Saturday, December 31, 2016

At the starting block




Sunday’s the big day when we turn our shivering backs on the north and gladly opt for two 12-hour days in the car.

Post Christmas Epiphanies



  1. Who needs a Roomba robot vacuum to deal with the steady rain of dropped food from the grandchildren when you have a tiny dog snuffling across the floor.
  2. It sharpens aging reflexes to have kids exploding from closets and behind furniture during ongoing three-day games of hide and seek.
  3. Your trash is your friend. No one benefits from finishing up the leftover garlic bread.
  4. Latkes (multicultural here) perfectly represent Hanukkah’s eight-day miracle since the smell of the oil they’re cooked in stays in the house for about that length of time.
  5. Follow up behind your departing guests as they gather their belongings if you want to avoid an emergency trip to the post office to overnight missing car keys.
  6. Dim the lights and fake a clean house before the holiday since after everyone leaves you’ll be getting out the industrial vac and that big new bottle of PineSol.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's Almost Here





The second refrigerator is humming in the basement, the holiday cookies have been pulled from their hiding place, and the dog is looking nervous.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Night Maneuvers



     One thing you don’t usually learn about being a parent until it’s too late is the amount of time you’ll spend in the dark.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A slippery slope



7:30 a.m. and Mamie and I donned our morning ensembles: jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, boots for me and parka for her.  We crunched outside across the deck to the back yard.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If my refrigerator could talk





     If, through some unlikely series of events, a person had lost his calendar, all access to the internet or any other media, and had been living on an uninhabited mountain top, he would only have to check my refrigerator to know that Thanksgiving is coming.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shaken



     Our son and delightful daughter-in-law are on their honeymoon, delayed a bit from their June wedding.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Porlocks and Snidgets



     Considering my husband’s pack-ratting tendencies, the day we ever have to move from this house will truly be enlightening. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Confessions of a Writer




My former high school English students have nothing on me. I’ve sunk to levels of procrastination they could only dream about.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Forgiven

For those of you concerned about my little dog Mamie, who was pining away for me when I went to a conference this weekend, this video of my welcome home proves that she seems to have bounced back just fine:
 
                 Rocket Dog

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Where were you?



          I remember the announcement at Stratford Junior High in Arlington, Virginia that November day in 1963 and walking home through the leaves with my friends Sheila and Anne.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Have a Nice Day!



 I picked up my last farm share portion on Wednesday. It was a pretty good haul and inspired me into all kinds of culinary enterprises. That night we had Swiss chard sautéed with mushrooms and roasted red onions with rutabaga. Both were glorious. Thursday night I made Italian wedding soup with the big head of escarole I’d brought home – also a success.
          Still, we did need a few more vegetables so today I went to one of my favorite places, a local farm stand on steroids. I imagine it once just sold apples or pumpkins, but these days it offers a selection of wines, a whole aisle of gluten-free products, an excellent deli, and oh yes, vegetables.
          I carted my loot to the check-out counter where I drew a cashier I’ve seen before. She’s a woman of a certain age (or past) with Morticia-length brown hair, stark white bangs, and capital P personality. She greeted me with enthusiasm and joked about my butternut squash’s refusal to stand upright but the mood went downhill from there.
          She had difficulty with the register, since it was driven by fingerprint and she was wearing a latex glove. My sunny mood on this beautiful autumn day began to dip as she launched into the explanation for the glove.
 There’s apparently “all kinds of things” going on in the fruit-producing countries, so it was anyone’s guess what was coming in. My mind immediately turned to the grapes I’d snitched 5 minutes before right out of their bag.
Next, she informed me that there are drugs on dollar bills, and not only that, “some virus is out there killing little kids. Six-year-olds are dying!”
By now, thank heaven, my purchases were bagged and paid for and I eased out of there as she continued her diatribe with the unsuspecting woman in line behind me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Channeling Sisyphus




       All we needed for true realization that our Florida days have ended was a glance out of the window. If we ever had grass in our yard, you'd never know it, thanks to the six-inch layer of leaves out there. 




Today we played beat the clock – or, more accurately, the rain.With a forecast of showers by noon and a yard untouched by a rake since fall began, we were on a mission. 
 

