Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cassie's Short Story On Why She Doesn't Write

This was too funny not to share.... Ginger

Not A Writer by Cassie Sanders

    I want to write. I said to myself.  So I sat down, opened my laptop and proceeded to stare at the screen.  What should I write? I wondered.  I like science fiction so maybe I should write a story in that genre.  Okay we’ve made progress.  

For some reason the blinking cursor doesn’t agree with me.  

  Next step, stories need to have a purpose.  Okay we can do purpose lets see, I was thinking the other day that planets usually have seasons but what if there are two suns and then it wouldn’t really have four seasons like we have here on earth.  

The cursor continues to blink...

    Okay, this is good we have material.  Lets write a story about someone trapped on a planet that he knows nothing about and he’s trying to figure out what the seasons or weather is going to be like.  Well how much knowledge can we reasonably assume that he has.  Can he figure out from the hair coat of the animals how bad winter will be?  Or maybe the flow of the land and how the water has eroded the river bank, assuming of course there are rivers. How much does the average person actually know about the small things in life, I wondered? 

The cursor continues to blink...

    Well maybe he knows a few things, but will people believe that this one guy just happens to know how to do all the things he needs to live?  I mean take for example, fire.  Does it really work like they say, twirl sticks together?  I’ve read enough books to know that it probably isn’t that simple but do most people know that or is it just me that knows so therefore the average person who doesn’t read as much wouldn’t know that.  Am I really going to have to go outside and get two sticks and see if I can make a fire before I can write about him making a fire based on the same principles?
  Well maybe not, I mean I wouldn’t try that first, first I would bang rocks together to see if I could get something to spark.  

The cursor continues blinking.

  I wonder how candles are made?  I mean what is he going to do with the fire once he makes it.  Wait a moment, do I even really know how wax is made?  No, okay, let’s start there, research is good. Open Google and see how wax is made, maybe most normal people know this and I can use that.  
  Okay, Wax, three kinds.  There is no way the guy is going to be able to refine petroleum into wax, scratch one.  Bees make wax too but what if there aren’t any bees? Plus bees are dangerous, scratch two.  Oh, look at this, you can make wax from plants that have waxy leaves.  All you have to do is boil the plants in water and skim the wax off the top.  
  Which brings us back to the original problem of needing fire to boil the plants.  There is no way this guy is going to know how to make wax, besides it probably isn’t high on the priority list.

I have a revelation...

You know, if I’m making this up I suppose I could just make a wax tree and that would solve the problem.  And what about a fire tree, little miss smarty? I smirked to myself. 

The page is still empty, I have learned how to make wax and we all now know why I’m not a writer...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hair Tasting Event

Hair Tasting Event- I bet that got your attention! What? You say. Why would I go to a hair tasting event? GROSS. Like the genetically modified food snuck into your system without your knowledge, mostly oils that have been in the food system since the early 1990’s ( but that’s another story (blog)…there’s also a good chance you are also consuming a fair amount of human hair in the form of L-Cysteine. L-Cysteine can be made out of feathers, hooves or……. human hair.

So who doesn’t squirm a little when they find foreign hair in their food.. Especially ones shaped like…uh huh. You know…..

Human hair has become a booming industry for several uses. The newest being the gardening industry.,2933,320571,00.html

But back to… IN MY PIZZA….. bagels, croissants etc.

I tell you, when I first read all of this and did some follow-up I swore off commercial pizza and bought only pizza from the local place I knew made their dough themselves from whole wheat flour. (White flour usually contains the additive L-Cysteine which is sourced from animal hair feather and sometimes human hair. To avoid human hair in your bread - buy “Whole meal” instead.)That lasted until I could not get past the craving for a Stuffed-Crust from Pizza Hut. I still think about it a lot before I order a pizza and sometimes I just can’t stomach it.

The whole “Soy Sauce from human hair & condums” thing really grossed me out. That I am very careful about. OH ICK…ICK..ICK.

Stories began circulating in the press about cheap soy sauces made from human hair. These sauces were manufactured in China using a chemical amino acid extraction process similar to artificially hydrolyzed soy sauces and then quietly exported to other countries. An investigative report that aired on Chinese television exposed the unsanitary and potentially contaminated sources of the hair:

When asking how the amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated, the manufacturer replied that the powder was generated from human hair. Because the human hair was gathered from salon, barbershop and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condom, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pad, used syringe, etc.[57]
In response, the Chinese government banned production of soy sauces made from hair. Other carcinogens remain, see 3-MCPD.

