My very pregnant daughter was standing at her kitchen counter one morning eating some mushy stuff out of a bowl that looked like oatmeal but wasn’t. When I asked, she told me it was “Fauxtmeal”.

Just coming into the last days of completing a “Whole 30” elimination plan that seems to be trending right now – a clean-eating, month-long diet which cuts out sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains and legumes – her face was all glowy, probably from the glow of motherhood …or maybe the clean food actually contributed to that.  I am not particularly into diets (and well, OK, I look like it too) but have no problem eating something that originated from a diet plan if I like it. She had found a recipe for grain-free oatmeal on the internet, doubled it, slightly modified it and calls this fake oatmeal that contains no oats “Fauxtmeal”. I tasted her faux oatmeal…. and then I proceeded to eat the rest of the bowl.

Some nice mother I am, finishing off her pregnant daughter’s breakfast, right?  Since it was tasty enough to provoke stealing nutrition from my not-yet-born grandchild, I figure it is worth sharing.  I have really enjoyed mixing some up late in the morning or having a bowl after doing some gardening or a taking a walk. Although it doesn’t seem to fill me up the way a bowl of oatmeal or granola does, there is still something rather satisfying about it.  It feels healthy and it certainly is yummy.   If you are not doing a specific diet,  you could probably use milk in it too.  I use a mini food processor to chop it all up.




1 apple (cut it in chunks)

2 dates (take out the pit, cut in chunks – I use Medjool dates, they’re so good!)

2 TB coconut flakes (unsweetened)

2 TB slivered almonds  (I bet whole almonds or cashews would be fine too)

1 TB chia seeds (I want to call this optional. The chia makes it kind of crunchy.  I’ve used chia/hemp mixes too, but I think I like it better without the chia seeds).

Coconut milk (I use coconut water. You could also used almond milk, soy milk, etc.)

1  TB cashew butter (or more. Or any nut butter. Save this for the end.)


Put all the ingredients except the coconut milk and cashew butter in the processor and pulse until it’s all chopped up.  Then put it in your cereal bowl.

Pour some coconut milk (or your chosen liquid) into it and stir.

If you like it warmed up you can microwave for about 30 second (optional – we like it warmed up but you don’t have to, it’s fine cold too)

Add a tablespoon (or more) of cashew butter (or almond, or whatever nut butter you like) and stir it in.


For the source (or at least what was her source) the link is →  here.

Try some “Fauxtmeal”!  Tell me what you think!



Posted in Cooking, Diet, Food, Uncategorized, Weight | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Sourdough

“Why are we paying the price of whole wheat and artisan breads when we could be making it ourselves?” Almost to the day that the Significant Other made this economy-driven announcement, an old bread machine was synchronistically gifted my way.  It seemed an easy solution; since then, bread-making has been at least a weekly habit in this house.  I’ve been playing around with all sorts of combinations; whole wheat/oat/buckwheat/flaxseed, whole wheat/sunflower/wheat germ/bran, light whole wheat/pumpkin seed/rice flour, green chile/polenta/pepitas, caraway/orange/rye, and gluten-free combinations, just to name a few.  I mentioned that I had a fondness for sourdough bread, but he has turned up his nose at the suggestion, so I have not bothered to either buy it or bake it.

sourdough bread1

I crave this.

My mom was a major fan of all things bread, especially sourdough bread.  I might even say she was kind of a “bread-a-holic”. She just loved her bread.  It must be genetic.  Try keeping me away from a hot bread basket in a restaurant.  Although I can hear her say “Don’t fill up on bread before your meal”, we always did.  That San Francisco sourdough bread is as unique in taste as New York bagels are – there is just something different and special about where it comes from. With sourdough it’s the bacteria in the starter that lends the regional flavor. With bagels, it has been suggested it might be the water, although supposedly the skill of New York bagel makers might have something to do with it.  Fond memories surround sitting with my mom in her SoCal kitchen and swooning over sandwiches made with fresh sourdough bread…..the slight tang, the scent…the carbs!

Back to the present – the S.O. suddenly developed an interest in the health benefits of bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus in yogurt and kefir, or the lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods like kimchi.  Kimchi has been the new kick.  I cannot get on board with it, at least not yet, and I don’t think I ever will.  Have you ever gotten a whiff of kimchi?  To me it smells like raw sewage. Not only that, it looks like reconstituted road kill in a jar. There are few things that look less appetizing.  I realize there are some very big fans of kimchi out there, but getting past the smell to be able to eat it remains an issue here.  When he eats kimchi, I have to leave the house.  I mean it, the odor is that bad to me – and it lingers for hours.  Want to get rid of me?  Open up a container of kimchi, I’m out of here.


I can’t even look at this without feeling nauseous…

So I have been suffering through his kimchi phase, when all of a sudden he discovers that sourdough bread is supposed to be highly digestible and filled with B vitamins and is a good thing …..so why don’t I make some sourdough bread?  Amen.

The starter for sourdough contains lactobacillus and yeast, with Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis being the lactic acid bacteria that gives it that special taste.  Different parts of the country and areas of the world have their own strains of bacteria in the air, which eventually will permeate and give a regional flavor to your starter, no matter where it originated. So my sourdough really is not going to be exactly like the sourdough I ate and craved in California years ago with my mother, although it will taste similar, and honestly, some people probably can’t even tell.  Because I didn’t have an ancient “this has been in my family for generations” starter bestowed upon me,  I had to create my own. I have ended up with an Upstate New York River City Sourdough Starter.  And it’s pretty good.


My bubbling starter

Basically, starter is just flour and water –  I looked up a number of different ways to get one going from scratch.  There are a lot of interesting choices using grapes, orange juice pineapple juice…some recipes even call for yeast. But I finally decided on an easy one from King Arthur Flour. Figuring bread is their thing, it was simple and probably a safe bet.  One cup of whole wheat or rye flour and a half cup of water to begin.  After that it is a scenario of adding a measured proportion of regular baking flour and water and discarding part of the starter as you go along.  You use it, you feed it, you use it, you feed it. Any search will bring up step-by-step instructions from many sources.  Anyway, within a week I got a starter going with no problem.  It just fermented and bubbled up and was pretty exciting.  Just the aroma of it brought back floods of memories.

Some people seem to take their sourdough making very seriously.  There appears to be a lot of discussion, opinions and some passion surrounding individual approaches and methods. Apparently, some people actually name their starters too. I haven’t come up with a permanent name for mine yet, although in my head, without any clear reason, I have been referring to it as “Bob.” Suggestions welcome…..

Next, I had to figure out how to incorporate it into a bread machine recipe.  Yes, the process of letting bread rise, kneading it, letting it rise again and then into the oven is a satisfying and therapeutic thing.  They certainly look so much prettier as funky rounded loaves instead of that toaster-shaped weird hulk with a paddle-shaped hole in the bottom that you get from a bread machine. But I didn’t feel like being held hostage by my bread every four or five days. Bad enough I have this loose commitment of catering to this starter now. And the aesthetics are of no consequence as we attack it instantly, there being nothing like ripping into a loaf of hot, freshly baked bread.

I am still in the experimentation phase, making whole wheat,  half-whole wheat, and white varieties in the machine to see all the results.  A few times the breads have come out a little dense with not too many air holes in them and not rising as well as they could, although they still taste pretty good and have that tang.  Other ones have been great. I have not been able to figure out exactly what is happening that is causing the difference yet.  I soldier on.

A few times weird things happened with my starter because I was not paying attention.  Once or twice I fed it too much liquid and not enough flour and it became a little separated and soupy.  I corrected that.  Bob seems to be forgiving.

Yesterday I had a starter explosion. It grew into a massive, bubbling blob of science fiction madness overnight, leaving its container and taking over the top of the refrigerator, creeping towards other objects stored up there and adhering to everything it touched. It is really sticky stuff!  What a mess!   Perhaps I should name it “The Beast” or “The Blob”… or “Bob the Blob”. I removed some of it and spread it out to dry so I will have some dried starter flakes to store for another occasion, should I decide to deliberately kill off Bob the way I have historically killed off some of my house plants…..

1-starter flakes

Dried sourdough flakes


Apparently sourdough is getting a lot of attention lately – I just noticed the New York Times even had an article on it the other day. So not only are we sourdough addicts now, we are hip and trendy sourdough addicts and didn’t even know it!  Plain, toasted with good butter, and as french toast….I recently saw a pretzel recipe for it somewhere that might need some investigation too. Inhaling that aroma – ah!  And I get to have my Mom-flashback daily.

Sure beats kimchi.

Anyone want some sourdough starter, let me know…..



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Tale of the Traveling Chairs

The Great Divorce in our family took place in California back in the 1970’s. Along with moving herself and children to the bottom half of a stucco two-family house with a Spanish tile roof,  my mother launched into her new reality by making a considerably pricey purchase of four bentwood Thonet Hoffman style cane chairs made out of beech, imported from Poland, along with a simple butcher block table. The clean, simple 1920’s design of the furniture, which is attributed to Austrian architects Josef Hoffman and Josef Frank, was (I believe) representing her desire for a new, clear, uncluttered start in life.

The purchase of these chairs was not made lightly. She was careful and frugal; the chairs were pricey back then, which we were reminded of often enough when she asked us to “stop rocking back in that chair!” , to “sit up right in that chair!” and to “stop kicking that chair!” Having come from a background of very little, my mother cherished and took care of her possessions and expected the same respect from us.  Her furniture, along with everything else she owned, remained clean and intact for years.

thonet chair

A Thonet Hoffman style bentwood cane chair

Following his defection from the family, my father apparently also had plans for an uncluttered change.  His new apartment in Santa Monica was filled with glass, chrome, neutral colors, a girlfriend……and a new set of four Thonet Hoffman style bentwood cane chairs imported from Poland – identical to my mother’s.  Neither of them had any idea that the other had gone out and bought the exact same furniture upon separating. It was so odd that I was afraid to mention it to the other.  They really were more alike than either realized.

After a number of years, my remarried father and his chairs eventually made their way east to the state of Connecticut.  Due to a lifestyle change in both taste and income, a number of pieces of his furniture generously came up for grabs, including his four bentwood chairs.  Although they were really not “my style”, ever the scavenger, I ended up taking them to where I was then living in upstate New York (having migrated east myself) and added them to the hodge-podge of mismatched furniture in my kitchen.

Over the following years those cane chairs survived a Then-Husband and two children, a toddler nephew who lived with us for a while, a Then-Fiance, two almost step-children, everyone’s friends, numerous Thanksgivings, birthday parties and gatherings.  We have sat in them while drinking tea, glasses of wine, rolling cookie dough, coloring and drawing, dying Easter eggs, holding babies, doing homework and science projects, finishing taxes, mending clothes, sewing costumes, sharing secrets, arguing, laughing, crying.  They have held up under a lot.


A lot of history sitting in these chairs

The most abuse they took actually came from a much loved almost-uncle Bachelor Roommate who insisted on regularly plopping his entire weight down onto any chair or couch instead of just sitting down like a normal person. Because of his propensity for doing this, despite being constantly reminded not to, the cane attachments on the seats of a couple of the chairs began to break.  He also used to come home from his job in dirty clothes and sit on the furniture, which caused the cane seats to begin to darken, despite my diligent cleaning. Considering these chairs were coming into their third generation of use and had survived shipping across the ocean, transport across the country, been moved in the back of pick-up trucks, endured years of oatmeal, smashed peas and fidgety children and still held up well, it was a bit upsetting to have that happen. Sigh. Some guys, I swear…..


It’s a good thing we love him….

The other four chairs, my mother’s bentwood chairs, eventually also migrated east when she did, from California to Pennsylvania Amish country.  They remained in pristine condition until the day she died, when I took them home with me to upstate New York and united them at the table with my father’s more battered but otherwise identical chairs. Now I had eight of them, and I admit there was an odd satisfaction that although my parents were never together again, their chairs were. The chairs continued to survive teenagers, their girlfriends, boyfriends, family events and my Significant Other, who is also a bit rough on furniture.

Oldest Daughter grew up, moved out, married and had children.  I gave her the butcher block table and her grandparent’s eight chairs, which headed up to New England and ended up in the state of Rhode Island, where they have endured yet another generation of swinging legs and spilled sippy cups. The initial damage done by Bachelor Roommate has been exacerbated by a pack of little boys who are constantly in motion while they play with their trucks and Legos, causing the cane on some of them to finally give way.  The others –  probably originally my mother’s – have seen considerable use, although they are still intact. Eventually Oldest Daughter decided she needed something a bit more solid for her kids to sit on, and so she returned them to me – complete with crayon, oatmeal, milk, Play-Doh and other unidentifiable substances dried onto them.  In my mind I can see my mother’s face of disapproval at their condition, although I know she would have been happy they had gotten so much use, all the way down to her great-grandchildren.

The chairs have now made their way from Rhode Island back to upstate New York again, to the big old Victorian house where I presently dwell.  They have traveled  through at least two countries, resided in four states and witnessed a whole lot of life.

I wish I had a bright, airy sun porch or another room where these chairs could be utilized, but I don’t. They could be cleaned up and repaired, but the simple design of these Josef Hoffman style chairs are dwarfed by the high ceilings, large window frames and a fireplace mantle with heavy columns and roaring lion heads that adorn this old house.

2-lion head

They just don’t work well in this space.  Subsequently, they ended up in a storage garage, and most recently, dragged up to the attic.  Sadly and a bit surprisingly, other family members have no interest in them.

I kept thinking that “someday” I would be able to use them somewhere again.  I appreciate the simple design a lot more now than I did when I was younger.  Aside from the fact they once belonged to my parents who are no longer here, they also represented the new hopes, changes and fresh starts that each one of us who has owned them had experienced.  I have learned though that sometimes “someday” never comes.  (Conversely, I have also learned that often as soon as you get rid of something, you are suddenly in a position where you really could have used it).  However, feeling burdened by “too much stuff,” I decided it was finally time to let them go. But this is not the type of thing you just put up for grabs out on the sidewalk.  The chairs are still made today by Thonet and they are still expensive.


There are eight chairs lined up in the hallway downstairs at the moment, awaiting the scrutiny of a possible buyer who has expressed interest but may or may not show up, which seems to often be the case when trying to sell something these days.  If that falls through, they will probably end up at the local auction house.  I am anticipating there will be a feeling of lightness from unburdening once they are gone, but right now all I am feeling is a bit sad.

1-all the chairs





Posted in Divorce, Friends, Perspective, Regrets, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Our local nursery was having their annual Spring flower display, an early teaser, and it was raining, so I stopped there to get high.  On flowers.  I get pretty buzzed on flowers – it’s true.  Obviously  I am not the only one, as a number of people were tilting over, staring with blissed out looks on their faces, sniffing and staggering around…. clearly intoxicated.  In the background the sound of the waterfalls provided a kind of music.

I was focusing on the colors and could practically feel my pupils dilating as my brain took in the textures and juxtaposition.


The Renunculus looks like a monk’s saffron robe.  Even the name is trippy….Renunculus!


A crowd of tiny Jump-Up’s waving.  All those little faces looking up at you!  Are they scowling or are they happy? …Eeeeeeeeee!


Daffodils were trumpeting their golden trumpets!




And my favorite activity – huffing lilacs.  I could practically pass out from the scent of lilacs, couldn’t you?  Everybody was doing it.



I even saw some green fairies in the hellebore…..



When I finally pulled myself away and lurched out of there, I walked over to the koi pond and communed with the fish.  They gave me fish kisses. Fish Love.


High on flowers! A little taste to launch you into the garden season.






Posted in Gardening, Photography, Spring, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

What It Boils Down To

It’s that time of year in these colder regions where the maple sap is running.  This past weekend a number of local people have been busy boiling down their sap.  On a Saturday complimented by a stellar-blue jay sky, friends and I were invited to the beautiful property of some generous and lovely people for brunch and their maple syrup boil.  As I watched the sap bubbling in the evaporator, many memories resurfaced.

Back in the day (the good ol’ hippie days of youth which I periodically and sometimes achingly refer back to in this blog), there used to be an old dairy farm that periodically held barn sales in the large barn that fronted the road.  You could always find something useful there.

1-old dairy farm

At the time, most of my pots and pans and dishes had come from the barn.  I had picked up a number of Warner and Soule cast spiles (taps), thinking they were kind of interesting and figured one day I might use them.  Sure enough, a few years later while living on acres of woods filled with maples,  we decided to tap them. The spiles worked just fine and looked similar to this:

09-maple spile-001

I didn’t have enough though, so I added a few of the more modern Grimm spouts like these:

10-maple spiles2-001

We had a very simple, great big evaporator that someone graciously made us out of stainless sheet metal.  It sat on cinder blocks surrounding a rather smoky fire, which we diligently tended to for hours and hours.  It took a lot of time and a whole lot of wood to keep it going.  Luckily, we had both plenty of time and plenty of wood back then. Even though it meant standing out in the cold all day long (including in cold drizzle), the time was spent with friends and family, being warmed by the fire we were feeding, “shooting the breeze,” getting lost in quiet reflection, and just enjoying each other’s company. It really ended up being a social event of sorts, devoid of electronic distractions. Food, of course, would follow. Metaphorically, what it boiled down to was much more than syrup.


This is the evaporator our friends have, which is actually nicer than the home-made one we had years ago, but ours worked pretty much the same way.

By the time darkness would begin to fall, we would be more than ready to come inside. At this point the sap would be boiled down a considerable amount so that it began to thicken.  It would then be scooped out of the evaporator and brought into into the house to be finished off on the stove – either the woodstove or the kitchen stovetop. This caused the windows to become ridiculously steamy, so the less you did inside, the better.

At the very end was the prize – delicious amber maple syrup and a sense of satisfaction.  It truly is liquid gold, especially if you consider that depending on the percentage of sugar content of your sap,  it could take many, many gallons of sap – maybe twenty to as much as eighty! –  to make even one gallon of maple syrup.  That’s a whole lot of boiling.  After the first year I did it on a much smaller scale using the wood stove in the house to get a cup or two at a time.  But needless to say, the end product was highly coveted.  Aside from using it on French toast and pancakes, it is a family ritual to pour it over freshly fallen snow to make “maple snow”.  Sap that had not thickened too much was poured into ice pop molds and frozen to made tasty maple pops too.

maple syrup snow

maple syrup on the first fresh snow

Back to the present day, after a wonderful brunch and a crisp, sunny afternoon outdoors, we were sent home with a jar from our host’s private stash.  I am grateful for both the hospitality and the trigger of  filtered memories.

1-maple syrup










Posted in Friends, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Little Black Book is Blue

Not that long ago it seems, before cell phone contact lists and computer address databases, there was The Address Book.  Even though that information is stored on both my phone and in a computer file, stashed in a top drawer of the night stand I still keep the address book that my mother gifted me years ago.  It has botanical drawings on the cover. I think of her every time I look at it and it makes me happy to see it.  There is something satisfying about physically feeling the cover and opening it to see what is inside.  It is a bit outdated, but I try to keep it as current as possible. As a backup to technology, there is something personal and real about having it.

address book seed leaf

For the sake of portability in the pre-smartphone days, I also had a little address book that fit in purse or pocket. Back then, if you really wanted to be mysterious you kept a “little black book”. And if you aspired to appear popular, that little black book would be filled with names and numbers of potential dates and romantic interests, although mine was filled with neither.  Well, okay, maybe a few.  It was pretty tiny – only a couple of inches high in fact.  And actually, my little black book was blue, only because they were out of black ones the day I bought it.

This little book has been obsolete for decades.  I stumbled upon it the other day for the umpteenth time as I was looking for something else.  It was lying underneath other outdated things at the very back of one of those drawers you never open.  Periodically it turns up and I think “Oh, I should look through this thing and then get rid of it”, before it returns to the oblivion of the drawer again. Finally I have addressed the address book.  Not only did it take me back but also aback.  I could not help reflecting upon a few observations.

At least half of the entries were written in pencil. This was a deliberate move due to the transient nature of the people that I knew. We were young and in flux.  Only those who you could pretty much count on to have any sense of permanence were considered ink-worthy.


As I flipped through each page, it was sobering to note how many people listed were no longer living. The elder generation of course – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, their friends. But there were also peers who had passed on, which caused me to stop and reflect on that. It didn’t seem possible.

