Monday, May 31, 2010

Smoke from a distant fire...

A bright sun rising woke me up at about 5:30 this morning. (Note to self, close curtains at bedtime.) By the time I actually got out of bed, there was such a thick grey haze that I thought maybe I had just dreamed that sun. If you looked straight up into the sky, the bright blue was there, but the haze was all around...smoke from Canadian forest fires that is blowing across northern New England.

I went out for my walk, but I don't know that that was the healthiest exercise to do today. I could actually smell the smoke.

We worked on the deck for a bit. Otherwise it was a quiet, largely unobserved Memorial Day for us. We had our picnics while camping earlier this week and I went to the cemetery yesterday. Given its purpose, I wonder why some people so happily wish us "Happy Memorial Day" but at least I have not seen Memorial Day greeting cards. I kind of like the Rolling Thunder idea as a tribute.

As a kid, we had to memorize Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Now I have relatives in the SOUTH so I am getting a whole new education on the "War of Northern Aggression." Have you read the book, Confederates in the Attic? If our son-in-law's family wasn't actually interviewed in it, they most certainly could have been. They definitely kept the memories alive.

Of course, today, the real purpose of the long weekend is Memorial Day Sales at the local mall or shopping center. I'm thwarted in my ability to shop because thousands of other people will be clogging the roads into town for the Burlington Marathon. You know what? There will be other sales.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chittenden, VT
Camping Scene
Today was a busy one. I made out Sunday morning breakfast and I was reminded of another Sunday morning ritual. Mike and I were visiting his brother (may he rest in peace) and sister-in-law (of whom I can say nothing nice, so I'll say next to nothing), and they toasted each other with orange juice in champagne glasses. SHE explained that they had a champagne toast on the Sunday after they were married in Las Vegas. So they celebrated that precious moment every Sunday morning, substituting the orange juice. This caused Mike and I to look at each other with major eye rolling, I'm sure even though I don't remember that specifically. What I do remember is that Mike and I had failed to celebrate out tenth wedding anniversary three weeks before that because we had both forgotten it entirely. We may not have an ounce of sentimentality between us, but we can, and did, silently communicate that we would not share that particular story at that particular breakfast.
After breakfast it was a quick trip to the flea market. I found a pair of size 11 knitting needles, a size I did not previously own, and snatched them up for one dollar. Mike bought nothing, but he ran into a number of friends and spent the time chatting. So that was a cheap date.
Home again, I got out to the garden and dug up and divided the astible, spreading them around a bit and adding some to the shed garden. I took a quick run to the nearest garden center and bought some marigolds, some impatiens, and some other flowers for a large pot I have out by the front door. When I got things done in my garden, I went to the cemetery and weeded, mulched, and planted the impatiens by my parents' grave stone. It is Memorial Day tomorrow. I don't attend, but I know that there used to be a Memorial Day mass said at the cemetery and my parents would want to look nice for that if it is still done. See, I can squeeze out an ounce of sentiment if I try really hard.
I'd stripped the beds early in the day and when I finally got around to making them up again, I got it in my head that it was time to wash the bedding. That's a three months' rotation, last done in the beginning of December (so accounting for our time in Florida...December, April, May...I was a few days ahead of myself). Anyway, I decided it would be easier to take mattress pads, pillows. blanket, and bedspread to the laundromat and get everything done at once. Who knew it was the official "wash everything you and your family owns day" for at least half of the people in the nearest three towns. Good grief, what a crowd. At one point, there was one free washer and no free dryers. Aw well, that job is done for another three months and I did manage to get it done in way less time that doing it at home, one load at a time.
I have the feeling that a clean, fluffy bed is going to feel really good tonight!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Home Again

Gee, go out of the loop for a few days and look what happens? Arkansas Patti is bowing out of the blogosphere? Can that be true? Oh, that makes me sad to think of no more "The New Sixty."
We had a relaxing few days of camping and canoeing. The hot weather broke before we left with a most spectacular lightning and thunder storm--very glad that was before we were sleeping in a tent.
Tomorrow will be a big garden day. I put out my cucumber plants before we left and came home to find that some critter had eaten them right up. GRRR.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Camping Trip Coming UP

