Smart Cars and Cautious Lizards

You can't really blame Stubby for being a bit tense. The little anole lizard who lost his tail in a close encounter three weeks ago is a wiser reptile now. When I go out to the patio to take his photo, he wears his fig leaf. I did get a photo that showed Stubby had also been injured above his left hip when he lost his tail.

Stubby is getting around well now, leaping from shrub to shrub, and climbing to the top of the fence. Each day he looks less like a Smart Car, as his tail is growing back.

I can almost hear Robert Preston singing "The Sadder-But-Wiser-Girl For Me" from The Music Man for little Stubby:

I snarl, I hiss: How can ignorance be compared to bliss?

I spark, I fizz for the lady who knows what time it is.
I cheer, I rave for the virtue I'm too late to save
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.
The smarter lizard for me!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Antlers of Death

During a recent flight I read Betty Webb's zookeeper murder mystery, Anteater of Death. Good title, plus I learned that anteaters have blue tongues and are partial to bananas. Also, I remembered why I quit reading mysteries. Nice as it was to have a zookeeper heroine instead of a private detective, bounty hunter, or overweight police officer from a wealthy/dysfunctional family, the book still could have been outlined by any four third-grade girls using only an origami "fortune-teller".

If you have forgotten how to fold a fortune-teller, Enchanted Learning has clear instructions. The same week it came to my attention that most of the kindergarten students don't know about antlers. They seem to think an "antler" is a big pile of ants, and that reindeer have "cantaloupes" on their heads. Plus, they think blue tongues are caused by Otter Pops and cupcake frosting. At least that part is true.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Boca Negra and Otter Pops

The Woolly Mammoth and I spent a Sunday morning at the Petroglyph National Monument. This was my third or fourth visit to the park over fifteen years, and I was dismayed to find civilization encroaching like a bad case of cockroaches. Everywhere we looked from the top of the mesa, new homes were just a shoe's throw away.

To add a particularly unsettling soundtrack to our hike, a popsicle truck was driving up and down the residential streets. The song clearly drifting up to us was the tune that begins Firesign Theatre's "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus".

Yes, this is the Sunday morning popsicle truck in question. Who buys popsicles before noon? My son, the Woolly Mammoth, would have bought a popsicle if he had the money. Instead, he eats several Otter Pops per day.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Popular baby names

The Social Security Administration has released the list of popular baby names for 2008. As usual, I feel good about the solid names I chose for my sons. I'm thankful I didn't have to give any daughters a name foundation for self-esteem or life success.

The preschoolers are learning about animals of the southwest United States. We compared the jackrabbit hare and the cottontail rabbit. Which is more important, stamina or speed? Is it more beneficial for a child to have a stamina name or a speed name?

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


i Before e Relations

I'm smiling tonight as I pack up a birthday gift of fabric crayons and projects for my niece. She turns twelve on Friday. I remember the thrill of receiving the call while working at the library circulation desk when Natalie was born. On my way home from the library I had a splendid time shopping the girly baby department at Old Navy for funny flowered sunbonnets with matching socks.

It's good to have a relation I can relate to. To a mother of boys, a niece is a gift. She is an opportunity to stroll the pink aisle at the store. She is a dancer, artist, and seamstress--plus she knows how to write a thank you note.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Pirate Sheep

Our class is fortunate to have a mother who is a textile artist. Last week she brought her spinning wheel and did a very hands-on, kid-friendly demonstration of spinning wool into yarn. The children were enthralled, and I'm not saying that in a gushy way. When something holds the attention of two dozen preschoolers for half an hour, and intrigues them enough to make insightful observations and to ask thoughtful questions, I know there's magic involved.

One of the most transfixed was a five year old girl who is very ESL. When she first joined the class it seemed her only two words of English were "princess" and "mermaid". She was learning the language from Disney videos. As our spinning guest began speaking about sheep and wool, the little girl got giddy. "Sheep! Pirate sheep! Pirate sheep!"

Disney's Sleeping Beauty has the spinning wheel. The Little Mermaid has Prince Eric's ship. Peter Pan has pirates. But this little BoPeep was missing her sheep. Sheep -> Wool -> Yarn -> Sweater.

It's strange to realize how many children have no concept of the world outside their city. They haven't driven through rural areas to see farms, ranches, orchards. Where do foods come from? Where do fibers come from to make our clothes? Where does lumber come from to build houses?

When my sons were little they loved a series of library books by Ali Mitgutsch that explained where things come from and how they are made. The series was called "From Start to Finish".

One good thing that will come out of our current economic downturn is a return to backyard vegetable gardening. It is good to understand that growing food is time-consuming hard work AND even more of a fantasia than Walt let on.

