Friday, April 30, 2010

Some News Items

I recently read that auto engineers in Germany are working on a technology that would allow one to steer one's car via eye gaze. Instead of a steering wheel guiding the car, the car would just go where the driver is looking? Gosh, that sounds dangerous and I can't say that I even begin to grasp what might be the advantage to such a system. Well, I guess if Mike mowed over a co-ed as he was driving by the university he could no longer deny that he was, in fact, looking! (Just a little joke. Mike doesn't take me seriously. No one else should either.)

This was an Associated Press story headline in today's Burlington Free Press: Iceland, Cyprus post lowest death rates. The story states, "Men in Iceland and women in Cyprus have the lowest risk of dying worldwide, a new study says." Now I am certainly no math whiz, but isn't the death rate, like, 100%, really?? I'm just saying...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Snow

It was still snowing when I took this picture this morning. It snowed until around 3:30 this afternoon. All the snow knocked out our electricity for about eight hours. We got up and went out for breakfast and did not bother to even shovel the driveway. It will melt soon enough. We ran into some old friends at the restaurant so that was kind of fun. I've had my day of reading and knitting and relaxing that I missed last Sunday.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Springtime in VT




Ahh, yes, springtime in Vermont. Yesterday we had our supper sitting outside on the deck. Morning coffee...inside, looking out at the snow.



By noon, I had to go out and knock snow accumulation off the sagging lilac bush before limbs started snapping. According to the weather report, the snow is not going to let up until tomorrow morning. Yikes! Then, they predict a high of 82 for the weekend.


We have had an unusually lovely April so I won't complain, but this scene is pretty typical. The only time I ever got stuck in my driveway was an April snow storm that dropped two feet of snow over night. The guy who plowed our driveway had already taken the plow off his truck, but he did notice my plight and he came over with a chain to pull me out. Of course, it was snowing here in the mountains but not in the town where I worked. I could hear the eyeballs rolling over the phone when I called to say I would be late.

Vermont can be a beautiful state, but winters tend to be dark, long, and SAD depressing for some. At the same time, I know plenty of people who love Vermont winters for the skiing or for the huddling in. Mike and I belong to the former group. There isn't enough Prozac in the world to get me through a Vermont winter now that I am retired.

So how did I get here? I was dragged here by my parents and then never left for very long. My parents were from Pennsylvania, where I was born. My dad was a coal miner like his dad before him. (I was a coal miner's daughter, but Loretta Lynn already wrote that book. I count it among the missed opportunities of my life.) Anyway, he was lucky enough to get a job at IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY. We moved there when I was three. IBM opened a plant in Vermont in 1957 and my dad moved us all up here soon after. He was very seriously considering between California and Vermont, but I think the rest of the family being in the East made the decision. Still, you always wonder about those forks in the road and what might have been.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Walk in Jericho Center

I posted a walk around Venice a while back so now I'll show where I live--Jericho Center, Vermont. These pictures were taken on my walk Sunday morning. Lots of other people went to church.




This tree has fallen and it can't get up. Those are the roots behind the bird house.








These houses sit in the kettle up the road from our house. A kettle is a round depression gouged out by a long ago glacier.







These three pictures show the general store, the library, and the Congregational Church that, along with a dozen or so houses, ring the village green. It's a bit more than a mile from our house.

There's a plaque on the green dedicated to the memory of Snowflake Bentley. He's our "famous" historical resident, although most people have never heard of him.

Sunday

I, on purpose, had very few plans for today. I usually like to make a real breakfast on Sunday mornings, read the paper, clean up the dishes and go for a walk. I figured I would spend the rest of the day just relaxing--alternating between the book I'm reading at the moment (The Monster of Templeton) and my latest knitting project, maybe sitting out on the deck if it warmed up enough.

Well, I was just getting back from my walk when I heard my neighbor across the street calling my name. She was working in her amazing flower gardens and had just dug up some perennials that she wanted to give to me--some verbascum and some borage plants. I took the plants home and took a tour around the yard to decide where I would plant them. I noticed that the flower beds needed edging quite badly. So I spent several hours digging and weeding and then planting my new plants. It was too cool to sit and read on the deck anyway, but it was perfect for working in the yard. Maybe I'll relax tomorrow.

