Tag Archives: humorous essay

Baked Beans a la Sciatica with a Slight Digression to Pueblas Magica and other Threats to Back Comfort

Fresh from two weeks of sciatica’s debilitating influence, it is a novel experience for me to be able to walk to the kitchen, let alone to work in it. I enter the kitchen this morning armed with two tennis balls in a sock tied off at each end. Whenever my back wears out, I position the balls on either side of my spine and press against the wall, pushing the tennis balls against the sore spots.  One yoga friend says to roll them up and down. Another says to press in one spot for 30 seconds before moving on. I alter my technique, and it seems to work. 

I’m trying to build up my stamina for the visit of my twentyish grand-nephew, freshly graduated from college and coming in six days for a big Mexican adventure.  I’ve planned a one-day trip around the 60 mile long lake I live on to see the thousands of white pelicans that congregate around the local fishery. That day will be mainly driving.  No problem. A four-day trip to Guanajuato has me more worried, but I’ve resorted to booking us places with a small tour group, with guide, to see the Diego Rivera museum, the mummy museum, gardens, haciendas and a dozen other pleasures of the colonial town that is one of the few Mexican towns designated as a puebla Magica—a beautifully preserved town of a bygone era. I figure with 15 compadres, I can always flake out and send him on with the group.

In another excursion, we are visiting the round pyramids an hour and a half distant from my house as well as a few haciendas, and for that occasion, I’m hiring the son of a friend to drive us so my nephew will have someone younger to scramble around with.  I look back in my albums and see the tallest pyramid in Sri Lanka that in my twenties I climbed to the very top of, think of the twelve-mile trek through the jungle and mountains in Portuguese Timor and remember that even then such long walks tested my endurance, but now I worry about holding him back and so I plan adventures with younger friends to accompany us.  I hope it works.

I’d been trying to exercise my back by scrubbing algae from the pool and trimming in the garden, but then last night, a friend called to invite me to a pot luck this afternoon so all morning long, I have been creating a commotion in the kitchen, cooking what I thought was going to be an easy solution to tonight’s pot luck at the clubhouse.  I soaked beans overnight, but even pre-soaked, they have been cooking for four five hours and are not done. I’ve refilled the water four times, once after scorching the bottom layer and having to transfer the beans to a colander and another pot. 

I thought I’d be fancy and make American pork and beans from scratch, thinking it was a mere matter of adding ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and bacon, but after consulting the internet, it has turned into an 11-ingredient process with much chopping, frying and mixing, not to mention trying to locate all the ingredients (or near-substitutes) in my packed kitchen shelves and fridge.  Luckily, on a whim, I bought bacon yesterday.  Not a staple in my house. I didn’t buy fresh salad ingredients because I’ve found that cabbage, once shredded, goes bad quickly, but when my friend called last night to invite me to today’s pot luck, I was sorry I hadn’t. It would have been an easy solution to my problem. What did I have to make a pot luck addition that wouldn’t necessitate a trip to town? They were always overly loaded with desserts, so that was not a solution.  When I found the bag of white beans I thought I’d solved my problem, but after being in the kitchen all morning, I find it was not a very novel solution to the problem. Two and a half more hours until they have to be done enough to bake in the oven with the other ingredients added for 45 minutes.

Fingers crossed, twin tennis balls pressing into my back between my spine and my new desk chair, I finally have time to work on my blog. As a last resort, I may have to make a mad dash into town to purchase two cans of cooked beans, but it will break my heart—transform the richness of my pork and beans from scratch into a poverty of fast-food making-do.

I go to check the beans for the dozenth time since 8 this morning and when I give Yolanda a taste, she proclaims them done, but suggests a bit of salt.  Remembering that I’m cooking for other people, I mind her, in spite of the fact that I haven’t used salt in two years since I discovered my blood pressure was sky high. 

I add the beans to the other 10 ingredients, only to discover that after first swelling up to twice their size, they’ve now cooked down so much that they only half fill my large casserole.  I try graduated sizes of casseroles and baking dishes until I finally find the Baby Bear casserole that is “just right.”  But now my contribution to the pot luck looks so skimpy.  As I put it in the fridge to await the time when I put it in the oven for its final 45 minutes just  before the pot luck, I catch site of the bag of precooked Mexican refried beans on the shelf above it.  Just the slightest  suggestion of a temptation to add them to swell out the beans flashes through my mind, but my puritan ancestors tug me in another direction as I shut the fridge door.

