To my sons: If I was a really good mom...

...I would find pen and paper and send you each a handwritten letter filled with news and recipes and gossip tidbits, the price of gasoline and assorted aches and pains causing sleeplessness, but you are unlikely to be at all sentimental about such things, nor save the envelope in a box for decades, nor even keep the cancelled postage stamp. At most, you might notice how my handwriting has deteriorated as my tremor has progressed, or how my spelling has gotten deplorable. You might wonder why my ability to punctuate decisively was lost as now I just ... or --   You might text each other to note  I've begun ending my sentences with prepositions, but thank heaven so far not writing kwik or nite or lite. How quaint that I make those Xs and Os to hug and kiss my grandchildren like the olden days after the Civil War and before emoticons. Without a copy of the newspaper to clip, I can't send you hilarious police reports of idiot burglars or political cartoons, so the whole pen and paper business seems like too much trouble, which is all just a further indication that the nation and indeed the whole world is going straight to hell. I was going to write you to say you have chosen wonderful spouses and may you all make good decisions together when you put me in the home.


© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


I'm a waitress in a donut shop

In a flash of flames at the bagel shop the meaning became clear -- all the dreams, the omens, the acronyms, the spuds with SEE and SEE ALSO references made complete sense.  For once, it was not my green chile bagel setting off the smoke alarm, but the healthy nine-grain best-intentions/fiber choice for the elderly marathoner living longer and skinnier beside me in line.

Those dreams, nightmares really, flummox me in the cosmic extreme parking garage with NO EXIT EVER. The bizarre appearance of my sister wearing a pink Flo waitress outfit chasing me and haranguing my lack of diner hash lingo comprehension was a new and terrifying twist.

POTUS on a raft; SCOTUS with a shimmy and a shake, BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI and ATTICUS please use toll tag lane.  No wonder I'm craving baked potatoes with sour cream. POTSCUS!


The CD player on my ancient computer has gone AWOL. Dan Hicks made witty, wonderful music with a vintage radio jazz/folk vibe and a tiny dash of Sixties psychedelia I can't play on my darn defunct contraption. May he rest in sequined chaps swing.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Kolache clarification

 My youngest food-conscious son sent Matthew Sedacca's Eater post about the Texas kolache tradition from 2/15/2016. Fortunately Sedacca explain's the "massive cultural confusion" associated with Texas kolaches, particularly the totally untraditional Little Smokie sausage in a "blanket" that most Texans think of as the true kolache. This has always bothered me, although they are tasty with the cheese and jalapeno. "Massive cultural confusion" is like putting mini-marshmallows and Nutella on pizzas.

As in East and Central Texas, Nebraska had a large immigrant population of Bohemians and Moravian Czechs. They cooked and baked as they were accustomed in their old land, but adjusted and innovated when traditional ingredients were unavailable in the new. 

According to Sedacca the Czech name for a sausage wrapped in dough is klobasnek. I didn't find a klobasnek recipe on my search this afternoon, but I found my great-grandmother's koblihi recipe, transcribed by her daughter Emma in 1943. Two layers of sweet yeast dough with plum butter between, then fried sounds really yummy!  "Czech donuts" close, but no kolache.

My great-grandmother, Mrs, Mary Mastalir's kolace recipe in the Pierce Congregational Cook Book assumes one knows a thing or two about yeast and dough, but I don't. Okay, give myself credit for not being afraid to open Pillsbury biscuit containers by whamming them against the edge of the kitchen counter ... I am afraid of typing diacritics, though.


Mrs. Turek's Bohemian rolls sound good, but they are not kolaches.

Mrs. Mary Mastalir's daughter-in-law Halma Mastalir baked the kolaches of my personal memory in this kitchen. I often wish my sons could have sat around her dining table or helped in that kitchen. Do my sons have memories from their Grandma Fritzi's kitchen that compare? Do they have food/flavor memories that give them a sense of exotic roots and time-travel?


