"That's real American music," or How Uncle Dick Saved My Reading Class

Uncle Dick was my Grandmother's sister's husband, which makes him my great-uncle by marriage. Naughty children (we were all naughty children, once) called him "Duncle Ick" behind his back. And snickered. He was a man with an appreciation if nice things, in particular of nice jazz albums on vinyl. Vinyl was all there was, at the time. He had an extensive collection of jazz albums, which he kept in a tidy place in a tidy room in a tidy house. He would set you down on one of the tidy chairs, put on a record (carefully!) and snap his fingers to the beat of the music. One leg crossed over the other, he would always say the same thing,

"Yes sir, that's real American music."

To be honest, I'm not even sure if I ever witnessed this myself. Yet, I can see it all quite clearly in my mind. It was the Legend of Duncle Ick.

After I grew up, he died. I heard of it from far away. The notorious record collection was scattered among various relatives. In my mid-twenties, during a brief stint of couch surfing with relatives in Pennsylvania, I acquired some of the jazz records. Most of them were Count Bassie and Duke Ellington.

Fast forward to now. I'm teaching a rambunctious group of kids reading, directly after lunch recess. They're really a mess when they come in. It's difficult to even get their attention, much less get them to read.

A girl in the class, a soft spoken fourteen year old girl, has professed a love of jazz and begun reading a biography of Duke Ellington.

I inquired of the school librarian a few days ago about a record player.

"Do we have a record player that I could borrow?"

"Uh... what?"

"Record player?"

I guess it's too archaic, even for a public school.

I brought in my own record player. It weighs twenty pounds and I hauled it in the locked front door. It was awkward.

When class began, I gave a brief lesson on what a record player was. I showed them the Duke Ellington record (a live in Paris 1963 recording, two record set). I explained it was fragile. They asked if they could play it backwards and hear Satan speak. I said they could not. Then, I played the record.

And, apparently-- I never knew this before-- but, apparently, Duke Ellington is magic. Those wild children were so good. They just read, and read, and read, and listened to the Duke and his orchestra.

P.S. Yes, I realize I could have just used a school computer to go to this youtube and play the music- but where would be the fun in that?

Minor Alteration



I've always disliked those posts.

This teenaged boy was over at our house the other day. Thoughtlessly, he grabbed onto one of the posts like a monkey and accidentally dislodged it. Holding a piece of our house in his hand, he and his mother were both horrified! I was delighted. I never knew that removing them could be so easy! It took less than half an hour to remove all of them (there was another wall of them, too, facing the back door. The kitchen was imprisoned!) When or if it ever warms up, I'll sand it down and revarnish it.

Cooking Tip

Adding a half of a cup of strawberry applesauce to a tough piece of meat and cooking it all day in the slow cooker makes the meat soft and juicy.

However, before it's cooked, it looks like something that might cause you a horrific flesh eating disease, so it would be best to not let anyone see this tasty meat until it is fully cooked.

Tom Turkey Tending Towards Blue

When Tom Turkey is in heat, his head turns blue, and he makes the strangest noise. Sometimes I think the noise sounds like an old elevator going up just one floor. Sometimes I think the noise sounds like a Hammond organ warming up. Sometimes I think the noise sounds like someone warming up a barbecue, using a bellows. In any case, it does not sound like I, in my mind, believe from previous conceptions like a turkey ought to sound. Nevertheless, there you have it.

That was neither here nor there.


Spring is cancelled. In this economy, spring has become increasingly difficult to maintain. The Glacial Cliff was initially designed to force congress into a compromise. However, due to the inability of the [insert demonized party]s to come to an agreement with us, the reasonable people, a decision was postponed, and the Glacial Cliff was enacted. Spring is an entitlement that people have taken for granted for too long. People who want spring should get off their butts and make spring happen. Use your gun to fight the cold. Shoot it dead! It's your right!

Let your food quiet your mouth.

When my Grandma Ruth was a little girl, her mother used to tell her, "Låt maten tysta munnen." Grandma did not know what it meant, but she knew it had something to do with food, because her mother always said it while Little Ruthie was eating. Later, when I discovered that it basically meant to be quiet while you're eating (literally, "Let your food quiet your mouth,") I wasn't completely surprised. Apparently, Little Ruthie talked a lot, even as a liten flicka. She talks a lot now, too.

