Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Homespun Yard Advice

I love wildlife more than your average person. I will not trim a bush if I know there is a rabbit's nest in it.  I refused to trim my holly tree because a robin was sitting in it on two eggs this season. I also conveniently forgot to tell John that one of the bottom steps of the deck was "wobbly" because I feared we would disturb the salamander family living underneath. That's the type of guy I am. I feel these animals have just as every right to live on G-d's earth as I do. (Not that I want them in my home, now that's a different story which I'll get to in a bit ... Don't judge me people!)

I was working at my office one afternoon when I saw that John had called me not once but three or four times. OK, somethin's up, I thought. So I buzzed him back. He notified me that the tractor almost went belly up in a gopher hole. Not a little chipmunk hole, we are talking about a gopher that seemed to come up from China (actually just north from Charlotte's yard.)

Remember those holes you dug as a kid and you told your parents you were digging to China? They laughed at you and said, "OK Marc, just be home by dinnertime" and then they walked back into the house to fix themselves an afternoon cocktail. This was one of those types of holes. This sucker was DEEEP.

I came home and checked out the hole myself. There were rocks the size of Volkswagen Beetles dug up and strewn about the hole. OK, maybe a little smaller, but ya get the point. So what to do, what to do. I remembered how my Dad labors against the gophers in his yard waay out in Northern California. He battles a relentless campaign against the critters. Each time he finds a hole, he fills it with a special present made by his two loyal doggies, Fiona and Archie, and then covers over the hole. Yes, you can guess what their special presents are.

I decided to try this technique with my own gopher hole. Unfortunately I don't own any dogs so I had to improvise with my two faithful companions, Max and Moxie the Cats. After a week, I was able to dump an entire bag full of ... umm ... special presents down the gopher hole made by the cats. I topped it off with the strewn boulders and topsoil and now I wait to see if Mr. Gopher stays over in the other yard or decides to make another emergency exit by one of our flower beds. If he does, I will be ready with Max and Moxie!


I received yet another call at the office from John the same week freaking out that there was a furious pecking and scratching at the side of the house in my room! It sounded like it was in the walls or ceiling. The cats were literally glued to the bedroom wall waiting to pounce on whatever was about to come through the wall.

I told him I thought it was a chipmunk or mouse scratching at the wall. I remembered way back when I was growing up when Dad had to literally go through the wall to find a foul smelling chipmunk in the stair hall off of the breakfast room. He dug through the drywall and eventually retrieved a maggot-ridden chipmunk corpse. That was the first time that I smelled a rotting animal, and in the breakfast room of our house no less. You never forget that smell.

Anyway, I told John that I feared that at the worst, Mr. Gopher was looking for another passage way ... through our house! I advised him to check it out outside and call me back when he found something.  After investigating, John called me back and confirmed it was not a chipmunk. It was not a mouse. It was not a gopher scaling the side of the house. It was a woodpecker that has decided to make his fall home in the back corner of our house!  Now honestly, that was the last thing I was expecting.

We both were freaking out. Woody (yes Woodpecker) had pecked a quarter sized hole into the side corner. He was not looking for grubs, he was looking to add a condo to his real estate holdings. What the heck do you do about that?

Now I know you cannot kill birds like that. It's against the law as they are migratory birds. You have to deter them by various means. This can include hanging chicken wire from your house, putting up big fake owl or hawk to scare them, covering the side of your house with fur or cloth (YES that was a suggestion on the internet), hanging shiny noisy objects to scare them off, or putting out food (suet cakes) to feed them instead of them pecking up your house!

John filled up the hole with wood filler, an entire tube! He also hung a wind chime right off of the house by that area to make noise. I think honestly the birds will enjoy the wind chimes. I think we need something more like a foghorn, but that's just me! :)  Charlotte suggested hanging aluminum pie plates together so they reflect and make noise. I searched the house but had no pin tins. I spied an aluminum roaster pan wedged into the back of the laundry room closet and decided to make something out of that.  I cut it up into quarters and strung it together to form a sort of mobile.

Well, let's just say it ain't pretty. But hopefully my aluminum monstrosity of a mobile will scare that woodpecker away. Let's just say it scared me.
The Woodpecker Deterrent System
The Deterrent System in Effect!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nana's Meatballs

Can a Jewish mother have a good recipe for Italian meatballs? Yes she can and I set out to make my mother proud. I have never made meatballs but I figured I'd give these a try.  I remember both my Nana and my mom making them but I don't remember how they came out. My sister Sheryl filled in my memory gaps for this blog.

Sheryl stated with a chuckle that Mom's often came out dry. Perhaps she had a habit of over cooking them? Or the oven's temperature wasn't calibrated? Nana's, on the other hand, were always moist.

Lumpy but MOIST!
Well, I am happy to say that I followed in Nana's footsteps with regards to this recipe as my meatballs came out moist. The only discrepany would be that after cooking, they should have correctly been called meat lumps. As I browned them in the skillet pan, they tended to flatten out on each side. Before you know it, my balls became lumpy, almost squares.

