Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Mark

How do I say goodbye to someone that has been a part of my life for almost as long as I remember... someone whose life was too short? There were more smiles to smile, more hugs to give, more gossip to share, more times to see him throw back his head in laughter.

It all started back in kindergarten. I was freakishly tall... a head and shoulders taller than everyone else, except for Mark. We saw eye to eye. We were the token tall kids that got to do everything that no one else could reach. I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame because we were alike, he was kind and gentle, and when he smiled, he made me smile. Back then he said he wanted to be a dentist, so I decided I would be a dental assistant so I could work with him and be with him always.

We lived with only three houses between us and the route we walked to school ran somewhere down the middle. I would wait for him at the intersection, and we'd walk the remaining quarter mile together. After school, we'd walk home together. One particularly brazen day at age five, I kissed him at the intersection (on the cheek, as I recall) and ran the rest of the way home. Mark told his grandmother, who lived with him and his family. She said I was a wild girl, and he shouldn't be spending time with me. (I didn't hear that part until we were adults, so obviously he didn't heed her warning.)
As early, as elementary school, I knew he was special in a sophisticated, refined, vintage-y way. He always gave beautiful Valentine cards instead of those juvenile things most gave. He had an attention to detail and creativity that was different than most boys. His handwriting was impeccable. His clothes were always clean and never in disarray... shirt tucked in, collar straight, pants hanging perfectly, all layered in the preppy style that was the rage then. His hair never got too long and it was always neatly combed. I loved all these things about him, and it wasn't long before other girls noticed those things were pretty special, too. By then, I was over my crush and we had a strong bond of friendship.

As tweens and teens, we spent a great deal of time at each other's house or on the phone together. We were in most of the same activities together: band, chorus, pep band, drama, photography club, prom committee, yearbook committee, National Honor Society. Since we were part of the same clique, we went to the same parties. He was ever present in my life... we were in each other's orbit. I remember disco dancing to the Saturday Day Night Fever album on his porch. We did homework together and hammered out school papers on my Underwood manual typewriter that was so heavy that I'm surprised it didn't fall through the table and the floor. We shared secrets and gossip... we shared our lives.

He went away to college; I did not. But when he was home, we'd get together and catch up. Close to Christmas, I'd go to his family's house. He'd put on the Charlie Brown Christmas album, and we'd share an eggnog while we exchanged gifts, stories and gossip. That tradition continued long into adulthood.

We knew each other so well... 4o years of living, sharing, loving. We had numerous nicknames for each other. There were private jokes where a word or two could start the laughter.

Just over a week ago, while on the way to the hospital because of pneumonia, he went into cardiac arrest. After several days, it was clear he wouldn't recover. His family and partner said goodbye, and the machines that were keeping him alive were turned off. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I wanted more talk and laughter and hugs. I wanted more reminiscing and more memories. The pain of his death is so intense to me that it feels physical. I know that time will make the pain fade, but there are things in my life that will always remind me of him, and I will carry him in my heart forever.

This comes too soon, but goodbye, Mark, my dear friend. I hope you knew how much I love you. Too much time has past since I told you last.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful for... (the final chapter)

I try to take time in everyday life to appreciate things and not save it for a special holiday. But then, it's usually just in my head and not shared. Today, I'll share with you, a few more things I'm thankful for...

Where I Live - From the country, to the state, to the town, to my house, they are all special to me. I am proud to be an American. For while, I wasn't feeling that way, but it's starting to come back. I love Vermont... the changing of the seasons, the rural atmosphere, cows and maple syrup. I live in a town where strangers wave to each other when they meet on a road, hold doors for each other and everyone helps one another when it's needed. I love living at the end of a dirt road where I can open the door and let the dog out, and wild animals roam in my yard.

My Friends - I have friends that I see frequently, some I see once or twice a year and a few that our only communication is through Christmas cards. Thanks to Facebook, I have friends I haven't seen in a quarter century. They're all have a place in my heart because of the memories we share and the laughs we've had.

Food and Drink - I can't imagine living in a place where I ate the same tasteless food every day and had nothing to drink but dirty water. I love good food and drink... the preparation, the flavor and the ritual. We are so lucky to be able to get fresh food in such a wide variety.

Environmental Conservation - I'm so happy that efforts are being made to protect our planet and wildlife. Nature is so important to me. While I don't live a totally green life (it's very hard to do), I do make an effort.

