Archive for January 2013

Why Do I Even HAVE A Lawn?   1 comment

My Grandfather was the one who mowed his yard with a horse.  Shown here with 4 generations: my Grandfather, Great Grandmother, and my Great Great Grandmother Baugher is holding my mother.  1930.

My Grandfather was the one who mowed his yard with a horse. Shown here with 4 generations: my Grandfather, Great Grandmother, and my Great Great Grandmother Baugher holding my mother. Looks like a nice lawn.  1930.

I am committed to taking responsibility for my lawn.  As I confronted the truth of my G G G Aunt’s lack of lawn care, though, (pictures posted here and here), I began to question my assumptions … and remember my beginnings as a lawn care professional.

Mom tells me that her family didn’t have a lawn mower when she was a kid.  This would have been in the 30s … and she remembers her father cutting the blue grass perhaps 2 or 3 times a summer … with a horse-drawn mower.

Why Do We Have Lawns?

Dr John Falk theorizes that we want lawns because we evolved on the savannas of Africa.  Our roots lead us to prefer grassy areas with scattered trees.  So why don’t we want monkeys in the trees, I wonder?

Lawns started with European nobility, actually.  Louis XIV was the first to have a green lawn; his gardens at Versailles set a standard that the European aristocracy aspired to for centuries.

Lawns were one way that the rich could differentiate themselves from the working class.  If you could afford to keep a lawn, that meant you didn’t “have” to cultivate that land to feed your family.  You had more land than you needed, so you could just plant grass that you couldn’t even eat!  Conspicuous consumption in a pure form, as pointed out to me by Ed Darrell, who writes Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

In the New World, it wasn’t until after the Revolutionary War that America’s leaders adopted lawns as well.  Washington and Jefferson both had extensive lawns around their houses.  Lawns didn’t make it to the common man until suburbs began to be built after the Civil War, according to Virginia Scott Jenkins, author of The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession.

Once you have a lawn, you have to cut it.  In the beginning, that was done with goats, sheep … and serfs.  And thus began man’s love affair with the Saturday afternoon ritual of cutting the grass.

Here's a picture of the riding mower that I used from elementary school through high school.  I even earned a dollar now and again.

Here’s an illustration of the 1965 Craftsman riding mower that I used from elementary through high school. I even earned a dollar now and again.

But … I Live In A Desert!

Lawns aren’t normal in Southern California.  Well, they are normal today, but they aren’t native.

California’s native animal species regard lawns as no different from concrete!  Native species prefer the shrubs and grasses native to the chaparral climate that my area has.Xeriscaping 1

That’s what they can live in.  That’s what they can eat.  Imported grass?  Not their thing.

My newfound love of native plant species would work very well for a xeriscaping effort in my yard.  And wouldn’t I prefer spiny succulents and dried grasses that require almost no water and less care instead of the high maintenance blue fescue grass that will require an incredibly needy 2 hours a month to maintain?

So, what should I do?  I could keep the current lawn, meaning I have to buy a lawnmower and all of the wonderful tools necessary to keep a luxurious, soft, inviting green lawn.

Or, I can tear out all of the grass that we had installed 7 years ago and replace it with a native xeriscape that is friendly to both the water supply and the native animals.  The downside, unfortunately, is that I’ll need to avoid walking barefoot across the lawn, feeling the grass between my toes.

I’m pretty sure the last time I did that, it was 2005.

Xeriscaping 2

More

Pulverized Concepts

mumpsimusthought

The Lawn: A History Of An American Obsession

England’s Old Lawnmower Club

American-Lawns.com

Growing Native

Posted January 23, 2013 by henrymowry in California, Living Life

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Maple Whisky Glazed Cedar Planked Salmon   3 comments

Ingredients

1 lb Salmon

Garlic salt & pepper, to taste (Velda actually used her favorite seasoning, which is Magic Dust from The Hitching Post in Buellton, CA.)

Velda’s Maple Whisky Syrup

Instructions

Soak cedar plank in warm water for 30 minutes.

Soak cedar plank in warm water for 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium high heat, approximately 500*.

Salmon on Plank

Place salmon on plank.

Season both sides of the salmon with garlic salt and pepper.  Brush with Maple Whisky Syrup. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Season both sides of the salmon with garlic salt and pepper. Brush with Maple Whisky Syrup. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Salmon Glaze

Brush with Maple Whisky Syrup.

