Punctuation Matters

typewriter Andre Govia

This clever Dear John letter perfectly illustrates why punctuation matters.  Exact same words, only the punctuation has changed from one version to the next.

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Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

Gloria

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Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

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Homemade Ice Cream: It’s Officially Summer!

peach ice cream

My Grandpa Buck did not cook. He was up at dawn and out in the fields or the barn early and didn’t come back to the house until he smelled dinner or it started getting dark. As far as food was concerned, it was just something that magically appeared twice a day when Grandpa sat down at the kitchen table.

Every summer though, my Grandpa would pick buckets of peaches from the trees on the farm and make ice cream. He’s do the whole thing, start to finish, from the peeling to the churning without any help from Grandma at all. That was the only time I’d ever see Grandma eat more than one helping of anything. She always had at least two bowls and they weren’t delicate, tiny, lady-like bowls either. Everyone loved peach ice cream, but no one enjoyed it more than Grandma. It simply was not summer in our family until you’d had a bowl of Grandpa’s peach ice cream.

Like most of my favorite foods from my childhood, the peach ice cream recipe eluded me. I simply could not get a version that satisfied my nostalgia, no matter what concoction I tried. I blamed the lack of my own dairy cow, or a different variety of peach, or growing conditions, or pasteurization, or newfangled ice cream makers on the lack of peachy perfection. What was I doing wrong?

I still don’t know why Grandpa’s ice cream was so much better than mine, other than it was made by someone who loved me and always made time for me. That goes a long way towards making food delicious. I will fondly remember an expired tin of Spam if it was shared with someone who deeply loves me. Love is the ultimate seasoning, and don’t you forget it.

As far as the holy grail of peach ice cream goes, I have finally had my eureka moment. The good folks over at http://www.seriouseats.com put out a recipe for strawberry ice cream that I modified and it is completely wonderful. It honestly does my Grandpa Buck proud. I offer it to you so your summer can be complete. Go make your own wonderful memories. Life’s too short not to eat the ice cream.

 

Grandpa Buck’s Peach Ice Cream, Updated

Ingredients:

1 farm stand sack of fresh peaches, approximately a quart or 2- 1/2 pounds, does not have to be exact

2 Cups half and half

1-1/4 Cups sugar, divided into 1/2 Cup and 3/4 Cup

1/2 Cup light corn syrup

4 Tablespoons liquor, no more than 80 proof, vodka, bourbon, amaretto, or my favorite for this application, Cointreau, which pairs well with and enhances fruits

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, if needed to counter sweetness

Directions:

Preparation:

Peel the peaches, remove pits, then slice enough into thin slices or small cubes to make 1 Cup. You need these to be small to avoid forming ice crystals which are definitely not fruitalicious.

Combine the tiny peach pieces in a bowl with 1/2 Cup sugar and the booze and let sit in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. I left them overnight. This is where the science happens. The alcohol prevents the fruit from becoming icy, hard, shards in the finished ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Take the remaining peach chunks and puree in a blender at high speed until smooth. If you are using a different fruit, you may need to strain the mixture to remove seeds or fibers. The peaches did not need straining.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, corn syrup, half and half, and peach slurry. Whisk until married. Taste mix and adjust with the salt and lemon juice as needed. Cover and chill in the fridge until very cold. I left mine overnight.

Making Ice Cream:

Take the chilled blended peach base (not the small bits) and churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

When the mix is just about finished, take the peach bits out of the fridge and drain off the syrup but do not throw it away. The syrup is fabulous in iced tea, lemonade, margaritas, or daiquiris. Add the peach bits to the ice cream and churn no more than a minute.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put it in the freezer for at least four hours to harden. I know, I know, that’s almost impossible for those of us who have impulse control issues, but it is important for the finished product. You’ve gone to all this effort, don’t slack off now.

Cook’s Notes:

Strawberries and mangoes also work well with this recipe. Have fun with it.

Also, don’t freak out about the corn syrup.  It improves the texture.  Calm down about the high-fructose whatever, you’re making ice cream, the best ice cream you’ve had in forever.  Let it go.

Yes, I’m Puppy Insane

I have been quiet for a month or so and I apologize for that.  I do have a legitimate excuse.  I have adopted two young dogs within the last month and they are running me ragged, but in a good way.

