Friday, December 14, 2012


An amaryllis where the leaves and the flowers come up simultaneously?  You can see that I have had to enhance this one with some holly branches (I have a couple of holly bushes in my back yard).  I have another one going and the same thing is happening.  I am going to start opening the packages before I buy them.


I have been invited to a country place for the weekend.  Having been here for five months, I look forward to a change of scenery.  I was also (mind you, past tense) looking for a bit of time away from the animals who have been glued to my side for all these months.
Yesterday I go to this woman’s house who boards animals.  She has three dogs and a cat and I should have known right there that it wasn't going to work.  Grayling entered the house and went absolutely berserk, jumping on a table, snapping at the cat, and running around like a maniac.  The poor woman looked on and said “How old is this dog?” “10”  “Oh, she doesn't act like a 10 year old”.  Enough said.  Those of you who know her understand.  Sigh……quiet weekend without dog shattered.


I read “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn because I had heard so many people say it was a “must read”.  And I must admit it kept me reading and was cleverly written, but I believe it was not written for my genre.
Another book that I read and thoroughly enjoyed was “A Light Between Two Oceans” by M.L. Stedman,  a great story that would make a wonderful movie.  I couldn’t put it down.
I am now reading “Astray” by Emma Donoghue, short stories she has fictionalized based on true historical facts.  It is very good.


The cards have been coming in…….wonderful cards with friends pictured with their adorable children/grandchildren.  I even got one from a man who paints each card individually….he works all year on this, which I think is a great idea.  I somehow haven’t been so motivated, so if you don’t get a card from me by Christmas, possibly you will get a New Year’s one.  But just know that I am wishing you a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


No, I don’t only have one electrical outlet in my little house (806 sq. ft.), but I can clean my entire house from one outlet in 10 minutes.  I do only have one thermostat.  The property consists of two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, living room/dining room, full basement, small back yard, a deck and a garage.  And you know what?  I really only use three of the main rooms, and the bathroom.  I love it!

                                             Guest/Computer/Reading Room

I had Thanksgiving here.  There were eight of us, four were children.  I had put art paper on the kids' table with markers and pencils and this kept them occupied very nicely.  It helped too that one of the guests was an artist who had as much fun with it as the kids.

                                             Zuzu, Brian, Henry and Eli
                          Fellini:  Gray?  Do you like this place?  I wish I could
                                      go outside.
                          Gray: It's OK. I love the kids, but I sure wish I didn't have
                                      to be on a leash all the time.
BOOKS:  I read a great deal here and recently have read a couple of books by young authors that I really enjoyed.  One of them is Peter Geye who has written two books, Safe From the Sea and The Lighthouse Road.  The other author is Canadian, Dianne Warren, and the book is Juliet in August.  I so look forward to their upcoming books.  Richard Russo's memoir of his mother Elsewhere is a great read too.

I will try to post more now that things have settled down.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I have had to change my address several times in the last couple of months…..from one apartment to another and then from my old house to an apartment and now from this apartment to a house.  I have little slips of paper all over the place with usernames and passwords, very few of them similar, because one required a number or capital letter or whatever.

So my suggestion is that when a child is born, they are given a username and password for life, just like their social security number.  These can be used for everything and will not be forgotten.
And why do some magazine websites make it incredibly easy to change your address and others make it extremely difficult.  I wish there was one website you could go to and list all your magazines and your address would automatically be changed.

Of course, we are not dealing with the most technologically savvy person here……..

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Dear Martha Stewart,

Please cancel my subscription to your Living Magazine.  Your September issue was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

Do we really need to see your daughter’s luxurious triplex apartment in NYC, with all those expensive toys for your grandchildren?  Who can relate to this in this present era????  But the one item sent me over the top,  is the recipe for your Breakfast Cookies – 2 CUPS OF BUTTER and 3 CUPS OF PACKED BROWN SUGAR………for 8 large or 16 small cookies????!!!!!!  And then you label them WHOLESOME TREATS?  If you fed your kids this for breakfast, they would be dead by lunch or else in an incredible stupor.

Martha, have you been indulging a bit too much on these “wholesome treats”.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Last Sunday I had taken my morning walk with the dog, going to Julie’s instead of to Bug Light Park.  I normally walk on the Greenbelt (a rails to trails walk), but decided on the way home to walk on a side of the street where I rarely walk.  At the end of one street was a tiny, homemade sign that said “House For Sale By Owner” and a phone number.  I walked up the street and there was a very small ranch that looked interesting. I called and set up an appointment and also notified my realtor to join me.

Now I have looked at several houses in the few weeks that I have been here and none of them have really moved me, so I was prepared for the same with this one.  The house was empty and the minute I walked in, I thought “yes”.  It is small, 806 square feet, with two bedrooms and a bath, a nice-sized kitchen, a deck, a one car garage and a dry basement.  The yard is just what I wanted, small and manageable.  The street is neat and quiet.  It is an apartment sized house with a lawn and a garage.

