Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Neatness Counts

I recently was reading an article, "Handy Hints for Around the House: Time-saving shortcuts you'll thank us for!"
To keep bed linen sets together and organized in your linen closet, fold the top and bottom sheets and one pillow case, then store them all inside the remaining pillowcase.

Seriously, is it just me or is this really kind of stupid? Here I have folded top and bottom sheets and both pillowcases. Stacked neatly like this they can be placed quite easily on similarly folded and stacked sheets in the closet. Are they going to jump around and disorganize themselves when I close the door? Maybe my sheets are better trained than some, but they tend to stay put until I move them. Stuffing sheets into pillowcases seems like unnecessary work for very little benefit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


For the next eight weekdays, I will be working at an area technical center as a substitute. This should be a whole new perspective on the teaching life. I don't know why I get myself into these occasional gigs as I don't really think I need reminding of how much I do like retirement. On the other hand, I do like teaching and I like the kids--that part I miss sometimes. It's the other stuff, all the stuff that takes up your time that is not teaching that I'm happy to be away from. Maybe I do need a reminder every now and then.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pretty Pie

I don't care who you are, that's a pretty pie right there.
Of course I will not be able to serve a pretty slice of it without making a sacrifice of the first piece. Apparently there's a rule about that.
Scoop of ice'll be okay.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Unakite Bracelet

I took a beading workshop last Thursday night at Bead Crazy ( in Williston. I am not a big wearer of jewelry. In fact the good stuff that I have mostly lives in a safe because I'm so afraid of losing it--which is what happens to most of my jewelry. I almost always leave a pair of ear rings at some one's house when we go to Connecticut. My sister-in-law just sent me a pair she found while dusting the guest room. I hadn't even missed them, and they have been missing from my stash since last June. But some days the creative urge just comes over me and I want to make something and I do like ear rings and bracelets, even if i can't hang onto them real well. This is what I made at the class. The stone is called unakite. I will have to research whether or not it has any special significance. It did coordinate very nicely with the shirt I had on that night, which has to be worth something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dress for Dinner

This dress fought me every step of the way. You rip what you sew. I keep remembering that even the experienced sewers make mistakes--boy do I cling to that now! Ripping out a seam is one thing, but ripping the lining fabric when you don't have extra... The zipper came out nicely, though. My next challenge is definitely fitting and minor pattern alterations. I wouldn't have known this had I not gone to that sewing group, but the shoulder line on this pattern needs to be sloped to fit my shoulders. This will do for the amount of times I'll wear it.

Mike asked if he was meant to take me out to dinner now that I have a dress. Only now do I find out we haven't been out to eat lately because I didn't have appropriate clothing. Funny man.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Books

Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir byMary-Ann Tirone Smith (here) is about growing up in the 1950's. It happens to take place in Hartford, CT so it brought back all kinds of memories for Mike. If you spent time in any urban environment where the ethnic boundaries were as clearly marked as the street names, it will ring true. If you experienced the 1950's as a child, it will ring true. It's funny and poignant at the same time. Then, too, woven into her own story, which includes growing up with an older brother with unrecognized and untreated autism and a pre-feminism mother "on the verge of a nervous breakdown," is the story of a neighborhood pedophile and the tragic death of a classmate. Let's just say not everything about the "good old days" was good.

I also recently read The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee ( and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See ( Two quite different books, but interestingly they both cover from the 1930's pre-war era on into the 1950's. The Piano Teacher takes place in Hong Kong and has more of an emphasis on the impact of Bristish colonization pre-war and the scar tissue left by the Japanese invasion on those cultural entanglements woven into two romance stories. More epic in scale, Shanghai Girls follows two "modern" sisters from their comfortable life in Shanghai, through its demise because of their father's gambling, the devastation of the Japanese invasion, and their escape to and subsequent life in Los Angeles' China Town. Both left me sad for the human condition.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Autumn Arrival

The calendar says it is still summer for a day or two more, but you can't fool me. It's fall. It's been colder at night and the sun slants more and more. The blankets are finding their way back onto the bed. One night last week I made a hearty, hot soup for supper. Is there better proof than that that summer is over? I have started a long, slow process of putting the gardens to bed--more work, really, than getting the garden started. Gardening angels were with me yesterday because I went out and plucked the lavender flowers, just in time. Last night there was a frost. That doesn't really hurry up the bedtime rituals although it does leave certain plants looking a bit worse for wear. I like to take my time and spread the job out over a few months' time. I can pull up the cucumber plants and I can't say I'll miss them for a while (Mike and I were getting tired of cucumbers at every meal, even breakfast, anyway) but it's always good to have lavender.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bead Ear Rings

I got busy on some ear ring projects. They are seen here hanging on a shell application that I came up with one day when I was wondering what to do with all the shells I'd collected over the years. One shell down...gazillions left to go!

