Thursday, December 31, 2009

Checking in

Been busy, but I feel as though I should acknowledge the end of the year, and start of another. And is this the end of the decade, since it started with 2000, or was it 2001, so 2010 will end the decade?  I mean, I do know that a decade is ten years, but we had no year 0, right? so 10 was the first decade, which means 2011 starts the next one. It doesn't matter anyway, because I believe the popular belief is that January 1st starts the 'teens'.  Enough of this gibberish!  On to Christmas- the one we just had, that is.

It was a good one. The visiting in RI was a bit hectic, and since only Ameranth spent the night, we felt like we didn't get to see enough of our chil'ns.  We did get to meet Sectaurs' lady friend, who is very nice, and acted as though she was not at all overwhelmed by meeting both sides of his family. She was introduced to roughly 35 people at 3 houses in 5 hours. And that's about half of the family we have. She has none, so quite a difference.

I did get some new earrings, so have had a few adventures there. Wouldn't you think that after 6 months, they would be completely healed? Yes, I would too, but they aren't.  Not to be too graphic, but it's unsettling when the post doesn't slide through to the back, but gets lost in the cartilage (is that even cartilage in the ear lobe?) and wanders in circles. Ameranth refused to help me out, even though I reminded her that I had done it for her years ago.  Anyway, I successfully changed them myself today and now sport yellow turtles.

J gave me a neat decoration:

Isn't that pretty? I think it will go on our porch wall this summer. (The body is about a foot long)  Ms M gave me a waffle iron, so I can now indulge once in a while and Sectaurs can keep the one he borrowed 3 years ago. This one is better anyway, but don't tell him. He doesn't read this, since he says he shouldn't have to look online to see what his mother is doing, so I can say anything I want to about him! :)

We are starting the new year off with a 3-4 day snowstorm, so there will be lots of relaxing time, interspersed with bouts of snow shoveling-and-blowing. We parked the cars in the widest part of the driveway, which is a pain to clear, hoping the snow in that area to a minimum.  We have gas for the blower and the generator- we know we'll need the former, and hope not to use the latter. We are in the area forecast to get the lion's share of the snowfall, so we will see how that plays out.

Best of wishes for the New Year!

Oh, oh! I had to edit this. I forgot to mention that J got me a new camera!  A little Canon, in a pretty pale pink. Now, as Ameranth said, I don't have to have everyone hold still for 7 seconds while my old camera slooowly clicked in.  (It was a hand-me-down and I loved having a digital camera, but now I have a better one, so I  gave it to my parents to play with).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Warmth in my heart..and my feet, finally.

So, it turns out that it's not just that my van has sucky heat. Nope, it had a thermostat that was stuck open. And now for 12.95 for the part and a bit more for the joy of having someone else fix it, I no longer arrive to work with a cherry red nose, and white fingers.

And just so we don't sound like complete idiots, it had been a  gradual loss of heat, so I thought well, duh it's getting colder outside.  But suddenly last week,  turning on the heat would stop the struggling rise of the heat gauge and cause it to flatline.

On to the warmth in my heart. First, I have tonight off!  Woo hoo! I can't remember the last time I didn't work Christmas Eve. We had a choice of the day before or after off, and I always chose after, since we drove to RI.  This year, I have both off and I am enjoying it.

My wrapping is now finished, and I am about to make some snickerdoodles. (Those are cookies, guys. cookies) Tomorrow all of our MA kids will meet us at Grandma's and we'll exchange gifts. Then off to visit J's side of the family, finally finishing up the day at #3's for the rest-of-my-family gathering. 

We won't be able to visit with J's sister Re, since she can't take the risk of germs right now. She's just finished a grueling course of chemo treatment for breast cancer, and has a few weeks off before she starts radiation. Re caught some virus and had to spend a few days in the hospital, being re-hydrated, but went home today, so that's good news.

Shoeshine called today to let me know he had sent a birthday present that should arrive today. The UPS man showed up while we talked, so I was able to thank him right away for the very nice earrings he sent. My first dangly pair! I had to have J help get one in, since I couldn't see the right angle to aim for! So, now I look a little strange as I randomly shake my head to feel them.

Merry Christmas to anyone and everyone!  It will be a quick trip down and back, but we are lucky to have so much family near enough to visit. As well as family we want to visit!

Lucky to have so much family, period.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Decorating with Mr Crazy

J and I both had Friday and Saturday off this week, so were able to wrap up a few holiday chores.  Being the cheapskate thrifty shopper that I am, we walked the perimeter of our pasture yesterday, looking for one we could cut, that was on our side of the stone wall. No luck, although the dogs enjoyed the outing. I really hate paying anything a lot for a tree.

We set out this morning to get the best bargain we could, which would mean J looking high and me low for one we could agree on. Lo and behold, we drove past a neighbor's driveway and saw a tree stuck in the snowbank, with a cardboard sign stating "FREE".  We looked at each other and turned to get it. Wow, 30 seconds from home and done already!

J stopped and waited, until I told him to be the man and get out and grab the tree. I waved out the window in case our friends saw us taking their discard. He popped it on top of the truck cover whereupon I asked him did he think it was going to stay  there?  600 feet home? No problem!  5 seconds later, he stopped the truck and hopped out to pick it up off the road, while I was saying that the driver behind us was laughing at us.

Cut the bottom off, lopped a few branches and stuck it in the stand with water while we set out once more. We hoped the limbs would thaw and drop down out of the barrel shape into a more traditional A-line. (They never did) I think this was a tree some male cut down and when some female saw it, he was told to get rid of it and get a better one.