Perhaps blue was an appropriate color for that book, as most of the couples listed were no longer couples anymore either. The little book reads like a Directory of Divorce.  Out of an entire A through Z there are actually only four couples left on those pages who are still together after a few decades.  Not only that, but hardly anyone was still residing at the same address listed anymore – except for the four couples who also happened to be the ones still married; apparently complacent in both relationship and location. Everyone else seems to have moved out or moved on, sometimes numerous times, indicated by the multiple erasures.  Even some of the ink-worthy people had cross-outs.  Practically all of the phone numbers were obsolete too.

Lastly, there were a few transient friends who I did not expect or desire to ever be in touch with again in this lifetime, and at least one where I had to stop for a minute and wonder “who is this and why are they in my book?”  There was only one “I wonder if they are still there?” address that was worth saving, and I copied that onto my computer with the more current information. As I went through each page, I tore it out and put it into the shredder until they were all gone.

I was left with two things – the empty blue cover and a profound sense of the impermanence of life.





Posted in Aging, Friends, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments


The Significant Other is self-employed in the construction trade and is kind of a “Mr. Fixit.”  Following a recent accident which required some surgery, the involuntary down-time has kept him home for much of the week.  He is pretty good at down-time when it is on his terms, but when the choice is not his he tends to get antsy and needs to fiddle around with stuff in the barn or around the house.  There is plenty to focus on that needs fixing around this house so I was hoping something would grab his interest.  Clearly we all have a different interpretation regarding priorities.

I have my own list. At the top of that list is installing railing on the back steps and porch so you don’t go falling off the edge, which is something I have been anticipating for the last six months (the falling over the edge part). After that would be heavy things that need to be carried.  As for easier inside work if one was wont to be looking for a project,  I would choose using the drill gun to put screws into these old plaster walls so all the artwork that has been waiting forever to get hung up can be hung up.  Yes, I could do that myself, but then I have to hear “Look what you did, you cracked the wall” (OK, Guilty; for some reason when I put screws into these 100+ year old walls, they tend to chip and crack and when he does it, they don’t. I chalk that up to his practice on the job, but, whatever.)  Bottom line is there is a lot of stuff to be hung up that is lying around.

There are also window shades to be hung in his man-cave.  They were purchased because they are room-darkening. There are woven rattan shades that I put up years ago, but you can see through them and they let light in.  With the room darkening shades installed beneath them he can watch TV on a bright day and be able to see the TV screen. But more importantly it is because the man-cave faces the street, so when he is watching TV or the lights are on at night you can see right into the room from the sidewalk.  Personally I find it kind of tacky and a little bit creepy when I am out with the dog late at night and happen see some guy standing around a room in his underwear as I walk past a house. I don’t want us to be that house (or him to be that guy).   Although he knows this and went out and bought the shades, that is where the idea died. Perhaps there is an inner exhibitionist I was unaware of, because at this writing, the shades have been waiting there for exactly fourteen (14) months.

window shades

Fourteen months

So how did he spend his recuperative week of antsiness?  What was his Mr. Fixit priority? Dimmer switches.  He spent hours installing dimmer switches.

I will preface the forthcoming rant by saying I am a fan of dimmer switches on dining room overhead lights, should you want to eat your dinner with lower lighting.  And the S.O. felt there should be one in the main bathroom, should you want to take a long relaxing bath that is not beneath bright glare.  That makes sense to me.  What does not make sense is why he decided to install dimmer switches to every other place in the house. They are everywhere!

He put a dimmer switch over the microwave (romantic mood lighting over the reheatable leftovers?) and one on the lighting over the counter near the refrigerator.  The reason the


inaccessible microwave mood lighting

lights over the kitchen counters were installed in the first place was to provide some light while cooking because it was too dark.  If you dim them, it becomes too dark again to see what you are doing. Plus you now can’t even reach the switch because it is behind the microwave.  There is also one over the kitchen sink.  The light over the sink needs to be bright in order to see when you are washing the dishes, but now you have the option of cleaning the pots and pans under a warm glow in case you really don’t want to see what is stuck on them.

He added two dimmer switches in the half-bathroom, one over the mirror. It seems if you are bothering to look in the bathroom mirror it would be to check for something in your eye, in your teeth, on your face  – so you would need a good strong light in order to see, right? Why would you dim the lights over the sink?  Am I crazy here? Why?


You can’t see yourself so you must look good

He installed dimmer switches in the bedroom overhead lights.  The reason I like the overhead lights to be bright is so that I can see when I am cleaning, while vacuuming, or to find something that rolled under the bed.  Otherwise there are table lamps for more ambient lighting.  Again, I don’t get it.

But the one that has floored me the most is the switch that is now installed to dim the outside porch light over the front door.  Isn’t the point of having a light over the door so that you can find your key and open the door at night, or to look out from the inside and see who is out there knocking in the dark?

As an aside, most of the switches in this house are ivory color.  The dimmer switches he used are all porcelain bright white and so they don’t match the other switches or the switch plates.  Some don’t even have switch plates.  There must have been a big sale on white dimmers or something that just couldn’t be resisted.


Haute Decor – the white/ivory/almond switch combo

And finally, they are all covered with black hand-prints as if a kindergarten class just ran through…..adding another project to my own to-do list.  OK, it’s first world problems for sure. I’m lucky to live in a house. I’m lucky to have electricity!  But I have to wonder – is this one of those Mar/Venus things?  Am I missing a good point somewhere as to the logic behind this?  Is this kind of weird?

dimmer switch

Who needs switch plates?





Posted in Are you kidding me?, Humor, Perspective, Rant, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Don’t Steal This Book

My books are like old friends.  When it comes time to purge items from the home, the most difficult items to reduce seem to be the books.  Even when I know I am not going to be reading a particular one for a while, I pick it up, thumb through it, put it down again, find myself getting lost in it and often it never makes it out of the house. Having them in the bookcase seems to bring a sense of familiarity, connection and well-being. There are plenty of us who feel this way – there is something so interesting and homey about a bookshelf.

Out of the long-standing “keepers” are a number of bird identification books  – some of them are pretty old but have always been helpful figuring out who landed at the feeder or has been spotted in a tree.  From this collection, both the Peterson guide and the Audubon Field Guide have seen some hard use over the years. I can’t quite remember if one of the puppies of long ago got hold of it or if it was visited by mice while boxed up in an attic between moves, but something chewed much of the spine off the Audubon guide.


Although the book was still usable, seeing this has continually bothered me, bringing up feelings of annoyance, disappointment and/or dismay at any given time (which makes me think it was probably mice that did this, because I don’t reluctantly smile about it as I might had it been a puppy.)  Although the book is no longer “nice”, I have not quite been able to find the justification for replacing it.  So what if the spine was a little bit chewed off?  You don’t judge a book by its cover, right? It doesn’t affect the contents and has been that way for decades.

A recent purge led to reducing the book accumulation just a tiny bit more.  Seeing the Audubon book on the shelf caused that same feeling of annoyance/disappointment/dismay to hit me once again.  Opening it, a couple of pages that used to be attached to the binding started to come loose and I thought to myself “you know, there is nothing stopping you from replacing it”.  Cosmetics is one thing, construction another.  Being able to justify it to my own weird standards, instead of buying a new one I decided to look for another used one, but in better shape – why not?  Somehow that felt righteous, if that makes any sense.

The copy I found on the internet claimed to be in “good” condition, and was actually even an updated version of the one I had.  The book arrived.  Technically it is in “good” condition.  There are no pages missing and the spine is intact.  At one time it had belonged to a library before being pulled out of circulation.  This is not the first time I have purchased old library books from book fairs and the like.  However, it was clear this library was making damn sure that nobody was going to walk off with their book while still in their possession! This book screams “Not Yours!”

The name of the library is stamped on all three sides –  the top, bottom and along the outside of the pages, so any way you look at it you know where it came from.


Just in case that was not enough to remind you whose book it was, the name is also stamped on the inside in great big letters.


And if you happen to miss that, there is a strip with a bar code on the inside so it can be scanned when checked out. The strip was perfectly in place; it is peeled off a bit in the photo because I was working to try and carefully peel it off the book.  It wasn’t going anywhere – it is glued on pretty securely.


If you happened to miss the bar code strip on the inside, not to worry because there is also another one glued to the outside of the book (which, as you can see, I have also been working on removing, requiring solvent).


There was yet another identifying sticker on the book, but I had managed to remove it before deciding to take some photos, but you get the idea.  I have yet to go through the entire book, but would not be surprised if there were stamps or stickers (or hidden cameras) somewhere within too.

Such diligence on the part of the Duxbury Free Library, which resides somewhere in a state that I do not live in, is rather impressive.  Their efforts pretty much spell out Do Not Steal This Book, or at the very least, This Book Does Not Belong To You.  Out of curiosity, I looked up the website to see who these determined people are.  It appears to be a pretty nice library, filled with smiling people, events, and plans in the works to create an outdoor “reading garden”.
I have always felt the library is a magical place, a haven and a gateway, a portal allowing you to get lost into other worlds. As a matter of fact, my very first official on-the-books (no pun intended) job ever was in a public library.

Perhaps this sounds strange, but now that I am the new bird guide owner, even though I am happy to be part of the recycle process, I feel almost illegal walking around with my replaced copy…..as if I dared to take it into the field, people would see it and whisper “Aha! Library book thief!”






Posted in Are you kidding me?, Birds, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Machine Age

You would think I had grown up in the days of my grandmother or possibly my great-grandmother if you saw the kind of appliances I had in my house, right up into the 1990’s.  As a twenty-something and even a thirty-something, it appeared we somehow had not made it into the modern age.  I don’t know how it happened, but there was quite the regression from what my own mother had.  While my friends were having bridal showers and receiving shiny new appliances,  I was living in a time warp.

I suppose much of it had to do with coming of age during the hippie years, during a period when many people were looking towards self-sufficiency.   There is something attractive – both functional and charming – about an old kitchen tool, especially while living in old houses with vintage kitchens in the country.  The attraction for these things at flea markets and antique venues is testament to that.

My thought at the time – Was it really necessary to have most appliances?  Then there was some unexplained and possibly paranoid thoughts about “What if the power goes out?”

Starting with the basics, just to put it out there,  our main heat source was a wood stove.  OK, that is not something unusual – plenty of people I know still heat with wood.  There is a satisfaction and beauty in heating with wood, being warmed by wood heat, drying your mittens, cooking your pancakes and finishing off your maple syrup boil over wood heat. Just something very basic about it.

wood stove

The kitchen stove was one of those propane stoves that didn’t have a pilot light.  You had to light it with a match, which meant there was an old kitchen match holder on the wall next to the stove to facilitate that.   To get the oven going meant getting that match at just the right angle to fit inside the tiny hole in the bottom of the oven, then quickly pulling your hand away as soon as it went “boof”.   When that oven lit,  it was a very satisfying feeling.  When it didn’t, it was a little scary.  Between the wood stove and that kitchen stove, if you ran out of oil or the power was out, at least you still had heat and could also cook a meal.

Kitchen tools included a rotary egg beater – the kind with the handle that you turn; a mezzaluna crescent chopper; a mortar and pestle; cast iron pans and dutch ovens that could also be used on the wood stove,  a coffee pot that you heated up on top of the stove, a glass citrus juicer, a big canning pot and an old wooden hand-crank ice cream maker. I also had the toaster that was in my mother’s kitchen when I was a little girl – the kind with a fabric cord.

griswold cast iron pan

Along with a number of acoustic instruments, in the living room was one of those 100-year old upright pianos that nobody wants anymore because they are so huge and almost impossible to move.  This one had yellowed, chipped ivory and ebony keys, and a wobbly claw-foot piano stool.

Also in the living room was my sewing machine –  a treadle – the kind you pump back and forth with your feet. I made curtains, quilts, repairs and even some clothes on that machine….. and for a while had some serious calf muscles!

singer treadle

We had oil lamps as back-ups “just in case” the power went out.  They came in handy.

When we weren’t going to the laundromat, I was washing clothes in a tub with a zinc washboard and a wringer and hanging them out on the clothesline with wooden clothespins.  I can’t believe I am typing this, but it’s true. Not only did I wring out the clothes, but I used to run my long braids through the wringer after swimming to get the excess water out.


To mow the lawn we had a metal push mower.

Essentially, if the power was out for a good while in winter, we would still be able to heat the house, sit by the fire, cook a meal, bake bread, sew clothing, read, play music, do the laundry.  Sounds rather romantic and cozy, doesn’t it?  It was.  A little bit “Little House on the Prairie” even.  It felt safe.  But it was also a lot of work……

The first machine to come into the household was the electric mixer, a hand-me-down.   To be able to mix and bake without turning that crank or trying to recruit someone to take a turn was such a joy.  I retired the rotary mixer to a bottom drawer (because hey, if you lose power and you feel absolutely compelled to bake….)

Next came the blender.  Somebody gave me their old blender, a lovely stainless one-speed Oster that was so powerful it could even crush ice.  I was amazed at how convenient and nice that was.  I wish I still had it.  That  one disappeared in a move and was replaced by a 1970’s model.IMG_4018

Following that was an appliance bonanza – first a gift of a food processor and the following year an electric food dehydrator.   The mezzaluna also retired to that bottom drawer. There was an electric ice cream maker that eventually broke. And a more high-tech orange juice squeezer that disappeared somewhere. And two pasta makers.  Wish I had one of them now….

With the advent of children the washer and dryer arrived.  I could still well up with tears thinking about how wonderful it was to have a washer and dryer.  Washboard relegated to the attic.  Antique ringer sold.

After that, the appliances seemed to accumulate with steady speed.  Some have not lasted but others are still here.  Even though most of them have either been gifts or tag sale finds, they are still taking up space.  I seem to have guilt about having so many of these items, even if they are used.  After thinking about it, I walked around the house and took a tally.  This is what I found (bear with me….as I list these things I am impressed/amazed/dismayed):

– No more wood stove.  We heat with a furnace now.  Although there are things I do miss about wood heat, I don’t miss the mess, the splinters, the dry skin, and the years of walking around smelling like a barbecue.  I am a big fan of the thermostat as a primary source. Would love the wood stove as a back up again though…..

– The antique piano is long gone.  The piano stool remains.  Anyone looking for an antique piano stool?

piano stool

– Washer and dryer.  Amen.  Amen.

–  Electric sewing machine.  And a serger.  The treadle made a charming end table for many years.  I really liked the way it looked but I sold it during one of my many moves. The serger…..well, I have no patience to thread it.  It brings out the worst in me, impatience and frustration rearing its ugly face.  Anyone looking for a like-new serger?

– Vacuum cleaner.  A decent one.

– Electric lawn mower for a little lawn (following the gas mower given away for that once-upon-a-time big lawn).

– Toaster oven

– Regular pop-up toaster….with slots wide enough for a bagel!

– Microwave

Food processor (OK, it’s over 30 years old, but it is a food processor)

– Mini food processor (this one is about 20 years old but it means you don’t have to take out the big one for everything)

Blender (as above, also about 30 years old)

– Little Bullet blender (for little blending)

– Stand Mixer. THIS! I have seen brides get these Kitchen Aid stand mixers as shower gifts over the years. I used to scoff.  I had no idea how wonderful they are.  Instead of standing there holding the electric hand mixer (remember that big improvement over the rotary one? ) while your wrist goes numb and batter spatters all over the counter, you can turn it on and go about grating or scraping or cooking or adding ingredients or whatever, while this thing continues to mix up your stuff.  Who knew?  I can’t believe I waited until the sixth decade for a stand mixer.  They are pricey but…if not now, when?

-but still have the electric hand mixer (for those little jobs).

– Hot-air popcorn maker

Salad spinner

– Vegetable juicer (big! heavy! Takes out the pulp. This is supposed to make you healthier)

– Coffee maker

– Spice grinder (mortar and pestle to bottom drawer)

– Blender wand ($2.00 garage sale find.  Use it often for soups and dal)

– A few stainless steel pots and pans

– and most recently, a used, free bread maker (how could I resist?) that gets used every four days.  When you are making bread every four days it’s a nice thing to have…

bread maker

None of the above appliances is buried in the back of a cabinet never to see the light of day… or not for long. Even though some of them are no longer state-of-the-art, they absolutely all get used and they make everything so much easier.  I adore my stand mixer, it has made baking even more pleasurable. And I would surmise that most middle-class American homes have most of these things; at least those homes where people cook regularly.  So why does looking at all this stuff bring out such uncomfortable feelings?

It is a bit overwhelming to see the amount of appliances that have accumulated.  Looking around the kitchen, I feel a bit pressed upon.  Opening up a cabinet, there they are, taking up a lot of space.  They really need their own pantry just to neatly house them all.  An “appliance room” to get them off of and out from under the counters. I imagine some people might actually have that very thing.  As I look around at all these machines and gadgets, I have to admit it gives me a twinge of anxiety.

We are living in a machine age. Televisions, cell phones, computers – just the tip of the iceberg.  Denying technology would be like sticking your head in the sand.  However, there was an aesthetic about the old appliances, the way they were made, the decorative details on some of them, the function.  They had an appeal to them and there was a meditation at times in using them.  Perhaps I have just slipped into that Era of Grandmother – a tug of wistful nostalgia for those simpler times.

wood stove1




Posted in Aging, Cooking, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Bowl of Good Fortune

Returning from the weekly excursion to our uptown farmer’s market, I added sweet white donut peaches and local apples to the avocados, tiny Seckel pears and other staples already filling this bowl of good fortune.   This vision required the need to stop and appreciate such beauty of bounty, my thoughts reflecting a silent prayer of thanks.

daeja's fruit

Posted in Diet, Food, Perspective, summer, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Telekinesis of Grief

This is an odd thing that I have only shared with a very small handful of people because it is so weird. I have often wondered if anyone else has had the same experiences, and after giving it some serious debate, have hesitantly decided to put it out there.  First off, I would like to make it quite clear that I am sane (really!), credible, not delusional.  Next, I would like to state that this could just be coincidence, but it is rather odd.  Despite the title of this post, I am not talking about pencils skittering across a table or fruit floating in the air.

To begin, it is no secret that when one sense begins to deteriorate, others often become heightened to take up the slack.  It is upon this premise which I base my thoughts on these experiences.  It has been an unfortunate situation that my hearing has been deteriorating for quite some time.  Because of this, intensely focusing on visuals in order to garner cues to what is going on around me has become a way of life, as it is for all people with the sense of sound diminished.  Of course, this heightened scrutiny brings on a different sort of awareness.  Body language, the most minute of facial expression, a general aura about a person  – all this reveals extra information that does not require hearing.

auraColors evoke extra strong emotions.  The sense of smell has become so acute that I am sometimes floored by certain perfumes and scented products, where once upon a time they didn’t bother me.  Beyond being able to tell the obvious – who had garlic for dinner or drank beer the night before –  it is sometimes possible to detect the odor of a medication.  The scent of the world in nature has become more powerful than ever, giving the smallest hint of what it must be like to be an animal in the wild. But even more abstractly I have noted the ability to discern and react to someone’s discomfort or happiness, the smell of  fear and of joy.  It is barely perceptible and not always present, but something that has been experienced.

howling wolf

People who lose a sense often are able to pick up on energy.   After a few experiences, I have to wonder if a person can also emit some sort of energy field that can manifest itself in odd ways.

The experience of profound grief; the loss of a loved one, be it through death, divorce, a parting of ways; the diagnosis of a serious illness; hitting the bottom of addiction; the loss of a home or a livelihood, or of everything you ever owned; a catastrophic event;  circumstances beyond our control….. whatever those scenarios might be, they affect us deeply and leave us wide open and raw.  What I noticed was the most peculiar of phenomena when at my own most grievous, vulnerable, totally blown away moments.  There seems to be a disruptive, almost electrical charge that happens, some sort of positive/negative emission that possibly makes these things occur. Or at least it has seemed that way.

To start, my hearing aid batteries instantly die, one after another. When it seems I just cannot bear one more thing, the batteries will suddenly pop, leaving me floundering and bewildered.  OK, it is not so unusual to have a battery die.  I will put a new one indead HA batteries ….and the next one will instantly  stop working too.  Must be a few defective ones….try another and the same thing happens.  Must be a bad package!  Try a new pack and they keep blowing up, one after another.  So it must be that the hearing aid is bad.  First one hearing aid totally dies…..then the other one shuts down too within a few hours.