          One year, when My Guy was laid up with a broken leg, I attempted to make a dent on my own but we ended up hiring a landscape crew. It was magical. They descended on our yard with blowers galore and struck with surgical precision. Not one leaf remained entwined in a bush, and all acorns disappeared as though they had never fallen. It was all achieved in one afternoon.

          Today we worked on the “Well, it’s better than it was” premise. 


       

           Mamie was useful as a depth gauge for a while




        



 




  But soon decided she’d rather serve as a supervisor. 












With several yardfuls still in the trees there wasn’t much point in perfection; it’s only a matter of days before we start all over again. 



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Clean Living



It seems counterintuitive in a state filled with Buick-sized insects and weapons-grade mold, but so far, life here in the Sunshine State is practically antiseptic.  

Unlike our 50 year-old house back home, with the on-going war with mice in the basement, here we're sealed off from encroaching reality. Anonymous men appear outside on a regular basis and spray our building to beat back nature, and the central air silently dehumidifies away any lurking mildew. 
Our evening walks are on freshly swept sidewalks under groomed palm trees, and the only wildlife we see is the resident bunny, who so far has managed to dodge the rumored alligator in our pond. 

If our building were a person, it would just be starting  solids and learning to stand. It hasn't even been around long enough to accumulate dust over the door jambs. In contrast, our Bay State house has bathroom linoleum beginning to curl at the edges and windowsills still scarred from the previous owner's dog, Sparky. 

Here, emptying the garbage only requires a brief walk holding our one little white bag from  the front door to the artfully concealed communal dumpster near our garage. At home, we gather a week's worth in big black bags so we can transport it in our car to the town waste disposal area, aka the dump. 

We're also unburdened by the flotsam and jetsam we accumulated over 47 years of marriage. Here we have just what we need for day-to-day living. Four plates, two sets of sheets, one laundry basket. It's remarkable how restful clear surfaces can be to the eye, not a tchotchke in sight, no need to move this to get to that. 

I think I'll go make tea now in our one mug and try not to think of the piles of leaves on the lawn at home awaiting our return at the end of this week. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Life in the Commune



Tuesday was my introduction to shared financial planning. We all met in the clubhouse by the pool at ten in the morning - apparently on the assumption that no one who lives here has a job to get to - accurate based on the expanse of white and gray hair of the15 or 20 people gathered ( except for a few like yours truly whose vanity prevents them from surrendering to nature). 

The condo board was only half there physically. They weren't missing body parts - the other half of the board phoned in, not having yet made the migration south to Florida.  

The gist of the meeting was that while we still have one more new building going up, some here in the complex are ten tears old and haven't been maintained due to lack of funds. Additionally, the company hired to keep up the outside of these three story units is woefully underpaid. 

Unless we seniors want to get out there with our own pressure washers and telescoping brushes, we're going to have to bite the bullet and vote in higher association fees. 

Along the way to that discussion we had forks in the road like the comment from the man in the oddly military patterned shirt and matching cap. "What about licensing? Better make sure these contractors are licensed.  They get hurt and we're all in trouble!"  

The moderator got him simmered down and we returned to issues like building paint colors, spraying for weeds during a summer that rained every single day and so washed off all attempts, and interlopers who sneak into the pool area and unscrew the light bulbs for a midnight swim. 

Fortunately, we have two gentlemen with financial resumes who have begun guiding our complex down a sounder fiscal path. Most of the people in attendance sat passively, contributing little and one of the phone-in board members was all in favor of increases in labor and landscaping, but voted against any increase in fees. Maybe he was planning on organizing a bake sale to fund the needed work. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Morning walk

Yesterday evening we invited the next door neighbors over for drinks to thank them for watching our place while we were away. Four hours later My Guy and I finally scarfed down some scrambled eggs at 9:30. I'll need to tone up my imbibing skills if I'm going to survive when we return in the winter. 

A walk this morning seemed like a cleansing way to begin the day. 
Not quite the same as my morning stroll in our small New England town. 

There were plenty of locals:
And the sidewalk next to the undeveloped land in back of the complex can make me walk I little faster - sightings of bobcats and alligators and rumors of wild pigs aren't uncommon. 
Instead of gold and red maple leaves, the sidewalks have discarded palm parts like this pre-historic looking husk. 
And instead of strands of ivy, trees become home for opportunistic ferns and vines.  