J suggested that after Christmas, we put it back where we found it, with a "Thanks" sign, an idea which amused us greatly. Then he paused and asked, "Was that guy in the truck really laughing at us?"  No, dear.

After we reset his truck clock, which was off because he got a new battery Friday, he turned the radio on, then off after I said it was too loud.  I said I was afraid his hearing was getting worse, and he asked me why. "Because yesterday, you didn't hear most of what I said to you!"
"Oh.....When were you talking to me?"
All friggin' day, that's when!

I was on the phone with Ameranth last night, when I moved to the kitchen doorway.
"Jeepers, Dad has been decorating and I can't see out the kitchen sink window anymore"

Ameranth inherited her Dad's love of holiday festiveness and said "Oh, I have a lot of those stickon window decorations. I have been restraining myself since Sectaurs thinks less is more."

"I don't even recognize some of them. There's a big snowball fort with snowmen all around that covers the whole top pane"

"Hey, those are mine!... well, I guess Sectaurs doesn't have to worry about my restraint now."

We have a built-in hutch across from my seat at the kitchen table and while eating tonight, my gaze fell upon one of the decorative ducks that live there with our dishes.  Nothing is safe from J.

The dogs were very interested in the tree, and our decorations. I worry a bit about Boomer, since he loves any ball he finds. So far, no casualties, although it came close when J tried to get the dogs to pose in front of the tree. Rosie's tail almost undid all of our work.  Boomer did not get the whole sit nice idea. But see how patiently Rosie sits there?

            Until all of that energy had to go somewhere.

J proudly told Sectaurs about scoring the free tree, and told me all he said was "Oh, you guys". Some of our kids think we tend to accept too much of other people's castoffs but hey, we could use this right away, and we get rid of it in a couple of weeks! Now that's efficient.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Such exciting goings-on!

Not really, sorry I got your hopes up.  But it is exciting to me- My ranger got her Legendary Cartographer title last night, in Guild Wars. That mean she has explored 100% of all 3 continents in the game, a goal where a little OCD helps a lot.

Ok, moving on. This is what my dogs have going on today in their big backyard. (Ranger Rick, anyone?)

Sniffing excitedly: Wow, oh wow, do you smell that, Boomer?
Running frantically on shorter legs: Yes, yes, yes, I do. What can it be?
Let's run back and forth from the tree to the fence to see if the smell will turn up a body!

Looking skyward into the tree, whispering(whining): Oh, it's up there, it is. I see it flicking it's tail at us.

Sadly: No, it wasn't really there at all. It's gone. Over the fence and back to the woods.  Let's go inside. Mom's calling us.

Excitedly sniffing under the stairs: Oh, Oh do you smell that? Something was here too!  Oh, if we could only fit under there! How come we always miss the good stuff?

Excitedly jumping up on the closed door: Hey! Hey! Mom, you shut the door before we got to it!  Hey!  Mom? Let us in?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snips and Snails and puppy dog tales

Busy, busy in my temporary return to customer service. And, boy howdy, are there a lot of disgruntled, feeling entitled people out there!  Merry Christmas to you too.

Moving along to bits from this week.

J leaves for work at 4:30 and the dogs generally wake me up around 6 to go outside, where they stay until I get up for good, usually 10 or so. (I work nights, all of you who were tsk, tsking).  I got up one morning to find Rosie anxiously bouncing to get inside, but Boomer nowhere in sight. I could hear him however. He was (once again) stuck in the timeout yard.

I had piled our porch furniture at the end, covered with tarps, and made a hay nest out of the wind for the dogs. Boomer apparently climbed the pile and launched himself over the rail and into prison. Rosie was extremely upset that I took the time to get dressed (we had 10 inches of snow fall the day before) and Boomer wouldn't sit still for a picture.

Got a couple of packages in the mail and that's always fun. One was a box of Kenyon Mills Johnny Cake White Corn Meal, sent by my parents.  We looked for some when we were in RI last month, but the grocery stores no longer carry it. One of my sisters lives near the mill and small store, so my folks swung by on a visit and got us a box full of corn meal goodness.

If you're not familiar with johnny cakes, they are thick pancake-like gems, cooked on a griddle, crispy outside and mushy inside, that taste wonderful with butter and maple syrup.  I've been told that the mushy part is akin to grits.  Growing up we would have these for supper sometimes, with bacon and scrambled eggs. Mmm Mmm. To this day I put maple syrup on my scrambled eggs. This might be what's for dinner tomorrow.

We went out shopping today. Us and a couple of thousand other people. Walking out of Marden's I commented that I thought $9.99 was a little much for the kissing balls, considering their size.  J did a doubletake, only to be disappointed when he realized I meant the evergreen decorations nearby.

Driving home past a "novelty lingerie" shop, J read their sign and wondered aloud "What kind of board games would the M******t Boutique sell?"
Me:  "Short ones"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Here be beavers (or at least it looks like it)

I took these pictures the day before snow covered the ground here. What timing! I've been noticing felled trees on the way to work, with the little pointy stumps that say "Beavers at work". No big surprise since there are several dams making 3 ponds that I can see, but these big trees are across the road, and the railroad tracks, from the pond.

I assume they trim off the smaller branches and haul them back to their pantry, but are they dragging them across the road, up the slope to the tracks and back down again?  It looks like there is a culvert, so probably they use that, but the end looked like it had collapsed a bit. I saw a six foot length of birch floating that had to be four inches in diameter- that would be tough to drag.

Did you see the size of the trees they are downing?  Bit off more than they can chew. Hah!