Mosey is a 14-month old Great Dane who was available through an ad on Craig’s List.  It was my first Craig’s List experience and to tell the truth, I half expected it to be the kind of experience that gets made into a cautionary TV movie, or even worse, an America’s Most Wanted special.  Naturally, I took my husband Gruff with me.  It all turned out beautifully and now I have an adolescent, 100-pound Great Dane pup.

If you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know how relentless they are in exploring.  Now, imagine that same mischievous pup being tall enough to rest her chin on the kitchen counter, stand up and nose the upper cabinets open, and grab the dirty dishes out of the sink and take them off to lick them, preferably while reclining on something upholstered.  How many times a day do I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”

The second pup is a seven-month old Belgian Malinois, a super intelligent and high energy breed that is favored by the military, police departments, and border patrol.  A movie is coming out this summer, entitled Max, about a Malinois.  I really hope this movie shows how much training and work is necessary to make these dogs into happy, productive dogs because you don’t want an intelligent dog bored and frustrated in your house.  That doesn’t end well for anyone.

It would break my heart if this breed suffers from the “101 Dalmatians” syndrome.  That’s an actual thing, where everyone enjoys a movie featuring a breed of dog and rushes out to get one, not understanding its exercise or training needs.  One year later, the shelters are overrun with those dogs.  If you marry the wrong person, you divorce them.  If you get the wrong dog for your lifestyle and can’t make the effort to make it work, they end up in rescue, shelters, or worse.  Don’t go through doggie divorce.  Save yourself the guilt and pain.

Hold up, you say.  Molly, you’re not exactly an athlete.  You don’t even like to sweat.  Why would you ever take on a Malinois after what you’ve just said?  Good point.  One, I have owned a Belgian breed before, a Belgian Tervuren.  It was a great experience though he was an adult when I got him out of rescue and then spent lots of money and time training him properly.  Two, I am training this dog as a service dog for myself so I needed a working breed.  Thankfully, I work from home so I can spend several hours a day putting this pup through its paces.  Between the training, and the Great Dane chasing her through the house and yard, she is exhausted.  An exhausted dog is a well-mannered dog.

So this will forever be known in my diary as the Summer of the Pup.  Wish me luck.  I will need it.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mosey

Biscuit and her ears

P.S.  A great big shout out to my husband, Gruff, who suggested we get these two dogs.  This man loves me, not in a flashy dozens of roses way, but in a more meaningful, everyday, makes me happy way.  There is no one else for me than this man, who thinks of me, my comfort, and contentment constantly.  I will love you always.

Steak and Fries

steakfrites

This week is my sweet Gruff’s birthday. I will take him out to dinner and I already know exactly what he’ll order for his celebration meal. He’ll get steak and fries. How do I know? He is very fond of red meat in any form so steak is a definite and I have seen him order — for his two side dishes — fries and fries. I did not have to muster psychic powers to figure this one out. I can even picture his face when he sees the plate headed his way.

I have a console table in my upstairs hall where I have a collection of framed quotations. I’m kind of a type font nut and love meaningful sayings as a decorative item. I sneak them in all over the house but most of them are upstairs on this table. One of my most favorite says, “Marry the person that makes you feel like you do when you see food coming in a restaurant.”

I only hope that after all these years, I can still match a sizzling plate of steak and fries in Gruff’s heart. Happy birthday and best wishes for many, many more to you, my love.

Codeword: Watermelon

Watermelon

 

Note to Readers:  I don’t know what is in the air recently, but long time followers of mine have been mentioning this post from my old blog and asking me to put it up again.  If it is helpful to you, I’m happy to oblige.  Good luck.

 

I am blessed. Gruff and I hardly ever argue. We are truly compatible and it makes for an easy life. Trust me, I know what I’ve got and I appreciate it. I’ve been married before and when it is wrong, it is painful on a daily basis.

Gruff and I are both ultra-mellow types and it takes a boatload of aggravation to get us riled up. There are occasions when one of us reaches our boiling point, what we call our “that’s it” moment. These volcanoes of vitriol happen maybe once every two years, always when we’re physically exhausted and emotionally stressed and are usually over in just a few minutes.

