Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sweet and Tangy Curry Lettuce Salad

Do you find yourself bored with Just Plain Garden Variety Lettuce Salad?  You know, the lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes kind.  Try my latest invention for a little taste of the exotic.

I offered to bring a salad to a gathering a few weeks ago.  Although my taste buds really like the fluffy sweet concoctions every "good Minnesota woman" knows is called salad, I try to avoid that sort.  Truthfully, most of these are more a dessert than a salad.  No matter what my mouth thinks, my brain knows that when I eat, I need only a certain number of carbs, and that what I really need more of is veggies and fiber. 

But especially when bringing food for a gathering, I want it to be interesting rather than boring.  I really love the salad that's is popular these days with Romaine and strawberries.  But I don't generally have fresh strawberries on hand and am not usually inclined to make a special trip those 25 miles into town and back for strawberries.

So I came up with a lettuce salad combination that turned out very tasty.  And better yet, I usually have all the ingredients for it on hand.  Simple, plain ingredients that taste fancy when combined.  That's the kind of salad I like.

I've make this twice.  And neither time did I make it as I intended.  But both ways turned out nice.  The first time I used a vinegar and oil base for the curry dressing, because strangely enough when I went to my fridge for one of my staple items, the plain yogurt, there was none to be found.  My plan had been to make a slightly sweetened dressing with plain yogurt and curry powder.  But when I searched the fridge for the plain yogurt that I almost always have on hand, there was none to be found.

The second time I made this salad, I was sure I had a full quart of yogurt in the fridge.  I knew I had it,  because I had just seen it that morning and I had noticed the foil seal on the top was unbroken.  But in one of those strange twists of fate, I discovered that I must have grabbed the vanilla yogurt from the grocery store cooler rather than plain.

Good thing I'm not easily deterred.  I simply used the vanilla yogurt instead of plain.  I was planning to sweeten it anyway, and vanilla seemed like it would go well with the curry.  And it did.

So, here's the recipe for the salad.  I'll include all three dressing ideas at the end, but they really are just guesses, since I rarely measure anything.

Oh, and for the greens, use whatever you want.  I like a variety for visual appeal and a richer nutrient content.  I usually use a mix of green and red leaf lettuces, with a little Romain or Iceberg thrown in for crispness.  Spinach is always a nice addition, but I don't usually have it (unless Marlene has sent me home with a big bag).  I suppose you could also use beet greens, mustard greens, or even young Dandelions or Pigweed if you are adventurous.

I like to use a tangy apple such as Granny Smith, but Yellow Delicious is a more traditional choice to combine with curry.   If you don't peel your apples, use three different apples with a variety of peel colors, to add visual interest.

My recipe makes a big mixing bowl full, about maybe a gallon or a little bit more. 

Sweet and Tangy Curry Lettuce Salad

Tear up a bowl full of greens of your choice.
Dice 3 apples.  Peel if you wish.
One medium onion, quartered and sliced thinly.
Two stalks of celery, sliced thinly.
A generous cup of date pieces.  (If you buy precut dates, they will probably be coated with something, usually a sugar coating. You may end up too sweet if you use the pre-sweetened vanilla yogurt dressing.  Just experiment to see what works well.)

Combine the above and toss together.

Add one of the following curry dressings, then toss again gently to work the dressing through.

Creamy Yogurt Curry Dressing
Mix a cup or so of plain yogurt, a tablespoon or so sugar, and curry to taste, maybe, oh, 1/2 tablespoon.  Sample a bit and add additional sugar or spice according to your preference.

Lazy Vanilla Yogurt Dressing
Mix a cup or so of vanilla yogurt with curry to taste. 

Vinegar and Oil Curry Dressing
Mix 3 parts olive oil with 2 parts apple cider vinegar.  Add curry and sugar to taste.

Ok, so yes, this is all very scientific.  Sorry.  That's how things go these days. 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Heat has Broken; It's a Great Day for a Pool Party

It is a glorious day today in Northern Minnesota.  As has most of the Midwest, we have been experiencing an especially hot and dry summer.  We've had to water the garden often.  The lawns are mostly dried up.  We've had many more humid and sticky days than usual for this part of Minnesota. 

