Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Remember Yom Hashoah

Last week was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Because it follows the Hebrew calendar it falls on different days. Next year it will be April 11. I'm posting this because I have a number of Jewish friends and like them, I don't want anyone to forget the horrors.

To augment the family income, my mom was a dressmaker in her spare time and she made an acquaintance with the owners of the local fabric store, Joe and Pauline Meyerhoff. I understood their thick accents meant they weren't from the United States but I'd never asked where they were from.

A trip to this yard goods store, for a nine-year-old, was fun so I never minded tagging along. The deep shelves lining the walls were stacked with long rolls of fabric with the smaller bolts sitting on tables. They were neatly arranged by the type of fabric and then into similar hues. I was fascinated by the color and can even remember the smells which, as an adult I know now, were from the dyes.

In the front of the store, near the windows, was a wide low table was used to measure and cut the fabric. Pauline would roll out the fabric, lay it flat then slice it off with the sharp long handled shears. If it were near the end Pauline would measure the remaining fabric and always say, "Only a few inches I'll give you a good price." I think she always did, I never heard my mom say anything bad about Pauline. After she was done Joe would quickly re-roll the bolts and place them back on the shelves. I think Joe was the neat one. They worked well together.

In the back of the store were racks of buttons, zippers and thread and I never tired runny my fingers over myriad of colors. I was convinced, if you tried hard enough, you could tell colors by touch and would experiment every time I was there. My successes only reinforced my theory; my failures meant I need more practice.

Pauline was a sweet woman though always seemed a bit sad to me while Joe was outgoing and gregarious. He would talk to me, not as a child but, as an adult and it made me feel special. Of course the of candy he had for me didn't hurt. My mom would buy her fabric but chat as well and what they talked about I have no idea. The Meyerhoffs learned momma was a dressmaker and would give out her phone number to customers needing her service. She got a lot of jobs from their store.

One afternoon while watching Pauline cut fabric, I noticed something on her forearm and, as children would do, was caught staring. At first she pulled her cardigan sleeve down to cover it and my mom admonished me for staring but she then called me closer. "Did you notice my tattoo, she asked?" I said yes and she then, after asking my mother's permission, proceeded to quietly tell me why she had the tattoo.

When Joe and I were younger we lived in Germany. We knew each others families and when we were old enough, we got married. From across the table Joe added, "She stole my heart when I was your age." Pauline waved him off and with her usual quite voice went on. There were some wicked people who hated all the Jews and put us in prison just for what we believed. Young and old, brothers and sister and husbands and wives; we all went to the prison camps. They made us work hard and every day some of our friends or neighbors or family died. They fed us horrible food and many starved.

By this time Joe had come to stand next to Pauline and wrapping his arms around his wife he added he would eat no matter how bad the food because he knew they would survive somehow and get out. Pauline smiled softly and said this was true and Joe would often force her to eat something. She turned to him, gently touched his hand, and said he did save my life.

We were some of the lucky ones and when released we learned Joe and I were the only ones left from both our families so with nothing to keep us in Germany, we left and came to the United States to start over. Now we have lovely American friends who have made us feel very welcome even if we are Jews. The wicked people put a number on our arms that would never come off. Now it just reminds all of us never to forget.

Even at such a young age I understood the pain these two people went through and regretfully, had a million questions I did not ask. I did ask my parents about what Pauline had told me and they said it was all true. I think that is when I realized there were evil people in the world.

There are very few survivors from the prison camps these days and I would love to find out what happen to these two dear people. There was a famous survivor names Joe Meyerhoff but he was a professor on the East coast. I might not even have the correct spelling of their last name but I do remember they kindness and could never understand why someone would want to kill them.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kitchen stories: Little Crow

My father, one of three boys and two girls, had a bit of a different name and I never did find out where the name came from. His full name was Dorus Eugene Eley but everyone called him Dory. That's all I remember him being called but when we left Indiana to come to California in 1957 he changed his name to Gene. I guess he never liked the name.