Arrgh! I'm Cap'n Ovine, and I'm steering our course over the high seas.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Inside the patio anole popper

It's been a frenetic leaping lizard weekend on the patio. Sometimes there was so much leaping and shaking that the garden seemed like a corn popper. The anoles still love to hide behind the clay masks hanging on the fence. Now they even walk across the cork bridge I made for them last year. At one point I looked out the window and counted ten lizards.

There are only two anoles in the bunch that I can identify as individuals. The Big Frijole who leaps from the solar lamp has a distinctive black tail tip. My hero is not really a big lizard, as some on the fence are at least twice as large.

Then there is Stubby. He's a bit bigger than the Big Frijole, but his tail broke off. I wonder how it was lost, and hope it grows back quick. Usually an anole's tail is longer than the rest of its body, but Stubby's is only a half inch long now. He's having an awful time trying to climb up the sedum and brussels sprout plants to get to the scrumptious cabbage caterpillars. He keeps sliding down and falling off. Guess I always thought of tails as fashion accessories, but Stubby's lost tail clearly had a survival role in his balance and agility.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine's May issue has information about anoles.

One anole went leaping about on the daisies until it finally landed on the black wrought-iron garden hook for my birdfeeder. Anoles and chameleons don't really change color to match their surroundings. I keep reading that these lizards change color because they are angry, tired, sick, too hot, or too cold. It was a hot muggy day, and the lizard on the wrought iron was upset about another anole on a plant nearby. Still, this was the first time I've seen one turn dark reddish black.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


The-Cows-Are-Out Epidemic

Swine flu fizzled out, but there's a new epidemic raging. I first wrote about The-Cows-Are-Out phenomenon a couple weeks back when a preschooler informed me that our classroom was out of paper towels. A tiny herd of children with undried hands stared up at me waiting for a dispenser refill.

This phenomenon is spreading rapidly. A healthy septuagenarian came to me today to report this dire news:

It is dark in the restroom.

Good golly, Mizz Molly, weez all agonna die. If I couldn't find the light switch in a public restroom, I'd be far too embarrassed to report it to the hired help, let alone expect their assistance.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder



Struggles writing my next column have left me staring out at the patio all hours of the day and night. My brain grinds with all the imagination possessed by the imported cabbage worms who just go forth and chomp. The caterpillars have denuded the Brussels sprout plants. Basically, they've created a masterpiece, "The Brussels Sprout Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even".

What's the deal with "denuded"? Shouldn't that mean putting your clothes back on? (2 a: to strip of all covering or surface layers) The cruciferous plants out back really need some fig leaves to cover their private parts! Spirits of art history assistant professors past, present, and future haunt my patio.

With my hero, the Big Frijole Anole, leaping around crunching caterpillars, there's enough action for "Denude Descending de Staircase".

I'm more curious than partisan in these events. The Dallas Museum of Art had a wonderful exhibit a few years back about Marcel Duchamp. I don't know how Duchamp felt about cruciferous vegetables' alleged ability to fight cancer. "Cruciferous" seems to mean plants with four-petaled flowers, and include broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, mustard, and cabbage.

I'll grow Brussels sprouts again next year for the Dada drama, not for the taste.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Diving platform for lounge lizard

My hero, the Big Frijole Anole, has taken control of a solar-powered patio light in the garden. At first I thought he was just posing conspicuously to lure me away from my computer work for another photo shoot. His color was brown, so I figured he was kinda down. Maybe he was one of those lounge lizards who show up and start drinking hours before the DJ turns on the lighted dance floor.
Turns out he'd just had a big plate of crunchy appetizers and needed a rest. Ten minutes later he was green and actively peering out over his domain, ready to leap in any direction. Each time he jumped, he returned crunching something in his mouth, and turned brown for a rest break. The dude is the master of all he surveys! He just found another delicious white cabbage caterpillar, and I'm hearing the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever".

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


KLMS 1480

My niece will turn twelve soon. How groovy is that? It's quite the 59th Street Bridge Song.

At twelve I could be found listening to KLMS 1480 AM on my transistor radio with the dorky plug-in earphone that looked like my grandmother's hearing aid. My transistor radio actually had a beige vinyl carrying case.

On Saturdays we used to walk up to Gateway Mall to pick up a copy of the KLMS Top 48 Hitlist, even after we listened to the Top 48 Countdown show. If we had saved our allowance for a few weeks we might purchase a 45 rpm hit for eighty-eight cents in the lower level of Montgomery Ward.