I really think the milk helped to keep them moist. I watched them like a hawk too, making sure each side was cooked the same amount of time and not overdone. I then put them in the sauce to simmer and finish cooking.

Nana's Meatballs by Abby Deeds

1. 1 to 2 lbs ground beef
2. 1 egg per pound of meat
3. 1/2 cup milk per pound of meat
4. 1 slice of bread per pound of meat
5/ 1/2 cup parmesean cheese
6. Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper (Mom did not specify any amount.)
***I would also recommend possibly adding some Italian seasoning.
7. Combine, mix well, make meatballs, each the size of a golf ball
8. Lightly brown meatballs in skillet
9. Add meatballs to sauce
10. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour
11. Serve over your favorite pasta with Parmesan cheese.

***I ADDED some bread crumbs to further bind everything together, but not a lot, maybe only a 1/3 of a cup.

Mom also wrote down these suggestions for jazzing up your pasta sauce:

Add onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, fresh onions, green peppers, tomato paste, or basil.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bullied in High School

There was recently another bullying story in the news. No, actually there were two which made the national headlines. I was so angry and disgusted that extreme bullying still occurs. I know as children, we go through a certain amount of bullying as we grow up. It is, unfortunately an expected part of growing up ... especially if you are a geek, dork, nerd, gay, lesbian, or another minority. Hopefully it doesn't effect the individual in later life but in too many situations, we have seen that this is not the case.

I was bullied. Let's face it, I was a meek, a smaller kid, bookworm, geek, effeminate, nonsports-oriented. Did that make it OK for me to be bullied, NO! But, I was a prime candidate for bullying. Luckily, I survived high school unscathed for the most part. You learn how to stay under the radar and not attract unwanted attention to yourself. I wasn't bullied too often and had enough bigger kids looking out for me.

My high school girl-friends Marguerite and Angie were also great friends and my protectors. Love those gals! Many a time, they stood up for this geek and I appreciated it. Again, I was lucky. I even actually really enjoyed the majority of my high school. My senior year was great. I had plenty of friends, was pretty well liked, and was active in not only varsity sports but also held some officer positions in a couple of clubs.

One time, in 7th grade, I was punched in the stomach by this asshole Alex. All I had done was flirt with one of my classmates Marnee, whom I had known since I was 5! I had always had a crush on her. We were in gym class, he liked her and saw us kidding around. Before I knew it, he came over to me and exclaimed, "Stay away from her!" and punched me square in the stomach. I doubled over in pain, out of breath. It was so stupid and in my opinion just showed how much of an idiot he was. Other kids saw and just let it happen. No one helped me. It goes without saying that I avoided Alex for the rest of high school. I just saw Alex as a pretentious 7th grade asshole. Even though I have never seen him since, I still think of him as a 44 year old pretentious asshole. Sorry, that just happens when someone bullies you. You get scarred. GET IT?

Luckily, Marnee and I remained good friends. (Blush and beaming smiles)

I also remember waaay back in grade school that I got into a pretty bad fight with my best friend Jeff Cope. I don't even know why we fought but he was stronger than me, and tossed me into my neighbor's bushes. I climbed out, told him off and walked home all scratched up. The next day we were friends again as if nothing happened. I also got into a fight on the playground with John Mullens. Next day, friends again. Too bad things don't work that way these days.

This next anecdote is one that I've only told to a few close friends. I've been scarred by it. Truly shamed and hurt. All the other bullying incidents are nothing compared to this one. I used to say I was embarrassed that it took me such a long time to get over it. Now though, I accept that it is a part of me. I acknowledge it and move on. BUT it will always be a part of me and it has taken years to deal with it.

If only I had known that Steven McQueen wore a turtleneck.
I was in line in the cafeteria, 9th grade. I was waiting in line for food when a larger classmate imitated me, my mannerisms, my speech. He told me quote unquote that Jews only wear turtlenecks. I immediately felt fire, but not the type of fire associated with rage, but the fire and heat associated with the feeling of embarrassment and shame.  It crept up my body, my head, my eyes. OMG, I fought the urge to cry and run. I felt tears but I held them back. I just told him to shut up, turned around, and went silent in line.

Let's think about this for a second (as adults). WHAT THE FUCK? What does that even mean? Only Jew wear turtlenecks. That is one of the most ridiculous statements, as an adult, that I have ever heard. BUT, as a 15 year old, it was truly damning.

I was so embarrassed. I felt so obvious, so noticeable in my turtleneck. I felt like a Jew, because only Jews wear turtlenecks. This kid had been tormenting me for 2 years since 7th grade, but now he had tormented me about something different, my religion, the one thing which at this point in high school, had set me apart, made me different, but it was never negative up until this point. With regards to turtlenecks,  I had never worn one for at least 15 years because I hated the way I looked in them, always thinking back to that incident in the cafeteria.