This photo is of Daddy at about three-years-old and I love that you can see the shadow of the photographer to the left. My Grandfather Howard did take photos and developed and printed them himself so I would assume that was him taking this photo. This is unmistakable as Gene.

His older brother was named Gayle, yet another odd name for a boy but get this, his sisters were Harriet and Bernadette. The last boy, Roger. Whew, the cycle of odd names was broken. I never asked my grandmother, Lavon just what she was thinking when she named the kids but then her name was odd, Lavon Sumaria.

My uncle Gayle had a nickname and I only remember hearing it a few times as a kid. He really took after his father Howard and had a lot of his traits, a quick temper being one of them. His first wife Margaret was a good match for him because her temper was as bad as his.

Margaret was dear to me, she would babysit me from time to time and showered me with attention. She had three boys and would have loved a daughter. I was only about five when I remembered a particularly bad argument of theirs. They'd scream at each other like crazy and this time Gayle must have really made Aunt Margaret mad because as he was leaving she threw a kitchen chair at him, it hit the wall and one leg stuck. When he came back they patched things up but that did leave quite an impression of me not to mention a hole in the wall.

At times my dad, especially when he wanted to make his older brother mad, called him Crow. The nickname would make him furious so it wasn't used often. I never knew what it meant until years later, when my Uncle Roger moved to California. Roger was a great story teller and I have most of the family history from him. He was relating the story of Doggie Votaw to me and then asked if I'd remembered they called his brother Crow. He then related the following.

When Gayle was just a little kid he'd drop his pants and pee just anywhere. His mom would scold him but this didn't make him stop. One day he decided it would be fun to pee through a knothole in the fence. He dropped his pants and poked his little penis through the hole. There was a big old crow on the other side and it decided that was one great worm and grabbed a hold. Gayle ran home without his pants screaming bloody murder the whole way and from then on they called him Crow. You can see why, as an adult, he hated that name.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My mother is Frog Clan

Frogs are good signs.
The Frog is a doctor and healer, seer,
and fortune-teller.
The Frog is a messenger of rain …

We need the Frog now.

Today is Earth Day so all you losers not recycling or saving water get with the damn program, will ya?

Last Friday darling companion and myself went to the local Farmer's Market and the city had a handful of booths set up to remind folks what to do. At every booth we both said, "We do that."

So what's left for us? We've cut our water and electric consumption way back. We ride public transportation and my darling rides his bike around town. We don't use plastic bags unless we recycle them so will you fat bastards get off the couch and recycle, now!

One last rant; to the designers and makers of washing machines: Now you come out with energy efficient machines. Where were you ten years ago?

To those of you that are already friendly to Mother Earth, thank you. Thank you very much and keep up the good work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The little guy

His first pix on the blog he was only a few hours old and crying. Here he is much happier and all of 17 days old. I got to hold him this morning and see his mommy and daddy. All is well. He's a very cuddly little guy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kitchen stories: Best of Show

If I were to judge my father's mother Lavon on her cooking I'd give her the blue ribbon on her pies. Of my two grandmothers her pies were winners. She was the slowest cook I'd ever seen but the results were fantastic.

Her pies were nothing fancy, always a fruit pie, but crust that was perfect every time. I'd watched her many times as a child but had the pleasure of watching her make pies when she'd visit California for the winter. She'd stopped using lard but Crisco still gave her a very tender crust, though she said she missed that flavor. She could roll a ball of dough into a perfect circle every time and if you've ever tried you'll appreciate this talent. Each pie maker has their own way to finish off the edge of the pie. My mom and Lavon used the tines of a fork to decorate the edge. I pinch the edge into a scallop but ever so often I'll use their method just to remember their method. Though my mom's mother Emily was a good cook she was more of a cake or cookie baker. My mom Lorna learned a lot from her mother-in-law Lavon when it came to pies.