I think I’d rather take my chances with the cat poop coffee.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Butterflies Of Spring

On the first official day of summer spring arrived and with it BUTTERLFIES! (and a bumble bee).

The flowers were in full color.

They fluttered in packs. Tumbling around like puppies, they flitted through the flowers and tasted until it almost seemed they wouldn’t be able to fly. Fortunately they were so sated they were still enough to allow me lots of camera time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Honor of Grandma

I love my Grandma.

Grandma Mert is 84 today. I can tell everyone that because Grandma would. She has bragging rights. She is proud of her years and happy to have gotten his far.

At 47 not many people I know can say they have a grandma. I have two and a grandpa as well. It is one of my greatest blessings.

I make it a point to ask them as many questions about the past as often as I can. Really, I have living WWII memories I can access and family history at the other end of my cell phone. I try not to take it for granted.

My grandpa’s mother, who I had in my life until I was in my thirties came across country in a covered wagon. Today we wished Grandma Happy Birthday on Facebook and MySpace. Within minutes of posting it my daughter called me from France to make sure she had a number to call Grandma at before she (daughter) went to sleep, as it was almost midnight there.

I have learned a lot about myself in learning about my Grandmothers. Both are strong independent ladies who had their own lives and businesses when most women did not, but still maintained a happy household for their families and extended families. There were many dinners at Grandparents houses. More at Grandma Mert’s because she was a lot closer. At the time I didn’t realize that it was probably in part because we needed family help to get fed. I just thought grandma needed someone to pawn the “Teriyaki Cutlets” (Otherwise known as LIVER) and the over abundance of what I called “pepper salad” off on.

In the last few years I figured out where I got my strange sense of humor, quiet strength and tendency to take in strays (people and pets) from as well. We lived in a little town that was very white middle class but never was a prejudice word uttered and I know there was a gentleman who was adored by the family who now that I look back I am sure everyone knew was gay. We were respectful of people or we were in danger of a wholloping. Yep. Kids got spanked in our family and we came out just fine.

Both of my parents worked. My brother didn’t come along until I was almost 8 so I spent a fair amount of time at Grandma’s. She had a big yard you could summersault on, a little fish pond that had tadpoles in it, one a BIG one, that I could fish for with a saucepan and a tea strainer as long as everyone was returned to their habitat at the end; and an avocado tree out front that had AVOCADOS (They made the pepper salad tolerable).....

There were Reader’s Digest Condensed books in the spare bedroom and an ancient sewing machine. Plenty to entertain a child. The best was the costume trunk in the attic. Not only did it have a harem girl costume in it…. IT WAS IN THE ATTIC!

Grandma had a dog, two in my lifetime, both beagles and both lived to be well over 100 in dog years. There were cats too. I only remember Flip and Flop. Both gray and I think related, possibly brothers. Grandpa loved birds and later in life they had several. One at a time.

We went hiking and camping. Grandma taught me to be tough. Never admit you need a ride if you broke your ankle on the mountain trail. Tough it out and hike the 7 miles. Grandpa didn’t agree. Neither did Uncle Mike. We collected watercress and I learned the wonder of hot bacon dressing. My grandparents practiced good environmentalism long before it was popular. Then it was called respecting property and doing the right thing.

We treasure family. All the girls got together and made Chess Pies at Christmas. We had a large family and the elders were treasured and cared for physically and financially if needed. There was a divorce and remarriage of Grandma’s parents. I didn’t know until I was in 9 when I met Grandpa Cook, that Grandpa Connahan was not a blood relative. He was loved and treated as a beloved parent.

One of the other great things I learned from my grandparents was a healthy view of sex among loving married adults. (Married to each other). Everyone in our family knew that they had a healthy sex life way into their later years. (Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t SEE it or anything.) We just knew it was part of their love for each other.
This summer Grandma will have been without Grandpa (I can't say alone because she has always been such a good freind to people that she is reaping what she sewed in that department) and after being married since her teens has learned to live single in her little cabin in the desert with the birds and bunnies. She plays Bingo, takes care of the "Old Ladies" that live around her and has a crush on Dr. Phil.
Today she is hanging out with her older sister at her (sister's) cabin in the mountains!

So, Happy 84th grandma. Have a great day and let’s do this again next year!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take Me To Paris

Here we are again in France, inspired by a shirt I purchased Monday night. I live out of a suitcase so was quite dismayed to realize that my winter clothes were still predominant in the suitcase but the weather had crept around to summer where I was going to be the whole week and I needed some clothes. This meant a trip to the mall.

