Mothers of boys take note:  Please teach your sons basic survival in the kitchen of their future.  Sitting in the family room reading the paper and watching TV while cooking odors emerge from the kitchen, does not hack it.  It is hard to believe that some men are not familiar with much else in their kitchens except the cold cereal box.  At some point in their lives they will be required to present something edible to provide sustenance.  I have long suspicioned that Dr. Advice deliberately prepares oatmeal, canned baked beans, and scrambled eggs when I am incapacitated.  Oh sure, they always come on a tray with a flower and nicely a folded napkin, but really!

I am becoming bionic on next Wednesday, so in self-preservation, we have been holding cooking classes this week.  I am impressed with how fast he has learned–he has already graduated in dessert class, which makes me suspect that he has known all along and has just been dogging it.  His first attempt at apple and at lemon pies were great successes.  I keep pie crust in the freezer, so he also learned how to make that.  He developed a wonderful dessert with some puff pastry I keep. on hand.   I’m suspicious that he has chosen desserts as his major.  He loves corned beef hash (with an egg on top of course), so that became part of the class schedule, and it too was delicious.

He has run into one big problem however, and that is how to keep all the food ready and hot at the same time, and how to get it to the table while it has some residual warmth left.  There is a torrent of panic and loud conversation emanating from the kitchen while dinner is being prepared.  I guess it just takes more than a week’s experience to master all the culinary tricks.

He has learned one major lesson already:  it is very annoying when the diner is not sitting at the table or at least making a move toward it when the chef is ready to serve!







(in 89 simple lessons!)  Paul Thek taught art classes in the 1970’s and gave provocative long lists of instructions including questions such as “where do you sleep?”, and “on what do you sleep?” “add a station to the cross”, “redesign the human genitals”, and redesign the Taj Mahal”.      Easy and obscure assignments such as those.

NY Times writer Dwight Garner offers this:  “what is the best art assignment you have ever given or received or heard of?

Some answers sound like wild party games that might make the neighbors call the police at midnight.  The art installations currently on view  sometimes require a list of instructions as to the proper way to fully understand them.  Do you lie on your back to look up (as I once did at a glass exhibit of Dale Chihuly at the Seattle Art Museum?)  Do you walk around it to see all its possibilities?

Can art really be taught or do students simply grub for grades?  Upper class students have a better idea of where they want to go with their creative abilities.  It’s up to the teacher to give them guidelines to better achieve their goals (and possibly become the student in the process.  I had many “student-teachers” during my teaching years.)

An art class should give some thought to marketing the work.  (Don’t show up at an avant garde gallery  carrying an adorable sculpture of Miss Piggy.) In the hopeful event that a gallery is willing to take a chance on your precious offering be sure all the contracts are clear.  How to behave at an opening would be a nice addition—-don’t over-imbibe and make a complete ass of yourself.  It is true that artists are sometimes known for imaginative dress and hairstyles occasionally referred to as ” art wear”, but try not to become the artwork yourself.

“Don’t forget how easy it is for them to find images of your own work on the internet”!

“Art lives through the imagination of the people seeing it.  Without that contact, there is no art”.  Keith Haring


An amazing woman passed into the annals of history the other day at the extraordinary age of 99.  She was my mother’s sister and my aunt.

As a child the family moved often, often prompting her to say she had attended 52 schools, which though I believe that  number to be apocryphal, it probably was actually a larger number than most.  My grandfather was a dear and charming asthmatic hypochondriac who could no longer work, and who believed his health improved by simply moving a few blocks from where they were living at the time.  This led to a divorce, leaving my grandmother to support herself and 2 small daughters.

The women in my family are strong survivors, and while Grandma took in boarders, the girls went to work part-time at early ages.  Education was not valued as highly as survival, especially during the Depression, and they were lucky to attain high school educations.

She loved clothes and dancing and wanted  so much more than she had and with no certain prospect of obtaining.  She had great style and made most of her clothes.

She worked at whatever jobs she could find , going to night school learning to become a secretary, always reading and learning to improve herself.  By 1949 she was supporting herself, her daughter and her mother.

She took a job with Standard Oil of California which took her to Saudi Arabia, and Aramco, where she met her husband.  They remained happily married for over 50 years.   During the thirty years they lived in Dharan,  they traveled the world, and she absorbed facts and knowledge like a sponge.  She was a fascinating conversationalist on history, politics, religion and the daily news from all over the world.  Her taste was impeccable and she collected china, silver, rugs, books and jewelry from Europe and Asia.

She is a tough act to follow.




It’ s amazing what you can buy these days.  People were standing in line all night just to buy the new iPad3.  What will happen to their perfectly good iPad2’s and 1″s?  Do they just throw them away and will all the information they have gathered remain intact? When these “old” out-of-date iPads which so recently were considered the best thing since sliced bread arrive in the iPad graveyard, will they begin exchanging information until finally one iPad will surpass all others in intelligence?

You can buy new hips, knees, noses, and even a new face.  How marvelous!

I am buying a new arm.  Oh not the whole thing of course,  just a shoulder.  The rest of it is OK.   We live in an awesome time.

I didn’t count on all the added expense though.  All the visits to different doctors who each need something else from you (beside your money).  And the clothes….  3 pair of shoes that just slip on without having to be tied, pants without zippers and no buttons which need to be coaxed into place, and a small new laptop.  Who knew there were so many choices?

We keep a well-stocked pantry, so Dr. Advice (who does not cook) can probably do a good job supplying sustanence until I regain the use of two arms.  This is “cooking school” week, during which he can polish up his culinary skills.  Today is apple pie day.  (Not necessary for good nutrition, but we both thought it would taste pretty good on a semi-rainy day.)  I need to be careful though, because if he gains too much kitchen expertise, he may no longer need me!


“Home” is a kind word; evocative of warmth, love, and a re-kindler of memories.  A “hometown” is the substantive place containng these things.

But a military family often has many “hometowns”.  I had a different one nearly every year; some of which are remembered more kindly than others.

For instance, I have no warm memories of San Diego, where 2 six year old boys kidnapped my four year self and thrust me down to the bottom of a ravine where the San Diego zoo is now located.  The only good to come of that episode is that I learned early on to distrust six year old boys.  I also have no fuzzy thoughts regarding the same city at the ago of 8, when I was often the butt of ridicule because of my old-fashioned braids.  (Probably the real reason I changed my name to “Elsie” during that year, figuring it wasn’t really “me” they were bullying.)

Connecticut was fun, living in the country for the first time.  Oregon felt pretty good, possibly because it had been my father’s hometown, and there were still relatives living in Grants Pass as well.  But it only lasted for about 10 months, so I can’t consider it MY hometown.

Grandma’s in Long Beach was comforting and warm, and it was my home longer than most, but I felt quite at home at Auntie’s too, plus there were more books to read, and I could eat cake for breakfast.  But neither were my “hometown.”   (Though when I returned to see Auntie’s old home many years later, I cried when I saw it had been changed beyond recognition.  How dare someone destroy my memories?)

   Finally, in the waning days of WW11, we moved to Alameda.  Living in the old Victorian home my Sweetland great-grandfather built, I felt I had sent down some roots.

  I think this is the true meaning of having a hometown.  There were relatives all around as well, and listening to stories of my father as a young boy made it seem as if I were the next link in the chain. 

 So yes, Alameda is my “hometown”, and I still love it.