Monday, September 01, 2014

As a PS to my Beany Tale.....

Bean Arch #2, erected this year and doing well!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A Beany Tale

I'm an enthusiastic grower of green beans. My three bush varieties are just about finished, and my pole beans are too small to pick yet, so when I saw a sale on magnificent green beans at the supermarket today (labeled "Locally Grown") I snatched them up.

They were green-bean perfection: Perfectly straight, perfectly cylindrical, uniformly green. They looked like they'd never come within 20 ft. of a Japanese Beetle. From the length of them, I assumed they were pole beans, but they didn't look like anything I'd ever grown. I was curious, and started thinking about how I could get in touch with the grower so I could find out the name of the variety.

But when I snapped off the ends I realized these beans were lacking something: tenderness. And after they were cooked I lost all interest in identifying them, because the other thing they lacked was flavor.

I suspect they're one of those tough varieties that sellers grow because they hold up well in transit. Or maybe they hold up well after being commercially canned, because I detected a little of canned-bean flavor even though they were relatively lightly cooked.

So I'm glad I didn't pay much for them. And I know my Kentucky Wonder pole beans will be well worth waiting for.

And no, I'm not returning the remainder of the package to the store. Because after all, flavor is just . . . a matter of taste. ;-)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Juicy Tale

Do you juice? Have you ever juiced? Did you juice at one time--like for about three days--but gave it up? Judging from the number of slightly-used juicers for sale on eBay and Craigslist, a lot of people get excited by the idea of juicing, but don't sustain the level of interest necessary to incorporate juicing into their lives.

Back in the 1970s I paid over $200 for an Acme juicer. I became a binge juicer--no surprise, because this is how I do a lot of things: binge sewing, binge rug hooking, binge decluttering, binge-watching some of the TV series I missed back when everyone was watching them once a week. You get the picture.

At some point I stopped juicing. This was before we had eBay and Craigslist, so the juicer went into my pantry and eventually became invisible. I almost never watch infomercials of any kind, but a few years ago I turned on the TV in the kitchen and there was Jack LaLanne, vigorous and fired up with enthusiasm at age 102 or whatever, demonstrating his juicer. Truly, he was like the best preacher you've ever heard, except instead of the Bible he had his hand on a kitchen appliance. Instead of sin he decried processed foods. And instead of prayer he offered us carrots, apples, and romaine lettuce.

This is great, I thought, and I own a juicer! But with the zeal of a recent convert, owning a juicer wasn't enough. I wanted my kids to own theirs too. I didn't order any from the infomercial, though (frugality trumps zeal); I went to Amazon, my go-to retailer, and bought a Jack LaLanne juicer for my son and his family for a lot less than the TV price, plus a Waring Pro juicer for my daughter and hers. Then I got my juicer out of the pantry and ran some vegetables through it.

The LaLanne juicer was still in its box when I read through some online reviews and learned it's an absolute bitch to clean. I offered to sell it and replace it with a different brand, but my son semi-tactfully suggested that I simply sell it. No replacement, thanks. As for my daughter's, I assume it's still in the box. Unless she sold hers too. My own enthusiasm waned before long as well, and the juicer made its way back to the pantry. (I think it went there on its own.)

Then last year someone recommended the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." Icky title, but it certainly grabs one's attention. I loved the movie (you can watch it here). If Jack LaLanne was a preacher, Joe Cross is Paul the Apostle. I started juicing again immediately. Every morning I would set out a large plate and fill it with juice makings: carrots, greens, celery, part of a beet, a piece of apple, a wedge of lemon, a chunk of ginger. It made about 16 oz. of juice, and that was my first meal of the day. I observed a dramatic increase in my afternoon energy.

After a couple of weeks I also observed that the juice was a little hard on my gut. I was seeing an acupuncturist at the time, and she thought it might be difficult to process all those nutrients at once. She suggested I juice every other day, making a smaller quantity, and eating something along with it. She also suggested that I chew the juice, but I ignored that part.

This time I've kept it up, to the point where my sturdy Acme started showing signs that it needed a new blade. I bought one, but wasn't able to install it properly. Perhaps the Acme is too old. Maybe I could have looked harder for a different blade, but I realized I now had the perfect excuse to get a Breville juicer just like the one Joe Cross used in the movie.

