Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Velda's Fly

I opted for a whimsical title for this post, which I will explain later.  So yes, you have to read all the way through to find out.

And speaking of that, if you didn't watch the TED Talk by Alberto Cairo that I posted in my post on Saturday, I really don't know what to say to you.  Why wouldn't you watch it?  It's amazing.  He's amazing.  He's a wonderful storyteller, it's a great story, and yes, you should watch it.

I'll wait.

I'll cut everyone a bit of slack because I'm hoping everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, like I did.  In the Northeast, it looked like it was going to be a bit of a washout as of Friday.  It poured and was a whopping 50 degrees on Saturday.  I actually used up the last of the firewood in the fireplace--it was that chilly.

On Sunday, I decided to take matters into my own hands, so I made limoncello, as promised/threatened.


Limoncello is just grated lemon zest soaked in vodka for a good long time (anywhere from 10 days to a month).  Then you add simple syrup (so-named because it's boiled water and sugar) and let it all sit for another 10-30 days, strain it, and voila!  Limoncello.

The longer you let it sit, the more flavor it will have, obviously.  So really, all you need is vodka and time.  (And lemons.)

The cashier at the grocery store commented on the number of lemons I was purchasing (15).  She said, "Wow, this is going to make a LOT of lemonade."

What this told me is that she has never actually made lemonade from actual lemons, and she may not have actually ever squeezed a real lemon for its juice.  15 lemons will give you all of about 2 cups of lemon juice.  Enough for one batch of lemonade.  That's why most people turn to Minute Maid.

In any case, the limoncello did the trick, because Monday dawned bright and sunny and 70 degrees.  I did it.  I coaxed summer back into the Northeast.

You're welcome.

I actually had a very productive weekend both indoors and out, because of the weather.  I spent two days reading--I'm nearly finished with Mandelstam's autobiography, Hope Against Hope, and I read Thi Diem Thuy Le's The Gangster We Are All Looking For (2003).  It's actually quite good: it's about a young girl whose family flees Vietnam and begins a new life in San Diego. 

I also finished that tank top I was knitting--the one that might as well have been knitting itself.  (I told you it was going quickly.)

When the weather cleared, I began gardening my brains out.  Aphids got one of my rose bushes while I was away a few weeks ago, and boy, was I pissed when I saw that upon my return.

I know, I know: "we're all God's creatures" and "respect life" and all that crap, but man, those little bastards stripped every single leaf off of my rose bush.  I left it looking happy and healthy and wonderful and ready for summer, and when I came back, it was stripped.  STRIPPED.

So I began hunting for ways to get rid of aphids without using pesticides.  Last year, one of my friends ordered a batch of ladybugs (yes, really), and they set up shop in her garden and had quite the little party, and all of my friend's problems were solved. 

My friend is one of those people who has unbelievable gardening luck.  Everything she plants, grows, and any bugs who arrive leave before they do too much damage... it just doesn't seem fair.

So last year, I followed her lead and ordered a batch of ladybugs and when they arrived I opened the box and... it was a Coccinellidae Nightmare.  Almost all of them were dead, and about half of them had begun to rot.  I'm not sure WHAT happened, but it was really not something I wanted to see.  Or smell.  Because yes, it smelled like dead ladybugs.

I usually don't do this, but I actually contacted the people who sent them to me and said, "Your bugs were DEAD!" because I thought they should have that on their conscience, given that I was facing some serious post-traumatic stress disorder at the sight of this bug holocaust.

They sent me another box.  I was somewhat reluctant to open it, since at this point I couldn't help but wonder whether maybe they were just sick freaks who like to send people batches of dead bugs.  But the bugs weren't dead.  They stayed for about a week, ate a modest breakfast and a light lunch, and then left for good.

And I still had aphids.

So this year, I read that if you grate up banana peels, and put it around the base of the plants, it will drive the aphids away.  It can't hurt: the potassium in the bananas is good for me and good for the roses, so I'll give it a try.  I'm also trying to plant things that aphids don't like, so they'll take a royal hike.

Okay, before my post gets any longer, I'll explain why I gave it the title that I did.  I went to a Memorial Day party last night, and it was quite a lot of fun.  I arrived home a bit worse for wear, given that my host kept insisting that I have another glass of wine.

I said, "No," and "No thanks!" and "I'm good," many, many times--I swear I did.  But next thing I know, a bottle was opened, I was handed a bowl of bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, and somehow my glass was full and... well, I made it home, so all's well that ends well.

At the party, the friend of a friend told a wonderful story.  She's from Australia, and in the late '60's, around the time that The Beatles were all the rage, so too were ladies' pantsuits.  So she and her best friend Velda went out and got themselves each a pantsuit, so that they could be cool like dat.

The thing that made these pantsuits particularly shocking was that they had a fly in the front, like men's pants.  While it seems hard for us to imagine, women's pants didn't have a fly, prior to the 1960's--they were buttoned on the side or at the waist, but they didn't have a zipper up the front.

Because, mercy!  A zipper up the front of your pants... like a man... well, I never!  What is the world coming to?  Nowadays, of course, there's no requirement that your pants cover your underwear or your butt-crack, and quite a few celebrities have been photographed not even wearing any pants at all, so... we've come a long way, I suppose.

So this is what happened to Velda: she came home as pleased as punch with her new pantsuit and when her mom caught sight of it, she slapped her and called her "a tart."  Velda started to cry and ran to her friend's house, where her friend's mother reassured her that she wasn't a tart at all--she just had a new pantsuit.

Imagine this story told with wine, laughter, bread pudding, vanilla ice cream and an Australian accent, and you'll understand why I wanted to pay homage to Velda here tonight, and why I had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."