Brush with Maple Whisky Syrup.

Salmon cooking

Brush with Maple Whisky Syrup and grill approximately 10 minutes, until fish flakes easily. Remove from cedar plank. Brush with additional Maple Whisky Syrup & serve.
Serves 4.

Serve with Velda’s Honey Glazed Carrots and Rachel Ray’s Spinach & Artichoke Mac ‘n Cheese.

Salmon Dinner

Honey Glazed Carrots   3 comments

Ingredients

  • 1 lb whole carrots
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp finely minced parsley (optional)

Instructions

Carrot Prep

Peel carrots.  Slice lengthwise, then on the diagonal every 1/4".

Peel carrots. Slice lengthwise, then on the diagonal every 1/4″.

Melt butter in large covered skillet

Melt butter in large covered skillet

Add carrots. Stir to coat with butter (can add some olive oil to coat thoroughly if desired). Sprinkle with salt & pepper, stir. Allow to brown (carmelize) for approximately 5 minutes over medium to high heat without stirring.

Add carrots. Stir to coat with butter (can add some olive oil to coat thoroughly if desired). Sprinkle with salt & pepper, stir. Allow to brown (carmelize) for approximately 5 minutes over medium to high heat without stirring.

Stir again.  Add 2 tbsp water & cover.  Steam for 5-7 minutes depending on the degree of softness you desire.

Stir again. Add 2 tbsp water & cover. Steam for 5-7 minutes depending on the degree of softness you desire. Remove lid and allow water to evaporate, stirring once of twice.

Drizzle with honey. The adult beverage helps ensure better photographs.

Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with finely minced fresh parsley, if desired.

Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with finely minced fresh parsley, if desired.

Posted January 22, 2013 by henrymowry in Recipes

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Maple Whisky Syrup   2 comments

Whisky Maple SyrupThis will set you free, my friends.  Highly recommended!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Crown Royal Maple Whisky
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup Grade A maple syrup

Instructions

Melt butter; add brown sugar.  Stir in whiskey.  Heat for 1 minute in microwave.  Stir in 1 cup of maple syrup.

Red Velvet mix

We first had this on red velvet pancakes, and it was great.  That inspired Velda to put it on grilled salmon (which tasted nothing like red velvet pancakes) … and this is definitely something you need to make!

Red Velvet skillet

Crown Royal Maple Finished Whisky

Posted January 22, 2013 by henrymowry in Recipes

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Portraits: Andrew Jackson   Leave a comment

Andrew Jackson (1767 – 1845)

The 7th President of the United States, 1829 – 1837

AKA: Old Hickory, The Hero of New Orleans

From: Tennessee

College: One of eight US Presidents not to attend college

Married to: Rachel Donelson

Children: Andrew Jackson, Lyncoya Jackson, John Samuel Donelson, Andrew Jackson Donelson, Andrew Jackson Hutchings, Carolina Butler, Eliza Butler, Edward Butler, Anthony Butler

Party: Democratic-Republican (until 1828), Democratic (after 1828)

Previous Jobs: Saddle maker, teacher, lawyer, solicitor (prosecutor), planter, merchant, US Representative, US Senator, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, General, 

In His Words:  “Let it be signified to me through any channel … that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished.”

“The individual who refuses to defend his rights when called by his Government, deserves to be a slave, and must be punished as an enemy of his country and friend to her foe.”

“As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending.”

“John Calhoun, if you secede from my nation I will secede your head from the rest of your body.”

Not true: Andrew Jackson married Rachel Donelson Robards, that’s true.  However, it’s not true that she was available to be married!  They were united in holy matrimony after Ms. Robards told Jackson that her husband had divorced her in 1790.  Unfortunately, the divorce was never completed, which made our future President a bigamist and invalidated their marriage.  Eventually, the divorce was completed and Jackson was later legally married to Ms. Donelson.

True: Jackson may have owned as many as 300 slaves during his lifetime.

In the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, Jackson commanded an outnumbered American force that won a decisive victory over the British.

Rachel Jackson died two months before her husband was inaugurated.

Jackson was the first President to invite the public to attend the White House ball honoring his first inauguration. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in their homemade clothes.