Beavers are nocturnal, so I think I better be careful driving past here at 1 AM. If they get a work party going, it could look like the Ents are marching. Talk about an adrenaline rush!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Out from under the weather

Sooo, last week lasted about a month, and not in a good way. The funeral, coming home, getting ready for Thanksgiving (which was a high point, by the way) then dealing with a nasty GI disturbance. I am finally feeling better, and trying to adjust to working full time, for the rest of the month. I know, I know, most people work at least one full time job, or more, but this is my blog and I can whine if I want to.

A few tidbits that I can pull out of my scatter-brain:

Driving by that organic farm near us, out of the blue, J says "That little piggy went to market"  I didn't comment, figuring he must have seen the pigs frolicking in the field, as we often do. Topping the hill, we see a cloud of smoke billowing from behind the farm store, but couldn't figure out if it was their smoker, or a brush fire.
Opening the window, we sniff and both say "Bacon, mmmm".

While in RI, we drove to Jamestown, an island in Narragansett Bay, between North Kingstown and Newport. When we were kids there were ferries, which have long since been replaced by bridges. J and I don't like driving over bridges. Long time phobia for me, J just joined in a few years ago. Seems strange for a guy who jumped out of airplanes in the Army.

The old bridge was one of those that had the metal grating on the top, but did have the high arched sides as well.  The new one is flatter, and is concrete roadway with low sides. As a passenger, I thought it was much better. J reported feeling as though he were driving straight up and off the top.  On the way home, I suggested that he might  feel better driving in the inside lane, away from the edge. "Okay" and the van immediately swerved into that lane. "Whoa, just a suggestion, big boy!"  He says he looked behind him first, but I don't think so.

We drove out to Beavertail and the lighthouse there, and around the parks at two forts built there many wars ago. It was a nice Sunday morning, and we saw lots of couples and some family groups walking together.
"Why didn't we ever get into walking together as a family on Sunday mornings, J?"
"I guess we were too busy sleeping late"

It was close to 20 years since we'd been out there, I think. It was one of the first places we went while dating. I was trying to remember where it was that we had gotten out and had our first daytime-not-end-of-date kiss. I guess I hadn't paid much attention to the landscape, and I don't know if J even remembered the occasion.

So, we got out at one park, and walked down towards the sea. It was high cliffs here and I could hear water rushing through a gorge, so I wanted a closer look. Staying about 6 feet from the edge, I checked it out and heard J from 20 feet behind me.
"This is close enough for me"
Me: "Okay let's go back to the car"
J heads back up the gravelly slope without a backwards glance to be sure I was not falling to my death.
Me: "This is why we never did family walks!"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post Thanksgiving

It's the end of a very busy week. We got home Tuesday after Bob's funeral and spent Wednesday cleaning and baking. We did score a kerosene heater from b-i-l Gus and J used up the fuel in it in his shop that afternoon.

It was a good visit. The four dogs tired themselves out and got thoroughly wet and muddy, we played Scrabble, Scattergories, rummy and crazy eights, and showed off our new shed. Poor Sectaurs had a root canal on Tuesday and goes back for a crown next week on his birthday.

I found a new flavor of Jello pudding, pumpkin spice, which made a very nice pie. Graham cracker crust, layer of pudding in the bottom, followed by a layer of pudding and whipped cream, and one of just the cream. Mmmm. All the nice flavor of a pumpkin pie, but none of the eggy custard texture that I don't like. The kids were here by 8:30 Wed. night, and we promptly had dessert. J was a wee bit distressed by that, saying they were "supposed" to be for Thanksgiving. I figure, we'll be too full from dinner, and they were leaving before 5 the next day, so why not enjoy the goodies now? I certainly did not want leftovers.

Since the veggies were all canned or frozen, except for the potatoes, there wasn't a lot of prep involved. I do make my own stuffing and cooked one batch separately for Ameranth. The most stress I had was remembering not to use the same spoons to stir things, so no meat touched her food. None of us like dark meat, so that was saved for the soup, and the stripped carcass went right into a pot after dinner. J will make his turkey barley soup and freeze some for Sectaurs too.

It was a very nice day, especially after being part of a family gathering last weekend for a much sadder occasion. I am very thankful for all we have, most of which was in our house yesterday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody

Sorry to do this two days in a row, but it's a busy day and I just found this great video:

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flash Mob

I got home from RI this afternoon and found an email from my best friend from high school, which included this video.

She is the artistic director of the Rainbow Company,  a youth theater group in Las Vegas.  Then I found this great article about her!  How neat.

(For those of my few readers who know Karen, she is in the video- dressed in yellow and joins in the second group)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's not have a sniffle

We're headed to RI for a funeral. Our brother-in-law passed away yesterday after months of declining health. He was married to J's "Irish twin"( he and his sister are the same age for a week) and it was a second marriage for both of them. I can't remember now how long it's been, but it's close to 30 years.

Bob was ex-Navy, from Arizona and his Mexican heritage blended remarkably well with the crazy Irishmen(and women). His youngest son moved in with them in his teens, and when Bob and Trish moved to RI later to live with J's mom, his son decided to come east as well. Later, a teenage grandson came to join them. We used to tease them for missing the cute baby years and going straight to the teenage angst.

Here's a favorite family song, for any occasion- but I am sure we will hear it this weekend.  Goodbye, Bob. We'll miss you.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Mr Crazy picks up chicks

Not that kind of chicks! We got our annual hen replacements yesterday. Friends buy baby chicks every year, and when they start laying, we get their 'old' ones. Sadly, we usually have room for them, thanks to days like this.

