A mass of dust, world’s momentary slave,
Is man, in state of our old Adam made,
Soon born to die, soon flourishing to fade
(Barnabe Barnes, English Poet)
Today is Wednesday. Again, I am awakened by the blower outside. A loud, ear shattering, machine running sound. That’s the leaf blower. Instead of it sucking the dirt, it blows it everywhere. All over the place, which creates a dirty cloud up in the air.
For most people things like this don’t bother them. But for someone like me, it gets into my skin. I am highly irritated every Wednesday. Because every Wednesday, they clean the grounds outside. They clean! The grounds maintenance crew. But they sure have a funny way of cleaning the grounds. These guys, here, they use the leaf blower to blow dirt up in the air – while supposedly blowing the dirt off the parking areas and walkways. The result? Cloud of gray and brown particles floating up in the air. And guess where most of this dirt lands? Right back down to the ground and right on top of cars, covering them as if a bad dust storm had just hit West Texas.
Dust. I hate dust. It’s absolutely disgusting. I hate looking at it. Touching it. That’s why I wait until I couldn’t stand to stare at it any longer before I pick up a rag to dust it off.
They other night I was complaining how much I hate dust. And both, my husband and son gave me a little education about dust. They both said that “Dust, inside the house, is really our skin. We shed. Our skin sheds. And that’s the dust everywhere in the house.”
I don’t know. It is disgusting just thinking about it. Part of me, don’t want to believe it. It’s got to be the dust from outside. Especially the ones they blow out all over the place every Wednesday. They blow it up in the air and it gets into the chimney; down the fireplace, and into the apartment. To me this is a more logical explanation of all the dust. I do believe that we shed. That our skin sheds. But not enough that its all over everything in the house!
Whenever we move to another place, especially another state, I always hope that it’s not as dusty as our current place. I believe Colorado Springs wasn’t as dusty as Las Vegas. We had a few sand storms while we were in Vegas. And here in West Texas – is the same way.
West Texas is a bit of a dessert. There are weeks when it’s very windy, sometimes 40 miles per hour. So windy in fact, that I struggle not to be blown by the wind at times. And we’ve have several dust storms. Where, not only it’s windy. The wind seems to stir up all the dust and dirt, and anything that can be lifted up from the ground up into the air.
Just like those guys blowing dust all over the place.
Once I made a mistake of having my car washed on Wednesday morning. It was nice, clean and shiny when I brought it home. But by the end of the day, it was covered with brown dirt. I wanted to run around the apartment complex with a stick, and chase the guy with the blower. I so wanted to. If there’s anything that I hate the most are those blowers and the person that uses it.
I dread going outside every Wednesday. If I must go outside, I have to be tactical. I have to have good timing. It’s like going out in the war zone. My strategy? I make sure the blower’s not in front of my door. They have to be at least 100 feet away. So I look out through the glass window, listen for the blower sound, and if they are far away enough from my door, I ready myself. I hurriedly open the door and lock it. Run to the car, open the door, and then quickly slide myself into the seat and slam the door shut. Hoping that the door won’t catch my leg. I hold my breath the whole time, while on the run, from the door to the car.
My husband always asks me – “What is wrong with you? You grow up in the dirt! So all this dirt and dust shouldn’t bother you at all!”
And my reply to him is always – “Well, I am not in the Philippines anymore. I no longer live in a nipa hut so I don’t have to put up with all this dust and dirt unless I have to. This is America for god sakes! This is a country where no rickety house exist. Everybody lives in nice homes!”
Of course this is untrue. I was shocked, when four summers ago, we were on our way to Fredericksburg, a German town in Texas, driving down highway 83-84. Then there they were. Several rundown houses along the highway. They were so old and rundown that I had to really focus at them for a few minutes, while driving 70 miles per hour, to see if someone still live there. I saw chairs out in the porch and car outside. A sure sign that those houses are still inhabited.
I tell my husband, “Wow, honeyko! Did you see those houses!? They look so old and seems to be falling apart, but people still live there!”
And his answer was, “Yeah. So? You’re the only who thinks that America is this perfect country. That everybody lives in nice homes. We have poor and homeless people here in America, just like any other country in the world. The only difference is, people here have more choices and opportunities. You can rise up from ground zero if you try hard enough.” “And besides,” he added, “those old and rundown homes? They’re still better than your nipa hut! You know why? Because they have electricity, and running water, and TV! You didn’t have that in your nipa hut!”
