A Vision of American Womanhood

Vision of womanhood

Photo courtesy of Laura Seaton on Unsplash.com

If I ever wanted to be someone else, it was when I was twelve.

My mother must have cut my poker-straight hair for my school picture that year. It’s uh, how should I describe it, a bit uneven. Not just the bangs but all over. My face was bare of makeup, of course. I’m wearing this cheap nylon button-down sweater the same color as my hair. The photo could be titled Monochromatic with butchered hair.

Who I wanted to be that year was a Breck girl.

Edward Breck joined his father’s firm in 1929. Up to that time, the Breck Company sold tonics and creams. Edward developed a golden shampoo and soon hired commercial artist Charles Sheldon to create an image of the ideal girl-next-door woman.  Who naturally used Breck Shampoo to give her a gorgeous mane of hair.

Since the shampoo came in versions of dry, oily, and normal, the ad copy read, “One of them is all you need to be a Breck girl.”

The drawings were pastels in a soft focus. The girls/women looked angelic with halos of light and color surrounding them. The ads usually appeared on the back covers of women’s magazines. Originally, the women were average people, some of whom worked in the company’s offices.

In 1958 Ralph Williams took over as the artist. He later used models and actress such as Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley as the visions for Breck.

But my favorite Breck Girls were the wholesome ones who looked as though they had never had a pimple or gotten dirt under their fingernails in their entire lives.

The Breck Girls were phased out in the late 70s. But in 1987 they brought her back in the form of a Georgia secretary because they wanted to be more in touch with the modern woman. Here’s how they described Cecilia Gouge in the Kentucky New Era newspaper of June 26, 1987:

Then the new owner (Dial Corporation) thought about bringing back a Breck girl in 1994. Over 3000 women showed up to audition. But I guess it fizzled out because I can’t find any news about the “winner.”

Keeping with the original premise likely wouldn’t work. I suppose the wholesome look is rather passé these days. What sells is sex; women in too tight, too short, too low-cut, too revealing clothes. Since the Breck girl images I was able to find were all copyright protected, I had to try to find a comparable look on the photo websites I use.  Using “girls with long wavy hair” as my search category, I found very few that would have been appropriate.

The photo I used at the top of this post is actually one that came up in the search, and I figured, Heck ya, why not? My readers know I have a strange sense of humor.

Links below will take you to some Breck girl images and related articles.

And to show you just how brave I am, here is my 6th-grade photo.

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Smithsonian Magazine article from 2000 

Chicago Tribune article from 1994

Pictures of Breck girls on Flickr   

 

Today Is Your Lucky Day! If You Believe A Cookie.

Fortune cookie

Photo courtesy of guvo59 on Pixabay.com

Writer’s Block. It happens to nearly every writer at some point.

Apparently, even the writer of inspirational sayings for fortune cookies has been afflicted by it. According to an article on cnn.com from August 2, 2016, Donald Lau of Wonton Food Company is now able to write only 2-3 new sayings a month.

What? Most of these sayings contain about a dozen words. And he’s able to write just 2-3 a month? That must be the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever come across.

Wonton Food Company is the largest manufacturer of fortune cookies in the world, cranking out four million cookies a day from its three American-based factories. Apparently, Mr. Lau was hired as the chief fortune writer because he spoke the best English when Wonton bought the fortune cookie factories over 30 years ago. Now he’s also the CFO. I wonder if, along the way, he wrote himself inspirational messages such as, “Work hard and one day you will oversee a multi-billion dollar company and inspire people with small pieces of paper.”

In the 1990s, Wonton started adding a series of “lucky numbers” and a brief Chinese language lesson (one word) on the fortunes. If you think people don’t pay attention to these little slips of paper, consider this: In 2005 over a hundred people shared a $19 million prize in the Powerball lottery after playing the series of lucky numbers on the back of a fortune. (It’s only happened once. So please don’t go out for Chinese food and then head to the 7-11 to buy a lotto ticket.)

