The Trouble with Truffles

So many chocolates in fancy containers, so little time. The candy seems to keep multiplying, first taking over the kitchen counter, then the coffee table. The truffles seem harmless at first. Shiny wrappers. Tempting aroma. Impressive names and pedigrees. Soon they are filling and flowing out of the ventilation system.

Captain Kirk's Starship Enterprise is eventually overrun with fuzzy, cheeping rodinks. CollageMama's condo is overrun with cute truffles.

No more presents! Just let me play in the gift box!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Tiffany butterflies with my youngest

The Malachite butterfly flitted to the leaf and settled to pose for my camera. It's irridescent wings shone in the late afternoon sunlight inside the Sammons Butterfly House. I'd seen many larger, totally uncooperative Blue Morpho butterflies. This green gem wanted to be photographed, and then wanted to show off its underwings. Once I caught my breath again, the Malachite waited for me to fetch the Woolly Mammoth and his lady friend to appreciate the sight.

The underside seems to be fashioned of the thinnest slices of jade pieced together with copper in a lapidary jeweler's creation. "Metallic oxide" popped into my head along with "Louis Comfort Tiffany". This butterfly may have inspired Tiffany's glass designs.

I was fortunate to share the Dallas Museum of Art's splendid exhibit of Tiffany creations with my Woolly Mammoth son in 2006. Sharing an afternoon at the Sammons Butterfly House in Fair Park will be another wonderful memory. I am grateful to have this special connection with my son, nature, art, and with his new friend.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


I'm dreaming of a surfer Christmas

I'm glad the Obamas are spending a week or so in Hawaii. I hope the little girls are loving the island fashions. Maybe Michelle is checking out the Hawaiian quilting tradition.

When I was a child our very generous next door neighbor used to bring us Christmas gifts from Hawaii. We loved dressing up in shirts or muu-muus with bold floral patterns, leis and seed bracelets.

The guys behind the post office counter at 8:30 this morning looked like Maytag repairmen. This must be the slowest mail day of the year after a month of postal mania. When I told the man I couldn't stand any more Liberty Bells he was glad to show me some Hawaii statehood surfer stamps. I'm hearing that Hawaii Five-O theme song!

When the International Quilt Study Center opened in Lincoln, Nebraska, I saw my first Hawaiian quilt. It resembled a child's folded cut-out snowflake in red and white, but with island vegetation shapes. As a paper-cutter, I was intrigued. New England missionaries brought the idea of quilting to the Hawaiian natives in the early 1800s, along with new fabrics. There's something wonderful about the quilts that makes me feel a sweet aloha dream must be guaranteed for every user, Presidents included.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Runza-making as stress relief

My pre-Christmas to-do list has been jettisoned. All my intentions of super-cleaning have gone down the tube as I deal with my father's mandatory move from assisted living to skilled care. My sister will do the actual dirty work of flying into Lincoln and managing the physical move. I will handle the multiple daily calls to help Dad understand what is happening and why.

Garrison Keillor would prescribe catsup or rhubarb pie at a time like this, but I'm going with runzas. Danger Baby and I are making runzas together so that he can learn. Now that he lives in the Windy City he appreciates this winter food. He will take a batch of frozen runzas to his future in-laws as an offering of traditional comfort food from one family to another.

Runzas are a taste tradition in Lincoln, Nebraska. They have a German ancestry and are called bierocks by Kansans. The first Runza Drive-In was a little shack on the road out to Pioneers Park southwest of Lincoln. It opened in 1949.

Runzas are traditional Cornhusker football food. They are believed to cure winter headcolds and to get students through finals week.

For awhile the Runza location closest to the UNL campus was called “Rock and Roll Runza”. The servers wore rollerskates. That’s probably where Danger Baby ate his first runza.

A runza is a spicy meat filling baked inside a bread dough. Each year I work from two or three recipes to concoct my version. This is my best understanding to date:

In a large, heavy skillet brown 2 lbs. ground beef. As you chop them add in 2/3 head green cabbage, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic chopped fine, 2 stalks celery chopped fine. Add 2 T water. Simmer, stirring often. Drain grease, then add 1 T worchestershire sauce, ½ t oregano, 1 t pepper, and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cool in refrigerator.