To be honest, that was as hip as I ever got. Forty-two years later, I can still hum seventy-eight of the top hits of 1967. Most of this information, carefully stored in my brain, is only useful for solving crossword puzzles.

1. To Sir With Love, Lulu
2. Happy Together, The Turtles
3. Windy, Association
4. Ode To Billie Joe, Bobby Gentry
5. I'm A Believer, The Monkees
6. Light My Fire, The Doors
7. Somethin' Stupid, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra
8. The Letter, Box Tops
9. Groovin', Young Rascals
10. Kind Of A Drag, Buckinghams
11. Little Bit O' Soul, Music Explosion
12. I Think We're Alone Now, Tommy James and The Shondells
13. Respect, Aretha Franklin
14. I Was Made To Love Her, Stevie Wonder
15. Come Back When You Grow Up, Bobby Vee and The Strangers
16. Sweet Soul Music, Arthur Conley
17. Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Frankie Valli
18. Never My Love, Association
19. Soul Man, Sam and Dave
21. Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, Jay and The Techniques
22. Come On Down To My Boat, Every Mothers' Son
23. Incense And Peppermints, Strawberry Alarm Clock
24. Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones
25. It Must Be Him, Vicki Carr
27. For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield
29. The Happening, Supremes
30. All You Need Is Love, Beatles
31. Release Me (And Let Me Love Again), Engelbert Humperdinck
33. Somebody To Love, Jefferson Airplane
34. Get On Up, Esquires
35. Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison
36. Jimmy Mack, Martha and The Vandella
38. A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Procol Harum
39. Don't You Care, Buckinghams
40. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, Casinos
41. Reflections, Diana Ross and The Supremes
42. On A Carousel, Hollies
44. Alfie, Dionne Warwick
45. San Francisco, Scott Mckenzie
46. Silence Is Golden, Tremeloes
47. My Cup Runneth Over, Ed Ames
48. Up, Up And Away, Fifth Dimension
49. The Rain, The Park And Other Things, Cowsills
50. There's A Kind Of Hush, Herman's Hermits
51. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Buckinghams
52. This Is My Song, Petula Clark
53. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher, Jackie Wilson
55. Penny Lane, Beatles
57. Georgy Girl, Seekers
58. Western Union, Five Americans
60. A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me, The Monkees
61. California Nights, Lesley Gore
62. Dedicated To The One I Love, Mama's and The Papa's
63. How Can I Be Sure, Young Rascals64. Carrie Ann, Hollies
68. Gimme Some Lovin', Spencer Davis Group
69. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out), Hombres7
0. Let's Live For Today, The Grass Roots
71. Close Your Eyes, Peaches and Herb
74. Pleasant Valley Sunday, The Monkees
75. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), Aretha Franklin
76. Tell It Like It Is, Aaron Neville
78. She'd Rather Be With Me, The Turtles
81. White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
82. Here Comes My Baby, Tremeloes
83. The Beat Goes On, Sonny and Cher
84. Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron, Royal Guardsmen
86. Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, Neil Diamond
89. Bernadette, Four Tops
90. Everlasting Love, Robert Knight
91. I Dig Rock And Roll Music, Peter, Paul and Mary
92. Litle Ole Man (Uptight-Everything's Alright), Bill Cosby
93. Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
94. Daydream Believer, The Monkees
95. Thank The Lord For The Night Time, Neil Diamond
97. Green, Green Grass Of Home, Tom Jones
98. I Can See For Miles, The Who
99. Don't Sleep In The Subway, Petula Clark
100. Baby I Need Your Lovin', Johnny Rivers

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Barrymore's sandwich

A recent staff birthday lunch set me off on a taste trail. One teacher brought tiny sandwiches with flavored cream cheese fillings. Some were salmon, some sun-dried tomato, and others chive. While good, they only reminded me of excellent cream cheese sandwiches served at Barrymore's in Lincoln in the mid-Seventies.

Black olives and walnuts with thin-sliced rye seem to have been components. I've been experimenting for a couple weeks, and have a tasty spread, although I no longer know if it bears any resemblance to the Barrymore's filling. My first effort was so heavy on pressed garlic that I gave myself a dreadful headache, so this is quite toned down:

Place in medium bowl and blend with hand mixer on medium high until smooth:
12 oz. store brand cream cheese spread
1 fresh basil leaf
1 stalk of fresh dill
1 sprinkle of garlic salt

Drain and chop:
12 pitted kalamata olives
1 oz. sliced sweet pimientos (1/3 jar)

Add olives and pimientos to cream cheese along with 1/3 cup walnut pieces. Mix with rubber spatula.

Use spread on crackers, toasted sourdough, sliced rye. Pretty darn good.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


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