Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Sourdough Lore

It all began in November of 1979. Or maybe I should say, it all started. I made a batch of sourdough starter that has been going strong now for almost 33 years. It has made hundreds of beautiful braided loaves of bread and countless pizza crusts. It’s also the matriarch of dozens of smaller jars of starter that have been given to friends over the years.

Gold prospectors in Alaska and California during the 1800’s were nicknamed sourdoughs because among their provisions there was always a bucket or jar of sourdough starter. In the absence of yeast and baking powder, they used sourdough starter as leavening for biscuits, bread and pancakes.

So there I was in 1979. I put 2 cups of milk into a jar and covered it with cheesecloth and set it on the counter for 24 hours. Then I stirred in 2 cups of flour, covered it with cheesecloth and set it out on my back porch for 24 hours. While it set out there, I’m told, wild yeast cells sneakily forced their way through the cheesecloth and made a home in my milk and flour mixture.

Then I brought the jar back into the kitchen and left it on the counter for 5 days. By that time it was nice and bubbly and ready to be used in any recipe that called for “sourdough starter”. I usually store my starter in the fridge, but I don’t think that is necessary. The old sourdoughs of the gold rush certainly didn’t.

Whenever I use my starter in a recipe I replenish it with equal parts of milk (or water) and flour. If I don’t use it for a few weeks I “feed” it or “freshen” it by stirring in equal parts flour and liquid.

Now speaking of liquid, after the starter sets for awhile a murky liquid will rise the top. I don’t know what the real name for this is – but the old prospectors called it “hootch” and made good use of it as a nightcap when nothing better was available.

The hootch nightcap is an adventure we have not yet experienced, but the sourdough bread is yummy!

Recipe for our favourite Sourdough Bread
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon yeast
1 ½ cups sourdough starter
2 tsp salt
Flour

Pour hot water over the sugar and butter and stir to melt the butter
When mixture is just warm, add starter and yeast
Stir in 2 cups flour
Stir in salt
Add enough flour to make dough stiff, elastic and not sticky
Allow to rise in a buttered bowl till doubled
Punch down and allow to rise again
Punch down and gently shape into a mound
Or
Punch down and gently separate into three parts and roll each part into a rope then braid
Allow the mound or the braid to rise on a buttered/seeded cookie sheet
Or
You can sprinkle corn meal lightly on the sheet instead of seeds
Allow to rise
When loaf is doubled, bake in a 400° oven till brown
You can slash the loaf across the top with a very sharp knife just prior to baking
If you put pie pan with water on the floor of the oven it will make the bread more crusty
You can also spritz the loaf with a water bottle a few times as it bakes
For a different look (especially on the braid) brush the surface with well beaten egg white several times during baking


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Blogaversary

February 4th is our Meetaversary. February 15th is our Dataversary, and we even celebrate our Ask-aversary – The day John finally asked me to marry him! We celebrate the dog’s birthday and every other notable occasion in our lives. We’re really into setting up memorials and making traditions.

And so…drumroll please…today is my one month Blogaversary. I started writing Paladini Potpie on April 29th.

Only a few months prior to that that date I really didn’t even know what a blog was.

This last month has been quite a learning experience, stretching the old brain to grasp so much new stuff. But in the words of the elderly Michelangelo Buonarotti, “Ancora Imparo!” I am still learning!

Today I decided to celebrate my Blogaverary by researching a little about what a blog is and how it all got started.

To begin with, I learned that blog is a blend of the words “web” and “log” – web log.

The fore-runner to the blog was created sometime in 1971 by Les Earnest. He created something called finger protocol. This was a technical program that enabled people to see who else was using the computer network, and to find out basic information about the other users.

By the early 90’s people were beginning to journal and write articles online.

This was about the time John brought home 3 big boxes from Costco and plunked them down in our living room. “You are a writer,” he told me, taking the yellow legal pad out of my hand, and holding it behind his back, out of my reach. “It’s time you learned to use a word-processor.”