But today is the perfect summer day.  Sunny, blue sky with wisps of clouds along the edges.  A light breeze playing in the trees.  Very little humidity.  The thermometer reads 78 F.  Just about perfect. 

We have a pool party to attend today.  I'm a bit excited and a bit nervous at the same time.  Yes, I know.  This sounds strange.  Like somehow, somewhere along the way, I couldn't quite get my big girl pants adjusted just right in social situations.  I am shy.  But yes, I know.  I'm also loud and obnoxious.  I often feel socially awkward.  And yet, when I'm in my groove, I am totally at ease and love to socialize. 

I've often said that one of the nicest things for me, personally, about having our kids in the local public schools has been getting to know the other parents and families.  We lived in this rural area for about five years before I met my first non-church friends.  Imagine that! 

I am a pastor's wife.  My husband serves four churches.  He knows EVERYONE!  But because I homeschooled the kids, and often stayed away from things like wedding receptions and funerals because of all the little bodies under my care, I didn't know anyone except the members of Joe's churches. 

I've very much enjoyed getting to know the teachers at the schools and the other parents.  We truly are blessed with the excellent community in which God has placed us.  Our community is filled with wonderful parents and families; many who still hold to more traditional values and priorities. 

However, even after ten years here, I still sometimes feel like a stranger.  A foreigner.  An alien.

I'm not from a small town area.  I grew up in a small city, in a large suburban area about an hour south of Seattle.  My town was adjacent to the large Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan region.  I also went to parochial school, so my schoolmates were not my neighbors.  I went to a Lutheran prep school in Wisconsin for my high school  years.  Halfway across the country from my home!  I lived in a dorm during highschool with all my schoolmates, who were also from places as varied as Wisconsin and Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, California, and Alaska. 

So this whole "small town, everyone knows everyone (and everyone's business), and we all care deeply about each other even though we might drive each other nuts" thing,..it is all strange to me.  I'm acclimating after having lived here for over ten years.  But I still feel like I have to tread carefully, because I might say or do something very wrong.

Now combine that little insecurity with my own social awkwardness and the fact that I tend to be loud and obnoxious when I feel comfortable, and well, it sometimes feels like a cauldron waiting to bubble over.  And, oh yes, don't forget that I'm a pastor's wife.  So I am always conscious of how my words and actions might bring shame or embarrassment to my husband's ministry, or to our churches or families.  The whole mix is sometimes a bit overwhelming to me. 

And so with this pool party.  I don't know if I'll know anyone there.  Joe has just confessed he does not think he has time to come.  My Sophie is dying to go, since one of the hosts' daughters is Sophie's great buddy.  John is looking forward to it, because he knows several of his friends will be there.  The littler ones just like an outing.

And so we will go.  I am sure I will enjoy myself.  I am sure I will find wonderful people to visit with, becasue I always do.  I will be glad afterwards that I pushed myself a little bit to be outgoing. 

I really do love living here.  I love the people here.  I really am glad to have gotten to know so many new friends through my kids' school friends.  Really, I love it.

It's a beautiful day for a party!  Tremendous!  Exciting!

But still, I can't help but feel a little bit of nervousness.  Will I find someone I know to visit with, or will I sit on the sidelines and look pathetic?  Will my kids behave, or will they embarrass me?  Will I be able to handle all of them without losing my patience, or will I look like an overwrought mom with "too many kids" who should have "figured out what causes that" much sooner?

All these things I worry about.  Not in a big way.  Mostly I'm excited to go.

But still...oh, stop it now, silly girl!  Just go and have a good time!

OK.  Yes.  I think I will do just that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ciatti's in St. Cloud, MN : Fine Italian dining with the added bonus of Gluten Free options.

I just "liked" Ciatti's Ristorante in St. Cloud on facebook.  We ate there yesterday, to celebrate our daughter Louisa, and her up and coming trip to Italy. 

It was a great dining experience.  The highlight was the large selection of Gluten Free menu items, including several pasta dishes.

The ambiance was pleasant.  The staff was knowledgeable and attentive.  The menu offerings were varied and interesting.  All of the choices sounded wonderful.  The three entrees we had were very tasty.  The price was moderate to even low, considering it was a somewhat fancy restaurant.  Considering the larger urban area than we generally frequent, I expected higher prices. 

