Saturday, December 31, 2011

Do the Math

Yesterday morning:
     Jericho temperature--minus 1
     Venice temperature--60 and sunny

This morning:
     Jericho--34 degrees, freezing rain
     Venice--62 degrees, partly cloudy

There are certainly many who love the Vermont winter, who rejoice in snow for skiing, or who relish the darkness as a period of drawing inward.

I don't happen to be one of them.  However, with deep gratitude, I can now say that winter is my favorite season.

A place down the street, decked out for Christmas.

I have never seen so many things in bloom at this time of year.

The community pool has a decidedly un-Christmasy look.
There have been plenty of kids making use of it during this holiday vacation week.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Over So Fast

Christmas morning...




And grandpa watches in wonder...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

christmas_tree.jpg (300×449)
 And to all those who celebrate differently this time of year,
Peace,  Joy,  Love

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lunch Ladies

My friend Donna hosted a lovely Christmas lunch for eight of us 60 somethings and one delightfully well-behaved four year old.  I kick myself for forgetting to take my camera because her house was perfectly decorated.  It would be hard to spend an afternoon there and not feel in the Christmas spirit.

Her house is always nicely decorated, but she goes all out for Christmas.  Her rooms are decorated according to themes.  So the Adirondack room has a tree with canoe ornaments and all the Santas are fishing or hunting in their L.L. Bean plaid togs.  Her Victorian room has a tree and angel decorations.  And so it goes.  All so tastefully done.  She is one artistic lady.  I can only marvel.

Everybody got an angel.



Now, this is an angel I found on a walk in the woods a few years ago.  I added a bit of decoration, but it was clearly an angel when I picked it up.  It even had a face.
No, really!  It is too an angel!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Doctor Appointment Day

Mike had his check up after the last cardioversion--everything is A-OK.  I went with him to make sure he was not just giving me an overly optimistic report and I got the "A-OK" report directly from his doctor.  He just has to keep taking the handful of meds...but they are working.

As we left the doctor's office, I said, "At least now I know that you can shovel your own damn driveway." (Never mind that we actually share the driveway, and I actually go out more than he does in the winter time.)

Later, I had my eye examination.  No problems there...except those dilation eye drops do not seem to be wearing off.  Maybe I should just close my eyes and go to sleep for the rest of the night.  My eyes are perfectly healthy...I just can't see.  Oh, and those spiders I see running around on the wall or across the pillow every morning--just floaters.  Fortunately, I had already figured that out for myself.  It was the time I saw a spider running across Mike's back when I first woke up.  I stopped myself from screaming and thumping it
as Mike still slept.  Good move on my part.

I did finish a couple of good books this past week.  Three Junes by Julia Glass is a book I checked out of the library three times.  I did not get past the first few chapters until the third time, the charm.  I read the whole book and really enjoyed it.  Must be I just was not ready before.

I also read The Lace Reader.  I know, I know...it was on the NYT best seller list three years ago.  I take my time and don't just fall for all the trendy stuff.  Anyway, I really did enjoy this book--witches, mental illness, all kinds of abuse, suicide ideation, lost twins, religious fanaticism, psychic powers, romance--it had it all.  I wasn't even on the beach and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another Chocolate Cake

A friend of mine gave me this recipe many years ago.  She called it Not To Be Believed Fudgy Chocolate Chickpea Cake.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, melted
2 cups well rinsed and drained chickpeas
4 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Generously grease a 9" round cake pan.
In a food processer, mix the melted chocolate chips and the chickpeas.
Add the remaining ingredients and process well.
Pour into prepared cake pan.
Bake for 45 minutes.

My friend says, "This cake needs no frosting."



Well, it may not need frosting, but it dosn't hurt it in any way.  My friend is the type who will have cut down on the sugar from the original recipe, I am quite sure.  Frosting and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, I say.

No claims here that this is health food, but did you know:

Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans or bengal gram) are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium while high in fiber (29% of your daily need) and protein.  They also supply nutrients such as copper, folate and manganese.  I read about it here.

Chocolate contains polyphenols which is good for antioxidant properties.  It also supple essential minerals--calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.  Look here to check these facts.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do you think Christmas is too commercial??

I like to visit the History.com site now and again.  Today I was wondering about the history of Christmas trees.  I had long been aware that there were numerous connections with pre-Christian cultural practices, but I wanted a refresher on some of those practices and the purpose behind them.

Well, lo and behold!  I learned something that was entirely new to me.  Christmas as we know it today was banned in Boston, as they say.  I guess it makes sense although for some reason I had never heard this before.  It seems that the Puritans so prevalent in New England felt quite strongly that heathen acts such as singing carols, decorating trees, or basically any kind of "joyful expression" of the season served only to make a mockery of a sacred event.  Church attendance was the only acceptable way to mark the day.  Anything else was subject to a fine.  I read about it here.

