Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend Review, Week Preview

I made the trip to my daughter's and took her and the kids out for a birthday lunch.  Saturday, Kristen and her dad did a walkathon to end child abuse.  They raised around $400.  Great job!
We made two trips to the school playground, which is right behind their house, to swing, slide, climb.  Kristen started fourth grade this past week and Dane started preschool--so summer vacation is over.  The pool was closed even though the temperature had climbed up into the 80's, where it promises to stay for this week.  Let's just say baths were needed on Sunday night.
Kristen's elementary school has a vegetable garden.  Her class planted corn last June and she pointed out her very own stalk.  It was a good looking garden--grape tomatoes, corn, squash, pole beans, cabbage, peppers, and beautiful basil.  There are also a number of apple trees on the school grounds.  I think it's great that they have that relationship with their lunches.

Today, I will be busy with a lunch date with friends, a haircut appointment, and my writing group.  We wrote "found poems" for this week.  In between, we are packing up for one more camping trip.  As soon as we get back from that, we pack up again to travel to Connecticut for a family reunion--the D'Angelo side--which is supposed to include discussion of a cousins' trip to Italy sometime in the future.  I don't know if Mike will convinced to join in that adventure.  He did visit his mother's family in Sicily when he was in the Navy, but he seems much less inclined to travel these days.  I'd go in a heartbeat!

Friday, August 27, 2010

End of Summer Whirlwind

Today is my daughter's birthday.  It is so hard to believe how fast time goes by.  She's 37.  Her daughter started fourth grade three days ago.  Good grief, I still remember my first day of fourth grade (1957) because we had just moved to Vermont, but my own birthdays kind of stopped after number 36.  Now that both of my children are older than I am, it must be time to revise my age in my head.
Our trip to the Rhode Island beach was a fun time.  The weather was iffy, but the food was great and the company even better.  Now Mike wants to fit in another camping trip this week and we have a family reunion (his mother's side) next weekend.   I want to take a trip to see my daughter and grand kids over the weekend.  I have a lunch date, a hair cut appointment and my writers' group on Monday, so that means camping on Tuesday, get back on Thursday and pack for a trip to Connecticut on Friday.  It kind of feels like the ending of summer--hurry up and fit in all those activities.  I do feel like I haven't seen too much of my family at all this year.  Maybe next summer, I'll plan a family reunion for my side.
The Champlain Valley Fair starts tomorrow--a sure sign that the end of summer is upon us no matter what the calendar may say.  Some friends called to find out if I might want to do some food demonstrations at the fair--something that really might be fun, but I just don't have the time this week.  It's kind of crazy to be thinking about what I'll do next summer.
The heirloom tomatoes I planted this year are HUGE.  I picked four today and three of them absolutely filled my pot.  I made tomato sauce.  I think the green beans have finally slacked off, but now it will be tomatoes every day.  The fourth tomato, incidentally, got used for our supper--sliced on Mike's hamburger and and my lentil-walnut burger.  It has taken a long time for things to ripen in my garden this year, so I hope frost holds off for a while.  (Please)

Rhode Island Pictures

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Rainy Sunday

I went to my sister's yesterday to give her two hooded baby bath towels that I made from bath towels and a hand towel.  She was going to visit her new grandson so I sent one for a baby gift and one for a "big sister" gift.  Not having a baby or a kid handy, I had to use a teddy bear to model it.  I've often given these as baby gifts.  I haven't had any comments from the babies, but parents really seem to like them.
We are having a rainy day and from predictions have decided to delay our trip to Rhode Island for a day.  I've been salivating at the memory of the fresh off the boat lobster we had for dinner there last year.  I can wait one more day because we had lobster rolls for dinner a few nights ago.  I was walking to the library and noticed a sign on in front of the Welcome Kitchen, a place in the village that opened last year and does take out meals and catering.  Lobster rolls called my name, big time, and they were delicious.
I'm kind of afraid to go out to the garden and see what a little rain has done for the green beans and cucumbers.  We had BLTs for supper last night, using slices of my Big Girl tomatoes.  Yum.  Today I had tabbouleh with cucumbers, tomato, green pepper, mint and parsley all from my garden.  Double yum.  I canned some pickled green beans and some bread and butter pickles.  Ho, ho, ho, Green Grandma!
Have to admit, I slept in this morning.
Mike's daughter called to ask how I had fixed the green beans when they were here.  This was a compliment because she is a superior cook.  I had steamed some fresh picked green beans and then dressed them with a little melted butter, a little olive oil, some lemon juice, a bit of thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano and some lemon zest.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dust Storms

A beautiful summer day here today. Warm and sunny, but not too humid. I love it. Although, I was a bit distressed to see some signs of leaves changing color while on my walk this morning.