But wait!  I actually have back up aids just in case….put in a back up hearing aid and that too dies within the hour. How can this be? So I put in yet ANOTHER back up to the back up (I save everything, you can see why) …and that one dies too.  This has happened not once, but a number of times during periods of  intense stress.

It is not only the hearing aids.  Phone calls will keep disconnecting. Light bulbs also blow out more than usual during the incidences of great tension and emotional strain.   It has been so noticeably bizarre that I have wondered how much of a coincidence it is, or if some sort of energy charge comes off me to cause this.  It has happened enough that I have (jokingly, but not)  felt like some sort of low-key Carrie, unbidden, destructive phenomena swirling around my emotions.

1-carrieOn a particular day following a terrible personal loss, with batteries dying and light bulbs freakily popping, I reluctantly got into the car to drive my kids to an appointment.  With a non-functioning hearing aid, shaking hands and just on the verge of being late – probably too upset to attempt going anywhere – a tall box truck suddenly pulled out from a parking lot up ahead and caught some low hanging wires, ripping off a large piece of metal that anchored the cables to the telephone pole. They were pulled loose, causing a metal box to swing down from the air, Tarzan-style, crashing through my windshield and showering all of us with shattered glass.

1-broken windshieldI am not trying to be new-agey here.  All of this could be coincidence. Or not.  I am wondering if anyone else experiences this kind of an event during times of great pressure or deep grief.  Do your hearing aid batteries die when you are stressed? Does something else occur that you notice when you are grieving?  Do you think we emit some sort of electrical current that can cause these things?

lightening strike

Posted in Are you kidding me?, Coping, Deafness, grief | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Looking Up

I just happened to have another one of those oddly moving parking lot experiences.

It is a hot, bright August day with a slight tinge of humidity in the air.  Despite the delicious temptation of slabbing out in front of the fan with a book, I needed to venture out for some groceries.  As soon as I turned out from the tight, tree-lined streets of our neighborhood, it started to get exciting.

Approaching the local somewhat seedy little shopping plaza revealed a dramatic view of the clouds building up over the mountains in the northwest.  For some reason they set my heart racing.  The contrasts of dark and light, all of that serious billowing happening, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off them.

parking lot cloudsAs I turned each corner towards the  plaza, glimpses of the contrasting clouds would appear and disappear between the buildings of this small city.  When I finally got to the plaza parking lot, I stopped my car right in the middle of the hot pavement and stood there.  My mouth was probably open. They were so moody, threatening a possible shift in weather.

This long, dark one was hanging in the western sky.

moody parking lot cloudI ran into the bank for a minute and when I came out, this big pillow-y one was on the eastern horizon:

billowy parkinglot cloudWhat I couldn’t understand is why nobody else was looking up?  Here we were, not in an idyllic spot of nature in the country or on the water at sunset, but in a ratty old city supermarket parking lot in the middle of the afternoon, surrounded by this spectacular display of nature.  It was a gift. There was something so visceral about it, my nostrils were flaring.

parkinglot clouds2People were walking in and out of the food store with their heads down or looking at their cell phones.  Nobody seemed to notice the sky show.

parkinglot clouds3 The parking lot was hot and smelled strongly of tar patch, as they were in the process of  repairing it. Reluctantly I grabbed my grocery bags out of the trunk and turned to head into the store to do my shopping.  As I closed the hatch of my car I saw this lovely reflection in the glass:

car cloudsHeading inside, one lone raindrop landed on my shoulder.   I was expecting to come out afterwards having to dodge hail stones with a cart full of groceries, but it never happened. Just more glorious, dramatic clouds.

more parkinglot cloudsSunrises and sunsets are always special, but this whole sky experience in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a city parking lot was especially unique. It made my chest ache, it was so beautifully, unexpectedly unusual.  I wanted to yell at everybody, “HEY PEOPLE, STOP AND LOOK AT THE SKY!!!”

I guess my head is in the clouds….

parkinglot clouds5~*~

Posted in Perspective, Photography, summer, Uncategorized, Weather, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

West Wind

Last night the west wind blew down all the cherry blossoms from the tree across the street. They landed on our side of the road, gathering in a lovely line of candy-pink bubblegum bliss along the curb. I was filled with child-like excitement to find this.

pink snowIlluminated by the early morning light, the petals seemed to glow, a hint of pink snow left behind after The Cat in the Hat and his friends had departed.

pink snow2I stood there with my dog and took in the magic.

pink snow3By mid-morning they had scattered and were gone.


Posted in Perspective, Spring, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Cheese Puff Bliss

You never know when and where you might discover a moment of contentment.  It feels like a gift when those times happen unbidden and unexpectedly.

Having just finished shopping and while loading my groceries into the trunk of the car, I spied the bag of cheese puffs – a last minute impulse buy – took them into the driver’s seat with me and ripped into them, not even waiting to get home first. There I sat in the parking lot of the Hannaford Supermarket, this being one of the first spring days following this way-too-long winter, stuffing my face with Pirate’s Booty White Cheddar Puffs, the  sun coming through the windshield while I watched that small section of the world go by.

There wasn’t a whole lot of action happening in the parking lot, although this particular Hannaford does seem to have more diverse and interesting characters frequenting it than some of the others I have shopped at.  There is nothing attractive about our local Hannaford’s parking area; as a matter of fact, it is a rather dismal expanse of broken pavement and weeds, still covered in unsightly, exhaust-blackened snowbanks.   And yet, as I sat there within the sun-warmed interior of the car with my bag of Pirate’s Booty, savoring each puff and watching high clouds move across a late afternoon sky of utmost blue, a feeling of great contentment washed over me.  I actually felt inexplicably happy in the moment.  And although I dislike the phrase “feeling blessed”, finding its trendy overuse on social media a bit obnoxious and somewhat self-aggrandizing, I will admit that buried within the happiness that lay within the contentment, there might actually have been the slightest sliver of a blessed moment involved.  Or perhaps more accurately it should be called an awareness of gratefulness.

Despite all manner of worry that sits heavy on my mind and heart regarding so many serious issues, right then and there I became aware of the good fortune to be sitting comfortably in my own car, absorbing the sunny warmth of an early spring day, able to afford a few bags of groceries and enjoy some baked cheese puffs. The privilege was not lost on me. The moment lasted about long enough to finish off half the bag. Not a great while, but enough time to acknowledge that it was indeed a Moment happening, and that it was good, this cheese puff bliss.

Watching a bird at the feeder; enjoying a hot cup of tea; laughing with an old friend; a morning phone call from your children; coming home to a dog with a wagging tail, and yes, even sitting in your car eating a bag of cheese puffs in a supermarket parking lot on a sunny day – each like so many semi-precious stones.  Strung together they make a lovely necklace.




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The Power of Skunk

Skunk wafting on the wind is a scent I actually enjoy.  There has been an especially strong aroma lingering around the back of the house for the last couple of weeks.  Honestly, at first I thought either someone spilled a keg of beer in the road or it was the aroma of marijuana drifting over from the neighbor’s place……and if it was summertime, where everyone was out on their front porches or having barbeques in the back yards, it might have been one or the other.  But we are surrounded by feet of snow at the moment. And I happen to know that this time of the year – around February/March actually – is skunk mating season. With a gestational period of sixty-six days, that brings their litters right into spring.

The skunks on those vintage valentine cards (vintage now being my childhood)….did anyone ever wonder what skunks had to do with amour? It is because that is the time when the skunks are out seeking love.  And probably getting run over in the road while doing it.  I read that somewhere, really!  It is one of those pieces of trivia that continues to swirl around in my brain.  So in a way, they are a very early harbinger of Spring.  A scent of hope.  And for people like me, who really and truly enjoy a light tinge of skunk in the air, it evokes pleasant memories.

skunk valentineBut my intention today is not to write about animal husbandry, but about this Endless Winter that is Almost Over.  It seems like every few days here in the northeast we get hit with a few more inches of snow.  And in between the snow there is ice; lots and lots of ice. And along with that there have been weeks where the temps did not get above freezing and long stretches where the thermometer read sub-zero digits.

I was priding myself on how well I was navigating The Endless Winter.  This one was going to be a relative breeze.  Commuting is no longer an issue for me – that long ride over the bridge and down slushy, winding two lane roads is over.  Working outside in the elements is also now a thing of the past.  Every time I see a highway sander or snowplow go by, I silently thank the Universe that it is no longer me riding in one.  And I thank those that are out there doing it too.

Because I now have this small dog and do not have an enclosed area to let him out into, it means having to walk him multiple times a day.  I got myself a pair of ice cleats, making these enforced excursions more of a sure-footed adventure.  All bundled up in multiple layers; colorful ski hats with pom-poms, sweatshirts, vests, sweaters and scarves, the S.O.’s giant down coat over it all, and especially my mother’s boots, which have been worn daily this entire long season, keeping my feet “warm as toast”,  I have been out at a variety of odd times and am surprised to admit having enjoyed those moments.  There is something magical about walking late at night in a snowstorm, or being the first set of footprints in the quiet blue dawn amidst newly fallen snow.

nobody out but usEach new storm has been celebrated with a clean, fresh bowl of snow powder doused with real maple syrup, which is something I have been doing since I was a kid.

maple syrup snowEven when it got down to sixteen degrees below zero here one early morning, everything seemed doable.  The house was warm.  The street lamps dazzled with illuminated flakes and ice crystals.  Lights from the house windows cast a warm glow.  Snow blowers sent impressive arcs of white up into the sky.  My indoor houseplants bloomed and lent a contrast of color.  Winter sunsets glowed pink and orange through frosted windows.

my winter sunset

Friends and family that have been enjoying the sunny beaches of Florida, southern California, Oman, Goa, Puerto Rico…..posting photos of surf, sun, sand…..none of this seemed to bother me, and I impressed myself with what I imagined was good ol’ northern resilience. I hunkered down and baked brownies, super-duper healthy hippie coconut oatmeal cookies and ginger snaps embedded with chocolate chips.

hot buttered rum winter breadI cooked stews and healthy soups, whipped up lots of spicy Indian dal, roasted fragrant rosemary chicken, warm breads sprinkled with herbs, brews of hot cocoa, chai, buttered rum.  Cozy under a blanket, I watched movies, read books, crocheted.

I was seriously rocking winter and feeling pretty smug about it.  But then I smelled that skunk, and it all went out the window, abruptly ending this winning winter streak.

The sidewalks and driveway are covered in small glaciers and patches of black ice, a perfect slip-and-fall scenario waiting to happen. There is no place to safely ambulate – all you can do is shuffle.

Even the dog does not want to walk anywhere, and I find myself shivering and muttering “Hurry up, hurry up, HURRY UP!!!!” while he balances, splay-footed, sniffing dog-pee accented corridors of  three-foot high soot-gray mountains.

My car looks like a salt-encrusted pumpkin seed, wiper blades shredded after being frozen to the glass.  The front bumper is now cracked and one fog-light housing has fallen off after striking the corner of a snow-bank while trying to navigate around it.

I need to get out and walk, to smell earth and green things, to walk barefoot in the sand and feel warm sun on skin.  It is official – having joined the ranks of the rest of the bleary-eyed, winter-punchy people around here I admit defeat.  Essentially, I am done.  It took just a whiff of skunk to change an entire mindset.

Powerful stuff.

skunk winter

Posted in Animal Stories, Coping, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Stuff of Nightmares

Being sort of a nerd when it comes to science, botany, animals and insects, it has been a regular practice to study, scrutinize and read up on many of the critters, diseases, and earthly creations that I stumble upon.  The slug in the garden.  The spider in the bathroom.  The fungus growing along the back porch.  They are all to be inspected, observed and marveled upon.

Those science, Geographic and Discovery television channels are often on in our house. I have seen the octopus squeeze its body through a tiny little opening and escape from the hold of the boat, slipping back into the ocean over and over, many times.  I have watched the lioness take down the wildebeest and not looked away, the bees doing their mating dance, the ants finishing off a grisly carcass when the jackals are done with it.  I stare, fascinated, at those luminescent deep-sea creatures with  razor-sharp underbites that lurk where no light shines.

There is one, however, that tends to just skeeve me out.  I can’t get past their creepiness.  It is the Scutigera.

House Centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata

“Scutigera coleoptrata – one of several species commonly known as the house centipede – is a typically yellowish-grey centipede with up to 15 pairs of legs.”   Have any of you ever encountered these guys?  I found one in the kitchen sink.

Although I have come across them a number of times over the years, I had to strongly resist the flight response in order to deal with it.  I wasn’t going to let it stick around.  This is not the kind of thing you can just catch and put outside like a spider (I relocate our spiders).  These guys are fast as lightning. Along with those fifteen pairs of legs (which seem to have knees!!!) they also appear to have some kind of internal radar, where they  intuit your moves when you try to get them.  They look menacing too, even though they eat other bugs and tend to mind their own business.

I know there are some lurking in the dark of the basement but I kind of put that out of my mind because they tended to stay down there. I wish they would continue to stay down there (I never go down there).  But every once in a while, one will appear in the main part of the house, and I. just. never. get. used. to. that.

They may live up to seven years.  SEVEN YEARS! They can bite and they do have venom, but I have never known anyone that was bit by one. Yet.  When I see one, a combination of fascination and revulsion washes over me that takes a while to abate.

Scutegera!  Ew.  Ewwww. Ewwwwwww!!!



Posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, Coping, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Trail of Panties

While packing for a trip to Holland years ago, my friend suggested we should bring all of our old underwear that was on its very last legs and discard them along the way, leaving more room in the suitcase to bring things home on the way back.  We laughed and it didn’t really happen, although I did toss a pair during a side trip to Paris.

But the following year as I prepared to do a budget road trip through Europe with my children, I figured Why Not?  The stretched out, the holey, the spent elastic, the faded, the not so nice anymore.  The ones you are not supposed to be caught dead in.  I had so many of them.  Don’t we all? The kids had some that could be discarded too.  Why do we keep them for so long?

Because they are still functional and I am a Functional Girl.  My mother would cringe at the thought.  How many mothers have said “What if you get in an accident and you have those ratty old panties on in the emergency room ?”  Now there’s an excuse for you.

So I packed them all up, mine and the kid’s too – a whole lot of underwear!  One for every single day of the trip and then some – with the hopes that there would not be any serious TSA suitcase checks at the airport.  I am sure they have seen it all, but a suitcase full of old panties is not something I would enjoy having to stand captive to while they publically rifled through them.  We made it through, undies intact.

Oh vulgar American!  We tossed panties away in Venice, in Vienna, in Munich, in Prague.  We left them in trash receptacles in Luxembourg and Bern.  It was so liberating that I have left a trail of underwear from Maine to California, from Florida to the Grand Canyon, from the French Antilles to Marrakesh; in Nantucket, New York City and Istanbul.  It almost seems that having panties wear out becomes an indication of when it is time to travel again. Old undies?  Vacation alert!

The best part is, once you get home you can start all over again with brand new ones.  A fresh start in life….

A collection of oldies seems to be accumulating again.  I think it might be time to plan a road trip…


Posted in Are you kidding me?, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

New Morning

The calendar on my iPhone was serving me well until it appeared I was showing up for appointments on the wrong date and missing scheduled engagements.  This happened because in the process of scrolling to turn on the reminder alarms my finger had also been moving and displacing the dates and times of things I had added.   The final blow happened while updating my phone on iTunes during a snowstorm and having a temporary power glitch – just a second where the lights flickered – and finding my entire phone contact list was erased and everything on my calendar had also vanished.   Every friend and family member.  Every appointment projecting into the upcoming year.  My forgetful mind was in that phone and it was a horrible feeling.

I should have been able to retrieve it, but for some reason nothing I did allowed me to regain that information.  As a matter of fact, everything I did seemed to make it worse.  My stuff was not floating around on some storage cloud somewhere, even though I thought it was. Everything had to be re-entered by hand.

Although I also have an annual calendar on my wall, I haven’t been that good about using it because I was relying on technology.  It was my back-up to the phone.  This year will be different. The phone will be the back-up to the calendar.  And I will have other things in place to back up the phone.

The item that will be decorating a prominent place in front of your face all year should be something you are going to want to look at.  I’ve tried desk calendars but found they were getting misplaced and stacked under books. So it has to be on the wall.  It has to also have enough room in each square to write in.  Bank calendars with tractors and fall foliage don’t do it for me.  I need something that I can glance at and feel good about for thirty days at a time.

2014 was a lovely one from the Butterfly Conservatory at Niagra Falls.  2013 was an illustrated collection of Rumi poems.  The year before that was Hindu deities.   One year it was Kandinsky. There has also been about a decade of Georgia O’Keefe’s.  This year I had something specific in mind, a lovely collection of illustrated seed packets sold by a local business, which also happened to feature an illustration from a very talented and dear friend.  It was so nice that I ordered one for my sister-in-law for Christmas, but for some reason at the moment I forgot to get mine.  So I found myself on December 31st without a new wall calendar to start my year.  Not the end of the world, but the little snippets of paper reminders and appointment cards were starting to pile up, and for some reason the urgency to have that new calendar seemed to really press upon me.  I added the snippets to my phone, but faith in the phone is very much gone.  So with determination I set out into our local uptown art store to find a wall calendar – that fresh, new, hopeful start to the year.  With any luck, at this late date they would be on sale.

Having a new wall calendar feels the same as the first day of school.  Anything is possible.

Well, I blew it.  The calendars were picked over, leaving a few of cute kittens, some illustrated Jewish holiday calendars, vintage cars, and a pathetic collection of oddballs. I suppose I could have taken a fifteen minute ride to major book seller and seen what was left there, but I wasn’t into doing that.  I needed immediate gratification, where I could grab the thing, go home, and fill in all the Important Dates.  It had to happen Now.

There was one down at the bottom of the rack of woodblock prints by Gustave Baumann, a German American artist who eventually landed into the art scene in Santa Fe, a place that has always held a draw for me and which I have returned to a number of times.  Because it was New Mexico, it was sort of appealing, although most of the months seemed a bit dark.  I was already in a dark place at the end of 2014, which has been one of the more difficult years, with loss, turmoil and change, despite the bright butterflies on the wall. There were some amazing highlights to 2014, but it was overall a hard one. Did I want to move through the upcoming year with a dark calendar by my side?

So I waffled.  Was I getting a little too crazy about this?  Jeez – I grabbed the calendar.  It was not on sale.  It didn’t matter.

GustaveBaumann-MorningSunHere I am, sitting at my computer with the calendar on the wall to the right of me.  For the month of January we have a print called “Morning Sun”.  It is a bit shady. But there is also something hopeful about it, like looking out into a new day, a new morning.

A new year.  Hope it is a good one for all.

Posted in Aging, Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Some people have issues with The Empty Nest after their children grow up and move away from home.  For me this has not been much of a problem.  The teenage years of my youngest were so dramatic disruptive emotional  intense that I believe it actually accelerated the whitening of my hair.  And so when the last child grew up, moved out and pulled her life together, as even some of our wildest kids are apt to do, a peace descended upon the home and I did not find myself rattling around at a great loss but instead proceeded to discover other pursuits and enjoy my life – as long as I remained in regular contact with them.

Over these empty nest years, I have often thought of bringing a new dog into the home.  I dog-sit sometimes for a friend (and also for my former wild-child, who brings her little dog home for visits).  However, much like grandchildren, you can enjoy them and then give them back.   Having a dog can definitely restrict some of your spontaneous movement.  And then there was that part about Getting Attached.  Just the memory of the loss of past dogs, even though it is going back decades, can cause me to well up with tears.  So I dog-sat instead.  But then I started looking at the myriad of rescue sites on social media, which narrowed down to becoming one specific rescue site that ran regular adoption clinics.   Then all of a sudden it was one particular little dog that kept showing up which caught my eye.

That face…

He was an endearing little calico-colored guy with big radar ears.  They would run photos of him, “waiting for his forever home”, and then there would be a clinic and he would not be adopted.  The next week it was the same thing – fetching photos a small dog sleeping next to other dogs being fostered, curled up like a little package on a blanket.  But not adopted. And the week after that too.  Maybe it was even four clinics (I forget now) and nobody had taken him home with them.  My rational mind was saying “What is wrong with this dog that he hasn’t been scooped up yet?”  while the emotional mind kept whispering “Go get him”.   I contacted the site and got the number of the person who was fostering him to ask a few questions.  She said he was a great little dog.  She also said he had a few “quirks”.  Well, don’t we all……?  So that very next weekend, I decided to take a ride upstate “just to check it out” and see.