We are not putting up a tree this year.  It's not a statement about the sacredness or religious meaning of the day.  We did put up other decorations.  I am thinking it is a good thing we decided against the tree, though,  because Mother Nature is messing with our usual tradition.  There is very little snow.

There are no shortage of Christmas tree farms in our neighborhood.  We have always liked to go to a nearby farm and cut our own tree.  We are careful about picking the day--and no matter what the forecast may have been, the actual weather will be freshly falling snow that has deepened to knee level over night accompanied by frigid, howling winds.  Temperatures below the zero mark seem mandatory.  I am sure that day will come, but it has not arrived yet this year.  So Mike is spared lying under a tree with his shirt and jacket slipping up and his pants slipping down enough to freeze a section of backside as he struggles with a hacksaw and I, in an effort to hold the tree shower him with more falling snow in icy clumps.  But it is tradition!





























I do wonder how the Puritans might have reacted to someting like Black Friday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sun and Snow


Last night, we had a first real snowfall of the season.  Only about an inch, but the trees look pretty.


This is what passes as a bright, sunny high noon in Vermont.  There are a few blue patches visible and the sun did peek out enough to cast a shadow or two.

 I told Mike I didn't think he should be out shovelling wet snow when he has not had his check up from the last cardioversion.  I went out to do it myself.  Fortunately, some random passerby felt the need to turn around in our driveway even though there is a paved public drive clearly visible 100 yards down the road.  That added iced tracks to the job.  Exercise, good exercise for me.

I do love the look of fresh snow blanketing the world as much as anyone, but, seriously, this is what it really looks like before too long.  Gray and dirty, not so pretty at all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goofy Animals

For some reason, Brody thinks he is a lap dog.

Richard looks less than thrilled to be dressed in a Santa suit.

He is pretty docile and long-suffering, though.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Joy of Little Things

Yesterday there was a picture of toddler gratitude posted on Grandma's Briefs.  It is adorable.

Although I do have to say it is a perfect example of why I could never, ever be a pre-school teacher  Just the image of a group of three-year-olds stepping in paint (chocolate pudding?) to make footprints for this craft--shudder.

But the post did make me think about how I had spent Thanksgiving being grateful for family and friends, both near and far.  Not that that is a bad thing to do, but I didn't really give much thought to the little things.  If you are feeling safe and loved, fed and secure, little things can bring a bundle of child-like joy into life.

I think the world could use a bundle of child-like joy this holiday season.

Here is a little thing that I am grateful for: self-adhesive stamps.  Mike bought Holiday Bauble forever stamps and we put them on the cards to send out today.  Revealing that I am old, I do remember 3 cent stamps.  They steadily went up in price.  I remember that my depression-era-surviving parents were distressed by this, but at some point there came the trade-off--no longer having to lick (yucky) or otherwise moisten the stamps.  I don't even send out humongous numbers of cards, but self-adhesive stamps make my happy.

And then, there was the time when envelopes needed to be addressed by hand.  Writer's cramp waiting to happen.  How great is it that we can use a computer printer to pump out cards with the addresses from a list and our own return address?

I guess if I were really up to date, I would send out e-cards.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Fading Frenzy

Maybe it is because we have had an unusually mild autumn that lasted right through November.  No snow yet to remind us of the time of year.  Maybe it is because we bought a winter home in Florida, thereby insuring a lack of a large amount of discretionary cash to spend on the holidays.  Maybe it is just that we have reached that stage in life.  We are not so much slowing down as spending more time examining our intentions.  In any case, less is appealing this year.  The frenzy of the holiday season...I am just not going there.

This is not to say that I am ignoring the season.  I put together two advent boxes for my grand kids.  I wrap up little gifts...candy, coins, crayons and colored pencils, stickers, an ornament or two...twenty-four of them for both kids.  I get a real sense of joy in doing this because it makes them happy to pull out a little surprise each day while waiting for Santa.

I made most of my Christmas cards this year.  I got together with friends a couple of times to work on cards and it felt like no pressure at all.  It felt like feeding my creative spirit.

I decorated the house yesterday--1 day and I am done.  I took out less than a fourth of my decorations, but the house still feels festive.

This morning I did my shopping, but nothing on my list of things to buy required standing in line on Thanksgiving night waiting for big box stores to open.  One trip to the mall on an early morning workday.  Avoiding crowds gives me satisfaction.  I hope the record spending is a good sign for the economy, but I am glad I did not feel I had to participate.  Now it is on to wrapping, but that is one of my favorite things about the holiday.
I will have my family for an early Christmas, I will deconstruct the decorations,  and then we will head to Mike's daughters to spend Christmas Day in South Carolina. We will be in Florida before New Year's Day this year.

I have thrown away my "Have To Do" list and am justgoing with what feels pleasant and satisfying to me.
It's kind of nice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Ends

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

We went to Mike's sister's house in Connecticut for a most pleasant time with family and an excellent meal. 
The damage from the Halloween weekend Nor'easter is still very evident.  I am quite certain that in some areas, residents surely must have thought the end of the world was upon them.