I thought about my drawer full journals – a lifetime of journals written in my beautiful penmanship. And all the scattered notebooks of thoughts and ideas… half written stories… the start of a fabulous novel…somewhere. There was some merit to working on the computer, but I still really liked my yellow legal pads and I love all those pretty journals…

I haven’t abandoned my handwritten journals, but I am being inexorably drawn into this exciting new adventure. I certainly never expected to be doing a journal or a log on the computer…let alone on the web!

The name web log was first used in 1997, and in 1999 Peter Merholz of peterme.com put the words together to make weblog…or blog for short.

And, as happens with so many nouns…the noun “blog” became the verb for writing the blog.

And so I now blog on my blog.

Wikipedia says that as of February 16, 2011 there were 156 million public blogs on the internet. But that was 3 months ago. Today it’s anyone’s guess!


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Thankful Thoughts on Mentoring

                      “If I had known I was going to meet Mark when I was in my thirties I would have enjoyed my twenties a lot more!” Monica told me that this off-the-cuff comment by her Aunt Tracy stabilized her.  It gave her hope when, as an early twenty-something herself, Monica was discouraged.  She had lots of great friends who were guys, but not an inkling of the man she would marry and spend her entire life with. That prospect changed very quickly just a couple of short years further into those early twenties, but that will be another (wonderful!) story. 

                       Today I want to talk about the fact that my adorable sister-in-law, Tracy,  even had that conversation with Monica. I want to talk about the countless hours of conversation, the sought-after advice, and the listening ear my three kids got from about a dozen very special people who cheered them on, hugged them, and just loved them.                 

 Yesterday John and I received many “high-fives” and congratulations as David graduated from college with so much to show for his life besides an honors GPA.

We accepted the handshakes and hugs and said “Thank you” and we did look at each other a few times with proudly  beaming smiles – “Well done, co-parent!” 

                      But we had a long and very serious conversation about how much we owe to other people. People who loved and mentored our kids, who talked to them when they were not in a place to hear from us.

                   My brother, Uncle Brian, has been Matthew’s buddy and confidant his whole life. He was Matthew’s “father figure” for the few years I was widowed and single.

                       And Dave Perata, who taught Matthew his first electrician lessons, instilled in him a godly work ethic and encouraged him to go to school and get his journeyman’s certification.   

                    My precious friend Geigy, who is somewhere between Monica’s and my age, has been Monica’s lifelong mentor and girlfriend.  I know they have had hundreds of hours of crying and hugging and long, long talks. I’ll never know most  of what they talked about, but I know that Geigy pointed Monica to the right spiritual track when my darling daughter was physically and mentally rolling her eyes at a good deal of my wise motherly counsel.

                      David’s youth pastor and life-long friend, Jeremiah, spent time with him week after week, “discipling” and doing a bible study that continued for years.

                       Yesterday at David’s graduation party, as we talked about how fast the time passed, my friend Sandy recalled the time she took a very young David horseback riding and then to Taco Bell. (“I made the mistake of telling him to order whatever he wanted!)

                     I know I’ll forget someone. I don’t even know everyone who has spoken into my kids’ lives.  But I’m glad you did.  We thank you.

                       I still have not met the Nix family, who opened their home to Monica when she was in college on the other side of the country.  They became family to her and they did something John and I could never do.  They taught her taxidermy. So Monica was able to stuff and mount the buck David shot a few years ago. 

                   And finally, how can I talk about David shooting a buck without thanking the Lord for all the hunting trips, the hours of driving, and tramping conversation David has had with Grandpa Frank. I could spend a whole page raving about the encouragement and supportive love and advice all three of our kids have received from their grandparents – the stability of family and tradition.  

                    I close this chapter, and it feels so unfinished.  I thank God for our three kids and where they have been and where he is taking them. I thank God for all of those who have come alongside of us and helped our kids know the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, “ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”


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Graduation Ruminations

                I hardly know how to talk about this without dragging out overused clichés and maudlin meanderings of the mind.  “What’s a mother to do?!”  My baby is graduating from college tomorrow. Never mind that “my baby” is actually a happily married man with an adorable baby of his own and a home and a good job.  He’s only 23 and I still want to know how the years passed so quickly!