Now, the back story to this is that the Significant Other does not want a dog. He’s always been more of a cat person, while I have been a dog person.  And worse than not wanting a dog, he is not crazy about small, yappy dogs.  Actually, I have never been fond of small yappy dogs either.  The smallest dog I ever had was a solid 25 pounds of howling beagle.  But I figured at this stage of my life, a smaller dog would be easy to clean up after, easy to lift up, easy to take places.  I could depend on the dog to alert me to when someone was at the door, since I can no longer hear that sort of thing.  Who knows, maybe the dog could be trained to be a hearing dog, a wonderful service dog.  I thought back to my years of being a veterinary technician, of the dogs I had trained, of the litters I had raised or cared for. This would be a snap.  The S.O. would soon see what a wonderful thing having a dog in your life could be.  It would be so great to have a canine companion again.

So I arrived upstate for the clinic, which occurred in a strip mall outside a big name pet store.   There were a number of pens set up that were filled with an adorable variety of small, newly groomed, tail-wagging dogs of all kinds.  I zeroed in on the one I had been thinking about, which appeared to be a sort of Papillon-Chihuahua-Whatever mix.

Well, he was even smaller than I had pictured,  just a bit over seven pounds and maybe a year old.  His hair was longer than I had wanted, and honestly, I really was more interested in getting a female.  While the other dogs were wagging their tails, barking and leaping up against their pens amidst the chaos of interested adopters, this dog was totally glued to his foster person, disinterested in anybody else and a bit tense and morose.  I picked him up and tried to walk with him away from the throng of grabby people to feel him out a bit.  He let me take him but it was clear he just wanted to get back to his foster person.

I asked her why he wasn’t adopted after all this time.  He had been a mill puppy and spent his entire life in a cage and was not really socialized.  Nobody had bought him, nobody had wanted him.  He had been en route to being “thrown back” and perhaps in for even a worse fate when someone from the rescue org had seen him.   She said he was rather attached to her and not engaging, so people were not gravitating to him at the clinics.  She also again mentioned that he had a few “quirks” but I didn’t really hear what they were beyond that “he likes squeaky toys”.   He leaned up next to her again and seemed to shut out everything else going on around him.  And then something just wrenched in me and there I was, calling the S.O. and saying “please, please can’t I bring this dog home?  And I adopted  him.

As we drove away, he stood on the seat with his paws against the window looking for his foster person, and he cried.  Then he gave a resigned sigh, curled up in a ball on the front seat next to me and was quiet the entire ride home.  I thought to myself that this is the last time he would have to go through this kind of loss.  From that point on he was glued to me.

Even if you leave for an hour, it is as if you left forever.

We named him Rudra from Vedic Sanskrit hymns, which appears to translate into many meanings –  “the roarer”,  “the mightiest of the mighty”, “the howler”, “to cry “,  “the red one”, “the wild one”, and “extremely terrifying” – all or none which might apply to him at any given moment it seems.   Rudra was instantly morphed into Rudi.

Rudi hears all.

They say rescue dogs and especially puppy mill dogs will often have problems. Rudi’s “quirks” immediately became apparent, although some of them are good quirks. He clearly has abandonment issues and does not let me out of his sight. If I leave him home for even a half hour, he yips and cries in excitement when I return, as if I have been gone for weeks.  Everywhere I go, there he is following me.  If I am in the shower, he is poking his head in the curtain to make sure I am there.  If I close the door, he is waiting outside of it.  As I type this, he is in the chair next to me.  When I move into the bedroom, he will follow.  He will only leave my side if another dog is around for him to play with.

I will say, he is a constant little buddy.  He has a sense of order.  He will pick up his toys and put them all in his dog bed.  If I remove the small striped towel from his bed and put it into his crate, he will remove it and put it back inside his bed.  He doesn’t sleep in his crate but it is there for him if he wants to retreat, and he clearly wants one towel in his crate and the different one in his bed.  I couldn’t believe it so I tried switching them again and he went and removed his bed towel from the crate again.  Maybe he has a little OCD.

He has been helpful to me. While he is not official, he is still an assistance dog.  He barks when the mailman drops off the mail. His expressive radar ears are constantly going, letting me know what direction sounds are coming from, who is walking behind me, etc. And in one brilliant move where I thought for sure I had a great little service dog, he stared towards the kitchen and kept barking at “nothing”, until the S.O.  finally got up to investigate what “that dumb dog is barking at” and discovered the toaster oven was on fire.

He is terrific with other dogs and seems to get along with just about every dog he meets. He actually has a few dog friends and relatives that he enjoys visiting with (plays well with others!)

Plays well with others….

Usually a follower, willing to go along…

Loves his relatives….

I cannot say the same thing about people though.  When the S.O. comes anywhere near him, he growls, despite bribes of good food.  While he is a bright, loving little dog (to me) with lots of potential (I can tell!), he is what is considered a “fearful dog” and it is clear how not having early socialization has had an impact on him.  Over the last few months he has been here, he continues to avoid and back away from people, has an obvious fear of men, and when most people (besides me) try to pet him, he will lean away with discomfort while he barely tolerates it.  He doesn’t show his teeth or bite…but he often growls in fear.   This does not bode well for a service dog, although the jury is not out on this yet.  As the S.O. so aptly noted, Rudi has “worried eyes”.

When the S.O. comes home from work, Rudi becomes physically tense, elongates his neck like a submarine periscope, starts up with a low rumbling growl much like the motor sound of a loud cat purr and puckers up his mouth in disapproval, which we now call “Pucker Mouth”.   I haven’t been able to get a photo of Pucker Mouth, which is subtle but also quite distinctive.  Night after night this does not change.  I have heard that sometimes it takes a very long time for these rescue dogs to acclimate. I am hoping he will get over this at some point.  Nobody likes being rejected, even if it is only by a seven pound dog.  It figures that the S.O. did not want a dog and now, despite all his efforts, Rudi will not bond with him.

Every time I think he is finally housebroken and we have gone for a significantly long stretch without an accident, suddenly there will be a setback. Luckily, as I imagined, they are very small accidents.  And today he threw up in my car (again).  It appears I have forgotten much of what I knew back in my vet tech days and although my past dogs were wonderfully trained, I seem to have forgotten how I managed that.   Now that I am paying for those services, I am somewhat shocked at what pet food and vet visits and obedience classes cost.  Guess I have been out of the loop for a long time.  Despite the quirks and the costs,  it’s all worth it.  On some deeper level, I have to wonder which one of us is really rescuing the other.

I didn’t know if I could love another dog again, but it appears I can, and I do.  As a matter of fact, I think if the circumstances presented themselves at a given time, I could love another one too….

Totally smitten..



Posted in Aging, Animal Stories, Dogs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Mermaid Farewell, or The Last (Hip) Hurrah

While deleting over a hundred spam hits, it really drove home how lax I have been about posting anything.  Distraction has been the issue.  A lot of new things have popped up in my life that have grabbed my focus away – things that deserve comment and will be shared in future posts, I promise.  New dog.  New grandbaby.  And very, very soon, a new hip.

Why someone Not That Old should be needing a total hip replacement is something that continues to floor me.  What caused this to happen?  Was it the major fall I took from slipping on smashed green beans while hurrying past a salad bar in my clogs on New Years Eve, so many years ago?  Was it all that yoga, where I pushed myself into positions just beyond reach in the quest for greater flexibility? Is it genetic?  Or just bad luck?

Whatever it is, the increasing instance of pain has curtailed just about anything I have wanted to do and has had a major impact on my life.  Hiking? A thing of the past.  A trip to the city?  Out of the question.  Even a walk through a shopping mall, which is something I never do anyway, is not an option.  Soon it was trying to get up stairs, or walking a few blocks uptown to the farmer’s market….. and then even sleeping at night began causing pain if I moved the wrong way.

But it has been intermittent pain.  One minute the stab of lightning is so great it makes me gasp, and then a few moments later perhaps nothing at all, as if the hip is just fine and it is all my imagination.  Which is part of the reason I waited so long.  Maybe it would get better on its own. Maybe it was all in my head.

I got a few medical opinions – conflicting ones, which made the decision even harder to make. Yes, the damage shows on the x-rays, but the “good” hip that doesn’t hurt actually looks worse than the one that does.  At one point I had finally decided to go ahead with it….until the surgeon sent me home with some pamphlets that had cartoon depictions of hunched over ninety-year old people with walkers, limping through their recovery.  Talk about bad advertising!!!!!  Where was the pamphlet targeting younger people with sports injuries?  Where were the people like me?

I was so turned off, depressed, and freaked out by this that I actually cancelled the surgery date.  I know people have this operation all the time and do well, but to be honest, the thought of having the top of my femur sawed off and some foreign body installed that will be setting off TSA alarms in the airport for the rest of my life is beyond less than appealing. I am mourning the imminent loss of my hip. And because I am sort of geeky in this way, I’ve watched those YouTube videos of the surgery and have managed to skeeve myself out pretty well.  But finally, I am caving in to the total hip replacement – by the anterior method –  which is happening tomorrow, in fact.

So ………while getting some things in order this past week in anticipation of being slowed down, a friend asked me – quite spur of the moment – if I would like to go to the annual Mermaid Parade on Coney Island.  Those of you who read this blog might recall that I ended up in the parade two years ago – here.  I figured that was more than it for me.  But suddenly, this option manifested itself and seemed like the opportunity for a Last Big Hurrah for my old hip.  And so I decided to go.  With a cane.  And analgesics.  And back-up pain medication, if needed.  I mean, really, what else could I do to it at this point?  It might as well go out in style.

I am impressed to say I walked the entire length of the parade in my mermaid blue; all the way down the crowd-lined street and up the board walk in a blur of kaleidoscopic color.   OK, there wasnt’ really any dancing involved, but I made it with the cane and some Extra-Strength Tylenol.  I didn’t even need to break out the Big Drugs.  The weather was really nice and my friend was so well prepared in the most motherly sort of way, so we had plenty of water and healthy things to snack on.  We rested on the beach in the shade of a building afterwards, and later I walked down to the water for a glimpse of the sea.   We had made it through the day.  People cheered us on and wanted to pose for photo opportunities with us. It was a major party.

Although I don’t think I will do the parade again, for this hip it seemed a fitting  farewell.

Daejas View - the mermaid

Posted in Aging, Bucket List, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Hamantaschen Fail

Hamentaschen (or Hamentashen, or Hamantashen), the tri-cornered cookies filled with poppy seeds, fruit jelly, nut mixtures, etc.  were not part of my childhood holiday experience.  Torrone nougat candy, bow-ties covered in powdered sugar, Italian bakery cookies,  sesame and pistachio halvah……these things were.  Regardless, having a penchant for experimenting with holiday favorites – anybody’s holidays – I might make an Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Bread for Easter, potato latkes around Hanukah; and of course the usual pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving, the Christmas cookies at Christmas.  You get the idea. Celebrating with food is just such a great thing to do, and any cause for celebration is a good cause.  Give me your holidays and an idea and I just might try it.  Eid ul-Fitr, Makar Sankrat, Pongal, Chinese New Year.  Any and all are wonderful.  I’m game.

This year, more than usual and probably due to social media, I have been noticing much mention of Hamantaschen for Purim.  I have eaten them but never made them, so I decided to make my own, for the first time.

Here is a beautiful photo of what they are supposed to look like:

Hamentaschen perfect

Here is what I am trying to achieve – the Perfect Hamantaschen

Before I go any further, it is a good idea to mention that I am not proficient at baking.  I love to cook.  I love the freedom of manipulating a recipe and being loose with it. And as a matter of fact, my forte is being able to whip up a meal when there is virtually nothing left in the kitchen and it is well past the time to go grocery shopping.  This skill, born of past necessity, has managed to serve me well.  Show me that old can of beans in the back of the cabinet, the few stragglers at the bottom of the vegetable bin.  The forgotten last bit of dried quinoa stashed in a jar.  The one lonely egg.  A can of tuna fish maybe.  Some cellophane noodles from a Thai dish that was never made.  Some left over nuts. It doesn’t matter what it might be.  With a few spices and some ingenuity, I can probably pull something together – often something interesting and filling that still tastes good.  At times it has even been sort of a personal challenge to still see how long I can go until someone has to cave in and buy some more food.

But baking.  Well.  Baking is just a little more precise.  It’s not that I don’t follow the directions – I do, even though I hate hate hate to follow directions.  And the results always taste good.  The problem is that they rarely look good.

When I see the gorgeous Christmas cookies that some of my friends make, I am in awe of their skill, of the perfection, of the Martha Stewart-ness of it all.  Mine (which are usually only your typical oatmeal cookies – I can’t move beyond that) are juvenile by any comparison.  My cookies are too fat, too thin, too weird looking. My cakes are crooked.  My icing is bloppy.  OK, I’ve had a few successes with pies, but not always.  I concede baking is just not my thing. It is just not relaxing.  However, that doesn’t stop me.

So back to the Hamantaschen.  Although I had a recipe from a friend, I decided to first check the internet and found a Jewish site with a Hamantaschen recipe.  I figured that was probably a good source – who would know better?  But almost immediately, I began having trouble with the dough.  Part of the trouble is that I ate a significant portion of the raw dough before even getting started.  While the dough was chilling, I was going back and forth to the refrigerator to take more and more pieces of the raw cookie dough.   It is something I just can’t resist.

The next day, the remaining dough did not want to roll out very well.  I finally got it going, cut out my circles, filled it with poppy seed filling, made the three corners per the directions.  They looked really cute going in.  But when they came out of the oven, they looked like this (Don’t laugh. OK, you can laugh…. just a little bit….):

1-hamentaschen fail

Hamentaschen Fail #1

I was flummoxed!  They must have been overfilled.  And I must have cut the circles too small.  They certainly tasted good, with a dough that was not too sweet, which countered the very sweet filling.  But they looked so unappetizing.  Luckily, the Significant Other didn’t seem to be put off by appearances, and ate most of them (which were not many, since I had already ingested the aforementioned dough).

Undaunted, the next day I actually tried again, which is rather unlike me.  But really, who can’t make a triangle?  This time I used a different recipe I had gotten from my friend R. – a sugar cookie recipe that she stated could also be used for Hamantaschen.  It rolled out a lot easier.  One setback – I also ate a whole lot of the raw dough again; a much sweeter dough.   Luckily, there was a lot more left to work with, as this made a big batch.  This time I cut the circles bigger and used less filling.  I also included some apricot filling in addition to the poppy seed ones.

Imagine my dismay when the first batch came out like this:

hamentashen fail2

Hamantaschen Fail #2

These are not beautiful triangles.  The photo doesn’t show it, but they are nicely browned on the bottom.  They are tasty and sweet.  But really, not very attractive.  Actually, they are downright ugly.  I figured maybe I should go back to some smaller circles, now that I had a more pliable dough.  I also adjusted the temperature on the oven a little higher so they might brown a little bit quicker.  While assembling this third batch, it became necessary to start drinking copious amounts of water (caused by all that dough eating).  Honestly, I also began to get burned out on the whole situation. This was not fun anymore.  Actually, it wasn’t fun after the first round.  Sometimes perseverance prevails though.  So I tried one more time.  All apricot, smaller circles, higher temperature:

hamentashen fail3

Hamantaschen Fail #3

I don’t even know what to say.  How utterly embarrassing.  Out of this batch, there were two cookies that almost passed.  I was so excited about these two at least that I had to take a picture of them. Here they are:

Two lonely almost passable Hamentaschen

Two lonely almost passable Hamantaschen

I certainly hope that the S.O. will enjoy all this Hamantaschen – three large containers of them –  because I would be too embarrassed to even give these away. Were I still employed there, I would not even bring these into an office filled with hungry coworkers who eat just about anything, for fear of ridicule the minute they set eyes on them.

I will add that, by this point I was almost going into sugar shock from all the dough eating.  So badly in fact, that I actually had to go lie down with a headache.

Afterwards, because for some reason I just can’t let this one go,  I researched and found yet another recipe and instructions for Hamantaschen that seem to address a lot of the problems I was having.  But I think it is time to move on to another holiday.

Maybe I’ll try again next year.


Posted in Cooking, Food, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Homescape Throwback

I just stumbled across this old photo and it made me laugh again.  During this endlessly snowy and cold winter, it felt good to do that.  Perhaps it is just something unique to me, but since I haven’t posted in a while, I will share my inside joke with you, which is a slice of weird relationship humor. This is an old photo from a former house I lived in.   Walking into the bedroom one sunny weekend afternoon, I found that the S.O. had taken his t-shirt, socks and pants and arranged his laundry into a body on the bed, using the pillow for the face.  He didn’t say anything about it and was not present when I discovered it.  I thought it was such an odd thing to do, and it caused me to laugh aloud, all by myself. Instead of mentioning it to him, I took some of my own clothing and pillows and arranged another laundry body lying right next to it.  I thought the black bra was a neat touch. When he discovered the update, he didn’t mention anything to me about it either.  I don’t know if he laughed too, but he snapped a photo of it, which I later discovered blown up and tacked to the bulletin board in his office.  On this cold afternoon I came across it again and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. It is not the greatest quality photograph, but you get the idea.



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Pink Snow

The inside of this small oval basket of woven rush is filled with very old potpourri, atop which rests a small bottle of peach-scented oil.  The basket, which once belonged to my mother, is stashed behind some framed photographs on a dresser in the spare bedroom of my home.

It used to sit on an end table in her living room. Every once in a while she would enliven the potpourri with the oil, or add a few drops to her vacuum cleaner bag to freshen the house.  She used it in moderation, and it is a light, pleasant scent, which for years my children and I have associated with her clean, bright home and our happy and loving visits with her.  It is one of the items I retrieved when she passed away.

During those moments when I am especially missing her, or sometimes when I just feel a Mom Fix is necessary, I will go into the room, open the top of the basket and inhale this scent, which brings me close to her.  When the smell of peaches begins to wane over time, I refresh it, and thus have been able to keep my Mommy-visit going for many years. Olfactory memories can elicit powerful, vivid connections.  This ritual might bring a smile or tears, depending on my mood or what is going on in my life at the moment.  It is unpredictable and sometimes painful, but always worth it.

1-peach basket2A number of days ago I was in the room, spied the basket, instantly missed her and decided to indulge. It was apparent the potpourri was losing it’s scent, and realizing it was time to refresh, I opened the bottle top and shook some out, totally forgetting that it did not have one of those dropper tops that essential oil bottles often have.  Subsequently, more than half of the remaining peach-scented oil dumped out into the basket.  And onto the rug, the dresser, the floor, my slippers.

I was beyond dismayed, not because of the overdose of concentrated peach (which at that amount is overwhelming, and will be for quite a while), but because I had just lost a large piece of original, Mom-related memory that should have been made to last for many more years.   In addition to whatever landed on the rug, it also was all over my hands and did not fade after vigorous washing.  Whatever was spilled on my slippers got tracked around the house.  As a matter of fact, it transferred onto the towels and into the laundry too.  Because it was essentially invisible, the spread of the peach oil could only be followed by smelling it instead of seeing it.  The way it spread about, I was reminded of the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, where a pink bathtub ring left by the cat keeps spreading from one point to another until everything, including the snow outside, becomes one big pink spot.  I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.

There is still a little bit of oil left in the bottle.  I will have to take better care to make it last, this small but potent remnant of my mother.  Eventually the scent will fade, the metaphoric pink snow throughout the house will be gone. But I think I might need something like Little Cat Z to remove his hat and release some Voom to clean up my heart.

