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Archive for March, 2009

The Ham Loaf Chronicles

My Uncle Gene, my father’s youngest brother and the last of the siblings, recently passed away at the age of 87. He went gently into that good night at a hospice with his family near him . My cousin, Susan, his youngest daughter, contacted several cousins who passed on the information to other cousins so we were all notified, thanks to the fast contact available through the internet. And thus started the great Ham Loaf saga.

Cousin Linda, Uncle Gene’s middle daughter, has a web site about food and recipes, her passion. In several email exchanges she shared Grandma Hubble’s recipe for Ham Loaf with the rest of us. Although a few of us had the recipe, it  started a dialogue about the famous family recipe.

Grandma Hubble, a very good cook, baked a delicious ham loaf — her signature dish. It’s a Midwestern thing — ground ham and ground pork mixed with egg, cracker meal and milk, baked in a loaf like a meat loaf. It’s delicious hot or cold. Sometimes I crave it. We always have it at the Hubble Reunion. It’s a tradition, sacred and immutable.

That lead to an exchange of other family recipes from another cousin, Jane. She shared anecdotal stories about the food too. It was grand fun to recall the people and food we all knew and loved. Our mutual grandparents could have taught classes on how to be grandparents. We were lucky and we know it.

With all of this, my craving was in high gear.  So I made ham loaf yesterday, improving on the way I’ve previously made it, thanks to the discussion, and it was better, however, not as wonderful as Grandma’s.  The good news is that Bruce, who never tasted the original recipe, thinks it’s pretty tasty.

So — thanks to Uncle Gene, we cousins haver re-connected and we’re even planning a Cousin Reunion next year of the 15 grandchildren of Grace and Ora, for the day before the official family reunion. Potluck and Pictures! And lots of stories!   Heaven knows we all like to talk, it’s in our DNA. Of course, we know what will be the main dish. Grandma would be proud.

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Time Travel

Bruce takes wonderful pictures. He takes a lot of them and also knows how to crop and zoom and all that stuff on the computer to make them even better, His screen saver on his HP computer runs the pictures all the time. So when the door to the computer armoire is open, I get a free slide show. It is amazing to me that as I walk through the room I can see granddaughter Emily at the age of 3, then a shot of us in England standing on the meridian, Greenwich time, then a shot of France and the Eiffel Tower and suddenly we’re looking at Pope Benedict. It’s like teletransporting. Zip, zoom, there we go, from one place to another, in a flash.

If only real travel were that quick and painless. I love the whole travel experience, except the long plane trips. In a car we can stop whenever the spirit moves us. Can’t do that on a plane! I try to find a book I can bury my nose in, hoping and praying I get so caught up in the story that I lose track of time. Seldom does that happen. And — I’m never like the guy next to me on one flight who sat down in his seat and never got up for the next 8 hours. Heavens — how did he do it? I was both envious and troubled. Was he going to get blood clots? Was he dead? He also never spoke. At least he was a quiet traveler . . . .

We’ve decided that with big Bruce’s long legs we’re going to have to request bulkhead seats from now on. He can barely wedge himself in a regular seat. I, on the other hand, am about 2 inches too short for the seats. So neither one of us is especially comfortable. We just grit our teeth and endure it.

Recently good friends traveled to Australia and New Zealand. It’s a long 24 hour trip from here. The husband became ill and was hospitalized for 6 weeks in NZ so that when they returned they had to come first class. Oh, hurt me. I drooled over the descriptions of the first class amenities, since I normally only get to walk through the coveted high class airplane district. They had beds to sleep in!! Yes, they were like a fancy recliner type chair but they could actually stretch out! They even got pajamas to wear! Wow.

On our Italy trip there were extra seats left over since the flight wasn’t full. People spread out so they could lie down, however, the armrests no longer fold up into the back of the seats. What’s up with that? Probably safety regulations or something. Still, people draped themselves over and around those dratted armrests in an effort to find something resembling a comfortable position. It was better than nothing.

We also discovered that one advantage to traveling off season was only one crying baby on board. Not the usual five or six. Now that’s worth money. However, I’d still like to stretch out and then I could stuff my ears with ear plugs, put on the headphones, turn up the volume and let the babies cry. Comfort and peace.

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Thank You too.

I have long been a fan of Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door series. He is like EveryBrother, a tall amiable American, who loves the world and everyone in it. Steves advocates traveling the world on a budget, becoming “temporary locals” and seeing the out-of-the-way places. His philosophy makes a lot of sense and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t take a platinum credit card. It takes a smile and common sense. Therefore, he says when traveling abroad to learn the “polite words.” Please and thank you and good day. The words your mother made you learn very early on. He’s absolutely right. I’ve traveled to France by myself and I don’t speak French. But, I got around, ate, slept and saw things and had a good time. I always initiated any conversation with “Bon Jour!” and a smile. Right off the bat, people are predisposed to help you — since you’re polite. It works.

Recently when we were in Italy, I always started with “Buon Giorno!” and a smile. However, for some reason this trip I had a terrible time getting my responses in sync. Someone would say “Grazie” and I’d answer “De nada.”or “You’re welcome”. I heard myself thank someone with a “Merci” — oops, wrong country. Over and over, I just couldn’t get it right. Once I thought — this time I’m going to get it correct. When someone said “Grazie” I was going to respond “Prego”. The moment came and I almost said “spaghetti sauce”. Yikes! that threw me off so much, I was scared to open my mouth for an entire day!

Recently, I started helping a friend, a retired Spanish teacher, help a new (legal) family of Mexican immigrants learn English. My Spanish is so rusty, flakes of reddish brown oxidation come out of my mouth. It’s been 30 years since I’ve used/studied it . A few polite worlds come automatically. A few more basic words come when I get home and check my English/Spanish dictionary. It’s getting better. However, the other day, as I was leaving, one member of the family called out in English, “Thank you very much!” It was wonderful. I was so delighted to be thanked in my own language I drove home with a huge smile on my face. Now I know why Rick Steves insists we respond appropriately. A wise man.

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Where is it?

Many people traveI to foreign countries and get upset when things are different. Well — duh — yeah. . . . Aren’t they supposed to be? Otherwise, you’d stay home and save money and look at the usual scenery.

I wish I’d kept track of the number and different shapes and different locations of the flushing mechanisms in the toilets we visited. Until the automatic ones appeared, ours were pretty much the same. A handle on the upper left side of the commode. In Italy they were located in a myriad of places. Once in a rest area, I’d about given up, when I spied a button almost up by the ceiling. I pressed it and voila! it flushed! I was so proud,  I told the next lady from our group who was in line. There were levers or buttons or chains or flat sections, located on the commode or on the wall or the floor, or  even near the ceiling. I got so curious, I was almost frustrated when there was an automatic one. I had gotten used to the quest. Where is it today? I was ready for the day’s hide-and-seek-the-handle, Italian style.

Years ago, long before I started traveling, my Aunt Isabelle and Uncle Gene had just come back from a trip to Europe. Aunt Izzy was a home economics teacher. Because she needed continuing ed credit to renew her teaching certificate, she was doing an independent project. She kept track of all the different types of toilet paper she encountered on her travels that summer. She had nice tidy examples of the different ones and where she found them. One was purple. Another was like crepe paper. I found that fascinating and often think of Izzy when I wind my way through the toilet tangle. However, today the European paper is pretty standard. So I could do my report on handle location and identification, couldn’t I?

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