But the sign at the pool house woke me up faster than my morning cup of tea. 





Saturday, October 15, 2016

We're not in Massachusetts anymore . . . .

We've left the land of apple cider and sunset colored leaves for two weeks. 

I didn't even need to see the palm tree outside our window to know I was in Florida. 
Two ads from the local paper were indications enough:



Friday, October 7, 2016

Two Dinners




          Life feels as though it’s zipping along, although I’ve had large swaths of downtime so I fear my absence here is due more to lethargy than pressing obligations.
          The past week included a visit to the hills of New Jersey to visit grandchildren (and their parents) where we stood on a succession of wet soccer fields in unrelenting mist. Still, it was pleasant – isn’t that what the Irish call “soft” weather ? -  and brought back memories of other fields with my own children galloping up and down.
          We also managed a grown-up dinner at a newly opened local restaurant that, sadly, was so excellent its success will likely move it on to a larger venue.



I mean, pork chops with an expresso hazelnut demi-glaze and mustard spaetzle, heirloom carrots and baby kale? Or my chkoice: wood grilled shrimp with creamy heairloom grits, smokey bourbon butter, braised greens, and jalapeno jelly?
Hackettstown, New Jersey never had it so good.  

          This week I met for dinner with a newly-formed gathering of mystery writers of Western Massachusetts where I found myself becoming uncharacteristically quiet, surrounded as I was by writers much more accomplished than myself. “Unpublished” felt as though it was tattooed across my forehead.
Among those in attendance –

Lisa – cultural and intellectual historian, author of at least six books, subject of
          several interviews on National Public Radio, and absurdly pleasant and
          self-effacing. 
Lee – former television writer and producer (Edgar Award for best television
          teleplay, author of several fiction and non-fiction books.
Glenn –author of 15 mysteries, professor of philosophy
Ray – our organizer and representative from the Boston branch of Mystery
 Writers of America, author of God-knows how many Boston-based
 mysteries, winner of this award and that award. Also absurdly pleasant and self-effacing.

          I just tried not to use double negatives and pick my teeth. My degrees, years of teaching English, and 2 ½ (mediocre) books were mere foothills to their Mt. Everests. Still, it was helpful to be surrounded by writers and be reminded that this was something I enjoyed and should stop neglecting. And my pasta was excellent.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gult, defiance, and weather control



          In one day, my laundry went from shorts to jeans, and evenings of walking the dog in tee shirts and sandals faded to a distant memory. I woke up Sunday morning to a chilly bedroom in a chilly house. Fall had arrived but our heat hadn’t. I still have a knee-jerk reaction to the first round of cool weather, telling myself to dig out my socks and sweatshirts and get on with it. The house was 62 degrees but I hadn’t turned on the heat yet because our storm windows weren’t down, thus resulting in all that oil-burner coziness leaking outside.
On the plus side, I was driven to make a really good batch of impromptu minestrone and onion/dill bread.
          All those years of watching pennies make me feel really guilty if I move the thermostat past 64. This year, however, I declare to the world that like Scarlett, “I’ll never go hungry cold again!” I am no longer going to shiver under a lap blanket while watching TV, or sit on one hand to warm it while the other holds the book I’m reading. At this point in my life, I deserve to be comfortable in my own home.
Another factor is that we have a house sitter coming while we’re away for a couple of days, and while I might be willing to shuffle around in fleece, I won’t ask that of someone else. For all I know, she’s that delicate species, an apartment dweller, who lives in a blissfully steady 72 degrees year-round..
And of course, after four hours yesterday of scraping the window tracks where sadistic bugs build small empires for their cocoons, then washing storms and screens, and finally battening everything down, today it’s in the 70s. It’s the same phenomenon that occurs in the spring when I pack away all my sweaters and boots and nature piles on a last-minute snowstorm. I’m beginning to believe that I possess the power to control the climate – even if it is in the opposite direction.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Amateur-in-Chief