And a final few things... music, theater, laughter, the power of a hug, a comfortable bed, instant access to information, good health and when I don't have that, good medicine, thrift stores...

and you, my blogger friends, for your comments that keep me writing. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Mother

My mom had me when she was 43 years old and raised me on her own. As a child, I was way too busy having fun and being a kid to realize what a struggle this must have been for her, but now I can appreciate her and her efforts.

We didn't have a lot of money, and I guess I realized that on some level, but I never felt poor or that the essentials were lacking. She always made Christmas special, and while I didn't get EVERYTHING I asked for, no kid should.

She taught me about frugality, although she was probably frugal to the extreme. She grew up during the depression which created a pack rat mentality. The two things that I still laugh about was her saving the waxy bags from inside cereal boxes to use instead of new wax paper, and keeping spray nozzles from cans. If she had a faulty one, she could use one from her stash instead of throwing out a can with something in it.

My mom was strong in mind and body. She taught me not to worry... "the worry is always the worst", to think positive thoughts, and to be independent. She could single-handedly move a refrigerator and do small carpentry and plumbing jobs.

Now that she's 88 years old, she is weaker and less sure of herself, but she passed her strength on to me, and I'll use that strength to help her. Just before Pipsqueak was born, I convinced her to sell her house of 35 years and buy the one next door to me. Since then, she's given up driving and says that she thinks she's a burden to me. The fact is that she's a blessing to me, and I'm glad to have her so near so I can frequently see the smile that lit up my days as a child.


Tomorrow, I'll be doing a Thanksgiving wrap up with all sorts of things I'm thankful for.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Daughter

Pipsqueak almost didn't exist. We were rejected from the local hospital's IVF program and were referred to Boston. After two IVF failures there, it was recommended that we consider adoption or a childless life. I pleaded for another chance, and voila! (I really should write about this whole experience in detail sometime.)
Right from the start, she was a happy, adaptable, easy baby... except for the part where she didn't really like sleeping for more than twenty minutes for something like three years. She embraces life and whatever it brings her. She's kind, thoughtful and naturally funny. I love spending time with her, doing things with her and going places with her.
Living with her is like living in a musical because she breaks into original song and dance numbers several times a day. It could be an upbeat, "Wow, These Brownies Taste Good" or a more soulful, "My Mom and Day Love Me, and I Love Them."Every night before I go to bed, I go in her room to check on her and adjust her covers. I stand there for a moment just looking at her sleep, and I feel my heart swell with love. I am so lucky to have Pipsqueak in my life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Husband

I'm a lucky woman to have found Sweetie. I'm not saying he's perfect, but he's perfect for me. We've known each other for eighteen years, together for thirteen and married for eleven. He's my best friend and the first person I want to share everything with. He understands me about 75% of the time (which is even better than it sounds since I understand myself only about 90% of the time).
He makes me laugh, and I want him around all the time. He does some crazy things, loves adventure and doing things differently than most people. I guess I could say that he likes to play.
He's very handy with computers, and good at other little mechanical, electrical, plumbing and carpentry jobs, but he's smart enough to hire someone for the big jobs. His mind works like a calculator which will be good when Pipsqueak's math homework gets too complicated for me.

We agree on most things and he respects my opinions when we don't. On the rare occasions when we argue, I can't stay mad at him, even if I really want to.
He's a wonderful father... devoted and patient. Pipsqueak loves spending time with him.
My life became much more centered, happy and fun when Sweetie came into it, and I certainly wouldn't want be without him now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Introducing the "I'm Thankful" Series

I've had two weeks off to recover from that month of writing everyday. It's time to get back at it. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to write each weekday until Thanksgiving about something for which I'm thankful. If you want to join me, I'd be... well... thankful.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Maybe you were busy and Halloween sort of snuck up on you, or you got a last minute invite to a Halloween party. There's no need to join the crush at iParty and empty your wallet while you're there. Here are a few costume ideas that you might be able to pull together in a few minutes with stuff around your house.

Lame Excuse – post its that say “traffic”, “dog ate it”, “it’s in the mail”, etc. and walk with crutches or a cane.

