90 Things My Mother Taught Me: Part I

1044844_10151784467348410_1806859731_nIdamae Saltenberger was born on the Sesquincentennial of the United States (that’s 150 years).


Idamae with her parents, 1926

I took this photo of Idamae Saltenberger Ziemke on her 50th Birthday, which happened to be the Bicentennial of the United States.

She hated having her picture taken, which is why she has that whole Princess Diana vibe going on.

This 4th of July (Independence Day in the land of my birth . . . and hers), Idamae Saltenberger Ziemke would have celebrated her nonagintennial.

She’d be turning 90.

I miss her.

She was my Mum. She taught me everything (important) that I know.

In honour of her 90th, I thought I’d compile a list of the 90 most important things she taught me. One for each year.

It turns out that 90 is a lot of things.

So, I will make two lists: one for her New Zealand Birthday and one for her US Birthday.

Here is Part I in no particular order:

90:      Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy get together at the end of Pride and Prejudice, even the 1,723rd time you watch it.lizzie and darcy

89:      If you eat an entire box of Christmas ribbon candy in one day, you will get sick and never want to eat Christmas ribbon candy again in your entire life. ribbon candyIn fact, just looking up images of Christmas ribbon candy on Google will make you queasy 50 years later.

88:      It’s a bad idea to use soft-boiled Easter Eggs in an egg hunt.

87:      Don’t spray insecticide on the rose bushes you planted next to your husband’s fishpond. The fish will die and your husband will rip up your rose bushes.


Enter a caption


86:      Never throw out bleach bottles, you never know when you might want to make them into [fill in the blank]. Mum’s bestie, Laura Huish, allegedly wept when she had to re-home her bleach bottle collection when her family moved to North Carolina. They came to live happily in our attic where some found meaningful careers as piggy-banks.bird feeder




85:      Never throw out egg cartons. See number 86 above. egg carton penguinsThis only applies to cardboard egg cartons. The Styrofoam ones are useless, even for holding eggs.


84:      Never throw out Reader’s Digests. With a little spray paint and a styrofoam ball, they make nice Christmas angels.


83:      In fact, best not to throw out anything. You never know when you might need that odd sock.

sock puppets

82:      Stay on good terms with your next-door neighbours (which means gracefully accepting when they offer you some of their goat barbecue) in case your oven blows up and you’ve made Baked Alaska for your dinner party. That way, you can use their oven and arrive at the front door of your own party bearing spectacular dessert.

81:      When your husband’s graduate student and his wife turn up a week early for their dinner invitation, make a pitcher of martinis and tomato sandwiches. Everyone will have a wonderful time.

80:      Episcopalians are happy to hear the Christmas Story on the 4th of July.

79:      If you choose to turn your hair green with Sun In, you can live with the consequences until it grows out.  1001483_10151782256448410_1697737890_n

78:      Don’t ever let Uncle Chuck make Dad’s drinks. If you do, Dad will never make it to the Friday Fish Fry.

77:      There is more to dessert than chocolate.

76:      If God had meant people to be outside in Georgia in August, he wouldn’t have made air-conditioners.

75:      And if you stay out of the sun, in the air-conditioning, you won’t have any wrinkles on your 50th Birthday and you will look awesome. For that matter, you won’t have any wrinkles and will look pretty awesome on your 82nd Birthday!


Mom’s 82nd Birthday with my friends Katy and Yvonne. I was on a train in Australia, meeting my soul mate. She warned me before I left. I didn’t believe her. Silly me.

74:      You cannot hear Gordon Lightfoot sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” too many times. You can, however, wear the grooves off the record. I wanted us to sing it at her Memorial Service. Turns out, it’s not in the Episcopal Hymnal.Wreck-45-200x200

73:      If you are fed up with your family and decide to run away from home, remember to put on your shoes and take your purse.

72:      You can never have enough index cards.

71:      If you are going to sew yourself a swimsuit, remember to use waterproof elastic. Otherwise, your bottoms will float away the first time you jump into the pool, and you will be pretty darned embarrassed.

70:      Life is too short to bake cookies.

69:      Never use bleach on the Altar Linens, only lemon juice. Bleach makes holes in fair linen.

68:      If you say you are going to the Golden Pantry with Becky but you actually are going to “meet boys”, your mother will know. She is omnipotent.

67:      “Your Father will be so disappointed” is worse than a spanking.

66:      If you are at the beach and the steaks fall off the Hibachi into the sand, wipe them off and make another pitcher of martinis. Always gin. Always olives. Dirty (with the olive juice). No one will notice.hibachi

65:      No one has invented the garbage disposal yet. This is still true.electric-pig

64:      Ankle strap shoes are trashy.

63:      So are halter-tops.

62:      Twenty-five years from now, no one will care that you weren’t tapped for that High School sorority. Neither will you. In fact, you won’t remember what that High School sorority was.IMG_0108

61:      But you will remember that your Mum suggested you start your own secret society and call it the D.R.I.P.S., which doesn’t stand for anything. But the girls you won’t let in (because they did get tapped for that High School sorority that you can’t remember the name of) don’t know that and will think you are very mysterious.

60:      Some day, you will be grateful that your Mum fished the tear-soaked pieces of the note you got from Winston in sixth grade saying “I don’t love you no more” out of the waste basket and taped them back together.

59:      Ditto the equally tear-soaked piece of the note you got from Winston six months earlier saying “I love you. You’re Jam Up an Jelly Tight.”


A valuable historical document. Sadly, I can’t put my hands on the break-up note.

58:      Always wear clean knickers in case you get in a car accident. You don’t want to arrive at the ER in yesterday’s undies.

57:      It is extremely difficult to get a finch to eat broccoli.

56:      Always clean the windows and dry crystal glasses with newspaper. It is cheap, you only throw it away anyway, and it doesn’t leave streaks (although you might get newsprint all over you).

55:      If you accidentally pour your kid’s grape Kool-Aide into the Beef Bourguignon instead of the red wine, just make another pitcher of martinis and roll with it. (Are you detecting a pattern here?) It will taste fine and everyone will wonder what the secret ingredient is. Sort of like those little cocktail wieners with the grape jelly.

54:      You can’t have too many homegrown tomatoes, but you can have too many figs.

53:      Fortunately, Southerners love figs.

52:      Money won’t buy you friends, but fig pizzas will.

51:      The Benny Hill Show is obnoxious, but Dad loves it, so humor him.The-Benny-Hill-Show-5

50:      You don’t have to speak German to cook awesomely delicious German food.

49:      Always make Klösse with old potatoes, even if your husband insists you only make them with new potatoes (and it’s OK to sneak in a few mashed cooked potato so everything sticks together – just don’t tell Dad).

48:      And they aren’t done with they float – whatever the cookbook says. If you take them out of the water as soon as they float, you will have raw potato mush.

47:      McD’s Quarter Pounders are best with onions only.

46:      Nobody at McD’s believes that Quarter Pounder are best with onions only, so be prepared to 1) explain yourself, 2) wait so long that your French Fries have congealed and, 3) end up with a Quarter Pounder with everything but onions.

45:      You can’t flush toothbrushes down the toilet, and ceramic toilets can catch fire when attacked by a mad Professor with a blowtorch.toilet barbecue


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