Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It won’t be long until the cake time is here. I’ve practiced twice with the two cakes I’ll enter in the state fair August 11th. I made the big white cake and the pineapple upside down cake for the cake booth at the St. Agnes Carnival two weeks ago. Then the week after I made both cakes and gave them away. Reports were good so I’m hopeful again this year.

During a re-run of Martha’s Show this week, a man made an astounding coconut cake. He didn’t separate the eggs. He put the whole eggs in the batter. He used 2-10” cake pans. He also split his 2 baked layers into 6 layers. His filling was different from his frosting. He used European butter that cost $6 a pound! Consider the cost of this spectacular coconut cake; 6 eggs, 6 ½ cups cream, 2 ½ pounds of butter, 6 cups white sugar and 5 cups confectioner’s sugar. The completed cake weighs 15 pounds, and a single slice weighs one pound! He sells 20 a month and ships them overnight anywhere. The cake cost $100. I’m not going to check out the shipping.

The white cake recipe I’ve been using the past four years is a variation of another “Martha” cake. To keep it a white cake I separate the eggs, saving the yokes for something else and whipping the whites. Then for the final assemble I gently fold the whites into the batter. This adds height. I use 3-9” pans and split each baked layer into two. I make the frosting from a traditional 7-Minute Icing recipe but split it into two bowls. To one I add either raspberry or apricot preserves, using this mixture between the layers. I finally cover the outside of the cake with the pure white frosting.

One thing he does is as he assembles the layers is drizzle simple syrup over the layers to make them moist. I may do that myself with a variation.

I’m going to cut down the coconut cake recipe and make a 1 layer version as a test. If it tastes better than my recipe, I may make the investment and bake the coconut cake without the coconut!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Geese across my path.

Driving on a usual road one morning, I was delayed by a group of geese friends walking across my path from the field bordered by trees where they sleep each night, to the side of the road where the creek flows. These mid July mornings are cool. A few days the humidity is low. There’s no bite to the air as in mid October. It is warm but if you don’t have to load a truck, you remain cool.

This small welcome delay has occurred before. Once in the afternoon with a friend, we were headed back from the errand. I had my camera with me and the geese group was heading to the field rimmed by trees. Cars approaching us stopped as we did. Five minutes after we had stopped all webbed feet were in the grass, standing as they often do, conversing with one another about all matters of interest to geese.

This morning the lead goose had gotten half way into my lane and I could have quickly gone around him to save those moments waiting for the flock to pass. I stopped and with the windows down on my truck I heard the quacks from the group. These were not harsh squalls often heard standing on the ground as a wing of geese fly toward the south. This was the soft sound of communication between the birds.

I wonder how it would be to be a goose, whose only industry is to sleep in the shade of a wood, eat of an open field of fescue, and walk to the other side of a road to the creek. Although I cannot see into the creek when I pass, as it is deep in an earthen gully, I imagine floating on the cool brisk flowing water, ducking my head to eat water bugs, and bringing my wet face up out again, fed. Does drama occur in a flock of geese? Are there rivalries between the males and females? I do not want to do research this to the extent I would learn the answers. I like believing in the idyllic life of geese.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Nap.

In the heat of summer when after noon the sun is hard light and the air is still thick and hot, a nap beckons. To be lying on clean cotton under a ceiling fan, air cooled by air conditioning, without interruption by phones or a knock at the door is a luxury few of us have as a choice. Yet when talking to friends or business associates I’m surprised to hear naps are normal for some.

Just this morning a segment on one of the annoying morning shows was about sleep. Americans don’t get enough sleep. We a gain weight if we don’t get enough sleep. Every adult should get at least 8 hours and 10 isn’t too much. Think of that.

Some employers have set aside rooms and beds for naps. In large cities, there are nap businesses just down the street from the huge office towers, so workers can stop by for a forty-five minute nap. I figured it out, if we work the new 4 day week, 12 hours a day, nap every day and sleep 10 hours recommended, there’s only 6 hours a day left for everything else.

I think of those 18 months I worked two full time jobs and am amazed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A full moon is coming.

