If the shoe fits

I recall a time many years ago, when I must have been about 10 years old, and sorely lacking in the shoe department. My step-dad was a painter, and in Alaska, the winter season created more rest days for him than work days, and as a result, the cash flow was sometimes minimal; and sometimes ceased. Possibly it was during one of those times of reduced family income, that I was gifted with a pair of used shoes. A pair of men’s shoes, that were even at first glance, not what you’d find on the hooves of a ten year old. The worst of it was that they fit. So, here I was, with a ten year old pair of feet, clad in a matched set of shoes more “fitting” of a seasoned citizen.

I made the best of it, and endured the stares and stones of my peers. It wasn’t a happy time.

Maybe twenty-five years ago, I bought a pair of navy blue shoes — they were almost black. Almost. It was the almost factor that created the problem; “Mike, are my eyes fooling me, or are those shoes, BLUE?” But, because the shoes were made of kangaroo leather, (very soft and comfortable) and I bought them for a great price, I loved them. Yet, I reluctantly moved them to the back of the closet, and instead wore black.

But just recently, another shoe issue popped up. Again, it was fashion. It seems good friend, Jim Lutz and I were to attend an affair where formalwear was required, and Jim queried me as to my choice in shoes for the soiree. I explained that I had a nifty pair of black shoes; dress shoes, that just needed a good polishing.

My oh my, would I be caught dead in these? I would hope not.

My oh my, would I be caught dead in these? I would hope not.

“I don’t know, Mike, I’ve got some patent leather jobs that I plan to wear.” The issue, it seems, was finish. I’m thinking that a patent leather shod Mike Foley, isn’t the image I usually portray.

We made a stop on the way, at a formal wear shop, hoping I might find suitably shiny shoes, but, the only pair on the premises that might fit, would have required a major pruning of my pedal digits, so, it was the semi-shiny, not too comfortable dress shoes for me.

As we neared the event, still, the thought that I may be under-shod, was in my mind. “What if,” I thought, “what if everyone but me, is wearing patent leather?” Well, as it turned out, when we arrived, I found that I was in the majority; most of the attendees were dressed in anything but patent leather pumps. There were black sneakers, black work shoes, and ordinary black shoes.

I looked at Jim‘s sparkly shoes, and thought to myself: ”You know, if I’d worn that wonderful old pair of blue shoes, I‘d still be in style; and comfortable.”

Posted in Clothing, Fashion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Flowery Food

My life partner and I had dinner a while back in a nice restaurant. When I picked up the menu….after the shock of the price had somewhat worn off, I was taken by the descriptions of the food offered.

It seems they couldn’t simply depict their offerings in real terms; for example, rather than tout their mashed potatoes as “mashed potatoes”, their spud offering was shown instead, as something akin to: “our creamy, fluffy clouds of Idaho‘s finest potatoes.”. Gag me with a spoon. Let me be the judge, I’ll be the first to tell you if I’ve just enjoyed a fluffy potato cloud, or if your fluffy cloud has lumps in it large enough to down a 747.

Flowery terms don’t guarantee one a great meal, I can promise you that. I would prefer just a straightforward menu entry, one that I can decipher, without having to summon a waitperson to translate. That said, I think that flowery portrayals seem to, well, really bloom, when it comes to wine.

I’m not a wine drinker, although I have in the past, consumed my share of the beverage. However, I was more concerned with the quantity rather than the quality…or at least what wine critics determine to be quality. For instance, at another restaurant, when dining with friends, our dinner partners ordered some kind of wine buffet. They were each served three small glasses of three different wines. To someone of my unsophisticated tastes, it appeared that two were red, one white. Resting around the stem of each glass, was a small paper disk.

Each disk identified the wine to the imbiber, so the sipper would know what qualities they should be able to detect; providing they were wine savy. One disk declared that it was a “Pinot Noir” I comprehend enough French to figure out that Noir means “dark”. Don’t expect me to tell you what “Pinot” means. Anyway, the label went on to tell the imbiber that the wine was: “Light bodied and exhibits black cherry, raspberry, cranberry,” and get this, “Vanilla.” This was delivered with a “light, earthy aroma and a smooth finish.”