Cereal Killer – attach empty mini cereal boxes to yourself with plastic knives sticking out of them

Smartie Pants – attach smartie candies to your pants

Static Cling – pin socks, bras, underwear and dryer sheets to your clothes; tease hair if possible

Q-tip – wear white top and pants and stick cotton balls to a stocking cap and cotton balls on some old shoes.

Gum Stuck on Shoe – dress all in pink and attach a shoe or flip flop to your head

Leftovers – wrap yourself in aluminum foil

No Pest Strip – dress in all yellow and stick rubber bugs to your clothes

Tourist – big hat, camera around neck, fanny pack, Hawaiian shirt, shorts, crew socks and sneakers; maybe carry a map

Deviled Egg – dress all in white, attach a big yellow circle to the front of your shirt, wear devil horns and carry a pitchfork

Dr. Pepper – wear scrubs or a doctors jacket with accessories such as a stethoscope, mask, etc., and attach pepper packets to your clothes

Bright Idea – dress in yellow or something boldly colored and write “IDEA” on your chest

Identity Crisis – buy a box of “Hello My Name Is” stickers. Put different names on all of them and stick them all over your clothes

Someone You Can Count On – dress in black, cut out numbers from white felt and attached them to your clothes randomly

Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes Prize Patrol – wear a blazer, carry a bunch of balloons and a piece of poster board that you’ve made look like a check

Shot In The Dark – dress in black and wear a shot glass around your neck

Movie Theater Floor – cut out a piece of cardboard that will cover most of the front of your body, paint it black and attach some straps so you can wear it in front of you. Stick on theater candy, popcorn and empty drink cups.

A Salt and Battery – glue a salt shaker and a battery on a baseball hat and wear it. Also put black makeup around an eye, maybe wear a sling or use crutches.

Have fun and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Photo

So tired, so cold, so wanna go to bed. I'll leave you with Pipsqueak as the beheaded queen and me as Raggedy Andy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Q and A

I needed an easy post tonight, since I've been crazy busy getting ready for Halloween. Thanks Irregular Tammie, for posting this meme.

Which urban legend scared the bejezus out of you as a kid?
There were so many urban legends and most of them centered around a shopping mall. I was a gullible country bumpkin then and believe them all, and we didn't have Snopes back then to debunk these things. The scariest was probably the truck driver following the woman in the car and he keeps honking the horn which terrifies her. She finally pulls over where she feels safe and gets out of the car. The truck driver comes over and tells her that a man was hiding in her backseat and he kept sitting up, ready to attack her with a knife, but when he honked the horn, he'd duck down again. They check the backseat of the car and there's no man there anymore, but he left the knife behind.

Which horror movie has the best premise?
I don't watch horror movies because they aren't fun for me. If I must watch them, I like the old ones like "House of Wax".

What is the most disappointing "treat" to receive in your bag on Halloween night?
Apples or hard candy.

What's the best non-candy item to receive?
Cash. But I guess that house would be really busy. Realistically, pencils or stickers.

Did a monster live in your closet when you were a child?
No, but snakes lived under my bed.

Which supernatural creature sent chills up your spine when you were ten and still does?
I'm not sure they are considered supernatural, but I'm terrified of flying monkeys. I ask Pipsqueak to hold me when they're shown on "Wizard of Oz". Werewolves are pretty scary, too. I guess it's furry things for me.

Which supernatural creature makes you yawn?
Zombies. They move so slow that I think they'd be really easy to get away from.

What's your favorite Halloween decoration?
Jack o'lanterns. I love carving them.

If you could be anywhere on Halloween, where would you be?
Salem, Massachusetts. I just saw a bit on TV about the Salem witch trials and the huge Halloween celebration they have there. It sounds crowded, but fun.

What's the scariest book you've read so far this year?
I haven't read any scary books this year, but there are two scariest in my life... Intensity by Dean Koontz and a short story by Stephen King called "The Mist".

Haunted houses or haunted hay rides?
Neither because I don't really like being scared and feeling trapped in my scariness.

Which Stephen King novel/movie would you least like to find yourself trapped in?
Definitely "The Mist". It's about creatures in the fog. "The Cell", about people turning into murdering maniacs because of something on their cellphone, would be pretty scary, too.

Which is creepiest: evil dolls, evil pets, evil children?
Dolls don't scare me because I could get rid of them with a hammer, a washing machine or a car. Tough call between pets and children, but I'll go with children.