Joe had an iced tea while Louisa and I stuck to glasses of iced water.

The meal began with salad served family style, and a selection of fresh breads on the side.  The salad was fresh and good with a nice variety of vegetables mixed in.  The waiter was careful with her method of serving to keep the salad free of bread crumbs and croutons. 

Joe ordered something that appeared to be a chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto and covered with a caper sauce.  I think it might have been the Chicken Saltimboca.  On the side he had steamed vegetables.  Joe commented that the beans tasted garden fresh.  They tasted fresh enough that he even surmised they might have been locally grown. 

Louisa had the Fettucini Alfredo, of which she could only eat a small portion.  I was more than happy to help her finish it off.  The pasta was wonderful and the cream sauce was mildly seasoned.  The entree was served with a garnish of thinly sliced Parmesan cheese.

I ordered Three Cheese Pillows.  It was a plate-full of cheesy raviolis, covered in a chunky style marinara sauce.  The sauce was flavorful and zesty without being overpoweringly so.  Mine meal was also garnished with the curling slices of Parmesan. 

We all three ordered dessert.  Can you believe it?  We really went all out.  Joe had a Butterscotch Budino, which was a pudding type concoction with carmelized butter drizzled throughout it and a sprinkling of sea salt over the top.  It was only mildly sweet, but perfect in its creamy, buttery, salty sweetness.

Louisa ordered the Creme Brulee, which she found excellent, but again more than she could eat.  I tell you, that girl does not get her birdlike appetite from me.  But I was unable to help her finish that, so she brought the little bit home and gave each of her siblings a little taste.

I finished my meal with a cup of coffee and a Tiramisu.  The coffee was excellent.   But I have to say that the Tiramisu was the one downside of the meal.  I've had much better Tiramisu.  I've even made better Tiramisu back in the day when I had energy for creative cooking.  The pudding tasted like it was from a can.  I have a hard time believing it was, since the restaurant appears to laud itself on from scratch cooking.  It was thick and heavy, as if the desserts in the fancy glasses were made up too long in advance and the moisture had evaporated from the pudding.  The cake layers were too saturated with the espresso, or something.  Instead of being soggy, they were almost runny.  Cake and coffee somehow stayed separate, instead of creaming together nicely.   Definitely a distinct coffee feel in my mouth.  Coffee with cake crumbs in it.  An unpleasant sensation. 

But, I reminded myself, perhaps since the chef was trained in Italy, he makes an authentic Tiramisu.  Perhaps I just don't happen to care for authentic Tiramisu.  It's probably just me, right?  But either way, I have to assert that I prefer the style of Tiramisu I've enjoyed elsewhere.

Except for the disappointing Tiramisu, the meal was excellent in every way.  Joe found it a relief to have a selection of menu items already designated Gluten Free.  And more than that, it is always a comfort to find a staff that already knows what Gluten Free means and how to provide it.  And even better still was that he did not get sick afterwards.

Cudos to the Ciatti's staff.  And to my readers, go try it.  You gluten free readers out there, be sure to support this fine establishment by giving them your patronage when you are in the St. Cloud area.

Monday, July 23, 2012

This is One of the Reasons I Love my Husband

I've got a really good geeky husband story.

Joe and I ran into Thief River Falls this evening after the kids were in bed to deposit his paycheck, so we didn't have to rush to town on a Monday morning.  As we're driving down 3rd street, which is the main drag of Thief River, the city lights were sparkling prettily, with parallel rows of streetlights framing the sides of the view.  There was a little slip of moon in the western sky, just a thin white fingernail, hanging lazily above the city lights.

Joe commented on the loveliness of the view.  That was his artistic side showing itself.

But a few moments later, his geek side kicked in.  He said, "Now, Mary, you see that moon, how it's sitting in the sky, right?  Mostly straight west.  Now imagine it's winter.  It might at most be at north-northwest in the winter, but probably closer to northwest, right?"

"OK. Mm-hm."  That's what I said.  What I was thinking was, "Yeah.  Whatever.  I get the impression you're going somewhere with this, right?"

Then Joe continued, "So now think of where the depot is, and where that moon would be compared to the depot, on a snowy winter night."