Hot summer days often start with cool sunny mornings. I cannot describe the way I feel when I drive out of the lot up the hill and sun hits the front of the car. I wear sunglasses and that’s a good thing, for I would be blinded without them. This same trip most days of each week illustrates the change that comes as the sun and the moon make their trips with the seasons.

How long have these same paths been traveled and this same land witness to the sun and moon.

I noticed when I was out last night that the moon is near full. It was bright in the sky. Tomorrow night it will be full and when I drive up the hill to leave the next morning. On Wednesday or Thursday this week the moon will linger there above the sun.

Another astounding thing is that every human on the earth, this small blue marble, sees the same moon and the same sun, when they look up. The bright blue sky above my yard, near the trees and the wild honeysuckle, is the exact same sky seen by a young boy in Iraq or a woman standing under her laundry in Peru.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Books have history.

A vice of mine is purchasing hard cover books. I don’t buy paperback books. I buy hard cover books. This is a habit of long standing and would be the last thing I would give up before shelter and food.

Friends sometimes give me their books, if they need the room. It is fun to see what I end up with. One time by organizing what I had, I discovered I had two books written by Colon Powell. I knew I hadn’t bought them, but there I was with two of his books.

A friend recently gave me three books. They were very old. Her mother had died and these were in her things. There were inscriptions in two of them but my friend said the names were not familiar. This makes me wonder, did her mother purchase these at a tag sale or had a friend given them to her.

I have very few books with inscriptions. In books that were given to me as gifts there’s sometimes a note of who gave the gift with the date. There’s a couple signed by the author when I had a bookstore as a client. These days I only write inside the front cover the date I finished reading them for the first time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Slamming into the world.

A boss of mine back before my business, told me I had a lead foot. He was right. At the time he said this, I’d been driving a company car and hit the curb hard making an exit off the expressway at twenty mph over the limit. The wheel was pushed back out of place and ruined.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s I got about 5 speeding tickets, on surface streets and the expressway. It was normal for me to drive ten miles over the limit and I was often driving at speeds in excess of twenty miles over the limit. Yes, I did this even when expressway speeds were 70 mph in Indiana and Kentucky!

After my last ticket in 1997 I have made an effort to drive the speed limit.

In the past year with the price of gas rising from $1.90 to $4.39, I’ve used driving slowly as a method of saving gas. There are things I have to drive to, not matter how I try to change my way of life, so you will see me driving 30 in a 35 zone and 55 in a 60 zone. When I drive north each month for my regular appointment I drive 60 in a 70 zone. It works!

Other drivers don’t drive the speed limit or anywhere near to it. I drive with my lights on and if someone is coming fast behind me, I flash my break lights. I find it especially amusing when a Hummer or a Ford Expedition flies by at 90.

I wonder what I was such a rush for all the years previous.

Time & Tranquility

It’s my opinion there are two kinds of people, in regards to getting where you’re expected on time.

A friend told me when he went to a doctor or dentist, they had 15 minutes to take him back and start the appointment. If they didn’t do so, he left and didn’t pay co-pay. He believes he’s trained many a doctor with this method. In the same regard, when he has a client call for an appointment, he will be on time and will wait days for them to appear. It’s a matter of who holds the power. He does with the doctor and his client does in that circumstance.

Myself, I’ve always felt my time was not as valuable as the person I had the appointment with, so I’ve spent many hours waiting for the appointed hour, having been early. If the appointment was for 10 a.m., I’ll be there at 9:50 a.m. and wait until 10:30 a.m. for the other person to appear.

I have given thought to this. When a particular person is always 30 plus minutes late, the time for the appointment isn’t really 10 a.m. It’s really 10:30 a.m. I’ve adjusted by calling the person or office at five minutes to and asking if they are there. If they are not, I don’t arrive until 10:20 a.m. Once in a while they will be there, and have to wait for me. I don’t apologize for being late. I just arrive and begin the appointment.

The person who is always late, in fact almost precisely the same amount of time late under the same circumstance, believes their time is more valuable than any other person. They are willing to immediately say they are sorry to be late and are always primed to tell you exactly why they are late. The reason is always someone else’s fault. Whereas I knew your time target and all things leading up to that target I worked toward the goal. If someone tried to delay me, I told them I was sorry I had to go.

I don’t react by chewing them out. I react by taking a book to read. I’ve read many books this way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


When you think about the differences in skin color amongst all humans, there are many. In America, except for some remote tribe in a yet to be discovered place, all variations of the world are present. None of us are pure blood. You question this, take a moment and send off to one of the many DNA testing services. Google it: DNA Ancestry.

For a reasonable fee, they’ll send you a kit to take a sample of your own DNA. You ship it back to them, and after a time a report is issued telling you what genetic markers are in your blood. You may have had an ancient ancestor who walked the coast of Ireland in the 1300’s. You may have an ancestor who marched with Alexander’s army, conquering the known world in 323 BC. You get the idea. I imagine many a skinhead would be shocked to know he had “tainted” blood of those races he despises.

The simple truth is we humans are more similar than we are different. I believe the same can be said for almost anyone in relation to almost anyone else.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The bench.

When I walk in the morning at the mall, one of the draws for me are the benchs placed on my path. They are sturdy, wooden benches of the type you have seen in well planned and maintained gardens. They are redish color, either because they are made from that color wood, or from a stain. Placed outdoors in a garden, they will turn to a lovely faded gray.

The picture above is not exactly what I see, but maybe one morning I will remember my camera and get an actual picture of the mall benches.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The bright and shining Dara Torres.

I wouldn’t say that I am a dedicated sports fan. I am a bit fanatical about watching the Redskins play and went so far as spending too much money for direct TV this past season. But I don’t have season tickets for U of L football or basketball and I don’t get into arguments with UK fans about which player is best. I’ll watch the playoffs for soccer on ESPN, but I don’t stay up till 1 a.m. to do it. I watch re-runs! As to golf, I agree with the saying; golf is a good walk ruined! I watch the final game where Tiger Woods wins again. As to the non “ball” sports, I seldom watch them.

Last week on a couple of evenings the network aired a full hour of qualifications for the spots on the American swim team. Dara Torres was beyond impressive. She won so many spots on so many meets; she is going to have to choose which to swim in as she’s eligible for eight! This is a woman who retired to have a child and came back to beat records! She’ll be competing in her fifth Olympics at the age of 41. One day soon, maybe already and I’m not aware, Olympiads will be over fifty.

Finally a bright and shining star in this summer of dull eyed reality at the gas pumps and grocery!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

There are things I never see in blogs.

Punching that Next Blog button on the top of this page is like walking down an unfamiliar street and peeking inside the life of a stranger.

A large percentage of them are not in English. I’d estimate the majority are Spanish, though there are Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, German; probably every modern and forgotten language there is. A person standing in front of a camera holding a birthday cake with blazing candles is a common theme, as is family blogs showing a very old relative sitting amongst younger relatives who seem amazed that this old person is still there.

There are the annoying blogs that show all the expensive and extensive improvements a couple has made to their home. They also display their cars and trucks and boats and RV’s. I wonder if I book marked that page, next year all that excess would be diminished? One thing about these renovation pages is there is never a picture of the failure. We don’t see the arguments with the contractors, the frustration of the workers not showing up, the shock of finding out the cost went up 100% in a month!

These past few days the family blogs showed mostly grilles with massive amounts of meat and hot dogs; tables heavy with the latest in fancy food prepared in the most modern of kitchens. It seems for many blogs are the bastardization of those long Christmas letters you got in years past, where the sender tells you all the wonderful things that have happened in their immediate family the past year. We don’t see the parent who didn’t get the kids this holiday because they had them for Easter, who on the 4th of July are in their small dark kitchenette boiling a couple of hot dogs for lunch.

You get the idea. Take a few minutes and cruise the Next Blog highway. One thing I can assure you will discover is that activity is a big waste of time, or isn’t.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Rain in the summertime.

Rainy days in July are wonderful things. What makes them wonderful for me is I don't mow my own yard. Today being a holiday, I didn't have to go out into the rain to get to work or run errands.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Our nation is in its 232nd year.

All the chatter around about here is of "What are you doing for the 4th?" Americans traditionally eat hot dogs and watch fireworks. This year especially, with everyone adjusting to the shock of gas and food prices, we're staying around home.

At the grocery Tuesday bags of 8 hot dog buns were on sale for 77 cents and a package of hot dogs was $1. Coke products were on sale at three 12 packs for $9 and you could buy just one. Potatoes were $3.29 for a ten pound bag. Looks like for about $8 you could do the traditional 4th of July picnic for a family for 4.

You don't need fireworks either. There's to be a concert with local talent and a major fireworks show downtown on the river. All Free! If you were to walk to Bardstown Road from here, a bus would take you right down there for $1.50. Going back home is another $1.50.

For that fantasy family of 4, the 4th of July would cost $5 each.

A point of view changes what you see.

I was reading blogs from college students on a dig in Israel yesterday afternoon and one described how they saw eagles. If you see the elevation of the site where they were digging, you can imagine the birds below.

These people saw the birds as eagles, though you can see it would be hard to tell the kind of bird with the haze and distance. Another at the same place believed them to be vultures. They saw the huge wingspan as they came in low.

A number of eagles were circling over
The valley below where we worked today.
Ancestors of birds who circled above
The heads of those who walked the
Stone paved streets we have revealed,
With pick axes to loosen earth, not open
To the sky for two thousand years, and
Hauling huge stones with our strong backs,
As we perch on this mountain high above,
Eagles or maybe it was hawks circle.

July 2, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A new poem for a July day.

A morning of dusty digging
Came to a close near noon, and
Our leader came around with
A bag of fresh peaches.

Israeli-grown, so fresh and ripe,
No effort was needed to bite
Into the soft wet flesh, and
Juice ran down her hands.

You stood nearby in that
Dusty t-shirt and brown hat
Hand on blue jean hip,
Watching as she licked her fingers.

July 1, 2008

The impetus for writing this poem was a friend describing his eating a peach.

Peaches now days are something I find at the local grocery. This year they are the size of a billiard ball and nearly as hard, for they never seem to be ripe in the store. I will buy two or three and put them in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The morning before I want to eat one, I take it out and set it on the table. By afternoon it has softened and then late at night when I sit down to read, I will eat it. It's soft and the juice will invariably drip on my chest, but it sure isn't as the peach described in the poem.

That peach could start a rain storm.

The Salome No One Knows

It takes me quite a while to read the magazines I get. This morning I got around to reading the aforementioned article, published in the June/July 2008 issue of BAR [Biblical Archeology Review]. When I saw the title I thought it would be about the Salome I learned about in Mrs. Berna’s Sunday School Class. She was the girl who did such a seductive dance for King Herod, he offered her anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom. She took the advice of her mother and asked for the head of John the Baptist. What an image that was to a nine year old child! I recall there being a drawing of a bearded long haired head on a platter held up by a slave.

This article isn’t about that Salome. This Salome was Salome Alexandra and ruled Judea for nine years (76–67 B.C.E.). She married King Alexander Jannaeus when she was 29 and he was 14 or 16. Upon his death he named her ruler over his two grown sons. She was 73 when she died.

Politics among the historians of the time labeled her a prostitute and her short, amazingly peaceful rein was pretty much obscured by time. Isn’t it just like women who are successful and powerful to be slimed? I think it’s funny how this kind of thing is not just a modern way of handling a powerful woman.

Here’s a link to the article. Take a bit to read it and tell me what you think about Salome Alexandra and how her memory was handled.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In the beginning here, take one step back.

There was a time when I had a blog. I posted poems I had written. I published the link to that blog to those who subscribed to my newsletter. I think there were regular readers, as I often got comments to my private e.mail.

I was going to publish that poetry again and delete the old blog. Discouraging me is required reformatting! It seems I cannot copy the work with the line breaks and form. Publishing here would require my manually adding line breaks and putting in all the formatting. So for now I will say, "Never mind!" If anyone would like to see all that old stuff, let me know. I've got it all on my hard drive and back-ups. The old blog exists in a diminished form at this web address: http://rachelpoemfriends.blogspot.com/ .

Comments are appreciated on all my writing, though if you do not request privately to be put on the list of members, you won't be able to leave comments here!

Diabolical isn't it?