Now, it's time for me to go to bed and have nightmares.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wet Felted Pumpkins

I was itching to do a little wet felting with wool (get it? itch. wool), so when we went to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival last month, I bought some orange roving. Roving is fiber fanatic talk for wool that has been cleaned, carded (combed) and possibly dyed.

We found a ball in the dog toy basket that was the size we wanted... slightly smaller than a baseball. The ball had to have a smooth surface so it would slip out easily later. We then wrapped the roving around the ball in a couple of layers, dipped it in warm soapy water and rubbed and smoothed, rubbed and smoothed until it looked felted and uniform without any visible seams. Then we rinsed all the soap out under cool running water and squeezed it out in paper towels.

I cut a small incision that was large enough to slip the ball out using an Exacto knife. It didn't need to be a huge hole because the wool stretches some when it's wet. Then we left it overnight to dry thoroughly.
Once it was dry, we cut a brown stem and a green leaf from felt and sewed them to the top from the inside so the stitches don't show too much. Finally, we packed the inside with stuffing and needle felted the seam closed. A felting needle has barbs on the pointed end that are barely visible to the eye. When it's repeatedly jabbed through wool, it pushes and pulls the fibers into one another until it's felted together. I let Pipsqueak do this making sure she kept her fingers clear. One jab of that needle and she wouldn't be interested in trying it again.
Here is the finished pumpkin. I'd like to try needle felting some black yarn to make the vertical ribs, but no time now. Pipsqueak wants to give one to each of her teachers this week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beer Braised Sirloin Tips with Mushroom Sauce

This is a great recipe for a work/school night. I had dinner ready in under an hour tonight, and it was lick-your-plate yummy. This is another recipe that calls for 1 cup of dark beer, so buy the big bottle and sip the rest of the bottle while you cook.

1 t dry mustard
1 t brown sugar
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t paprika
kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds sirloin tip steaks
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, preferably half shiitakes and half crimini
2 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts separated from dark green, but using both
1 c dark ale or porter, such as Guinness
2 t Worcestershire sauce

Mix the mustard, brown sugar, thyme, ginger, paprika and 1 t salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add steaks and toss until well coated.

Remove and discard stems from shiitakes, if using, and trim stem ends from the crimini. Wipe all mushrooms clean and slice 1/4" thick.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering , add half the steaks and sear them until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side (the steaks will brown quickly because of the sugar in the spice mix). Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining steaks.

Reduce heat to medium, and 1 T butter to the pan, and let melt. Add the mushroom and scallion whites. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Pour in beer and Worcestershire sauce. Scrape bottom of the pan, and raise heat to medium, bring to a boil and cook uncovered until liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.

Return steak and any accumulated juices to the pan, cover tightly with lid and reduce heat to low simmer. Braise, turning the steaks after 8 minutes, until tender and cooked through, about 14 minutes total. Transfer steaks to plate or serving platter.

Cut the remaining 1T butter into four pieces and swirl them into the sauce. Stir in the scallion greens. Serve steak topped with sauce, along with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Serves four.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I can't do it. I can't not post. I told Sweetie that I was taking the night off, but NaBloWriMo guilt set in. So how about a quickie? ...

I went to Vermont DMV today to renew my license. I hear people complain about DMVs a lot... the lines are long, the wait interminable, the employees cranky and clueless. I've got to hand it to Vermont DMV because none of those things are true. I was in and out in six minutes, there were two people ahead of me, and the woman waiting on me was friendly and efficient.

I have only one complaint. My photo looks horrible. The focus is soft, the lighting is horrible, and I should have lifted my chin so it wouldn't look like I had two or three of them. But I suppose at $45 for four years, I shouldn't be expecting something framable.

And I have a confession to make. My weight on my license is what it was when I got my license when I was sixteen years old. I'm now ten twenty thirty pounds heavier, but I won't change it. It says "weight", not "actual weight", so we'll just say it's a "goal weight."

So, tell me what your DMV is like and whether or not the weight is accurate on your license.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Long Trail Brewery

I was tempted to skip today's post, but my conscience got the better of me. Here's why I'm feeling like such a slacker...
I had a beer sampler with my lunch at the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater, Vermont... six 4 ounce glasses of sedation. The selection is (back row right to left) Blackberry Wheat, Long Trail Ale, Hibernator, (front row right to left) Double Bag, IPA and Imperial Porter.