We managed to avoid any Black Friday shopping crowds on our forays into Hartford and we had an easy return trip.

I'm ready now to sift through e-mail and Blogger Reader while sipping a cup of tea and munching a couple of Italian cookies (The ones you just can't get anywhere but Hartford).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creamy Mints




This recipe came with my KitchenAid stand mixer.  It's easy as can be...if you have a powerful stand mixer.  Otherwise, I think you would need a really, really strong mixing arm and I'm pretty sure I would not attempt it.

Creamy Mints:
1    3-ounce package of light cream cheese
1/4 tsp.  peppermint extract
2 drops food coloring  (as you can see, I used red and green)
4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
Superfine sugar

Mix cream cheese, extract and food color is mixer bowl just til smooth (30 seconds or so).
Keeping mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioner's sugar and mix until very thick (at least 90 seconds).
Shape teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and roll in the superfine sugar.  (It's like playing with play dough.  My grand son would love it.)  Press flat with fingers or a fork to form patties.
Refrigerate, tightly covered.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Planting and Parking Lot


Our Vermont property abuts a town-owned tract that is used for both the town highway business and recreational purposes.

A parking lot was built by the Town of Jericho in the fall of 2005.  Then they found out they needed a permit to do so...a small whoops.  The Developmental Review Board issued approval for general  outdoor recreation use on the town owned Mobbs Farm property. The DRB  also approved the site plan for  the two parking lots already in place--one on the Fitzsimonds Road and one on  Brown’s Trace-- with conditions in July, 2007.
One condition was that the Brown’s Trace parking lot be adequately screened from the view of abutting property owners.  That project finally got a bit of a boost the weekend of October 28 and 29, a few weeks ago.


Gulf View Farm is a  family run operation out of Williamstown, Vermont.  They supplied a number of blue spruce trees.  Owner Jason Cone was assisted in the planting  by his wife, his brother, his sons and nephew, and our neighbor Bob, on Sunday, October 29, 2011.
Jason Cone said primary focus of this side business has been Christmas trees, but they have also supplied border screening plantings of blue spruce trees for other towns in the area.  Gulf View Farm is also set to add a maple sugaring operation in the coming season.  “Anything we can do to keep the land and the family together.”


Three young and industrious Cone family members hand dug all the holes for tree planting on Saturday, October 28, 2011. A lot of work...and they remained cheerful through two long days of digging and planting.

There are other conditions that must be put into place before the parking lot can re-open, but a step was taken in that direction.  Thanks, Bob.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Party Pooper

The news left us all wondering today about the future of a fine University of Vermont tradition.

It seems that since 1996 (long after I graduated) it has been the practice of students to celebrate the last day of classes with naked bike riding at midnitght and a 45 minute PARTY(!) in a sectioned off portion of the campus.

Of course!  What more fitting way is there to celebrate than drinking and getting naked?  These are college students we are talking about here.  It was forty degrees at the last naked bike ride in May and it is bound to be colder in December, but they are young and carefree and happy that another semester is over and done.

The thing is, though, that now the University says they are not going to send the $17,000 dollars to provide lighting and security because bad things happen.  Besides the nasty and embarrassing bike accidents, there are those who need to be taken to the hospital for alcolhol detoxification.  There are physical assaults and sexual assaults.

So will the students carry on with a fifteen year old tradition without the sanction of the University?  We'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Squash

As you know by now, Mike is kind of a picky eater  He  is definitely not fond of many vegetables, but he has a particular aversion to orange vegetables.  It might be somewhat of a family thing because it has never been a given that one would see squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, or even pumpkin at his family's Thanksgiving dinner.  They have a joke about the sweet potato being saved from year to year in the freezer.
I, on the other hand, could quite contentedly eat all orange vegetables with maybe a spoon of cranberry sauce on the side.
We will drive to Mike's sister's in Connecticut for the big meal this year.  We went to Costo's today and bought wine and Cabot cheddar for our contribution.  This year, I am also going to take a dish of the glazed carrots I mentioned a while ago. I am tempted to also prepare this squash dish, reducing all the measurements so it only serves one or two:

Baked Squash with Apples

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup VT Maple Syrup
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
dash of salt
about 3 pounds of winter squash*, pared, seeded, and thickly sliced
3 baking apples (Such as Granny Smith), pared, cored and thickly sliced.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a glass baking dish, 13x9x2.
Arrange the squash and apple slices in the baking pan.
In a small saucepan, combine all the other ingredients and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
Pour this syrup mixture over the squash and apples.  Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for abut 50 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake for five to ten minutes.

*I like Delicata squash the best, but butternut works well and you can often find it already peeled and sliced, which saves a lot of work.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekend Visitors

My grand children spent the weekend.
Dane completed this six foot long puzzle--with only a tiny bit of help from his Uncle Kevin.