"OK. Mm-hm."  And then more of my same thoughts followed.  You know what I'm saying.  Smile and nod, right?

"So, it's just like I thought, "  Joe continued.  "In that picture in Dr. Mickelson's office that hangs above the chairs in the waiting room, the moon is oriented wrong.  It's hanging above the depot in that picture.  It wouldn't ever be that size, at that time of year, at that part of the sky."

And Mary thought, "Really?  REALLY?  You notice stuff like THAT?"

What I really said was, "Hahahahahahaha.  You are so weird.  That's a perfect example of your strange thought processes.  Hahahahaha."

Did I mentioned that I love my husband to pieces and I wouldn't want him any other way?  Don't ever change, Joe. Don't ever lose your geekiness."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Super Easy One Bowl Meal Salad for a Hot Summer Day

And it's really easy to make Gluten Free, by using A GF pasta of your choice.  I used two packages of Heartland's Penne from Walmart.

I make everything in bulk, so this will be a big batch, maybe about 4-5 qts.
  • 1 1/2 lbs pasta, cooked in salted water, then cooled in several changes of cold water and drained well.
While your pasta is cooking, cooling and draining, mix up the other ingredients.
  • 1 large (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 large (12 oz) cans tuna, drained
  • 1 can medium olives, drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced, or halved and cut into thin slices
  • 2-4 c fresh vegetables of your choice, I used wax beans and broccoli
  • 1 c cream (if you use processed cream check the label, if you're making it GF)
  • 1 c coarsely grated or cubed cheese of choice
  • a handful of pepperoni slices cut into strips
  • a generous handful of basil leaves (leaves off three medium stalks, maybe a fluffy cupful before cutting), cut into thin strips

Mix the above together.  Stir into cooled and drained pasta.  Serve.

If you want a little more pizzazz, add a little salt and pepper, or your favorite mixed seasoning salt.  Some people might have found it a little bland, but I liked that the tastes and textures were so fresh and simple.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Few Steps Back Day

I was tired and crabby most of the day today. 

Got up first thing and switched a wash load.  Felt energetic and optimistic.

Went walking with my ladies.  Had caramel rolls at Lana's in honor of Connie's birthday yesterday.  Happy Birthday, Connie!  You ladies brighten my life.

Then I came home and my energy left me.  I had a little altercation with one of my kids and that's all it took.  I had to go back to bed for awhile.  I was mad at myself for feeling so sleepy.  Then after lunch I had to take another nap.  Grrrr.  Frustrating!

But then when I woke up for the third time, I finally felt normal.  I went out and weeded in my garden.  I sat for a time on one of our garden benches, enjoying my yard.  I had a new perspective on the day.  I realized that I had a very busy week last week.  I had a busy weekend.  I was on the road yesterday evening taking the kids and Joe to Bible camp, so I missed my vitamins with supper. 

I was tired.  I was B-complex deprived.  That's all.  Just tired.  Just missed vitamins. 

It's OK, Mary.

Now I have an adult beverage in the freezer cooling off and frozen pizzas to throw in the oven for supper.  And best of all, foam plates from which to eat!  Hurray!

Tomorrow is another day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beautiful Childhood Moments

I wrote earlier about the "checked out" sensation that had plagued me all winter and into the spring and summer.  Finding energy to have my little ones help is one of the joys I've recently been blessed to rediscover.

My little ones have been helping me fold clothes lately.

"Mama, how do you fold shirts?  Do towels go like this?  Did I do this one right, Mom?"

Tonight while making supper, I had them help cut up veggies for the taco toppings.

Stella did two cans of olives.  I was working on something that ended up using more concentration than I had planned, so by the time I noticed, she had gathered all the paraphernalia she needed and had opened the cans herself.  Stella will be seven in the fall.  When I got in there to check on her, the cans were, well, mangled.  One of them at least was quite strange looking.  She apparently had the can opener on sideways at first, and so cut the can below the lip.  But then, I'm guessing, someone said something to her about it having been done wrongly.  Because it was also opened in the normal fashion.  So there was this ring of lip that was hanging at an angle, and then the lid itself off to the side.  I'm really stumped as to how she managed it.  But the olives were minced well, so the job got done.