My favorites were Double Bag and IPA. I've always been a fan of IPA, but this was my first taste of Double Bag. It's only recently become available in stores having only been served on tap at the brewery. It figures I would like it since it's 7.2% APV. A standard beer is around 4% APV.

My third choice was Hibernator, a rich flavorful brew without being too dark. The standard Ale was good, but a little boring in comparison to the other choices. Blackberry Wheat was too light and flavorless and Imperial Porter (or as I renamed it "Imperial Storm Trooper") was too dark. I'm just starting to enjoy dark beers. I'm a fan of Guinness, but this was too bitter for me.

Not only does the Long Trail Brewery have good beer, but the pub fare is great too. I had a hamburger cooked just the way I asked. I hate being asked how I want it, and order medium rare to have it arrive well done because they're afraid of being sued if I get sick. I would rather sign a waiver than eat a shoe leather burger. But LTB throws caution to the wind and serves a burger that's pink in the middle. The fries are perfect too... nice a crunchy on the inside.

With that said, I'm going to go back to slacking for the rest of the night.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dartmouth Homecoming Parade and Bonfire 2009

We've been attending and loving this event for 13 years, maybe missing one or two years.  The parade kicks off with all of Dartmouth's athletic teams, from football to golf, riding in the back of pick up trucks and pelting candy to kids on the sidelines.  Note to self:  next year wear a hardhat.  Some of the trucks were so overloaded with musclebound athletes that their tires looked flat.  This is followed by a march of the attending alumni.  It ends with the raucous run of the freshman class up Main Street to the green.

At this point, we seek refreshment somewhere for a half hour to forty-five minutes during the speeches.  This year is was hot cider and cupcakes at the bookstore cafe.  We went back outside to a drizzle, but we didn't let that dampen our spirits.

We arrived on the green and found a good spot along the caution tape just in time for the lighting of the bonfire.  The freshman continued their run in a circle around the bonfire until the left sides of their bodies were well roasted.

It all sounds a bit weird when I write it, but it sure is fun.  Don't you wish you were there?

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Beta is Constipated

Now there is a title of a blog post I didn't think I'd ever write. I looked at our beta, Kip, when we got home today. At first, I thought he was dead since he was laying at the top of the water on his side, but when he saw me he got excited and started swimming around. He wasn't swimming quite right though and he looked bloated. I confirmed that Pipsqueak hadn't fed him lately without telling me, so it wasn't overfeeding. I thought he was a goner, but I hit the internet anyway.

Come to find out constipation is the most common problem in betas, and most longterm beta owners are bound to have it to deal with at one time or another. It can be deadly, but luckily, there is treatment and it's simple. Cook a frozen pea until it's mushy, put some on the end of a toothpick and drag it through the water to tempt the beta to eat it. Don't feed until the bloating is down and the blockage has passed. Kip took his medicine like a good patient. I'll give him another dose of pea tomorrow to be on the safe side. It says he should be better in a day or two. If not we'll have to try plan two, an epsom salt bath. I'm hoping the pea treatment works.

Here's Kip on a better day.  He didn't want to be photographed all bloated and clumsy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

High Waters and Thunder Thighs

Lately I've been obsessed with the length of Pipsqueak's pants. It seems like at least twice weekly I'm telling her that her pants are too short and she won't be wearing them again. Strangely, this obsession is rooted some three decades or more ago.

There wasn't a lot of money in my household growing up. Frankly, I have no idea how we had what we did have. I was an exceptionally tall kid and grew fast until I stopped in my mid-teens. It was hard for my mom to keep me in pants long enough, so I would sometimes get teased about my short pants. "Expecting a flood?" is what I got asked most. It didn't bother me to the point where I huddled in a corner crying, but I didn't like it.

Once I started buying my own clothes, I was always sure my pants were long enough. Now it appears that I'm trying to protect Pipsqueak from the same fate of being teased. Of course, there are a million other things she could be teased about, but it won't be short pants. Not on my watch!

Another moment in history that scarred me for life was in eighth grade. I was sitting on the bleachers next to my female P.E. teacher waiting for my turn in whatever torture she was dispensing in the gym that day. She slapped my thigh with her hand and said something to the effect that I was carrying some extra weight there. Just what a barely teen girl needs to hear, right?! To this day, I hate my thighs. When I was going through a divorce and lost twenty pounds from the stress, I looked gaunt, but I still thought my thighs were fat.