I took a sniff from the glass, attempting to avoid depositing any stray fragments of moustache, or H1N1, lest our dining partners be afflicted, and after giving it much thought, it seemed to me, to have much the same qualities as the Gallo Burgundy I used to decant in much more generous servings. I definitely didn’t sense any raspberries or cranberries in the bouquet, and not even the most meager hint of vanilla.

As far as the “smooth finish”, well, I’m afraid that the term would be more appropriate describing the varnish on a dining room table, than a glass of red wine.

Guess I’m just old fashioned, so if you decide to invite me out, for a fancy dinner, no need to attach a descriptive tag to the diet cola, I don’t need to know that it is “light bodied, and exhibits hints of coal tar, and household bleach”, I’ll just down it without a thought, and pray for a “smooth finish”.

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I’ll Do It Myself

Those fatal words. “I’ll do it myself.” Words usually uttered after what you perceive to be a ridiculous quote from a tradesman for a project around the house…..after you are given the price for the job, and the initial shock wears off. You feign a devil may care attitude, and you tell him: “We’ll talk it over and give you a call.” Let’s face it, there won’t be any call, you’ve already made up your mind…..you’ll do it yourself.

Your spouse isn’t quite so sure that your decision is the right one, she probably remembers a few earlier attempts to tackle projects better left to the professionals….and after making a mess of things, she called a pro to undo your mistakes.

Forget the past; it‘s a new day, and a new project. “It’ll be a snap, honey, all I need is a couple of things from the hardware store, and I’ll have it done in no time.” I admire positive thinking, but, I’ve found myself in similar situations, and my children learned many expressive words from my DIY projects. And, they learned that there was never a project, that required only one trip to the hardware store.

I recall a time when popcorn ceilings were all the rage, and I was re-doing our basement recreation room. We wanted such a ceiling. I had a quote from a pro for the job, but, as you can guess; I opted to do the work. “It’ll be a snap, honey.” I said to an already skeptical spouse. What I can tell you is this: It was a job straight from hell. Never in my life, have I created such a mess. Nowhere in the instructions did it say I had to eliminate all of the lumps in the plaster mixture….at least when I read them the first time.

A fine mess...of fish, but just wait until I begin to apply the popcorn ceiling...

A fine mess…of fish, but just wait until I begin to apply the popcorn ceiling…

I mixed the gunk up in a garbage can, and from that, loaded the hopper on the application gun. When I tipped the gun back to spray the ceiling, several quarts of popcorn plaster poured out of the open top, and all over the applier, (me) and the rest on the floor. The lumps in the gunk, continually clogged the gun, and I had to stop every couple of minutes to clear it. By the time I finished the job. I had exhausted my cuss word lexicon, and had ruined the floor, my watch, clothes, and almost ruined the rented equipment.

When the gear was returned, the garbage can cleaned, and the popcorn ceiling had dried, the finished project looked okay, however, we had to have carpeting installed, because we were unable to remove the residue from the tile floor.

The folks who bought the home from us a few years later, probably took one look at that popcorn, and said in unison: “That’s got to go!”. And, they may have decided to get an estimate from a pro, and, subsequently, studying their options, the man of the house no doubt turned to his wife and said: “Don’t worry honey, I’ll do it myself……..it’ll be a snap”.

Take a guess if you please: What is it?

It's no antique

It’s no antique

Posted in Do-it-yourself, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Coward of the county

Several years back, Kenny Rogers, a musician/singer/composer of note, wrote and performed a song entitled, “Coward Of The County”—-color me him (the coward). I have been a renowned fraidy-cat for most of my life, since way back when. The first cowardly instance I recall, was when my brother Lowell attempted to teach me to swim. I was six years old and proceeded to terrify me with the much magnified details of the drowning death of a little neighbor girl. Afterwards, there wasn’t any way, save rendering me unconscious, that he’d ever get me near any body of water larger than a bathtub.

I only looked like I wasn't afraid..