It is 2:15. If I put them in the oven with bacon on the top at four o’clock, it should be just right. I set my alarm to remind me preheat the oven at three o’clock. With a Mexican oven, a thermostat, I have found, is not a true gauge but an approximation. I have two real thermostats purchased at a kitchen shop in the states that I hang on the oven racks to provide a truer gauge, but unfortunately, they always register about 10 degrees difference in different parts of the oven, so baking here is always a bit of a lottery.  Your number might be the correct one or it might not. 

After washing three pots, four casseroles, measuring spoons, spatulas, tasting spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowl and two large dutch ovens, I sit back down in my desk chair to finally begin my blog. My back twinges a bit and I adjust my sock full of balls. Tennis, anyone????


Click on first photo to increase size of photos and read captions.

Today’s words were novel, commotion, poverty, debilitate.
Today’s links, in case you want to follow one or all of the same prompts, are below:



https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/  poverty



In Absentia Conversations

When we first met online, Forgottenman, in Missouri, serenaded me, in Mexico, over Skype until I fell asleep every night. The illustration above is one from a night when I asked to see his hands strumming the guitar as I fell asleep. Sweet, huh? That ended after a year or so, but over the past seven years, we have had many midnight and post-midnight Skype conversations.  Want to eavesdrop?  Here are a few:

On Skype (After Midnight and 3 Margaritas)

She: maybe I need to take Frida (the Akita) to the snore doctor.
She: Perhaps she has sleep apnea. She sounds like a lion when she sleeps.
She: Have you ever heard her snore?
He: Yep.
She: Do you miss it?
He: Miss your zzzz’s
She: You miss my snores? Sweet.
She: I miss snoring for you.
He: That’s the first line of a poem.
She: I’ll write a poem starting with “I miss snoring for you,” if you will, too.
He.: I’ll try to remember to do so tomorrow.

You Say You Miss My Snores

I miss snoring for you,
stepping on your shoe
when we don’t dance,
miss that glance
from your alternate self
you keep on a shelf
when you aren’t with me.
How can it be
that both of us choose
to leave our clues
in cyberspace
not face-to-face?
Alone together
with no tether,
our way
for today
perhaps forever
internetedly clever.

He: it just blows me away how you can come up with something like that, so achingly beautiful, in less than five minutes!
She: Ah. You inspire it.
He: I muse you whilst i amuse you
She: Ha. That is exactly it!
She: What you just said couldn’t have been said more succinctly or more briefly. It is the tweet
of poetry
She: sweet tweet of poetry—sweet bird of absurd

(After this, the conversation digressed.  No more shall be said.)

Update: “He” has written his version, as agreed. I give a link to it below the short additional conversation below

At Midnight after 4 Margaritas:

She: What is the most dreaded disease of hockey players?
He.: i give
She: Chicken Pucks!!!
He: (facepalm emoticon)
She: What is the most dreaded disease of Narcissists?
He.: I give
She: Me-sles.
She: The most dread disease of martyrs? (Promise, last one.)
He: ?
She: You-rinary tract infections

Note: These Skype conversations are from four years ago.The second one actually occurred the same night as the 3 Margarita conversation, so no, I’m not drinking Margaritas every night.  Also, I mix very weak Margaritas, so they are not totally to blame for the silliness above.  Around one or two in the morning, my mind usually gets on a jag and the best way to deal with it is just to hang up on me, which happened soon after this string of unfortunate jokes.  Corny, but I still get a kick out of them.  Yes, they are all original.  I wouldn’t blame them on anyone but my own past-midnight mind.  Judy

.See Forgottenman’s answer to my “You Say You Miss My Snores”  here.


The posts above are copied from blogs posted four years ago. The prompt today was conversation.

Thanksgiving Reflections: Waiting to Be Fed

IMG_5805Waiting to be fed.

When I was a kid at summer camp, we used to sing a song in the mess hall as we sat waiting for our food to be served.  It went, “Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness. Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, waiting to be fed.”  It never failed to amuse us.  For seven years as a camper and two as a counselor, I joined in the refrain and sure enough, the food always eventually came through.