Jackson paid off the entire national debt in 1835.  This is the only time in U.S. history this has been accomplished.

The Official Portrait:  Thomas Sully painted the official White House portrait of Andrew Jackson.  This prolific painter completed over 2,600 paintings according to his own index. Other famous portraits done by Sully include a different painting of Jackson, which was the source for Jackson’s image on the $20 bill. His portrait of John Quincy Adams is in the National Gallery of Art.  Portraits of Thomas Jefferson are at the University of Virginia and West Point.

Andrew Jackson, official White House portrait

Andrew Jackson signature

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Big Mo on Andrew Jackson

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Posted January 21, 2013 by henrymowry in POTUS

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A Wonderful Dinner Makes It All OK   3 comments

Steaks on the grill, with perfect grill marks, too!

Steaks on the grill, with perfect grill marks, too!

This was not a good day.  But, as the Bard said, “All’s well that ends well!”

We had tickets to go see the Bruins play Oregon for first place in the Pac 12 in men’s basketball.  Two ranked teams.  That ended poorly if you’re a Bruin.

How do you cook a steak perfectly?  Take its temperature, and know what it should be for your favorite degree of doneness.  (I kill me.)

How do you cook a steak perfectly? Take its temperature, and know what it should be for your favorite degree of doneness. (I kill me.)

Velda stayed home so she could cook dinner … we had a wonderful steak dinner planned for the whole family, and she didn’t want to rush her preparation.  She was studying how to bake a perfect baked potato while she ate breakfast … and the Lady has some experience baking potatoes.  But she was committed to perfection, God love her.

Unfortunately, my Mizzou Tigers were not.  They played the hated Florida Gators today, also in men’s basketball. Two ranked teams.  That ended poorly if you’re a Tiger.  Heck, it started poorly and got worse.  It was just plain awful for the Black & Gold.

But dinner was a thing of beauty.  Velda studied, and had some wonderful steaks that were a Christmas present from Aunt Sis & Uncle Steve. They sent us Kansas City steaks, which proved to be a couple of grades above anything we can find in California.  Velda cooked some bacon-wrapped filets along with some Kansas City strips from Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse.

When Velda couldn't get the timer on her smartphone to work, she had to call in emergency tech support to get it going.  And it did.

When Velda couldn’t get the timer on her smartphone to work, she had to call in emergency tech support to get it going. Michael pressed start.  Problem solved.

It was a wonderful dinner.

Steak.  Baked potatoes.  Fresh Green Beans.  The Pioneer Woman’s Buttered Rosemary Rolls (and you will not believe how easy they are to make!).  Fresh spring greens salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing. Sautéed mushrooms and Velda’s Gorgonzola Butter on the side for the steaks.

Mmmmmmm.

But the creation was pretty chaotic.  Don’t think that wonderful dinners are always a product of a beautiful & magical process.  This one was as ugly as the Mizzou game.

Fire! Fire!

Fire! Fire!

Velda followed the directions she read for the perfect baked potato, and coated the potatoes with olive oil.  That was great, until she put them in the hot oven, the oil dripped through the grill, hit the bottom of the oven, and filled the house with smoke.  Thank goodness we have a whole house fan.

Velda had begun working on the steaks hours earlier.  She’d seasoned them with a dry rub.  Brought them to room temperature … and then it was time to put the steaks on the grill.  In good time, they were rotated from the 12:00 position to the 1:30 position so they would have perfect grill marks. And then it all caught on fire.

Very expensive steaks, a wonderful gift from family … on fire.

I think it was then she yelled at me for taking a picture.  And demanded I bring her whiskey outside.  Yes, dear.  No problem.

Whatever it takes, Velda, whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes, Velda, whatever it takes.

Christopher did a great job keeping Payton entertained so the rest of the family could get dinner on the table.

Christopher did a great job keeping Payton entertained so the rest of the family could get dinner on the table. No steak for Miss P, though!

She barked orders, which I in turn politely relayed as requests to the family.  Honest.  I was the model of civility and eloquence.  And then I told each kid (they are our kids; I don’t care how old they are) what they needed to do to help get the meal on the table.

Brianna had already plated the salads.  Alley grabbed the side dishes and got them on the table.  Everybody scrambled to get the table ready, got drinks, and got ready. Five minutes later, we sat down to an elegant steak dinner.