I only looked like I wasn’t afraid..

Next, was the fear of fisticuffs (other than sibling walloping) with the school bullies. Yes, folks, sad to say; I was wimpish. Rather than stick around and take it like a man, I relied on speed. The fact that I lived just a half-block from school was a lifesaving convenience.

Let me tell you of one instance, when I opted to fight, rather than flee. Briefly, it was “Pee-the-pants” with whom I skirmished. He was one of the smallest kids in our 5th grade class, and I was soon to discover, he was also one of the most adept in the art of self defense. After a brief verbal exchange, “PTP” quickly demonstrated what fists were for.

The next hurdle was in the form of two-wheeled transportation. I was even petrified of bicycles—–especially if I imagined myself astride one. Our corner of Alaska wasn’t prime bike country, Douglas had only one paved street the rest being dirt, or, most typically, mud. Not to be deterred by mud streets, my seemingly fearless brother bought a second-hand bike for a few dollars. To me, it seemed much too daunting to learn to ride, especially after I was bucked off a time or two. Several years later, we moved to Utah, I at twelve, finally accumulated enough nerve to master bike riding

After the move, I found several new challenges facing me: First was a school initiation for incoming 7th graders. It was then, that I made myself scarce until all the hoopla had settled down, thereby avoiding the paddle and other tortures upper classmen inflicted on skinny, pre-teen bodies.

Next on the list was a fear of things equine. Horses in Alaska were seen only in the Saturday movie matinees, not lolling their heads over the neighbors corral fence. But, soon after our move, my step-dad bought an antique mare, “Blanca”. The horse knew I was terrified, for she, in just one brief ride, convinced me that I’d make a lousy cowboy, cowgirl, bronc rider or fox hunter. I’ve never attempted it again. Once was good enough for me.

Carnivals were new to me as well, and a few months after Blanca’s departure I visited a traveling carnival’s midway, and was attracted to the rides. A friend encouraged me to accompany him on the “Hammer”—-a fiendish device, no doubt invented primarily as a mechanical method of curing constipation. It worked for me—-but again, only once.

These instances kept me in a constant state of unease, since I never knew when some one would blindside me with an invitation to bike, swim, take a horseback ride, or heaven forbid, visit a carnival. No, when you’re the coward of the county, you take a dim view of anything that might make you uncomfortable, or, fearful.

By the way, would you like to hear about my most terrifying airplane trip?

I didn’t think you would.

By the way, here’s a gadget for you to identify:

What ever could it be?

What ever could it be?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A child could do it

My favorite wife and most reliable critic, suggested some time ago, that I write about “packaging“. It wasn’t until just last night, when Warren Krise, another frequent donor of dubious ideas, revealed that he also felt irritating packaging was column worthy.

Think back if you will, to those wonderful days of yesteryear, when the stuff you bought was provided in packages you could open without the aid of a can opener, machete, pliers, chainsaw, or dynamite. Remember those purchases of Elvis’ compilations on vinyl discs? There was a simple plastic wrap around the album that a fingernail could easily pierce. Possibly you may also recall, the days before some nut poisoned some Tylenol capsules, killing several folks, because prior to that, you opened the bottle with a twist of the wrist, and voila, there was your pain killer.

I hope you've got a good dentist

I hope you’ve got a good dentist

Nowadays when you buy a box of aspirin, you’ll no doubt find that the outer package is glued tighter than a miser’s billfold. But just because you opened the outer box doesn’t mean you’re home free, for there is still the pesky bit of plastic wrap around the lid, then the lid itself, (childproof it is) and once that hurdle is cleared, you have yet another obstacle, the seal under the lid. It peels off, and the container is finally open. Thinking the battle is won, your fingers feel the wad of cotton between you and pain relief.

But it’s not only aspirin that irks, how about CD’s and DVD’s? Now, there’s enough unwrapping fun for a family to share. Your favorite music seems to be at hand, almost ready to plop into the player, but, you have to get it out of the fiendishly designed package. The light plastic wrap is a snap, it’s those little seals that are generously applied to every edge that may be utilized to open the box. The manufacturer included little tabs with the words: “Pull to Open” tantalizingly printed upon them. Don’t let it fool you, it’s not that easy. Again, out comes the toolbox; and to think; all you wanted was to relax, and listen to Brahms’s Lullaby.