                 The first time I felt like this was when Matthew, our oldest son, graduated from high school. I was stunned at the speed with which his school days had passed. That was a big part of the reason we decided to home-school Monica and David.  If the time was going to pass that quickly I wanted to be in on more of the fun! 

                   And what fun we had!  Delight-directed education. We turned meal planning and grocery shopping into math lessons. Reading books aloud every time we were in the car…  playing Scrabble and calling it “spelling”…and of course, we did a fair amount of “real” school work. 

                    One of my favourite home school memories happened exactly ten years ago. One morning a Modesto city employee came to the door and asked us to move our cars because they were going to be trimming the trees on our street.  Thirteen-year-old David asked if he could go out and watch them, but I said “No, we need to get started with school.”

“How about if I watch them and write a report about it?”  (The kid was so sly!)

                   David went out and introduced himself to the tree trimmers and asked if he could interview them and take a few pictures.  The men were very accommodating.  David got their address and told them, “I’ll send you a copy of my report after my mom grades it.”

He did send a copy of his report to the Modesto Urban Forestry Department, and about two weeks later we got a call from the City Manager’s office.  The report had been forwarded to them and they asked if David could come down to City Hall and speak with someone in that department.  We were so excited!  Apparently someone wanted to publish David’s paper!

Sitting down with the City Manager’s Assistant, she told us what she had in mind.  They were looking for a young person to write a series of articles for “City Pride, Citywide” an insert that went into the Modesto utility bills every month.  The articles were to be about all kinds of city issues from a “child’s” point of view.   Would David be interested? Would he!!!!

 That interview grew into an amazing opportunity for David.  For the next three years he wrote an article every month.  He wrote about a hamster that was rescued from a storm drain, and how storm drains work. He interviewed our friend Chuck Bergquist, a firefighter. He went on a police ride-along, visited a waste-to-energy plant, the water treatment facility and wrote about all kinds of parks and recreation issues. And much more.  It was home-schooling at its best!

And tomorrow he graduates.  “My baby” has grown up.

                   Even though John and I have technically been “empty nesters” for a few months now, this feels like some kind of rite of passage into that place.  The last little bird is off in full flight.

                     Matthew, with his brilliant mind, and no love for school is a successful journeyman electrician. Monica graduated from Liberty University with honors, and has a great job and a bright future. And tomorrow my baby will walk across the stage and get his diploma from CSUS

Mission accomplished!   ( Now bring on the grandkids! )


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Rejoicing and Mourning

                      The woman is covering her eyes with her hand, and her head is bowed. She stands, wrapped in a blanket, slumped in the midst of destruction. My toes curl and I shift my weight as I stare at the image on my computer screen.   My toe curling and weight shifting is an uneasy reaction – not a purposeful action.  It is a mixture of pity and horror and almost something like guilt.  For the last twelve hours I have been walking around my house curling my toes and squishing my feet into our new carpet.  I’ve been lying on the floor basking in the soft new luxury while this woman has probably been lying on the hard concrete floor of a disaster shelter. I’ve been joking that my house is upside down because we‘ve been moving furniture from room to room, and stacking it so we could carpet the whole house. This woman’s house is literally upside down.

I pray for the woman in the picture. I have been praying for all the people in Joplin and neighboring areas who have been hit by tornados this week.  I don’t think I know any of them personally, but I still have a vague feeling of guilt.  I have just been given so much and they have just lost so much.  How in the world do I reconcile this?

Matthew 5:45 says God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain for the just and the unjust. So it has nothing to do with deserving.

                         Romans 12:15 says to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn.  That’s kind of a tall order.  My frail human brain – as magnificent as the human brain is! – can’t seem to understand how to grasp both feelings at the same time.  My mourning for all those people who have lost their homes to tornados and floods must surely put a damper on my rejoicing with the people I know who just had a sweet new baby, or got the job of their dreams or bought a lovely new home – or new carpet.  How do I reconcile it? It seems almost hypocritical to rejoice one moment and mourn the next.