Best we’ve had in our home.

Be very clear: Velda is an absolute artist in the kitchen. Sometimes, though, artistic creation is difficult.  But, if you work through the process, use your resources and get help when you need it, you will have a wonderful dinner just like we did.

And whiskey just might help.    Believe me, after 34 years of marriage, I use my helpful resources, as well.

More

Here’s the recipe for Velda’s Gorgonzola Butter.

Perfect Baked Potato Recipe

Cooking The Perfect Steak

Another perfect dinner from Velda's kitchen

Another perfect dinner from Velda’s kitchen

Posted January 20, 2013 by henrymowry in Living Life

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Velda’s Gorgonzola Butter   2 comments

The perfect top for the perfect steak.  Or tri tip … or, what’s your pleasure?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

Stir the cheese and butter together until they are thoroughly mixed.  Add the other ingredients and combine.  Serve!

Posted January 20, 2013 by henrymowry in Recipes

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Another Aunt, Another Bad Lawn   2 comments

Morgan Family Home

Here we have a picture of another part of my family, and another rather interesting lawn.  The photo is circa 1905, taken near Graham, MO.

The matriarch of the family, front and center, is Lucy Farrow Morgan, who would be my Great Great Great Aunt, AKA Great Great Grandaunt.

Also identified is the man sitting on the left, her son-in-law Philip Daise.  I’ll assume that he’s using the lawn ornament as a hat rack, though I have no idea what that is or how it’s working.  His wife, Mary Alma Morgan Daise, is sitting center left.

And this lovely family doesn’t seem to care that their “lawn” is rather tall.  Perhaps my ancestors are trying to tell me something….

Morgan Family Yard, Up Close

Journalism, I Mourn For Thee (part 1)   3 comments

I haven’t yet paid money for an electronic publication.  Have you?

I do pay dollars for print publications … but then, I’m old.  Older than the average reader of newspapers, come to find out.  Look at the demographics of newspaper readership, here.

But do I pay digital dimes for electronic media?  No.

Mobile pennies?  No way.

And that’s the problem with journalism today.  We as a society are reading newspapers less and less.  We are subscribing less and less.  Revenues are falling.  Quickly.

Are we paying money for electronic media as a substitute?  Not so much.  So who is paying for the journalists?

The easy answer is not enough people. That’s why newspapers are shrinking or closing all together.

We’re all quick to throw rocks at bad journalism … I was fascinated by the Manti Te’o stories over the last couple of days.  Mr. Te’o struck up an internet romance with a young lady, apparently, except it wasn’t a  real lady.  And then she died.  Or maybe she never existed, but Mr. Te’o thought she did.  It’s very confusing.  Here’s the New York Times summary, here.

In any event, there were several media critics eager to blame the other journalists that believed the story and ran it without verifying that there was an actual dead woman.  In this era of journalistic cutbacks, it’s easy to understand how sports journalists weren’t seeking out funeral homes to verify there was a body to match the alleged tragedy of a premiere football player.  But is it excusable?

Wacky times.

Bottom line is this:  we no longer have a reliable press corps that is seeking truth in every thing they report before they report it.  “Get it right, first” is no longer the slogan to live by.  Perhaps now it’s “Get it, then revise it, then update it, then apologize if you had errors.”

And by not subscribing to electronic publications, we’re not helping the big media companies pay for better journalists.

I don’t watch TV news much (meaning never outside of special coverage) … so I’m not helping the networks by watching their ads, either.

And for those journalists still fortunate enough to have a job, we have a media savvy elite that’s not cooperating. Did you know President Obama had fewer press conferences in his first term than Clinton or either of the Bushes?  He’s not talking to journalists much … and he’s hand picking those he will talk to.  At those somewhat rare press conferences, he called on ABC correspondents twice as often as he called on Fox correspondents.

I understand wanting to avoid hostile questions … but is he also avoiding discussing alternative views by not talking to journalists that don’t support him?

Journalism, I mourn for thee.

January 17, 1994   2 comments

It was Martin Luther King Day: January 17, 1994.

Our 3-1/2 year old daughter had crawled into bed between us.

When parts of the Golden State Freeway collapsed, the vehicles on the remaining "islands" of freeway had to be removed by crane.  Can you imagine being a driver in one of those vehicles?

