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Tag Archives: April A to Z

‘Taters

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I love potatoes. Baked, boiled, mashed, fried, in soups, in salads. Not sure I’ve met a potato I didn’t like (white potatoes, that is…not a fan of sweet potatoes in any incarnation). I didn’t know there were so many kinds of white potatoes until I moved to England; the supermarket has an entire aisle–both sides–devoted to nothing but potatoes. Heaven must look something like the potato aisle in Tesco.

I grew up eating potatoes almost every night for dinner. Mom married a meat and potatoes guy; Dad liked other starches like rice and pasta well enough, but preferred spuds with his evening meal. Now, I find myself married to a man who would happily eat rice seven nights a week–he doesn’t dislike potatoes, he just likes rice more. So, long story short, because I don’t cook potatoes very often, the ones I buy often go off before I can use them all.

A few months ago, I found a special potato storage bag while wandering through a cooking store. The package stated that the special dark liner inside the bag would keep potatoes fresher longer–the eyes wouldn’t sprout, and the potatoes wouldn’t turn green (this happens when potatoes are exposed to light, and green potatoes are poisonous!) This magical bag sounded like just what I needed to prolong the life of my taters, which hadn’t been faring so well in a plain paper sack. Let me just say, if I had saved the receipt this bag would be going back to the store.

I bought a bag of new potatoes and used several of them in a recipe the same day. The rest were secured in the dark protective shroud of the potato sack. A couple weeks went by, I cooked rice, we did some traveling, and through it all the potatoes slumbered peacefully in their sack. Last week I remembered that I had baby potatoes (only because I’d just purchased a couple larger spuds for baking and needed to store them in the sack) and thought I’d use them to make some potato salad. I loosened the drawstring at the top of the bag and blindly reached my hand in…only to yank it out with a yelp when I encountered tentacles trying to wrap themselves around my wrist. WTF?! Angling the bag’s opening toward the window, I looked in the dark interior to find 10-inch long sprouts coming out of every single potato. Good thing the bag slowed the growth of those eyes, or I’d have had to hack my way into the kitchen with a machete!

Unless anyone out there has a tried and true ‘tater storage trick, I may have to give up and just get my potato fix when we go out for dinner. Rice is a much more docile side dish, not turning poisonous colors or sprouting and trying to take over the pantry as soon as I turn my back.

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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Challenges, Observations, True Life

 

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Stonehenge

We finally made it to Stonehenge yesterday; it’s been on our Places to Visit in England list since we arrived in September 2011. We didn’t want to visit too early in our tour, lest we end up with numerous houseguests who wanted to go as well. (We visited the Great Buddha in Japan about half a dozen times, and are determined not to be so repetitive here in England.) My mom has been the first visitor to show any interest in Stonehenge, so I made arrangements to get us access to the inside of the stone circle before regular opening hours. It was a treat to be so close to the giant stones with only about twenty other visitors, rather than being confined to the roped-off pathway outside the circle with the hordes of foreign tourists that were arriving by the busload as we left.

I am glad that I’ve finally been to Stonehenge, and getting up at 4:30 a.m. to arrive in time for the special access inside the stones was well worth missing forty winks. But I have to say that the whole experience left me a little underwhelmed. Stonehenge looks so big and dramatic when I see it in magazines or travel guides and appears to be set in the middle of a huge field, far from the intrusion of the modern world. In reality, the diameter of the circle isn’t nearly as wide as I expected, although the stones themselves are massive. I was taken aback by the two busy roadways between which Stonehenge is nestled–I suspect some major retouching to remove cars, fences, and power lines in published photos. I admit to also being a tad disappointed not to feel some kind of spiritual pull standing inside the ancient circle; I’d been prepared for a primal stirring of the soul thanks to countless theories about the original purposes of the temple and reports of the Druid rituals that take place there in current times.