Much of Lavon's life was spent watching the pennies and when she cooked she made use of everything. I still can't throw out and extra pie dough. You either made a small pie or baked the extra on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. That was always the treat I loved best but sometimes she'd have enough and make a "Vaseline Pie." What it was really was a Sugar Pie. This is sugar, milk and an egg baked into a custard; it only looks like Vaseline but tastes great. I remember eating the last piece of sugar pie once and caught hell from my uncle Roger. My pie making skills are some of my best but I've tried to make a sugar pie but it never comes out like she did. I think it was just her "touch" that made it so good.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now blooming at the Getty Center Central Garden

This wonderful leafy plant is now blooming and can be found at the beginning of the Central Garden at the Getty Center.

The Honey Bush, or melianthus major, is over five foot tall with a beautiful spiky burgundy flower. It comes from South Africa and although toxic when taken internally, it is used medicinally by their local people. They mostly use the leaves to make poultices that are applied directly to wounds, bruises, backache and rheumatic joints. I'm allergic to things that aren't toxin, so I'll pass, thank you.

Since the Central Garden is seasonal we have plants that come and go and sometimes it's a bit of work to keep up on the names. We have a wonderful contact who knows all things growing and he's a life saver when it comes to names of plants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kitchen stories: Those poor Colvin children

Around 1928 my mother's family lived in Greenville, Michigan and her father Thomas worked for Gibson Refrigerator Company. He had a management position and they had more money than when they lived in Indiana. They weren't rich but they did live comfortably. Comfortable enough to send the two older girls to a Saturday matinee once in a while.

Greenville was a very small town and like all towns they had their share of financial hard times. A citizens committee thought it a good idea to identify children of the families in need and treat them to an afternoon at the local movie theater. The newspaper also took pictures of this philanthropic event and when my mom and her sister showed up in front row of that picture printed in the Sunday paper, there was hell to pay. Needless to say, that was the last Saturday free matinee they attended.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Celebrating Spring

In 2006 we took an Easter Hike. Would like to do the same but I've volunteered for extra duty at the Getty Center that won't be possible. Maybe next week my beloved and I can get outdoors; we both need it.

Holidays are always the hardest to staff and since we don't celebrate Easter I'm celebrating Spring at the Getty. What better place. The garden is looking like Spring has sprung though the grass is a little ratty. It's been seeded and it takes a few weeks before it is lush and wonderful again. I always feel a bit sorry for the visitor who comes when it looks so bad but we have to do it sometime and I guess the timing has something to do with the weather. I always finds something that is spectacular and highlight that for visitors to reassure them they've come at the perfect day.

The weather is a guess these days and it's the same all over the country. I heard they had wildfires in Oklahoma and tornadoes in most of the south. I shouldn't complain about windy weather. Wear a coat or not? I know it's Spring when I have turtlenecks and shorts in the same load of laundry.

My Springtime wish would be for everyone to take a break from the news and do something that makes them happy. The news sure won't. What ever happens, put it in your rear view mirror and keep on driving.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kitchen stories: Nicknames

My Great Grandpa Votaw, on my Dad's side, was a character. They called him "Doggie". His true name was Charles D. Votaw, born in 1878. Grandpa's wife died in 1941 and he and his "housekeeper" lived in a little house in Berne, Indiana for as long as I can remember. He called this woman his housekeeper but when I was older my mom told me it was his live-in girlfriend. She was with him until the day he died in 1968. I saw him just three years before that and he had not changed a bit from when I was a kid.

His house didn't have indoor plumbing because he'd say, "No one's gonna crap in my house." Us kids though it was funny though my Grandmother Lavon, his daughter, didn't like that sort of talk at all. He also had a little red pump in the kitchen sink. I guess he washed up there but he never seemed to clean to me.