We had popcorn and watched movies from the library.  We went to the playground--a couple of times.  We went out for pizza and played in the arcade for a while.  We did some drawing and card making and story reading.

Kristen did some shopping at Plato's Closet.  Dane kept saying he wanted to go too.  He doesn't like shopping so I was a bit confused, but I took him, too.  He was very disappointed when he realized we were not actually in a closet full of play-dough (one of his favorite things).


 We didn't have his pajamas, but tee shirt from Mike's old Motor Cycle business made a good enough night shirt.  He liked it enough to put on his boots and go out to do a happy dance on Saturday morning.


Kristen is modeling a felted hat I made for her.  She doesn't like to have her picture taken anymore, but she looks adorable in it.  Mike thinks that I used her life time supply of patience for photo shoots in the first three years of her life.  That's likely to be true.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Coming

Christmas is coming.  I suspect this is true because Mike had to get out the furniture dolly to bring in the Sunday paper with all the toy catalogs stuffed inside it. 

Also, since I did not buy Halloween candy until October 31, I had to hand out candy canes to the trick or treaters.  I guess normal people know enough to buy Halloween candy in August.

Finally, one of the local radio stations has always started playing Christmas music exclusively the day after Thanksgiving.  This year the tradition has been altered.  They are all Christmas, all day, every day from November 1st until December 25th.  A bit much, I'm thinking.

Don't get me wrong.   Unlike some of us in this two-person household, I actually do enjoy the holiday.  I like getting gifts and I like giving gifts (especially to the kids) even more.  I like the baking and the wrapping and the decorations.  I even like listening to some Christmas music once or twice about a day or two before Christmas.  But the commercial manipulations make me very sad.  I wish there was a way to stop it.

So, I am also thinking that if you are occupying someplace, stay there.  Don't go into the stores.  If you don't have a job or you don't have the money, don't take out a credit card.  If you moved your money to a small friendly bank or a credit union, leave it there and celebrate in in a quiet way that is meaningful with family and friends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Night on the Town

My friend and I put on our big girl clothes and went into the big city on Friday night...after dark...and we stayed out past 10 P.M.

We went to a comedy club. It was a hoot. And the cover charge was only five bucks...a bargain to boot.  Might as well laugh and might as well have some fun.

Oh, ho! Look at that.  I even have the start of a poem to take to writing group tomorrow.  Or not.

I'd love to share some of the humor, but it would be lost in translation.  You really do have to be there sometimes.

I'll be going out after dark (twice in one week!!) for writing group tomorrow even though I'll be home by eight.  With the clocks falling back, it will be pitch dark by four in the afternoon here in the hills.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Books

My most recent reading:

The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by James Ford.  This is really two stories separated by forty years.  During the second World War, Henry Lee is a young  boy living in Seattle.  His two friends are a Jazz musician working the streets as he waits for his big break and a American-Japanese girl.  It is the second friendship that causes problems with Henry's Chinese family.  Forty years later, he has just lost his wife to cancer after caring for her himself for seven years and he is trying to  restore a relationship with his own. son.  The two stories weave together and we know at least one of them has a happy ending and we are left to speculate on the ending of the other. 
The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik is subtitled A Memoir of my Mother's Hidden Life and tells the story of her mother's life in Iran based on tapes that her mother sent to her.  It's told in the third person so it  reads like fiction except that there are things that go on that one just cannot make up.  Some parts were easy to skim over.

Neither one of these books has made it to my all time favorites list, but I did find them interesting.  They shine a certain light on how different cultures can impact outward lives while the universality of human nature simmers underneath.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Burning Issue


Look out.  Breasts and bras are floating around the blogosphere these days.

As predicted, Mike was quite taken with the notion of the  purported therapeutic effects of gazing at breasts.  He did argue that all studies have flaws when I pointed out the idea was looking...nothing said about touching.  He also does prefer that I refer to him as "science guy" rather than "dirty old man."

Ronnie Bennett at Time Goes By wrote about bras for us mature women.  I tried several times to comment, but for some reason could not make the right connection.  So, I'll make my comments here for what they might be worth.

For many years I wore a 36B bra.  It was uncomfortable.  I actually would wiggle out of it on my drive home from work. And people think that texting and driving is a distracting practice.

I would sometimes have a "fitting" and the verdict was always, "36B."  One time I was "fitted" while wearing a baggy sweater--"38B" she said.  At that time I was noticing sagging, hence the desire for a professional assessment.  Oprah was urging women to get fitted, for Pate's sake.  I tried on the 38Bs, but the tatas sagged right out from under them.  I left that store without making a purchase.

Fortunately, it was about that time that I attended a clinic sponsored by a local fabric store.  It was about fitting styles and patterns for your particular body type.  The woman teaching this seminar looked at me and said. "We can knock ten years off you with a new bra."  And she was right.  I don't take my bra off until bedtime now.  It's comfortable and it keeps things where they were meant to be.