Last year we just put them in the back of J's truck, with the soft cover on, which worked out fine.  W caught them, handed off to J, and I was in charge of cover control. One crafty hen was eyeing the daylight whenever I peeled the corner back for another entry. She made a break for it and missed her chance to come live with us. J had one tucked under his arm backwards, and all I saw coming at me was a soft round molting butt. Think "pink cantaloupe with five-o-clock stubble"

We were down to one lonely hen(due to a mistake which I won't go into here) who was spending her time lurking around our front step, crooning whenever she saw us, or hanging out at the fence with the dogs. Seeming so needy, we thought she would love having new friends. Not so much. We couldn't back the truck right up to the door this year, because of the new shed, so had to grope blindly under the cover and grab one at a time. I got a handful of that naked rump at one point. Eww.

The home team rep decided to attack each visitor as it came through the door, until she was outnumbered 7 to 1, and the group moved outside. Later, we brought  some bread and grapes out and saw our hen backed up into a corner and the rest milling about at the other end of the hen yard. Aw, poor little hen, left out of the clique.  Tossed the goodies in and the hostess began clucking, saying, "mmm, mmm, this is so good, look what I found, come on, come on" as hens do.  When the other ladies joined her, she attacked them all, cackling wildly. Lost our sympathy vote right there.

Trying to get out of the laundry room, without tripping over Boomer-
J-   "You know, you'd be a good backup dog"
Me-"You mean, in case something happened to a #1 dog?"
J-  "no, he walks backwards - you know, he could learn tricks and stuff"

Friday, November 13, 2009

What I did on my days off

This is what has kept me busy and off the streets the last few days:

I know, not much to see, is there. That's because this is what used to be there!

About 15 years ago, we built this wonderful little shelter for our grill. It reached the end of it's life this week. And it went down pretty easily. J had been saying periodically that we needed to do something before winter, and I put it off.  But when I was out raking I glanced up and saw that the posts were leaning quite a bit. Further investigation showed the posts had all rotted at ground level. Since one of said posts held up our satellite dish, I figured better move it now, rather than in the middle of a snowstorm.

This next picture shows how small the maple tree was then. The one on the left is gone, and the other one can be seen in the 'after' picture, now holding the dish.

 Again, I know, not supposed to put them on a tree. The branches are all cleared out on that side, so there shouldn't be any interference.

The view from our porch is now wide open, so that is nice. It also changed the look from the road- the maple tree actually looks good.  Evil maple.

I like the sepia effect on this one.

Having finished up the demolition yesterday, I took the dogs for a walk and brought my camera, to get the picture from the road and this one showing the skim of ice on our pasture pond(actually a swale).  This is the first year that this didn't dry up in the summer.

I am amazed that any of the pictures came out, since my camera is an old one and slooooww in cold weather, as am I.  I have a leash looped on each wrist while I try to hold the camera still.

Oh, and it's hunting season, so that means wearing orange if you go out on the road now. I found an orange mesh vest with reflective stripes in the closet, very similar to what road workers wear.  So similar that I started wondering where this had come from?  Did a child steal liberate find this years ago? Surely vests like this are available to the general public and I won't be asked any probing questions if caught wearing it.

Come to think of it, just where did that orange traffic cone in the shed come from?

The Way We Get By

The Way We Get By  is a powerful, moving documentary about the troop greeters in Bangor, Maine. Please, watch it on PBS if you can.  But have some tissues ready.

Here in Maine we know about this group, but probably most people aren't aware of what they have been doing since 2003. Bangor International Airport is the last stop in the US for most of the troops going overseas, and the first  landing on US soil for those coming home. This group of volunteers, most of them retired, many of them veterans, meet the planes coming in, at all times of the day and night, to thank the soldiers for their service. They greet each one, have donated cell phones for them to use, free of charge, to call loved ones, and so far, said goodbye or hello to over 900,000 troops. And 155 dogs.

J contacted them once when our nephew was coming home from Iraq, and was able to find out what flight he was on, and when it was due in. He drove up and got to say hello on the stopover. If we lived closer to Bangor,  we would love to be involved with this.

It aired on Veteran's Day but can be seen on through the link above until December 10. It doesn't matter what your views on Iraq or Afghanistan are, as one of them says, it's about the servicemen and women.  Watch it- you won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Discovery Channel video

I like this new version as much as the original one.  Of course, now it's stuck in my head for the day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It was a beautiful day here

I love a November day that is sunny and gets up into the 60s. The next couple of days are supposed to be warmer than usual as well. Lovely.

We puttered around, doing chores that needed to be done before winter settles in for good. Cleared out a truckful of stuff for the dump, tarpapered a shelter for bikes and mowers, cleaned gutters, dug a trench to bury the electrical wires out to the new shed, cleaned the porch, unhooked the water to the outside spigot, winterized the bulkhead, moved shelves into the new shed, made a rolling cabinet for the table saw, and got a step in place on the shed. Whew!  Oh, and did the dishes and watched most of the Patriots game.

And now I must go, J wants to play Wii tennis.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wired for music?

This is a fun video I watched this morning illustrating that our brains can easily recognize and produce music.

Annnd, no clever segue to today's way-back memory, which was brought about by yesterday's post. Our new shed has filled the void in our yard left by the demolition of our barn.

Our neighbor gave us this picture of our house, which was taken in the 30's or 40's guessing from the size and style of the photo.

This is what it looked like when we bought it in 1987. I know, it looks terrible, but we fell in love with it (the possibilities, not the reality) when we walked inside.

It was a great old post and beam barn, and when the time came, a neighbor helped us pull it down with  his tractor, in exchange for the beams. We reused the tin roof, and all the roof boards, so it lives on in other buildings.