Wait, what? Multiple people got the SAME lucky numbers?! Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true. The fortunes and lessons and lucky numbers are used more than once. A lot more. Do the math: cranking out four million cookies a day would make it financially inadvisable to generate unique fortunes, Chinese lessons, and lucky numbers for each individual cookie.

Earlier in 2007, according to a New York Times online article, the marketing coordinator at Wonton hired some freelance writers to come up with some more contemporary messages. It didn’t go over so great.

Cookie eaters were not happy to find messages such as, “Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on yourself.” Or “Your luck is just not there. Attend to practical matters today.”

There is some disagreement about who invented the fortune cookie. There are some who maintain it has a 14th-century Chinese beginning when the Chinese hid messages in mooncakes to communicate and overcome their rivals, the Mongols.

But most food experts say that the cookie showed up in California in the 1900s.

Immigrant David Jung, owner of Hong Kong Noodle Company, claimed to have invented it in 1918 by hiding inspirational scripture messages in cookies and passing them out to the unemployed.

Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara is the other contender as the inventor. Hagiwara had created a Japanese Village exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and later convinced the powers that be to let him make a permanent Japanese tea garden. Hagiwara was the official caretaker of the Japanese Tea Gardens since 1895. His family says that around 1907 he began serving grilled rice wafers with thank-you notes tucked inside.

Since I’ve actually been to the Japanese Tea Gardens inside Golden Gate Park a couple of times (totally enchanting), I’m going with Mr. Hagiwara’s version. Choose for yourself.

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An earlier post of mine from two years ago on the subject of fortune cookies

Some hilarious (supposedly real) fortunes from cookies

Money Brain

Magi

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Money. I think about it more than I intend to. It’s not that I worry about having enough money to live another 30 years in relative comfort. I’m not obsessed about money like Scrooge McDuck.  Living within my means, I don’t try to keep up with anyone. Let’s face it: my Subaru is ten years old.

It’s just that somehow my brain slants toward how money plays a role in stories.

If a character in a book sets fire to a suitcase of hundred dollar bills, well, that bothers me. “Think of all the good that money could have done!” I mentally shout. Or if the hero in a movie turns down a substantial inheritance because she wants to make it on her own, I start to sweat.

The John Grisham novel The Partner? I nearly threw up over the ending of that book which dealt with a principal amount of ninety million dollars.

So it came as no surprise to myself when I ended up thinking about money as I prepared for tomorrow’s Sunday School lesson on Epiphany.

Epiphany, you may recall, is the enlightenment to the Gentile world that there’s a new King in town. The Magi were the recipients and then conveyors of that good news to the non-Jewish world.

Take a moment and envision your version of the Magi. Let me guess: three men with regal bearing in resplendent clothing. They are each carrying a small box containing gold or frankincense or myrrh. Oh, and they are riding camels who each can carry about 900 pounds.

Let’s ponder that for a moment. Bible scholars say the Magi may have been astrologers, scientists, priests, magicians, scholars, or all-around wise men. Educated guesses are that they came from Turkey or Persia which means a trip of 800-1400 miles. A camel can travel 80-120 miles a day. Unless, of course, they were Arabian baggage camels whose average travel speed is just 40 miles a day.

The Magi had a long journey and that’s likely why they were delayed.

So would they travel all that distance and show up with gift boxes small enough to hold in their hands? I don’t think so.

One Biblical writer’s opinion is that those camels were LADEN with gifts. Laden as in weighed down, piled high, overloaded.

And of course, my money brain kicked into gear thinking of ALL THAT GOLD and what it could have meant.

How would Mary and Joseph transport a camel’s load of gold back to Nazareth? I’m pretty sure there were no Uber camels. Did that gold arrive just in the nick of time? Were Mary and Joseph broke and still counting on their relatives’ generosity to house and feed them? Had Joseph been working locally all the time they’ve been away from home? Had he even thought to pack his carpenter tools to take with him? Did they have to pay taxes on that gold or did the amount fall under the Roman gift tax threshold? How would they explain their new-found wealth to their Nazarene friends and neighbors?