Finding this little miracle was a two step process.

The first step was 3 measurements:
  1. Measurement A--around the body above the breasts and just below the arm pits.
  2. Measurement B--around the fullest part of the breasts.
  3. Measurement C--around the body just below the breasts.
Average measurements A and C.  (Add them together and then divide by 2.)  That gives the band number. Mine was 34.
Find the difference between B and C (subtract).  For each inch, go up a cup size.  My difference was five inches which translates to a DD cup.  Who would ever guess?

The second step involves trying on.  I tried lots of brands of 34DD and let me tell you there are many variations in fit.  I so wanted to buy Olga brand, but that didn't work out.  I stick with Lilyette, style 0921.

It took decades, but I am happy in my bra now.  That's as feel good as a good haircut.

Anatomy of a bra

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hats

Some people are hat people and some people just are not.

If you are female and you ever expect to get invited to an English garden tea party, you'd best be a hat person.
Please, if you get to attend a Royal wedding...hats required:












I am not a hat person in the sense that hats do not really do much to flatter me in any way.  I am a hat person in the sense that I realize that I need a warm and woolly one when I am out walking in the cold and I need a wide brim when I am out in the sun.  I do try to time my outdoor activities so that I shower and wash my hair (hat head) after they are done rather than before.

I am also a hat person in the sense that I like to knit hats.  Recently, I completed my first somewhat successful felted hat.  Felting, if you wonder, is knitting something over sized out of wool and then shrinking it.


I have attempted some hats before but ended up with small containers.  Actually, I kind of like the containers and just finished this one on purpose to be a container.



My dear husband is not a hat person at all.  He would really prefer to have red, burning, frost-bitten ears to putting on a warm hat.  Since he has had a few scrapings of pre-cancerous lesions off his scalp, he has gotten  conscientious about wearing a ball cap when on the beach or out mowing the lawn.  Now that he is taking blood thinning medication, the scraping has been scraped.  He was prescribed a chemical cream to apply to his scalp, but he had to shave his head before applying it.  The cream goes on at night and then Vaseline goes on after a morning shampoo.

Does any one see an alternative to a cotton knit cap?

Really, I just do not know why he is so resistant to my efforts to help and keep him healthy.

PS:  So after I wrote this, I read Mercyn's post at Six Decades and Counting--Life Reinvented. It is amazing what one can learn from reading blogs.  Consider this tidbit of information that came from a German scientific study that I gleaned from her post:

men who stare at women's breasts regularly have, "lower blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate and fewer cardiovascular incidences". The activity can prolong a man's life by as much as five years. All it takes is about 10 minutes a day of boob-staring activity. 

Now this is something Mike is interested in.  He is willing to schedule this kind of activity into his day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat

When kids came to my parents' door saying "trick or treat!" my dad would always say, "I'll take the treat."
Happy Halloween


The sun made an appearance today and I was happy to see its face. It wasn't sharing a whole lot of heat though.  I went out for a walk just a bit after noon and I noticed that my shadow was about six feet long as I traversed to the north with the sun behind me.  Coming south at the end of my loop, the sun was shining right in my eyes.  The wind was pretty bitter, but we have not had the dumps of snow that they have had in southern New England, so no complaints.  I was out and I was getting exercise and it felt good.

I was tempted to make the trip to Rutland, VT for the Halloween parade.  School bands from that county and area businesses submit floats and my son-in-law put together a float this year.  He has a roofing business.  Grandson Dane was apparently quite excited about Halloween this year and was greatly looking forward to being on the float with his vampire costume.  I'm betting it was too cute for words.

I didn't go--a 140 mile round trip--because I have to take Mike to the hospital tomorrow for his second cardioversion procedure--at 6 A.M. again.  We are really, really hoping that it takes this time.  Then he has to go back in the afternoon for a dermatology appointment.  He is happy that if they find any suspicious spots, they will not be able to do any cutting because of all the blood thinners.  He had to cancel a colonoscopy because of the blood thinners, too.  I am not quite so sure this a good thing, although I do completely understand the desire to avoid too many icky procedures in any given day.  He is distressed about all the new drugs all of a sudden and all the doctor visits--says getting old has become a full time job.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dried Herbs and Carrots


YUM

Any one who walked into my house right now would think I am busy cooking up a storm, but I am not.
I have been slowly working on getting the gardens cleaned up and bedded down for the winter.  Today I cut a bunch of rosemary, some sage, the parsley,  and some thyme.  Yeah, I dug out some old Simon and Garfunkel to listen to as I went about drying these herbs.

I don't use a whole lot of sage, but it does make an attractive plant in the herb garden.  I tend to use it mostly to garnish a platter--like for the roast chicken I served the other day.

I prefer rosemary and parsley when fresh, but it is nice to have a bit on hand in the spice drawer just in case.  You never know when a spice emergency will occur.