Julie and Dave both looked at it and declared it in good shape, but they thought it was too small and that the owner was asking too much.  Now Dave is very tall and this is a family with four young children, so I dismissed their first concern.  The fact that the price was too high was true.

Anyway, I made an offer and we dickered for a few days and settled on a price, which was more than I had hoped for, but I knew that if I let this one go, I would regret it.  So the closing is NEXT FRIDAY, the 10th.
I will send pictures of the house as soon as I can. 

I tried to get pictures of the kids when I was babysitting today, but they are such moving targets.  I feature here little Ramona, 2, and my lovely Julie with half brother, Jeff, and the girlies.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I’M BACK……………!             
I have been a Maineiac for almost two weeks now.  I made my final exit from New York State on Saturday, July 14, and the house closing was Friday, July 20th (I did not attend).  I had packed a POD earlier in the month, which is now sitting somewhere here in Maine, then proceeded to totally clean out my house--packing, throwing out, giving away, etc.  On that final morning, my friend Susan (bless her) came and helped me get everything in the car…….drugged cat, dog and my belongs, and looking like the Joads, we began our trip to Maine, with me praying the whole way that my old car would hold out, and being the faithful Subaru that it is, we arrived safely and without incident (except for some things shifting and landing in poor Grayling’s space).

I had moved into a larger apartment here in Maine in the same building that I was in at the end of May, so that is where we are now.  Everyone seems to have settled in well….my 16 year old cat,  Fellini, that I was so worried about adjusting, never missed a beat, sleeping his usual 23 hours a day between feedings.  He hides under the bed when the four grandkids arrive.

It is wonderful to be near Julie and her family.  We discussed our expectations of each other in this new situation and all has gone very well.  I am close enough so that the boys (6 and 9) can ride their bikes here to visit.  They only have one major street to cross to get here.  I often pick up both or one of the girlies (2 and 4) and we go shopping or just come here and hang out.  The little one, Ramona, just loves Grayling.  Needless to say Grayling is totally exhausted after their visits.

Here are some pictures of my new apartment.  It has wonderful light, 12’ ceilings and a view of the water.  And I can see the same lovely sunsets that I had at my old house.

I will try to be a better blogger.  I was so afraid to talk about the impending sale for fear of jinxing it.
I had written the above a few days ago and had trouble posting it due to my Ludditeness, so tune in tomorrow for the next phase of my “never let dirt settle under your feet” adventure!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do You Have An 11?

I was listening to an interview with Anna Quindlen on her new book "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake" on Fresh Air yesterday.  Quindlen said that she the 11 removed from between her eyebrows.  11?  What is she talking about?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bar Too High?

I read a line in a book I was reading recently (Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott) that advised the author to “lower her bar of expectations”.  This is one of my problems... my bar is way too high.

 I remember years ago when I was an administrative assistant to the principal in an elementary school (and I say this with all humility….I basically ran the office), and we had a janitor, Vinnie, who drove me nuts.  He would leave his pail that he had mopped the floors with for days in his janitor’s closet.  You would pass by and wonder if some sequestered student had gone to the great beyond.  I would watch him mow (a sit-down of course) right over a piece of paper, which if he had picked it up BEFORE mowing would have been one piece, but then would suddenly become a thousand.  In a conversation one day with his supervisor, I mentioned these annoyances and he said to me “Sylvia, you are getting out of Vinnie all he can give”.  This statement has resonated with me for years and often pulls me up by my bootstraps.  I expect far too much from people.

Am I a perfectionist?  Not really, as I myself am quite flawed.  I do like things nice and tidy.  I like my house to be esthetically pleasing.  A friend tells me that my animals are good for me as they counterbalance my “perfectionist” side.  Possibly true.  Especially today when my dog rolled in something very “fishy” and is nauseating to be around aside from several cleanings.

I pray every day for help to accept others as they are.  I continually hear my daughter saying, when I am ranting about something “Mom, it is none of your concern”, and she is right, but I feel this compelling need to change some parts of the world.  HELP!

My friend Susan often comes for dinner on Sunday night.  She works at a full time job and has a mini farm and works far harder than I do (she is also 10 years younger than I am), so she comes to dinner and we sort of wrap up the week and prepare for the upcoming one.  Now I love to cook so am always happy to try new recipes on her.  This one is a definite keeper.  It was absolutely delicious and not too much work. 