It was an easy week of substituting. I have to say, though, that the whole "working" thing really cuts into the effortless routine of my retired life. Nice to have a change and then appreciate my real life all the more. It's getting up to an alarm clock buzzing that I just really, really do not want to do anymore!
Tomorrow, Mike and I are taking off for a camping trip. The record has been broken for high temperatures for this time of year so it will be very nice to sit in a quiet, shady spot near some cool water. I hope the bugs that are usually so problematic in June have not come out early just because it's been warm. If they have, we do have a screened "porch" on the tent and we always carry bug spray. Because we canoe into the camp site, we try to travel light. All the same, I will be packing a book, some magazines, and a knitting project--can't just sit and watch fish jump for three days.
If you click HERE, you can see views of the reservoir. We will not be having any of the fine accommodations pictured, but the water scenes are free to us lowly campers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mowing and Cooking

Oh. boy! It looks like we are in for some nice weather in the coming week. I skipped the deck today and mowed the lawn instead. Mike spent the two plus hours it took me to do that scraping the deck and helping me "help" him. First, I could not get the lawn tractor to start. I checked the fuel; I tapped on the carburetor; I tried again and again; I walked away and then went back and tried again. Nothing. I finally went to get Mike and told him I couldn't start the lawn tractor. He stopped his scraping and went into the garage--that darn tractor started with his first turn of the starter. He went back to his job; I could not get the tractor to move. Once again, I interrupt him. The parking brake was on. I did not even know the lawn tractor had a parking brake. After a half hour of mowing I went around the lilac bush in the back yard. It's on a small but fairly steep hill. I tipped the tractor into the bush and got it thoroughly stuck. I couldn't back out and I couldn't go forward and I couldn't push the beast either. Mike had to stop one more time and maneuver the tractor out of the lilac bush. He was nice enough to say later in the day how much he appreciated my doing the lawn.

This week I tried a few new recipes. I cooked sushi race for the first time and topped it with shrimp. It tasted good, but I had trouble with the rice sticking to my hands as I tried to form it into balls. The next night I watched Alton Brown on the Food Network demonstrate the art of preparing sushi rice. Next time I'll know to cool it more and dip my hands in cool water and vinegar before handling.
I made a wheat berry salad (adapted from the Mayo Clinic-Williams Sonoma Cookbook), an olive oil crusted spinach pie, and Korma, a vegetable curry sauce (from the February, 2010, Vegetarian Times magazine)--all nice, healthy dishes. Saturday night was Mike's turn, so we had steak and salad. I guess you would call my diet preferences vegetarian inclined, but the steak--with crusty French bread, salad, mushrooms, and red wine--was very excellent.

I also got the latest Taste of Home magazine this week. That can be kind of hit or miss for me, but I tried an avocado spread that was amazingly delicious and may prove to be my undoing. Purely as research, I also made a recipe from TOH called cranberry-port fudge brownies. Yummy...they are leaving this house in the morning!! Thy are spending the night in locked in the car to ensure that they leave the house in the morning!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We put in a few hours of deck stripping today. My usual mode of attack is to keep going and going until I can't move anymore, but Mike is all about doing a section at a time and stopping before the job seems overwhelming. This is a good thing in that there are still the other things that need to get done--meals, laundry, basic clean-ups in kitchen and bath. Everything else is going to pile up and I'll need a solid week of housework to tidy up the inside and outside. Cleaning one thing always seems to make something else dirty. We are making progress but it is slow and it is a grind. This may turn into a summer long project.

Some of my irises bloomed out yesterday. That made me happy.
I'm still nursing tomato and cucumber plants in my basement window. At least the deck project keeps me from putting them out prematurely.