This bully was a monster, grabbing at anything which made a kid different and then negatively capitalizing on it. Asshole yes. Monster (in my eyes) yes. Pathetic and pitiful ... yes.

He tormented me through high school. It was Hell. But luckily a couple of good guys by the names of Mike, Chris, and Joe (of our Gateway HS football team) befriended me and I got through it unscathed. He seemed to back off. I have always (mentally) thanked them for this, maybe not publicly until now. Mike, unfortunately passed away a couple years ago and it pains me that I never was able to thank him. That's what happens though after high school as you more than often go your separate ways. I feel Mike somehow, somewhere, knows how much I owe him.

I saw the bully at my 25th reunion back in November 2013 and was cordial and pleasant to him. His wife though was sooo nice. I had all of these grandiose plans that I would finally confront him and tell him what an asshole he was. Then I realized, why am I talking to this asshole? After a short meaningless conversation, I pretty much walked away from him mid sentence. 

I finally bought a turtleneck in the mid 2000's. Wore it, got compliments, and kept it until I wore it out. It's a shame we are scarred this way. Luckily my "scarring" has faded, as true scars do. The pain grows less each year as the scar fades. It sucks though that I still have pain. I recognized that at the reunion and there is nothing wrong with that. I choose though, to not have to talk or acknowledge that individual anymore in my life. I can say he doesn't have any power anymore, but sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. I can honestly say though that he still is such a fucking asshole.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Charlotte is a Peach! (Charlotte Drops Off Food and other Anecdotes - Part II)

"Hi Charlotte!" I yelled across the yard.
"Hi Marc, the hummingbirds are still around!" my pint-sized 70-something neighbor exclaimed.
"I know, they are fattening up before they leave."
"Yes, pretty soon they be leaving south on their long trip for the winter."
"I read that they go to Mexico.  Do you wanna go with them?" I asked half-laughing.
"I can't go to Mexico, I don't like Mexican food." she said matter-
"Um, OK, how about they go to Mexico and you and I go to the Bahamas?" I replied.
"I'm there!" she yelled across the yard.


John and I had just pulled up to the house and began to unload groceries from the car when we heard a familiar voice across the yard.

"John and Marc, get inside! There are major storms coming!!!" screamed Charlotte across the yard while frantically looking for Abby the cat.

"Ok thanks Charlotte!" I yelled back. I could see the advancing storms across the valley above Pottsville. It was angry dark and gray; menacing clouds were interspersed with streaks of lightning.

We worked quickly to get everything inside the house. I  glanced over from our deck and saw Charlotte in her kitchen. Abby the cat was sitting contently on her living room window shelf. OK, good, I thought, they are both in.

The rain started coming, not too heavy at first. Rumbles of thunder rolled through the valley.  Any sunlight was now hidden behind fearsome clouds. In the thirty seconds it took to transverse the living room to the kitchen, there was a knock at the front door. There was Charlotte standing at our door. I went down the stairs to greet her.

"I forgot to give you this," she stated as she thrust a tin foil wrapped loaf of something into my hands. "It's zucchini bread."

"Oh, OK, thanks. Charlotte, this could really have waited 'til tomorrow. It's gonna pour!"

"Nonsense!" she replied.
I didn't get another word in and she was already across the side yard to her house just as the heaven's opened and the downpour began.


For two weeks over the summer, Charlotte was baking cookies, cakes, and breads for a volunteer church program that she was involved in. She would wake up at 4 am on the dot and begin baking for that day. She decided to experiment and use John and I as her guinea pigs. We didn't mind for the first week, but after 7 days of random baked goods, we found our waist lines beginning to grow. So for two weeks, Charlotte would sneak over at 5 in the morning and tie plastic bags of baked goods to our side-view mirrors so we would see them getting into the car that morning.

A couple of the items were winners such as more zucchini bread, banana bread, banana chocolate chip cookies, and lemon white chocolate chip cookies. Others I didn't care for such as ... Yeah, are you crazy? You think I'm gonna speak up when I have fresh baked goods being dropped off each morning? I loved everything!

She also got into a habit of leaving us random fruits and vegetables in baggies tied to either our front door knob, on the bench by the door, or tied around the car side-view mirrors. The random zucchini or cucumber, Bags of these incredibly delicious large oval cherry tomatoes. A bag of frying peppers for John. 1/2 pint containers of frozen chili for my lunch. Larger containers of homemade cranberry relish or cucumber salad.

And finally, one morning, Charlotte left each of us the largest, most beautiful peach with a lovely note. The peach was fragrant, deep red orange and yellow. My mouth watered. I saved it for a couple days and allowed it to ripen further. It was my only peach of the summer, and it was worth it. What did my note say, you may be asking? Well, Charlotte remembered that I cannot stand fuzz on my peaches and she had the thoughtfulness to wash my peach. I read the note and smiled all the way to work. That peach, and Charlotte, made my summer.