The seeds I started are doing well, sitting on a sunny window sill in the basement and in the kitchen. I love this time of year for the garden--everything is so hopeful. It's all about the potential of the growth to come with little thought to major weeds, invading insects, plant chomping critters, and all the assorted blights and diseases that can plague the summer and fall.

Speaking of critters, I saw a bear amble through the back yard Friday night. My son had come over to have super with me. After he left, I was locking the back door and a big animal came out of the woods. I thought it was a coyote--Kevin and I had just been talking about hearing them howl at night--but this did not move at all like a coyote. This is the first time I have seen a bear in the back. I'm glad he just kept on moving!
This is the view from my kitchen window. The bear came out of the woods and walked across the field behind the shed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eat Your Vegetables

Mike left for an antique motorcycle meet in Pennsylvania. I took advantage of his absence to try a few vegetarian dishes. I made a multi grain salad with tomato and avocado and a cauliflower curry. Both were delicious and it made me wonder why I never went for being a vegetarian, at least part time, because I do like the tastes of vegetable-grain-bean combinations with lots of different spices. Then I remembered. It's the labor intensiveness--all that chopping, sauteing, soaking, rinsing, boiling, and then the resulting clean-up time. So instead of cutting the recipes in half or thirds, I might as well make the full amount and freeze. I mean, I enjoy cooking, but not a big production everyday. Freezing meals, now, that's a head slapper. Duh!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I have been sooo tired for the past few days I barely made it home from my walk yesterday. I do feel perkier this morning since I got a really good night's sleep. Good thing--exciting day of house cleaning ahead of me. Woohoo! And only a cup of green tea to look forward to at the end of the day...but...I am determined NOT to have to go out and buy a new up-sized wardrobe.
I guess that I will have my green tea with a wash of satisfaction with my clean house and my sensibly nourished body.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seriously

Sometimes I do not know why I read the newspaper. Today I read that a cleric in Iran blamed earthquakes on women who dress immodestly. And all this time, I thought that such disasters were caused by liberal Democrats! Live and learn.
________________
I have started my serious dedication to losing some extraneous pounds. My doctor warned me to last fall, but I ignored her for as long as I could. Now I'm noticing that my clothes seem a little snug. I exercise so I'm realizing I really have to get more serious about watching what I put into my mouth. I figure that I'll limit my glass of wine to Saturday and drink green tea as my dinner beverage. I'll cut back on portions generally but sweets and breads in particular.
My New Year's resolution was to eat some fruit or vegetables with every meal and now I'm thinking I'll go to at least one vegetarian meal a week--something out of my long neglected Moosewood Cookbook. The Barefoot Contessa and Paula Dean are out of the rotation for the time being. Actually, I love many of the Moosewood recipes and now that it is out on my kitchen counter, I will probably have more than one vegetarian meal a week. Mike is also determined to lose weight, but he doesn't go for the "twigs and sticks hippie food" so he'll be
fixing alternative meals a bit more often.
___________________
We had the last poetry workshop session last night. Now we each get a private consultation with the teacher and in two weeks there will be an open session where we will all take turns reading what we have written. Gulp. We'll just have to see about this public performance aspect, but the work sessions were extremely valuable.
____________________
I believe I have mentioned that we moved the bird feeders to hang off the deck out back. We see tons more birds than when the feeder was in the front yard and we can watch them from our table so we have entertainment during meals. The yellow finches are not behaving, though. They will sit on the feeder and pick out seeds, then just drop them. The stairs and ground are getting covered with sunflower seeds. Fortunately, the blue jays, redwing blackbirds, and a red squirrel that has taken up residence in the wood shed will pick seeds off the ground, but so far the yellow finches seem to be too much for the cleanup crew. Mike has taken to knocking on the window to scare them away. We need a sign like they have in the Chinese buffet: "Help yourself, but do not take more than you will eat."