Next, Donna did some green peppers.  I cut them into strips for her first, so she only had to do the cross cuts.  Donna is almost five.

Inge came running in and wanted to help, too.  I set her up on the counter.  The same counter, that is, down from which I'm constantly chasing her.  She just sat and giggled.  "You put me up here, Mama."

I had tomoatoes and onions to dice yet, so I did all but a few slices of each.  Then I gave Inge the little left over bits to finish up.  She did a fine job of it, too.  Inge is all of three and a half.

I don't have my little girls help much, especially not lately.  It's so much easier to grab one of the bigger kids who are independent.  I found it a real pleasure to see my girls work, and to watch how able they were becoming. 

I had to smile to myself when I saw how little Inge moved her pieces to the bowls when she was done.  I watched as she would gather a little pile together with the edge of her knife and use it to scoop them into the bowl.  I do this all the time without even thinking about it.  Usually I'm using an ulu or a chef's knife.  The wide blades on those knives are very suited to such lifting.  Here Inge was with a little paring knife, imitating Mama, by balancing all those little pieces onto the blade.  What a little sweetie!

Then during supper, after we had dished up for our first helpings, the onions were sitting near Inge.  She grabbed them and reached out as if to pass them toward Joe.  She said, "Daddy, do you want some onions?  I maded them."

Then, of course, the other girls had to pipe in telling which things they had "maded," too.  We all got a good giggle out of that, and the girls got a kick out of telling Daddy how much they had helped.

When we were gathered for bedtime prayers tonight, Joe said a special thank-you to all of them for their had work, and for fixing such a nice supper.

Making Progress ... Reclaiming Life

I want to quickly update everyone a little bit on how my depression thing is doing.  Oh, my goodness!  I feel so much better than I did a few months ago.

After finally admitting I would benefit from some sort of medicinal intervention, I began taking Prozac.  After I started taking it, noticing any initial change was a gradual thing.  The first thing I noticed, was a little pulse of life now and then.  It seems somewhat pathetic, looking back.  I can remember thinking things like, "Oh, this is what alive feels like."  Or "Wow, I feel awake and tuned in!"  Just a little pulse of life now and then.  It was a strange sensation after the months of feeling nothing much at all.  At first, these moments came as a shock and were brief in duration.

But gradually, without me even noticing, I have continued to improve.  Over this last weekend, I realized that I am now probably at about 70%.  I still have a few low days.  When I've been especially busy, or not taken my vitamins faithfully, or gotten off schedule with my prozac, I notice a difference.  I also still have times each day during which I just need to tune out.  And there are also times when the enjoyment I'm now generally feeling, might not be quite as acute as I can remember it being in days gone by.  But all in all, I am doing very well as far as the feeling alive part of this strange and unusual journey goes.

As far as energy level goes, my progress is slower, but coming along a little at a time.  I was beginning to get frustrated, pining for a bigger improvement than I was seeing.  In this regard, up until the last week or so, I would have said I was at only about 30%.  Which, I might add, is still a great improvement over where I had been.  I reminded myself often to be glad for the little improvements.  But I was frustrated, none-the-less.

This week, however, I've noticed a larger jump in energy.  I might even be approaching 50%.  I've gotten some laundry done and folded and put away.  Several loads a day, lately.  I've been more organized with meals, and once again doing a little planning and pre-mixing.  I've done a little re-organizing in my kitchen cupboards after the months of kids mostly handling things on their own.  I've gotten the living room and a chunk of the hallway picked up.  These are all with the help of the kids, of course.  I've also been more consistent and in control with the the kids, and their chores, responsibilities, and behavior.  I've worked outside several days.  I work for a little while here and there, and then I sit for a little while.

And we've gone on several outings.

That last, the outings, seems like it ought to be no big deal.  Outings are fun and refreshing and for leisure.  But that was one thing that was just plain too much for me during the last year or so.  We did take a vacation last summer, and again over Christmas we went to see my dad who is ailing.  But those two trips really did me in.  And after that, especially after Christmas, planning even a trip to town to get groceries was overwhelming.  Going with Joe to the circuit pastors' meeting once a month to visit with the other wives and families, felt immense.   Any activity whatsoever felt much too big for me to undertake.  And when I did try to do something, when I forced myself to exert the effort, I might need several days of recovery before I felt normal (which wasn't even nearly a real normal).