Sewing Group

I went to a meeting of a sewing group a week or so ago. I am a dilettante. There were some serious sewers there with projects far beyond the making of simple market bags. I did learn some things, I have to say, and I just may go to the next meeting. If I'm brave, I'll bring some of my completed projects for critique. I think I can take it.

I inserted this zipper, which has taken me forever to learn how to do and have it come out straight. Part of the problem is confidence. I tell myself I can't do zippers and so I can't. One of the big pluses of the meeting was hearing experienced women laugh about making mistakes, and making them over and over again. That helped a lot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Death Valley

A year ago, we getting ready for a trip to California. As part of that trip, we toured Death Valley ( where this picture of a dried up mud flat was taken. Typical of our travels, we came into the park the back road way and we rode for four hours without seeing another soul. It is a place with a certain beauty--forbidding as some of it may be. I had to wonder, though, if early travellers on the way to the gold mines had an appreciation for the landscape. Getting out of Death Valley and back to western areas of California requires chugging up and down some steep and winding mountain roads. We were weary even in an air-conditioned rental car. I cannot imagine making the journey on foot, on horseback, or in a wagon. People were made of sterner stuff in the old days I'm guessing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When I am an old woman...whoops

Some strange things have happened 2009. Among them--my son turned forty and my daughter turned thirty-six. This was a total shock to me even though I was there at both their births. I look in the mirror every day when I brush my teeth and wash my face, morning and night. Every time I see the me who is sometimes twenty-five and sometimes thirty-five years old, but that is pretty much the range. Sure, I’m not wearing my glasses for face washing, but still, as plain as day, I see a youthful glow on my face, shiny blonde hair, girlishly slim figure. Certainly not the mother of two --GULP-- nearly middle aged adult children. Is it even possible to have children older than one’s self?

Wait! Beep, beep, beep…back up the truck. My children are approaching middle age?? How does this happen?? I mean, I understand I’m not exactly in my youth anymore, but what happened to my own middle age? Really, where did it go? Because I suddenly realize I’m not even middle aged anymore (unless I last well into the three figure years). If my children are nearly middle aged, logic would have it that I am…that makes me…it has to mean I’m…old.

Well, once that realization hits, let me tell you things start to go down hill. Okay, so some things are already at the bottom of the hill, but you start to notice. People you know start to get sick, even die. Aches happen. Cholesterol becomes a concern. Hearing aid batteries get on the weekly shopping list. Bifocals are prescribed--then--horror of horrors--a colonoscopy. Is there no end to the indignities?

Yes, of course there have been the signs all along. I started having to take my glasses off to read fine print. A springy hair popped out of my cheek. I accused my husband of using my brush because it was filled with grey hairs. At some point, store clerks started calling me “Ma’am,” and hotel clerks started never to forget to apply my senior discount. I’d be walking along the downtown shops and notice a matronly woman reflected in a shop window. “She looks familiar,” I’d think to myself. “Is that a friend of my mom’s? Oh, no…wait. It’s me.” I have grand children--one of whom started college last month. I read Nora Ephron’s essay, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” and could totally relate. Still some things are hard to admit.

It’s hard to admit to being old when you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Maybe I grew up too fast in a way since my childhood and teen years were marked by my mother’s illness and the rest of my family trying to cope. As the oldest child, I felt somehow in charge of the coping. My young adulthood was certainly a blur. I was busy with a home and a husband and two kids, a full time job, church and professional activities, a fairly active social life, and continuing my post graduate education. It was not unfulfilling, but still, there was very little “me” time, very little down time at all. At some point I even gave away all my house plants because I just could not stand the extra responsibility of taking care of them. Then, in my early forties, with an empty nest, I lost a few years to a debilitating depression. That’s the same age my mother, always “nervous,” had a major nervous breakdown. I guess I thought it was required, but it was also a true crisis of the spirit. Somehow I emerged in my later forties with a new husband, a new home, a big bump up in my career and professional life, only to suddenly take on a major care taking role for my mother who was in incipient dementia. “Me” time was not even on the table, but a vigilant husband and good friends saved me from another downward spiral. I got through that, endured once again.