Sectaurs and friend. My son is the one with the glowing white skin- the Irish/Swedish genes hit him with a vengeance!  I also see a family photograhic trait showing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The shed is here!

Our new shed was delivered today, in time for me to see it in place before going to work. John stopped traffic (or he would have had there been any) as the truck backed into the driveway.

It was so cool to see the big trailer tip up to slide it off-something got stuck on the first attempt, so it was lowered, the delivery man poked a pipe up underneath it, and the second try worked.

There was a set of 4 smaller wheels that lowered to adjust the trailer right and left to get it centered on the gravel.

I am proud to say the wheels barely dented the base, however we could have had a  leetle bit more gravel. We were told to have a foot extra all the way around, which we did, but we'll have to shovel a bit more under the very ends of the supports, since they hang a few inches.  However, the shed is level- we checked.

Of course, J would have loved a bigger shed, but 14x24 will be fine, although we will fill it up fast.  J put up a little insulation and moved in a few saws while I was gone.

The table saw is sitting on a solid core door that we bought today for only $8.00 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lewiston. We had never been there before, and it is not terribly big, but they have lots of stuff there that has been taken out of old buildings and can still be used. I think we'll go back and see if we can pick up a few more doors, since they will make great workbenches.

First job will be the electricity. Since Sunday is supposed to get up to 60, that will work out great for J to get that done without having to thaw out his fingers often. I guess I will be cleaning leaves out of the gutters.

We are very happy with the color we chose, since we were hoping to have it remind us of our old barn that we had to take down, due to years of neglect. We loved the storage and the kids played in the hay loft and the stalls, but it eventually was becoming unsafe. We would have loved to have been able to renovate it and keep it, but didn't have the money.

The new shed is almost exactly where the barn stood and it looks good. Even if it is a quarter of the size. Probably less. No matter, we love it already.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I tried using the macro setting to show the snow, but the picture just looks blurry. Meh. It's that kind of day.

Edit- it immediately started snowing more and I tried another with a normal setting- Now it looks much worse than it is, lol.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I really hoped I would be writing that Maine kept our same-sex marriage law in place, but no.  It was repealed, 53% to 47%, I think. Of course I am baffled because I think 'my' side had the much more cogent arguments.

The repeal group was backed by the Catholic Church and many people stated that marriage should be limited to one man, one woman, because how can you have a real family unless that couple can produce children? Hmm, does that mean that childless couples, whether by choice or not, are not really married?  News flash- gay couples can have children, using the same methods 'normal' couples do, in vitro fertilization, surrogates or adoption.

The now-repealed law allowed same sex couples to be married, not civilly unionized, and some people really didn't want their word to be used by gay people, saying it demeaned their marriage. The law also stated that any religious group could refuse a marriage ceremony, so it was strictly a legal issue. The condition of my marriage does not depend on that of my neighbors.  We were married in a Catholic ceremony only because it was very important to J's mother, and made no difference to me. I never asked her if she thought my daughter's marriage was not valid because they went to a justice of the peace.

The other tack taken was that homosexual marriage would be taught in our schools, starting at kindergarten level. Doubtful. Although wouldn't it be nice for the children of same-sex couples to have their families validated and accepted? They are not going to disappear because their parents can't be married.

Enough of that.

Moving on to sad news closer to us, through Shoeshine. He called yesterday to tell us one of his coworkers had died, after catching the flu. Shoeshine works for a small company that makes seeded paper by hand, and Norm had worked there for years. He was around 40 and had Down's Syndrome and once he was ill went very quickly. Norm loved Shoeshine, and his bosses, who were very involved in the Special Olympics. Many of the workers would go every year to cheer Norm on, and they always threw him a birthday party at work. He will leave a big hole in their lives.

Last, and certainly least, we found out that our shed will not be delivered at 8 on Friday, but between 2 and 3. J took the day off to be here, and I have to go in for two hours of training that afternoon. Pooh. Oh well, that's a small bump in the road at this point.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Personal Saint

November 1st is J's birthday, and All Saint's Day, as he likes to remind me, as if there is a direct correlation between the two facts.

Growing up, he brainwashed his many siblings into giving him a portion of their Halloween candy as his due, and continued with our kids. They were happy to give him the items they didn't like, as they did with the black jelly beans at Easter. Nowadays, his birthday is spent shopping the Halloween clearance sales, for next year's ghouls, and he made out pretty well this year, with a handful of masks for .10 each.

We drove down to RI Thursday to spend the night, leaving the dogs with Grandma and Grandpa while we went to MA Friday to help with the move to Sectaur's new house. He couldn't take time off, so Ameranth was directing the movers who were hired to move the big stuff. Such as the 3 couches that had to go out the way they came in last year- through the window to the fire escape, that has a spiral staircase. No way were we about to try that!

The new house is less than a mile away from their apartment, and most of the day was spent loading up the van, pulling the other car into the parking spot to hold it for the next load and feeding the meter. After a load or two, I opted out of the stair trips and stayed behind to clean the apartment. Ms M came up early to take Anna away to play with her dog for the day, which helped greatly. Then she came back to help us finish up. Underestimating the sheer volume of belongings and a shortage of boxes resulted in a lot of unpacked stuff lying around which nearly made us turn around and leave.  Just kidding! We wouldn't have abandoned you guys.

Anyway, they are settled in to the very nice little house he bought and will be much happier there than above the bar with the karaoke Thursdays. I don't know how long Ameranth will want to live with her brother, and vice versa, but for now it's working out.

I had posted a picture of my apple squares last week and got quite a response. My father sent an email saying they read my blog and thought perhaps they should get a square or two for lodging and dogsitting?  That was already in the plans, I assured them.

