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.

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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.

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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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In the Yard

I made a trip to a local plant nursery.  Two extremely helpful women helped me to identify the plants in my yard, gave me the Sarasota County Extension service phone number, and steered me to a web site with plenty of information about taking care of the yard.

This may be the slow season here as far as tourism, but it is a great time for customer service.  I am glad we get to do the big shopping time instead of during the winter months.

Frangipani flowers (a bit spent)--they have a lovely scent.
The tree looks like dead sticks in the winter, though.

 These white flowers smell so much like an orange blossom that I was guessing it was some kind of mock orange.  The woman at the nursery called it an orange jasmine.  On the net, I found out it is also called a tea tree.  The smell is wonderful (and I thought of you, Arkansas Patti).


These are seeds on a crape myrtle, which blooms in summer and shed leaves in the winter.

What Florida yard would be complete without an hibiscus?  
These are Mexican petunias.  They will pretty much be in bloom year round so that is one plant we will get to enjoy more fully than some.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dancing

I have been watching Dancing With the Stars on Monday nights.  This was something I could never get into before, but I have enjoyed watching these past few weeks.  I don't get around to watching the Tuesday night part though so I learned this morning from a peek at Good Morning America that this week's elimination was a "shocker" for the judges and the eliminated couple.
Personally, I did not enjoy the performance of the booted dancers--costume and choreography bordered on soft-core porn in my opinion so am glad that they weren't rewarded for it.  I'm not really that much of a prude, but there were much classier dances and touching stories told through them.
Now, I have to admit that I am not much of a Nancy Grace fan and I thought her performance was a bit of a yawn, but did you see the shot of her little girl clone?  Was that kid seriously up past her bedtime or was she just plain scary?  Movie trailers like "I see dead people," and "They're heeere," popped into my head.
Sorry...I do not like to let my inner mean girl come out to play very often, but sometimes she just insists.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tool Shed


It's no lie to say that Mike picked out Vermont home for its huge garage complete with its own storage room and its own furnace.  I think that this shed influenced his interest in our Florida home.









First order of business was to get this organized.  If you know us, you understand--Mr. and Mrs. OCD (or as a friend likes to call us, CDO, because that's alphabetical order).

We scored the peg board at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store for two bucks a sheet.  Mike's spent a lot of time picking up the extra tools in anticipation of this shed.

There is a fan in the shed, but with the temps in the 80's it really could double as a sauna room.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sandhill Cranes

These three sandhill cranes took a stroll through the neighborhood.
They stopped to inspect our front lawn.

Then they rounded the corner,

and kept right on walking down the street.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cake Pops

The public library in Venice, FL has a rather large used book store run by the friends of the library.  It is almost as big as our Jericho Town Library circulation space.  The store is staffed full time by at least two volunteers--an advantage of a large retired population.  They wear  pink pinnies.   One of my volunteer activities is to keep the sale book shelf tidy and supplied, but I don't have to wear any particular uniform to identify me as a library volunteer.

Anyway, I went there (Venice library) to pick up some magazines for some light reading in the evenings--since I knew I was going to be pretty worn out by then most nights here for a while.  I got (for $1.00--I am so, so frugal lately!) a September Coastal Living and October issues of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, and Country Living.


What are the odds?  I ended up with two recipes, timely for Halloween celebration, for "easy" cake pops.  The process involves baking a cake from mix, reducing it to fine crumbs, mixing it with prepared frosting, shaping it into balls, poking in the pop sticks and then decorating it somehow (I never got that far).

What kind of crazed Martha wannabe does one have to be to attempt something like this?

Don't get me wrong.  I am fascinated by Martha Stewart for a lot of reasons.  Her delight in all things ghoulish and ghosty  isn't among those reasons.

Full on celebration of Halloween has crept into our culture though.  Although, if you haven't already purchased all your costumes, candy, and decorations, you will either be totally out of luck OR you will be able to snap up some sale bargains.  Because stores are in the process of clearing space for Christmas season items.