Now, thyme is my favorite.  I have two huge clumps of it and I use it all the time...er, a lot.  I filled a colander with cut thyme, washed it and started picking through it to spread sprigs on paper towels before drying it in the microwave (so much faster and cleaner than hanging in the attic!).   Thyme is a bit harder to handle than the other herbs.  It grows in a tangle.  It's hard to scrape off the little leaves without getting stems mixed in, but it is worth the effort to have some available for any kind of vegetable.  My favorite is carrots and onions with honey and thyme glaze.

Boil  a pound of carrots and some chopped sweet onion til crisp-tender.  Drain.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of butter, a pinch of brown sugar,  3 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of orange juice and a teaspoon of dried thyme.  Cook, uncovered, until glazed (about three minutes).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Seasonal Confusion

Google image

I have had my battles with depression.  Seasonal Affective Disorder?  Yeah, I know all about that.
I tried a number of times to get my health insurance company to pay for a February trip to the Caribbean, but I found out they are just not nearly as committed to prevention as they claim to be.  Can't they see a savings from not having to reimburse all those antidepressants? Short-sightedness...that's what is wrong with this country's health care system.

My seasonal blips seem to be more about a period of change.  I get anxious when I feel that summer is going to give way to fall.  Then I adjust to fall but get anxious again when it is turning dark and wintry.  Of course I get the most down when it is time for winter to change to spring and it just isn't happening in the cycle of Vermont seasons.  It's the lack of change for the better that gets to me.

This year has had my head spinning.  We made three trips to Florida.  We came home in March to a fairly mild spring that turned into a long rainy period through May.  We went to Venice in June and enjoyed a week of heat and sunshine.  We came back to a cooler Vermont summer, then went back to Florida for a few weeks of more heat and sunshine.  Now back in Vermont, we have seen little sun at all and the dark time is here.  It looks like the sun has moved South, although, I am sure it is more accurate to say that our part of the world has tilted on its axis away from the sun.

Two weeks ago we were walking on the beach and taking dips in the Gulf of Mexico.  This week we are expecting the first snow of the season.  I haven't had time to feel depressed and anxious so much as confused.  Put away the bathing suit and pull out the winter jacket and wooly hats and scarves.

Hang on.  In a couple of weeks we will be throwing the resetting of clocks into the mix.  I'll certainly "fall back" into temporal confusion for a week after that...and start packing my bags again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hearty Salad

This salad is a mixture of garbanzo beans, edemame, corn, chopped red pepper and onion.  I dress it with fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt.  I mix up a batch and can eat it for lunch on its own or as a side dish for a few days.  I also add dried cranberries to give it a nice sweetness, but I prefer not to have them sit in the mix for too long.

It earns a zero on the Mike approval rating scale.

Edamame is the immature soy bean that is often served with Japanese cuisine.  It has a good amount of protein plus nine essential amino acids so it is worth considering if you try for meatless meals. 

This is kind of an example of my season confusion.  I ate a lot of this while we were in Florida.  Since I have been back in Vermont, I find I want to crawl into bed early and sleep late.  I want to spend the afternoons roasting and baking, followed by eating.  I want hot drinks and thick, creamy soups.  I want to forget about my walking routine and knit hats instead.

I'll indulge myself a little bit.

I shouldn't brag, but I do make a wicked good pie crust that goes to the top of Mike's approval rating scale.
It's not very good nutrition, but it just would not be autumn without one apple pie.

For one double crust pie:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur is the best)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 8 T. very cold butter, cut in pieces
  • 6 T. solid vegetable shortening, very cold
  • 5 to 6 T. ice water
Combine dry ingredients, then quickly cut in the butter and shortening until it looks like crumbs.
Add water a bit at a time, tossing with a fork until you can form a ball..  Divide into two balls and flatten.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

It may not feed the body, but a warm slice does feed the soul.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
 you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
                                                 Psalms 128:2

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tips on Roasting Chicken

Sunday dinners...remember them?  Come home from church and mom would be in the kitchen for hours roasting some meat and peeling, boiling, mashing potatoes.  My grandmother was fond of serving turnip and she mad an excellent cabbage slaw with a sweet-tart vinegar dressing.  There was always dessert.  Although if the meal was big enough and late enough, dessert might be turned into Sunday night supper.

Later, Sunday dinners were alternated between my parents' and my in-laws with siblings and their children also likely to be attending.

My point is that after so many years of being treated to Sunday dinners, I never really got too much in the habit of doing that kind of cooking myself.  This is not to say that I don't occasionally jones for roasted something with all the trimmings in a fit of nostalgia for past generation.

I was in the store on Saturday and happened to see a woman hoisting a large roasting chicken onto the counter.  All of a sudden I needed to get a roasting chicken.

On Sunday afternoon, I washed that chicken and patted it dry.  I squirted lemon juice all over it--inside and out.  Then I massaged it with a mixture of Dijon mustard, ground ginger, salt and pepper.  I tossed a few carrots in the roasting pan.  I wanted to use onions, but a certain member of the household strongly objects to visible onion touching any of his food.  The roasting pan went into a hot oven (425).