Last night we watched the first episode of Designated Survivor, the new series starring Kiefer Sutherland. During the State of the Union address the Capitol is bombed, killing everyone attending the speech except for the one member of the Cabinet who is parked in a safe location for just this event.
          Sutherland plays the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a position with little glory and in this representation, even less respect. After everyone in the government is wiped out, he’s hustled off to the White House and plunged into a war room with trigger happy generals and officials who are making little attempt to mask their dismay at this new head of the government.
          It’s a compelling premise and I think Designated Survivor has found a place in our DVR line-up.
          However, a warning bell went off as I thought about it. Sutherland’s character begins as someone with few skills for the bump-um cars of political life. It’s easy to see where this will likely go. He’ll fumble and fall occasionally, but will ultimately rise above the backbiting, and with his Everyman integrity, he’ll be a success.
          Granted Sutherland’s unassuming academic bears little resemblance to one of our candidates, but is there a possibility this a certain segment of the American voting public might thump the arm of their Lazyboy, gesture at the TV with the remote and say, “Well there ya go! He’s no politician and look how swell he’s doing!”


Monday, September 19, 2016

Squats of Joy



 We’ve acquired a 6 year old dog with unconventional bathroom habits.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Commerce



          The past two days have been exercises in optimism that didn’t always connect with reality.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Welcome to the infirmary



          No more trips for Mamie and me up to the mailbox, or anywhere else for that matter in the near future. This is now a house of rehabilitation and pre-dental care.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Score!



     We had company yesterday for lunch, an agreeable group of people, and it was a fun afternoon.   It’s been a while since I’ve hosted anyone other than immediate family and I’d forgotten the side benefits of entertaining.
          Sure, you do have to get the house clean and hide all traces of the squalor that you usually live in. Shoes actually go in closets, the butter dish finally gets washed, and the newspapers get picked up.
          But all the major parts of the house are clean and tidy all at once. It’s a heady feeling.
          Then, you have entertainment delivered right to your door in the form of nice people with good conversation (if you’re lucky, that is).
          And after several pleasant house during which you all eat delectables you don’t usually buy just for yourself, they go home.
          I now have a clean house, two bottles of wine I didn’t have before, and half a cake. Not a bad afternoon’s take.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Meditation on a telephone pole



Before




Friday was groomer day and we have still another new dog to get used to after 
Mamie's major trim. 
Oh well, it will grow out.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sanctuary



Our household is about to experience a seismic shift.

          Today we’re opening our door and our hearts to someone in need of a witness protection program.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Heaven in a can



After all that virtuous talk of vegetables, it’s only right that I own
up to a few guilty pleasures.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Basket Case




The weekly farm share allotment - and therefore the weekly challenge of what to do with this latest batch of vegetables.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The face never lies



Donald Trump is that last person I expected to feel sympathy for – ever.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hoarder or Scientist?



     
What? You don't have a rhinoceros skull?

     The other day I was casting about for a venue for a day out with a friend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hung Up


 
Joan Crawford aside, I could use some more old-fashioned metal coat hangers. 




Friday, August 12, 2016

Art Ownership



          Today’s morning visit to blog land left me thinking about the impact of art on our lives. Thank you, Steve, at Shadows and Light .

Monday, August 8, 2016

Where did the week go?



So we’re back from the shore. The sand is already vacuumed from the car – a land-speed record for us. I usually drive around for at least a week with my sandals nostalgically grinding over my transplanted portion of First Encounter Beach.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Leaving Reality Behind



 



We’re all settled in for the next week here in the brachiordiaradialis,
or then again, maybe the pronator teres of Cape Cod. Just above the elbow, anyway.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Transformation



We must be getting better at this because I haven’t woken up once thinking, Shampoo!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Thanks, Donny








Again I find myself grateful to Donald Trump, although sadly, the first time my gratitude was premature. (Bless you, Donald Trump)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Livestock and Projects



      I glanced over the kitchen sink last night and saw movement below the window.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Oxymoron

Really?
Does this make sense to you? 
Do my "native" hot houses differ in some magical "local" way from hot houses in say, Virginia or North Dakota?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A day gang aft agley



     Today I woke up with no real agenda and spent the morning drifting about watering plants in the yard, reading emails, and out on the deck drinking my tea with the newspaper.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Table for one



          In the course of today’s errands I slowed down for a moment or two of reflection. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Horror in the dentist's chair


You could say last week was a festival for my head: first the ophthalmologist, then the dentist.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Brexit Exit





I’ve always been grateful my husband never went into politics. Maybe, just maybe, I could have managed being charming and fully dressed on a fairly regular schedule, but introductions have me completely beat. When I meet someone for the first time, I do the whole ‘repeat the name back’ thing and even try creating a picture in my mind with their name. No dice. Seconds later that name is wiped as clean as a school blackboard at 3:15.