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Figs, Prosciutto, and Gorgonzola
From Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys and Legs of Lamb by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Betty Rosbottom. Photographs copyright © 2011 by Susie Cushner. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the publisher.
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Start-to-Finish Time: 40 minutes
Materials: Short wooden skewers or sturdy toothpicks, soaked in water for 30 minutes
A celestial trio of Italian ingredients -- dried figs, sliced prosciutto, and creamy Gorgonzola -- makes an irresistible filling for boneless chicken breasts. Once stuffed and skewered, the breasts are pan-seared, then quickly roasted until golden brown. A glaze made with honey and balsamic vinegar gives the chicken a polished look and complements the distinctive flavors of the stuffing.
  • 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 7 to 8 oz/200 to 225 g each
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto (4 oz/120 g)
  • One 5-oz/145-g wedge Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup/80 g thinly sliced dried figs, preferably Black Mission
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup/60 ml honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Fleur de sel
1. Using a very sharp knife held parallel to the work surface, make a horizontal slit through a chicken breast, stopping just short of cutting it in half, and open the breast up like a book. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Cover the breasts with plastic wrap/cling film and pound until they're 1/4 inch/6 mm thick, then salt and pepper them.
2. Cover half of each breast with 2 prosciutto slices, and then divide the cheese evenly over the prosciutto. Divide the figs evenly and place over the cheese on the breasts. Close each breast and secure each with 2 or 3 wooden skewers. Salt and pepper the breasts on both sides. (The chicken breasts can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
3. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6.
4. Heat the oil in a large, heavy, oven-proof frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the breasts and cook for 1 minute per side. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the chicken is very tender and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once after 6 minutes.
5. Using oven mitts, remove the frying pan from the oven and transfer the breasts to a carving board. Tent them loosely with foil.
6. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey to the frying pan and, again using mitts since the handle will be quite hot, place the pan over high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced to 1/2 cup/120 ml, for about 5 minutes.
7. To serve, use a dish/tea towel or mitts to remove the skewers or toothpicks and cut each breast crosswise on the diagonal into slices 1 inch/2.5 cm thick. Arrange the slices on a platter, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with some sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and fleur de sel.
Sides: Serve this chicken with buttered linguine or orzo and with tender green beans sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
Leftover Tip: For lunch or a light supper, garnish a mixed greens salad tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette with cold slices of the chicken and enjoy with some crusty peasant bread.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I know I am getting old but...................

            I am far from a techie, but I do try to keep up in that world.  I am already way behind owning only a laptop and a simple cell phone.  I don’t text, read books on a Kindle, or own an iPad.  I do, however, have an iPod that a friend gave me.

            I recently took a tutorial at our library on how to download books from the library’s collection which, amazingly, I did successfully (mainly because the woman taught the class so well) .  I then decided to get some sort of device so I could listen to it on the car radio, so headed to Best Buy and bought said device.  I got home and opened it.  The instructions were written in 2 pt. type and the typeface color was misty gray.  There were instructions in every language save Pig Latin.  I could not read them even with reading glasses.  I packed it up and returned it.  When asked why the return I told them and of course got the “look” from some young whippersnapper.

            Why?  Why would you write instructions so no one can read them, especially someone whose eyesight is aged?  And often if I can read the instructions, they are written as though you are very up to date in the techno world.  Would you give Tolstoy to a 3rd grader to read?  I expect to have instructions that go step by step that are easy to follow for everyone.  OK, enough said.
  I am in Maine this week.  The weather has been lovely.  There is something about the Maine sky that looks like it goes on forever and ever.  This is a picture of the park I walk to each morning with my dog.  It is a very pleasant walk along the water and takes about an hour.

            The landlords of my building have offered me a larger apartment….the apartment below me.  I looked at it this week and am excited about moving in.  It has the same view as my present apartment, which I love, of the water and the Portland skyline, and faces NW so I see those lovely sunsets.  It has a porch facing this view.  It will be much easier for me with the dog.  It will also allow me to spend more time here.

BOOKS:  I listened to Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.  This was a great car book….I barely registered the ride up here I was so engrossed.  I am now reading Reading My Father  by Alexandra Stryon.  The next book on my list is “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I enjoy reading these tales about people who do things that I would never do, being the cautious creature that I am.  I am always amazed when people just take off and go on some adventure.  There are things I would love to do but don’t have the guts.  I am working on it though…………

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Pure Joy It Is...................

My grandkids visiting my apartment..............
What pure joy it is to take an early morning walk on these spring days.  I just love to hear the birds and delve in the fecundity of smells.  And then the sun comes over the hill, glistens off the sap buckets, my spirit is lightened and I can truly begin my day.

I am asking for help these days.  It’s the new me, replacing the old “I can do it myself” me. I am hiring the big guns to come in and clean up my lawn.  I may even hire a cleaning person.  Believe me it was not easy finding someone for the lawn clean up, not many crews of landscapers around here. I could hire some kid but I don’t want to spend days supervising.  I want it done in one day.  I called a few places but they never called back.  This is such a no-no in my book.  How can you do business if you don’t respond to people? Even if you have to respond in the negative, at least leave somewhat of an impression of responsibility… rant of the moment.

MOVIES:  My DVD watching has been mostly British as usual.  I got totally ensconced in Downton Abbey and am just finishing the last season of Lark Rise to Candleford.  I found this series delightful…just loved the characters. 