I have to admit. Yes, they are. As bad as those houses. They are still better than the nipa huts I grew up in. At least they have running water, and sewer, I’m sure. And, they probably own the land that their house is built upon. Most nipa huts in the Philippines are built not on their land. They are merely sharecroppers. Those nipa hut dwellers can get evicted by the landowners at any time. That’s how we were. We were sharecroppers. Though the arrangement was not at all bad. The landowner only demanded that we share half of our harvested rice. We didn’t have to share our sweet potatoes, cassava, and occasional vegetables. Though we were willing to share if the landowner stops by and ask. The landowner did have one specific request: that my Dad take care of the coconut plants scattered around his land. My Dad was to cut the shrubs and bushes around the young coconut plants so they’ll grow to full size coconut trees, and start producing coconuts.
My Dad did owned a piece of land. I think it is 16 hectares – close to 40 acres. He bought it from my Godparents. But he barely cultivated it. The guy who owns the land next to ours, keeps extending his marker, stealing a piece of our land every single year. Each time he has his land surveyed, he moves his fences – a marker, surrounding his land several feet into ours. And to avoid from having to quarrel with him, which could end up in a bloody massacre, hopefully on the part of that guy, my dad just let him slide. He let this land-hungry man get away with several infractions, while stealing a piece of our land every year. I wonder how long will he allow this to go on…?
Again, every Wednesday, the grounds maintenance crew cleans the grounds or so they think. Personally, I think it’s a waste of money and time. I can understand them trimming the plants. But the grounds? It’s hopeless. They haven’t figured out how to make grass grow in a lot of areas on the grounds. In front of our condo, for example. Right outside our door. They planted grass outside that small space, about twice already since we been here. The grass didn’t last. It was green for about a week, turned brown the following week. Both times this happened. So now it’s just bare. And when it rains, it’s worst. There is dirt every where. Dirt washes down into the parking areas and on the walkways. Because there’s no grass in most places, the soil erode when it rains. And guess what happens next Wednesday? They’ll be blowing dirt and dust all over the place again.
I so badly want to tell the manager this “ you know, what your grounds maintenance crew is doing doesn’t make sense. They blow dirt all over the place and it is counter productive.” But I don’t think she’ll welcome this criticism. I certainly do not want to ruffle her feathers. I’m sure she’s going to stop being “sweet” to me in her Texas twang if I do. So I just put up with it. I hold it inside. All this aggravation about dirt.
Sometimes I think – maybe I am just being irrational?
If I am, then so as the 20 cities in California that ban leaf blowers. And other states like Arizona, Hawaii and New Jersey which also have laws against Leaf Blowers.
I want to console myself with this Strawberry Pretzel Salad.
Eleven years ago is when I first ate this. I was at a ‘pot luck” luncheon in Okinawa, Japan. Our HR Manager, Beverly Essex brought this dessert.
At first, when I saw it, I kind of looked at it funny. I mean, eating pretzels and strawberries kind of strange, doesn’t it? It certainly did for me back then. I did not plan of having any. But, when it was almost gone… and everybody was bragging how good it was… I had a second thought. I wanted to find out for myself why everyone was bragging about this Strawberry Pretzel Salad. I thought, hmmmm… I think I better have some of that before it’s all gone. So I did. Sure enough. As soon as I took a bite, OMG! All these flavors were dancing in my mouth. I wanted some more! And more! This stuff is addictive.
The combination of salted pretzels, cream cheese, cool whip, gelatin, and frozen whole strawberries, produced an appetizing and unique taste. Yes, it is weird. No doubt about that. But it’s a tasty weird thing. You really just have to make it to find out for yourself. Ms. Essex was kind enough to share her recipe with me. And I would like to share it with you.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
5 cups coarsely crushed pretzels – (I buy a 1 pound bag pretzel with salt.)
1½ sticks or ¾ cup butter – melted
5 TBSPs. sugar
1 (8 ounces) pkg. cream cheese – softened
1 cup sugar
10 ounces cool whip
2 (3 ounces) pkgs. Strawberry gelatin
2½ cups boiling water
2 (16 ounces) frozen whole strawberries
Mix pretzels, butter and 5 tablespoons sugar. Smooth in 10½ x 15 baking pan and bake 8 minutes at 400 degrees. WATCH CAREFULLY. It burns easily!
Beat cream cheese and 1 cup sugar until creamy. Fold in cool whip and spread over cooled crust. Leave no gaps.
Mix strawberry gelatin, boiling water and frozen strawberries with juice. Cool until slightly jelled. Spread over cheese layer. Chill until set. Keep refrigerated.
sort of look weird. but it’s one of those weird tasty stuff.
Tess Kitchen Secret:
I have no secret for this one. Every ingredient is a critical piece for this dessert as a whole. Though one thing that stands out is the saltiness of the pretzel and then the sweetness of everything that balances it out.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!