, and there's nothing more to learn on the subject. Then he asked, "Is that what you want?"
I have kept this lesson close to my heart throughout my life, always eager to learn, looking at learning as one of the greatest adventures in life. I have seen many things, but feel I am learning even more. 

Not only are there the many faceted perspectives I've acquired from which I can view life, but I have so much more to draw on in the multi-faceted views of all the people whose lives have intrigued me. I am thankful to all those who have, in some way, touched my soul. I also must agree that, yes, learning is a continuum.

Yet herein lies a funny thing. The older I get, I marvel at how easy it has become to remark, "If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's..." Please. Tell me this isn't happening!

Once again I find myself having to stop and reword my phrasing to say instead, "If there's one thing I am learning in life..." Let me never allow myself to put a cap on my learning...until the day of my last breath, and I'm 6-foot under, pushing up those proverbial daisies :~)