I read in the paper that Yankee Magazine has ranked a Connecticut town as the number one place to view fall foliage. Ooo...that got Vermont dander up for sure!

As happens toward the second half of August, I have started getting the house cleaned up. This is a habit from the time when this time of year meant gong back to work. I would go into a mad whirlwind of cleaning up summer messes to get ready for the busy fall. I’ve been retired long enough now to not knock myself out trying to spit shine every surface inside and out in the space of a week. I take the luxury of time and work at my own pace. Also, I am no longer so delusional as to say, “Now the housework is all done!”

Today, I dusted and vacuumed Mike’s basement office. This is something he prefers that I not do and so I accommodate that wish since I prefer not to do that job myself. But when the time comes that dead flies are sprinkled over everything along with the dust bunnies, then I can’t just keep walking by the door, ignoring the scene within. This is where he keeps a major concentration of stuff--to pick up each item and dust it and then beneath it is a day long job. It’s easy for someone with my klutzy ways to knock things over, to break delicate and expensive (for reasons that totally escape my appreciation) collectibles. Would you want this responsibility?  This is a peek...the whole room is like this.

I voted in the state primary today--early because we plan a trip to Rhode Island next week.  There are six candidates running for governor on the Democratic side--all very, very similar in both ideology and style.  It's hard to know who is most "electable."  I felt like I was making senior year in high school year book decisions  for the superlatives page while casting my vote this time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'll Get It

It’s certainly nothing new to complain about telemarketers. I try to hang up if there is that moments hesitation before the call really starts, but that doesn’t always work. It always a bad sign when the caller can’t seem to get your name quite right. If it’s out and out wrong--Herbert instead of Hebert--I just say, “No this isn’t the Herbert residence. You must have the wrong number,” and then hang up. If the caller asks for Mike, I say,”Just a minute and I’ll see,” then leave the phone off the hook while I go do something else until the phone starts buzzing. Sometimes I’ll interrupt the spiel with a “just not interested,” and a hang up. Sometimes they are really hard to interrupt and they are well trained not hear the words, “No, thank-you.”

My son once told me he would sometimes act interested and keep callers on the line for quite some time before blowing them off. At least that way he felt he was keeping the next person from being annoyed at dinnertime. I also once read a suggestion of keeping a recording of babies crying, children tantruming, or dogs barking handy so that you could flip it on and annoy the telemarketers back. I thought it was clever, but I never tried it.

Lately, I have noticed a disconcerting trend. have you noticed this as well--telemarketers that start chatting you up like they’re your long lost best friend from college or something. “Hi, how are you?” “How’s the weather up there?” “Are you having a chance to enjoy this fine summer?” “Did you catch that episode of America’s Got Talent last night?” Really, just tell me what you want me to buy, do, or donate so I can say “No, thanks,” and get off the phone already.

It’s a good thing we are on the DO NOT CALL LIST.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To the Rescue (Again)

Since we are too cheap to hire a regular weekly garbage pick-up, we take our trash to a near-by transfer station. Along with the trash goes our recycling, a pail of compost material, yard waste, any clothes we may want to get rid of, and anything that we may want to leave in the Reuse Shed. Sometimes we have all the other stuff and no real trash so it’s a free drop off and we do our bit for the green life while keeping excess clutter at bay.

Today I loaded up the car and made the three mile trip to the transfer station. I disposed of everything in the appropriate area or receptacle and gave my hands a wipe with waterless cleaner. Then I turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Then I noticed I couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. Oh, no. What was I going to do? Call a tow truck? I called Mike instead.

“Hi, the car won’t start.”

“Who is this?”

“Your wife? Olga?”


“So the car won’t start. The lights come on but nothing from the engine.”

“Hold on. I’ll be right down.”

So I waited a few minutes and he arrived in his van. He got into the car and started it. It took a nanosecond. My hero! The shift was still in park where I had left it. I’ve been driving for 46 years, but somehow I just couldn’t figure this one out. I believe they call it a brain fart.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Coffee Rules

We have good friends that I’ll call Bill and Diane since that happens to be their names. We meet them on a vacation in Anguilla years ago and have kept in touch ever since. Like me, they were both middle school teachers, now retired. We have similar tastes in books, travel, hobbies--but enough differences to make it interesting when we get together.
Here’s a major difference. Before Bill was unable to do so due to the limitations of Parkinson’s Disease, he was in the daily habit of rising early enough to make coffee which he would then pour into a cup and carry, on a small lacquered tray, back up to the bedroom. He woke his beloved wife with a freshly brewed cup of coffee which she could sip as she got ready for the work of the day. Do you see the incredible romance of that? The woman had coffee--freshly brewed coffee--before she even had to get out of bed in the morning.