And then there are those items packaged up in “blister packs”. Here’s an entirely different diversion. A little prior training as a safecracker or demolition expert may come in handy. Most annoying is the fact that the item you’re trying to spring from prison, looks absolutely lovely in it’s crystal sarcophagus—all you need do is open the package.

Good luck.

If opening a package isn’t punishment enough, how about the food you buy bundled up in it’s plastic container, emblazoned with slogans such as: “In our convenient re-sealable package.” Yeah, sure, it looks like a typical Zip-lok bag, but just try and re-seal the left over cheese in it—it requires the patience of Job, and probably another bag from your cupboard, to lay it to rest.

But what if some nerd in a packaging company’s think tank, came up with a package that combined the irritants of difficult opening, with a “re-sealable package” that could not be resealed?

That would be packaging perfection.

What is it? I'll tell you what it's not....it's not a cast iron Praying Mantis

What is it? I’ll tell you what it’s not….it’s not a cast iron Praying Mantis

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Swiss Steak Recipe

Cooking 101

It’s finally dawned on me; my wife tells me she “loves my cooking“, for the first forty years or so, I took it as a compliment, but, now I know the real reason: She’s tired of cooking, and to have anyone else step in and handle the chore, she’s happy. Regardless of what a mess I’ve made of the meal, she tells me how “delicious” it was. Feeding my ego, that’s what she does.

However, I do like to think that someone else may have low enough epicurean standards to like what I cook. My recipe repertoire is limited; spaghetti sauce, Swiss steak, and beef stew….so were I to be persuaded to play chef for an extended period of time, my customers would certainly be begging for “a change you can believe in”, In fact, I envision a poster bearing my likeness, wearing a chefs hat, with a caption stating: “Nope”.

A while back, on this blog, Donna requested my recipe for Swiss steak.

Mmmmm, you can almost smell the peppers!

Mmmmm, you can almost smell the peppers!

Not one to disappoint a reader, I have decided to publish it today. However, before I reveal the secret recipe, I must tell you; I prepared it last night, and, frankly, it wasn’t my best effort. I sulked for most of the meal, but my wife, sons and daughter-in-law, claimed it was, as they say; “delicious”. There were no left-overs, if that says anything about the final product.

Swizz Steck

I prepare my Swiss steak in an electric sauce pan, it is a little more convenient than using the stovetop, and since it has to cook for several hours, it might be a little more economical.

3 pounds of round steak or any lean cut of meat that will feed the masses

1 large onion chopped

1 or 2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced

1 small can mushrooms

1 cup Red wine

1 Can beef (or chicken) broth (if needed)

Salt & pepper to taste

Season steak with salt and pepper on both sides, then brown steak in olive oil. Add onion, and mushrooms. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then raise steak, and place a layer of green pepper and onion UNDER the steak (you may also want to add some carrot slices as well). This allows the flavors to penetrate the steak. Add balance of green pepper to top of steak. Keep at simmer. Next add wine. Some like to add tomato sauce to the mix, and do so if you like. Allow it to simmer until tender. (May take three hours or more) If necessary, add more broth, and thicken the sauce stirring in a flour water mix. Check again for taste.

Hope it turns out, and you are given loads of compliments.

Next: Sharon’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What about you?

It’s finally dawned on me; you know much more about me than I know about you. For the past few years, with the aid of my columns and my blog I’ve pretty much laid everything on the line. Sharon, my very patient life companion, has during these years asked disbelievingly: “Are you sure you want to write about that?” Well, I’m afraid the answer would have to be; maybe.

Grandpa; a little plumper, then, but not too stupid.

Grandpa; a little plumper, then, but not too stupid.