So now I am old. Here I am--old. I’m retired and I really retired at the top of my game, professionally, and that gave me satisfaction. Our children are grown and independent. It’s gratifying to know and like your own children as human beings. Our grand children are lovely. My husband and I have had very fortunate opportunities to travel and pursue our respective personal interests. I still tend to my family and my home, but it is so different -- it’s like it is all “me” time now. I can now take joy in things that once seemed such drudgery and I have the time to explore new interests. As Thomas Moore said, “The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are more important to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

So old age is not so bad--at least at this point. I’m relatively healthy. I have enough to eat. I’m warm in the winter. I enjoy my family and friends. I can afford to indulge my interests, simple as they may be. I guess in the end, I cannot complain. I can look back wistfully or I can look forward with the wisdom of an older woman. Let me embrace the wisdom, but please, God, (and sorry, Jenny Joseph—love the poem, read it the club thing is just not for me) just don’t let me go out and buy a red hat and a purple dress.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cold Compost

I bought this compost bin at the Gardener's Supply ( several years ago. It's now under my deck, just outside the kitchen so it is handy for dumping vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, but also grass clippings and leaves. It's now a trendy kind of "green" thing to compost, but I learned this practice from my mother who had a compost pile fifty years ago. There really is nothing all that new about it. There is something infinitely satisfying about dropping garbage into a container and within months emptying out a load of rich, soil enhancing mulch. It's so easy. I've been told that compost decomposition is jump started by the addition of beer to heat it up. Mike does not approve of this--certainly not with his expensive micro-brewery favorites. I have, on occasion, bought a quart bottle of cheap beer to pour over the mix, but I think a squirt from the hose works just as well. I don't even turn it that often, but look at the stuff I get out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preserving the Harvest

The yellow concoction in this jar is the yellow zest of a dozen lemons and about a liter and a half of vodka. In a week or so it will be made into limoncello per the recipe in my Coastal Living Cookbook--which has beautiful pictures and many wonderful seafood recipes.
Today I harvested all the basil still left in the garden and ended up with maybe a cup of basil pesto. I love it on pasta, on chicken, on pizza, and on salmon sandwiches. Mm...hungry.
I froze a mess of parsley pesto that I made with pecans. Still, parsley keeps growing and growing in the garden. Honestly, I've used it in floral arrangements, as a plate garnish, in herbal butters, but I just can't use it up. Have to say, though, I'm thankful something grew. The green bean and tomato harvests were pretty sad.
What was excellent, though late this year, was the corn crop down at the Conant's Farm ( They have the best sweet corn--absolutely THE best. Mike's birthday (9/9) dinner this year was king crab legs and sweet corn from Conant's Farm. Buttery good. Birthday celebrations negate any cholesterol concerns, right? We get to have leftovers tonight. poor us.
So, unfortunately for my mandated/doctor prescribed diet, most of the preservation of the summer harvest is through calorie consumption and conversion to fat. Scout's honor, though, I've really bumped up the exercise.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sensible Shoes

My grand daughter is very fussy about her clothes, as I may have mentioned before. Apparently her small town elementary school is an internationally famous training ground for the future generation of fashion police. As an aside, Kristen was always fussy about her clothes although her choices were not necessarily ruled by the "cool" standard, except as she knew it for herself. One weekend she spent the entire time wearing red rubber boots, turquoise bathing trunks that belonged to Mike, tightly tied around her waist, and a pink tank top. She was two and quite adorable, actually. There are some pictures that she'll fork over her allowance to keep off the Internet someday. Anyway, this season she seems to have gone for a combination of hip-hop, biker chick, and flower child--bling, boots and vests, patterns.

The boots are what slay me. Of course, it is time honored tradition to be outfitted with new shoes at the start of a new school year. Back in the days that are now sometimes referred to as "mid century modern," that meant, for my family, a trip to Abernathy's Department Store in down town Burlington for a pair (one pair to last until Easter shoe shopping season) of Stride Rite oxfords. Shiny black patent leather--don't even look at them! Strappy MaryJanes with delicate soles--pass them by! Sturdy tie shoes with sturdy, thick soles. Variety? You could get them in black and white saddle, brown, or a red that I believe was actually named oxblood. Every single other girl in my class--yes, every single one--went to Gaynes or Forest Hills and got glowing white sneakers, called tennis shoes for snob appeal, to wear to school. "Not enough support," was my mother's pronouncement on that idea.