The giblets and neck went into a sauce pan with 2 cups of chicken stock, a bouillon cube, and onion powder (sneaky me).  I would normally have just chucked out the livers, but Mike fried them up and had them for an appetizer (ick).   I left the saucepan to simmer slowly for about 45 minutes.

After the chicken had been roasting for a half an hour, I poured a cup of chicken stock in the pan and lowered the heat to 375.  I basted a couple of times in the next half hour.  Then I strained the really dark, rich stock from the simmering saucepan and added that, pouring it over the chicken and leaving it for another half an hour.

The meat is not quite  falling off the bones now so I took out the roasting pan and covered it with a sheet of aluminum foil after basting once more.  Another fifteen or twenty minutes should do it.

Here's where the tip comes in:  Try not to hit the hot oven rack while replacing the roasting pan.  Really try not to drop the pan on the open oven door, sloshing all that almost gravy-like sauce.  Trust me, it makes a huge mess to clean up just when you want to be setting the table and pouring some wine.

And when the cleaning up is done, you will be overly tempted to get down the really huge wine glasses instead of the usual modest size.

This makes a delicious roasted chicken--with mashed potato and the roasted carrots, a pear tart for dessert, a generous glass of white wine--a fine and satisfying supper.

pouletencocotte.JPG (500×375)

It won't be repeated any time soon, though.  We'll  go back to our habit of getting Chinese take-out on Sunday nights.  The next time I hanker for a whole chicken, I'll pick a rotisserie cooked bird from the deli.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Priorities



The first things I loved about retirement was that I didn't have to wake up in the morning to the sound of an alarm clock and that I did not have to follow a schedule.  Not having to wake up to a blaring alarm clock--I love that still, pretty sure I always will.  Lately, though, I have been bothered by a lack of schedule--maybe not schedule so much as some kind of routine.  It is almost cliche for retired folks to complain that there is not enough time in the day to fit in everything they want to do, but I have been feeling that.

I have been feeling that I have all these "things" to do and yet that I am spinning wheels and being quite unproductive.  I start one thing and then get distracted by something else that seems important to be doing.  I go out to clean out the car and notice that weeds need to be pulled along the driveway.  I sit down to write and get distracted by the beep of the dryer calling me to fold laundry.  I put water on for a cup of tea and then wander into another room and sit down to read, forgetting the stove is on.

I thought about making a schedule for myself--so many minutes for the crossword, then so many minutes for yardwork, then so many minutes for inside  the house work, then so many minutes for writing, so many minutes for computer time...And that is something that is not going to work.

I knew it was not going to work, but I didn't really figure out why until I read Linda Meyers' post, "Retriement, Year 2."  The penny dropped.  It's not a schedule that I need.  I need to set priorities!  Thank-you, Linda!

I remember when I was working that we would once in a while have a two hour snow delay.  That meant that school would start late so the roads could be cleared.  I would think about how great it was to have that extra time.  I could relax with an extra cup of coffee.  I could start a load of laundry and get a jump on the weekend chores.  I could go out and help shovel snow.  Then I could drive to school and get there early enough to take care of a few things on my desk.  Really, the most productive two hours of my life to date!
Of course what happened inevitably was that I would lose track of time and end up in a mad dash to get to school on time with those two "extra" hours at my disposal.

Having a regular start time, if not an actual clock to punch, was not just a routine.  It was a built in priority.  That, I realize, an epiphany from the thoughts of a sister blogger, is what is missing from my life right now.  I have a long list of things I'd like to accomplish but I have been looking at that list as just a series of items to check off, not assigning weight or value.  Maybe I have always relied on external forces to dictate priorities so I am not accustomed to doing that for myself--but what a revelation!

I have some work to do.  I'm liking the feeling.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More on a haircut...

Some people wanted a picture of my feel-good haircut so here is one.












My hair is fine in texture but very thick.  As is obvious, it wants to wave where it wants to wave.  Not curl or fall softly.  It is more into the Medusa snake dance if left to its own devices.



When I was much younger and wanted a particular hair style--like for a year book picture or a wedding, my hair actually caused hair dressers to break down in tears of frustration.  So imagine how I felt.

Now, there are times when I walk out of the salon feeling pretty good about a haircut, but once I wash it myself it is over.  For a time I wore it really short not because I liked the way it looked but because it was wash and go.  Then I grew it long enough to pull back into a perpetual ponytail but that got to be too severe looking.

The professional blow out of this haircut was very nice, but this picture was taken after a few washes and it really seems to work with the texture of my hair somehow.  I like the way it feels on my head.  I do not spend a lot of time fussing with my hair and make-up so how it feels is important to me.

Have you noticed that some hairstyles can place a person in her home state as accurately as speech accents?

