Thursday, December 23, 2010

Here's hoping!

As some of you dear readers might be aware, I am fairly politically active; I vote religiously, follow the issues, and donate frequently to political campaigns. One of those campaigns was that of Bob Casey Jr, back in 2006, and ever since he sends me Christmas cards.** Every year. Even though I know I am just one of a zillion people on a mailing list, I find this oddly endearing. So, this year, I am reciprocating in kind, although not with a card. Here's the text of the letter I just sent Senator Casey:

Dear Senator Casey:

Let me start off by expressing my appreciation for the work you do on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Although I think I am somewhat to the left of you, politically speaking, I find your stance on the issues sensible and, by and large, in line with my own. I voted for you in 2006 and don't regret it.

Here's the point of my letter. You send me frequent email updates on issues, holiday cards, and the like, and it occurred to me that I have never reciprocated in kind. Naturally, I'm not voting in the U.S. Senate (or in any other legislative body), so I have nothing of that kind to report, but I have been told that I make a mean peanut butter cookie. So I am sharing my recipe with you. Here goes:

Precious Peanut Butter Cookies

• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup freshly ground peanut butter
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup light brown sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2.5 cups flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1.5 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 8oz peanut butter chips

Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl, then beat three eggs in a small bowl. (The longer you beat the eggs the better the cookies.) Add the white sugar and about half of the eggs, then beat until smooth. Add the brown sugar, and the remainder of the eggs, then beat again until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Then add the peanut butter, but – and I can't stress this enough – make sure to use freshly ground or, at the very least, organic. If you use a store-bought variety like Jif or Skippy the cookies will turn out salty and greasy.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda, then add it to the butter-sugar-egg-peanut butter mixture along with the chips. I recommend adding, say, one-third of the dry ingredients, then one-third the bag of chips, and stirring, then another third of the dry ingredients, then another third of the chips, and stirring, etc. The dough will be VERY thick, so if you add the wet ingredients a little bit at a time you'll do better than simply dumping in everything at once.

Once you've got everything thoroughly mixed, refrigerate the dough for an hour. Then spoon out the dough on to a cookie sheet in cookie-sized portions. (I recommend modest sized portions.) Bake at 375º for 10 minutes (and no longer). Recipe makes 60-70 cookies.


Hopefully this has been useful. I know that everyone has a cookie recipe, but I can tell you that my sister-in-law, a good cook herself, tells me that she dislikes peanut butter cookies but loves mine. If you try the recipe do let me know how they come out.


Neil McGarry

I suspect that this letter will be received in one of two ways.

One (most likely): Someone in Casey's office chalks it up to a nutcase and tosses it.

Two (I hope!): That someone thinks, "This is a riot...I have got to send this along to Bob."

I now await a reply. Maybe Casey will send me a recipe for apple cake, and if he does, I am baking it!

**I donated to the campaign of Delaware's Chris Coons, to keep that dreadful Christine O'Donnell out of office, and now he has sent me a Christmas card as well. I have displayed it prominently.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hey Star!

Yes, I am writing you at the last possible moment of this day. Better almost late than actually late, I suppose.

For me, 2010 has been a hard, hard year. Layoff, layoff, injury, illness, stress, and death. And then, of course, today. I guess today doesn't bother you in the Great Beyond, but it sure as hell bugs me. Hey, are there chocolate-covered Nutter Butters in the Great Beyond? I sure can't find them here.

Just as the good things pass away so do the bad, and right now I'm just hunkered down, waiting for that turn of the wheel. Thinking of those who left too soon. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for my friend Cathy, if you would. She'll need some showing-around, and I can't think of a better guide than you. Plus, she can share some embarrassing stories about me. Get that out of your system now, please, so I don't have to hear it later.

Tell her I miss her. And you, too.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Hanging on? Not me

There's a motivational poster that reads, "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!" This is of course accompanied by a photo of a suitably adorable kitten clinging to a rope. Something always bothered me about that message, but only in the last few days have I come to understand why. Now you get to understand, too.

Life is tough sometimes. OK, alot of the time, and contrary to what we are told, it doesn't get better just because you work hard or go to church or generally intend well. I remember a high school teacher saying, "99% of what happens to you is in your control." Even at the tender age of 15 I went, "Hmmm" and now at the not-so-tender age of 41, I say, "What the hell was he thinking?" In my experience, most of what happens to you is well outside your control; illnesses strike, layoffs happen, and people die, and there's not a damned thing you can do to prevent most of it. And it sucks. It just sucks. The only real power you have is in your reactions to what comes your way.

Sarah Palin, in resigning the governorship of Alaska, said, "Only dead fish go with the flow." Unsurprisingly, she's wrong, and for the same reason as the hanging kitten poster. You can, of course, white-knuckle your way grimly through life, hoping that as soon as this problem or that problem is over, everything will be fine, but of course there's always another problem just over the hill or hiding behind the hedge. That's the irresistible force versus immovable object approach, and it ends in wrinkles, high blood pressure, and indigestion.

I take a different view. When the wind blows up, I don't stand tall and defy it; I adjust my sails and try to use that force to take me where I want to go. Doesn't always work, but I'm a good swimmer, so when my little boat flips over, I paddle around until I get things back in order. Then I look for a friendlier wind, because sooner or later, one always comes along. Just as you can rely upon the bad, so can you expect the good. So, Ms. Palin, I do go with the flow, because the alternative is to swim vainly against the current until you use up your strength and drown. Not this little fish, thank you.

It's true that I have neither wealth nor fame, nor do I have a respectable career or a fancy car. (Hell, I bought my car before Hillary Clinton started wearing pantsuits.) And maybe if I'd refused to go with the flow I'd have some or all of those things. As it is, though, my blood pressure is well within the normal range, I haven't lost my hair to stress, and I sleep at night with an easy heart. If someone had told me twenty years ago that would be the case, I'd have been pretty damn pleased.

So to (finally) come back to that kitten, do you know what I do when I reach the end of my rope? I let go. Sometimes, tying that knot is harder than just taking the fall.