What triggers our moments of mayhem? Some magical combination of irritants will slowly mass into a top-popping gusher of profanity. Now — and I can not stress this strongly enough — it’s really important to keep our “that’s it” moments from becoming synchronized events.

If one of us is having a frustration fit, the other can calmly guide the irritated back down to earth and express heartfelt commiseration over the unjust situation that set off the outburst.

If we synchronize our fits, no sane person is left to ground us because we’re both twirling off into the toxic ether and gaining speed. With no one left to drive the bus, we are both hell-bent on ditching it into a fiery ball of destruction. If our “that’s it” moments are reached simultaneously, we just may turn on each other. That is just not good.

You see, Gruff and I are both mud fighters. We are creative combatants and aim to annihilate. If I’m pissed at you I’m not only going after you, I want to destroy your entire genealogy. I don’t box, I fight. There are no rules and there’s no referee I recognize. In arguments, my goal is to scorch the earth. Once again, Gruff and I are extremely compatible. He fights dirty, too.

Out of love for each other, and possibly a teensy bit of fear, we have devised a system if we find ourselves locking horns in a fight to the death. We have a codeword. If one of us thinks that we are about to hurl some poison arrow that will hurt the other irreparably, or if one of us has just been wounded to the core, we stop and yell our codeword instead. Watermelon.

Once the watermelon card has been played, we can not speak of our disagreement or the event that triggered it for at least three hours. Three hours is an eternity and that’s the whole point. It is physically impossible to stay white hot angry during a waiting period of three full hours.

Sometimes I have been so blind with fury that I have set the stove timer for three hours, fully intent on whipping into Gruff as soon as it went off. Inevitably, when the buzzer rings I don’t have it in me to argue anymore and we both end up apologizing for any pain we may have inflicted. We lick each other’s wounds and speak of love instead.

It doesn’t matter what word is used, but I think the word watermelon is comical. It conjures up instant images of happy times. Who associates depression with watermelon? You can’t. You remember eating watermelon on the porch when you were a child. You remember happy summers catching lightning bugs. You remember being carefree. You remember being handed a slice of watermelon larger than your head and getting sticky with juice and seeds. Watermelon is a happy, funny word from light-hearted times.

Do what you need to do, but don’t hurt the one person who loves you the most. Love is hard enough to find in this world, treat it tenderly. If you think it would help, you have my blessing to hijack our codeword. Watermelon.

It’s On the List

“I’ll put it on the list” Gruff purred into my ear.

I melted. My heart fluttered. I thought, “Oh, it is so wonderful to finally be with a guy who can do useful things, like fix busted appliances, build stuff, and replace the old mailbox.”

I was in heaven. I was elated. I was so naive. This was way back in the year 2000, when Gruff and I were all fresh and fluffy and playing footsie in our brand new relationship. Now I have learned what the phrase “I’ll put it on the list” actually means. What Gruff is really saying is, “Your request has been heard and is duly registered on the Majestic Master of Home Repair’s Magnanimous To-Do list.   Your item is number 27,383. We are now servicing number 5.”

I have lived with three men in my life. My dad, my starter husband, and now Gruff. Neither my dad nor Starter could screw in a light bulb without supervision. Thankfully, both of them had learned not to attempt home repairs. If anything broke, or even flickered, you called The Man. There was a plumbing Man, an electrical Man, an appliance Man, and so on comprising an army of Men who could fix things, awaiting your phone call to leap into action, for just a $75 minimum charge.

Then I married The Man. Gruff’s an engineer.  He can fix anything. That means that I can not call another Man because that would be a waste of money when Gruff has the skills to do it himself. This is a dilemma for me. On the one hand, it’s nice to have someone handy that is handy. On the other hand, Gruff’s schedule is so overbooked that I end up waiting until all other home, greenhouse, or office fires have been extinguished before he turns his attention to my requests.

Case in point. I bought a beautiful, grandly large, sparkling white mailbox to replace our small, plastic, spider-infested one in 2003. I had our name put on both sides in purple lettering, making us an official family. Yeah, I know. It was a little bit out of The Jerk (The new phone books are here, the new phone books are here! . . . . I’m somebody now!). Anyway, I was very pleased with my gorgeous new mailbox and just knew that it was going to be the envy of all who drove by.