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Taxes, Grocery Shopping

There's always something new we can tax, isn't there? Today I read about a proposed tax on vitamins and supplements. Will the money generated go to health care? Probably not. The other proposed tax was on plastic bags at the grocery store because they use foreign oil to make them and they fill up land-fills. I'm sure it would be a pain for the check-out workers, but I never liked those plastic bags. At least paper bags have a flat bottom. The plastic bags roll around in the back of the car and all the groceries go rolling around in the trunk. Personally, I take a stack of assorted cloth bags when I go shopping. Some of them are a bit of a challenge to hold open and pack and they can cause the self-checkout computer confusion when they're placed on the packing area. But, face it, they are trendy "green." Some stores give a 3 cent credit for each reusable bag. There is a "just right"area in the back of my Ford TaurusX where the groceries sit nicely. Also, the teenage boy who works as a bagger at the grocery store where I usually shop always admires the handiwork that went into the bags--most of which I made myself.
I went to the grocery store today and then also stopped in at the Natural Provisions store nearby. I like to buy flours, grains, nuts and spices there. It's much cheaper to get that kind of stuff from the bulk bins...and they give a 10% discount to the over sixty crowd. I like that it is not automatic, though. So then I have to say, "Thanks for not noticing, but I am over sixty."
When I shop for groceries in Florida, the baggers are rarely teenagers and sometimes quite elderly, but they always offer to carry out the groceries and help put them in the car. I've never taken anyone up on that offer because I would feel ridiculous having an eighty year old, eighty pound woman toting my sacks out to my car when I am, for the time being, relatively strong and healthy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Grand Children Visit

It's always a packed few days when the children come for a visit at Grandma's house. We make trips to the park and playground. Uncle Kevin comes for a visit with them. We go shopping and out for lunch. This week we made cookies and played games when it was too rainy for a hike in the woods. And we went to visit both the Ben and Jerry's factory and the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center. We all had fun. Kristen, at eight, was ready to go home on Saturday so she could spend time with her friends and she always misses her mom and dad a bit. Dane, the three year old, was quite ready to move in with Grandma for an unspecified amount of time.

How is it that children nowadays instinctively know how to use a computer? Dane can't read, but he could navigate his way around the interactive computers they had at the museum. I mean, he could pick an activity by the picture, I suppose, but how does he know to hit the start and exit buttons at the appropriate times?

Anyway, it warmed by heart to see how curious and attentive they were at the museum and during the factory tour. Mike didn't go with us, so I was especially thankful for their good behavior.

Now, I think it is a good time for a rainy Sunday afternoon nap.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Down and Dirty

My plan for today was to get a load of manure for my vegetable garden. No one seems to want to deliver anything to our rural location so I drove to a local garden center and loaded the back of the car with seven bags of organic composted cow manure. I had actually planned to also stop at a nearby kitchen shop, but when I got a whiff of the bags piled in the back, I figured I just better hurry on home with all the windows rolled down. I carted all the bags out to the garden in the back yard, then went to vacuum out the car and wipe the inside down with some eucalyptus soap. Oh, and that reminds me, I left the windows open so I'll have to go out and close them.
Then I went back to the garden and spaded in all that composted sweetness and raked the bed smooth. It's still a good six weeks before it will be safe to plant most things, but I have tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and parsley started in the house. I may plant some lettuce seeds in a few days though. Lettuce is tough. I picked some chives on my way back in--always the first thing ready for harvesting, but this is REALLY early.
I tried to get Mike to join the fun of digging, but he was not falling for it. He has his hobbies and I have mine. I can tell already that my back is going to be achy tonight. Maybe I can convince Mike to carry me up to bed later. (HA! I have my fantasies, I'm sure he has his.)
Tomorrow I will pick up my two grand children. I'll travel south and my daughter will travel north and we'll meet halfway for the hand-off. Kristen has the week off from school and I haven't seen them in too long, Of course, if I'm tuckered out from the garden work, just wait until I've spent a few days trying to keep up with a three year old and and eight year old. The weather is supposed to stay on the chilly side, but nice so I hope we can get in lots of outdoor time.