Posted in Regrets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Just Breathe

We were parallel parked on the left side of a one-way street, waiting to pull into traffic.  This was following a rather lovely lunch on a cold, gray day, with a bit of snow just starting to spit from the sky. There was a guy in a blue car across the street from us, parallel parked on the right side and also pulling out.  Either he didn’t look, or he assumed the traffic was going to stop to let him pull out.  He nosed his blue car into the road right as a larger black car was moving past us.  He almost hit the guy (or maybe he almost got hit, not sure from my angle).   Blue Car honked his horn in annoyance (even though he was in the wrong).  Black Car threw up his hands to indicate, “Whaddaya want from me, you jerk?”.  Blue Car couldn’t just let it be, and immediately zoomed out of the space, speeding right up to get on  Black Car’s rear bumper.  A couple of more cars came along behind them, and then we pulled out into traffic behind all of them.

roadrage2Black Car didn’t manage to get very far though, because the traffic light had turned red as he approached it.  Blue Car was clearly still seething – he just couldn’t let it go and again crept up to Black Car’s butt.  I don’t know if Blue Car yelled anything to Black Car, but suddenly the guy in Black Car got out and came around to Blue Car’s driver side window.  Words were exchanged that we could not hear.

The light turned green then, but nobody was able to move anywhere, so we waited for this altercation to end so we could escape the drama and all go our (now not so) merry way.  But it didn’t end.

After the guy from Agitated Black Car said something to Aggressive Blue Car, he turned around to get back in his vehicle.  But it still was not over even then.  Blue Car must have then yelled something really nasty to him as he was walking away.  Or maybe he made a lewd gesture, because all of a sudden, the guy from Black Car turned around and headed back to Blue Car.  This is where I rolled down my window (from way back, anonymously) and yelled out “Please, just get back in your car!”   But apparently he wasn’t going to heed my advice, or didn’t hear it, because he went over to Blue Car’s window and punched the Blue Car guy right in the face!  Really hard!

We were stunned.  “OMG!” yelled my daughter. By now, someone in one of the buildings who must have witnessed the whole thing from a window above started yelling something down to the guy from Black Car  (still couldn’t hear what it was).  Guy from Black Car, agitation x 10, turned around and yelled something unintelligible back to the window caller.  At that point, my daughter rolled down her window and yelled something too, then reached over me and honked our horn. “OMG, don’t do that! That guy is crazy!” I said.  She assured me the other motorists were honking too,  but I couldn’t hear that either.  I just wanted to get out of there, away to safety.  But we were on a narrow, one lane, one-way city street and there was no place to go.

Then an older woman with short white hair  seemed to be wandering in the street.  We were not sure if she was related to the guy who got punched or the guy who did the punching and had gotten out of the car…. or maybe she witnessed it from White Car behind the two of them…. or maybe it was none of those things, and she was just trying to cross the street and got caught in the insanity.

The guy from Black Car then got back in his vehicle and zoomed off around the corner.  Guy from Blue Car sped off after him.  Everyone else went straight, but we were turning too (very cautiously now), only to see the tail lights of Black Car vanishing in the distance and no sign of Blue Car at all.  Perhaps Blue went to find the police.  Or an emergency room. Or just went home.

In this crazy world, it would not be beyond the possibility that either of those guys could have had a gun.  And used it.  Over something as ridiculous as one guy pulling out of a parking space without looking and the other guy not stopping and making him wait.  No accident involved.  No parking space argument either.  Just ridiculous, petty, overly-emotional human insanity and rudeness.  Worst case, someone could have died.  Best case scenario, everyone’s day was ruined.  As it was, somebody actually got hurt.

Was all this really worth it?  Are those people happy about how their day turned out? I doubt it.  The next time I find myself feeling frustrated in traffic,  I am going to reflect on Misters Black & Blue,  and really try and remind myself to Just Breathe.

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I’m Not That Old

Today was the first time I have been in a movie theater to see a feature film  in longer than I can remember.  With the exception of attending foreign films with subtitles, I have pretty much given up on going out to see a movies for decades because I have not been able to hear them.  My experience with the headphones they give you in the theaters has been less than stellar. Although the Sony FM set I have at home is pretty good, the ones I have experienced in the theaters have been of such poor quality (some are worse than others) that it almost hasn’t been worth using them at all.  At this point, I think I am beyond what they can do for me anymore, anyway.  I need closed captions.  It  means that I hardly ever get to see some of the indie and art films that seem so interesting, and I have had to wait until the big-name movies come to television so I can watch them with CC at home.  Not that I was ever a big movie-goer anyway, but it has been just one more socially isolating situation, not being able to go out and be included with other people, even if I wanted to.

Up until now.  The technology hasn’t been available, but suddenly, in the Regal movie theater chains – and as I understand it, thanks to CEO Randy Smith Jr. , who has worked for years to find a solution –  the technology has arrived in the form of closed-caption glasses.  This is a very wonderful thing. An incredibly wonderful thing.  I was so excited about this, that I could barely wait to attend my first movie house film again and test drive them.

My friends and I chose to attend a Monday matinée.  I am not sure if it was due to being hard-of-hearing (which for me is not an age-related thing – I lost my hearing when I was young), or because it was the afternoon (and only Old People go to the movies in the afternoon, right?), or because I (we) just looked older (women who don’t color their hair probably get this a bit more), but I was automatically given the senior discount without asking. GAAAAAHHH!!!!!   The Senior Discount!!!!  I am not That Old!  Really!  Really!!!! It was sort of like being reverse-carded. While there was a minor thrill for the (very small) bit of savings, it was disconcerting to be considered a “senior”…..for the first time in my life. Especially since, I’m really not.

Not yet.  With conflicted emotions, I signed out the glasses and took them into the darkened theater to test drive them.

caption glassesThe first twenty minutes prior to the featured film, there were so many previews and commercials (an incredible amount of previews.  I was so surprised), that I sat there without the glasses on, since these things were not captioned anyway.  The glasses, which are adjustable, are a bit heavy, and have a wire and some kind of battery pack attached to them.  Once the movie started, I finally put them on and had to find the spot on the bridge of my nose where they would be most comfortable.  Once I got that together, suddenly the words appeared to float in front of me in bright green.  Wow!!!!

They move whenever your head moves, so I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out exactly where I wanted to see the words, and tried not to move my head too much while watching, because if you do, then the words move around the screen.  I had a little fun with that, making the words flash across the actors faces, then across the top of the screen, finally settling at an angle where they would appear in the dark area below the picture.  It took a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I found my position and got into the movie.  It was a real thrill to finally get to go out to the movies with friends, and to at least now have the choice of being able to, after all this time.  It was beyond a thrill.  As a matter of fact, I almost feel tearful as I write this.

Even if they thought I was a “senior” – I’ll take it.

Posted in Aging, Coping, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

All Manner of Comfortable Things

I’m built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed”.

This line from a song keeps going through my head.  I think it was Howlin’ Wolf .  Didn’t Canned Heat do a version of it also? (I can’t find it if they did).  I looked it up and it’s written by Willie Dixon.  It’s been sort of an ear worm throughout the holiday season. I used to be built for speed.  But things seem to have shifted in the other direction.

This holiday I have been showered with family and love…and also lovely gifts that were thoughtfully chosen.  What I have noticed is that there has been a bit of a theme – things that I either wanted or were chosen by the giver, with a focus of well-being, relief and relaxation in mind.

yoga pants

No, this is not my butt!

Along with a variety of  thoughtful and even righteous gifts (a significant donation to the local food bank in our names, for instance) from immediate and extended family and friends, the running theme really was All Manner of Comfortable Things For the Aging Woman.

In no special order, the Items Of Comfort included: a good lumbar pillow for back support, an array of dry skin products, a couple of pairs of yoga pants, stretchy leggings, a loosely fitting shirt and dress that hides lumps and bumps, a really good leave-in conditioner for dry and crazy hair, an interesting book,  yummy home-made cookies and cakes, organic dark chocolate bars filled with ginger and spices, and (now, don’t laugh ….) a Chillow (as seen on TV!) for those night time hot flashes.

Out of all this, my guess is that some of you might have questions about the Chillow.  Does it really work?  My assessment thus far; sort of, yes.  (And no, I have no affiliation with the Chillow company, whoever they may be). It’s somewhat like a vinyl, inflatable pillow that doesn’t inflate. It has fake suede-like material on one side of it and just the plain vinyl on the other.  Inside it is filled with a flat sponge.  You open the cap, add water, and let it disperse throughout the sponge.  Then you wait a number of hours before using.

ChillowIt might be a bit difficult to honestly assess, since it has been about ten degrees here, and all of the pillows leaning against the outside wall of the bedroom are absorbing the chill.  So as soon as I warm the bed pillows up with my unpredictable furnace of a body, I flip the other sides against the freezing wall and repeat…all night long.  But I will say that so far, when I tuck the Chillow under my face or neck, it seems to be pretty cold all on its own.   I tried putting it in its own little pillow case, but that seemed to take away from the effectiveness of it.  So I keep it lying against the top of the bed to be grabbed if one of those hot flashes should occur.

The only thing problematic about it I have discovered is that if you are one of those people who scrunches up your pillow while you are sleeping, it can bunch up the Chillow and make it lopsided.  Then you have to smooth it out.  And having your face on it is just not as cozy as an actual pillow. But I guess in the throes of a hot flash, who cares about that? The other thought at the back of my mind is hoping it doesn’t somehow spring a leak or have the fill-cap open up. That would not be a fun situation.  But so far, so good.

There are also such things as psychic relief and comfort. The gift I specifically asked for from the S.O. concerned that kind of comfort.  The thing I have been wanting for six years finally manifested itself.  Outlets.  No, not retail shopping outlets; regular plug-it-into-the-wall outlets.  The comfort and ease of having outlets.

The entire upstairs of this very old house is rather short on electrical outlets.  Because of that, a jumble of extension cords, power strips and cables is strung across the floor, the rugs, along the wall.  This makes for fierce competition between phone chaoutletsrgers, reading lights, electric fans (hot flash fans!), the cable box, television, computer, printer.    All those technological wonders we have filled our lives with.

In one room there is no place to plug in both my sewing machine, an iron and a light at the same time.  In another, you have to snake cords out into the hallway to find a place to plug something in.  The bedroom is a jungle of tangled, unsightly electrical snakes just waiting to trip you as you vacuum or make the bed…. and probably a fire hazard too.  It has bothered me.  Every. Single. Day.  For years.  I have asked the S.O., who is quite adept at doing these things, many times if he would please provide outlets to the upstairs.  In that “cobbler’s children have no shoes” way, it never happens.  So this year, I asked if I could have outlets for Christmas.  “All I want for Christmas is outlets, please.”

He said he would do half of them. OK, I’ll take it!  So two of the rooms now are outfitted with power.  I feel so much more Comfortable not having to look at the messy wires (I am my mother’s daughter for sure. I can envision her face and feel her incredible discomfort, her angst, at such things).  That little bit of “less chaos” feels a whole lot better.  And as a bonus, he removed the thick black TV cable that ran across the floor from one end of the room to the other and replaced it with a white cable, which is now neatly tacked out of the way along the white baseboard.  And I feel relief.

Reflection on this throughout the holiday, all manner of comfortable things, I feel tremendous gratitude for the incredible privilege of simply having electricity, or heat, or hot running water; of cookies and chocolates and comfy clothes, of good food to eat, when so many in the world are without.  We are fortunate, blessed, to have such things, and I would not want to do without them, nor give up what by comparison is a comfortable life.  I will be enjoying these wonderful gifts, while reminding myself to keep it all in perspective.


Posted in Aging, Holidays, Humor, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


My right ear rings all the time.  One day, about twenty years ago,  it just started buzzing and it has never shut off since.  As the hearing loss has progressed in that ear, the noise has seemed to get louder and more distracting.  It’s an internal thing, so nobody else can really hear it (although I have pressed my head up against plenty of other people’s ears to check; “Can you hear that ringing in my ear?  No?? Are you sure???”).

ear against ear

It started out sounding like a dial tone.  Not one note, but a blend of many notes in discord.

dial_toneEventually it morphed into a combination of different frequencies – as if someone is trying to contact the planet Mars, or perhaps a distant radio galaxy via a home-made short wave radio, adjusting back and forth between stations and just pulling in some wild hisses and noises; a dying star, or the pulse of a quasar……”Come in Omega Centauri….Earth to 3C 373... Cygnus A…. Messier87, come in…..can you hear me?”…….

messier87There are many causes of Tinnitus.  Without getting into the explanations, I will just say that in my case, as my hearing fails, my brain is substituting other noises to fill in for the losses.  You would think it would just want to sit back and enjoy a little silence, but no, there has to be this tortuous barrage of ongoing sound.  Forever.  The huge and constant rush of noise is so loud that it appears as if it is drowning out my ability to hear, but actually there is not much hearing in the right ear for it to interfere with (which is why this is happening). It can be distracting and upsetting, and can derail concentration.  Sometimes it keeps me from falling asleep at night.  Every once in a while it gets so loud that it wakes me up.  There are times that it can be ignored, but other times it drives me nuts.  A few times the intensity and relentlessness of it has even made me cry.

At this point in life I can’t even sing along easily with the radio in the car.  Entire frequencies are missing when I listen to music.  Emotions attached to this have ranged from frustration to devastation, and grief.  I mourn the loss of my hearing.  I hate the tinnitus.  I try to cope with it, to be philosophical, to accept things as they are now.

When I was growing up, with great hearing and musical inclinations, I had perfect pitch.  It was a pretty cool thing.  Someone would hit a note on the piano and I could call it.  I took it for granted, until it was gone.  It is hard to believe that it ever was so.  Often now, a strike on a piano key will elicit a wavering, calliope of sound.

Piano_KeysBut a funny thing happened yesterday.  When I woke up, the ringing had shifted into more of a harmonious chord, with one prominent note.  And I swore it was an E.   Eeeee!   EEeeeee!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeee! One big, endless EEEeeeeeeeeee going on in my head!

I looked up some tuning fork frequencies on the computer, cranked them up loud and tried them all to see what it was.  And damn if it wasn’t an E!  Tuningfork


Posted in Aging, Coping, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Sore Throat Remedy in Our House

It’s that good ol’, bad ol’ winter cold time again.

There are a few theories as to why this works (and it does).  I envision the bacteria in your throat, your lungs, your sinuses, being killed off naturally – just being mercilessly bombarded from so many different angles.  I think envisioning helps…but that’s just me.

In a nice, big mug – put about 1/4 cup (or less) of Apple Cider Vinegar.  I like the organic kind.

apple cider vinegar

Add about 1/4 cup (or less) of Lemon Juice (better if you have fresh lemons, but from the bottle will do).


Add a Big Blob of Honey to taste.


Fill the rest of the cup with Boiling Water

tea kettle2

Breath the steam and sip slowly and constantly while it is hot.  Feel it attacking those stuffy-headed, throat and tonsil aching, lung and sinus irritating bugs!

For those who can’t handle the taste of the vinegar, try adjusting the proportions a bit.  Keep drinking it.  And all of a sudden you will realize that sore throat and cold is gone.  Sometimes I use hot pepper infused honey for an extra kick (somewhere I read that cayenne is good for eliminating bad stuff.  I have no idea if this is so.  Not doing the research here, just sharing my own thing).   You can add a pinch of cayenne or a small shot of rum, brandy or whisky to make sort of a “toddy” too (but I don’t do that).

My family has been using this Sore Throat Recipe for years.  Not everyone likes it (one of my kids just keeps resisting), but we swear by it.

This is not “medical advice” (disclaimer*disclaimer*disclaimer!!!)   I am just sharing a bit of home remedy with you here.

May your winter and change of seasons be free from colds, or may your colds be uneventful!


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Double Zipper – New Year

double zipper coat

Okay, it’s not so classy, but it’s warm…

A few brief years ago, I finally reached what I consider a small plateau of maturity –  determined not to freeze through yet another Very Cold Winter, I purchased an insulated down-like coat that was long enough to cover my rear end, that both zipped and snapped all the way up the collar, sporting a hood with fake fur trim for extra wind-blocking. One that was roomy enough to wear a significant sweater or a fleece vest beneath, for those really frigid days. I chose a black coat, which would absorb the heat from any sunlight that might be shining upon it, and hopefully not reveal the fact that I often eat copious amounts of chocolate while driving. One that would match with just about anything I decided to wear, and easy to accessorize with.   Years beyond the point of wearing cute little jackets that just hit your waistline (um…OK….what waistline..?)  or just cute little jackets that hit anywhere, I had been holding out on purchasing a serious coat up until then. Practicality and comfort is where things are at now.  At This Age.  The cozy, intelligent choice is what I decided to be about.

The only thing I really hate about it is that it has a double zipper.  There is a bit of embarrassment admitting that I have struggled since childhood – and still struggle – with double zippers.  Lining them up in order to get them zipped creates a low to medium level of anxiety for me.  Impatient and frustrated with them, using double zippers are a basic skill I never quite mastered.   Inevitably, at some point the bottom of the zipper will come up and then not want to come down. Or I am just unable to properly line up the bottom and have it zip up in the first place.  With long coats they are difficult to avoid, but I try to not buy something with a double zipper if I can help it.   When I do find myself dealing with them, I never unzip the bottom, because if I do, I know I will be doomed to a zipper disaster.

On a recent visit to a friend in New York City, I traveled by bus and wore the black coat, with layers beneath it, in anticipation of some icy city winds and deep cold.  It was sleeting a bit when I left; it was a good time to be wearing it. However, the temperature on the bus was a humid seventy-eight degrees. I know this because I was sitting only two seats back and I could see the inside/outside temp gauge on the driver’s dashboard.  Just to add to  the discomfort, the damp, steamy atmosphere within the bus seemed to spark a hot flash, a runny nose, and a few small fits of coughing.  So I started peeling off layers and piling them on the empty seat beside me, where they were not compact, but lay in rather a high pile on top of my backpack, which I kept near me for easy access to all sorts of goodies. Prepared, I settled in for the rather long ride with my magazine, my cell phone set to the bus WiFi, my bottle of water and an energy bar.TrailwaysBus

Two stops later and the last pickup stop before our bus went express the rest of the way, people began to board and  I just had a feeling someone was going to try to sit next to me, even though there were plenty of empty double seats on this off-peak bus.  It’s funny how sometimes you just know when something is going to happen.  Being the anti-socialite I was feeling at the moment, I tried to discourage this in the most subtle of ways. I did not make eye-contact with anyone boarding, but decided to look a bit Engrossed in my magazine, and perhaps look a little Crazy too, while extending my coughing fit a bit longer – long enough to be an undesirable seat partner.  I hitched my frizzy, purple ponytail up a bit higher on my head, stretched out my legs a bit, coughed loudly into my hankie and sent out some serious “leave me alone” vibes.

But apparently I did not appear as Engrossed or Crazy or Sick as I had hoped.  Honestly, would you want to sit next to someone with crazy hair and a big pile of stuff on the seat, who was incessantly hacking and wiping their nose, while avoiding looking at you and sending off a mildly hostile vibration? I wouldn’t, but clearly there are people who do, because a woman who appeared about ten years older than me boarded and made a beeline for the seat I was sitting in, asking me – just like that – to move over.  So now there are two of us crammed into that hot little area, with my stuff piled up on my lap.   She put her arm rest down with a bang, and for the next two hours, out of the corner of my eye, I watched her make long columns of tiny writing in a small notepad with yellowed pages that she held in her lap. I threw in a few coughs just for good measure, but she wasn’t budging.

When we finally arrived into the city, she wasn’t real quick to get up, and so I struggled into my coat while sitting down.  Wouldn’t you know it – the double zipper would not zip, but hovered jammed about one-quarter of the way up.  I stood up and wrestled with it, at which point the center unzipped itself and separated, while the top and bottom end remained tightly closed.   Vexed,  I got myself off the bus and continued to fight with it while walking through Port Authority, twirling around in circles with my backpack on my back, hot-flashing and sweating with frustration, cajoling and finally forcing the thing to open.  I was able to re-zip it, but from then on, it would no longermummy cooperate.

Arriving at a wonderful Turkish restaurant that evening,  I soon discovered I was trapped inside my coat and could not get free of it.  Unzipping it as far as I could, I shimmied it down around my waist and sat there eating dinner, and then shimmied my way back into it, until later, when I could spend some time to tackle dealing with it.  I have since found myself trapped like a dancing mummy inside that coat at doctor appointments, meetings and all other manner of events.  It’s a nice, warm coat, but it will suddenly part open and jam without warning. I am  beginning to really dislike it.  I’ve had it too long to return it anywhere, so I am just going to have to deal with it.  I actually wonder if it is possible to crazy-glue the bottom zipper down so that it never has to be engaged at all.  Has anyone ever done that?  I am afraid that might be the end of the coat if I try that…but I wonder.

