Thursday, December 17, 2009

True Grit

When Bad Cohen's grandmother moved out of the treehouse, we helped her to sort through some of the stuff in the tiny storage area under the stairs.

Among some of the family heirlooms, like paintings by BC's greatgrandfather, was a large metal tub, about 2 feet across, and 2 feet high. "What is this?" I asked naively.

"That," she laughed, "is my mother's laundry tub."

In this one bucket, her mother, a true descendant of pioneers, washed laundry, linens, diapers, and more, for her entire family. At least once a day.

I'd forgotten all about it until this week, when an unseasonable, and unseasonably long, cold-snap froze and then burst the pipes leading to our washing machine, in the uninsulated garage. The toddler walked in to the bathroom one evening to find me stomping up and down on his clothes in a bathtub full of soapy (and increasingly dirty) water.

"Why are you standing on my shirt, mama?" he asked, his little brow wrinkling.

Soon, we'll have our fabulous modern convenience back, and I can forget about the huge quantities of dirt that kept coming out of clothes, no matter how many times I rinsed them. We will probably never have to live this "primitively" again (with our nice warm water and laundry soap and indoor bathtub and working dryer).

But I wonder where that laundry tub ended up.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mom's Lessons from Chanukah

Sure, the oil lasting eight days is cool, and little Jewish boys love to run around waving fake swords and pretending to be Judah ("The Hebrew Hammer")Maccabee, but the real lesson in Chanukah is something you might hear from your mom:

If there's a mess, clean it up.

Yes, yes, by all means finish kicking out the Seleucids and their proxies, but really, you can't leave the Temple like THIS!

Sure, it may seem overwhelming - where to start? With a mess this big, is there even a point?

Stop worrying and grab a broom. Turn the chairs back upright, clean out the dirt, and for God's sake SOMEBODY round up those damn pigs!

There, that's starting to look a little better. Now, has anybody found some oil?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hanukkah Smorgasbord Redux

Cold weather, especially the kind of dry cold snap we're having now, makes me start thinking about pickled herring, rye bread, rice pudding, and glögg... so I'm getting ready for the not-quite-annual Hanukkah Smorgasbord, an adapted Julbord from my mother's side of the family.

Of course, at ours there's no pressylta (head cheese), and the Swedish meatballs are made with Morningstar Farms fake-meat.

This year's feast will include:

pickled herring
smoked trout or sprats
deviled eggs

cheeses (leyden, of course, and something else or two)
sweet potato latkes
zucchini fritters
pickled cucumbers
Swedish rye bread

veggie Swedish meatballs
bruna boner (Swedish brown beans)
macaroni and cheese (keep them kids fed!)
Jansson's frestelse

rice pudding

And, of course, lots of glögg.


I knew it had been a while when I took the toddler on the 30-minute drive to Junction City, home of the Oregon Scandinavian festival, and found that the local Scandinavian store/pharmacy where I used to buy my beans has been closed for 3 years.

I can't believe I'm going to try to make Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs. My parents looked at each other like this idea was some kind of abomination.

Just found out that in the old country, Jansson's frestelse was made with sprats, instead of anchovies. Yumm.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Stupid Americans

While some bloggers wonder why the American populace isn't carrying pitchforks and torches down to Wall Street to protest, I'm amazed they think Americans capable of such a thing.

Chances are, if you buy stuff, you've gotten screwed, recently, and probably frequently.

  • Bought an appliance (it died or had parts stop working within 5 years). Screwed.
  • Flew coach on an airplane (you're made to give up hours of your life, get squished into teeny weeny seats, accomodate some hellish bureaucracy, and possibly never get where you're going). Screwed.
  • Ate packaged food from a grocery store (your atmosphere was polluted, resources used up, and workers just like you were exposed to toxic chemicals and/or dangerous factory conditions). Screwed.

But who do we get mad at?

Not the corporations using planned obsolescence or inhuman conditions to guarantee the bottom line. Not the governments which fail to regulate or limit corporate "rights" to profits at the long-term expense of the populace. But individuals.

That's right, in America, there is no "we," there is only "I." And individuals, perceived to be making individual choices over which they are fully in control.

Didn't want to die? Shouldn't have gotten sick then. It's your own fault.

I haven't flown on a commercial airline in over five years now, because the experience has gotten so unpleasant. I'm a normal-sized woman, even a bit short, and I was squished, as the airlines moved seats closer and closer together. I was frustrated, waiting on the tarmac for 2+ hours with no food and no bathroom breaks and no information as to wtf was going on.

I opted out. Because I could.

Others have chosen to get angry, not at the airlines creating these conditions, but at fellow passengers who seem to be "getting away" with something they, themselves, are not allowed: taking up space.

If you want to see how stupid Americans are, read the comments under this post about an obese man on a flight. And remember, this post is on the very liberal Huffington Post.

Surprise! Your kids might make you angry

In another "no duh" survey pointing out the obvious, Scott Schieman, at the University of Toronto, apparently found that:

"Having children was also associated with angry feelings and behaviors, such as yelling, particularly in women... "

Thanks, ObviousMan!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No rotting pumpkins here!

I just watched my first episode of Hoarders, and my first reaction was, "wow, I guess my house isn't so bad after all."

If you haven't heard of it, the show profiles people in crisis because of a mental illness that causes them to "hoard" stuff - useful stuff, unuseful stuff, broken stuff, dangerous stuff. They send in a professional organizer, a team of cleaners, and someone who specializes in hoarding (a therapist, an organizer with training in this, etc.). The goal is to get them past the crisis moment (usually eviction, house being condemned, etc.) and on the path toward recovery.

It's painful to watch. And, also, strangely compelling. In the same way as the show Intervention, where addicts are asked to come out of denial and take a step into a new life, we're coming in at a turning point for these people, where their problems are no longer private. Can't be private.

These people have such a fragile sense of self that they have to prop it up with external stuff, even when that stuff is dangerous to their health or well-being.

The next time you're having trouble getting motivated to clean the house, watch an episode. You'll either get super-motivated or decide you can wait a whole lot longer before you hit worst-case scenario.