Monday, April 12, 2010


My first husband was a community spirited, giving back kind of guy, and that is extremely admirable. He may have gone too far, though, when he convinced me, many years ago, to go with him to donate blood. As he pointed out at the time, I was young and healthy. I should feel a responsibility to help those in need. It was an easy thing to do. He did it on a regular basis. They give you juice and a donut when you are done. Okay, all ready. I went with him to the Congregational Church where the Red Cross was having a blood drive.
The volunteer greeting us at the door gave me a sticker: "Be nice to me. It's my first time!" Goody, a sticker. What am I? In first grade?
I was given some paperwork to fill out. Obviously, the purpose of the sticker was to prompt others, workers and donors alike, to say, "Don't worry. It doesn't hurt a bit."
A nurse pricked my finger and knocked a drop of blood into a little vial of some kind of liquid. I think the drop was supposed to sink to the bottom, but it just sat there until the nurse whacked the vial a few times and announced, "There it goes! Don't worry. This doesn't hurt a bit."
So I stretch out on a cot. I hate needles so I look away and close my eyes besides. The nurse says, "Just a little prick and it won't hurt after that." Don't think I didn't notice the change in tune from "won't hurt a bit" to "just a little prick."
The nurse walked away after that little prick and I was left there thinking, "Damn! This does so hurt! A lot! It hurts a lot!"
The guy on the next cot asked me how I was doing and I said aloud, "I don't care what they say, this hurts."
"Oh!" he said. "Oh, nurse! Come here, please. Something's wrong." That's when I looked. There was a large purple mass growing over my elbow. The needle had pierced my vein and the blood was just puddling under my skin instead of going into the collection bag. The nurse pulled out the needle. If she said something soothing, I didn't hear it. What I did hear was her asking me if she could try the other arm.
"Good god, NO. Give me my donut and let me out of here!"Call me selfish, but I happen to be using all my blood.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mon Petit Chou



I saw this pattern in a magazine and it really amused me.
AND it used up some scrap yarn.


I told Mike my plan was to knit a whole bushel basket of veggies and sell them at the farmers' market. He just rolled his eyes. He really does't get the knitting thing at all.

Weather, Food, Birds

Ah, April as we know it in Vermont. It was snowing this morning. It cleared up late in the morning and warmed up to the 50's, but the wind chill was making it feel like the 30's.
With all the walking we did in Florida, it was a shock to get home and notice how hard it has become to handle the hills on our walking routes here. Both Mike and I have made the commitment to keeping up with daily walking, though, and healthier eating, too. Time to get serious about losing those pesky added pounds. Even though Mike has way more to lose than I do, I know he's more likely to reach his goal first. Men and their metabolism!
We had baked fish with dill, capers, and pine nuts for supper tonight--with a side of asparagus. Last night it was baked chicken and a salad for Mike and curried chickpeas stir fried with carrots, onions, celery, and spinach for me. I love, love, love the spring vegetables. I have not given up my glass of wine for healthier eating, though. I drink water with my meals, but sitting down with a glass of wine after the supper things have been washed and put away--that's my favorite time of day.
The birds have quickly found our feeders again. They are already starting to visit in pairs--except for the masses of gold finch. We had to move the feeders last fall when we took out a dead crab apple and replaced it with a smaller one. Now the feeders hang off the back deck and we can watch them from our dining room table and from the kitchen window. The price of a sack of bird seed provides cheap entertainment.
Okay, I see that all efforts to load some pictures are wasted--save them for another day.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shopping for School Shoes

The theme of the poetry workshop I am attending this month is "school." This was what I was inspired to write.

Shopping for School Shoes

From the parking lot of Abernathy's--
where Dad waits, listening to the Red Sox,
playing ersatz head coach and umpire both
shouting over the static of the car radio--
Mom and I walk through the back door,
right into the shoe department
with its unctuous wooden panels
and little altars lined with footwear,
the air thick with the incense of leather.

Mr. Adams, priest-like in his dark suit,
cloud-white shirt and shiny black shoes,
greets us, solemnly nodding his head.
Quietly I sit beside my mother.
The worn seat gives a soft whoosh
and the chrome edge cools my shin.
My yearning eyes take in penny loafers,
white Keds sneakers, and -- Oh --
buttery soft slip-ons with ribbon bows.