A year or so ago, Grandma moved into an apartment. The apartment is a stone's throw away from the house where she was born. I've been meaning to make her a housewarming gift. A few days ago, I finally got around to it. It's a sign for her kitchen:

I hope she likes it.

The Fine Print

Look at how this artist photographs her dolls, art and jewelry on Etsy:

This initially looks pretty easy. I'll just put my ultra hip picture of a little girl Frida in front of some books.

Except that, it's not easy at all! I tried it and all of my books were somehow unsuitable. The small ones want to close on me, the big ones have distracting pictures, and the middle sized ones have these uniform pages that look somehow cheep, as though I just threw my product over some trash laying around and took a picture of it.

It's Danita's Art from the Heart:

A doll. In front of some lovely old books. They look classy, don't they? Like valuable old books. It's subliminal. This pose says, "I don't always play with and collect dolls, but when I do, I read books."

This next one just says, I must have my own of this!

I admire the marketing talent at work here. I feel like I Finally Found a Friend.

(In case you didn't click on the link, this last one is actually titled, I Finally Found a Friend.)

I am so in awe.

It helps that the things themselves are both clever and beautiful.

Leprechaun Pride

Dinner on Friday consisted of Irish soda bread and cabbage soup.

I few years ago, I read all of Frank McCourt's books. I got this impression from them that Irish houses didn't even have kitchens when he was growing up. They ate bread and boiled vegetables a lot in those books.

The End of an Era

The Gentle Giant died today. As with most deaths, though, it was a little more complicated than that.

The Gentle Giant got frostbitten every winter. This winter was colder and wetter, so it was worse. In January, his comb was frostbitten, which I expected, but then his foot swelled up, and he began limping around in the most pathetic fashion. Chickens are essentially cruel by nature, and everyone in the coop began to pick on him- literally. We have a little coop next door to the regular coop, for sick chickens and young chickens. So, I put him in the little hospital coop, expecting him to get better, if left alone.

When I carried him to the new coop, I examined him. His foot was swollen, but I couldn't tell why. He was dirty. His comb was frostbitten and a little scabbed over.

Every day, I would visit him for a few minutes, and he would hobble around a little and eat and drink. Little Z went in and pet him and encouraged him to get better. Time passed.

Every time I saw him over the past few weeks, he was holding his bad foot up in his feathers, standing on one leg, eating, or he was just nestled in the hay I put down for him, relaxing. Something about him, though, was starting to seem really pathetic. He was not getting better.

I think I suggested a mercy killing about a week ago. But then, we were all thinking, what if it warms up and he just gets better?

We decided today. It was time.

I didn't really know what was wrong with that foot. It could have been frostbitten or some sort of terrible, flesh eating fungus for all I knew, so I wore goggles, a face mask, and plastic gloves, as well as a washable rain coat over my wool sweater when I went out and got him. Normally, I hold chickens firmly by the feet, but I thought that would hurt him. I just hugged him gently. I did, however, look at "the foot", but the foot was gone. He had only one foot. His other leg just ended in a little round nub. All those times I thought he had his foot up in his feathers, I was wrong. There was no foot.

And then I had no doubt. The Gentle Giant was not going to get better. There just is no place in this world for one footed roosters.

There was definitely some part of me, actually a huge part of me, that was terribly disturbed that someone - a chicken, but still - could just lose an entire foot within the space of two months! And I was suddenly really glad I was wearing all of that protection.

The march to the cone took quite a while. There I was, hugging my sick, favorite chicken, walking all around the sheep fence, because I accidentally partitioned it poorly, so that it was almost a quarter of a mile through deep snow to the killing tree. My goggles fogged up, and I staggered blindly up the hill, avoiding barbed wire and blackberry bushes. It was at this point that I thought of the book I'd read recently, The Endurance by Caroline Alexander. The book is about an expedition to discover the South Pole in 1916. The men on that expedition ended up stranded on an ice float for 17 months or so, eating penguins. So, when I was blindly staggering through the snow with my soon to be dead chicken, sharp knife tucked under my arm, I thought, at least I'm not stranded on an ice float, living on penguins. This really isn't so bad.

The knife is one I inherited from Grandpa Al, who was a chef at Mel's Diner in San Francisco. His name, "Al", is carved into the handle. It is an excellent knife. I sharpened it this morning. And so, I can thankfully say, when we got to the killing tree, it was quick, it was clean, and the deed was done as well as it could be done. The Gentle Giant is, as they say, "in a better place" now. He was cremated, due to illness. His foot, though... I hope I don't have another story about where his foot went.