However, it’s just not this coat.

A few months ago, I was standing in the kitchen with a couple of friends, trying on a beautiful sweater.  As I slipped into it, everyone was saying “That looks sooo great on you, what a perfect sweater for you!”.  But as I went to zip it up, I noticed that it had That Kind double zipper of Zipper.  With dread I said “Oh no, it has a double zipper!  I don’t do well with double zippers!”  Sure enough, I could not get it to engage and zip it up, at which point they both looked at each other with quick eye-rolls and then at me with some disbelief before saying, “Are you kidding?  It’s easy!  You just have to line it up and do THIS“.  Each one then leaned over me and independently showed me how to easily do it.  Apparently you have to hold the bottom zip a certain way while pulling back the cloth, and then either hear or feel the “click” it makes when it engages.  They made me do it over, and over, and over again until I could prove to them that I could handle a double zipper all by myself.   It was like being in kindergarten.  Of course later, back on my own,  I still struggle with it.  Just about each and every time.  I don’t know why that is.  It reminds me of both my grandmother and my grandmother-in-law decades ago, ripping out the stitches of what I knitted wrong and having to start over again.  “Do it again.” And again. And again.  Until I gave up on knitting altogether.  It is times like these where I reflect and have to wonder what is wrong with me.  It’s not just zippers either.  But that is for another post.

We are in for another cold freeze in a couple of days.  I intend to start off the New Year the same way I intend to approach my double zippers – with flexibility and patience anew.


Posted in Are you kidding me?, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Rejoice the Winter Solstice

Rejoice!  The Winter Solstice.

The day began with a cup of chai.  Then lunch at a little French bistro with  family I haven’t seen in months.  Warm holiday feelings. Chocolate.  Baking.  My Mother’s Boots.

There are some fruit flies pinging around in this house, although the ripe bananas are long gone…..I wonder where they are coming from?  They make me think of spring – it’s only three months away!

The Christmas lights twinkle on the miniature fake tree. I forgot to put the grapevine wreath on the door this year, but the prayer flags on the porch are festive in their own way and will suffice  – with prayers, and peace.

Now here I am, cozy in my fuzzy leopard print pajamas.  No parties for me on the longest night of the year.  I love my bed.

From here, the days will be getting longer again.

winter solstice2jpg~Happy Solstice!~

Posted in Holidays, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , | 3 Comments

What Do You Do All Day?

Since I have been officially out of the workforce, people who are working full-time or who I have not seen in a while will inevitably turn to me and say “So…….now that you are not working, what do you do all day“?   Every time this happens to me, which is rather frequently, I am caught off guard.  There are plenty of things I do all day, but I never really made a laundry list of items to have prepared when the question is posed.  For some reason they feel like excuses, and I really shouldn’t have to be making excuses for where I am now in my life.  I’ve been working since I was fourteen years old, most of those years in the service or health fields.  I think I have paid my dues to society, to the government, to my family, to myself.

Today I attended the annual pre-Thanksgiving office party at my former workplace, which I was invited to, with the request that I bring my famous (at least famous there) Party Artichoke Dip, which I did.   So there I was, sitting at the end of a long row of tables filled with former coworkers, supervisors and HR people, when suddenly someone from the other end of the table called out That Question; “So now that you are not working, what do you do all day“?  The room seemed to get pretty quiet.  Suddenly all eyes were upon me.  As usual, I was not prepared and caught off guard again, although I thought I fielded it pretty well.  But I left out a lot, and on the way home I thought about it a whole lot more.

Perhaps my defensiveness is just my perception of innocuous questions put forth by people genuinely interested in how I am spending my (unplanned, unanticipated, unprepared for)  retirement.  But sometimes when I am asked this question, at least by some people, there tends to be a glimmer of something else attached to it, the way there might be a shade of an attitude when you sometimes hear certain working mothers talk about stay-at-home mothers (or vice-versa).  Just the faintest hint of a verbal smirk.  A holier-than-thou-ness.  A vague but palpable tinge of resentment.  Not all the time, but some of the time I get the feeling they think being home is like being Cleopatra, reclining on a chaise lounge and getting served all day.


I’m just lounging around all day being waited on.

Well, in case anybody is still wondering, you don’t have to ask because here is how it is.  At least once a month – sometimes once a week, sometimes a few times in one week, depending  – is spent at medical appointments.  Most of these appointments involve anywhere from two to three hours of travel time in addition to waiting, tests, and the actual doctor visits….and the expense attached to it.   A number of unanticipated days a month also involve downtime surrounding not feeling too well, which is part of why I am out of work in the first place.

I am still fielding questions and providing help to my former colleagues.  It is not unusual to get a phone call, text or email at any given time asking where something is, needing to be walked through a computer issue, asking my recollection of an event or my opinions on a situation.  Since I left on good terms, I am not opposed to helping them achieve the best possible outcomes.

I have been devoting a number of volunteer hours a month to an organization that runs a clinic providing free holistic health care to the community.  Sometimes I put in more hours, sometimes less. These hours are mostly at my own discretion.

The time frame for accomplishing things in my life, including necessary chores, has mostly changed, but as your obligations change, the rhythm adjusts and the days still tend to get filled.  For instance, instead of doing laundry at 9pm in the evening or waiting until the weekend, laundry might be getting done at 10am on a Thursday morning.  I might do three loads of laundry in a day.  I might spend the entire day doing laundry.  I might wash every single thing in the house.  Or not.  Perhaps the linens on the bed will get changed on a Wednesday instead of a Saturday.  The breakfast dishes will get done in the morning instead of sitting in the sink until I get home after 5pm.  The house is a bit cleaner, and I can take my time doing chores.  I might take two days to vacuum the house instead of one.  The mail is getting opened the day it arrives.  The bills are getting paid sooner rather than later.  Meals are maybe a bit more comprehensive. There has been a little more attention to detail. The pace has changed.

Instead of attending an art exhibit or other venue on a weekend, I might go see it on a Tuesday at eleven, when it is less crowded and easier to enjoy.  I spend more time reading and more time on the internet, although the latter is something that I would like to curb a bit.  Movies that were missed the first time around because they weren’t captioned when they were in the theaters are now coming out on cable television, captioned, and so I am catching up on them too.

I am reconnecting with old friends I hardly ever saw anymore because we were all too busy or too far away. I am indulging in some newer friends too.  I am spending more time with my children and family.  I have lunch with friends. Or dinner.  It’s great!  My plants are alive because I am seeing them and remembering to water them.  I am noticing what they look like in the daytime instead of with their leaves closed when arriving home in the evening.  I have been experiencing what my neighborhood is like during the week, during the day – who is out and about, the pulse of the block, of the local businesses.

Sometimes I stay up later because I can.  This means I sometimes stay in bed later in the morning too – because I can.  Anyone have a problem with that?

There is a  Bucket List, which has been in existence for many years.  Things on that Bucket List are getting checked off, because if not now, when?   It is an opportunity to be more artistic and creative again – doing the things I have let go from my life while I was too busy doing something else, exploring new ideas that are out there, returning to some old ones I let fall by the wayside, practicing things I already know.  In many ways, it feels like being twenty again, except wiser.  In many ways, it’s like going “back to the days of Christopher Robin, back to the days of Pooh.”  There is a sweetness and a nostalgia going on, as if a second childhood, almost.  I am a lot more relaxed. Waaaaaay more relaxed.  Incredibly more relaxed.

At least this is how it is for now.  Hopefully this has cleared up any questions for those who are wondering.  Maybe I should make a copy of this to pull out for the next time somebody needs to know.


Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, Bucket List, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Writhing With Guilt

Today I realize my shoe-a-holism has gotten a bit out of control.  I sit here and writhe with guilt.

As posted previously in this blog, I have a lot of shoes.  Shoes of many colors. Not “designer” shoes,  just comfortable, fun shoes and boots.  If I like something, sometimes I get the same thing in two different colors.  I save my shoes for years and years, which adds to the volume.  I am pretty set for shoes, which adds to my angst this morning.

There seems to be a bit of a trend – I am drawn to red shoes. I have red sandals, red flats, red slip on shoes and red cowgirl boots, so there is pretty much a red shoe available to be worn at any season.  Although truth be told, the red sandals are over ten years old and slightly out of style, the red flats are shredded and have a hole in them, the red slip-on shoes make a really annoying squeak when you walk and bleed red dye when they get wet.  The only really viable red shoes right now are the cowgirl boots.  I have a serious thing for cowboy boots; I have four pairs at present – all different, but still four pairs…. which leads up to the psychic pain this morning.

A few years ago for my birthday I was gifted this beautiful pair of red, ankle-height, pointy-toed cowgirl boots. They have tan heels and a bit of red stitching on them.  I have worn them often enough that they are very comfortably broken in.  I love wearing them, love to look at them, and I love thinking about my sister who bestowed them upon me.  They are cool boots. They are lots of fun and go with much of what I tend to wear.  I have mostly been blissfully happy with my boots….the only thing I wish that was different about them would be if they were a little less pointy.  Back when I got them, there was not that option.

But then, O Traitor that I am,  here it is a few years later when I stumble upon yet another pair of red cowgirl boots.  Ankle-height.  Rounded-toe.  Black heels.  White stitching.  I honed in on them like a heat-seeking missile.  I hovered about them like a moth at a campfire.  I didn’t need another pair of red cowgirl boots.  And yet.  And yet……

They are similar in the shade of red as the boots I already have. But the cut at the top is different. The toe is definitely different – I like the rounder toe.  The heels are black.  They are a tiny bit clunkier and less stream-lined than my current beloved red cowgirl boots.  They feel different but are comfortable, and fun.  They present with a slightly different look, although I cannot articulate exactly what it is.  The other thing about them is that I have this same pair in black/gray from a few years ago.

I picked them up.  Put them down.  Tried them on.  Then I tried on another pair of red shoes that were totally different, hoping they would pull me away from the redundancy I was on the verge of committing.   But no, it was the red cowgirl boots.  I sighed.  I tried on a pair in tan. They didn’t cut it for me.   I do not need this second pair of boots.  Then  I rationalized that I will now always have a pair of red cowgirl boots, with no worries about them ever wearing out.   I rationalized that these particular cowgirl boots will look very nice with long pants, and that they are somewhat different.  I rationalized that cowboy/cowgirl boots never really go out of style. Then  I put them down. But then I picked them up again.  As if magnetized, they slowly but steadily gravitated towards the register.

Yes, I bought them.  Yes, I really like them.  I do feel excited about wearing them, when I decide to wear them.  But right now I am afraid to wear them. I feel like a frivolous, disgusting American in a consumer-driven world of excess.  The excess part of this sickens me.  There was no need.  I envision my frugal, practical mother shaking her head.

red boot toeThey sit in the box.  I take them out, put one on, put my other pointier red boot on the other foot, look at them both.  Wrap them up and put them back in the box.  If I don’t wear them outside, I still have the option of returning them.  But I don’t want to return them.  Or maybe I do.  I am afraid if I do, I will be sorry.

I realize in the scheme of the world that this is meaningless, vapid, spoiled-brat kind of stuff.   I also realize that some people go out and drop big money on lots of shoes (and other things) without batting an eyelash.  I am very aware that some people have no shoes and some people are starving.  I am also struggling with the fact that I am now unemployed and have much more pressing things to do with my money. I know some people should be so lucky to have such a stupid problem. I realize if I keep these shoes, not only will I need to get good wear out of them to alleviate my guilt, but I will also need to balance that with my already beloved but pointy and slightly different red cowgirl boots in order to transcend the guilt.  On some level I believe I am just thinking about this too much.  It might be helpful if some other shoe-a-holics out there weighed in.


Posted in Fashion, Perspective, Regrets, Shoes, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Disposable World

There’s really no reason to get rid of my Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor if it’s still working, right?  All it needs is a replacement part. It gets taken out of its box a few times a year for some major processing and that’s it, which is perhaps why it’s lasted as long as it has. The annual pesto making.  A number of batches per year of natural cosmetic creams.  And most recently, to grate a few pounds of cheese for some marathon quiche making.   The once ivory colored plastic on the machine has yellowed over the years, just from age.  And the mixing “work bowl” has a crack in it, which is now leaking when I use it.  That is the only thing wrong with it.  So I went in search of a replacement bowl.

workbowlOK, the thing is Rather Old, I will admit that.  It was a gift in the 1980’s, and indeed, the still intact instruction/recipe booklet at the bottom of the box was printed in 1977.  But it works! The motor is fine.  The blades are fine and all there.  I have a problem with  throwing away something that works if it still functions and can be fixed.  It is such a disposable world now.  I love new stuff as much as anybody, but there is something so wasteful about junking something that works.

So why shouldn’t I be able to get a part for it?   What did they do with all the spare Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor mixing bowls that were manufactured back then?  They must have made hundreds!  Thousands! Surely there must be one bowl sitting on a shelf in some warehouse somewhere, right?  And so the adventure begins.

sears countercraft

First I went to the Sears site and looked up “Parts”, filled in my model and serial numbers and came up with zip.  Next I engaged in the Live Chat, where a very polite guy using very polite and formal English tried looking it up for me; after a lengthy wait he regretted to inform me that they are so sorry my part is not available at this time.  When I asked at what time it would become available again, I think he got a bit flustered.  He then let me know that Sears does not have that part and that I would have to contact the manufacturer directly for it.  But isn’t Sears the manufacturer of the Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor?  Apparently not.

So who is?  After more waiting, he tells me that Hamilton-Beach is actually the manufacturer of the Sears processor, and then suggests I “Google it!” to find out who to contact.  I told him I thought it would be terribly wasteful to have to throw out a perfectly good food processor just because the plastic bowl had a crack in it.  He did not respond to my comment, but invited me to contact Sears again if I ever needed anything.

By the way, maybe Hamilton-Beach made the Sears Kenmore CounterCraft, but the plastic work bowl was actually a product of General Electric and was made from something called “Lexan”.  Out of curiosity, I looked up Lexan to see what it actually was, and discovered that Lexan is no longer made by GE but is now a product of SABIC Innovative Plastics.  Lexan is a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic.  It’s the same stuff that they made the  helmets out of that the Apollo moon astronauts used.  They use it to make bullet-proof windows and the headlight housings on cars.  They make signs out of it.  Given all that tough stuff, I find it amazing that the Lexan bowl on my food processor could not withstand the rigors of a few rounds of pesto, some beauty creams and a few blocks of cheese.  I think someone should let NASA know.

apollo11Back to the task at hand, I dutifully googled the Hamilton-Beach site and filled out the “Parts” section with my model and serial numbers.  And came up with zip yet again.  There was no Live Chat with a friendly out-sourced customer service person to engage with this time, so I then went to Contact Us and explained my problem in an email.  I even let them know that the bowl was made of Lexan, formerly by GE, just in case that would help them in some way.  It’s been two days now and I haven’t gotten a response.  Even if I do get a response eventually, something tells me they are going to be about as helpful as Sears was.

So I turned to Ebay.  And guess what?  There was my part!  It was the only one, right there, with my very same serial number, as if it was waiting just for me!  But here’s the thing about it.  The shipping costs more than the actual part.  Given that, I figured maybe I should just  get a whole new food processor and give up this fruitless pursuit.  So I did an internet search to see what a comparable machine is selling for new…..and discovered it is ridiculously too much, given the limited amount of use it gets around here…..and the fact that my reality is entrenched in the 1980’s regarding kitchen counter appliances.

And so, in between writing the paragraphs of this very post, right now in real-time,  I have just contacted the seller of the used Sears Kenmore Food Processor workbowl, just to make sure it is intact and without any cracks. The seller, Rick, immediately responded and assured me that it is in good shape.  Hopefully it will be.  Here it is.  Recycle, reuse, renew!

food processor work bowl


Posted in Are you kidding me?, Humor, Rant, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Hiding Behind a Tree

As if my heart could not get any fuller, my first-born grandchild started his very first day of pre-school this morning.  Wasn’t it but yesterday when I had to leave my first child in daycare?  There was no choice…I had to go off to work……. I left her there on the playground, hid behind a tree watching her, aching with separation and worry.  I hid behind that tree and cried.

Today it was her turn in the wheel – in the ever turning wheel.  It really goes so fast, too fast.

Here are my grandsons, two brothers waiting with excitement on the first day.

first day of preschool~*~

Posted in Aging, kids, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Two Boy Wedding

It is a few days past the wedding, and I am still awash in an almost dream-state; every once in a while welling up with emotion which brings me onto the edge of tears.

It is an honor to be a guest at any wedding, and I tend to get a bit weepy when I see two people making a major commitment. The tenderness and love that I felt at the wedding of my own beautiful first-born child, knowing she had left my nest forever to make a new one with her husband, is a feeling etched forever on my heart.

But something quite different and rather magical occurred at this particular wedding of friends over the weekend; the wedding of two wonderful, wonderful guys – yes, a two boy wedding.  The visual input of the venues alone was almost too much for the senses to process.  The emotional vibrations surrounding this event left a wrench in your chest, your heart feeling as if it was continually opening over and over again, like so many flowers within flowers within flowers.  The day was awash in rainbows and bubbles and joyful tears and so much care.  It left me gasping for words, walking around with a lump in my throat, speechless.  So many people working together so incredibly hard for so many days to pull off this event – such an outrageously beautiful, joyous, three-day party of families, extended families, friends, extended extended extended.  Lights dancing in the trees, lightening zipping through the sky, feathers and sparkles and kaleidoscopes of color and music vibrating, peals of laughter and hearts thumping wildly…… all dusted with some major magic.

Again and again I kept overhearing people saying that “This is the First Gay Wedding I have ever been to”, followed by saying it was also “The. Best. Wedding. Ever”.   The one thought that kept going through my mind was that I hope someday soon it becomes such a regular event for anyone to marry,  so much so that gay wedding” will just be referred to as a “wedding“,  so commonplace that there will be no need for a preface.  But still, beyond that, there was nothing common about this wedding on any level.

All said, this Two Boy Wedding was still the most spectacular wedding event I have ever attended, and I have been to a few Big Events in my time.  Those who hosted it truly know how to throw a party, and everybody present knew they were part of something Special.  Honestly, I have no words to adequately describe it without sounding trite, and still am unable to clearly define the jumble of emotions enough to give a solid description.  I just wanted to go around hugging everybody I saw. Seeing photos now as people start to post them is evoking feelings that have set me weeping and smiling all over again.  And those photos still just barely touch on the glowing aura of it all.

I wish this couple the very best relationship filled with love and care as they go forward. Perhaps too plain to say it so simply, but what a happy, happy day.

Posted in Friends, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


We have had ants this summer, the large black variety.   Not too many, but occasionally one will be spotted making its was across the kitchen floor or even the counter.  There have been so few compared to other years, that there really has been no need to do anything about them besides keep the counters and floors clean, the food covered and put away.

A few weeks ago while mopping the floor of the small downstairs half bathroom, I found a dead ant dangling just above the tile floor, in the corner between the bottom ofbathroom floor the sink vanity and the wall. I almost missed it due to the optical illusion of the black and white tile.  It was caught up in what looked like a small cobweb/dust bunny.  I bent down to inspect the smallest of haphazard, gossamer webbing, which was not arranged in any particular pattern, but was more like a jumble of disorganized strings.  As I leaned in, my movement startled and revealed the resident of this messy little web – a miniscule spider.

I have to say that I was impressed that the little being had set up camp so quickly and caught an ant easily two or three times its size.  Because I am kind of a geek when it comes to this sort of thing, I decided to not clear out the web right away, but to mop around it and let it be.  OK, maybe that’s a little weird, but the spider was so tiny that it was almost a speck. It was a ghost of a spider, and it really wasn’t hurting anything.  And it caught a great big ant!  It was Useful.

Not all insects who enter the home get this kind of invitation, but I have granted some clemency in the past.  When hundreds of ladybugs used to arrive inside the window frames every autumn (in an old country residence of the past), I would let them live there and only vacuumed up the dead ones that fell on the sills. They didn’t seem to be hurting anything.  As their numbers decreased I would wait to see if any of them would make it through the winter.  By January there were usually only a few stragglers left.  I admired their tenacity.