“What a loving thing to do,” I pointed out to my own husband upon learning of this tradition.

Honestly, I pointed it out to him many, many times over the years. I often steered him toward lovely trays at tag sales and antique shops. “How romantic! How sweet! You could use this to bring me coffee in the morning,” I would sigh--all to no avail.  Honestly, I almost think he just plain ignores some of the things I say to him.

Unfortunately, I have to be honest. I like to tease Mike about his glaring lack of attentiveness in light of the habits of some model husbands, but I really would not care to have coffee brought to me in bed. The whole idea is actually anathema to me. It breaks the coffee rules, of which there are many.

There must be coffee in the morning. A day without sunshine is possible to live through. A day without coffee? No.

The first cup of coffee must be served at the kitchen table. Subsequent cups may be taken outside on a nice, dry morning OR to the coffee table to be sipped while completing the daily crossword and sudoku puzzles. This allows for the support of table and chair, allowing the body time to adjust to the upright position while coffee works its magic.  Once the hands are steady, then you can move with coffee in them.

Nothing should enter a coffee cup after the coffee itself has been poured into it. I use soy milk in my coffee. It has to be in the cup before the coffee is poured. I can tell the difference. Really. It is very distressing to have a restaurant waitress fill up my coffee cup and then hand my a couple of cream packets. Who trains these people? I believe it was James Bond who gave us that famous maxim: Swirled, never stirred.  This rule also prevents the disgusting habit of dunking other food substances into coffee.

Coffee must taste like coffee. Dark roast, French roast, 100% Colombian, special breakfast blend, Fair Trade--it doesn’t matter--just so it tastes like coffee. Flavored coffees are an abomination. Flavored, non-dairy creamers are a crime against nature.

Coffee must contain caffeine. There are no green coffee cans in my kitchen. God clearly intended coffee to have caffeine. Who are we, mere mortals, to tinker with divine plan??

Coffee needs to be a transformative experience. Sure, that experience will differ with the uniqueness of each individual coffee drinker, but for me the transformation can only happen after I stand upright, stagger and careen my way down the hall into the kitchen, hold the steamy mug in my shaky hands, inhale the pure aroma, and take that first cautious sip. Only then can I open my eyes to the wonders of a new day.  Bad dreams and night time worries are banished.  Even my hair relaxes a little.

Now, would I want my husband to deprive me of an awakening ritual that has started my day for so many years? Would I care to have him interject himself in my long standing and jealously guarded relationship with coffee? Not for all the tea in China.

Not an acceptable cup, clearly!

P.S.  Mike would like me to point out that he usually gets up before I do and is, therefore, the one who makes the coffee.

Monday, August 16, 2010


AH...I have been limping around for several weeks because of a glass splinter right in the middle of my right heel pad.  (Broke a bowl in the kitchen, didn't sweep up enough, walk around barefoot.) Some times it would really hurt and then other times it didn't really bother me.  I kept soaking it in Epsom salts and Mike would poke at it.  Finally, I decided I'd have to call the doctor. It was so painful last night that I filled up my foot soaking bin before I turned on the coffee this morning--that's how dire the situation had become.  Anyway, I soaked it and put tape on while I did some housework.  Then I decided to take a shower before making my various phone calls.  That's when I noticed the little shard of glass sticking out of the bottom of my foot.  Dr. Mike was able to pull it right out with his medical instruments.  What a relief!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paint, Garden, Read

I've convinced myself that there is dire need for some interior painting--upstairs ceilings, the entry way and hallway.  Mike is not so enthusiastic.  He did agree to may color choices, but is insisting that we hire someone to do it in the fall.  I was prepared to take on the task myself, but oh, well...anything to make him happy.  I'll find something else to do with my time.
I spent quite some time in the gardens today.  I weeded the flower beds and planned out the next area to dig up.  I have to spread some things out.  Of course, I could dig some plants up and just throw them away, but that seems wrong.  On the other hand, I don't want to get to a point where I can't maintain.  I'll have to think on this some more.
I went with my friend to our other friend's house on Friday--to pick up out stamping purchases.  "Mother" joined us for lunch.  Here is a woman in her 90's who maintains a summer house on the lake in VT, has a winter residence in Florida, plays golf a couple of times each week year round, drives, cooks, crafts, throws parties...and I wonder if I can deal with another row of flowers.   I should be ashamed.
The vegetable garden is giving us green beans--lots of green beans.  I won't have to buy green beans for the next year.  We had the first ripe tomato from my plants yesterday and we've been eating a lot of cucumbers.  Last year, the only thing that really did well was peppers, but this year I don't see much happening with the pepper plant.
I just finished reading Just Kids by Patti Smith.  I remember Patti Smith as a singer and I remember Robert Mapplethorpe, mostly because of all the controversy surrounding his art.  Now that I think about it, he may have single handedly galvanized the religious right.  Thirty years ago, I just thought they were both way older than me.  I was surprised to realize they were both my age--just had way more life experiences.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids Having Fun