Now, at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, the strains of that line of music keep weaving their way through my thoughts.  By some strange series of misunderstood communications, I actually have two dates for a turkey meal—both at the same restaurant, but with different groups of friends and at different times––one at 3, the other at 6:30.  I could relate the weird facts of how this came to be, but suffice it to say it wasn’t my fault and that yes, I’ve cancelled one of them.  Sort of. At any rate, I’m saving myself for that meal and although I went grocery shopping this morning, mainly for the cats and dogs, I had unusual restraint in not buying any junk food, no matter how healthy it presented itself to be.  The naughtiest items I purchased were whole wheat bread, low fat thin rice cakes and apples. I splurged on Fancy Feast for Annie, who has been staging a hunger strike since I got home, and got 60 packets of kitten food which should last the other cats a few days and I will probably feed them the Fancy Feast as well, after Annie turns her nose up at it.  I, for one, am fasting until tonight’s meal, doing penance before the act.  Tomorrow I start my new diet.

IMG_2825Also waiting to be fed.

In case you missed it, HERE is my Thanksgiving post from a few days ago of images of Thanksgivings present and past.



Ode to His Rudeness, Monsieur the Raccoon (With Backstory)

Found Art Sculpture and Photo by jdb

The Backstory

                  The magnetically locked cat door was our attempt to block his nightly visits. Once he’d pried off all the magnets and entered anyway, we foiled him for awhile with an uninstalled door propped up like a fort against the opening at the top of the stairwell. The night he knocked down the seven-foot-high door and the sculpture which held it in place, toppling my jewelry display cabinets that stood next to it like dominoes, he frightened himself into a rapid retreat down the stairs, leaving the trail of feces he’d scared out of himself.
                     Having propped the door up with heavier reinforcements, we have been deprived of his company for weeks. Our cat food has gone unmolested. No muddy footprints mar the pedestals. No trails of cat food crisscross the kitchen floor. Imagine my surprise, then, when I awoke this morning and, believing myself to be walking into the kitchen, walked instead into chaos: Red chilies strewn across the counter like dead soldiers, one of them with its head bitten off. My Chinese porcelain teapot shattered in the sink. His muddy handprints all over the tiles and sink corners.
                  I move around the kitchen, finding further devastation: all of the baskets pulled down from their window hooks, my cookbooks spilled like shuffled cards. And, the final indignity: on top of my Cuisine of Colorado Cookbook, the pile of excrement––his revenge for the head of that red chili he ate?
                  In the living room, he has cleared the windowsills of the black Egyptian fish from the Louvre gift shop, of the Ethiopian wooden coffee jar, of the Lombok wooden and coconut shell implements, of the four yarn spool candlesticks. The steel-tipped African arrows and the wooden-tipped bamboo New Guinean arrows are spilled like pick-up-sticks on the floor, except for one rammed point first into the wood surrounding the hearth. This is raccoon terrorism of the worst sort: devastation, feces, and barely veiled threats.
                  In the den, the four-foot-high West African Spirit carving lies toppled over onto its face, feather epaulets now horizontal, horned forehead still blessedly intact. Now I remember finding the Kalimantan dragon lying on the bed in the guest bedroom when, coughing, I’d moved to the guest room half way through the night. I’d blamed the cats for knocking it off the window ledge, thankful for the bed beneath to cushion it. Now I know it was Monsieur bandit, moving out into new territory. Now I know that already he had been here and gone.
                  I move to the computer room, not expecting the devastation I find: the cover spilled off the printer, poetry spilled like leaves over the floor, a basket of family pictures distributed randomly in front of the file cabinet, the aluminum blinds tilted at crazy angles at the windows, the phone knocked off the hook. Then, finally, I hear the front door open––Bob home from his early Friday morning foray to the flea market. Together we examine the evidence, find more feces on the kitchen window frame, far up next to a perfect raccoon handprint on the glass. In the hall, we see the impossible: the door still in place with only a ten-inch opening at the top. The only possibility is that Monsieur raccoon has climbed the vertical batts of the redwood wall of the stairwell up to the door top and jumped over the door to wreak his revenge––to display his superiority over our greatest security measures. Then, when he sought to leave, there being no walls rough enough to climb on this side of the door, he tried each window in the house before climbing the large iron sculpture to the hanging lighting track, walking the track like a tightrope walker across the room to the huge Bobo butterfly mask which now hangs crookedly high up in the hall, then onto the top of the door and down the stairs again, through the cat door now flapping easily, devoid of magnets that formerly kept it closed to all but our own cats with their magnetic collars.
                  Again, Monsieur raccoon, you have bested us. Thus this ode to you––for all the clay flowerpots you’ve sent careening off our porch railings to shatter on the railroad ties below; for all the bushels of cat food you’ve managed to purloin from their storage place in the locked garbage can by wrestling it sideways and reaching one small black hand up to pull the plastic bag out by the hem, spilling cat food by the handful until you’d emptied the whole can; for all the leftover wet cat food you have licked from the cat dish and the kitchen floor; for all of the cat doors we’ve replaced, only to have you find a new way to circumvent them; for all of the handprints we’ve 409’d from our pedestals after one of your midnight art tours; for all of the leavings of yourself you have left for me to clean up, I construct this ode:

To his Rudeness, Monsieur the Raccoon,
Winner of Last Night’s Battle,
This Ode to Mark the Resumption of our Warfare.

Bob has brought the sheet of plywood to measure.
I have marked off the proper size and shape,
sawed it on the band saw.
Now, Bob brings the wire and the hand drill.
We are boarding up l’avenue de chat,
more recently l’avenue de Monsieur Coon.
No more will you dine in our bistro.
No longer will our cat door be your Arche De Triomphe
No longer will our studio gallery be your Louvre.
You, masked traveler, will need to find fresh boulevards to roam
at midnight when our household rests.
We have scrubbed your hand prints from the face of our house,
boarded over your only hopes of entry,
cut you off from your free meal ticket.
Had you have been a polite guest,
we might not have been driven to these extreme measures,
but Frenchmen will be Frenchmen and coons will be coons­­––
neither one of them with the manners to survive in polite company.

And so adieu, Monsieur Coon and bon voyage
into new avenues.
I leave you to the night owls
and the cougars
and the other dark prowlers
that we close our doors against each night.
May you dwell with each other more sociably
than you have lived with us.
May you find a tree hollow for the winter
and sleep peaceably throughout the rains.
May you have the best of coon lives without ever again
darkening our doorstep.
May you defecate in the woods and eat in the woods and sleep in the woods.
May a mantle of trees be your gallery, the bottom of a rotten log your table.
May your hand prints remain on your fingers,
may my flowerpots remain on my railings
and may never the twain meet.
Adieu, Monsieur the Coon. Adieu.

(Note: Less than a week after boarding and wiring up the door, we found the four boards and wire with which we had closed it removed and piled in a neat pile outside the door. The cat door swung freely, but there was no evidence that the raccoon had entered the house.)

for https://dversepoets.com/

Scrub Daddy Scores (Scours?) a Family

This is Marilyn, my sister’s across-the-street neighbor.  We went to college together but didn’t know each other then.  A while ago she started reading my blog and she says her heart was especially tugged by the Scrub Daddy Saga, which with this blog is stretching to 4 posts—I think the most I’ve devoted to any topic.  To read the opening episodes, you can go HERE, (Don’t forget to read the the best part––the comments of a representative of the Scrub Daddy corporation who somehow becomes aware of my posting and enters into the rhyme fest,) then HERE, then HERE.


Marilyn arrived one day with a package that included a number of the Scrub family whom I had never met before.  They came complete with the note below: “Here is what happens when Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy get together.  Va-Va-Voom!!  Scrub Mommy was there dressed all in pink as well as a new Lemon Fresh Scrub Daddy, a new rectangular Scrub Sonny and–the cutest of the lot–Scrub Baby, meant to clean computer screens.  I isolated one of the baby twins who now resides on my computer lid between scrubbings, but I do take him frequently to visit as I work in the kitchen.  He can’t go swimming like the rest of his family, so he remains computer-locked, but a good deal of visiting gets done telepathically as they enjoy seeing each other once again.  The old Scrub Daddy relays tales of his adventures during his three month overland journey through Mexico and teaches them necessary words such as cocina, limpiar, agua and seco.

IMG_1325Scrubfamily portrait by jdb.