Halma lived in a world where people still needed to know how to make their own soap, pickles, and sauerkraut by the quarts.

My own mother, Fritzi, made frustrated attempts at baking kolaches using Halma's recipe. I tried to help once.  It wasn't pretty. Think hockey pucks with jelly.

On the way to work there's a Chinese donut shop selling Tex-Mex jalapeno kolaches. We are all descendants of immigrants in various stages of massive cultural confusion, with or without the mini-marshmallows and Poppin' Fresh dough.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Puppy love for Valentine's Day

Spied from the sky, taking the George Bush west exit over Central Expressway it's hard to comprehend the fine points of Richardson's new dog park without crashing the car. That would be BAD. So we took a little field trip on the south Central Expressway 75 access road from Plano Parkway to the Bush Central Barkway.

As a non-dog owner my dog park experience is limited, but this is an impressive layout and clever purpose for otherwise unusable land. It is across a creek from the Renner Trail that also travels under the highway interchange through an urban forest. Someday a bridge will cross the creek to link the trail with the dog park. The hike/bike trail is a much-needed nature oasis in an area of rapid business development around State Farm's new headquarters.



 You can even host your next big dog party at the Barkway's rental event paddock.

Dog Park Map

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Ketchup brass

In this year of the monkey I am attempting to clean a brass lid with ketchup. Bob Vila told me to. So far the results are not terrific, but I will persevere. Naturally I am wondering about the term "brass monkey".

Much of the nation will be extremely cold this weekend, what might be called "brass monkey weather", while I'll be having lunch on a park bench soaking up the vitamin D. For a century and a half the weather has been torturing brass monkeys, freezing parts off here, and melting others off there. No ketchup was involved in this colloquialism.

Adding to my unease is my inability to locate the small figure of three wise monkeys from Grandma's dining room whatnot shelf. Surely I stored See, Hear, and Speak No Evil in a logical place, and don't call me Shirley.

If the ketchup doesn't do the trick, I could try salsa. But then what would I put on my breakfast burrito?

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder



My generalized tendency is to become a tad more introverted and irritable each day of the week ending in the letter y. Today my annoyance is following the flow toward all things "trending".

The big red dictionary gives two interesting examples:

"A noticeable trend away from narrow "laws of learning'": (Gertrude Hildreth)

"The prevailing wind trends east-northeast."

"I made a big crockpot full and the leftovers are inescapable."

So, yes, society keeps sending us with the same unacceptable presidential candidates, poorly behaved professional athletes, exotic illnesses, uncomfortable shoes, sinus headaches, ineffective educational testing, and historic weather histrionics in our sack lunches everyday along with the BBQ chicken sandwiches. The leftover chicken sandwiches are the best in the lot, and a couple dill pickle slices help.

We don't need to figure out which way the wind is blowing to know what's going on. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with what's "trending" until we have no will left to fight against the gale. The commentators prattle on with all the insight of Rosencrantz and Guidenstern:

ROS: I merely suggest that the position of the sun, if it is out, would give you a rough idea of the time; alternatively, the clock, if it is going, would give you a rough idea of the position of the sun. I forget which you're trying to establish.
GUIL: I'm trying to establish the direction of the wind.
ROS: There isn't any wind. Draught, yes.
GUIL: In that case, the origin. Trace it to its source and it might give us a rough idea of the way we came in – which might give us a rough idea of south, for further reference. (2.52-55 Stoppard)

The figurative sense of 'the way the wind blows', that is, meaning the tide of opinion, was in use by the early 19th century. In November 1819, The Times published an advert for a forthcoming book - The Political House that Jack Built, which was said to be "A straw - thrown up to show which way the wind blows".
Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965, encouraged the young to make their own decisions with the lines:

You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Once I finish digging out the information about the "Tri-Trend" house where I grew up, I plan to go back to watching Audrey Hepburn movies. There are many, and I've only just started!

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder