A world of good

Although I’m known as a fan of sport, soccer barely makes my top 10 sports to watch. For starters, I don’t understand the rules. Oh, I get the gist – the players endeavor to kick the ball into the net. Otherwise, it looks to me like a bunch of people running around a field.

Once whilst watching a match with my beloved niece, I asked her what the announcer meant when he said a player had been offsides. When she explained that the player had gone over the line, I stared at the TV, squinting to find the line. “It’s not a line drawn on the field,” she said, exasperated at my ignorance.

Another one of my issues with the sport is the lack of scoring. It’s not unusual for soccer matches to end in scoreless ties (or in soccer parlance, nil-nil). Whilst I acknowledge that football games can also end in ties, I also acknowledge my belief that players should stay out there until somebody wins.

What’s more, there’s a lot of what’s known as diving in men’s soccer. In other words, players tend to fall to the ground and flop around like death is imminent if another player so much as looks at them. They remain writhing on the field as precious game minutes expire. But as soon as the referee calls a penalty – or refuses to recognize their histrionics – they hop up and virtually skip across the field. By the way, this phenomenon doesn’t occur nearly as often in women’s soccer, but it is on the rise in the NBA.

Despite all of the above, I have a touch of low-grade World Cup fever. I check the scores and standings and keep up with matches when I can. Of course, I haven’t failed to notice that when I’m in the same room as a televised match, either performing light housekeeping, writing, or concentrating all my attention on the match, no one scores. But let me step out of the room for a bio break or to check on my cat army, and the ball will find its way into the net, unleashing pandemonium among the fans.

Indeed, fan enthusiasm is the aspect I most enjoy about the World Cup. It’s as if every match reaches the level of the NCAA championship game multiplied by they Super Bowl. In a world that can be so dark and depressing, the passion soccer fans demonstrate for their sport makes my heart smile.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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My true colors

With a few exceptions, I prefer clothing that comprises the dark side of the color spectrum. Sure, I recently bought a red blouse, but for the most part, I’m a black, medium to dark blue, and gray type of gal.

Although I generally stick to this theme when covering myself, I don’t have a color scheme when it comes to covering the walls of my house. Indeed, my walls range in color from dark red to yellow to orange and to green.

I didn’t think my color choices were unusual until I heard a coworker note, with surprise in her voice, that every room in the home of one of her friend’s was a different color. “Oh,” I said, “that sounds like my house.”

Then, a couple years later, when a friend visited me, she told me that the experts on the home and garden shows would take one look at my bathroom and ridicule the green walls.

Then there was the time another visitor advised that my walls should be white or beige to increase the house’s re-sell value. Actually, for a few years, two rooms of my house were painted white and beige. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I selected such boring colors.

Anyway, I’m sharing this now because I’m planning to have the green bathroom as well as the orange bathroom and the orange bedroom painted. Although the seafoam green has served me well, I’ve never liked the orange, which looks like sherbet. Since I don’t like sherbet, I can’t for the life of me remember why I selected that shade.

After much deliberation – and by much, I mean that the deliberation lasted approximately eight months – I’ve chosen to go with a light blue for those rooms. I finally narrowed it to two hues, pale flowers and a new day, ultimately going with pale flowers because I preferred that name.

When I mentioned to a friend that I had initially considered something in the teal family, only to change my mind once I saw somebody’s freshly-painted blueish-gray wall, she said, “That’s right. Your walls are all sorts of crazy colors.”

She gets me and I get her, so I knew she wasn’t being rude about the matter. So I didn’t remind her that they are my walls. Not the walls of a hypothetical future owner. Not the walls of the home and garden folks. They’re mine. So when I’m considering a color to cover them, I ask myself, “Self, what do you want to look at every day? And, as a secondary factor, what are the names of your top paint samples?”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Total recall

On several occasions, my co-workers have complimented me on my good memory. They’ve praised me for conjuring up the names of people, places, and things seemingly on demand.

But this ability has nothing to do with a good memory and everything to do with good notes. Indeed, I don’t have a good memory at all. I can meet someone on Friday and re-introduce myself on Monday as if we were strangers. On most weeks, I’ve forgotten the topic of my column less than 72 hours after I’ve written it.

Sometimes, however, my memory amazes me.

That’s what happened a couple weekends ago at my mom’s. As we discussed the practice of renting out the first floor of your house, my oldest sister expressed confusion. Needing a way to help her understand, I said, “Remember the show, ‘Too Close for Comfort?’ It’s like that.”

That cleared up the matter for her, but our mom and other sister didn’t remember the show, which ran from 1980-87 and starred Ted Knight, of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” fame, as a cartoonist. He and his wife – and, later, their young son – live in their house’s second floor while their grown daughters live on the first floor.

As we tried to jog their memories, my oldest sister said, “Ted Baxter and Georgia Engel were in it.”

“No,” I corrected her, “Ted Baxter was Ted Knight’s character on ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ and Georgia Engel played his wife on that show.”

“So who was his wife on ‘Too Close for Comfort’?” she asked.

“Nancy Dussault,” I answered.

This dialogue had not triggered any memory of the show for Mom and my other sister, so I added, “They had two daughters. The one with dark hair was Jackie and the blonde was –”

That’s where my memory failed. I could not remember the blonde daughter’s name. I could remember her friend Monroe, who was played by Jim J. Bullock. I could remember that her real-life name was Lydia, but her character’s name was not forthcoming.

Although my family started talking about something else, my thoughts remained on the blonde daughter. Finally, several minutes later, I shouted, “Sara.”

When my startled family turned their curious eyes on me, I said, “Sara. The blonde daughter’s name was Sara.”

Having already moved on and having not cared much anyway, they expressed no interest.

Although I was pleased that the name came to me relatively quickly and, thus, prevented me from consulting the Internets for an answer, I don’t know how I’ve remembered so much about a TV show I have not watched in more than 30 years. What’s more, it was never a favorite of mine. I watched it only because it was on during a time when we had to make do with five channels.

I also recall having one of my baby teeth pulled during an episode of the show and coveting the bowl of candy bars that Jackie and Sara kept in their apartment.

Wonder how much more I would remember if I had kept notes?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Throw in the dish towel

dish towel

Photo courtesy SWX. Photography

When I was a wee lass, my mom used store-bought dish towels as well as those she referred to as feed sack dish towels. At the time, and for years to come, I never studied much on the origin of those plain white dish towels with the red edging. Indeed, if I thought of the matter at all, I probably decided there was no way those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food rendered cloth dish towels.

Decades later, after I started keeping a house of my own, my mom gave me a few feed sack dish towels. As is my way, I used them until they contained holes and were coming apart. In spite of the fact that I could read through them, I would have continued using them had my mom not spied one during a visit to my house.

When I told her I didn’t want to relegate them to the rag bin, my mom offered to make more for me. I’m all for receiving free, useful stuff, so I said, “Sure.”

The second set of homemade dish towels were comprised of plain white ones as well as some that feature a light green and red floral pattern. Even though I’ve used them oodles of times, I didn’t try to connect the dots between my pretty dish towels and a feed sack. That is, I didn’t until this past weekend. For some reason I cannot explain, when I pulled one of the dish towels from the cabinet, I said to myself, “Self, did this dish towel really come from one of those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food? If so, how did Mom turn it into cloth? Is she a magician?”

That evening, I asked my mom for the dish towels’ origin story. She once again told me they came from feed sacks. When I expressed confusion, my sister noted that Mom wasn’t referring to the aforementioned woven, hard plastic bags. As it turns out, back in the day, feed sacks were made of cotton. What’s more, in addition to making dish towels, my mom’s mom crafted dresses for her daughters from feed sacks.

As is my way, I needed to learn more about these feed sacks. I turned to the Internets where, in no time, I discovered that animal feed as well as pantry items like flour and sugar were sold in cotton sacks. Homemakers across the country figured out that the cotton could double as fabric. Once the feed companies learned of this phenomenon, they began printing patterns on their feed sacks.

Alas, the companies started using less-expensive paper bags in the 1950s, which put an end to the days of feed sacks doubling as high fashion. Fortunately, my mommaw amassed such a supply of feed sacks that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are enjoying the benefits of feed sack dish towels more than half a century later.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

 

 

Seize the day

I enjoy baking. One of the desserts, pronounced as zerts by my late father, I most enjoy baking – and eating – is white cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting.

A couple years ago, however, I decided to mix it up and make chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting.

The cupcakes turned out splendidly and, in the end, so did the frosting. It’s just that it never became white chocolate frosting.

Indeed, as I mixed together the frosting, I multitasked by melting the white chocolate baking bars. But the bars didn’t actually melt. Instead, they appeared to scorch and form into puffs.

Assuming I had made a mistake, I expressed gratitude that I hadn’t mentioned the white chocolate aspect of the frosting to my family. Frankly, I feared they would accuse me of using outdated baking goods. And we all know what a ludicrous accusation that would be.

So, my pet army and I made a vow to never again speak of the incident and I scraped the brownish-looking white chocolate into the trash.

Flash forward to last December. As we gathered at my mom’s to prepare Christmas goodies, my sister tried to melt white chocolate chips. Although she frequently stirred them and added copious amounts of oil, the chips turned into scorched puffs. She noted that white chocolate is dern-near impossible to melt and lamented our lack of almond bark.

She might have felt forlorn, but I became so giddy I dern-near skipped down the road.  (I also once again questioned the origin of almond bark. Is it literally the bark of an almond tree? And how does bark come in more than one flavor?)

Anyway, my happiness stemmed from the realization that I hadn’t goofed. It wasn’t me. It was the white chocolate. Flash forward to last week. After I purchased half a flat of strawberries, I decided chocolate-dipped strawberries would improve my quality of life.

As it turned out, I had some white chocolate baking bars in the cabinet. Where did they come from? How long had they been in said cabinet?

None of that matters. All that matters is that I said to myself, “Self, you’ve got nothing to lose. You might as well melt them and see what happens.”

I guess you know what happened. The bars turned into scorched puffs. I’m sure I didn’t help matters by adding milk instead of oil, but I think they were already beyond salvaging.

Fortunately, I had some chocolate baking bars, which I melted. In case you’re wondering, chocolate-dipped strawberries did improve my quality of life.

Yet, due to my thirst for knowledge, I had to know more about melting white chocolate. Was it simply something we Goff sisters struggled to accomplish? Is there an easy remedy?

There’s not.

In fact, based on everything I read, my sister followed the standard operating procedure vis-a-vis melting white chocolate.

My research also resulted in the discovery of a new term – seized chocolate. Surprisingly, this does not refer to confiscation of a bakery’s assets. It’s the term for the scorched puffs created when one unsuccessfully melts white chocolate.

Maybe someday I’ll learn the term for what happens when one successfully melts white chocolate.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The weight of water

As you’re probably aware, most health experts recommend we humans consume eight cups/64 ounces of water a day. There’s some debate amongst the aforementioned experts as to whether other beverages and food should also count in our quest for 64 ounces. But I don’t think anyone – expert or otherwise — would argue that drinking approximately six cans of soda and zero sips of water on a daily basis constitutes a healthy relationship with liquids.

Anyway, although I’ve been aware of the eight-cup rule for decades, I ignored it for most of my life. There were times, however, when I vowed to drink more water. But even as I did so, I felt like I was torturing myself. When I expressed my opinion that water was boring, folks would recommend I try flavored water to make it more interesting. Since that sounded, to me, like extremely weak Kool-Aid, I decided to pass.

But a few years ago I became serious about losing weight and, thus, had to make some hard decisions. From the way I saw it, planning meals and snacks was like planning a budget. When I looked over my caloric budget, I realized I needed to replace most of my beverages with water. And that’s what I did. Sure, I still drink a soda every now and then, but usually as a treat when I’ve been good or when I feel bad.

My weight loss program has been a success in large part because of my reliance on water. In addition to serving as an alternative to calorie-laden beverages, it also fools me into thinking I’m full. The more water I drank, the more I wanted. Indeed, I haven’t found water boring in years.