Death by Wonton


I’m not quite sure whether people really consider reality shows to be real or not.  Hard for me to believe they would, although taking the present presidential elections into account, I have lowered my expectations of people a good deal.  In my house, however, there is no need for the diversion of viewing other people’s lives, be it Honey Boo Boo or the Kardashians.  There is plenty of unexpected activity from day-to-day to keep me as entertained as I care to be.

Take yesterday, for example. I was all ready for my masseuse to arrive for my massage when I realized I had the time wrong and he wouldn’t be there for three more hours. Too long to wait for  lunch as I was already hungry, so I put a bit of hot and sour soup on the stove that was left over from dinner with a friend the night before.  It was meant to have wontons added and I thought instead of boiling them in the broth as I usually did, I’d prepare them as my friend had advised–browning them in a bit of oil, then adding a small bit of water and putting the lid on to steam them.  The problem was that once they were browned, they were so nice and crispy that I didn’t want to limp them up again, so I put them on paper towels to drain the grease off and poured the soup into a bowl.  I’d float a few in the soup and put the remainder of the wontons on a dish to the side.

I tasted  one.  Yum!  As I moved the others to the plate, however, one rolled off the large slotted spoon and landed on the floor.  No problem, I thought, as the floor had just been washed. Perhaps I’d just dust it off and eat it anyway, but as I leaned down to pick it up, I saw a slight movement. It took a minute to register that lying as close as possible to the wonton  was a cockroach, now on it’s back with feet up in the air.  It was then that I realized that when the wonton had fallen, it had fallen directly on the cockroach, knocking it for a loop.  It was just now that it was starting to regain consciousness and its legs waved a bit in the air before I administered final rites by stepping on it.  I then picked up bug and wonton for simultaneous entombment in the garbage can.

It was then that the utter absurdity of death by wonton hit me.  Did it seem an appropriate death?  It was not usual for a roach to venture out into the light of day.  This one must have been led to its sad demise by an overwhelming love of wonton–its aroma as it bubbled in the hot grease just so irresistible that it overrode the roach’s usual schedule of secretive midnight meanderings.  It died considering doing something it loved to do––namely, to mount and have its way with any food it might find in its path, making it useless for human consumption.  What irony that in its final act of culinary terrorism, for once the food got the better of it.

Death by wonton.  Not a bad way to go.

Dare I Tell How I Excel?

                                                judy 3

                                                     Dare I Tell How I Excel?

No matter how much we might admire ourselves, there is something off-putting about revealing the fact. For some reason, by pointing out our own good points, it makes others less likely to admire them.  The one place where this fact of life is not true is in the resume,  where we can revel fully in revealing to the world how absolutely wonderful we are.

Some of us exercise our right to brag by the family wall.  Here we can display our successes as well as the successes of the families we have raised and  dynasties we have sired via photographs that show us at our most beautiful and successful periods of our lives.  Pictures with presidents or other celebrities,  awards and impressive vacations may all rub shoulders on this family wall.  By placing them in a prominent place–in entryways, offices, studies or staircases––we insure that they call attention to themselves without having to actually do so orally.  Thus we retain our humble natures while more subtly revealing to the world what superior human beings we really are.

The Christmas letter is another invention wherein we seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to toot our own horn.  The result is probably a lot of mail that, once quickly scanned if read at all, is quickly relegated to lighting the Yule Log. How much good news goes up in conflagration during the holiday season has never been calculated, but I can imagine that a good many gain a bit of satisfaction by sending these notices of how well their friends’ lives are going up in smoke.

So, when given the opportunity by WordPress to extol my own virtues, I must demur.  Luckily, in this cyber age, we need not call attention to our own virtues, for Google is always there to do it for us.  If we are lucky enough to sport an uncommon name, both the laudatory and shameful facts of our lives are there for all to see for the price of a few moment’s time and a little patience in sorting through the hundreds of thousands of bits of information available when our names are typed into the subject bar.

It is true that most of these bits of information probably do not apply to us at all, but the search for the ones that do can be as satisfying as a scavenger hunt, and the prize is, that in addition to all the good bits, we get to dig out the little bits of scandal or failures as well.  And who doesn’t like a little bad news sprinkled in with the good?  It gives a certain flavor to a life, as well as comfort that perhaps our own life–as boring, humdrum and plain as it may seem in comparison––isn’t quite so bad after all.

The Prompt: Toot Your Horn–Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favorite thing about yourself.