My daughter is now with me in this crazy transient work life and we were excited to find an actual mall. One with stores….indoors…. She went off to Claire’s to find some earrings and I went to Christopher & Banks with very good intentions of perusing the bargain rack. Really, they were good intentions. All was going well until I got a phone call for work that caused me to stray to another part of the store for privacy and next to the $40 not really t-shirts but sort of…..

There is was……
Bright colors, French scenes and the words “Take me to Paris” on the front. My need for clothes quickly dropped to one shirt. THAT ONE.

Anyone who has been to Paris knows what I mean. Forget what you have heard about rude people etc. For the most part the only rude people I met were other foreigners. Not Parisians. As long as I tried to speak French and was polite happy people treated me well. It was everything the movies and Disneyland made it out to be and the dogs were delightful and everywhere, funny enough, not many French poodles. I saw quite a few beagles, and larger hunting dogs. All pampered and well loved.

Every once in a while my daughter calls me when she and her friends are picnicking at the Eiffel Tower. It is so fun. You sit on this big lawn behind it and drink wine out of a bottle (or pudding cups but that’s another story), call you friends and tell passing bums “No I don’t have any cigarettes”. Then you wait for the tower to light up and sparkle, which it does on the hour for 5 minutes. Everyone says “OHHHHHHHH”. If it starts to rain it will probably stop and you won’t melt. Drink more wine.

I like Paris best right after it rains. The streets are wet and it looks like all the paintings. The rain glimmering off of trees, cobblestones, decorative iron railings and street lamps, truly magical.

I would love to spend part of today sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur listening to random people play music and looking over the pastel city. Spend some time wandering through Montmartre looking at all the artwork of the locals, have an espresso or two and make some art of my own with some snaps of my shutter.

I would get to Notre Dame just at twilight. Take some pictures of the river and then get some of the rarified air and sense of peace in the cathedral before heading off for a little bit of dinner and shopping in the Latin Quarter.

Time to hop the metro to get back to my little place, grab a nutella banana crepe from the cart warm in my hands and think about tomorrow….cafe (coffee) at the Café and lunch at Pere Lachaise

Please. Take me to Paris.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pangur Ban (White Cat)

Pangur Ban also known as "The Monk and his Cat", is one of my all time favorite poems. I first saw it at the Book Of Kells Exhibit while visiting Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. It is a 9th century poem written by an Irish monk in St. Gallen, Switzerland or possibly in Austria, that is up for debate. No one knows his name but every poet knows his cat!

I have always been able to imagine the Monk who wrote it sitting by candle light writing with a feather quill while a little cat playing at his feet. In the exhibit it is written on a huge panel in a spiral which makes for fun reading.

Ban=white Pangur=kitty

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,

‘Tis a like task we are at;

Hunting mice is his delight,

Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men

‘Tis to sit with book and pen;

Pangur bears me no ill will;

He, too, plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see

At our task how glad are we,

When at home we sit and find

Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray

Into the hero Pangur’s way;

Oftentimes my keen thought set

Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye

Full and fierce and sharp and sly;

‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I

All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.

O how glad is Pangur then!

O what gladness do I prove

When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,

Pangur Ban, my cat and I;

In our arts we find our bliss,

I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made

Pangur perfect in his trade ;

I get wisdom day and night,

Turning Darkness into light.’

In the course of researching I also found this version or possibly a different poem all together..


Pangur, white Pangur,

How happy we areAlone together,

Scholar and cat.

Each has his own work to do daily;

For you it is hunting, for me study.

Your shining eye watches the wall;

my feeble eye is fixed on a book.

You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;

I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.

Pleased with his own art

Neither hinders the other;

Thus we live everwithout tedium and envy.

Pangur, white Pangur,

How happy we areAlone together,

Scholar and cat.

anonymous Irish text, tr. W.H. Auden

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Happens When The Food Runs Out?....Taking Stock of What You Have

OK. I’m sure you’ve heard alarmist shouting about the end of the world before and that is not my intent here. Just rambling on……..the little mind boat is just floating down the canal….hop on.

Last weekend I was in Dallas for the AFI Film Festival and saw “Houston We Have A Problem”, produced by Nicole Torre. First, I will say it was an excellent documentary about the oil industry and the new wildcatters of renewable energy and that left me asking a lot of questions which I am sure was the point.

I took a lot away from it but right now I want to focus on one thing that it brought up. I am not quoting and am adding my own processing to what I heard.