BOOKS:  My reading has been all over the place.  When I was in Maine last week I read two books that required little of me but were delightful - Rosamunde Pilcher's Under Gemini, and Joanna Trollope's Marrying the Mistress.

For the three member book club that I am in, we are reading the new Dicken’s biography by Claire Tomalin.  It is good, but so long.  Does one really need to know every detail of his ancestry?  I don’t retain this information for two minutes, so it is of little value to me.

Debarking from Dickens, I am reading Townie by Andre Dubus III.  This book makes me so glad I was born twenty years earlier than he was.  Who knows what I would have done if I had been born in the 60’s………it is such a scary thought, I don’t even like to contemplate it.  This book also makes me realize what a normal, loving household I grew up in and for that I am extremely grateful.

Next on my list is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  This is a recommendation from my sister who also liked The Darlings by Cristina Alger.  I have the essays by Marilynne Robinson When I Was a Child I Read Books on my night stand.

FOOD:  Because I bought some “precious” wooden sword for my grandson from a fancy catalog, I got a preview magazine called Taproot, its main themes gardening, farming, etc., which I am not into these days. I passed it on to my friend Susan.  But in there was an interesting recipe for Kale Salad where you massage the kale and make it sweet.  I tried the recipe and it is delicious, so I pass it on here.  The nice part too is that it is better the next day.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Kale Salad With Apples and Gorgonzola
1 bunch kale
1 teaspoon sea salt (I used kosher as I didn’t have sea)
1/3 cup dry-roasted sunflower seeds (original recipe calls for toasted sunflower seeds or candied walnuts). You could add any nut here.
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup dried cherries (original recipe calls for 1/3 cup currants)
3/4 cup diced apple (about 1/2 of an apple, I like to use Fuji apples)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or feta)
De-stem kale by pulling leaf away from the stem.  Wash leaves.  Spin or pat dry.  (You need to get as much moisture off the leaves as possible so the dressing will stick to the leaves, it doesn't stick to wet leaves.) Stack leaves, rollup and cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade).  Put kale in a large mixing bowl and add salt.  Massage salt into kale with your hands for 2 minutes.  (If using plain sunflower seeds, toast them by putting in a dry skillet over low to medium heat and stir constantly for a few minutes until they change color and give off a nutty aroma.  If using dry-roasted you do not need to toast them.)  Put kale in a fresh bowl and discard any leftover liquid.  Stir onion, currants, apple, sunflower seeds into kale.  Dress with oil and vinegar and toss.  Taste for salt and vinegar, adding more if necessary.  Toss in cheese crumbles.  Serves 6.  (IF you have leftovers, this will taste even better the next day.)
You can see I have not been posting as much.  This is more in the form of my old Gray Zone newsletter and several people have mentioned that they prefer this, so I will give it a try for awhile.  
OK off to massage my kale……………. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Father Would Have Been 100 Today.

My father would have been 100 today and rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about him.  He died at age 64 when I was 33 and I have felt as though I was cheated out of his presence for many years.

He was probably the most influential person in my life.  Growing up I didn’t always agree with him as he was very critical of me…..but in hindsight I realize that he only wanted the best for me, just didn’t go about it quite in a way that was easy.  I was an overweight, taciturn child and when he criticized me, I would just retreat further into my shell.

Since we lived in a small town and he was the town’s physician, life was very busy and not easy, and moments of peace few.  We never took vacations.  He had a great love of books, nature, and classical music. He would often take up a hobby and pursue it to perfection and then go onto something else.
He was one of the first joggers, running before it became a craze.  He also loved all sports.  His final job before he retired was as a school physician for a private school, which was right up his alley, as he could attend all the athletic events.

My daughter was the first grandchild (my sister’s daughter was born the spring of the year he died) so she was the only one able to benefit from his great love of children.  The photo above, taken when he was in China during the war, is so fitting of his personality.  He would have been very interested in my niece’s adopting a little Chinese girl.

He would not have dealt well with the present state of the medical world…..the bureaucracy alone would have done him in.  I always remember when April 15th rolled around we were told to leave him alone as he had left the taxes until the last minute…cannot imagine how he would have handled the Medicare/Medicaid situation.

I still feel his presence on my morning walks, when he whispers in my ear when I take too long a shower, when it is a beautiful day and I am not out enjoying it.  I think this poem by Robert Mazzocco, Dynasty,  is so fitting.

Family voices; you still can hear them,
Ever so dimly, there in your own voice:
Your father’s voice, even your mother’s voice.

The older we get,
The more you’ll hear them,
Though no one else does.

Just as you still can see them, all over
Your body, though, of course, no one else must:
Family scars and family kisses.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is It Just Me?

The Granddaughters on my recent Maine trip.

Several years ago in my monthly newsletter The Gray Zone, I wrote about giving a wedding present of a basket filled with all sorts of scissors – good scissors.  If I were giving that same gift now I would add a few things to it that I find essential for everyday living. 