                        As I sit here wrestling with this huge concept I remember my airplane window lesson. It comes to me every time I fly in an airplane and am fortunate enough to have a window seat.  The ground falls away and before long the houses are the size of Monopoly houses.  Soon the streets and freeways are ribbons with little coloured beads running along them. And I know that every one of those little beads has at least one life in it.  Each Monopoly house represents at least two or three lives. Thousands of lives spread out as far as I can see from this heavenly vantage point.  I will never know most of those people, but God knows every one of them intimately.  He is working out details in each of those lives as surely as he is working out the details in my life. He takes me through times of personal grief and mourning and personal victory and advantage.  He is a God of most intricate detail.

                       He is the only One who is able to feel real rejoicing and real mourning all together at all the right times for all of us.  (Whew!)  I know this when I am above it all and catch a glimpse of his perspective.  Down here all I can do is try to recall that heavenly perspective, trust in God’s capable provision, and remember that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.


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The Legend of BD and Other Aquatic Tales

             I stopped, startled. Out of the corner or my eye, I was sure I had seen something move!  But there was not supposed to be anything alive in there!  Scarcely daring to breathe, I looked more closely.  The room was dim, but as I bent my head in concentration I saw that I had not been mistaken. The bus tray was full of rocks and shells and other decorative objects from our aquarium, but there on top of a big brown rock lay a panting fish. He was flapping his tail in what I can only assume was an urgent SOS.

                     It was 1992, the last time we did a full blown disassembly of our big fish tank. We had emptied the tank and put the rocks and decorations into bus trays and set them on the washer in the laundry room more than 12 hours earlier. There was no more than an inch of residual water in the bottom of the tray. We had filled big buckets with water from the tank and carefully moved the fish to temporary quarters. Except for the lone stow-away, the little albino shark, who must have been hiding in one of the holes in a rock.

                        I carried the fish back to his kinfolk as quickly and carefully as I could, feeling somehow, dreadfully guilty.  I put him into the container and he swam off gratefully – sideways.

                           We cleaned the tank, put in a new filter system, replaced the rocks and flora and all the little homey touches that fish love.  Now it was time to put the fish back. I could just imagine their joy at the freedom of restored space and light!  Even the little rescued fish swam joyfully across the four foot expanse – sideways.  We could not help laughing.  We came to the conclusion that he had suffered Brain Damage from lack of oxygen since he lived out of water for so long. Matthew decided we should call him BD.

                           BD lived in the tank for many years.  He frolicked and ate and joined in all the fishy games, swimming all over the tank – always swimming on his side.  When he wasn’t swimming on his side he lay on his side on the bottom of the aquarium.

                           So yesterday, in preparation for our carpet installation we took the aquarium apart, and talked about all the memories it holds. I’ve had it for almost 30 years – a gift from my brother, Stuart, even before we John and I were married.  We used to have it setting on a pair of nautical looking ammunition boxes. 

                            When we were dating, John and I often sat on my couch with the lights dim, watching the fish. My room-mate said we were courting by fishlight instead of firelight.

                          When Monica was a toddler she started pulling herself up to look at the fishies. John had nightmares about her pulling the aquarium over on herself, so he built a solid cabinet, which just happens to include a ledge which serves as a hand hold for little fingers.  Every little one who comes to our house wants to stand and look at the fishies

                         We remembered the fun mosaic project we did with Matthew when we made backdrop with broken scraps of mirror grouted to a board.

                         As we were fishing the fish out of the tank we remembered Grandpa Tinfoil, a very large tinfoil barb we had years ago. One day David noticed that he seemed to have grown a handlebar moustache. On closer inspection we saw that “moustache” was the tail of a much smaller fish Grandpa had eaten!  (We subsequently put Grandpa up for adoption at Tropical Haven.)