If the Middle East and Venezuela (who are buddies so this is not too far fetched) got together and decided to cut off the oil supply to the U.S. what would happen would be that we would shortly run out of gas. Which equals we would run out of diesel and then there would be a 5-10 day window before we ran out of food. OH BOY…. I get it. No diesel… no truck delivering to Costco, Safeway, Walmart etc.

That brings up the question……What Happens When The Food Runs Out? Are any of us prepared for that? Well.. OK besides the Mormon church? (Which I don't happen to be a member of so I'm on my own...)

Mentally checking our resources…..

We have… flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, herbs, chickens, goats & donkeys. Oh and an apple, pear & cherry trees (as long as nothing happens until next year as the fruit trees are not bearing yet.)

The chickens will provide eggs and meat (I have a rooster among my hens).

The donkeys “horse power for planting…with some training and flowers for bribes…the goats could provide milk, meat & cheese but there would some collaboration work to be done there as my male is wethered (fixed)……I know how to make soap including the lye itself from scratch and funny enough I know how to make glass from scratch. (I suppose that would come in handy somehow later..) and we have enough firepower to protect the above. Now to the flora….

I started growing stuff this year for fun and because I am obsessive about one thing at a time and now it’s flowers and tomatoes. How would that really help me? I think even the flowers I am growing other than the Johnny Jump Ups are not edible flowers. (Really there are a lot of edible flowers like Pansies & stuff.. They look great in a salad.) and we don’t want to live on tomatoes. What can I do that requires only a little change on my part to make sure we have food if it really comes to it?

I think I’d start by planting potatoes in tires. I have tires. This can be done in a suburban back yard. Here is a great article (scroll down to it) on growing potatoes in tires and well, they’re potatoes. I can live on potatoes and tomatoes and the other stuff listed above.

The other thing I would add to my plant inventory would be sunflowers. BIG sunflowers. The ones that have lots of seeds. They are pretty, easy to grow, grow FAST and provide food. Nuts! Nuts are a great source of food with oil. With nuts you can also lure squirrels....and make ...pie? Not sure on that one but I'm sure I could find out.

And I just figured out the use for all these pretty flowers. They attract deer! Then you don't have to worry about that squirrel pie recipe.

(isn't this deer just looking guilty of eating flowers?)

So this is my personal inventory of what our family could do on short notice with a very small amount of change.

The real solution of course would be to make more and more changes in our energy usage to not exactly quote Nicole Torre because I am not sure of the exactness, just the point well taken….“Conservation is the biggest drilling field we have”.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Coast of Marseille

“I sat there on the coast of Marseille
My thoughts came down like wind through my hands.
How good it’d be to see you again.
How good it’d be to feel that way again ”

Jimmy Buffett said it best. The coast of Marseille is a magical place that never leaves you even after you leave it. My laptop has two desktops (One Mac & One Windows) both have pictures of the coast of Marseille. Everyday I dream of going back.

My daughter and I arrived there in the story weather, the last days of October. We saw a the sun just poking it’s firey sunset out under the gray clouds on the horizon as we rose up out of the Metro the night we arrived and saw bit of blue sky for a few minutes one day out to sea. Other than that it was a dark and stormy time full of adventure and mystery.

We got there on a Thursday night and after finding our hotel in a somewhat shady part of town, across from the Armourie (gun store) we got settled and walked back to the Vieux Port (Harbor) .

Marseille, being a port town on the Mediterranean was not like any other part of France I had visited. Known as “The Cutthroat of France” it is a rough and tumble town that is also a seductress of light and energy.

The port is a horseshoe, lively at all times with gaily lit restaurants specializing in bouillabaisse and the catch of the day. Most restaurants have a “Prix Fixe” menu, which means fixed price. You have several choices in each category to make up a dinner. An appetizer, entre and dessert. There are usually several price levels and the higher the price the better the choices. They’re usually a screaming deal but they make it up with the wine. You can’t get wine by the glass. Have to buy the whole bottle and it is usually about twice as much as the whole meal. I ordered something that I thought was bouillabaisse and realized after the waiter left that it might be something cooked in bouillabaisse. So I got to say the first of the three things you don’t want to find yourself saying in Marseille. ‘I have no idea what I just ordered.” Out came a large fish. The whole fish. Cooked in ..yep..bouillabaisse broth. It was intimidating with it’s bulgy eyes but really quite yummy…and boney.