Mike is sitting down with a beer. I am going to relax by heading out to the garden store for a look around. "Idea" shopping.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Really Working

Mike and I have been slowly chipping away at the old, peeling stain finish on our back deck. It is a tedious and tiresome task. We bought some cheap stuff that was supposed to lift off the finish. It didn't. Today, we bought a can of stuff that cost two and a half times as much , but actually seems to have some effect. So between goopy chemical solvent, back-breaking scraping, and a pressure washer, we actually saw some progress tonight. Not so much progress that this little project won't take the whole of the weekend, though.
I think that we read the last time we did the deck that an opaque stain lasts longer. That didn't work out for us and now we are stuck with trying to get it all off so we can go back to the clear water seal coating. At least this has cured me of any grand plans to redecorate inside the house.
I so tired now that a soft chair with a firm pillow for my back, a cup of sleepytime tea, and mindless television look just like the perfect home to me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I thought that I had a small two day job as I had agreed to help with the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (NECAP) science testing at an area technical center. While I was there this morning, the woman I had substituted for last fall learned that her daughter in New Hampshire, who was due to deliver her second baby around June 10th, had gone into labor. So now I get another week of substituting. The group I dealt with last fall were just delightful and I enjoyed the couple of weeks with them a great deal, but this is a different grouping. They say it is a really rough crowd who have been eating another substitute alive. Gulp. I'm off to practice my "mean teacher voice" and my death stare before tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Dentist

I went for my six month dental check-up today and learned that my fillings are getting old. Ha! Like my fillings would stay in youthful condition while the rest of me ages. Actually, my dentist is pretty proactive and sensitive to my lack of dental insurance both. She is recommending a gradual plan of replacing old fillings that have started to crack. They don't bother me now, but if left to crack too much, they could crack tooth surface as well and that would mean crowns. What to do, what to do? I'm thinking it makes sense to spread the pain (monetary pain) out over the next couple of years. All this maintenance stuff just never goes away.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Holding On

The weather promises to warm up for the coming week so I am holding on through another cold and drizzly Saturday. I did get out yesterday to pick bunches of lilacs and lily-of-the-valley. The house smells wonderfully like spring. I don't care for sprays or plug-ins that scent the air, but I do love the lilacs while they are in bloom.

I am aching to get out and do some work in the garden, but there aren't even so many weeds to be plucked yet. It's too cold to put out the plants I've started. Garden work is just not something you can parcel out. Probably in a couple of weeks I'll be in over my head with too much to do. Being and equal opportunity complainer, I'll moan about that, too.

I do have plenty of chives and they have been appearing in many recent meals...on one of our plates. Chives are another item on Mike's list of "nuisance vegetables." The chives are about to bloom and then I will make some chive vinegar by soaking the flowers in white vinegar. it turns a pretty lavendar color.

At the library, I discovered a magazine named Vegetarian Times. I checked out a recent issue and I have enjoyed reading it and trying some of the recipes. I have not committed to vegetarianism as a religion or anything, but I find I do really enjoy grain and vegetable dishes and just choose them over meat most of the time lately.

Tonight, though, we are having wild salmon, vegetables on the side--a green salad and maybe carrots cooked with onions and thyme. For dessert, I did make an almond torte from the magazine. It is low in sugar, no butter or flour. It smells good, so I hope it tastes okay. We try to have a kind of fancy meal for Saturday night with a nice bottle of wine--kind of like our date night night. We take turns coming up with the menu. Tonight--my turn!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learning to Read

I have a favorite photograph of my mother and me when I was about two. We are sitting together and looking at a newspaper, the sheer delight showing on both our faces. I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have had a mother who read to me on a regular basis.