Then I found out that Ameranth and Ms M discussed the fact that it would be pretty cruel to post the picture if some weren't headed their way. Of course I had planned to bring them down with us. The last one was sent home with Ms M for Mr C, and I assume it made it there safely. (If it didn't, Mr C,  then I was mistaken and she didn't take it with her)

We headed home again Saturday, aching and tired, with no Halloween candy in the house. J had his candy tithe from his children, 4 small bars of candy, and Tictacs for emergency backup. We haven't had anyone show up for several years, but lo and behold, a friend of Shoeshine's showed up with his son. Yay!  The spooky music played and the ghouls swayed in the wind, and J was happy.

Recipe, per request

I had several requests for the apple square recipe after posting this so here it is. After making these a few times I wrote down the approximate amounts I used, so results may vary. For an average cookie sheet(with sides) of 11 x 15, I use two batches of 2-crust pie dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tbs of shortening
4-6 tbs of cold water

Either divide it in two and roll each part into a square, overlapping in the pan, or roll it into a rectangle and cover the bottom in one fell swoop. Add apples to fill it and mix the second batch for the top. Bake at 450 30-40 minutes, or until it looks done.

I use enough apples  to almost fill my 2 1/2 qt bowl- about 6 large apples maybe? If I use Macintosh, I add some Granny Smiths to the mix- this week I used all Cortlands. Add:
1-1 1/4 cup sugar, depending on taste
1/3 cup flour
dash of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

I mix all of that to the cut apples and let them sit while I make the dough. It makes a nice juicy mix.

After cooling, cut into squares which will stand up pretty well to traveling in a baggie for lunch.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mmm, Apple Squares

I started making these when I had 4 lunch bags to fill (5 if we count J, who makes his own lunches). An apple pie would last for one dinner with the 6 of us, but apple squares last several days, travel well and can be held and eaten without utensils.



From my computer I see yellow; my garden is shutting down for the winter. Yellowing hostas, lilies and maples(because our Norway maples not only are invasive plants, but turn only yellow, not multi-colored like normal maples). Two mums are still going strong and add a purple and orange splash.

As I drove into Augusta yesterday, I noticed the wind and rain had stripped the early colors and we had moved into the second stage of fall foliage. If the maples, sumacs and burning bushes are glowing jewel tones, the oaks and birches are burnished metals. Tarnished brass, warm bronze, dull gold and deep copper are the colors of my outdoors now. Soon, it will be just grays,browns and black against either brilliant blue skies, or swirling white. Or a soft woolly gray day like today.

And while I am always sad to see the warm weather go, there is satisfaction in buttoning up the house and yard for another winter. Cleaning up my gardens and looking forward to next spring. Closing the storm windows and putting up winter drapes to make home snug. Making the first beef stew of the season, and freezing some to bring to Sectaurs in his new house. Making apple squares instead of apple pie (pie is easier) because my family likes them better.

I need to focus on the things I like because it is too easy for me to slide into semi-hibernation and depression in the short days of winter. Luckily, I have dogs who insist on making me laugh and get up, if only to let them in and out several times a day.

Speaking of which, the view from my computer now includes a big black head, woo-wooing at me mournfully. Rosie wants in.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mother, May I ?

(I'd like to say that is not me, ignoring my mother, but I think I would be lying)

I went to our library's book sale this morning, and spent an hour checking each box on every table. Came home with about 10 books for $3.50, so a fruitful trip. I amused myself by noting how we each reacted to the subtle body language of our neighboring shopper and moved gracefully aside silently when it was time to swap places.

Tilting my bifocals to the right angle to read the titles of the books in boxes under the table, I saw "Umbrella Steps"  and heard the whirr of the way-back machine. I haven't thought of Mother, May I? in years and years.

We played this and Red Light, Green Light often and loudly.  The umbrella steps were always my favorite, though the boys favored giant steps. Crossing your feet and twirling with your arms over your head didn't get you much closer to "Mother", but it was fun.

We played this at home of course, but the clearest memories I have are in my maternal grandparents' front yard, in the long dusk of a summer evening. We would  cook hotdogs on a fire, drink Tru-Aid from tall colored metal cups, and run around and through the 20+ foot diameter lilac grove, playing hide and seek while the grownups may have gone inside to play High-low-jack.  Good times.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slinging dirt

J had today off and we hoped to have our neighbor down to smooth out our mountain o'dirt for us.  His son duly showed up on a wonderful piece of machinery and did a great job of eyeballing the levelness from his lofty perch.


He toodled off home and we went out to do our own eyeballing. I should mention here that J has a visual handicap- he can't see straight worth @!*&.  When we work together I point out where the nails need to be to go through the wood and nudge the drill level for him. I am sure he hates appreciates my interference assistance.

It started out well, it was obvious the front needed to be higher, so J started scooping. Then, it went rapidly downhill (as did the dirt) as we crouched down ala Tiger Woods to  look from the side. I could clearly see the crown in the middle that needed to be removed, and assumed (I know, I know) that J could as well. He made it very clear that he did not see it and we stomped around angrily I drew a line in the sand. Literally. Move that dirt over here. It got very silent for awhile, but you know, adrenaline does help a job go faster. And keeps you warmer.

It turned out pretty darn level, or as we like to say, "good enough, dammit".
A friend who is a carpenter stopped by today and told J that we did a good job of leveling it, so yay!  AND, he complimented us on our awesome stairs!  Double yay!

If that cat of ours goes out there and uses it as a sandbox, she better be smoothing it behind her!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shaking my perspective

Indian summer seems to be this week. The temp today got above 60 and I had to decide the best use of the day. Though I had other things I wanted to do, I admitted that getting the top coat on the front door was the most temperature sensitive chore.