Pity poor Mrs. Cameron. All that time shaking hands, asking after each child (by name, no less) of a constituent she hasn’t seen since hubby last ran for PM in 2010. And where did it get her? Frantically rounding up the toothbrushes and Larry the cat’s food bowls.




Last I heard, David Cameron was sticking around for a couple more months to help smooth the Brexit transition. Then out of the blue comes the announcement that today is his last day in office. Now David and Samantha are reduced to calling relatives to see who has a spare room.



Do the furnishings at 10 Downing remain for the next tenant as they do at the White House? At least that will simplify a move so sudden that you can’t help but check to see if the First Couple is being trailed by creditors.



And how does taking up residence at one of these stately homes work? Is it similar to the house we rent every year at Cape Cod? You know, couches (saggy) and dinette set (a bit worse for wear) are provided, but you have to bring your own sheets and towels.



My husband only ever reached the lofty position of Finance Committee in town, thankfully an appointed position. Looks like I came out ahead – we’ll have been in our house twenty years this January.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Caught between a litter box and a leash



We’ve been mired in a quandary here for weeks, asking ourselves – should we pull our feet out of our big metaphorical boots into the sloppy world of risk and commitment?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bean Binge




          The email from L.L.Bean trumpeted “20% Off!” so in an idle moment I scouted through the sale section to see if it might be possible to acquire a swimsuit for less than the cost of a week’s worth of groceries.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Christmas in July

     While we're on the subject of bike rides, here's a picture from another outing last week.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Slip of the mind



          The goal yesterday was a chunk of the bike trail from Easthampton to Northampton, about eight miles round trip. Biking still doesn’t come naturally to me - I only finally learned how to ride about five years after my kids did. But the sun was shining, a breeze was blowing, and more importantly, there was the prospect of a nice lunch afterwards. What could go wrong?

          The ride was like many before. Trees swept by on either side, we caught glimpses of backyards, and even went by a riding academy with the students in a row on their horses. We passed bicyclists going the other way, some riding two abreast, blissfully ignorant of my tendency to wobble unexpectedly into the other lane. I was still drawn like a lemming is to the sea to the four foot posts in the middle of the path marking intersections, and I almost ran into the sides of a bridge over the highway twice.
 At one point I had the bad judgment to release the handlebar long enough to adjust my tee shirt, nearly capsizing into the poison ivy creeping onto the asphalt. By mile five, certain parts of my body gave new meaning to the term “pants of fire”, and I marveled at how my husband, the man who causes me to hold my breath every time he descends our basement stairs, could swing so effortlessly backwards to check on me.

So lunch was well-earned and quite good – I had a grilled cheese sandwich mounded with fresh spinach and fat slices of tomato – but on the way back to the car we realized that our favorite water bottle was missing. I had a sinking recollection of parking it on the bumper ‘momentarily’ while we strapped the bikes to the rack. Instead of heading to the highway, back we went to the car park we had started from. 

We were halfway there when bone chilling noises filled the air. “This is it!” I thought. “Our 19 year old SUV has finally dropped an axle.” Fortunately, we were on a quiet road and we able to pull over immediately. 

The long arm of the Thule bike rack had dropped 90 degrees, dragging the bikes behind us on the road for at least fifty feet. After much untangling and assessing of damage, we managed to anchor the rack back up, tie the bikes on with some rope we had with us, and limp by way of back roads to our bike shop 45 minutes away.
Note the unnatural bend at bottom
They assured us the patients might survive and it might be no worse that a few bent wheels. 

Somehow the clip that holds the whole shebang must not have been securely in place. Hmmm. Makes my forgotten water bottle seem like not such a big deal after all, particularly since we could have been sailing down the highway at 60 miles an hour when disaster struck.