                      And so this morning, as we await the arrival of the carpet man, the empty aquarium is on the front porch.  The fish have been transferred to temporary shelters – all accounted for this time.  And our bathtub is full of fish tank equipment, bus trays of rocks and 5-gallon buckets of water from the tank. This is not the strangest thing our bath tub has ever held.  There was the 150 pound bear in the bathtub. But that’s another story.  Right now I have to go help move furniture.


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Carpet Installation Vacation – Day One

                       I sit in my “magic chair” looking around the empty room. Monica nicknamed it the magic chair because it’s so wonderfully comfortable that every time she sits in it she falls asleep.  I don’t usually sleep in my magic chair, but it is magic in the best sort of way. I spend a lovely hour of quiet time here just about every morning. The room is always so peaceful…so full of just the right kind of morning light. I’m surrounded with some of the things I like best in the world.  My books – the shelves are filled with books and pictures and interesting things like an hourglass, an abacus, a little world globe… And the mantle clock on top of the book shelf cloaks the tyranny of time in beauty. So I sit here in the mornings.  I pray. I read my bible. Sometimes I watch the fish in the aquarium.  Sometimes I take a hymn book from the piano and sit here and sing quietly – thanking God that everyone is still in bed and probably can’t hear me.

                  But it’s different this morning. It’s kind of echo-y. The familiar overflowing bookshelf now stands naked. The books are stacked in six boxes in the garage. The tables are gone…the lamps, the rocking chair, the little book shelf. They are all stacked in the garage and on the wood floor of John’s office.  

                         The big empty bookshelf, the piano, our 60-gallon  aquarium… and my magic chair. We’ll need help to move these four things…somewhere.  And then, the carpet man cometh!

                           In recent years John has been saying, “One should get new carpet every 25 year or so, whether you need it or not.” And our kids have told us that we really need new carpet. I have been the lone holdout. But this is the carpet to which John carried his new bride almost 27 years ago. This is the carpet where our babies learned to crawl and walk, and where the kids sprawled to play games.  It’s probably been steam cleaned a hundred times over the years – and that is another family adventure memory. I like it. I’ve really never seen the need of new carpet. I like the colour of this carpet…it still has nap…sort of.   

                         John has been talking about new carpet for a long time but I always say I’d rather spend the money and the time on a nice trip somewhere – and he ends up agreeing with me.  And we have had some wonderful vacations.  But one should really have new carpet every 25 years or so…or so they say.  So we decided that this year we will have a carpet installation vacation.  I can hardly wait!


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The Story of the Pastor and the Cat

                 My cousin, Debbi Evans, sent me this story yesterday after reading my post about LoAmmi. I’ve heard it before but it always makes me smile.  I don’t know whether or not it’s true…but it could be! 

                 A pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard, and then was afraid to come down. The pastor coaxed, offered warm milk, etc.

                 The kitty would not come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb, so the pastor decided that if he tied a rope to his car and pulled it until the tree bent down, he could then reach up and get the kitten.

                 That’s what he did, all the while checking his progress in the car. He  figured if he went just a little bit further, the tree would be bent sufficiently for him to reach the kitten… But as he moved the car a little further forward, the rope broke.

The tree went “boing!” and the kitten instantly sailed through the air – out of sight.

                   The pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they’d seen a little kitten. No. Nobody had seen a stray kitten. So he prayed, “Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping,” and went on about his business.

                 A few days later he was at the grocery store, and met one of his church members. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it, so he asked her, “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?”

                The woman neplied, “You won’t believe this, Pastor,” and then told him how her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing. Then a few days earlier the child had started  begging again. So the mom finally told her little girl, “Well, if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.” She told the pastor, “I watched my child go out in the yard, get on her knees, and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won’t believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outspread, and landed right in front of her.”

Thanks for a fun story, Debbi!


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LoAmmi

                          Hosea’s wife was pregnant and the prophet knew he was not the father. (Now that’s awkward!) I wonder if he told Gomer he knew the truth.  One can only imagine what degree of domestic tranquility the following months brought! At any rate, when the baby was born Hosea said they should call him Lo-Ammi, which means, “not my people”. 

                               This story is found in the first chapter of Hosea, and it’s where we got the name for the kitten.  