We had saved the leftover white paint from our porch in a gallon milk jug. Why? I don't know, maybe we thought we would be using it within a few months, instead of nearly 3 years later. It held a 3 inch layer of liquid on top of 3 inches of solids. In a milk jug. A paint stick will not work well. No problem, I'll shake it. As I stood over the kitchen sink, my first thought is this is such a workout that Richard Simmons should be singing; then, if J were doing this I would be telling him to take it outside, even though the cap was being held on tightly.

Shaking did get the thin liquid mixed in enough to look white, but not well enough. Out to the shed, where I found a scrap of wood thin enough to fit in the jug neck. That got a little more solids, but I decided I had to cut the top of the jug off, which I did with a handy utility knife (yes, I wiped it off, J).  Now I could use the regular paint stirrer, and found a huge chunk was still in the bottom. You know what would work? My potato masher, so back to the house I go. Hmm, would a whisk be better, because I have that one that's rusty and I don't use- no, the masher it is.

Now, if I found J using my potato masher in a paint can I would be outraged. But it worked pretty well, and washed up fine. After 20 minutes of mashing and stirring the curds and whey, I had paint that was almost smooth. Again, the ghost of J was there with me- I would have said holy crap forget about it and use what there is there after 10 minutes max. But, if I were watching J, I would have said he could get it smoother, and the lumps are all the pigment, so I kept on, thinking that geez, I give him a lot of crap. He's an adult, in fact he is 3 years older than I, why don't I trust his judgment? I have my reasons. Let's leave it at that.

Finally the J in my head said it would be alright to let the little stubborn bits that refused to mingle stay in the jug. I poured the rest into a plastic  2 lb. coffee  can with a nice handle, thinking probably I should strain this so the big lumps stay behind. But strain it through what?  Cheese cloth is what you use for straining, but who has that sitting around. My mother probably, or she would say use an old curtain from the rag bag. Great, now my mom is there with J in my head. What happened to Richard Simmons?

Ready to paint, finally!  Aaannnd, the front door is covered with ladybugs! I don't know if this happens in other places, but here in Maine we get a ladybug invasion every October. They crawl into crevices and die. I assume they would die outside too, so I don't know why they do this, but they do. Close the storm windows too late and you'll have a pile of little spotted carcasses in the sill.

So I brush them away warning them not to come back, to no avail. They landed on the wet paint, on me and in the paint can. The good news is that now if anyone questions the lumpy paint, I can say it's the bugs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween is creeping up

Here are the pictures of the ghoulies who have popped up in our yard. They started off back by the fence.

Then, moved a little closer to the driveway.

A day or so later, I noticed a few more had joined in the fence group.

It's not very clear but there are also some corn stalks there, which is the only useful thing we got from our garden this year. I had one freakin' ear of corn to eat! And J's Indian corn turned out to be all white flint corn, so no pretty colors.  Some animals liked it though and have eaten all the ears after dragging the stalks down.

Finally, I came home last week after training to find this guy sitting in the dark.

These are his little buddies that like to hang with him.

No idea if he's done yet, but I will be looking over my shoulder, just in case.

You know what's sad?  We don't get trick-or-treaters any more. All the neighbor kids are grown up. J is so disappointed each year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Made it through 2 days of work

That sounds pitiful- 2 days! Well, it's really 2 nights and it was stressful going back to do a job I hadn't done in, oh, 14 years or so. Going well, thank you, and as of 11/6 I will have a 2 hour refresher class and head back to the research area. Which, I belatedly realized means that I can't take the first ending date before Christmas, but will be staying until maybe mid-January.

Sunday night was my first shift on the phones (7:30pm to 1:30pm) and was not all together comfortable. Rather than lactose intolerant, my body is lactose fickle, and it turned out that banana pudding an hour before leaving was not a good idea.
My children have let me know that their father did indeed sing around the house, while I was gone. Hmm. So they had wonderful fun times while I was working and I should feel insulted? Hmm, not good.
Upon further investigation, it seems there was usually a musical device involved, instead of a cappella warbling. Although the reports of "Sixteen Tons" singing while dish washing may have been true.

He also sang a song he swore was by Elvis Presley,  Big Boots but no one else seemed to know the song, until he asked his eldest sister years later and she backed him up.

Lastly, when he bathed the kids, he always sang as he toweled their hair dry. No specific tune, just la la la la la.  (I think he started doing that to drown out the protests over hair snarling, etc)
The weather was not quite so cold today, and I figured I'd get a start on moving the mountain of gravel. Yeah, so that didn't last more than 10 minutes. I think we'll be calling our computer guy, who also has a backhoe (love living in the country) and pay him the $30 for an hour's worth of spreading. Probably take only 20 minutes tops.
J has been getting his Halloween stuff out, and every day after work, he usually gets one more mask or dummy in place. It's a little creepy, sort of stop-action decoration. When I go out I get a feeling like something is different, but what? The guys are closer to the door every day. I'll have to get some photos tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Way-back machine #2

My father mentioned raking leaves in one of his recent emails and I thought, I have a picture to go with that. (Hope you don't mind me using you, Pa)
" Just reminiscing about the old days - we'd rake up a big pile of leaves and the kids would play in it for hours! So did we, now and then! No need for Ipods and Blackberries and Game Boys! And much less expensive and simpler, and just plain fun!"

That is an uncle with me in our front yard.  A yard filled with oak trees which provided many, many leaves to rake and play with, and best of all, burn! Yes, the good old days when no one knew about the ozone layer and everyone burned their little piles of leaves on the gravel driveways.  My father was in charge, but we got to push the edge leaves in further and let them catch on fire.  I don't remember ever being in charge of a fire, but maybe the younger kids got to do that later on, when they were the only ones home.