We got in pretty late so after a stroll and dinner we made our way back to the hotel and went to bed. Somewhere around 3:30am we kept hearing this SOUND and a scrambling kind of ruckus. Finally I realized it was not my daughter’s errant alarm clock that went off at random times during our trip. I got to say the second thing you don’t’ want to be saying in Marseille. “Is that the FIRE ALARM?” It was the was!…It turned out the night clerk was trying to sneak a smoke and set off the alarm. After that adventured quieted, we got settled back in and back to sleep. About 7:00am the HORRIBLE noise started. CRASHING and well, it sounded like the building 10ft away was being torn down. It was. They were throwing large windows out the 7th story to the ground right next to us. Time to get up.

A rainy day in a port town is still lovely and smells like ocean. Wandering back down to the port we found a café on the water with a typical French breakfast, chocolate croissant, juice and coffee. Of course the chocolate croissant fell from heaven onto my plate.

Marseille is a hill town where everything eventually migrates down to the water. There are these cool little tourist trains that go all around town and hit the highlights. They also give you a great idea of what you want to go back and see. One goes uphill to Notre Dame Du Guard, the cathedral on the hill with the giant golden Mary on top (Every major city in France has one. Some holding the baby and some not.) and a spectacular 360 degree view of the city below.

The other train goes around the old town and the port. In the old town there is a basilica (there can only be one cathedral in every town) nicknamed ‘The Pajama” because it is made with brown and white stone and it is HUGE and obnoxiously stripped. Butted up against it is the ancient (time?) church where Catherine of Medici and Henry the? Were married.. It is in serious decline and is being propped up on most fronts. It is very plain but for it’s history, holds a mystery of it’s own. In it’s time it had to be the best there was to offer.

By the time we got to Marseille we were well versed in all forms of public transportation so we walked where we wanted to and got on and off trams, city buses, tourist trains and even took a boat.

We fell in love with Longchamps (pictures). The gift to Napoleon and Josphine is wondrous, it’s placement is strange. Located in a common are of the city you don’t even see it as you go towards it on the tram. You pass by average shops, some kind of industrial and then after you get off the tram and walk to the front, THERE IT IS. It’s STUNNING. Once you pass the sign that says “Please don’t fish or swim in the fountains.” (in French) and walk up the sweeping entrance, you feel like you have fallen down the rabbit hole into a different time. You expect to see the Lords and Ladies of Court sweep along the corridors on their way to dance. We went once at night and once during the day. During the day the time warp effect is more muted by the kids playing soccer in the courtyard.

Our next stop was dinner, again in what I call the restaurant district, which is lively and cheery and well priced due to massive completion. This time I did get the bulliabase. It was everything I expected and nothing was staring at me. Our next stop was the Irish pub. Irish pubs are very popular in France. This one was mostly populated by people of many nationalities who’s primary language was English. It was a rowdy, fun crowd. We stayed for a bit and then headed back to our hotel. On the way I said the third thing that caused us to do something you should not do, especially two American women alone with shopping bags in Marseille. I said.”Look up that street that looks like fun.” And we headed up, into what turned out to be the late night party area for middle eastern men who own the fish markets…… We realized pretty quickly that we were where we didn’t belong and everywhere we turned seemed to get us deeper into the mix. Finally I saw something I recognized. The GUN SHOP! We were near our hotel. WHEW. I got a thorough tongue lashing from my French friends. We retired to a peaceful night.

Our last day in Marseille was also my last full day in France as we were taking the train that night back to Paris and I would be out on the plane in the morning. It was also All Saint’s Day, a National holiday. All museums etc CLOSED. We decided the day before we would take the boat trip along the coast for the day. When we got to the port we wlked among the daily fish and flower market where the locals all shopped. It was exciting. The weather was very bad and the boat trip along the coast was not running but there was a boat that went out to the island of Friol. We took it. After the hustle and fast pace of the whole trip it was so very peaceful. Windy, but special. There was nothing much open on the island so we just walked around. We found a beautiful cove and collected seashells and beach glass. There was a lone man walking along with a baguette under his arm and a dog following behind him as he threw scraps of bread to him. The dog danced for bread. It was adorable and so very French. We took our boat back, retrieved our luggage and got on the TVG to Paris.

“When I left the coast of Marseille.
I hadn’t done what I’d come to do.
Spent all the money I saved.
And I still did not get over you.
No I still did not get over you.”

Thanks Jimmy. I get it now. I haven’t gotten over Marseille either. I wish I could close my eyes and when this plane landed I would be in France. I’m afraid though, it will be Portland.