So, to be able to say that we've had several outings in the last couple of weeks, and that I'm still on higher energy is big.


I am happy, oh, so very thankful, to be seeing and feeling this improvement.  It is wonderful.  Rejoice with me, my friends, and praise our Heavenly Father for His abundant grace and providence and love!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sun Dappled Mornings

Dappled.  Isn't that a great word?  It conjures up images of speckled ponies and shady grass with the sun glinting through.  Lazy days at Grandma's house lying around her yard and looking up at the sky through the branches of the trees.  Were they ash?  Elm?  Poplar?  I don't remember.  But I loved my grandma's yard, and the sound of the wind in those trees, and the shade and sun playing across the lawn, and the green and blue when I looked up into the sky.

Right now the shade from my hanging basket of petunias is dappling the white wicker chair across the porch from me.  As it sways in the very gentle breeze, the shadow shifts and shudders into an every-changing show of white and gray.

Adjacent to the wicker chair is a planter into which I did not put any pretty plants this spring.  It's a biggish planter, so I don't move it for the winter.  It sits through all the cold and gray of winter, and waits for good things to come its way in the spring.  But this year it didn't get any colorful plantings.

At first.

In spite of not having discretionary funding to use on pretty potted plants this year, my big porch planter has now had some good things come its way. 
One of the projects the kids made in VBS the other week was these decorative garden stakes.  They are cute as can be.  Since I had six little ones in VBS, I have six garden stakes.  So instead of sticking them in the dirt here and there around my gardens, I tucked them all into my big front porch planter to make a bouquet of my children's colorful handprint flower blossoms.  It's fun to see as I sit and have my coffee.

Beyond the porch railing, and further yet beyond the southern perimeter of the yard, the neighbors' hay field is looking beautiful in the sunlight of this summer morning.  The round bales are scattered across the landscape.  They have dried from the grayish green with which they pop out of the baler, to a soft golden hue.  The new growth of the alfalfa is coming up a fresh green around them.  This particular view is one of the great blessings of living where we do. 

(I have only the webcam on my laptop this morning.  I tried to take a photo of the above scene, but the quality was not lovely enough to want to share.  If you use your imagination with the above description, you'll end up with a finer end product than my camera and photographic skills could produce.)

The bees are buzzing all around me, and the birds are twittering in the trees.  I can hear the kids starting to stir in the house, which means it's time to start to think about getting things rolling.  We have 11:00 church this morning, so there is no real rush.  But somehow, it always ends up in a rush by the time 11:00 rolls around.  The most likely culprit:  too much sitting on my porch to enjoy the view.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Bach Party: The Weekend at the Lake No Northern Minnesotan Man Will Want to Miss

My brain played a kind of fun trick on me last night.  Can you imagine a bunch of Northern Minnesota "Good Ol' Boys" getting together for a weekend of fun at the lake.  Yeah, that's not hard to imagine.

But let's take this a step further.  These Northern Minnesota "Good Ol' Boys" call this annual tradition the Bach Party.  As in, they get together for a fun filled weekend of listening to the musical genius of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Or better yet, somebody might go all out and bring a clavichord so they can all try out their fingers playing his works on an authentic instrument.  Or maybe the owner of the lake cabin has a full set of pipes on which all these "Good Ol' Boys" take turns showing off their prowess.

Kind of strange?  Yeah, I thought so too.  Although I can think of a handful of men who would go in for this sort of thing, it's not the sort of occasion that I would expect to trip the trigger of most Northern Minnesota "Good Ol' Boys.

But everyone has some hidden part of their personality that only those close to them know about, right?  I mean, some do Civil War re-enacting; some play D&D (or Magic the Gathering, these days, I suppose); a person might collect shot glasses; or attend Star Trek fan conventions.  Everyone has their thing.  Whose to say there isn't a group of Northern Minnesota "Good Ol' Boys" who enjoy a little Toccata and Fugue every now and again?

This is the train of thought that went through my head when I read my friend, Allie's Caring Bridge site last night.  She mentioned she was spending the weekend at her folks' house with her young son, since her husband and her daughter were both away from home, "Aaron is at the lake for Casey's Bach party all weekend."