I do remember my brother had the chore of burning the trash out back (another thing everyone we knew did back then) until the day he somehow set the backyard on fire. Not a big fire, just a little more than he could quickly douse before being noticed.  

I miss the smell of burning leaves in the fall- the crisp days and bright colors just don't seem complete without that sweet aroma. We do have the smell of woodsmoke in the air since several neighbors heat with wood, and that's nice, but it's not the same.

Mr Crazy sings- or not

I've mentioned before my constant desire to burst into song + my tone deafness = keeping my singing private. A few days ago I was once again lamenting my lack of talent, when J kindly told me I sounded fine. In reply to my raised eyebrow, he said he hears me in the shower and it's not bad.  Maybe, I do sound better in the shower because I'm not worrying about inflicting my dulcet tones on others. Maybe I shouldn't be so self-conscious and dare to sing aloud.  Maybe I better remember J's hearing loss.

This morning, after a fine rendition of "It's a small world, after all" I realized I have never heard J sing in the shower. 32 years and the man has never sung in the shower?

"J, how come you don't sing or whistle? "
"I listen to music, I don't sing it"*

Later, as we drive by an organic beef farm, I point out two little baby calves. As I fondly think how endearing wobbly baby creatures are, and check out the lambs in the next field, I hear: "I haven't had veal parmigiana in a long time".

I look at him and Mr Crazy says with dignity "I don't sing, I ponder."

*However, he has been known to sing at parties 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back to work

This was it- the end of my 6 month vacation from work. I had 6 hours of refresher training tonight and 6 more Friday, during which I will take live calls. Yikes.

I am going back to the same workplace for the seasonal ramp-up, but taking order calls, at least at first. My job used to be taking internal calls from reps, and the escalated customer calls. At first I thought, no way will I ever go back to the old days, but as it grew closer and closer to spending 6 or 8 hours at a time taking order after order, I caved.  When I was asked to go back to the research job, I said yes, but it will be 3 weeks or so before I change over.

 I was pretty relieved when I was able to remember how to place an order - I mean of course I can take the information and by golly, it will be accurate, but there is a mandatory call flow to maximize the time/cost ratio and I worry about that. But, since I am scheduled for just 4 shifts before I switch over, I should make it okay. I would hate to not do the job well. Seriously. I don't want someone telling me I did it wrong. And have to be gracious about it and thank them for the constructive criticism.

Since I told them I had no restrictions as to days or times, my schedules are all over the place, ranging from starting at 2pm to 7:30 pm. Which means my end times are 8pm to 1:30. Another plus to changing from order taking- I will have a more set schedule.   It was strange driving home at 11 tonight- I haven't been out that late in a long time. I've been up, just not out.

And then, adrenaline rush at the train crossing! The back road I take runs parallel to the tracks for a mile or so, then crosses it. Sometimes the freight trains stop there to pick up or leave cars at the siding, which can really mess up the timing of my drive to work. I don't usually leave much margin for error, and sitting there for 5 minutes is not good.

What is equally annoying is sitting there at 11:30 at night and watching the train go by slowly, slowly and praying that the last car will come into sight. Then, just as you watch the car get to the crossing, the entire train shudders to a stop, groans and starts backing up! It is 8 minutes to my house from there. If I turn around and go the long way around to town to get home, it takes closer to 15 or 20 minutes. I sit there and watch the clock, trying to decide when it would have been the ideal time to detour.

So, I drove down that road tonight and saw the train was moving, but couldn't tell for sure in the darkness which direction it was going. As I pulled closer, I saw the giant headlight pointing the same way as I was, and sped up a little. Could I get to the crossing before the train? And how far ahead of it? There is a flashing light but no rail that drops down, so no barrier to driving except common sense, or the train itself.

It turned out that it was almost stopped a good 200 feet or so from the road and the warning lights were not flashing, so I cruised over the tracks safely. Still gives you a jolt though when you see that big light shining straight at you as you cross its path.
That's as close as I get to being a daredevil.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

He'd die without me

My husband loves to watch movies: war movies, scary ones, zombies, ninjas, spies and stupid giant anaconda movies. You'd think he would get useful tips from all of these, but no. He would be fated to be one of the folks that get killed by the vampire/psycho/backwoods mad scientist, because he NEVER looks behind him.

When he gets up from the table, he's done. Not talking dinner time when we both clear up afterward, but when he has a snack or fixes his own, he can happily abandon the bowl and the parmesan cheese sitting on the table, waiting for Rosie to slide her nose over to grab them.

He can walk out of the bathroom, and ignore the puddle of water on the floor that I step into.  He has no idea how it gets there. "Did you forget your towel and have to grab one around the corner?" Nope . "Did you grab a razor? Open the curtain for any reason with the water on?"  Nope.  It's there because he doesn't make sure the curtain is flat against the wall. Behind him.

Trims his mustache and lets the little hairs fall where they may. Leaves his slippers in the living room with two crazy dogs.  You get the idea.

So, if a homicidal alien came to town, J would never see it coming. He'd be that person with his back to the door, crossing the room to close the shades and getting zapped. "Did you hear that funny slurping sound as you left the room?" Nope.
Of course not, it was behind him.

And if he keeps walking faster than me in parking lots, he won't have to wait for a homicidal alien to get him.  Just saying, it gets annoying.

(Of course he does his own laundry, including ironing, cooks at least half of our meals and feeds the hens, but for the purposes of this post- none of that matters)