There was always a garden and when we'd visit we'd sit outside this tiny house under the shade of a huge tree. I can't remember if he chewed or smoked but he always smelled of tobacco. Grandpa would always have a story to tell and how he got his nickname was pretty funny.

Before motorized trucks hauled goods around the country the teamsters did and when Charles was young he was pretty good with a team of horses so he became a teamster for the local railroad station. He was a tall skinny kid but strong as an ox and would sometimes stand in the wagon, a whip in one hand, and the reins in the other. He never wore much of a heavy coat, no, they worked to hard to get cold but he did fancy a cap with ear flaps. You could tie up the flaps when it was warmer but he said, "It was a damn waste of time 'cuz they'd always fall down, so most of the time they'd be flappin' in the wind."

One spring day he was late with a delivery and was "urging" the team on down the road at a good clip, standing up on the wagon with his ear flaps blowing in the wind. When he got to the station he was met by his boss and a few other teamsters. "Votaw, his boss bellowed, you look like a damn fool dog in that cap." The other men laughed, so did Grandpa, and the name stuck. From then he was called Doggie Votaw.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

We have nothing to fear but ourselves

Not too long ago I wrote a piece on me being lazy. For what it's worth, I actually did something yesterday. And when I say "something" I mean painting. I "do" something every day. Cook, laundry, clean, well not everyday but I keep busy.

It was my Yoga instructor I have to thank for getting me back on a somewhat creative journey. She said, during our Savasana on Saturday morning, don't let fear run your life. So I'm laying there and wondering what am I afraid of? Is fear keeping me from being creative?

Then this bolt of lightening came through the gym and singled out me; I am afraid.

When I started in pastels, almost two years ago, I thought I'd sell some of my work. I know they aren't masterpieces but decent enough for someone to shell out a few bucks for and hang on their wall. This journey took me on the road to market my work. I made prints of my work for the folks who would love to own my work but didn't want to buy the original, matted same and framed them; quite nicely I have to admit. I bought a booth at a few Holiday craft shows and thought I'd priced my work reasonably. There we small miniatures of my work in the form of greeting cards, too.

When I couldn't get anyone to purchase anything more than a few of the greeting cards I'd created I packed up everything and put it all back in my studio. Shut the door always thinking I'd get back to it as soon as I'd washed the taste of defeat from my mouth.

Comes February 2008. I brake my wrist (read posts with label "wrist") and I am down for the count. My wrist still hurts to do somethings but painting is not one of them. Good excuse not to paint, right? My beloved never pushes, never asks why; I stopped in November of 2007. I did wonder but didn't try to find out the reason. Self doubt wraps its self around you like a wet blanket.

Yesterday I saw my husbands old boots in the corner of the stairs to the garage and knew I had to paint them. I don't care if it ever gets framed or sees the light of day-- I did it for myself and I feel pretty good about it. I'm not afraid if anyone doesn't like it nor wants to buy it. I'm only sharing this photo because I want someone to know I've found my way back to my studio.

Oh, and the Vodka bottle in the studio? Naw, not what you think. I just don't have room anywhere else for the booze.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Kitchen stories: Lavon Sumaria

Everyone has two parents and I'm no different, there. Relating to my beloved about the interesting information I'd found investigating my mother's maternal side, the Truesdells he asked what about my dad's family. We were as close to them living only about twenty miles away but I don't remember as much.

My Grandfather Howard Brian Eley, born 1896, I remembered as a gruff old cranky man. Stiff as a board and when my mom and dad divorced in the early 60s, disowned my mom, sister and me. I never did understand and it was hurtful to have your Christmas card returned with a note not to contact them anymore. He relented slightly and did have a relationship with his son but I never had much to do with him and when he died in 1976, I did not attend his funeral.

There are much better memories of my grandmother, Lavon Samaria Votaw. She was quiet and kind and a pretty good cook. Born in 1902, she always referred to as "ought two", and married at 18. She was a proper church attendee and I was surprised to learn, just last week, she was pregnant when they married.