What book is this from?

html change

You may have noticed that you were redirected from grandmascellardoor.blogspot.com to just grandmascellardoor.com. I hope you were, at least! Please bookmark the new page, without the "blogspot" in the name.

I took your opinions a few weeks ago about addresses, and this was one of the winners. It seemed to make sense. The blogspot part is just too much to type, but if I completely changed the name, some of you might lose track of me.

Please let me know in the comments, if there are any problems. Or, you know, just anything. How are you doing?

edit: It looks like my blog roll isn't working any more. Can you see it?

Meet the Sheep

Left to right: Viola, Chyoko, Yoshimi, and Sevilla at breakfast. Not shown: Corva and Little Lamb, who is no longer a little lamb.

A natural blue tint filled the visual landscape this morning.

and this post will not have a photo with it because...

It was maybe 1997 or so. BAH, then BAB (Bad Assed Boyfriend) and I went to visit my grandparents, out in the desert of Southern California. Their house always had a strange quiet about it. They didn't play much music and only had the television on for the news and the occasional repeat viewing of King Cong. (Grandpa pounded his chest and roared when he watched that one.)

One afternoon, we were sitting with Grandma in the Spartan dining room over the indoor/ outdoor green carpeting. I was on one side of her, BAB on the other, looking over a box of old photographs. She was staring at each picture closely, with and without the aide of bifocals, and trying to remember the place and the people in the photographs. She was looking at a picture of a serious woman in a Salvation Army uniform,

"That was Aunt Fannie there, in her Salvation Army uniform." She set the picture of Aunt Fannie face down, on the table, and picked up another photograph, a group photograph, from the box.

As soon as she picked up the group photograph, BAB and I both simultaneously saw what she didn't, which was that the next photograph, the one underneath that group photo, was of Grandma topless. Grandma at twenty-two or so was there, petite tatas exposed in all their glory.

Grandma was squinting at the group photo up close,

"That must be blah blah blah..."


After about forty years of pondering the people in the group photo, Grandma finally placed the group photo face down on the table. She picked up the photo of herself topless. She looked at it closely.

BAB and I looked at each other, both thinking (we later talked about it and agreed we were both thinking), What's she going to say when she sees the next picture?!

But she didn't say anything. She just let out a little grunt. A hmf. A slight breath. That was it. Then, she placed the photo of herself topless face down on the table. She picked up the next photograph.

Not embarrassed. Just, you know, whatever. Next picture.

Very anti-climactic. But that movie about Francesca Woodman made me think of it the other day.

When Grandma died, the old photo of her topless was missing from the box. Not that I would have posted it here, anyway.

Fourteen Years

Last night, Little Z puked in the middle of the night, so we were all up for a bit at 3 AM or something. By the time we woke up this morning, it was lunch time (partly due to the time change). I looked out the window to fog, rain, and melting snow. The sheep, in the distance, were digging with their hooves, trying to get to the grass under the snow. Feeling a little guilty, I trodded out to the barn to feed them some hay.

The barn was flooded. A two inch layer of ice around one of the big garage doors was blocking water from escaping the barn, but somehow water was coming in at a steady rate. I fed the sheep and set to work on sweeping out water, and then cracking a trough in the ice. Once the trough was made, the water started pouring out.

The Gentle Giant has frost bite on his feet, so he can't get up high and perch above the water, but I saw he had a dry spot on his wood shavings where he seemed to be pleasantly sitting. He is in a separate coop from the others, who haven't left in a few weeks because something was eating them outside. I wanted to let them out in a limited run, but the door to the run is frozen open.

After fifteen or twenty minutes clearing out water, I went back into the house, where happy conversation seemed to be going on. It was a little bit deceptive, however, because all of that conversation was going on while BAH was cleaning up poop. Little Z had not only puked but pooped her pants in the night! So BAH was asking me what I normally did to clean everything of such foulness.

"It doesn't happen often enough for me to have a procedure," I said.

"What? No procedure?"

"Use some bleach?"

Then BAH went to the bathroom. After much screaming therein, he explained that Tigery the Cat was running around the bathroom with a strange flow of poop coming out of her, and he stepped in it. So, he cleaned that up, too.