Now, I have to say, I thank my mother for her insistence on quality shoes for her children. It was a big expense and my family was far from wealthy so it really was a commitment on her part. I have reached adulthood with healthy, relatively problem-free feet. I did break a toe two summers ago and I now have a bump on the middle toe of my right foot that lets me know about impending change in weather. Other than that, my feet have and continue to carry me through busy days without pain.

Do I always buy myself sensible, sturdy shoes now that I buy my own? Usually. Not always, of course, but if shoes make my feet hurt, they don't last long in my wardrobe.

So here's the thing...The first time I heard the expression "women in sensible shoes" as a tag for lesbians, I laughed out loud. Unfortunately, I was at an educational seminar dedicated to increasing sensitivity to students with varied sexual orientations. I got some very disapproving "tsks." Political correctness was just becoming a concept with a name at the time. The term still makes me giggle, though, I guess because I'm still a woman in sensible shoes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September's Subtle Entry

The start of September, for most of my life, arrived with some kind of fanfare. First of all, my mother always started reciting that old poem about "thirty days hath September..." Her birthday was September 30, 1913, and that was her way of making sure the family marked the occasion. And then, of course, school started once again--when I was a kid, after a seemingly endless summer always bringing the terror that I had surely forgotten everything I'd ever learned before. In later years the summer flew by in a wink--almost like it was sneaking up on me for an ambush. I went back to school in September for fifty-one years and going back to school was what I paid attention to, but now, in retirement, I have noticed the subtle ebb of the seasons.
When I get up, the sky is light but the sun not yet visible. Dew covers everything outside and it's wise to slip on a sweater before going out for the morning paper. The grass is a little browner, the trees a little yellower.
I take my walk in a loop of country roads that make up our neighborhood. The air is scented with the increasingly herbal aroma of cut grass and the wafting of apples ripening along the road ways and in the Riverra's orchard. I notice the yards of neighbors who are avid gardeners.
Autumn perennials are taking up the banner, but colorful annuals bravely march until the first frost makes good on its rumbling threat. This morning I saw kids running through a field carrying buckets--off to pick wild apples or maybe find some berries, looking forward to a fresh baked pie.
In the afternoon, we watch birds darting around the feeders. We have to be careful about wearing a red shirt these days or the hummingbirds will swarm around like bees. A dozen bluebirds, lined up in sentinel formation on the shed roof, swoop down in turns to snatch the crickets in the yard. hurry, get them, I think, before they try to get in the house.
Finally, the pleasantly warmish day is winding down. The sun light's slant has shifted, the sun is setting further to the south. Cool air chases us in the house, no more late suppers on the deck. A thin blanket will feel good tonight.
Somehow, September seems a kinder, gentler month now.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bathroom Theme

My bathroom wall has two of these prints of sanderlings hanging over the towel racks. I purchased these at the street art festival in Venice, FL. The opposite wall holds souvenirs from Hatteras, St. Martin, and Abaco. My Aunt Jule made the hat ringed with silk flowers and shells for a family reunion quite some time ago and I just kind of built around it.
This shadow box of beach detritus hangs over the shower.
The fish tile is from Abaco. It hangs above the sink along with an assortment of other shell arrangements and a small print from a trip to Anguilla.
My grand daughter commented, "So, Grandma, what would you say is the theme of your bathroom?" Maybe sarcasm, maybe not. I notice that she already has the habit of picking up shells and rocks and wanting to make crafty little displays.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Diet Time

I went for my annual physical this past Tuesday morning. I'm generally healthy, but my doctor was quite adamant about my need to lose ten pounds. This, on the day we leave for the beach in Jerusalem, Rhode Island--looking forward to time spent eating and drinking with family, lolling in the sun, a lobster dipped in butter with my name on it. So dieting had to wait a day or two, but now we are home again and it is time to get serious...yeah, serious...

So I read the morning paper and there's a whole section about food--"Tour de Taste," "Latino cuisine," "VT cheese at event in Italy, " "maple Manhattans," "wine of the week," "food and drink calendar," "Magic Hat brewery." This doesn't even include the ads! Worst of all--Fair Food--which you can see here. Not an auspicious way to start a diet. Blooming onions, fried dough, corn dogs, French fries, fried Oreos, maple soft serve, sausages, and on and on. Seriously, this made me want to go on a diet.

Well, I didn't go to the Fair and I had a small salad of lettuce, cucumbers and peppers for lunch, but I still feel like my cholesterol count went up alarmingly. They say the written word is powerful. What I did do was to go out and buy a scale and pull out my exercise log. Wish me luck!