Wow!  Aaron likes Bach.  That's so cool!  And there must be others around, too, who do, if they have a whole weekend to do this Bach party thing, right?  Wow, who would have thought?  This Bach lovers club must be a little known local tidbit.

Now, Aaron, please forgive me if I've wrongly stereotyped you as a Good Ol' Boy.  For all I know you listen to MPR classical station while on all your road trips for work.  Or perhaps I've wrongly stereotyped all the local men.  Maybe they all throw Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart into their CD player while spending the day planting soybeans or cutting hay. 

But even so, even if I've vastly misinterpreted the local taste in music, the idea of a group of Northern Minnesotan guys spending a weekend at the lake, having a party dedicated to the music of J.S. Bach was a little surprising to me.  It stretched my credibility just a wee bit.

Now all these thoughts that have taken several paragraphs to explain, flitted through my head in a few very short seconds, you understand.  That's the way minds work.  They can be amazingly fast sometimes.  (You notice that I have those little uncertain indicators in that last sentence?  "can be" and "sometimes".  Yeah, well, I had to add those since I am very well aware through vast personal experience that minds can also very often be incredibly sluggish and move with cumbersome slowness.) 

But as I was saying, this all flitted through my head even before my eyes jumped ahead to the next sentence, "Next weekend is Case and Jess's wedding." 

Oh, duh, wedding,... not Bach but bach,...as in bachelor party.  OK, that sounds a little bit more in line with the local cultural heritage.  Yeah, I'm good with that.  That's a much more comfortable fit.

I hope you are enjoying your bach weekend, Aaron.  And Allie, I hope today is better than the last few for you.  Hannah, I hope you are having an excellent adventure in Texas.  And Nolan, always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot, treat every gun as if it's a loaded gun, and be sure of your target and what's beyond.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer and Goldwater...is this a pattern?

I finally got around to ordering my very own copy of Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative.  I'm very eager to read it again.  I will possibly post a few choice snippets in the next few weeks as I read.  Perhaps they will be just quotes alone, or perhaps with commentary.  Great writing and clear thinking doesn't need much commentary.

I first read Conscience of a Conservative and wrote about it in early August, 2009.  I had written at that time that 1) I'd get my own copy; and 2) I'd write more about it.

I finally did buy myself a copy, but I don't know if and when I'll ever give the book all the attention it deserves by posting about it and from it.

Apparently I get in the mood for Goldwater in the summer, since the second and last time I checked this book out from the library was a year ago already.  In late July last year, I highlighted some of the best points in Goldwater's introductory chapter.

I've only just begun Conscience of a Conservative this time around.  Even so, I've already discovered several poignant vignettes.  The following section jumped out at me this time around.  I think it caught my attention because its subject, the idea of the common man, is directly behind the renewed acceptance of Marxist philosophy that has quickly slipped into mainstream thinking during the last several years.
We have heard much in our time about "the common man."  It is a concept that pays little attention to the history of a nation that grew great through the initiative and ambition of uncommon men.  The conservative knows that to regard man as part of an undifferentiated mass is to consign him to ultimate slavery.
Just think about the idea of the common man a minute.  There are the obvious examples in socialist theory and particularly those philosophies of Marxist socialism that thrive on pitting worker against administrators, owners, and executives of any flavor.  We see the impact of the idea of the common man in the Occupy movement; the national reaction to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's stand against the union system; the resurgence of the term, progressive, in mainstream politics; and much in the news because of the recent Supreme Court ruling in its favor, the health insurance takeover that has come to be known as Obamacare.

But the whole premise of the common man is a myth.  There is no such thing.  There is no group, no subgroup, etc., for which all members shares the same intrinsic make-up or circumstances.  To make policy based upon an idea of group mentality or group situation, or as Goldwater put it, an "undifferentiated mass," is dangerous and illogical.  But it is also immoral.  Such groupings as the common man or administration, worker or owner, renter or landlord, African American or white, male or female, etc, create artificial classes.  Putting people into such groups, and defining them by membership in such groups, enslaves people to such groups.  And it also binds them to the intrusive policies such thinking engenders.