In the early 1950's there was a multi-volume series of books from Childcraft and my maternal grandfather, wanting to foster all things intellectual in his grandchildren, presented us with the complete set. Really, it was quite the comprehensive education--classical mythology, poetry, fairy tales, fables, all manner of wonderful literature, sciences, art, even math (largely untouched volume out of the set).
My love of literature came at an early age. One might think that this gave me a tremendous advantage in learning to read and write, even speak. It did not, at least not right away. I was painfully shy and tongue-tied, so unsure of myself as to be immobilized sometimes in front of strangers. That made school difficult as a social and an emotional experience. In fact, it was a comment made universally from my kindergarten teacher right on through college professors--"I assumed she was kind of slow until... Still waters run deep."
I didn't have a learning disability, but mastering the movements of a pencil was taxing; spelling was an out and out mystery; deciphering words on a page hard work. I managed to do okay with the help of kind and understanding teachers, and when I was in third grade the light came on. I was sitting at my desk when I started reading about a frog shedding its skin and the connection was suddenly made. The words you read are the same as the words you hear! You read the words, you hear them in your head, you see the pictures, you understand! Wow! I saw that naked frog and I laughed out loud. This got a sharp look from my teacher who was instructing in something she did not consider amusing, then a very surprised look when she saw it was me, the quiet one, disrupting her lesson. I was off and running (reading) after that.
I haven't stopped reading since then and it is a favorite and indulged pastime. It got to the point that my mother would tell me to put the book down and go outside to play. "You'll ruin your eyes with your head stuck in a book all the time!" Well, I did turn out to be very nearsighted, but I'm blaming heredity for that. I hope my eyes never get so bad that I cannot read. If they do, I hope my hearing holds out so I can at least listen to books on tape (or what ever they are called now).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I finished reading So Much for That by Lionel Shriver--one of those books I wish that I had never started or that I had just decided not to finish. Why is that such a hard thing? This book should have come with a strongly worded warning label: If you have the slightest tendency towards depression, do not attempt to read this book!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

It was just one of those days. I made the first baby booty and it went so fast, I started on the second. I got all the way to the instep before I noticed that the second was not looking exactly like the first. Thinking I had lost concentration the second time around, I pulled out stitches down to the sole and started again, this time being especially careful to check and recheck the pattern instructions. Once again it was not matching. Obviously the problem was really that I had screwed up booty number one. I had to pull out stitches AND figure out the mistake I made with the first booty so I could make it again with the second. Mike suggested that I "Put the needles down and step away from the knitting."

Okay, so then I had the bright idea to cut out some apron fabric. I cut two pieces with the fold on the wrong side. "Measure twice cut once," but NO not me. I feel like a dyslexic crafter. All sharp instruments were taken away from me at that point...for my own safety and welfare.

I can salvage the material by making shorter aprons or maybe adding a ruffle to the bottoms. The booties still look like booties. All is not lost. But the next time it is cold, dreary and snowing on a Sunday afternoon in May, I'm just going to drink hot tea and take naps.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Not So Beautiful Day

It was cold and rainy today so I got the housework caught up and then spent a good part of the day just knitting and sewing. I have finished two baby sweaters and have now started on baby booties. I just love knitting those little things.
I have a bureau in my basement where I keep wrapping supplies and a drawer dedicated to a store of gift items. The gift drawer was pretty much empty after last Christmas season so I am working on getting it supplied again. Last year I made shopping bags on an assembly line basis. This year it's aprons. It's handy to have some stuff on hand I can just grab and wrap for a hostess gift or whatever.
If something sits in that drawer for too long, I end up donating it to the Salvation Army or a local church's "Klutter Barn."
Better to be sewing or knitting at this point--rather than baking. (Baking=eating)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Beautiful Day