After all, if the column is titled “What A Life”, and there was nothing in that space that described what’s passed in my considerable lifetime, then I’m reasonably sure not only you, but the editors would wonder; “Maybe we should change Mike’s column title to; “What?”. Readers have stopped me from time to time, and asked where I get the ideas for my columns, and quite often, it‘s an idea from a reader, if not, after a few feverish moments in front of a blank computer screen, a subject will pop into my moribund brain that I feel is column worthy.

But, back to today’s topic. I’ve covered everything from my medical problems, to my personal problems, my do-it-myself problems and all that’s in between. One thing I haven’t touched upon, are my dietary preferences.

Let me tell you first, what I don’t like; for instance; Calimari, slightly off-putting, when one realizes it’s octopus tentacles, and not bicycle inner-tubes as I first thought. And cole slaw; no thanks. And before you even think about it, you won’t find liver and I in the same room. Mayonnaise looks better on someone else’s sandwich, and if you plan to serve me a hamburger; hold the ketchup, I’ll use it on my fries.

Desserts—I really like desserts. Rich, chocolaty, and the creamier the better, that’s what tops my after dinner choices. In fact, I admit, that a time or two, when I’ve sat down in a restaurant, and have picked up one of the establishment’s dinner menus, I head right to their dessert menu in lieu of a nice juicy steak, baked potato, etc, etc, I’ll just go ahead and order that tantalizing dessert. While my dinner companions are devouring their main courses, I’m just finishing up the remnants of what to most folks, would be the conclusion of their meal.

And, surprisingly, there are a few desserts that I won’t touch, such as a Jello salad made with mayo, or mincemeat pie — and maybe desserts that I can’t easily identify.

I suppose in the world of the foodie, I’d be considered pickier than say the average housefly. But don’t let that stop you from inviting me.

Just let me know in advance if you want me to bring my own meal.

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I Know Babies

My wife and I had the good fortune a while back, to have lunch with a friend, Raenell, and her beautiful baby Noah. He was tucked into a carrier that doubled as his car seat. It was quite an affair, with enough buckles and straps to keep an astronaut in place. None of our five kids had been encapsulated as little Noah was.

The latest addition to the Foley list of babies, Bradley Eads, new son of Grand-daughter Rachel (Foley) and David Eads

The latest addition to the Foley list of babies, Bradley Eads, new son of Grand-daughter Rachel (Foley) and David Eads

I admired Noah, for he took it all in stride, smiling, as only babies can. I took a minute to study the technology used to create his little carrier; I was impressed. It also took me back a few decades, when my wife and I were trying to come to grips with our babies.

When our firstborn son, Patrick, was born, I wasn’t permitted to watch his birth—that simply wasn’t done. As a matter of fact, I didn’t hold him until we brought him home from the hospital.

Patrick was our entertainment. We enjoyed every change in his behavior, noted that he was no doubt the most perfect child born in the previous hundred years. Most all of our family agreed; but, one fellow with whom I worked, said: “That’s one ugly baby.” That is not how you win friends and influence people.

Auto safety in 1959 had become an issue with car buyers, and the manufacturers had only just begun to include safety belts as standard equipment. Taking a cue from the car makers, and not wanting Pat to become airborne at the touch of the brakes we purchased a “Baby Safety Seat” for him. It consisted of a lightweight metal framework, with a fabric seat. There were two flimsy U-shaped metal brackets that hooked over the back of the front seat. You merely hooked the gadget over seat, and stuffed the little passenger inside. No straps, buckles, safety belts—-not even a wrap or two of clothesline to keep him secured.

As far as diapering him, “Pamper”, was merely the way a baby was treated. His diapers were cloth, and after he’d soiled them, they were rinsed, placed in the diaper pail until they were laundered. My wife was a stickler for white diapers, and after bleaching, and laundering, she hung them one by one on the clothes line to dry. She felt blessed to have an automatic washer.

Sharon sterilized his bottles and nipples and warmed his formula. When we switched him to regular milk, we warmed that as well. There was a feeding schedule that had to be met, and at night, Sharon was up and down all night. You may be surprised to know that I took an occasional turn.

