Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Upstairs at the White House"

I have just finished the most fascinating book: "Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies" by J. B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz. Mr. West was the chief usher of the White House, that is the executive director of the executive mansion and grounds. He retired in 1969 and this book was published in 1973 so it is new only to me. 

Mr. West joined the White House Usher staff during the Roosevelt administration and retired shortly after the Nixons came to live there. His memories are warm, humorous, gentle and loving. His love was for the House itself as he served Presidents and First Ladies from both political parties. He is always respectful of the women who held the unelected, un-appointed, and untrained for highest volunteer position in the nation. 

Much of the book is about the refurbishing and redecorating that each woman did to the family rooms of the White House. I was interested in the turn my thoughts took while reading about that. I found myself looking at my own home, my own style, and wondering what I would do, what colors would I pick, what would I choose to make a very formal, national monument into my home for a period of time?

I am ready for the next book in the series, ready to hear about the next set of ladies who lived in and decorated that house. I don’t know if the next chief usher has written yet. Maybe he won’t. I wish he would and with the same care and love of his subject that Mr. West shows in Upstairs at the White House. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Bit of Feminine History

A friend in Virginia, died yesterday. She was in her 90s and had been sick for a while so it was not really a surprise. Nonetheless, she will definitely be missed. She was a delight, “forever young”, and one classy lady. She was also intelligent and deeply spiritual. Of all the things I remember and will miss about her, one story is standing out in my mind this morning. 

She may have been the first woman elder at First Christian Church in Lynchburg. And I followed close behind. So one Sunday we were both serving at the communion table and we both had on black suits with white blouses. After the service, as was the custom in that church, we were standing at the back with the pastor to greet people, welcome new folks, and in general be elders. One person came to us and said, “Did you two plan your matching outfits for this morning?” She and I were stunned, looked at each other and burst out laughing. How many years had men stood at that Table in dark suits and ties, at First Christian in Lynchburg the ties were often the red of Lynchburg College, and no one, No One, in the history of this church or any other had Ever asked that question of the two male elders!!! We bonded over that question and remembered it long after women elders ceased to be a novelty. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Taco Flavored Filling

As promised (or threatened?) here is another recipe straight from Tahoe Mom's "what can we possibly have for dinner tonight?" file. We had just gotten home from camping. I had spent all day - literally - doing laundry. Dean had unloaded the camper and then gone to Reno for a meeting that didn't even start until 4. We had no idea when he would be home. When he called though, I had had an idea which he liked so I prepared it.

some ground meat (because you have some left over that needs using)
an ear of corn
a can of diced tomatoes
(optional: black beans)

Scramble the meat. Add corn and tomatoes and season with taco seasoning to taste.
Let cook on low until the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed. You can make guacamole while this is going on.

Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese

The first night I thought it would be a nacho topping but we ended up dipping chips into it. Then Dean decided it reminded him of the texture of corn beef hash and he thought it would be good with poached eggs on top. So the next time I made it, I rolled mine in a tortilla and he had his with poached eggs. I had wanted the picture to show two pristine poached eggs on top - oh, well. We both loved what we had. I think you can do almost anything with this basic blending of good ingredients.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lazy Random Thoughts

I'm avoiding moving too fast this morning. To keep from that, I am sitting on my window seat thinking about nothing in particular.

1) I "bought" a new mystery on Kindle. It combines mystery with crossword puzzles, one of my other favorite pastimes. Sweet. Except - oops. It's on Kindle. I don't know if I can do the puzzles or not. Well, it was free so no harm done I guess. I'll enjoy the mystery unless I have to work the puzzle to solve it.

2) How does the transition between elementary and middle school and between middle and high school cause young people to suddenly look years older? When my grands called after the first day of school, they both looked different, just a bit more mature, older, like something had already changed.

3) Why do new shoes make me so happy? Last time I ordered sneakers, I forgot to order Wide. I have spent some time in thinner socks and occasionally achy feet. Finally, finally I found the shoes I wanted, on sale!, and now have my wide sneakers. I am So Happy!!!

4) I am reading a book on medieval family life. If I had any specialty in history, it was the Middle Ages because I did a lot of work on the cycle plays. This is the first time in a long time however, I have read anything factual about that time period. It is fascinating ~ both the information and the fact that I am enjoying it again. 

5) And finally of course, my tea is gone, it really is time to put on those new shoes and move! First I will put on hiking boots which are better in the woods (at least until I am ready to allow my new shoes to get dirty on the trail). OK - here goes my day! ~ blessings on your way