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Monday, September 19, 2011

My Bucket List

Recently, we watched an old movie about two men with terminal cancer, hospital roommates. One had made a bucket list of things to do before he died. The other man had the money for them to carry out their end of life wishes, and they went traveling together, doing everything on their respective Bucket Lists.
 It started my thinking about a bucket list for myself.
 First, I’d have to make some rules:
Would these just pertain to my situation now --- or before Tony died, in 1996 ? I suppose it would boil down to reality or fantasy. Hmmmmmmn , think I’ll stay with the here and now.
 Would they only be things I can easily afford – or what I could afford before the financial mess hit this country – and my bank account ? OK, a little of both, I think.
 The truth is that I’ve done lots of the things that would have been on my list some years ago.  I used to love to travel, wanted to see everything in this country and in Europe.
 I’ve come to a time in my life where I no longer want to have to fly to get somewhere. My arthritis may have something to do with that. I need to move around before I get too stiff and walking on planes, even the big ones, can be a challenge. I rather enjoy the actual flying and looking out the window. There’s a feeling of elation at the beginning, when the plane levels off, which is nice, but I have to honestly say I love to feel those wheels touch the runway at the end of a flight.
 Before we flew to Germany the first time, I read several books about the fear of flying and I found them helpful. I guess it was the really long flight plus being over the ocean that had me a tad uneasy. Thankfully, one of the books, written by a pilot, explained all the bumps and noises so I didn’t have to worry about the plane falling apart.
 I’ve always said I’m a fairly good swimmer, excellent floater, but I can’t fly worth a darn! Consequently, the thought of taking a cruise has always appealed to me. By the time Tony and I took some cruises, we could afford rather elegant accommodations.  I say this because Tony would have been miserable in some of the small staterooms I peeped into on the ships.  He was claustrophobic, plus, like so many others, on his first trip, he’d crossed the Atlantic on a troop ship, a miserable experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruises and actually lost a couple of pounds. We mostly lived on the delicious, fresh seafood and salads and walked miles around the decks. (In contrast, we had a dear friend, an MD, who gained twenty pounds on a one week cruise. His wife said he just ate all day and night.)
 So a bit of a list for the bucket would be, actually, a short cruise down the coast from Charleston to Key West – and back—or perhaps leave from Savannah. However, I wouldn’t want to do even that without my children.
 I’d love to see a live whale but not enough to go to Alaska or some far off place to see one. I always enjoy watching the dolphins when I am at the coast.
 As I’ve grown older, lots of wishes, daydreams, desires have narrowed considerably. I don’t want to do anything at all where I’d have to “rough it”. [I can just hear Dee saying,  when did you ever?! We both agree, sleeping with the window open is as rough as we want to get!]
 I enjoy a ride through the Smoky mountains, especially since the roads are so good. I might like to do a little people watching at Cherokee, N.C.  Sometimes when I’ve needed a vision to calm my soul, I  take a mental trip through Cades Cove. I love that area. Catherine Marshall’s book, Christy, about going to English Mountain as a young teacher, is one worth rereading.
 When I was a child, my parents  would get us up early, usually on a Sunday morning, and we’d ride up to and through the Smokies; have a picnic lunch; and return by a different route. Mother always either planned or actually cooked her Sunday dinner, on Saturday. So our picnic lunch could be most anything. Most often, she cooked big pieces of meat like roasts, in a big, black, iron Dutch Oven. She and Dad would just wrap the entire pot and lid in heavy newspapers and it stayed fairly hot – or cold- until lunch. We rarely had paper products so plates, cups, forks etc went into a basket. It seems to me we did always have a big thermos of fruity iced tea. One trip, in November, we stopped and Dad cut a Christmas tree which they tied to the car some way. Boy, that wouldn’t happen now. Perhaps those sweet memories enhance my love of the mountains.
 I’ve always enjoyed singing whether before an audience or alone. But I do think it would be fun to get a group together just to harmonize on some of the old time hymns and songs.
 I’ve been to most of the Florida beaches, not Miami, all the Georgia,   nearly all the South Carolina beaches, and a few French beaches. But I’ll always love Hilton Head most of all. We first went there before it was developed and only had a rickity, scary wood bridge.  Even though it is now built up and more closely resembles a city, I still love going there. I haven’t missed too many years getting there for a week or two. I like to stay in a condo at Ocean One, right on the beach, often just sitting on the balcony,  watching the ocean. For years, we had a time share at the Sea Crest, in January. We met several couples, long time friends, there and it was a bit like a house party. I tried to carry friends and return, several times, after Tony died --- but finally just gave up. I gave the condo back to the Sea Crest as Tony had suggested I do if it became too sad. I was the youngest in our group and all but one other wife are dead. Since then, though, I’ve gone several times with Dee, and my grands, and those have been good times, too.
  In Augusta, I lived alone for nine years and got along OK , just a different dynamic …. Several friends are also widows and three couples were folks I was very comfortable with. Each of those men has died now. Tony’s family lived there also but we were no longer close. They were very nice but memories were too painful, I think, looking back.
 People ask, “If you could do it all over, would you?”  My answer would be, only if I knew then what I know now. However, as I’ve thought about a bucket list, I realize that I’ve done  much that would have been on the list  plus some things I’d never even dreamed of. I’m so lazy and content these days, let’s don’t rock the boat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tennessee Memories

