Go with granite.

There is a road by my house called Cemetery Hill. Today on my walk, spurred by curiosity, I followed it up the hill for a mile or so and found an honest-to-goodness 130-year old cemetery, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

According to the Texas Historical Commission plaque, Furneaux Cemetery was created when Mr. Furneaux (an English immigrant) died and willed part of his extensive farmland set aside for a public cemetery. He was the first ... resident? Interree? Occupant? Whatever you call it, I'm sure you get my meaning.

I love old cemeteries and always have. You can walk through them and see whole dynasties, and put together some pretty compelling stories. This couple lost a child at a young age, that woman survived her husband by 40 years, and on and on, just by paying attention to the information on the stones. I often like to speculate on what those people were like, and what they'd think if they could pop their heads up and take a quick look around at the way their community has changed since they left it.

As I walked back home, past rows upon rows of dingy, cheap tract housing, I had the familiar sensation of grasping for history. That cemetery is probably the oldest thing within 30 miles. As Americans, we've been dazzled by everything that is newer, bigger, better! In our pursuit of those things, we bulldoze our past and build over the lot. Maybe it's vestiges of a frontier mentality; maybe those old buildings, which surely must've been there 130+ years ago, were never really meant to last, anyway. And it's not the buildings themselves that are important, though they might be interesting to look at, were they still around. It's the sense of history; the physical reminders that lead to the constant, conscious knowledge that others were here before. Just think - on that exact spot where you're sitting, generations of other people have lived and died. I think we overlook that all too often. Of course, it's important to look to the future and live in the present, but without knowledge of the past, the present can feel empty or confusing. History doesn't always repeat itself, but the past puts the present into context.


Adventures in Domesticity

Not much has been going on recently, so I haven't had much to blog about. The only adventures I've been having lately are of the domestic variety - today, I've been engaged in the exciting and glamorous activity of scaling Mount Laundry, with the help of my trusty sherpa, Arm & Hammer. I'll spare you the details of our brave exploits, but let me assure you, they were indeed harrowing.

On Saturday night, we got a wild hair and made potstickers. They were amazing! If you've never bought wonton wrappers before, you are missing out on a fantastic opportunity for a) a really fun and delicious meal, and b) a convenient and creative way to get rid of leftovers. Got two carrots left in the bag that nobody's going to eat? A bit of leftover taco meat, waiting to be forgotten in the back of the fridge? Put them in wonton wrappers and you have an instant party!

In my wontons, I used:
2 sticks of frozen imitation crab meat (leftover from a Japanese meal I made a few weeks ago)
1 carrot (the last one in the bag)
1 stalk of rather questionable and sorry-looking celery
5 bulk mushrooms (leftover ingredients from another meal)
2 green onions (that were on their way out, anyway)

I boiled the crab sticks for 5 mins (according to the directions on the package), then roughly chopped everything else and threw it in the food processor. To the bowl of minced stuff, I added some soy sauce and my new favorite condiment, Lee Kum Kee's Chili Garlic Sauce. That stuff is amazing! It's a little spicy (but I wouldn't call it hot by any stretch), quite garlicky, and completely delicious. I keep looking for new things to try it on, just as an excuse to eat more of it. I think in our household, it may have just replaced ketchup entirely.

Max made the wontons while I manned the stove, and we (mostly) followed Alton Brown's procedure for making potstickers. It was definitely Good Eats.

They took a little time to make, but on that particular evening, time was something we had plenty of. And anyway, we had a lot of fun just cooking together (I guess I'm a REALLY cheap date!). However, one of the great things about wontons is: you can make them in advance and freeze them - they'll stay good for over 6 months!! And when you're ready to cook them, they don't even need to thaw - just grab 'em and go. Since our package of wonton wrappers has something like 70 sheets in it, I'll be trying this trick out very soon.


The Pledge

So, I got another subbing job (for tomorrow) and I was wondering whether I might have to say The Pledge again. When I was observing elementary school, my hours were at the beginning of the day. The intercom announced that it was "time for the Pledge of Allegiance" - and, embarrassingly, the teacher had to prompt me to stand... It just didn't occur to me to. You see, I never, ever say The Pledge.