Sandbar State Park

Vermont Teddy Bear Factory

What more is there to say--except the only thing messier than digging in sand is eating a chocolate icecream cone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking Good While Aging

Linda, in A Slower Pace post, mentioned the need for changes in make-up as we age.  This is something I have been thinking about.  I've given up (finally!) the hopeless quest to find that magical product that will erase wrinkles and age spots, returning my visage to a former youthful glow.  Looking young is for young people.  The thing is, I never was much of a make-up user--a dash on of mascara and maybe a dusting of powder or a tinted moisturizer.  Now, if I don't feather on some eyebrows it looks exactly like I have none, but mascara just serves to emphasize my sparse eyelashes.  I think I'm better off without it.  I can definitely see that I need a little lipstick, but I cannot seem to remember to put it on.
Then, of course, there is all the information about changing clothing styles as we age. This seems harder to do than the make-up thing--probably because I would have to actually have a style before I could change it. I really think I am not all of a sudden going to go for the classy-sophisticated look when my entire life is about casual.  Still, I don't really like the casual look that is marketed for my age group.  My major change has been from tee shirts to cotton shirts (more time to iron now) with my jeans.  I have learned from sewing, that a shoulder seam adjusted or a dart added can make a world of difference in the fit, and consequently, the overall appearance of a garment.  I also have learned that a well fitted bra not only is actually comfortable but actually impacts how I look. 
I was reminded of the importance of a good bra by Marcia at Well Aged... who wrote about her bra collection--all two of them!  I've seen the shows on Oprah where women are made-over by the right fit in a bra.  Now, I have had many fittings at both specialty shops and department stores over the years and I always thought bras were surely the work of the devil.  I could wiggle out of a bra while driving home from work.  (Now wouldn't that give Oprah fits!?) but then I gained weight and found that not wearing a bra was as uncomfortable as wearing one. A 32 AA to a 38 C by the measurers' reckoning by the time I reached my 60's--and never comfortable in a bra.  However, when I finally actually paid someone for a bra fitting, the flood gates of heaven opened up and I was truly transformed.  I wear the improbable size of 34DD, but so, so comfortable and I once again have a waist.  So, while I sure don't get the "one for everyday" bra concept, I do have to agree with Marcia. Lifting up the tatas does look, if not more youthful, a whole lot better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Tour of Other Blogs

Grandma duties have kept me quite busy for the past few days and recovering my energy will keep me occupied for the next few days.  I did get through a number of posts on Google Reader today.  It inspired  me to take the easy way out and just refer to the writings of others.
Arkansas Patti had a valuable history lesson on her most recent post.  What a shame that this isn't common knowledge.  In addition, the connection with her "gram" was so poignant to me.
I've mentioned my fascination with herbs, so I was happy to read about drying citrus peel.  There is mention of incorporating dried citrus peel in crafts projects with children.  My grand daughter always has a craft project in mind when she comes to visit, but she is also open to suggestions so I'll keep this in mind.
Margaret wrote about messy houses.  As we were leaving, Kristen, sensitive soul that she is, said, "Grandma, I'm sorry we made such a mess of your house."  (Some toys that need to be scooped up, a few extra dishes to stow in the dishwasher, and a cunning little hand print on the front door.)  I don't call it mess; I call it reminders.  I also have to mention an Elder Storytelling Place story about visiting grand kids, because D. Sugar probably tells it more like it is.
Gosh, I am so tired...but I get to sleep in a popcorn-free bed tonight and there is not reason to get up early tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Grandma Moment

I called my daughter to arrange a visit with the grand children.  While we were on the phone, she asked Dane if he would like to go to grandma's house for a few days.  "Yes, I want to go to grandma's house and I want Sissy to go too.  Grandma lives in Jericho.  She's my best friend!"
Does it get any better than that??