Lavon had little formal education but in her later years could speak on any popular subject. She read the paper cover to cover and loved sports though had trouble remembering the name of a LA Lakers basketball player from the late 90s, Vlade Divac. She called him the "bearded foreigner" and that name stuck with all of us.

Lavon never cursed and I rarely remember her raising her voice. She was patient with the grand kids and secretary of the Eastern Star for more than fifty years. Not one to give up on anything. She had five children the youngest coming quite late in life. My uncle Roger, as an adult, related how difficult it was to have a father too old to play catch with him as a kid. He grew up like an only child and I think, very lonely.

Three boys and two girls lived in a very small little house that Lavon occupied until about a year before her death. She was still spry of mind but her poor body had given out and rather than fall down the basement steps, again, her remaining sons moved her to a retirement home. Not an easy decision for anyone, when my Dad visited her in the home he said it was the saddest moment he ever had.

In the early 80s she would travel from Decatur, Indiana to my dad, Gene and his wife Mary's in Palm Desert and spend the winter. I believe this was the joy of her life. It was happy for me because I got to see her as an adult and she even came to stay with me for a week. So happy to have my young daughter enjoy some of the same things as I did.

Lavon confided to me her pain in losing her two daughters. Harriet died suddenly in her 40s and Bernadette, dying in a car crash on vacation, was in her 60s. Grandma said it was difficult losing Howard, her husband, but to outlive your children was heartbreaking. She would outlive one more, her first born son, Gayle. He died when she was in her 90s. She was a kind woman but strong in spirit and I might get a little of her stubbornness from her.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Welcome: baby

Here's our second baby, the one with the blue booties.

He was born today and checked in at a whopping 8lbs 2 oz. 20 1/2 inches long. Momma and Daddy are doing fine.

Welcome little guy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An attention whore

Cooking has been the thread through both sides of our family and I seem to have passed that love on to my daughter which make me quite happy. I do it for the praise; I'm an attention whore and love the adulation. The challenge is important, too but praise is what I live on so I cook, and feed, and cook some more. This sometimes, for me, can be a problem.

The Teardrop Gathering at Lake Perris was great this year and since I'd won a outdoor dutch oven in the raffle last year I participated in Friday's DO potluck. Got lots of great ideas for managing my outdoor cooking and we ate some pretty good food, too. Some pretty ordinary food as well which is the reason for the post.

Outdoor Dutch Oven cooking is not for the faint of heart nor feeble of muscle. Visit our food blog, Peanut Butter Etouffee and see. You are cooking with hot coals, no way other than guess work to regulate, and sometimes, an unfriendly environment. I've seen the enemy, and it is WIND. Did I mention the weight? My 12 inch weighs all of 25 pounds. So why would you just use it to heat up something canned when you've got a camp stove?

The DO is a cast iron beautiful bit of engineering. Heavy pot on three, perfectly balanced legs leaving room underneath for the coals. The lid, heavy with a lip that allows coals on top without getting them into your food. This lid fits tightly on the pot but can be turned easy so there are no "hot" spots while cooking. My darling made me a lid lifter and pretty much anything I ask for. Nice to know someone who welds. Ok, so why not use it to its limit? I love cooking tools but only use the correct tool for the job. Jeeze, I'm a snob.

Once I made a large pot of chili verde while camping and with it was serving beans. Since you can stack one pot upon the other and take advantage of the heat from the bottom, I had beans in the smaller pot on top of the chili verde. I was only really heating the beans so the camp stove would have worked better. The DO is no easy critter to handle and clean up. Empty, it requires hot coals to boil water while you scrub out the pot, rinse and repeat until clean. Never, ever put soap in a DO it ruins the seasoning. The last thing I want to do is heat something in it.

Oh, but if you want a real treat, like biscuits, lovely fluffy biscuits when you are camping by all means get yourself started. I warn you, it's addicting.