And for those who prefer to cut their own hair, you might find some interesting tips here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mammogram

Today was mammogram day for me.  I understand that there is some question about this screening test, but I go once a year without fail.  I don't even think that I am in a particularly high risk group. I just do it and hope for the best.

I once worked with a woman who would not get any kind of screening test--blood pressure, nothing.  She said if there was a problem she would just rather not know about it.  Actually, I understand that line of reasoning but I have not given myself permission to go there.  I also understand the cynicism about all the "pink" merchandise and the issues of awareness versus actual commitment to prevention and real cures but I optimistically hope that good intention prevails in the world.

whymen.jpg (34841 bytes)



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Whew...

Whew...a long trip home.  Under the most ideal of conditions, the trip between Venice and Jericho is every second of 24 hours.  We split up the trip over three days.  It is doable in two days, but then we find ourselves out of it for another two--so best to just take it a bit slower.

When we find a place to spend the night, I run the bed bug routine.  Strip the sheets from the bed.  Inspect along the seams.  Wait for the whole body itch that starts in my head to subside.  It's pretty worrisome.  I have not ever found  bed bugs, but I have found places that are way too grimy.   At this point, though, we have made the trip enough so that we pretty much stay in the same places along the way and know the places to avoid.  And sometimes, "Under New Management" doesn't mean any improvements were made.

The drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia was our best taste of fall this year.  It was clear and sunny and the trees were all turning and that is just a beautiful landscape.  We did get to experience some Vermont fall color driving up the Lake Champlain valley.  At our house, the peak has passed and there is tons of work in putting the yard and gardens to bed for the season.

I am forcing myself to take the yard work step by step, one bed at a time.  Sometimes when there is a lot to be done, I keep pushing myself to get it done and I get overwhelmed.  I try to understand that certain jobs--yard and garden work, housework--are just plain never done so why wear myself out.  Is it wisdom that comes with age?  Or just lowered stamina?

Mike went for his post-cardioversion check-up today.  It was not such good news since the procedure did not work and his heart rhythm is still erratic.  They will try once again in early November.  In the meantime, all the drugs to thin his blood and prevent stroke are still in his immediate future.  Frankly, I prefer to worry about bed bugs than my husband's health. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hair Cut

I have to say--never, ever underestimate the feeling good benefits of a really good hair cut.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pantry

I just gotta love having this pantry.  It would probably be much more practical at our regular house than at the winter house.  I do like my VT kitchen for its efficient work space, but storage is a bit tight.   We have plenty of shelving in the basement for after those trips to Costco, but a pantry in the kitchen is more convenient than having to run downstairs for that can of tomatoes.

Well, I had to give up running down the stairs after the falling incident last July.  I am reduced to creeping down the stairs while  clinging to the railing.  If only I could learn to be that cautious!

Before I took that tumble, I had been out in the front garden snapping a couple of pictures of lovely lavender in bloom.  My shoes were wet which I realized just a bit too late.  When I came in and headed down the stairs, I slid and went rolling noisily down.  What I didn't write about at the time (I don't think, but forgive me if I repeat myself.  Age seems to do that to people.)--part of the noise was the camera flying into the air, hitting the wall and then hitting the floor with a bang.

Now this was right when Mike was using the camera daily as he put items up for sale on e-bay.  Remember that that is how he generated his share of the money for a Florida home.  As he came running out of his office to find me writhing in pain at the bottom of the stairs, I could see the concern in his eyes.  I also saw his eyes momentarily flicker to the camera.  They widened with even more concern.  He made a good choice, though.  He tended to me before he checked out the camera.  (It was not harmed.)

I am treating myself to a haircut today.  I think that there must be something about the heat and humidity that makes hair and nails grow like crazy because this haircut just cannot wait until I am home next week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A look at the new home

As can be easily seen here, we are working with a very neutral color palate in our Florida place.  This is the main entry door.  We added the clock, the key hanger, the small blue rug and the place mats. 

 The window in the dining area faces directly east so we watch the sun rise over coffee in the morning.

The laundry room is off the kitchen.  I will need to get an iron and ironing board, but that was not a high priority for this trip.  I love all the storage space.
We got a rug for the screened lanai.  Mike put a new globe over what was a bare bulb on the ceiling fan.  We bought the table and chairs from a consignment shop.  There was an older table and chairs here, but this was more to our taste.  It won't hurt to have the extra chairs available and we can use the old table to hold the little Weber grill and cooking utensils.  The palm tree was left by the previous owners.  It has twinkly lights, but we have not plugged them in yet.

We put in a computer desk, a recliner, a lamp table and a small tv stand in the office area.  I will probably get myself a work desk on the next trip.

We have the very basics as far as kitchen ware and dining needs, towels and bedding.  Picking up that kind of stuff will keep me busy over the winter months.  And I will be start working on the decorative touches to color up place.  That, for me, will be the fun stuff.  I think we are both looking forward to just spending beach time for the next week, though.