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recommended Reading

I have just been snapped out of my uncharacteristic reading slump.
I have just started reading Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.
You can read a review here or here.  I have to get back to reading. 
I am on page 133 and I can't put this book down for any length of time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arizona Law

It is old news that the State of Arizona passed a law making it illegal to be an illegal alien, but it actually went into effect just recently.  Illegal to be illegal?  Does some kind of double negatives principle kick in here?

Critics, bleeding heart liberals to be sure, say the law will lead to racial profiling, but its supports argue that the law merely enforces existing laws.  Does any one else wonder why we need a law that says it's okay to enforce the law?  Do we now need a law that says we need to enforce the law that says we need to enforce the law?  If this makes sense to you, would you please explain it to me.  The logic escapes me entirely.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A New Baby

When my son was born, at the end of the '60s, it was common that the hospital stay would be five days for a routine, no complications birth.  By the time my daughter was born, in the early '70s, that was becoming not the practice, but I had insurance and my doctor told me he'd keep me in hospital for five days.  Really, it wasn't bad.  I got to lay around in bed all day and watch television.  My meals were all brought to me on a tray.  Babies were brought in on a feeding schedule or for showing off to adoring relatives who stopped by in the evenings.  Otherwise they were all kept in a nursery, and the crying emanating from there surely was not my baby.  It was a five day reprieve from reality and after going through childbirth, I deserved it. Also it gave me time for the drugs to wear off.

I'm thinking about this for two reasons. 

First, my sister called to announce the birth of her third grand child--a boy, son of her youngest son.  The birth took place at home, in a tub of water.  Nephew, his sister/my niece, his 3 year old daughter/my grand niece, and a midwife were in attendance.  All very natural.  It makes me wonder--are there things in life for which I'd like a do-over?

Second, this quote: Power’s First Law of Geriatrics states: “A hospital is no place for sick people.” (from  I wasn't old and I wasn't sick the only two times I have ever personally spent time in hospitals.  I did see my father die in a hospital.  Would he have had more peace at home?

I can only speculate.  I have no clear answer to either question.  But I know for certain that I would not like to be sick and be in a hospital.  Having experienced a little old age, immortality doesn't grab me too much.  I think it must be comforting to believe in an afterlife, but personally, I like the concept of multiple lives and reincarnation.  I don't bank on any of it.  The one thing that is clear to me is that if there is a heaven, then animals go there too.  And I know I will die--I just hope it is fast and/or I have great pain management available.

What a morbid digression.  The good news is there is a new baby in the family!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

Cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, fresh picked herbs, blueberries, sweet corn, beets, summer squash, little heads of cabbage--these are the things I can pick from my own garden or find at the local Farmers' Markets.  This is when food tastes so good--one of my favorite things about summer.  As a kid, summer eating was about hot dogs, watermelon, and ice cream.  I haven't had ice cream this summer.  I still go for an occasional hot dog grilled til the skin pops and covered with pickle relish--true junk food.  Watermelon...I'm getting a craving...may have to make a trip to the store.
After considerable experimentation, I have decided that drying herbs in the microwave works best for me.  Also, I tried freezing vegetarian dishes so that on those days when I just am not up for slicing, dicing, chopping, etc., I'd have something on hand.  I find that I prefer to make something with the idea that I will have it in the fridge and have four or five meals of it in a week.  It's really not as boring as it sounds.  Last week I made vegetarian chili.  I had a bowl for lunch one day, used it as a side dish another, heated it with cheese for supper one night, stuffed it in a pita bread, topped polenta with it, and then added some broth and ate some as a soup.  This works fine for me.  We don't have a big freezer and I hate it when I open the door and things, frozen hard things, tumble out of the freezer and land on my poor mashed up toes.  Also, my original plan was to have one or two meatless meals per week.  I find I'm doing more vegetable fare and meat once or twice per week instead.
This week, I made cabbage rolls stuffed with a mixture of cooked wheat berries, brown rice, flax seeds, ground walnuts, grated carrot, and a bit of tomato juice, some cumin and some curry--baked in the oven with diced tomatoes and some extra chopped cabbage and onion.  Mike won't touch it, but I love it.  No problem to have that lunch and supper for three days straight.
My Ukrainian mother used to make cabbage rolls with ground meat and rice.  She cooked them in a Dutch oven with a white gravy that maybe was made from bacon.  I wish I'd paid attention.  I really liked it, but I don't have the recipe and I have never seen one that doesn't use tomato sauce or tomato soup.  If anybody out there knows what I'm talking about and can send me the recipe...well, I'll just love you forever.
I was going to harvest the basil and make some pesto.  I haven't bought pine nuts in some time.  The price nearly knocked me over.  I guess I will use walnuts instead.