And then there was the The Daily Spider.  The Daily Spider sat waiting for me in the bathtub just about every morning.  It wasn’t a scary-looking spider at all,  but I would rinse it down the drain each time anyway……. and the very next day it would be back again.  Sometimes it would appear in the sink, but usually the tub.  I wondered if it was the same spider or yet another one that looked just like it.  It was remarkable that pretty much each day the spider would be sitting there before I took my shower.  Here is an actual picture of The Daily Spider.  You can see how small it is, which eliminated the fear-factor for me.

The Daily Spider

Here is a close-up of TDS.  Some of you might say “Ewww”, but I think it’s rather interesting to look at.

A closer look at The Daily Spider

Anyway, back to the story,  I left this particular “Spidey” on the bathroom floor there in hopes that he would continue to trap ants and earn his keep, and so I could watch him.  No doubt anybody who sat down on the toilet in that bathroom and happened to let their gaze fall towards that corner of the floor would notice the messy web and probably the dangling ant.  The spider itself was so small it was easy to miss.  Visitors to the bathroom probably thought I was just a lousy homemaker….but the rest of the bathroom was clean!  Really!   I alerted the S.O. to Spidey’s presence – he was only mildly impressed (“Why don’t you vacuum that thing up?”).

Spidey was there for about two weeks when I decided to try to snap a photo of him with my iPhone to show you.  Unfortunately, you are going to have to use your imagination.  I turned on the lights, got down on the floor and moved in close – and totally freaked the spider out, because it immediately scurried away and I have not seen it since.  I continued to try and clean around the web for a few more days in the event he decided to return, but I must have caught the edge of it with the mop, because the ant is now gone too and there is nothing left but a messy little hint of fuzz.  So that is that.

Posted in Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Left Out

There are always challenges in the reshuffling of families, friendships and loyalties when it comes to a divorce.  Over the many years since mine occurred, there have been waves of   problems laced with intense hostility interspersed with moments of peacefulness and pleasant coexistence, and sometimes even laughter.  One of the complicated issues is that my Ex and I live within very close proximity to each other, with an overlap of friends, in a county where everyone seems to either know each other, be related to each other, was married to each other, or has slept with each other.  There are a lot of tangled webs around here.

tangled webs

I have divorced friends and acquaintances who have totally cut their ex-spouse out of their lives, to the point where the ex was not even allowed to come to the door or even step foot on the property to pick up their children for the weekend, sending the kids down the driveway or by the side of the road to wait.   Or some who have just taken the kids and moved far away to get away from the ex.  I know one who expected the ex drive two hours each way in heavy weekend traffic to pick up their kid without doing any accommodating to make this any easier for anybody, including their own child, and another who would not be home to greet their children at the appointed time and would leave the ex-spouse and her children waiting in the driveway for a good amount of time.  I know someone who would send the kids off for the weekend without adequate clothing to wear (especially if the ex was taking them to a dress-up event), and sometimes didn’t send them with their medication! Many I know have arranged to have the Support Collection Unit be the intermediary regarding their child support payments, and a few have had to go after their exes to the point of threatening jail or actually jailing them for non-payment or lapses in support.  They essentially have no contact with their exes.  And when they do, it is always Weird or Unpleasant.  In hindsight perhaps a few of these were prudent things to do, especially regarding the support part.  Time and again people have told me that I need to protect myself from my Ex, both financially and emotionally.

People divorce for a reason, and I will take ownership for my part in it. But at the time I was going through divorce, all these maneuvers seemed so geared to not being a “nice person” and certainly not towards creating any sort of peace.  These tactics seemed to go against my grain and appeared counter-productive to how I believed maintaining a decent post-marriage ought to be.   I had seen how my own mother had been just severed from not only my father, but all their friends and his family after their divorce. A lifetime of relationships just erased. It was so terrible, and it caused her tremendous pain.  Couldn’t there be a better way?  I always felt it was about all of us, just not about me.  And so I have been perhaps a bit Too Relaxed concerning the “Rules of Divorce”.

Throughout the past twenty-some odd years,  but mostly when my children were younger,  I had always felt it would be best to accommodate The Ex in most things concerning the kids.  I invited him to their birthday parties so he would not miss out on those moments.  I actually felt guilty that he was missing those moments, because I knew how I would feel, I knew how painful it felt to be left out, so I tried to include him where I could.  I thought the kids would want him there too.  I kept him informed of their music and play recitals, what was going on in school, teacher meetings, who their friends were,  medical updates and any problems or emotional issues – even when it seemed he was not interested – because I felt as a parent he should know.  I didn’t want to keep him so distanced from what was going on in their lives, now that he was no longer regularly part of those lives. Although he did not reciprocate the courtesy, I thought I was being Fair, and perhaps would just have to be the bigger person about it.  I met him half way to drop off the kids on his weekends or even delivered them to him when I knew his car was not running well, or running at all.  I even allowed temporary postponement and lapses of the child support when he had lost his job and was looking for other work, or when his car engine blew up and his money had to go into fixing it (to pick up the kids, to get to a job).   I didn’t see the point in pummeling him.  I figured I would get it back at the end and that it would all come out in the wash. I didn’t see the point of making everything Horrible, or making the spectre of divorce more horrible than it already was.  Because it was painful, and it was horrible.  But I believe in Good Faith.

divorce Okay, call me a fool, I know, I feel the smirks and eye-rolls.  In that crystal clear hindsight, perhaps I should have just taken the kids and moved back across the country to be near my own family, had the Support Unit garnish his wages and go after him for lapses, and just never talked to him or his people, or any of our friends again.  But you know, I come from the Old School of Hippies.  My heart is an open book.  I knew people whose divorces were so incredibly hostile, so filled with acrimony and acid, that their children were puddles of emotional, weeping mush.  I didn’t want that for my kids, even though I had become the puddle of emotional, weeping mush.  I wanted everything to be mellow and relaxed, even when I desperately knew it wasn’t quite going in that direction.  I had a vision of what I had hoped it could be.  And I loved my in-laws, who were all good people, and just couldn’t see throwing out the bath water with the husband, so to speak.

As it goes in divorces, the friends pretty much sorted themselves into their respective camps.  There was some overlap, but essentially the loyalties were pretty clearly divided.  Sad, but it seems it’s always that way.  Despite the loss of some old and dear friends, some wonderful ones stuck by me.  Beyond that, over the years I have maintained very good and loving relationships with my Former In-Laws; the Ex-In-Laws….the Out-Laws….whatever you might call them.  We have come together for births, weddings, funerals and reunions – those special events. My family has still been happy to see my Ex when these things arise too.  In that respect, it’s been rather remarkable.

While we no longer share holidays together, for a number of summers in a row I have been graciously invited to my Former In-laws for the family reunion.  I don’t stay for the whole weekend-long event, but I usually come for an afternoon to visit with everyone, catch up, give hugs, eat some good food, and then I leave.  It’s been this way for some years now and it has been a nice thing.  Not only does it leave warm fuzzies to see them all and the expanding generations,  but they have even made my Significant Other welcome in their home. In addition, it has been an opportunity to see my own children and grandchildren interacting with their cousins and extended cousins that I have known since birth.  Things have seemed to go along pretty well.

This year I was not invited.

I got wind of this because my children were talking about going and the logistics of getting there, and I hadn’t heard anything about it yet.  My Former Sister-in-Law, who I consider a friend and who I am in contact with via email and Facebook probably a couple of times a week, had said nothing to me about it.  I was flummoxed.  And I felt incredibly hurt.  When I vented to my friend on the phone about this mixture of sad and painful feelings, she said “It really hurts to be left out”.  That pretty much says it all.  It doesn’t matter if you are eight or eighty, in kindergarten, high school or the nursing home –  it really does hurt to be excluded.

I didn’t know if I should just say nothing and sit here feeling badly, or mention it and end up coming off as rude, because of course they have no obligation to invite me to anything, and I feel they have been gracious all these years.  But also, a precedent had been set, and these are people I have been related to and have been in contact with for decades. The worst part was that I actually found myself feeling way more depressed about it than I expected to be or wanted to be, or maybe should be – but I could not shake it.  Both my kids felt I should ask my Former Sister-in-Law why this year was different.  I hesitated, but then I did, and she told me.

It seems my Ex is bringing a date.

The Ex and dates are nothing new at all.  There has been a very, very long line of “dates”.  I think if he was introducing someone new to the family, this sort of would make sense. Who wants to be introduced to a family when the ex-wife is present? If they were worried about weirdness, I think it would have been the decent thing for my SIL to cue me in to the reason for the sudden non-invite.   But the interesting part about this date is that it is someone who is not new on the scene.  She has been there before.  It is someone I actually know, and happen to like very much….and we are even Facebook friends!  Not only that, we have run into each other and had lengthy chit-chat at the supermarket, at restaurants and at other social venues before, including sitting at the same table with her, The Ex and my S.O. at a wedding.  All has been easy and fine with us.  She seems as much at ease with me as I am with her.  She’s actually someone I would have no qualms about inviting over to our place for a holiday event.  Given that, in a way I feel even more hurt and disappointed at how ridiculous and unnecessary the exclusion was.  I think it would have been fine.

But it is not my party. And honestly, I am suspecting that it is my Ex who really didn’t want me there, and that his sister acquiesced to him.  Blood truly is thicker. Given that, I am still just so disappointed in the evasive way this went down.  Which makes me feel that all my misguided hippie-dippy efforts to try and make everyone be “friends” and “get along” –  all my accommodations and unappreciated good will towards trying to make this work all these years has been stupid and fruitless and delusional. It has been all for nothing.

It is times like these where I wish I had taken the children across the country and back to my family, or had locked the doors and made him stand at the far edge of the property like an outcast while he waited for them to come out.  It sort of makes me wish I had contacted Support Collection from Day One and let them kick his ass instead of having to call him each and every time a payment was due, because he has never voluntarily sent it unless I asked for it.  Each and every time. For years.  It makes me wish I had never shared any information about our children, had never met him half way, never extended myself, never cared how he might be feeling at all, just let him remain a stranger. It makes me wish I had started a new life, far, far away.  Perhaps it would have been so much better for my own mental health and self-esteem.  Perhaps I should have just let things get way uglier than they ever had been.

I hate wishing I was that person because I hate that person.  I just really hate feeling like this.

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Elusive, Delicate Rainbows

A small thing for the Bucket List, but one never-the-less.  I have always wanted to visit a butterfly sanctuary, and it finally happened.

Walking into that sheltered world of warm breezes, tropical flowers and rainbow-hued butterflies elicited pure joy.  They are truly elusive, delicate, spectacular beings, and like rainbows they are fragile and short-lived.

As they flutter about you there is almost a giddy feeling of lightness.  Examined up close, each is a work of art, a topographical map, a photo of a distant planet.

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Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen

My grandmother was Catholic, my mother was raised Catholic, and so she tried to raise us as Catholics too.  I consider myself a “Collapsed Catholic” and will usually check “none” on any form asking my religion.  I never was able to assimilate, and have my issues with organized religion in general and the Catholic church specifically.

Along with certain beliefs and expectations came a bit of related paraphernalia, mostly by way of my grandmother.  It was not unusual to find a holy medal pinned to your mattress or attached to the window visor in your car to keep you safe, or to be gifted a set of rosary beads in a small box. At one point in our growing up, my mother had procured some very beautiful olive wood relics originating in Italy, which included two detailed crucifixes.  She hung these crosses over the beds of my sister and I.

Instead of feeling protected, I felt extremely uncomfortable sleeping beneath the image of a suffering, bleeding and crucified Jesus, even though it was beautifully rendered in olive wood and stain.  I did not want my crucifix, and I expressed my distaste for it, even at a young age.  Eventually my mother took it out of my room.  I am not sure what became of Charlotte’s, but one ended up in my Mom’s bedroom, and one of them eventually found its way into my aunt’s home, where it remains today.

Most likely from the same source, she presented my sister and I with olive wood statues of the Virgin Mary.  They were finely carved and lightly stained with color.  My sister Charlotte’s statue was of a slender Mary in blue and white robes who stood upon the world with her hand benevolently stretched outwards and a benign smile.   The Virgin Mary given to me held flowers in one hand, but the other hand was touching her heart, which was outside of her chest and glowing (or burning, or bleeding) and surrounded by roses.  Just like the Jesus suffering over my bed, this Mary seemed also to be in some pain, perhaps more internal.  Maybe I identified with that on some visceral level.

Our Lady of The Perpetual Kitchen

My mother’s purpose in giving us these statues was not entirely clear to me, but I acknowledge that it was out of love and perhaps meant also for protection, or focus.  It meant something to her.  So the Mary sat on a shelf in my room amidst the row of Breyer model horses I used to collect.

When I grew up and moved away, Mary always ended up packed in a box, following me.  Maybe it was just because my mother gave her to me that I allowed her presence, but for years she would reside tucked beside a book on a book shelf, or standing among the bottles of perfume, hair clips, candles and picture frames on my dresser.  When I let go of some of the items from my past – my beloved model horses, the Peruvian statue given to me by my fifth grade teacher, my original 1969 poster of the Woodstock festival on White Lake, my high school diploma, ribbons won at horse shows – when I eliminated these things from my life in a moment of change,  the Virgin Mary always survived the cut and remained……even though I was not religious.  I didn’t think about it much, but she was just always there.

All grown up with a family, the Mary statue eventually found its way onto a shelf of knickknacks in my kitchen, right above the sink.   There were five of us living in the house at the time.  We did not have a dish washer, and it seems I was always doing the dishes, making a meal, cleaning up in that kitchen.  I lived in that room. We lived in that room.  That is where the dog slept, where the fish tank was, where we kept the lizards;  that was the room that had the bird feeder outside of it and a view of the garden.  That was where we would cram in extra chairs and extend the table and have Thanksgiving For Strays and birthday parties and cups of tea.  The kids and I closed the doors and huddled around that stove while I kept on baking to keep warm when we had no heat.  Mary stood on that shelf just above eye-level, looking down at me, watching over us, and one day it just came to me that she was Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen.  I felt that was a fitting name and that she presided over the home in the most obvious place, a place of honor at the helm of the action.

And so she was that for many years, until one day my mother came to visit and noticed the location of the statue.  She felt that Mary deserved a more fitting place than hovering over the dishes in the sink, and when I told her that she was Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen, she indicated that it was a bit disrespectful and asked if she could take the Mary home with her.  It seemed to mean more to her than to me, so I gave her back to my Mom.

Our Lady spent the next number of years on my mother’s polished maple dresser in her clean, quiet bedroom, next to her jewelry box and with her back to a large mirror.  The original Jesus on the cross was also in her room – I am not sure if it was mine or Charlotte’s.  These items seemed to give my mother comfort.  And that is where they remained until the day she died.

When we were cleaning out my mother’s home, I took Our Lady back home with me.  I left the Jesus crucifix, which was taken by Aunt M, who hung it up in her house and has no knowledge of its true history.  Last time I saw her she announced to us that she wonders who she will leave her beautiful crucifix from Italy to when she dies.  I hope it is not me.

Back in my home, Mary spent the next few years tucked into a corner of the pine hutch in the dining room with the “good” dishes and “special” things.   But now she resides in the guest room.

I call it “The Deity Room” because there is a lovely painted cloth on the wall of Krishna dancing with the Gopis.  On top of a Mexican chest are a number of statues of Sarasvati and Ganesha.   There is a carved wooden statue of The Virgin of Guadalupe in that room, which I had bought for my mother when she got sick.  I felt Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen would fit right in there, and she does.

Today when I was dusting the chest and all the Deities,  I picked up Our Lady and took a good look at her again; her downward cast eyes, her Roman nose, her glowing heart coming out of her chest.  I decided to look up The Immaculate Heart.  This is what it said:

“The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all persons”.

It took me fifty years to get it.  I wish I could talk to my mother right now.


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Salmiak is Salmiak

Licorice is one of those things that people usually like a lot or totally abhor. You are pretty much into it or you’re not, there is not much waffling on the fence concerning licorice. I am in the licorice camp.

So there I am on a summer’s day; a kid wandering through Woolworth’s after finishing up a banana split ice cream sundae that I scored for twenty-three cents – you picked a balloon and they popped it and you paid whatever price the little piece of paper in the balloon said. After finishing off that, I became distracted by the pet section with the white mice, the hamsters, and the parakeets. When I left the store and got out to the sidewalk, I was lured by a spicy aroma into the small specialty store next door. We called it “The German Deli”, although that was not the name of the store and I am not sure what other countries the store actually represented…..it was probably more like a gourmet import store. I was maybe eleven years old at the time, if that.

In this “German Deli” there were sausage-y, rich, spiced scents that seemed to seep from the walls. The inside was dark and close. The wooden shelves were stocked with bottles and cans of exotic, Weird and Unfamiliar Things; the things you normally did notgyms see in the supermarket in those days. Chestnuts floating in syrup, pearly white onions in brine, jams made from exotic fruits, unidentifiable items with pretty labels and unpronounceable, magical names. These Unfamiliar Things lured me. I was curious to try something, but almost everything I saw was outrageously expensive to me. However, on one of the lower shelves, a shelf I could easily reach and inspect, round metal tins of Pastilles were arranged in rows. A white tin with little black diamond shapes printed on it said GYMS in black and gold lettering. I did not know what “GYMS” meant, but I assumed the diamonds referred to something like licorice. The writing on the tin was not in English. The tin was affordable to me (especially since I had made such a killing on the banana split) so I bought one.

When I pried the top off the tin, it was filled with little black diamonds that gave off a tangy, acrid, licorice but not licorice scent. Testing one of the diamonds on my tongue, I discovered this licorice certainly was nothing like the licorice that I knew. It was salty, and something else besides. And from that moment, I was hooked. I could eat them one after another. Whenever I happened to be down that way, I would always make a detour to “The German Deli” for more GYMS.

It turned out none of my friends or siblings had the same attraction to the GYMS – as a matter of fact, most of them were disgusted by it – so I was pretty much on my own concerning this discovery. I ate GYMS for years, until “The German Deli” closed…and then we moved away and I forgot about them.

My next encounter with salt licorice happened in Yiftah in the Golan Heights of Israel, where I met a Dutch woman who had brought some from home. She told me they were called “Drop”. These were not little diamond shapes but round and oval black shapes. Again, my immediate reaction to them was so powerful that I was instantly craving them, wanting more and more. dubbel zout

For some reason, Dutch friends keep appearing in my life – none of who know each other – and each one has turned me on to the salt licorice. The second Dutch woman, who I befriended when I parked myself next to the food table at a party (stuffing my face), brought back a bag of black coins when she was visiting her family in Holland. She told me the drop were “zout” and “dubbel-zout”, and indeed the ones with the “DZ” on them were killer salty. Every time her family came to visit or she would visit them, she would bring me a little bag of “zout drop”.

I went to The Netherlands with her, where they have candy stores filled with all sorts of loose drop that you can mix up and buy in bags. It was drop heaven. Some of it was surrounded by a sugar-coating, some of it was softer, or in different shapes. There were sugared, square cubes of chewy stuff called Griotten which also had that taste. It was in one of these drop stores where I discovered the softer, light brown salmiak coins, which are like the salt licorice, but there is something else about them also. They are milder but incredibly addictive.  The light brown salmiak became my thing.  I will say while I type this, right at this very minute, I am actually salivating for salmiak.

What is this stuff? I had to know what this salmiak was! So I asked our host, my Dutch friend’s cousin, who looked at me like I was insane and said “What do you mean? Salmiak is salmiak!” I took that at face value. There must be something called salmiak that they make the salmiak out of. One and the same in name?

The third Dutch friend entered my life through an internet group of cancer survivors. Not only did she have salmiak, she had it in a kind of chalky round, grayish-tan candy form that came in a roll. I liked this even better. But it seems you could not find this in “regular stores”. salmiak coins

By the time I met my fourth Dutch friend at a holistic center, I figured all these Dutch women and their salmiak was a sign. I am not sure where that sign was pointing, but I went on a quest to find out where I could get salmiak here in the states instead of the intermittent care packages from Holland.

Well, you can Google anything, and I finally did. Salmiak, which is familiar to the Netherlands, Nordic countries, the Baltics and parts of Northern Germany, is salty licorice that is flavored with ammonium chloride, or “sal ammoniac”. It is the ammonium chloride which gives it that kick I so crave.