One Gray Zone reader, Paula, told me about seam rippers.  These are great to stab and tear those plastic packages sealed for a millennium.  On my recent trip back from Maine (and being without one of these handy gadgets), I had forgotten to pack a snack for the front seat and didn’t want to stop.  I realized that I could reach the bag of Trader Joe goodies and get the falafel chips' bag, but I could not open it!  I tore at it with my teeth, tried to tear it with both hands and was about to throw it at the dog to see if she could get it open.  I finally gave up which was probably just as well as I would have eaten the whole bag they are so addicting.

Is it just me that wonders why everything is so tightly wrapped?  And I am not a wimp but fairly strong having lugged wood all winter amongst other things.  But then I wonder, because when I enlist the help of my 6 year old grandson, Eli, he can immediately tear things open.  Is it a vast conspiracy against everyone over 65?

On another note, I have a great idea that I have been proposing to pharmacies.  They have blood pressure machines available, why don’t they have a scale?  It could be enclosed in a little booth so one would have privacy and it would have a weight chart on the wall.  I weigh myself everyday, which I am sure many think rather obsessive, but I know if I overdo one day, I can cut back the next.  Not all scales are created equal, but it would be great to have a medical quality scale available.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When You Know the Grandchildren are Getting Smarter than You..............

Walking the dog with my six year old (his birthday is today) grandson, Eli.
Eli:  “ Clog, what is the smallest particle there is, is it a microbe?”
Clog quaking, pretends not to hear him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ah, Football...............

While the world is watching grown men bash their bodies together and grunt, I am sitting home by my fire reading my book and thinking about watching an episode of  “Lark Rise at Candlewood”.  Oh, believe me, there is nothing wrong with sports, it is just something I am not terribly interested in.

Most of the men in my life have been avid sports fans.  As mentioned in an earlier blog, having to chase my father down across the street as he watched the final of some sporting event.  I was first married in my parents’ living room the day after Thanksgiving, and as soon as the brief ceremony was over, all the males retreated to the TV room for whatever all those post Thanksgiving games are.  Ah well.

With my first husband we used to go to Mets’ games and I did get a bit caught up in that…the fun of the stadium and ardent fans.  It was during this marriage that I realized when cooking Sunday dinner, that if you asked how long before the football game was over, and the answer was four minutes, that was a downright lie.

My second marriage also was with a sports fan, more basketball than baseball, and I did get caught up in the New York Knicks.  It was also helpful as my boss at the time was totally ignorant when it came to sports.  He smoked though and was part of the Monday morning crew outside the building fulfilling their vice.  He would come in the office and say “Quick, give me a rundown on yesterday’s game” which I would do, and he would happily go out and puff away, feeling somewhat of a Monday morning quarterback.  He would always come back to his office after these sessions and say “Ah, football” (or baseball, or tennis, whatever), a term that I have used many a time since for a conversation that I was not terribly knowledgeable about …“ah sewing’…….”ah, chickens”.

I shall undoubtedly be snug in my bed by 10, but I hope your team wins, that you don's stay up too late, or eat too much, and that you are not hung-over. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Siblings Probing.......................

I love my brother.  He is always calling me with these questions about our childhood.  He is seven years younger than I am, so I think he believes I have a more in depth perception on those years.  My favorite question from him was “Why did Mother get up at 4 AM to put the turkey in the oven at Thanksgiving?”

Anyway, he calls often and we always have a good conversation.  Last week we discussed television.  We did not have a TV for many, many years and would go across the street to this wonderful family and watch it there…..usually the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights.  Now my father was a big sports fan, so he would often be found there watching some final of a sporting event. I also remember having to often pry him away during the McCarthy hearings.  He was a country doctor with an extremely busy and hectic practice.  My mother got tired of having to go find him whenever some emergency arose, so that is when we got a TV.

My brother only remembers watching Bonanza on the TV once when he was sick.  I honestly don’t remember watching anything at all.  I did have a babysitting job after school watching these kids until their mother got home from work (the father was deceased) and I remember becoming quite enthralled with “Queen For A Day”.

I don’t have a TV now, but do get Netflix and I love the many BBC series that are wonderful tales covering historical eras – Foyle’s War,  Downton Abbey, and I am watching a whole series now on the Victorian era called “Lark Rise at Candleford”.  I began to think if there were any American series that were similar.  Many movies cover history, but I could not think of a good TV series (not a documentary, but a fictional series) that covered a specific era of history, save “Mash”.  So can you?  What did you love to watch as a child?  I would love to know.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are You Nuts?

Many of my friends are doing the “back to earth” movement – growing and preserving their own vegetables, raising chickens, goats, etc. Now I see nothing wrong with this but wouldn’t our mothers be saying “Are You Nuts?” to this movement….these women who endured their childhoods during the depression and then as adults, WWII? 