See what I mean? My money brain can run wild with imagination.

Hmm…I wonder what 900 pounds of gold was worth back then?

 

 

 

 

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime? Or How About Some Tinsel?

Ornaments

Photo courtesy of cegoh on Pixabay.com

I once got in trouble with HR. No one likes to get a notice that the head of Human Resources wants to see you, right?

As I made my way to the “principal’s office” that early December day,  I did a mental check of what it could possibly be about. If you know me (or have been reading my blog for very long), you know I’m a good girl, a straight arrow, the epitome of “always does the right thing.”

It turns out I had been caught soliciting.

No, not that kind of soliciting.

You see, a co-worker had lost all her Christmas decorations when her basement flooded the previous spring. I overheard her talking about how deeply distressed she was about the thought of a tree without ornaments.

I had the bright idea to ask our co-workers if they would donate an ornament or two from their own stash. People brought in lovely ornaments to me. When I made the presentation to her, she cried in gratefulness.

And that was my crime…soliciting used ornaments for someone without any. Guilty as charged.

Yes, I understand that “personal selling” in an office can get out of hand. Through the years, I’ve bought my share of Girl Scout cookies and elementary school wrapping paper. I’ve donated to wonderful causes. It’s hard to tell where to draw the line.

But give me a break. Where does inappropriate soliciting stop and nit-picking begin?

I was reminded of the incident listening to an NPR show the other day. Joy Cho (author, decorator, and founder of the company Oh Joy) was taking viewer calls and emails about holiday decorating on a budget.

A woman whose father’s house had been flooded by Hurricane Harvey asked for an inexpensive way to replace the ornaments he had gathered over the years and lost to the flood waters. As with my co-worker, the dad’s original ornaments and decorations held much meaning to him. New ornaments, fresh from the store packaging, just wouldn’t be the same.

The daughter asked for help in providing her dad decorations that would be “meaningful, decorative, and festive, but also not a huge investment.”

Joy Cho suggested that the daughter send an email to all the relatives and her dad’s close friends. Tell them what happened, and then make this request: “Let’s all send him one ornament that means something to us or reminds us of him, and let’s surprise him with that.”

Cho suggested that the givers write a message with their offerings.

She asked the listeners to imagine the man’s reaction when all those packages started showing up at his door.

What a wonderful new start to a familiar Christmas tradition!

Gee, I wish I had thought of that.

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Transcript of NPR show

 

So Call Me. Not Maybe. Definitely.

Talk on phone

Photo courtesy of Mimzy on Pixabay.com

What I’m about to share may shock you. You likely will throw up your hands in disbelief and shout, “She’s lying!”

We didn’t have a telephone until I was about 14. My dad didn’t see the point in spending the money on one. If we needed to use a phone, we could walk to Grandma’s and call from there.

Grandmother Elizabeth (no financially better off than we were) not only had a telephone, she had a special piece of furniture where the telephone resided. It was a one-piece number: a chair with an attached table with a storage unit for the telephone book.

Back then when you talked to someone on the phone, you actually really talked to them. Because there wasn’t anything else to do while you sat in the chair, except maybe look out the window or perhaps doodle.

Talking on the phone used to have some element of salience to it. Hearing someone announce, “You have a telephone call,” made us feel special. These days when everyone has his/her own phone with the ability to make calls dependent only upon available cell service, it’s just so ho-hum.

And we no longer sit still and concentrate on our calls. I know a lot of people pace or walk while on the phone. We cook, unload the dishwasher, feed the dog, search online for a new cat video, scroll through the television menu, and fold laundry while we talk on the phone.

We talk while we shop, while we exercise, and while we drive.

It doesn’t matter if we’re at a restaurant, in line at the bank, in a medical waiting room, or at a concert; we can (and do) talk everywhere.

I’m not even going to bring up those people who use the toilet while on the phone. Whoops, I just did.

Why do we do these things? Why can’t we just sit down and hold a conversation?

I’m not sure there is a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Because if you think I’m blaming everyone except myself, think again.

I was on the phone for over an hour today with a specialist from a supplemental Medicare insurance company representative. This is open season for us “elderly” folk and so I’ve been reviewing my husband’s and my options.

The specialist was great—good customer service skills, knowledgeable, polite. But going through all the options and answering the questions took so much time. I got antsy just sitting there holding the phone, so I put the phone on speaker mode and started doing stuff while talking.

I filed some papers. I changed the sheets on the bed. I walked up and down the stairs six times. I looked up the phone number of the person who takes care of our leaves in the fall. And yes, I fed the dog.

I did not use the toilet even though I needed to.

Maybe I had to be active because I didn’t have a personal connection to Luke at GoMedigap. I’ve noticed I’m more likely to sit still and just talk when I’m on the phone with someone I care deeply about.

But not always. For that, I’m offering up this public apology: If, while talking on the phone with me, you have heard dishes rattling, pot stirring, sheet rustling, or dog slurping, I’m sorry.

I promise to do better the next time we talk.

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A recent post of mine on the term “elderly”

A little science on why some people pace when on the phone

 

Just Call Me a Boomer Consumer

boomer

Photo courtesy of Run 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

There’s a label people attempt to stick on me, and I don’t like it one bit.

Elderly. It seems that anyone aged 65+ is elderly. The US Census Bureau, Medicare, and the Canadian government use age 65 as the qualifier for “elderly.”

Just today I got my flu shot at Walgreen’s. The person administering the shot told me, “You get the high dose shot because you’re elderly.”

OK, I get it that people 65 and older are inoculated with Fluzone High-Dose which contains four times as much flu virus antigen as other standard flu vaccines.

It seems that as we age, we produce 50-75% fewer antibodies in response to a regular flu shot. So the high dose is expected to compensate for that (per Mayo Clinic).

But why refer to me as elderly? I was, after all, in workout clothes and sneakers on my way to a Zumba class. OK, a Zumba GOLD class made up of women my age. But still, we’re out there doing the moves.

I remember being 20 and thinking anyone over 35 was ancient. When I had my first baby at age 33, I was considered an older mom back then. According to an Upshot article on the New York Times website, “First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32.”

I would rather be referred to as a boomer, aka Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964). Boomer has some flash and bang to it. It has a bit of pizzazz. Boom!

It turns out that many boomers don’t like being referred to as older people, elderly, senior citizens, or the Silver Tsunami.

When I think about my parents at the age I am now, I can’t help but be grateful that times have changed and the opportunities to feel younger and be healthier are so available.

I’m on a mission to encourage boomers to stop thinking “old” thoughts and to eliminate phrases like “having a senior moment” from their conversations.

I just dare someone to tell me to act my age.

 

Ay, Chihuahua!

chihuahua

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Consider the problematic issues associated with California: earthquakes, fires, epic rain, epic drought, mudslides, unreliable water supply, collapsing economic infrastructure, and too many Chihuahuas.

Yes, I said Chihuahuas. That is not an auto-correction.

Chihuahuas became a problem for California beginning early in the 2000s when celebrities like Paris Hilton were shown shopping with the little dogs carried in designer handbags. Hilton’s “Tinkerbell” starred with her in five seasons of The Simple Life.

In 2001 Legally Blond’s pint-sized “Bruiser” went to Harvard Law School with Elle Wood. The movie poster shows cute-as-a-button Bruiser dressed in his signature color of pink (the same fav color of his owner in the movie).

The 2008 Disney film Beverly Hills Chihuahua opened the Chihuahua floodgates wider with damsel-dog-in-distress Chloe wearing diamonds and booties.

The message that (for whatever reason) primarily Californians seemed to take away was this: If you want to be trendy and chic, go ahead and follow that impulse to own a Chihuahua.

Because pop culture brought forth the desire to be Chihuahua owners, backyard breeders and puppy mills saw an opportunity to cash in on the trend that resulted in just too darned many of this breed.

The LA Times in 2016 noted that the Chihuahua was the #1 registered breed in California at 15% of total registration. That was a 42% increase from six years prior! And that 15% covered only dogs that had been registered by their owners.

Sadly, thousands more of the dogs lived on the streets or in shelters.

In 2008 nearly 5000 Chihuahuas were run through California shelters, many of which had to reconfigure their “bigger dog” pens and runs to accommodate the itty-bitty breed. At one point it was estimated that the Chihuahua made up 30 – 50% of the California animal shelter population.

Surprisingly, according to one site, the Chihuahua is the second most euthanized breed across America, with Pit Bulls coming in at #1.

In 2009 actress Katherine Heigl spent $25,000 to fly 68 Chihuahuas across the country to New Hampshire where people were on SPCA-approved waiting lists to adopt them. This event was titled, “Project Flying Chihuahuas.” (Nope, not making this up.)

From 2010-2016 Virgin Airlines took up the cause and each year flew shelter Chihuahuas from San Francisco to the New York area for adoption. This project was dubbed “Operation Chihuahua Airlift.”

But the California overpopulation of the breed appears to continue as a problem.

Now I know what you’re asking yourself: “She has a hound dog; why is she writing about Chihuahuas?”

Apparently, I was trendy and chic three decades before Paris Hilton was, as I owned a Chihuahua when I was 15. I had been pestering my parents for a dog and Pepe is what my dad brought home. When I left home at 19 for a move to California, Pepe became Grandma Elizabeth’s dog.

The picture below is an American Greetings birthday card recently received from a dear friend who was my best friend in high school. She wrote that she bought it because it reminded her of Pepe.

The day the card arrived I was listening to an NPR audiobook about dogs and they mentioned the story about Project Flying Chihuahuas. Wow! Two instances on the same day can’t be a coincidence, so I took it as a sign and started my research for this post.

The moral of this post is threefold:

1) Please don’t follow celebrity trends.

2) Adopt a pet from a shelter.

3) Be a responsible pet owner and have your pet spayed or neutered.

And PS – Bruiser’s death in 2016 was widely reported by the media. See below for links.

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Chihuahua info

Bruiser’s death #1 

Bruiser’s death #2 

 

Setting the Record Straight: What It Takes To Be #1

Record

Photo courtesy of Emma Frances on Unsplash

Do you recall listening to the radio leading up to New Year’s Eve? Radio stations asked listeners to vote for their favorite song of all time. Some years back I was with a mixed group of people as the #1 listener pick was announced for that year.

When Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers was named, the men in the room, looking disoriented, collectively asked, “What?!”

But the women in the room nodded their heads and wistfully whispered, “Yes.”

It was because we recalled THAT scene in the 1990 movie Ghost where shirtless Patrick Swayze sits behind Demi Moore at the potter’s wheel as Unchained Melody plays in the background. I’m just going to say that things got interesting. If you’re too young to have seen the movie, find it on Netflix or whatever. It’s a love story mixed in with a comedy mixed in with a drama, basically covering all the bases.

Unchained Melody stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 list for 25 weeks. According to their site, “The Billboard Hot 100 chart ranks the top 100 songs of the week based on sales, radio airplay, and streaming activity.”

Well, sure, maybe now.

But have you ever wondered how the Hot 100 was calculated prior to computers being in place to track that sort of thing? I mean, the Hot 100 was “invented” in August 1958.

According to Derek Thompson’s book Hit Makers, those old Hot 100 lists were based on lies and made-up statistics. There really wasn’t any method in place to track what records were sold or what was being played on stations across the vastness of America.

Are you familiar with the adage that criminal investigators swear by?  “Follow the money.”

Mr. Thompson asserts that music label companies bribed or otherwise persuaded radio stations to play certain songs over other songs and play them a LOT. Well, the song just had to be #1, right, since we heard it all the time.

So as we the public rushed out to buy the latest #1 record, the stores sold out. There was no money to be made if there wasn’t stock to sell. Duh.

Churn, baby, churn. Another new #1 song would be announced the next week, and so on. We silly consumers just waited to see what new song we couldn’t live without.

Billboard’s Hot 100’s first announced #1 hit was August 4, 1958: Ricky Nelson’s Poor Little Fool. It stayed #1 for exactly two weeks. It was replaced by Volare which was #1 for one week, replaced by Little Star which lasted….yep, you guessed it—one week. But Volare made a comeback staying at the top the first four weeks of September.

Just in case you’re wondering, there have been 3149 weeks since August 4, 1958. Billboard’s information is that there have been 1077 different #1 hits.

Thompson’s research shows that the ten songs that spent the longest on the Hot 100 list were all released AFTER 1991 when the calculations could be ascertained by point of sale data as well as airplay monitoring by the Nielsen Company.

Gosh, I feel foolish.

This reminds me of a recent post on Facebook regarding the old cartoon feud between Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner. As you may recall, the roadrunner won every time. As it turns out, a coyote can run approximately 43 mph, while a roadrunner tops out at 20 mph. The punchline read: “My entire childhood was based on lies.”

Well, if you’re a baby boomer, apparently your teenage years were based on lies as well. At least as it applies to pop music.

~~~~~ 

Ghost trailer

Billboard #1 songs since 1958 

 

 

A Dessert to Remember

Dessert to remember

Photo courtesy of Emma Goldsmith on Unsplash

What’s your favorite brand and flavor of ice cream? Mine is homemade butterscotch  ice cream by Little Man Ice Cream. I’ve eaten it a total of ONE time. Here’s the problem: Little Man is in the Denver area and I live in Virginia. I know I have at least one reader in the Denver area. Please…go have a scoop in my honor.

My husband and I were on the Amtrak California Zephyr traveling from Chicago to Sacramento. The only place the train stopped long enough for passengers to disembark was Denver’s Union Station. It was a  warm afternoon, and we had about two hours before the train would pull out.

Inside the train station, we found Milkbox Ice Creamery which sells Little Man ice cream products. Among many tantalizing flavor options was butterscotch.

I think I embarrassed my husband. I kept moaning in ecstasy as I placed one delicious spoonful in my mouth after the other.

I didn’t want the moment to end. It was a dessert to remember.

We had an earlier dessert moment in Yellowstone National Park in the early 1980s. On a prior trip to Yellowstone, we had eaten at a restaurant that had the best homemade apple dumplings ever. EVER. We couldn’t recall the name of the restaurant on this subsequent trip so we kept driving around the general area hoping we’d remember it when we saw it.

Finally, a park ranger informed us that the place we were searching for had burned down the year before. Noooo! Say it isn’t so!

Years later in 1992 when I told my good friend Cindy this story, her face lit up. She was willing to share her mother-in-law’s apple dumpling recipe which she felt sure would tickle our taste buds. It did and still does.

Cindy gave me the OK to share her late mother-in-law’s recipe with my readers. So from Mary Grace’s best recipes collection, here it is with my adjustments. Because I don’t know about you, but I tweak most recipes.

I’m starting off with a few advisories:

I cheat and use the Pillsbury refrigerated premade pie crusts. One package (two crusts) makes four dumplings. So the ingredient amounts below will make four dumplings. If you’re a whiz at making pie crusts, make two pie crusts. And don’t judge me.

You’ll need enough peeled and cored apples to make however many dumplings you’re baking. Wow, that was helpful. Since apple sizes vary, it depends. Generally, three medium-sized Granny Smith apples make four dumplings using the premade crusts. Mary Grace used Summer Rambo apples.

Before you work on the apples, start the syrup on the stovetop in a saucepan. Since we like our dumplings very juicy, this is double the amount that Mary Grace used:

SYRUP:  Combine 2 cups of water, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg in a saucepan. When you’re ready to pour the syrup over the dumplings,  bring the mixture to a boil over medium heatand let boil one minute.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