A recent blog of mine mentioned a woman I met years ago in TN who had a tacky, superior attitude. I want to make clear that she was definitely not from TN. or anywhere south of there. My best guess would be that she was from Worms Hole, MA.  Years ago, we were on the ferry from Nantucket back to Woods Hole, MA, and a drunk kept walking around asking passengers when we were going to arrive at Worms Hole. I’ve never forgotten that. It’s just the sort of place to spawn a witchy women like I mentioned in my blog. (I want to make clear, however, that none of my TN friends reading this blog was that woman!)

Having been the family of a small town banker, we were awfully tired of feeling that we were on display every time we went out to eat or did anything at all in public. When we moved there in 1971, Knoxville represented a new freedom for our little family—a very welcome one! We did not select a house in the more elite part of Knoxville, close to down town and UT. Instead, we bought a new house, in a fairly new subdivision, out from town. That way, we got a lot more house for our money. We were blessed with good neighbors and are still close to some of them.

At the end of our first week, in Tennessee, we took our kids and went to a big store that kind of sold everything. I guess it was more like present day Target. We bought jeans and boots for everyone, even me. This was before women wore pants everywhere like they do now. The time was early January and it snowed off and on all day that day. People were just going about their business as if there was no snow. I found that really difficult to believe. In Georgia, snow flurries signal immediate trips to buy bread and milk. Then everything closes and people go home. I seem to remember that being one of the snowiest winters we had up there and we loved it.  I insisted that Tony put snow tires on my car – but then I refused to drive if there were more than ten snowflakes around. We sold those tires at a garage sale some time later.

Tony and I made some plans and promises to take effect in our new state and they were a new beginning for our little family. We agreed that we would not take part in organizations that required our being apart in the evenings. Lunch time activities were allowed but not for me in the summer. Tony and Bruce went hunting a few times in the fall and Dee went to my Saturday DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meetings with me a few times but I soon stopped going to those.  They were terribly boring and I couldn’t keep refusing the jobs they wanted me to do.

For the most part, instead of going out, we had folks over to our house, kids’ friends as well as our own and lots of the young bank crowd who worked for Tony. I doubt that more than two or three neighbors knew what Tony did for a living. We were just us- not someone’s daughter or son, as we had been known in Georgia. Without the required and demanding social schedule, I had time to read a little, cook as much as I was in the mood for, learn to knit etc.

One recipe that we enjoyed a lot was for   Baked Manicotti.
Recipe from a little book called Italian Cooking Made Easy, copyright  1964, Kaufman

 Baked Manicotti
2 cups Ricotta cheese
 ½ cup grated parmesan cheese 
1/2 cup mazarella cheese [grated]
salt and pepper [about1/4 tsp]
2 eggs

Add all the above and beat together til smooth

12 manicotti shells
tomato sauce [recipe follows], 
grated cheese

Cook shells in boiling salted water until slightly underdone. Drain. Fill shells with cheese mix and place in lightly greased baking dish.

Cover with basic tomato sauce. Sprinkle with lots of grated cheese - your choice, or a mixture is good.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven, about 20 minutes or until sauce bubbles around the edges. This can be completely done ahead except for baking. May take a little longer to bake if it has been chilled.

I have used a tsp to poke the filling into the shells – and sometimes have just slit them open, filled, and placed seam side down in the dish.

Recently, we tried some of those big,pasta sea shells  instead of the manicotti and they were good too. Pepperoni added to the cheese mix or sauce is delicious.

Do Not Overcook, you don’t want it to dry out.


4 tbl olive oil ,heat in heavy saucepan, add 1 medium finely chopped onion and sauté until soft but not brown.
1 -16 oz can tomato sauce
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste, diluted with 1 cup very hot water
¼ -cup sherry
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp basil
½  tsp oregano
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Add everything to the onion, blend well, allow to simmer slowly about an hour and a half, until smooth and thick.
I’ve made this many times using fresh tomatoes , very ripe. Just push them through a strainer, using a wooden spoon. Can also use a 16oz can of tomatoes, strained. Throw away the pulp.

Actually, this is best made a day before and wonderful to have on hand.

I like to make a large dish of this and hope for leftovers.

The above recipe, served with good bread and maybe a green salad is heavenly on a snowy, evening, before a blazing wood fire!