A fetish chosen, I bow my head in prayer.
"Thou shalt not put false gods before me."
On this, Mother and Mr. Adams agree.
In stocking feet, I step on the metal trap.
My size noted, boxes appear in a stack--
saddle shoes, oxfords, sturdy maryjanes--
my silent pleas effectively ignored.
Other kids will get to wear the pretties;
I take the sacrament of practical shoes.
I hated the shoes my mother made me wear, but then I do have to admit I have had no foot problems into my old age so far. Well, I did break a toe a couple of summers ago and it healed kind of wonky, but I still thank my mom for her early vigilance regarding my foot health.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sounds of Silence


The Communion of Silence


Silence, with sails double reefed,
Creeps into shoal water.

A hand touches another.
Two heads turn.
One winks.
The other smiles.

Silence, with all sails rigged,
Beats out of shoal water.

A glance points homeward;
A hand spins the wheel.

Later, the sea, in ungentle waves,
Tries to beguile them.

Neither notice.


Carl Potter


*****

It's National Poetry Month, April. For several years now, our small town library has hosted a workshop with a University of Vermont professor/poet who lives in town. I joined the group this year. Carl, one of my writing buddies, also joined and shared this poem with the group. He has a very romantic sensibility.

He was nice enough to let me post his poem here. I had been thinking about my experience with the sounds of silence and now I have the little push I needed to sit down and write about it.



*****

Mike and I have had been fortunate in our opportunities to travel around various parts of the United States, and we have had some great trips. I think, though, our one trip out of the country has to be my favorite. We spent July, 2003, touring New Zealand, mostly the South Island. I can't even come up with words for how spectacular the whole place was, even in wintertime. We were constantly picking our chins up off the ground. A month is not enough time to spend there.

We had a couple of day trips in Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is mostly wilderness and all but impenetrable--mountain peaks and fiords carved by glaciers, thick rainforest vegetation. Milford Sound is about the only fiord accessible by car, but we had to re-schedule plans because they first time we tried to get there, the road had been closed by avalanche.

We went to Doubtful Sound, further to the south. Getting there involved getting a boat ride across a large lake and then a bus ride over a forbidding mountain pass. We then got on another, larger boat to cruise down the sound. Before turning the boat around for the trip back to the wharf, the captain stopped and turned off the boat's engine. He urged the group (maybe twenty of us altogether) to listen to the sounds of silence in this unspoiled and remote wilderness. It has to be the most peaceful spot on earth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring

Something is very wrong. We got back to Vermont and the weather was warmer over the past weekend than it was the whole time we were in Florida. It was an unusually cold winter in Florida, but it has been a an unprecedented warm spell in Vermont. March, 2010, was the warmest in Vermont recorded history.
The grass looks green, buds are out on our maple trees, lilac bushes, and crab apple trees. The daffodils are all up and some have already bloomed. Birds are flocking in the meadow behind us. This never happens until the third week in April (and that would be early). I wish I could just enjoy the springness of it, but instead, I cannot help feeling that we will pay for the nice weather in the end. Last year we had a frost in June. It is not unusual for the weather to turn cold again in April. I've seen plenty of snow in May. In 1993, it spit snow on Memorial Day weekend. What happens to all those early bloomers when we get the inevitable frost? Nice, springlike weather in Vermont this early in the year?? I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Such a cynic!

Hard to Believe

Is it possible for technology to go too far??
Have you heard about the electronic cigarette?? It looks like a cigarrette. It works on a battery so the end glows just like a lit cigarette. No real smoke, but it produces a mist that simulates smoke and delivers a "safe" (according to the manufacturer) dose of your deadly poisons. Cheaper than real cigarettes. You can use them anywhere, even where smoking is not permitted (it's not burning so no smoke, just mist). So environmentally friendly you can call it green. Not for those under the age of 18...or 21, if that is the legal age of majority.
Good grief.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Home Again

We had a pleasant ride home, good weather and no major traffic snarl ups. We arrived at our door about 2:00 p.m. on Friday and unpacked the car. Saturday was spent putting things away and running all kinds of little errands--post office, grocery store, etc. I swear it was warmer yesterday here in Vermont than it was the whole time we were in Florida. Actually the record was broken by almost twenty degrees! Not that that was the case for the past three months, but it was nice to get here and have such warm and sunny weather. We can see buds on some of the trees and the daffodils and jonquils are poking up.
Since we were both tired out from the trip, we are not doing anything to celebrate Easter this year. Well, I will eat some chocolate. I believe that is required by law or something.