It arrives Friday, FedExed from Oregon. I bought it (slightly used) on eBay. Cheers!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Sweet Rocket (Dame's Rocket, Hesperis)

In case you don't know what it looks like, this is it. It wasn't planted here; it arrived on its own. It all began with some seeds I intentionally planted in a perennial bed, but the self-sower long since outgrew that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note to Amelia Phillips, Who Died in 1884

I know you were born in Prussia, though I'm not sure when, and moved at some point to London with your husband, the tailor Jacob Phillips, your son Phineas, and daughters Harriet and Esther. I'm not certain when you came to America, but in 1860 you were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with Harriet and her family, which at that time consisted of her husband, Herman, a chiropodist, plus 2-year-old William, and 8-month-old Ophelia.

At some point you and Jacob settled in Baltimore, Maryland with Esther and her family. Esther's husband, Charles, was a cigar manufacturer who shared a business address with Jacob's tailoring shop. After Jacob died, probably in 1868, you moved to New York City with Esther's family: Esther, Charles, and their children:  Isidore, Lena, Jacob, Harry, Minnie, Phineas, Oscar, and Bertha.

Two years after you arrived in Manhattan, Harriet died. By then she had five children, ages 18, 17, 14, 13, and 7. The youngest three, all boys, were placed in orphan asylums—the older two in Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest, Jacob, in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I hope Jacob went to New York so you and his aunt, uncle, and cousins could visit him. I don't know why the other two boys weren't placed there with him. And I don't understand why all three weren't able to live with relatives instead. So sad.

Herman said he worked all day and couldn't take care of them. He paid $100 to $150 each year for their care, and died himself 10 years later at age 58.

So this is what I mainly want to tell you: Esther's son Harry, with the beautiful singing voice, married Alice, also of a beautiful voice, and in 1903, after they'd spent some time performing together and separately, their son Harry was born. Three years later they had a daughter, and named her Esteare—Esther with a French accent. Your daughter must have been a good mother to have a granddaughter named for her.

Harry grew up, and—are you still following me?—when he was 40 had a daughter named Susan. C'est moi. Your great-great granddaughter. I was thinking of you today, Amelia, and just wanted you to know that.

Amelia Phillips' memorial on FindAGrave

Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Incident on March 7, 1903

This article is from the New York Tribune, March 8, 1903. I think it's interesting on its own, but the thing I find especially fascinating is that the performance and incident took place March 7, 1903, the day my father—Harry Luckstone's first child—was born. I hope he made it home for the birth.


Flies from Sheath and Hits Musician and Actress.

At the matinee performance of “Nancy Brown,” at the Bijou Theatre, yesterday, John C. Reitzel, one of the musicians in the orchestra, and Miss Anna Buckley, an actress, who was sitting in the front row, were injured by the fall of a heavy dagger from the stage. Reitzel was seriously hurt, but the woman escaped with a scratch or two and a nervous shock.

At the end of the first act Harry Luckstone, who plays the part of the Prince, is called on to engage in an encounter with two others in the cast, one of them being thrown to the stage. Luckstone wears a heavy Oriental dagger in his belt, and in the scuffle yesterday the handle of this weapon caught in the lace of the sleeve. The weapon was pulled violently out of its sheath.

It flew into the orchestra, striking Reitzel heavily between the eyes and then bounded off and struck Miss Buckley in the breast, falling to the floor across her wrist. The bridge of the musician’s nose was crushed in so that he will be disfigured for life, and it was feared last night that his brain might be injured.

The sight of the blood from his wound caused a stir in the audience. Miss Buckley and two or three women who had not been hurt at all fainted. The performance went on, however, which restored the audience to quietness. Reitzel was carried home.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Times Change (boy, do they ever!)

I recently acquired my high school's 1965 yearbook. That's not the year I graduated; in fact, I got married in 1965. But it's close, and in any case it doesn't matter. I bring part of it to my blog as another sort of time capsule: the way high schoolers (at least those who attended William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens, NY) expressed themselves almost 50 years ago.

The text was written by the students. If anyone has a recent high school yearbook, I'd be interested in comparing the styles. Here's a quote taken from the beginning of the 1965 yearbook:

We have acquired the incentive to try to meet all surprises and disappointments with imperturbable calm . . . 

All this is basically due to the gay atmosphere that surrounds us. The pleasant atmosphere lends itself to all those who wish to make use of it for beneficial social purposes. It is not uncommon for young love to have blossomed in the few moments that we have had between classes. Love at first sight has happened in the corridors as well as on the stairways where fortunate people leaving the cafeteria gracefully charged up the stairs to the fourth floor.