DUMPLINGS:  Cut each of the two crusts in half so you have four pieces.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into medium to large bite-size pieces. Divide them up among the four pieces of piecrust, placing the apples in the middle of each piece.  Sprinkle a little granulated sugar, a bit of cinnamon, and add a “pat” – one teaspoon – of butter on top of each dumpling.

Then fold up the edges of the dough to cover and seal in the apples. Don’t overstuff each piece of dough; doing so will cause the dumpling to break open while baking.

Place the dumplings in a 9×13 cake pan. Four fit nicely in this size pan.

Now gently pour the hot syrup directly over and around the dumplings.

Do not cover. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes until the dough is lightly browned.

Serve warm with a spoonful or two of that tasty syrup poured over your dumpling and then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Trust me…this too is a dessert to remember.

Hmm…I wonder how dumplings would taste with butterscotch ice cream?

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Milkbox Ice Creamery

Little Man Ice Cream

 

Let’s Be Real, People (OR) Let’s Be Real People

 

Real People

Photo courtesy of Andre Spilborgh on Unsplash

When I flipped over my writing room’s wall calendar to August, I was disgusted at the new month’s photo. After seven months of amazing flower garden photography, August’s photo showed three butterflies on a Joe-pye weed plant.

Why did I find that so repulsive? Because the butterflies had been obviously PhotoShopped onto the bush. It was a fake photo.

Come on now. I have taken a dozen snapshots of butterflies on flowers from my own yard over the past six weeks, yet you had to resort to PhotoShop? Even though the name isn’t attractive, Joe-pye weed is gorgeous enough to have stood on its own for the August focus.

I knew I didn’t want to look at that fake photo for 31 days, so I tore it off and have left in place the July picture of a lotus flower.

I admit it. I have an issue with disingenuousness.

Years ago as an office manager, I was meeting with the president and vice-president of our company. Their conversation as I joined them was regarding the custom detailing of their respective automobiles: an Escalade and a Lexus.

Back and forth they went, each trying to outdo each other with the superiority of their detail work guy.

Quickly tiring of the drivel, I said, “I just take my Honda to the carwash.” Ah yes, one of the little people had spoken. They dropped the pretentious conversation.

The latest fakery I’m encountering can be found in marketing emails. Companies send me missives that start with, “Hey Norma!”

It’s as though they are just so excited to talk to me they can hardly stand it.

One email continued on: “You are one smart cookie, Norma.”

Please, you’re too kind.

The smart cookie email’s closing line was, “Hope to hear from you soon! With love and respect,” from the first names of the company’s two principals.

With love? We’ve not even been out on a date.

This kind of false familiarity is a huge turnoff for me.

Then I have another new online friend: Grammarly. This is a great free app that double-checks your grammar and punctuation and offers suggestions for corrections. While I consider myself fairly proficient in these areas, I do appreciate the ability to have a second pair of, uh, “eyes” looking over my work.

But now Grammarly sends me flattering emails via a weekly writing update. Here is what they told me last week:  “Holy smokes. You were quite the busy bee with your writing this past week. You were more productive than 89% of Grammarly users.” Then they displayed my stats:  My “mastery” showed that I was more accurate than 81% of their other users. AND….I had used more unique words than 85% of those other losers.  Err, I mean users.

But Grammarly is also a tough-love friend. Just when they had puffed up my ego to the point of exploding, they dropped the bomb: Over the week I had made twenty other “advanced mistakes” that the free program didn’t correct. Twenty!

But salvation is at hand; for a lump sum annual payment of $140, I can purchase the premium product and have ALL my errors brought to light.

An actual tough-love friend would tell you that the tie you’re wearing clashes with your shirt or that purple lipstick is NOT a flattering shade for women over 30.

But they’d do it for free.

~~~~~~~

Dance to this while you’re pondering my message.