My Mom made all our clothes, even coats, as can be attested in the picture above (I am the chunky one on the left).  We had no dryer and I can remember going out and folding these frozen clothes that were on the line and bringing them in, only to have them draped everywhere until they dried.  And then all the ironing, and one way to get on my mother’s good side was to iron.  She would often sprinkle the clothes but never get around to ironing them, so they would mildew and she would have to start over.  When we got a freezer, they would get sprinkled and then put in there until ironed.

We had a huge garden and the children’s task was to weed.  I hated weeding then, something I love to do today.  And then all the produce had to be preserved, one way or another, for the winter.  No wonder this generation embraced the canned, ready frozen, processed food….the era of Betty Crocker and her cake mixes.

When I first moved here 14 years ago, I planted a large garden.  It happened to be the summer of a drought, so this garden required a great deal of attention to keep it going.  I also planted many flowers in containers and added a few perennial gardens around the house.  Today I have an herb garden and a small perennial garden… vegetable garden.  I have tried to make my place as low maintenance as possible.

So, my friends, I will gladly take your excess produce and eggs.  I will join a CSA and attend the farmers’ markets, but I fear the only “back to earthing” I will be doing is for my final resting place.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I have had some people looking at my house….a woman yesterday and one tomorrow.  I was cleaning like a maniac until I was on the phone with a friend who said “You are way too OC about this, let the realtor do their job selling your place for their 6% commission, your house is fine.”  And after I got off the phone I thought “I have to start thinking like a man”.

Because how many men do you know that would be worrying about whether that shelf is incredibly organized or those few ashes on the floor from the woodstove are there or that the animal bed is a bit untidy?  I cannot think of a one.

Now the animal thing is a bit of a problem as we have been having milder weather which = mud and = Grayling trying to get those little creatures that burrow into the soil.  I looked out yesterday and she was halfway to China, just her yellow, fluffy derrière sticking out.

The cat goes out briefly but comes in and sleeps the rest of the time, but that brief foray = dirty paws and then he climbs on the chair and leaves these lovely little dirty footprints.  I have relaxed a bit about that especially since I have whitish slipcovers, which I want to clean but am afraid if I send them to the dry cleaner, someone will want to come and look at the house, and what is underneath them is pretty horrible.  They are sort of animal-dirty/Martha Stewart chic at this point.

And by the way, what idiot invented the vacuum cleaner?  It is the most cumbersome machine going.  In my next life I am getting central vac.

Monday, January 23, 2012

If This Table Could Talk...........

            I recently purchased a small hand sander. I hoped to find treasures, laden with dirt and paint, and sand them into valuable antiques.  I did manage to do this (although I don’t know about the valuable antique part) with a bench that I purchased for $20.00.  I sanded and sanded and then oiled it and it was passable enough to place in my bedroom (my bedroom, you may note, not the guest receiving living room).  I was so pleased with this project that I decided to sand my round, all-purpose coffee table.  I lugged it to the garage and got the sander out, but…….
             I could not do it.  I looked at this table and was flooded with memories.  My father made this round coffee table from a top he found at the dump.  Many of you may remember that a trip to the dump could be an exciting experience, not like now where everything is neatly organized.  You could find all sorts of discarded treasures.  Well, this table top was one of them.  He refinished the top and made legs for it.
             I was living in a small apartment in New York City at the time and one Wednesday (his day off) he drove down with the coffee table on the top of his little Corvair.  It fit so nicely in that tiny apartment, serving multiple functions… table, dining table, boudoir table, desk, telephone table, etc.
             When I married and moved to a larger apartment, the coffee table came with me.  We were quite social then and had many a party.  We all drank and smoked to excess, often missing the coasters (if there were any at all) and ashtrays.  All of this is well documented on its top.
             When I was pregnant with my daughter, we moved to a house in the suburbs of New Jersey and the coffee table came along, by now showing much character.  My daughter learned to walk around that table.  Around and around she could go and never fall, her little hands leaving imprints.  It had no sharp edges to hurt her.
             Within a five year period, three very important people in my life died. My best friend died of cancer, my father died suddenly, and my husband developed a brain tumor and died within two months.  I spent many a night on the couch with my feet on this table, in a grief-generated stupor, contemplating what to do next.  By now the drinks had been replaced with herbal tea and a more sensible way of life.
             After 20 years in the house in the suburbs, I remarried and the table moved to a house by a lake in Pennsylvania.  Here it sat in a sun room, more civilized in its function….drinks with coasters, coffee table books, bouquets of flowers, and no ashtrays.  And here it stayed, well dusted and cared for, for 6 years, until I finally realized the staid life was not for me and I longed for my freedom.
             So now I have brought this table back to its origins.  As I was about to attack it, sander in hand, I realized I was about to perform a major face lift… erasure of every character line that so enhanced its surface. 
             I don’t want to bring this table back to its youth. I want it to grow old with me and show every one of its 40+ years, and then some.  I want my grandchildren to walk around and around it.  I want my daughter to inherit it   I love this table… talks to me. *

