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.