All in all, I think my expectations of this UNESCO World Heritage Site were unrealistic. For anyone who has not yet visited Stonehenge, I suggest trying to forget all you’ve seen and read about the monument before you go. Definitely book the inner circle special access before or after regular visiting hours if you can manage it, then walk in with an open mind and simply marvel at the architectural feats that created the temple and soak in the more than 5000 years of mystery and history contained within the concentric circles of earth and stone.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Challenges, Monday Mix, Observations

 

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Up!

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Today’s my day off for good behavior from the April A to Z Challenge, so I thought I’d look to The Daily Post for something fun to do. Sara Rosso asked for a photo that means “up” in Friday’s edition of the Weekly Photo Challenge, and I immediately knew which folder to visit in my photo archives.

My husband and I were driving home from a day trip in October 2011 when we spotted a whole army of hot air balloons rising up from the English countryside. We pulled into a roadside parking area directly in their flight path and waited as they floated nearer, the dragon’s roar of their burners clearly audible above the whoosh of passing cars. This was my first close-encounter with hot air balloons, and some of their antics conjured up all sorts of horrific accident scenarios, prompting me to pat my back pocket to ensure my cell phone was handy (not that I’m a nervous Nelly or anything). There were a few anxious moments as some balloons struggled to maintain altitude near the high-voltage power lines, but all safely crossed with a few feet to spare. More than one balloon was forced to land prematurely in sheep-strewn fields (intentionally? lack of a favorable wind? pilot error?), but luckily well back from the busy highway, and almost all were able to regroup and rise again to continue on their southward journeys. One balloon in the flotilla was poised to drift directly overhead, so I readied myself to capture the gaping mouth of the beast, feeling a bit like a rabbit analyzing the silent approach of a hawk.

The message in this shot screams “up” to me, from my craned-neck perspective of the underside of the basket, to the painted bird soaring across the envelope’s cobalt background, to the word “sky” lettered on the nylon skin. If I’m ever lucky enough to take a ride in one of these graceful giants, I’ll be sure to collect some photos for a companion post entitled “Down!”

 

 

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Quatrain

wasp-nestPhoto Copyright Janet Webb

I stroke her fragile hand in the pale light of the moon, her skin now as dry and papery as a wasp’s nest.

“Remember that poem you wrote to your puppy? I thought it was for me; you stole my heart way back in third grade.”

Softly I recite the four lines memorized nearly 78 years ago.

All can see our friendship is strong;
No doubt, by my side you belong.
Brown-eyed scamp, your kiss I adore.
I’ll love you forever…or more.

This is the final verse of our love story; I draw my last breath and reach for forever.

I missed last week’s Friday Fictioneers since I was out of town, but I’m back on board this week, submitting my 100 words inspired by the photograph selected by the Fictioneers’ fearless leader Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and guided by the letter Q of April’s A to Z Challenge!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Challenges, Fiction

 

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Plunge

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Question 128
You are at a lake with some friends; the sun is warm and the water is cold. Going into the water would temporarily chill you but you know that later the warm sun would be even more enjoyable and you would be glad you had gone in. Would you take the plunge?

Uh. No. Been there, done that, not doing it again.

I lived in New Hampshire during my high school days, and went with a friend to Lake Winnipesauke over Memorial Day weekend. Her family went there often in the summer months, so she had local friends who were able to meet us at the lake for the afternoon. The weather was decently warm for New Hampshire in May, but the water was cold. Way cold, in my opinion. Our original plan had been to go water-skiing, but the guys were not able to procure a boat as planned. So the three decided a swim in the lake would be the next best option. I am not a fan of cold water, so I mentioned that I would just sit on the dock and maybe dip a toe in while they had a splash. Well, that plan was quickly vetoed–if one was swimming, we all were swimming. I tried to persuade them to go ahead without me, but the three of them were insistent that I was getting wet. Jump in, just jump, they cajoled. I stood firm in my refusal, but the next thing I knew, one of the guys had hooked me under the arms, the second had my left leg, and quickly coerced my friend into grabbing the other. As they were preparing to start swinging me over the edge of the dock, I managed to scream and wiggle enough to convince them I’d rather go in under my own power than be tossed in, so they set me back on my feet and formed a line behind me to block any chance of retreat. I was even a good sport while they counted, and jumped on command at three. My lungs stopped working as soon as I hit the water.