I can't really remember when I stopped saying it, but I think it was near the end of elementary school. Of course, I still know it. I just stopped saying it, because for some reason it always felt very strange to me.

As an adult, I explain (or rationalize, depending on your view) my aversion to the pledge as an example of absolute dogma. For some people, it is a pledge in word but not in deed. Worse, many people don't even think about it at all - not that there's a whole lot to think about. What exactly does pledging one's allegiance entail? What actions can you take to show your loyalty or patriotism? The Pledge doesn't go into that. It's just a pronouncement. We teach it to our children without explanation, and it is memorized without understanding or conviction. It's rote. If you don't agree, go watch The Pledge being recited at any local school in the beginning of the day.

Our country was founded by thinkers seeking change. When their contemporaries intoned, "God Save the King!", our forefathers asked, "Why?". Against this historical backdrop, the obligatory, unquestioning daily recital of The Pledge seems forced, insincere, and incongruous.

As for myself, I wouldn't say I'm exactly bursting with national pride, but I'm a content citizen. I vote, I pay my taxes, I don't write angry political commentary... I'm just a happy little cog who wants to be left alone and not forced to make empty political incantations to demonstrate my "American-ness".

You know why I think we say The Pledge? To homogenize. Or, at least, to give the appearance of homogenization. The Pledge is short and simple to learn, and reciting it is pretty much a stamp of Americanism. It is a quick and easy (although perhaps not terribly effective) way of imparting a basic sense of national identity on a very large and diverse group of people. Whether this is a good or bad idea is a matter of debate, but for me, it falls into the category of "A nice thought, but a little too much like brainwashing".


I'm in the mood to blog

I really should be running errands right now, but I'm going to sit down and blog for a minute because goddammit, I want to!

We have moved. I think I really like our new place, but OMG do I hate moving! There is just so much stuff! Really, I'm not sure how much we threw away/donated, but I know it was A LOT of stuff. Bags and bags of stuff. And yet we still have MORE stuff! It's a little confusing. One would think the physical space limitations of our other place would've been reached long before we could accumulate such a massive pile of things. I'm beginning to wonder if Max's closet was not in fact a Closet of Holding +1; its inside certainly seems larger than its outside dimensions!

The only room left to do is the study, (or, as Sarah and Phil call it in their house, "the nerdery") but it's a doozy. When we're finally finished and settled in, I'd like to have a little shidoo (shindig + to-do) to celebrate. Of course, my introverted and socially nonplussed husband has reservations about the idea, but I think I really need to throw a little housewarming party for closure. It'll finally put a stamp on the move and let me feel like "Okay, we live here now."

In other news, have you ever seen the movie "Backdraft"? I'd somehow missed it until this weekend, when we ordered from our new favorite pizza place (Joe's) and rented it. It was actually a pretty good movie, despite the leading men being Kurt Russell and a Baldwin (William). Robert DeNiro and Donald Sutherland were really good in it, I thought.

However, two things:
1. Jennifer Jason Leigh looks like a frumpy hooker in that movie, and whoever did her hair, makeup and wardrobe needs to be dragged out and shot. I don't care that it was 1991. Those ensembles were never okay.

2. The theme at the end of the movie is the music from Iron Chef!!! +10,000 points of awesome.

As an aside, if you can, never eat chain pizza. There are local pizza joints NEAR YOU (yes, you!) that are soooo much better, and often cheaper. Take a chance, Google "pizza" and your zip code, and order from a place that is not Papa John's, Domino's, Pizza Hut, or Little Caesars. You'll probably be supporting a local, family run business (or possibly the mafia, as we suspected with our favorite pizza joint in Denton), the ingredients will probably be fresher, the whole thing will probably taste better, and it's very likely to be cheaper, since you're not also paying for a national advertising campaign.

Okay, Max is coming home for lunch (I love that he can do that now!), so I've gotta stop blogging and look busy! (Whatever, I've been busy!)