With a name like ammonium chloride, I have to wonder if it is Bad For You. A quick Wiki check reveals that it is used in metalwork; in zinc carbon batteries; as a food additive in baking; a flavoring for licorice; is known as noshader in India and Pakistan, where it is used in food for crispness; is sometimes used as an expectorant; and also as a soldering flux, to name a few things – not all very appetizing and maybe a bit questionable. Dutch health organizations advise salmiak skullsnot eating more than 50 grams of licorice a day, as the body would have to metabolize the glycyrrhizine, which is the compound which provides the sweet taste. Too much of that stuff can cause edema and hypertension. However, it is also supposedly inhibits liver cell injury. All of this is more information than I think I need. I have never gotten to the point where I have keeled over from salmiak, and none of my Dutch friends have ever had a salmiak-related problem either.

So far I have not found a really good source for salmiak.  I think I might look for a store and order it. Tonight.

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Slowly I Turned……

“Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch….”

I realize I am dating myself here, because about half the people I have said this to know what I am talking about and the other half don’t. The line is from a skit in “I Love Lucy” and also appeared in “Abbott and Costello” and “The Three Stooges”; old, classic shows from childhood. Those of us who watched them recognize it, and perhaps anyone else who is into cult television. The key word is “Niagra Falls”.  Hearing the words “Niagra Falls” would evoke a memory in one of the characters that would put them into a rage.

Slowly I turnedSo, now that you have that background, one of the things on my Bucket List was to see Niagra Falls. I don’t know why I never managed to get there. So many of my friends had gone, my sister had been, even one of my kids went there.  When I mention visiting The Falls to people, time and time again they say “Oh, how romantic!”.  Well….no romance happening on this trip!  The S.O. had absolutely no interest in driving to Canada to see big, loud water. So I turned to my friend K., who is often up for an adventure, and had never been there either. Road Trip! Thelma and Louise!

The adventure actually started with a little bit of a hiccup as soon as we were backing out of my driveway. The tires had not even hit the street yet when K. realized that she didn’t have her passport. You need a passport in order to get into Canada, and you need one to get back into the United States. We had planned this trip many weeks ago, but after we planned it she had sent her passport off to a clearing house in order to get a visa for another trip, and she forgot about it. So she didn’t have it because they hadn’t sent it back yet. And she just thought of it now. GAH!

So she called the B&B where we were staying, who called the Customs office, who said it was OK as long as she brought lots of identification. This meant driving back to K.’s house to get all that stuff. This set our trip back only about an hour, but put a tiny bit of uncertainty into it, as we didn’t know what they would say when we got to the border. However, we figured they would let us through. They would see us and just welcome us right in! What’s not to like about us?

The all day drive went fairly quickly, probably because women like to talk…and stop for Starbucks.  Then we got to The Rainbow Bridge, and sat in traffic there for a while, waiting our turn. If you looked over to your left you could see The Falls in the distance. We were so excited!  Niagra Falls!!!

Niagra Falls 1We crept slowly up towards the border checkpoint, until there was just one car ahead of us. This is where I made my faux pas. When the guy in the car in front of me pulled up to the booth, I followed him and drove up right behind him. It’s an automatic reaction when you are in a line of cars. A person pulls up, you pull up behind them, right?  But suddenly, the customs guy came bursting out of his booth and began angrily pointing, waving his arms and yelling “GET BACK! BACK UP! BACK UP!” and I realized that I had rolled through the stop sign – that there was supposed to be distance between us and the car in front of us and I should have stopped. He sure was mad! Really Mad. This did not bode too well for what was to come next. I backed up. And then it was our turn.

border niagra fallsSo now we have one majorly pissed off inspector, asking us for our passports. And K. doesn’t have one. Actually, she does have her old, expired one with her, and a driver’s license, and an email letter saying that her current passport is in transit. But this is not good enough for our Now Very Angry Border Person. I think it didn’t help that it was the end of the day, which probably made him even more cranky.

“Why would you plan to leave the country knowing you didn’t have a passport?” he asked.  This caused K. to become flustered. The perfectly good reason was because at the time the trip was planned she had the passport, but she sent it off and now she didn’t. However, she wasn’t following his line of questioning exactly and so wasn’t giving him the answer he was demanding.  And they were both starting to get a little bit of an Attitude.  I tried to chime in and explain that our B&B host person called Customs for us and was told it was OK to come as long as there was other ID.  I kept reiterating that.  But of course, we didn’t have the name of the Customs person that she spoke to on the phone.

“How do I know you spoke to anyone if you don’t have a name?” he said. Throughout this exchange, the Border Guy would seem to soften and almost relent, only to get revved up all over again every time K. said something.   K. was starting to get defensive with him. He was doing his job but also digging his heels in a bit. And here I was, deaf as I am, trying to navigate this conversation, since I was sitting in the driver’s seat closest to where he was leaning out of the booth. Throughout all of this, like an earworm, I kept thinking, “Slowly I turned…step by step…inch by inch…Niagra Falls!”

In the end, what probably decided things in our favor was the fact that we were a couple of older (at least older than he was) white women in a compact car and we were U.S. citizens. He probably thought we were Harmless Ditzy Old Women. There certainly must have been some privilege in that, because I think had we been young, or men, or of another color, of another country, or maybe driving a van, he might have given us an even harder time than he did. Perhaps he would have made us pull over and inspected the trunk of our car, or he might have even turned us back. With a look of total disgust, he handed us back our papers and waved us through.

Big FallsThe Falls were massive, grand and mesmerizing. Early that evening we did our first immediate tourist thing and took a ride on The Maid of the Mist. We got up close to the thundering water and laughed and got wet, despite wearing the blue rain ponchos they give you to put on. Gulls swooped down past the cascading water. There were rainbows arcing all over the place. Slowly I turned. And the sky was as blue as blue could be.

niagra falls rainbow


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I just could not resist the creativity of it.  OK, I know I have been running on about berries the last few posts. This is the very last thing I am going to post about pies, or blueberries, or probably even baking this year at the very least.

This photo has been going around the internet and I don’t know who to credit it to.  But I will say that it is delightful, and I think next year for blueberry season I am going to be making this for my grandkids.  Or my kids.  Or actually, for myself.  Is this cool or what?

octopus pie

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The tradition continued into the next generation when I took my three-year-old grandson blueberry picking for the first time.  With his little pail and my big one, we ventured off into the field and down the row of bushes together.  I picked high and he picked low.  Of course, more made their way into his mouth (and mine) than into our buckets.  But he managed to collect the nice blue ones, not the old ones past prime, not the unripe. And when it was time to leave, he didn’t want to quit.  We both found ourselves wandering back to the car while still picking berries along the way.

I think he has my foraging genetics.

After nap time, we made a blueberry pie together.  Of course, we all had it for dessert that night.

blueberry picking

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I made a blueberry pie from all those blueberries I picked.

Then I ate it for breakfast two days in a row.

Just because.


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The Other Car

Once we had children, I became the driver of the newer and larger car, the “safer” car, as I was the one shuttling the precious cargo around. So by default, my Then Husband, who I will call “Howie” for the sake of this story, took over our older, other car, which he commuted to and from work in.

The Other Car was a Toyota Tercel with over 100,000 miles on it (rather impressively, it actually made it to 250,000 and was then sold to someone else – still running). The car was a stripped down little roller skate of a vehicle; 5-speed standard transmission, no air conditioning, roll-up windows, no frills. We did have a decent sound system in it, with home-made speakers housed in large boxes (Howie insisted on that). Because of its age, the car naturally had some issues. tercel It rattled very badly. It was rusting through in a number of places.  We lived in the woods and the mice had found their way inside some of those holes, making nests within the car. You would find mouse turds on the floor. Sometimes when you got into the car, a shadow of a mouse would dart away beneath your feet. One time while he was driving to work, a mouse actually jumped up on Howie’s shoulder – unbelievable that he did not drive off the road, for I probably would have.

The headlights on this car kept burning out quickly for some odd reason, which was a major nuisance, because it was difficult to get your hands into that small space where the bracket was to replace them.  It was the kind of car that you had to keep some tools in for quick repairs whenever you drove it anywhere.  It was a bit unnerving to drive The Other Car, and I started to avoid it as much as possible. To his credit, Howie seemed to just deal with all of it…..not like we really had any choice.

It was a very warm spring evening when he drove off  to attend a course at a community college, in pursuit of educational and economic betterment.  The college was situated in a small river city not far from where we lived. I made dinner for the kids, cleaned up, tucked them into bed and waited for Howie to come home.  When he arrived back a few hours later, he was a bit shaken up and had this story.

After class was finished that night, Howie was headed home his usual way.  He had all the car windows open and was enjoying the unseasonably warm night air, when he came upon existing road work and a detour. This detour took hRodney_King_Riot__1992im into an unfamiliar area of the inner city. The year was 1992 and a decision in the very emotional Rodney King case had just been handed down. Los Angeles was in the middle of six days of rioting. Unrest was happening in smaller cities across the country too. Lost in the dark and with only one headlight working (he had not gotten around to fixing it – the replacement part was sitting in a box on the floor of the car until he had time to install it) Howie detoured into a neighborhood where people were outside and angry in the streets. Suddenly, they started throwing garbage pails at the car as he drove through. It was a scary situation but he managed to find his way out, unnerved and unscathed, except for maybe a couple of more dents to the old car.

Emerging from the detour onto the familiar state road once again, he continued heading towards home.  Stopping at a traffic light, he sighed with tremendous relief, popped a tape of the Grateful Dead into his very good car stereo, and prepared to unwind for the rest of the drive back. But as he waited for the light to change, the car began to shake, and then a thundering roar suddenly drowned out the music as a number of bikers on their Harleys pulled up at the light and surrounded him. One big, brawny guy pounded on the roof of the car and leaned his head into the open window.  Howie started to wonder if he was really going to make it home that night.

But the biker grinned and yelled “Grateful Dead! Turn it up!”  Amazed (and again relieved), Howie complied by cranking up the Grateful Dead on those home-made speakers so they could hear it over the roar of their engines. The light grateful deadchanged and they all started off down the road together. There were bikers in front of him, behind him, and on the side of the car. The windows were all open, the Dead was blasting, and Howie had an escort as they all picked up speed together. The warm spring wind was blowing through the open windows and all was OK with the world once again.

That is, until the bikers suddenly veered off in different directions. Howie looked into his rear view mirror to discover that they were gone.

In their place were the flashing lights of a police car. He could not believe how the night was unfolding. He pulled over.

policelights“Good evening sir. License and registration please. Do you know you have one headlight out?” Again. Of course.

Well sir, yes, I know the headlight burned out, and I actually have the replacement right here in the car”, said Howie, and he reached down to pick up the box on the floor of the passenger side that held the spare headlight.

“DON’T MOVE! Keep your hands on the steering wheel!” the officer sharply ordered. “Do you have any weapons in your possession”?

Howie quickly complied, hands on the steering wheel and in full view. “No sir, no weapons“, he said.

The officer came around to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and began shining his flashlight around the vehicle.  And then he reached his hand under the passenger side seat to check for contraband.

Suddenly there was a loud snap, the police officer yelled and quickly pulled his hand away from under the seat – with a mousetrap attached to his fingers.

I believe Howie figured it was all over for him then.

Much to this officer’s credit, and despite the obvious pain he was in (and luckily for Howie) he sort of kept his cool.  Through his teeth he said, “Why do you have a mousetrap under your seat?

“I have mice!” said Howie, as if that was obvious.

With all that they see and hear, I do believe this might have been a first for this officer. Miraculously, he let Howie go with just a warning about the headlight.  Actually, it was rather incredible, given the circumstances.

When Howie got home, he related his tale of his adventure to me.  As you can imagine, he was animated and sweaty and looked way whiter than his usual whitish self.

The thing about it is, as wild a ride as it was that evening, in so many ways this kind of event was sort of our “normal”.  And you know, it seemed to make perfect sense to me that we had a mouse trap under the seat of the The Other Car.  With peanut butter as bait.  I mean really, isn’t that how you catch mice?

mouse trap

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Meditation in Blue

There is a place I consider somewhat sacred – a place that I have been going to for decades.  It is an orchard farm not far from my home.

my sacred placeIt has been the place I would go to pick berries, apples and asparagus before my children were born.  When the babies came, I would take them out into the fields strapped to my chest.  As they grew up, they carried their own buckets and ran through the rows each season, collecting and laughing, filling their faces with the sweet delight.

blueberrybliss2It is a place that I have shared with family, friends and lovers.  It is a place I have gone to alone, to process, heal and free myself from grief.

When I come to this place to pick berries, I can feel my heartbeat quicken in anticipation.  Once out in the fields, away from the stresses of life, the magic begins.  Birds trill in the distance.  The light in the sky shifts as clouds build and the sunlight moves, leaving blue shadows across the fields.  Soft breezes caress the leaves, and my skin.

out in the fieldsThe best time to come for berries is in the morning, just as the dew begins to dry, before the sun gets too intense, before too many people get there, and usually not on a Saturday or a Sunday when the weekenders arrive with their animated chattering, stripping the bushes before you of their ripened fruit.  The best days to come are days that are not too hot or humid – days when there is a slight breeze. Today was one of those mornings, with a sun that was bright but not burning, and a gentle wind blowing.

Blueberries tend to be easy, relaxing picking.  With your bucket tied to your waist, they are mostly right there for the asking, a dusty gray-blue or a shiny bruised purple, beckoning.  Gathering them this morning against the backdrop of cerulean mountains, the meditation set in.  The plumpest, most enticing berries are the ones you have to reach deeper for, the ones underneath or at the center of the bush, hidden in those darker places that have not yet been discovered, or down at the bottom where others do not want to stoop to reach.  It seems perhaps a metaphor for those things in life that require perseverance and effort in order to bring about the rewards – in this case the sweet-tart bliss which can be savored while you work your way down the rows.

blueberry loveThere is distraction!  The berries over on the other side or further down the row look so much bluer, the same way the neighbor’s lawn seems to always appear greener, the most enticing pasture calling from the other side of the fence.  But are they really? When you change direction and go after them, it turns out they are usually just as good as the ones where you were standing all along.

If this wasn’t enough, then there are the raspberries, which take a bit more mindfulness I think, to deftly lift each branch and allow the ripened berries to fall into you palm without tearing the frond off the bush, to avoid the stickers, and to work among the honey bees.  But the rewards seem all that much greater.  The bees alight and bounce among the white raspberry blossoms.  We coexist in that space in those moments. To date, I have never been stung by a honey bee while collecting raspberries, nor have my children.  They tend to go about their business as you go about yours, and they will avoid you if they can.  They usually do not land on the fruit, but seem only interested in the nectar of the flowers.  The first time I encountered so many among the raspberries on a hot summer’s day, I was taken aback, yet found there is even peace working along side them, a cooperative consciousness.  A day with a steady cool breeze is still best for picking raspberries, as the wind tends to blow the bees away.

Today’s raspberry picking was sparse and not as rewarding.  Sometimes that happens.  But today’s blueberry picking was bliss.  I will put some up so the taste of these blue days of summer will be remembered long after this season has passed.

the taste of summer in blue


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Crossing a Line

No stranger to comfortable shoes, one peek in my closet will reveal a significant selection of Birkenstocks, Danskos, Naots, Merrills and Clarks.  I have spent good money on good shoes because I can’t stand it if my feet hurt.  I might be a shoe-a-holic, but I am not a slave to shoe fashion in lieu of comfort.  My old shoes are rarely thrown out unless they are decimated, and so the collection is rather remarkable in size, but mostly outdated.  When I am not wearing the most comfortable of shoes, I am barefoot.

Air-Jesus shoes

Air-Jesus shoes

Comments from my family about my assortment of un-hip shoes range from “I wouldn’t be caught dead in those” (my sister – referring to a pair of Bjorn sandals) to  “Ugh, you wear those ‘Air Jesus’ shoes!” (accompanied by laughter from my brother, about my well-worn, eighteen year old pair of original style Birks), and a variety of smirks and eye-rolls from sisters and in-laws.  Anything with much of a heel has not been worn in years -even with my penchant/addiction to cowgirl boots,  the field has been narrowed down to the requirement that they need to be extremely comfortable and very supportive on the arches.

A few days ago my sisters, niece and I took a long road trip out-of-state to visit our ninety-year-old Aunt M. in the assisted living facility where she resides.  She is bent and frail, feisty and intelligent, and not the nicest or happiest person you would want to know…the minute one of us would leave the room to attend to something, she would say something catty about the absent person.  But, well, she’s ninety after all (although she’s always been that way, I guess ninety cuts you a lot of slack) and the last living relative of that generation, and so we sighed and accommodated.  She wanted shoes and some new clothing – and mostly to escape from the very clean, well-kept and quite lovely facility she lives in (“Get me out of this prison for a few hours”).  So we took her out to breakfast and then to the local outlet center.

Maneuvering her in and out of the car was a trip in itself.  Although she can get going and work up some significant speed with her walker once you get her standing, first you need to get her out of the chair and on her walkerfeet.  She’s very bent over, so she’s sort of looking down instead of forward.  Then she crashes into walls and other objects while trying to steer, before becoming exhausted, at which point she stops cold and demands to be helped back into a chair.

After getting her out of the facility, into my car, in and out of the restaurant and finally to the outlet center, we located one of those borrowed wheelchairs from the center office for her.  That made things a lot easier.  The first place she wanted to go was the Easy Spirit shoe store.  She was wearing a pair of Easy Spirit sneaker slip-ons, and she liked them so much that she wanted another pair.

I have never owned a pair of Easy Spirit shoes. I have a friend who has been wearing their very nice looking athletic sneakers for many, many years, even before we became “middle-aged” (or, OK,  past middle-aged) and swears by their comfort, but for some reason I never considered them.  I guess I figured they were for “old people”.  Being in that store with Aunt M. was a reinforcement of that opinion.

Aunt M’s new shoes

There was a buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price sale going on, so we got her two pairs of shoes. She was very particular about what colors we got her, no pushing your opinions and tastes on Aunt M., that was for sure!  She didn’t like coral but she thought the lavender slip-ons were nice.  We got her both lavender and blue pairs.

While one sister catered to her, the rest of us killed some time wandering around the store looking at what Easy Spirit had to offer.

Most of what I saw did not appeal to me….some of it screamed “Comfortable Old People Shoes”…..but suddenly I noticed some cute open-sided gray suede sneaker-shoes….on sale.  And then my sister found the cutest pair of blue and white sneakers!  And they had purple ones too!  Suddenly, there we were, trying on these shoes –  comfortable, foot massaging, supportive shoes.  My teenaged fashionista niece was adding her opinions on what looked good and what didn’t.  The next thing you know, we were standing up at the register getting our buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price  old people, comfortable shoes.

My new blue suede shoes – cute or what?

My sister turned to me.  “I think we have crossed some sort of line here” she said.  We both glanced over in the direction of Aunt M.

I sighed.  I guess maybe we have.


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Saturday Market


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Flamingos Spotted in the Northeast!


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As a child, my father and I would occasionally enjoy a delicious glass of carrot juice together.  Many years later, he introduced me to the idea of doing some serious juicing myself when he gifted me his old Omega juice machine.  The interest waxes and wanes regarding juicing, but right now I am in one of my juicing phases. This week when I went shopping for fruits and vegetables, I found myself suddenly getting a bit gaga over all the green in the produce section.

green produce1 Everything was so textured and vibrant.  I couldn’t help but stop to gaze at the greens and take a few pictures.

green produce2But when I got home, instead of using the juicer machine, I decided to squeeze some fresh orange juice by hand. I remembered that somewhere, stashed away, I had a little glass citrus squeezer which predated the electric juicer.  I found it safely stowed on the bottom shelf of the dining room hutch, a hutch which had been in our home when I was a child.  I remember my parents dragging the old pine piece home and my Dad refinishing it.

On a very green morning years ago, when the cicadas where whining and the heat was  just starting to build up to a humid afternoon,  my Dad and I attended a large flea market together.  Both being collectors of a variety of treasures, we stopped to marvel and comment at each booth, but we did not buy – until we came across a little glass citrus juicer.  We thought the green glass was so beautiful.

the green juicer from my dadHe bought it for me. It is one of my treasures, a small gift with a special and loving memory connected to it.  This luminous, timeless green connects me to my Dad on this Father’s Day.  I pushed each orange half against the glass, and reflected.


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