The three of them jumped in right behind me, laughing and whooping, and by the time we had all surfaced and shaken the water out of our eyes, they did have the good grace to notice that my lips were sapphire blue and I seemed to be gasping unsuccessfully for air. Once again they lined up behind me, this time urging me to swim faster, get out, climb up the ladder. The lack of oxygen to my brain had not stopped me from realizing that the impact with the water had driven my swimsuit as far as it would go up the crack of my backside, and though I feared the very real possibility of an imminent blackout and subsequent drowning, I was NOT climbing up that ladder with a wedgie. While I was wrestling the spandex out of my posterior, they must have thought I was too weak to pull myself up the ladder because suddenly half a dozen hands were fighting for real estate on my butt to push me up onto the dock. I eventually flopped onto the sun-bathed wooden planks with at least half a cheek still exposed, and finally felt the band around my chest loosen enough to drag in a breath of warm May air. My friend wrapped me in a towel, and they all stood dripping and watching me warily as I pinked up again (not sure whether the return of oxygen or embarrassment contributed more). I think I must have scared them witless, for they were pretty subdued the rest of the afternoon, but I never again had to worry about taking a forced swim in a cold lake with that crew!

Nice that I was able to twist today’s random pick from The Book of Questions to fit letter P of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge!

 

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Overlooked

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I spy with my little eye…something chocolate! Can you see the foil-wrapped Easter candy tucked in the corner of the road sign? I spotted this little treasure while we were wandering around Delft in the Netherlands on Sunday morning. Made me wonder if the town had had an Easter egg hunt and this one got overlooked (it was more than six feet off the ground, so if it was a hunt geared towards young ‘uns, no wonder they missed it!), or if someone had just randomly stuffed a chocolate egg in the sign (maybe they stashed eggs all over town, like a squirrel hides acorns). I’m not normally one to pass by a piece of chocolate, but not knowing the provenance of the egg made me uneasy about testing its edibility, so I reluctantly walked away.

Seeing this forgotten egg reminded me of a family Easter many years ago. I must have been about eight, and my brother six, and we had dyed and decorated a dozen hard-boiled eggs with Mom’s help. On Easter Sunday, Dad took the eggs out and hid them all around the back yard, concealing them well in the shrubs, trees, and patio furniture. When he had finished, my brother and I were turned loose to hunt high and low, each wanting to best the other by finding the most eggs. I don’t remember now whose basket held more when we finally gave up the hunt, but I know for sure it wasn’t a tie. The twelfth egg remained hidden, despite hours of searching. We sent Dad back out to retrace his steps and find the rogue egg, but he, too, came up empty-handed. We would have accused Dad of eating it instead of hiding it, but he didn’t particularly care for hard-boiled eggs so we were pretty sure he was innocent. For days afterward, my brother and I went back out into the yard, poking in bushes, digging in mulch, climbing up trees, and turning over rocks, but each time returned to the house eggless. We thought for sure the sulfur smell of rotten egg would eventually lead us to the pastel-colored fugitive, but weeks passed without a malodorous whiff. Dad finally concluded that soon after the hunt a raccoon must have come through the yard and had it for a snack.

Wonder what kind of critter might tote off the chocolate egg hidden in the street sign?

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in How It Was, Memoirs, Observations, True Life

 

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Notice

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Notice: I am giving you fair warning that I am about to temporarily abandon my carefully planned weekly blogging schedule. My mom is coming to England for a two-week visit, and my priority will be spending as much time as possible with her, not locking myself in my office to curse the cursor taunting me from a blank screen. Since I’ve yet to master the art of the quick post (those 33-word Trifextra pieces take me hours), I am scaling back the writing while Mom is here. I will continue to post daily, and am committed to completing the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I see the next half-month’s postings being heavier on photographs than words. And since my goal when starting this blog in January was to practice my photography skills as well as my writing skills, I don’t feel like I’m letting myself down too much. Thanks for understanding, and I’ll be back on track the first week of May!

 

 

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