It’s 2014. That mailbox still sits in the corner of the living room beside the television, becoming encrusted with dust, looking pitiful. It mocks me. Every time I look at the thing, it says, “All your mail and packages could easily fit within my sturdy steel constructed maw, comfortably safe from harm and elements. Good luck with that broke-down Rubbermaid thing that your mailman balances Amazon boxes on top of. You have noticed that the lumber trucks rattling by send your precious goodie boxes tumbling into puddles, or worse, the middle of the road, haven’t you?”

I pushed a chair in front of the mailbox so it doesn’t glare at me while I’m watching TV. It doesn’t help. I can still hear it weeping. It’s bored and unfulfilled, prevented from doing its life’s work. Hence, I have started referring to it as the “Motive Mailbox.” If ever I snap and smother Gruff in his sleep, the homicide detectives will look at that miserable mailbox in the corner of the living room with a receipt dated July 2003 on it and declare, “Chief, I believe we’ve found a motive for the murder. Book her, Danno.”

Southern Vernacular

scarlet

 

Honesty is the best policy. Except when it’s not. That’s the crux of Southern-speak, right there. You’ll find yourself wandering into the “except when it’s not” territory more than you ever thought possible. You might even end up forwarding your mail there, you’re in it so often.

This goes far beyond the old comic line, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” Really? People, unless you need to quickly assess whether or not your partner is experiencing suicidal tendencies, why would you ever ask a question like that? Baiting your partner with land mine questions is not cool. And for those of you who are stuck in the remedial relationship class, the answer to that question is always, “Why no, Honey. In fact, I was just thinking that you look very pretty today.”

No, Southern-speak can be far more subtle. We learned it watching our parents and our grandparents, so we can spot it and drop it without thinking. For those of you who were not raised Southern, well, you obviously need some assistance. Here I am, a public service peach, ready to help.

“I’m just being ugly.”

This phrase has nothing to do with physical attractiveness. All Southern women are beautiful and we know it. This phrase refers to behavior, speech, or attitude. The speaker is announcing that they have slipped into some serious hatefulness. It’s a half-hearted apology and/or acknowledgement that yes, we are indeed being a world-class bitch but we’re not quite finished yet. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step back towards “nice lady” behavior.

“You’d best be getting to it.” or “You’d best not do that.”

Other regions might use the “You’d better. . . .” but in the South, we have ramped up our seriousness on the good-better-best scale. When we say you’d best, we are quite earnest that you should or should not do whatever we are discussing. This also implies a certain amount of urgency.

“You go right ahead.”

Under no circumstances are you to proceed with whatever you are contemplating if you’ve heard this from your mate. It is not permission, it is a warning. In fact, if you’ve pushed hard enough, you might hear this phrase delivered in an even clearer manner. “You go right ahead, I dare you.”

 “Bless your heart.”

This one is pretty well-known yet still confuses people. We are not the Pope. We ain’t blessing nobody. This is our go-to substitute for anything rude we might think when we realize you’re not very bright. We understand you could just be having a bad day. Everyone suffers moments of stupidity. I warn you though, if we say “bless your heart” and pat your hand, you’ve just said or done something so peculiar that it has convinced us your mother still has to dress you or worse, you’re a ward of the state. Which would explain a lot about you, actually.

 “Fine.”

This one is practically universal, so I’m surprised that people are still confused about its true meaning. If you are in a discussion with your mate and they say “fine,” particularly if they deliver it with any degree of finality, this is not agreement. If anything, it is agreement’s bastard evil twin. It is a warning shot across your bow. The “fine” cannon has been fired. Stop talking. Stop doing what you’re doing. Back out of the room quietly. Maybe get in the car and go for a long drive. Don’t broach the subject ever again.

I can understand the source of this confusion. I have poked about all the dictionaries I could find. American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, Oxford American and they all get it wrong, wrong, so very wrong. Just one dictionary comes close to giving the correct definite of the word “fine.” The Urban Dictionary captures the essence of the word, which I will paraphrase here.

Fine: meant to signal the abrupt end of an argument. Also see: Go fuck yourself.

Any questions?