To help me on my water-drinking, weigh-losing quest, my sister gave me one of those stainless steel tumblers. Thinking the tumbler held 20 ounces, I pledged to fill it with water three and a half times per day so I could drink 70 ounces of water. And that’s what I did.

Then one day during a meeting, I noticed that a co-worker was drinking from a tumbler that looked like mine. The only difference was that hers featured a band proclaiming that it held 20 ounces.

I looked back and forth from her tumbler to mine several times before finally conceding that hers would fit into mine.

As it turns out, my tumbler holds 30 ounces, which means I’ve been consuming 105 ounces – or more than 13 cups – of water a day. And that doesn’t even count the water I usually drink for lunch.

Now that I know the truth, I have an explanation for all those trips to the bathroom and for all those days when I said to myself, “Self, I can’t drink one more sip of water.”

Of course, this revelation doesn’t mean I plan to scale back to eight cups a day. It just means I won’t chastise myself on those days I fall a little short of filling my tumbler three and a half times.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

For the most part, I think people who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s can be divided into two camps – those who prefer Little House on the Prairie and those who prefer The Waltons.

I’m definitely in the Waltons camp, so every holiday season I watch The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.

Broadcast on Dec. 19, 1971, The Homecoming opens with snowy scenes of seven children – and a cow – marching in single file across a field. The narrator – author Earl Hamner Jr. – explains that the Depression has forced family patriarch John Walton to find work miles from his home, nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. On this day, Christmas Eve 1933, John has yet to make his way home. Later that night, when family matriarch Olivia Walton learns the icy roads have resulted in a bus crash and the death of an unidentified person, she sends her son, John Boy, out to find his daddy.

The Homecoming was so popular that CBS ordered a full season of the series that would become The Waltons. The only actors who would reprise their roles on the show, however, are the ones who played the children, including Richard Thomas as John Boy, and Grandma Walton.

Kentucky native and Oscar winner Patricia Neal plays Olivia in The Homecoming. Her interpretation of Olivia is harsher than the warmer version Michael Learned would make famous through her award-winning performance on the series.

Neal’s Olivia frequently unleashes her fury at John Boy. She yells at him when the young’uns misbehave and accuses him of smoking cigarettes and bringing bootleg whisky into her home. (The Waltons love pronouns. It’s never just Daddy or Mama or the children, but always my Daddy, your Mama, my children.)

Anyway, when confronted with the truth, Olivia shows a softer, supportive side. She loves her children, but she’s basically a single mother managing a house full of seven young’uns in the dark days of the Depression. It’s no wonder she derives such pleasure in simple things like finding her Christmas cactus and making applesauce cake.

Olivia’s characterization isn’t the only difference between the movie and the series. The movie is much more realistic in general. I love The Waltons, but as much as they carry on about never having any money, I don’t buy what they’re selling. Maybe it’s because, in the depths of their struggles, they invariably find an antique in the attic or a job with some stranger who happens to wander into Ike’s store.

But, in The Homecoming, when Olivia explains to John Boy that the scarves she’s knitted represent the only Santie Claus they’re going to have this year, I buy her every word.

Of course, it turns out that multiple variations of Santie Claus visit the Waltons that Christmas. The most disturbing is a missionary who hands out presents to children gathered at Ike’s store. This part both infuriates and confuses me. Although the missionary insists the children recite a quote from the Bible and also tells them their Sunday school teachers must be proud, she still refers to them as infidels. She comes across as a mixture of ignorance, stupidity, and condescension.

Although it’s clearly spelled out in the opening credits, I didn’t know The Homecoming was based on a separate Hamner novel until last month. I had always assumed the movie, like the series, was based on his book, Spencer’s Mountain. Thankfully, our awesome library district had a copy of The Homecoming, which is now in my possession.

I’ve never read any of Hamner’s work. On the other hand, I read the entire Little House series as a child. Maybe I’ll enjoy The Homecoming. Maybe I won’t. But at least I know I can keep coming home to the movie every Christmas.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.