When parts of the Golden State Freeway collapsed, the vehicles on the remaining “islands” of freeway had to be removed by crane. Can you imagine being a driver in one of those vehicles? Photo by Brant Ward/SF Chronicle

It was at 4:31 AM when the earth began to move.

The Northridge Earthquake

It was fortunate that it was so early: most people were still in bed, just like we were.  Freeways were empty.  But when the earthquake hit, those empty freeways began to sway … it was estimated that the I-5 Golden State Freeway bridges near us in the Newhall Pass moved 9′ side to side … and they had been designed to only move 3′ side to side.  They fell.

About a mile from the collapse of the Golden State Freeway bridges, the 14 freeway also had bridges collapse.  A CHP motorcycle cop, hurrying to work as a first responder, drove off this bridge and fell to his death.

About a mile from the collapse of the Golden State Freeway bridges, the 14 freeway also had bridges collapse. A CHP motorcycle cop, hurrying to work as a first responder, drove off this bridge and fell to his death.

As Los Angeles woke up, remarkably, there were thankfully few fatalities attributed to the most destructive earthquake the area had seen in years. 61 people were killed … compared to 3,000 killed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Property damage from the Northridge Earthquake was extensive; this was the most expensive quake to hit California.  Damages were estimated at $67 billion, making this the 3rd most expensive US natural disaster (after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, $145 billion, and the 1998 drought/heat wave in the central & eastern US, $76 billion).

The Mowrys Were Fine

My family escaped relatively unscathed.  We had one knick knack that broke … and that’s it.  Across the street, our neighbors had their water heater fall.  There were cracks in a few walls in our neighborhood.  A few miles away, second stories collapsed onto first stories.  We were very lucky.

When the quake hit, the first thing Velda and I did was protect our little girl.  We both protected her by covering with our bodies … and after the earth stopped moving, we heard a muffled whimpering from Lauren that was buried under us.  She was fine — she just needed to get us OFF of her!

All of the utilities were out.  Cell phones worked, so we used them to call the families in the Midwest … but our batteries were shot, so we could only talk less than a minute before batteries were gone.

Electricity came back in 24 hours, and that’s when we first had television to see the devastation visited upon LA.  Water was back on fairly quickly, but wasn’t drinkable for some time. Those were minor inconveniences in the end … we were fine.

The freeways, however, were a mess.  I literally couldn’t get to work until debris was cleared from the surface streets.  It was clear that everyone’s commute would be a nightmare for many months.  Therefore, I drove west to Ventura 2 days later (those roads were clear) and bought my first PC (as they were called in those days).  Previously, we had used an Apple II GS, which was great for preschoolers but was not business-friendly.  I bought an “IBM Compatible” computer and set up my home office.  Phone service for the office was installed on Friday — just 4 days after the earthquake!  One week after the earthquake, I was working in a home office.

I didn’t have a choice.  My one-way commute was 3 hours.

I worked in my home office for 9 months, until the freeways were back.  I drove into the office on Fridays to lead the sales meeting and make sure everyone remembered who I was.  I learned that if I left really, really early, then I lessened my commuting nightmare.  Thus began my ever-earlier commutes to work to avoid rush hour traffic as best I could.

My experiences working from home in 1994 served me well, though: it helped me understand how to set up an at-home, multi-location work force as that became necessary.  Eventually, I had several sales reps working for me from their homes.  That was not normal in the 90s!  And, who knew that 15 years later I would begin working from home full-time!

A Natural Disaster

The earthquake was devastating to Los Angeles.  I know most people who don’t live in earthquake zones think they are the worst possible act of God.  In the years since, though, we’ve seen hurricanes, drought, snow storms and floods affect our friends.  It seems natural disasters find us all from time to time.  It’s just like Rosanne Rosannadanna said: “It’s always somethin’!”

Rosanne Rosannadanna, as portrayed by Gilda Radner in early Weekend Updates on Saturday Night Live.

Rosanne Rosannadanna, as portrayed by Gilda Radner in early Weekend Updates on Saturday Night Live.

More

US Department of Transportation

Caltech Facts

Snopes.com: Did FEMA under-report the intensity of the quake?

Daily News

LA Times Photo Gallery

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