                              Monica was about ten years old and she had found a little injured ball of fur in the street in front of our house. We couldn’t tell if it had been attacked by a dog or hit by a car, but it was pretty badly mauled. She cleaned it up and bandaged its mangled tail, and put it in a box with some food.  “Can we keep it? Please?”

                            We already had two cats and a dog, so I was pretty sure John would say we didn’t need another cat.  He’s not a big cat lover to begin with.

                           “We don’t need another cat.” As I had expected John was adamant. But he did agree that Monica could nurse the kitten back to health and try to find a home for her.

                            “We can call her LoAmmi,” I told Monica, “since she’s not our cat.” I was halfway joking, but the name stuck.

                              LoAmmi recovered and thrived.  We asked everyone we knew if they wanted a kitten; a very nice kitten, a very cute kitten… except for her crooked tail.  

More or less resounding refusals from every quarter!

                           I talked with my friends – Lori’s husband said maybe, but Lori said absolutely not! Colleen was somewhat interested but Tony was unequivocal in his refusal. Robyn and Chuck just laughed.

                             Monica called the humane society and was told that they could put the kitten to sleep, humanely…for a fee

                            “I don’t want them to kill her!” Monica wailed. We particularly didn’t want to pay to have her killed.

                              Time passed and LoAmmi was not living up to her name! She was, in fact, beginning to wiggle her way into all of our affections. But we didn’t need another cat.

                          As a last resort, Monica put the kitten in a tall cardboard box with a blanket, and set it outside our back gate with a sign that said “Free to a good home.”   LoAmmi managed to climb out of the box, over the gate and back into our yard.

                         That night Monica told John the story,  “Daddy it was so cute! She’s so little and she got out of that big box.  And that fence is so high and she climbed all the way over it and came walking right up to the back door.” 

                         John pondered this for a few moments. I think he also rolled his eyes, realizing he was in checkmate. “Well, if she’s going to stay here we’d better get her fixed.

                           And so LoAmmi became our kitty in fact, if not in name. 

                          We had had three cats over the years before we got LoAmmi. They were all well-loved, and declawed, and actually allowed to live in the house. They were all handsome cats and good pets, but none of them loved us like this little stray with the crooked tail. 

                           LoAmmi never became a house cat, but every time the door is opened she’s there to rub herself against the leg and say hello, or to roll onto her back for a belly rub. We have never known a cat that liked people as much as she does.

                           LoAmmi (LoLo) has been with us for many years now, and even John remarks that the little cat is all about relationships.  He insists that she must be part dog.


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The Age of Sloshiness

“I need a personal trainer,” I told David.  “Can you show me which exercises work for which parts of the body?”  I knew David and his friends were always going to the gym working out and comparing six packs.  (Muscularly speaking that is!)   I was fast approaching my mid-fifties and knew I’d better get serious about exercising and keeping fit, so I got a pair of three-pound dumbbells and my personal trainer began to show me all the different exercises. “You’re doing great, mom!” he applauded.

After a couple of weeks David said he thought I could graduate up to five-pound dumbbells.  I considered the cost…  And then I got a brilliant idea!   Instead of going out and buying another set of dumbbells, why not buy two jugs of laundry detergent – the kind with the handle on the side.  I could pour some detergent from each of the bottles into a third empty bottle until I had two jugs that each weighed five pounds.  Perfect!  Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

So I smugly graduated to my new advanced regimen with my cleverly calibrated five-pound weights.  Up, down, in, out, back, forth…slosh, slosh, slosh, slosh…  The noise of the liquid in the jugs was a little irritating, but I was proud of my thriftiness…at first.

Then David came home one day. “How’s the exercise going, mom?”

“Oh, it’s going okay,” I replied, “but I’m about to give up on this five-pound weight idea.  I really can’t stand the sloshiness.”

David looked at me with earnest compassion, considering his words before he spoke. Then he very tactfully said, “Mom, you know there comes an age when you just have to put up with a little sloshiness.”

That’s when I wished for really big muscles to give him a smack, but I was laughing too hard!