By the time Michele, our second was born, we’d streamlined the operation, for instance, we’d quit sterilizing bottles. We’d even stopped warming formula; in fact, we switched to fresh milk—-cold milk, right from the bottle. We realized that tip-toeing around the house if a baby was asleep just didn’t cut it; our kids weren’t going to be raised in silence. We brought all five of our kids up with all the normal sounds in an adult household. They slept through almost any racket.

When Carrie, the last of our five was born, she was treated to a movie the first night out of the hospital. Somehow, she survived, and has not held it against us. She did say that she would have preferred a different film. It seems “Whatever Happened To Virginia Woolf”, wasn’t her cup of tea.

Or milk.

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The Mansion House Inn

My wife Sharon and I recently spent a couple of nights at the Mansion House Inn, in Buffalo, Wyoming, and would like to tell you about it.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Buffalo, and you live within a day’s drive, I’d encourage you to check it out. It rests at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains, at an elevation of around 4500 feet. Conveniently, the population is around 4500 souls.

The innkeepers: Johnny and Pam Pond

The innkeepers: Johnny and Pam Pond

We’d booked our room online with Priceline, who rated the Mansion House Inn at only two stars, frankly, I feel it was worthy of at least four stars. The exterior of the building isn’t up to much, but when you enter, I think you’ll be very pleased, for the interior spaces are much as they would have been a century ago, when it was a family home.

We were assigned the “Hole in the Wall” room, named not because of the situation of the room, but because of the nearby historical location where Butch Cassidy and friends hung out. I immediately noticed how clean the room and fixtures were, it was obvious that whoever did the cleaning cared about the place, and the comfort of their guests.

The beautiful stairway and entry of the Mansion House Inn

The beautiful stairway and entry of the Mansion House Inn

Johnny and Pam Pond who hail from Northern California, are the owners. Both were in professions that were a little faster paced than that of innkeepers. They retired some 11 years ago, and figured that working 60 or 70 hours a week as hoteliers, would be a great way to relax.

When we descended to the dining room for breakfast our first morning, we were greeted with orange juice, coffee, Irish Soda Bread, Banana Nut Bread, fresh fruit, and an individual egg and cheese soufflé (with my limited contact with such things, it seemed soufflé-ish to me) the food was tasty and hot, and served with a smile.

We had a chance to check out some of the other rooms, and all were given meaningful names for the era the home was built, and the Buffalo area.

If you should have the opportunity to stay at the Mansion House Inn, we think you’ll enjoy your stay, and Johnny and Pam Pond.

Tell them Mike sent you.

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is it art?

Is it art? I’m not sure, but here are some examples for you to check out, and to determine if you feel “art” would be a proper definition of what is displayed.IMG_0013

A couple of weeks ago, while in Houston commiserating with our daughters, my “art” work became a subject of discussion. Or maybe it was the lack of “new” artwork. It seems since I have begun my mini-career as a columnist, my art has suffered, my abilities are seldom put to practical use, other than when I design Sharon’s (my wife) Valentine card, or our Christmas card.IMG_0014

It’s not that I don’t give picking up a brush now and then a thought, it’s just that something will come up that is a little more appealing to me, and the artistic urge passes.IMG_0019

So, we (Sharon, daughters Michele and Carrie, and various onlookers) chatted about my mostly inactive artistic efforts. “Why haven’t you done any art work, Dad?” I really didn’t have a satisfactory answer, but as the conversation progressed, I found myself asking: “Why not?”IMG_0025

About twenty years ago, I took a series of correspondence art courses, and completed quite a few pieces, and during the same time period, sold a few custom pieces, to less discriminating buyers. For all I know, the works may still be dangling on a wall, if they haven’t been relegated to a basement or attic.IMG_0023

I have chosen to let you, my bloggers, to see these example of my work—let me know, is it art?

Oh, by the way, because of the urging of my offspring, I have signed up for another art course. I’ll post some of the examples later on…maybe it will be “art”.

For some reason, my captions for the paintings shown didn’t show up on the blog, but if you’d like more info just ask.

Posted in Hobbies | 4 Comments