Thaw one package (3 loaves) of Bridgford Ready-Dough according to package directions. Let rise according to directions. Punch down. Pinch off balls of dough as big as a large lemon. Roll each ball on a floured board with a floured rolling pin until it is at least 4”x8”. Add ½ cup of filling. Bring the sides of dough together, then the ends, and pinch securely. Place on greased cookie sheet pinched side down. Leave a space between runzas. Let rise again. Freeze at this point, or else bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Makes 18 runzas.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Odor and texture memory

I caught just the slightest scent of a wet brown paper sack today, and was transported nearly a half century back in time to the brown singlefold paper towels in the restrooms at my elementary school. Those paper towels didn't dry hands so much as chap them. Then I could feel and smell the weird, gritty powdered soap that came out of the dispensers at the sinks. Don't know what that stuff was made of since it sure didn't lather. It just scoured the dirt, paint, nose goobies, and graphite off of us.

Elementary school was not for wimps!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


A letter of appreciation to my control-top pantyhose

The best discussion at the library today involved the proper way to thank a donor who contributes to an organization every year. Just in case the usage police were out in force, we weighed the pros and cons for appreciating "continued support" against "continuing support".

The longer I pondered, the more I thought about Leggs control top pantyhose. Do pantyhose provide continued support or continuing support? Mostly pantyhose are a source of persistent irritation. They sag and bag around my ankles, or the saddle migrates south toward my knees. I'm continually thankful for a job that rarely requires donning pantyhose.

Men should not wear pantyhose for many enduring reasons. Primarily, they can't distinguish between nude, "barely there", buff, beige, taupe, coffee, and suntan in the hosiery department. I'm constantly grateful that the popularity of "suntan" pantyhose and Yardley white lipstick peaked while I was in junior high.

When stuck in such a usage dilemma, I usually try to substitute a completely different word. So I suggested replacing continuing or continued with "constant". Thank you for your constant support... Another person suggested "faithful". Dogs are faithful, but annual contributors don't want to think they are the dog. As Sally asked Harry, "Is one of us supposed to be a DOG in this scenario?"

That dog is Lassie. What's up with the continuous yapping? It's so annoying. You say Timmy fell in the well again, and he's dropped the thesaurus too?

Somewhere between persistent and sustaining we can find the properly nuanced word for reliably donating to a worthy cause. Then we can acknowledge the donation in a proper manner.

"Persisting" sounds like an itchy rash that defies treatment. "Sustain" is what honey and condensed milk do for Winnie-the-Pooh. "Continued" has problems with being postponed, adjourned, interrupted or resumed at the city council meeting. "Enduring", "unfaltering", and "needing no renewal" are all synonyms for "continuing". Of course, we always want donors to renew, or none of us would get so many letters from charities this time of year.

I've never had a pair of pantyhose that endured. Even the ones with continuous support falter.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Cold-fingered latte drinkers and other birds

Our three-hour guided bird walk at Connemara Meadow Preserve yielded good views of ruby crowned kinglets, American crow, red-shouldered hawks, flocks of cedar waxwings and Eastern bluebirds, kestrel (sparrow hawk), house finches, goldfinches, cardinals, tufted titmouse, Northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, gull, mallards, Canada geese, mockingbirds, Carolina chickadee, robins, cowbirds, and starlings. This was my first ever bird hike with binoculars, and I got better as the morning went on. It was a dark, cloudy, windy, damp morning, so it was difficult to see bird colors. The temperature stayed near 37 degrees.

More experienced birders also saw Carolina wren, yellow-rumped warbler, ring-neck ducks, widgeons, and identified sparrows. After squishing through the swampy part of the lower meadow, we were blue-footed shiverers, but our best sightings were made in the pecan woods and the land conservancy area near the tree farm.

My companions were overjoyed with the flock of Eastern bluebirds flitting in the young trees. My most exciting views were the ruby-crowned kinglets at very close range in the brush by the road, and the tufted titmouse with its pinkish tummy.

The walk was a wintery attitude adjuster, and I feel more ready to tackle Christmas projects at home and with my students. A pleasant visit in the Market Street coffee shop was nice for warming inside and out.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Get smarter with nuked soup

The problem with American schools is soup. Our students are stunted in their education by Chef Boyardee, Campbell's Soups, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. There's only so much teachers can do when we are up against the dumbed-down microwave pasta powerhouses.

Thanks to a student who calls Roman numerals, "Ramen noodles" this solution became clear to me. We need macaroni that teaches! We need Campbells vegetable soup with Roman numerals instead of ABCs and 123s. We need Kraft mac and cheese with Greek columns instead of Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


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