We then sat down to breakfast, at lunch time.

"Happy anniversary," said BAH.

I completely forgot. We've been married fourteen years, today.

"She was known for her way with chickens" and other stories...

This is the magnet you are going to buy me for my birthday in two weeks:

This is a Mother's Day card (of course, right?)

Art print (called, "Chicken Drama):

All for sale at franticmeerkat.

The Woodmans

I watched this documentary a couple of nights ago:

The Woodmans are all artists. The one child, Francesca, is a photographer. Most of her photographs are of herself naked. At first, it just seems like this provocative thing, but then when you really look at the photographs, she was fantastic. Truly talented.

These pictures are not safe for work.

These pictures are all thirty or so years old. These pictures were before their time.

She came to a tragic end. You knew it all along. Still, somehow, this moving picture is strangely uplifting.

Are you smarter than a sheep? Take the quiz!

This link goes to a silly, narcissistic survey I made about this blog:

Mindless Minion Survey

Take the survey, but you might not want to go on and receive their ads or whatever - so I wrote the answers here, for you to check:

Here are the answers:

1. The blog used to have a black and white picture at the top of
Cellar Door as a very young child and her grandma, with a Pennsylvania backdrop.

2. Cellar Door uses the alias Cellar Door because
her grandmother thinks "cellar door" is the most beautiful phrase in the English language.

3. In the entry, "Piano Camp," Cellar Door was embarrassed not to know the location of
Middle C.

4. "BAH" stands for... Bad Assed Husband.

5. On the farm, Cellar Door and family have
sheep, turkeys, and chickens.

6. Which of the animals briefly had his own blog?

Bodkay the Cat.

7. Little Z is known for her art, sweetness, and off-beat view of the world.

8. Cellar Door named a cat after Teresa of the Frog Blog and Frog Applause comic strip.

9. Cellar Door tried to do her part to save the world by drinking only local beer.

Nevertheless, Teresa was not eaten by cats

If you happen to google, "Teresa eaten by cats", the third thing listed is written by me.

I found that really surprising. It wasn't like I was googling myself or anything.

And now you're wondering why I was googling "Teresa eaten by cats." And now I'm wondering why more hasn't been written on the subject. I've done my part.

Why is she wearing a bathing suit and high heals?

An otherwise ordinary photo:

Spring is still coming... right?

My mailbox:

It was one of those days when, by the time I was done shoveling, it needed to be shoveled again.

The Minnesotastan wrote last week, "One hopeful sign for us Northerners arrives when it becomes possible to see the post holding your mailbox up." Does it still count when you can only see the post because it has an ice cave formed around it?

Submarine Training

From the Retronaut.

Who I am, really (according to the Z)

I came in from feeding the sheep. I was putsing around the kitchen and couldn't help but overhear my daughter skyping with my mother-in-law in the other room.

Here are some of the things she said about me:

"She's half dolphin and part orangutan, and she has like half her brain dead... She lives in the barn... She eats tissue boxes-- I have to hide all of the tissue boxes, because she eats them! I think like half her brain is dead, but the other half works twice as hard, so it's okay... Also, have you noticed half her face sort of sagging, too? She lives in the barn and eats hay! Here she comes!"

I find this to be very much beautifuliness:

All of the beautifuliness is from Lunartics.

Talk about the Weather

When you live in Wisconsin, the weather is interesting. It's always changing. You want to compare it to years past in every variation. If nothing else, it's something to do. The Wisconsin State Climatology Office has the best website ever for people who like to look at graphs about the weather.

I can spend hours or even days looking at these types of charts:

Average temperatures in South Central Wisconsin for Spring, varied by year? Hell yes!

Or how about this one?

Severe weather events! Kudos to Washburn, Douglas, Ashland, and Taylor Counties, everyone. Well done.

And not to be limiting, they have links to weather information from the world.

And, after a while, you may finally stumble upon something you don't fully understand, as I did:

I suppose I understand it, just not exactly the purpose of creating a detailed map of the snow to liquid ratio for the Continental U.S. What the heck, though. There's art for art's sake; why not science for science's sake?

Looking at these things gives me the same kind of feeling I used to get from walking around stationery stores and smelling the rubber stamps. I cannot explain the reason why. It is a good feeling.

Dr. Seuss

Not sure who did this, but it's quite interesting.