*As a postscript – I wrote this piece several years ago.  With my constant redecorating, the table no longer fit in.  I offered it to my daughter, but she passed on it.  It was shipped out to my niece in Colorado.  I am so glad it is still in the family. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Butterfly Amaryllis Bloometh

I have had this plant for over 20 years and once a year it produces this beautiful bloom.  I never know when it will happen, so it is always a lovely surprise.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And All This Before a Cup of Coffee

So today, we get up, or should I say a feline decides that we get up, at 5:30…..feed the animals, stoke the fire and let the animals outside.  Dog starts to bark and bark and bark and bark.  I look out and cannot see anything, as it is dark.  All I see is the sliver of moon and have the passing thought “would this dog truly be dumb enough to bark at the moon?”  And she continues to bark and bark and bark.  I am sure my neighbors were ready to kill me (or her).

Day breaks and I look out and see this sad doe on my upper lawn, like those statues you see at the summit of some mountain.  Barking continues.  The doe pays no attention to the dog and actually when the doe drops her head to eat a bit of grass the dog runs away, but still barking. Might I add here that this is the dog who was shut in a barn for a week and NEVER BARKED.

I get some duds on and go outside and walk towards the doe and still she doesn't move.  I realize now that the lower part of one of her legs is broken.

I call my friend Susan, who knows all things of animals and she suggests I call our dog catcher, who suggests I call the state troopers, which I do and he comes about 45 minutes later.  What is it about those clean cut guys in their uniforms?……..oh sorry, got off track there for a minute……Anyway, he gets out of his car and the doe takes off on her three legs! 

I asked him what he would have done and he said he would have shot her, but could not take the carcass away.  I had visions of someone coming to look at the house and my saying “Oh, you don’t mind a deer carcass on the lawn do you?”  Actually he said if he had shot her, he would have stopped at the local coffee hangout and asked if anyone was interested.  How long do you think it would have been before my usually quiet road looked like the thruway?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Am Getting New Glasses.......

I spend a good deal of time looking for my glasses.  Since I am nearsighted and don’t have bifocals, I take my glasses off to read and then I cannot find them (evidenced by the picture).

As I thought about this blog post, my mind went back to when I first started wearing glasses which must have been when I was about seven.  Back then, glasses were not cool.  The statement “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” was true, not like now when it is “hot” to wear them.

Funnily I don’t remember ever going to pick out frames as a child, which I must have done, although I am sure the optical shop had about five styles to choose from. I remember once deciding that I wanted new frames, so I sat on my glasses but they didn’t break and my father fixed them, much to my disappointment.

I wore glasses until I was 22 and the minute I was out in the working world and had enough money, I got contact lenses.  Back then the lenses were the hard ones.  Living and working in New York City with all the dirt and dust would render you to tears needing to find a quiet corner to remove the lens then putting it in your mouth, cleaning if off and inserting it back in your eye!  It was also tricky to get them out at times, having to work your lids around the edges to “pop” them out.

I remember going to a big New Year’s Eve party at some friends in Connecticut and spending the night and not having my lenses' case. I put my lenses in a glass of water on the bathroom sink, only to find them gone in the morning…..ingested by some unsuspecting thirsty soul or washed down the drain.

In my late 40’s I went to the soft lenses….and then to the mono lens, so I wouldn’t have to wear reading glasses.  I loved contacts, but a few years ago I had so many floaters I was having trouble seeing with the mono lens, so decided to go back to glasses. 

I really like the glasses that I have as they as so light and people hardly notice that I am wearing them, but this searching for them several times a day is getting very annoying, so I have decided to get ones that are more obvious.

Between the time I will save not searching for them and the time I will save dressing like Steve Jobs, I could write the great American novel. Although judging by this boring blog post, you are thinking “she has got to be kidding”! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dressing Like Steve..............

Talking with my sister, who is a few years older than I am, I realize how much we talk about how little there is out there for our age group...a whole industry just waiting to happen for some smart-thinking entrepreneur.

Before I started dressing SOPOGWC (South Portland Goodwill Chic), I used to shop at Eddie Bauer.  One day I walked in a store and realized that they had abruptly sabotaged my age group for the younger set.  I looked around the store and all the customers were over 50 looking bewildered with furrowed brows saying “what happened?”  I also like L.L. Bean, where I go for sport clothes, but I don’t want to be attired where someone looks at you and says “Ah, L.L. Bean”.  Talbots?  Too expensive.

So, I have decided to dress like Steve Jobs.  Black top/denim or black jeans for casual; black pants/black top for dress up.  Maybe add white tops for summer and adding Buffs ( and scarves for color to an otherwise dull outfit.  Shoes?  Keens or clogs. Think of all the time it will save not having to decide what to wear. Yep, I am going to do it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Great House For Sale

My house is for is a great house -- open, airy, light filled.  Check it out and be sure to take the "virtual tour"!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Ungrandmotherly name..................