What a beautiful day we had even though a bit on the chilly side. It was so spring like with green all around, crab apples and lilacs blooming, a bright blue sky. I woke up to the sun shining and the birds singing and was just in a good mood all day.
Our shared activity for the day was a ride to Graniteville, Vermont. Mike had seen a pressure washer for sale on Craig's List and he was the lucky one to be first to call about it so we went to pick it up. It was certainly obvious today why Vermont is nicknamed the "Green Mountain State." This means, of course, that we will be starting a deck refinishing project soon.
Sometimes I really don't understand the attitude of some folks who are determine to stay in their "own home" no matter what. I mean, fine, as long as we can keep up with the maintenance requirements (physically and $$$wise), but I'm quite sure at some point the effort involved will totally lose its appeal. I expect at some point we'll just move in with one of our kids. (HA, HA! Just checking to see if they are reading my blog.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Mike went for a physical yesterday. Our doctors have now gone to computerized medical records so he came home with a printout of diagnoses and recommendations for follow-up tests. If you looked at the list of diagnoses you might wonder just how long he has to live and yet we consider him to be basically healthy. His blood pressure is a little high and his cholesterol is a little high (but with an excellent good to bad ratio) and if he drops a few pounds, as he has started to do, those things will undoubtedly normal out. There are other things to watch, but not big things at this point. I could nag him about sun screen and eating my wonderful vegetarian creations for the sake of his digestive health, but to no desirable effect. He has decided on his own to cut back on portion sizes and get more exercise so I applaud those efforts and just hope he'll see the light about some other healthy tweaks to his life style. I think he was a bit shaken after his trip to the antique motorcycle meet a couple of weeks ago--seeing so many of his friends and old colleagues with serious medical problems.
I do have to say I envy how quickly he can drop weight once he sets his mind to it. Men! He's lost more weight than I have, and in less time. My weight seems to change very, very slowly, but I do definitely already see a difference in the fit of my clothes. I was determined not to have to go out to buy a new bigger sized wardrobe...but smaller sized clothes? I could get on board with that!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One of our neighbors lost a tree in last week's storm. He asked to borrow Mike's chain saw so he could cut into firewood. I think that Mike used that chain saw maybe once. I think he may have been slightly peeved when I hired a man to chain saw down some lilac old growth a couple of years ago, but, really, I've grown accustomed to his having all his fingers. Chain saws scare the bejeesus out of me.

Anyway, the saw has been sitting in the garage for years. They started it up on Monday morning, but it just would not keep running. Mike took it to a small engine repair place where the guy thought maybe a new carburetor for 80 bucks plus whatever labor OR it was not fixable and should be thrown away. Not about to gamble 80 bucks on possible garbage, Mike brought the chain saw home and took it apart himself. He discovered the fuel line was so old and hardened that it just cracked under the slightest pressure. He put a new fuel line where near as easy as it may sound, since it took him the better part of Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and involved jerry-rigging attachment parts out of a ball point pen. Now it runs. I am impressed by his ingenuity.

Still, chain saws really are scary, dangerous things. I will be nervous until our neighbor brings it back and it is once again rusting in the garage from lack of use.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May Flowers

The bleeding heart and the jonquils were pretty beaten down by the snow so I rescued what was flattened on the ground before a big rain storm turned them to mush. The lily-of-the-valley are starting to bloom. They, like the violets, are more like weeds, but I love the scent and keep a small bunch in the bathroom for their entire season.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hurray! First of May!

Today was Vermont Green-Up Day--a day when people go out and pick up the trash that has accumulated along the sides of the roads. It's a day that has special meaning and memories for me, but this year I was busy volunteering at our town library and then babysitting my grand children so I didn't really participate.
I have to say once again that I really hate litterers. There is a section of road nearby that is littered with a pile of coffee cups from a certain convenience store in the area. It's pretty obvious that the same person stops at that store each morning and picks up a cup of coffee then tosses it in roughly the same spot each work day. Even more disturbing, there is a pile of wine bottles accumulated in a small stretch of road nearby. I have to believe that someone (maybe the same coffee drinker?) has an entire bottle of wine for the trip home from work. Then there are the take-out containers that end up on my front lawn. Granted, we live in a rural area, but, come on, our front yard is obviously a front yard. Who throws trash in some one's front yard?
So do slobs feel okay about ditching their trash because they know that well meaning citizens are going to make a point of picking up after them? **#@@!!&*?!!