My grandchildren call me Clog and I am willing to bet I am the only grandmother called Clog in the whole world.  Here is how it all started....

When my daughter was pregnant with her first child, she and her husband (two very intelligent people) began the process of finding a suitable name for their unborn son.  Much to my dismay, they took momentary loss of their senses and were seriously contemplating naming their child after a piece of farm machinery….let us just say it is usually red or green and has two large wheels and has Allis or Deere in the name.  When questioned as to why this seemed appropriate, they declared that it was something that was always reliable, sturdy, etc., etc.  I responded “I love my clogs, wear them all the time and they are very durable and comfortable, but I would never consider naming a child after my shoes!”  Hence, I was the one christened with the name “Clog”.  I actually have grown to like it. Oh yes, and they named him, very sensibly, Henry, which fits him to a T (or is it tee?  I will have to look it up.)

I have had a moment of trepidation with the arrival of each new grandchild, but I must say all their names fit their personalities -- Elias (Eli), Zuzanna (Zuzu), and Ramona (Monie).

One day when I was picking Eli up from his little pre-school, the teacher said, when I walked in the door, “Eli, your granny is here.”  Eli looked up a bit bewildered and then said “That’s not my granny, that’s my Clog”, much to the bewilderment of the teacher.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Animals Are Driving Me Crazy and It Is Only January......

“Why aren’t we walking?  Remember we took a long hike yesterday at 8:32 AM?”
“So what if it is 2 degrees?  What difference does that make?”
“Remember that nice lady who came for dinner the other night and made a huge fuss over me? I am going to wait by the door for her as she came at 5:07 PM.”  “What?  She isn’t coming today?”  Bummer!”
“Remember that party you had the other night when there were a lot of people here who made a big to-do over me?  Can that happen again really soon?”
“Now, yesterday at 3:02 PM you gave me a biscuit.  I know you were on the phone when you did it, but I am standing here right now at 3:02 in front of the cupboard where the biscuits are and where are you?”

“Yesterday we got up at 5:30, why are you buried under the covers today? I keep poking you and walking over your head, but you aren’t paying any attention to me.  Is it because you had that party with all those people?”
“Why is the bathroom door closed?  You know I like to go in there and splash around in the toilet bowl and make the seat all wet.”

5:30 PM
“Why are you drinking that glass of wine?”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spice it Up...............

I read comments on Facebook and hear friends complaining about wanting to eat better but not having time to prepare meals, etc.  Having worked full time for years, I can sympathize with this lament.  I like to cook and I like good food, so most prepared foods do not appeal to me. 

Recently I discovered the versatility of salsa and have incorporated it into many dishes. One of my favorites is to sauté several vegetables (onion, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus), throw in some shrimp or cannellini beans, mix in salsa for the sauce, and serve it on pasta (or spaghetti squash), topped with feta cheese and black olives.  It is delicious and quick/easy to make. Most salsa has basic ingredients and is very inexpensive. And another benefit of salsa is that it spices up your dreams!

I just took another of my favorite dishes out of the oven ……..roasted vegetables. This is also easy and you can make as much or as little as you want.  My dish today consists of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, red onion, red potatoes.  Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and bake at 475̊ for 30 or 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  I often splash a little balsamic or red wine vinegar on it when cooked.  You can also add feta cheese here too. I usually just use whatever vegetables I have on hand and make this year round.  I eat it cold or heat it up, put in wraps (with salsa) for lunch.  The problem with it is that I love it so much, I cannot stop eating it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  As you can see, we are having a lazy day here on 1/2/12.  Yesterday I hosted a birthday party for my friend, Susan.  It was a great afternoon….a gathering of her friends with everyone bringing wonderful finger foods……. we had quail eggs en croûte, salmon, delicious things wrapped in bacon, etc., etc., etc.….and an ice cream cake to top it off.  Although we forgot to serve it before everyone left, so some missed out.

So today I am just hanging out and reading my book George and Arthur by Julian Barnes, a book that I bought at None Such Bookstore near my apartment in Maine.  They sell quality paperback used books (as well as new) at half price and if you buy three you get one free. And then after you read them you can return them and get store credit towards more books.  Then of course I came home and the library had called and four books I had on reserve had come in.  This always happens, and I also have the new Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, that was a Christmas gift.

So now what do I do?  Abandon the book I am in the middle of and own?  Well, I didn’t want to do that as I am really enjoying it, so I did the 100 pages minus your age theory (if after reading the specified number of pages, which in my case would be 31½ pages, it still intrigues you, it is a keeper) to see if the books from the library were ones I wanted to read.  They all were, so I think I will be doing some major reading these next couple of weeks and hoping that I can renew them. (The books from the library are Oliver Sacks The Mind’s Eye; Jeanette Winterson Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; Alison Espach The Adults; Denis Johnson Train Dreams – and don’t ask me why I reserved these books as I haven’t a clue)

I am sincerely hoping that 2012 is the year I move to Maine…………time will tell.