Childhood teasing can be brutal and even drive a kid to suicide, but even the little stuff can't haunt them for life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My High School Graduation Letter To Me

It's time for a little time travel. Have you ever said, "I wish I knew then what I know now."? Wouldn't it be cool if you could have received a letter on the day of your high school graduation from an older you? Here is what I'd write to me...

June 1983

Dear Betts:

Friendship... You have a lot of wonderful friends and many you will lose touch with unless you make an effort. Do make the effort. These are special people and many won't see old age. Friends you make in the future will have no idea who you are now and the cliques you were in. In the adult world jocks and nerds work together, cheerleaders and band members are moms in the same playground. It just doesn't matter anymore.

Money... Don't waste it. Think before you buy. Don't become of a victim of trends. Wear classic, well made clothes. Don't bother playing the lottery; you aren't going to win. Open an IRA as soon as possible. Life insurance is usually a rip off. Invest in Apple as soon as possible. Google is a good bet, too.

Work... Do something you can feel passionate about or there are going to be a lot of days that you don't feel like getting up to go to work. Find something where you can be creative or think creatively.

Love... You've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you can appreciate the handsome prince. Don't fall in love with love; make sure you're in love with the person. He should make you laugh regularly and heartily. And think of yourself and what the relationship does for you instead of always what you can do for the relationship.

Children... Don't wait so long that it's too late, but wait long enough that you know you you're with the right father for your children.

Health... Sit up straight. Wear sunscreen. Make exercise a habit. Be careful of weak ankles. Enjoy shrimp, lobster and crab because you might not always be able to.

Beauty... Again, wear sunscreen. DON'T PERM YOUR HAIR!!! And don't cut it really short and spike the top.

Happiness... Don't let anyone drag you down day after day. If they try, remove yourself from their life. You're a happy person, and it won't take much effort to stay that way.

Even if you don't follow my/your advice, by middle age you'll be over the humps, living happily, and loving life.

Always, Betts

What advise would you give yourself?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Technologically Challenged

This is an experiment necessitated by desperation. My computer isn't working, so I'm attempting to churn out a post on my iPhone. I've come this far on NaBloWriMo; I don't want to fail now. This is no easy task and there is no app for this. It took me five attempts just to accurately his the "New Post" button. Just to make things a little more interesting, the 20% battery warning came up a few moments ago. Yes, just pile on the pressure while I'm typing with my thumbs. I can't go back and read what I've written without pressing the "Done" button. Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery. This says a few things about me: I'm dogged in my determination, tenacious as a terrier and when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. I'm also not foolish, so I'm going to attempt to hit "publish" before my battery dies and I lose everything.

Monday, October 19, 2009


It is football season, but I feel like I'm stuck in halftime. I don't mean that my life is all cheerleaders and marching bands. Wouldn't that be nice? No, I mean that everything is only half done. The laundry is washed and dried, but not folded and put away. Four out of seven raised garden beds are cleaned up. Three out of eight dining chairs are recovered. Just over half of my windows are washed. And that's probably not even half of the things that are half done. I won't even mention the knitting and crafts projects that are half finished.

I can't figure out if I'm busier (doesn't feel like it), more scattered, distracted or unfocused (could be), or unmotivated and tired (very likely). There are so many things that need doing that I dabble here and there and get many things started and nothing finished. I'm also setting my daily goals too high, so it's hard to feel satisfied when everything isn't accomplished.

How do I fix it? I need to go back to my lists. To-do lists work really well for me, and I get a sense of accomplishment when things get crossed off. I've also got to work hard at seeing a project through from start to finish, and I'll start with finishing up projects that are already started. If I do this, I think I'll feel more on track in a week.

On a positive note, I'm a little more than halfway through NaBloWriMo and I haven't missed a day. Writing every day is a daunting task, and I'll be scaling back when the month is over, but it did give me my writing mojo back.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Up, Up and Away

Early this evening, I went out the backdoor to get some wood for the fire when I saw a hot air balloon ready to touch down in the field. I hurried in and shouted with excitement to come outside quickly. I scrambled for the camera while Pipsqueak scrambled for shoes, we raced down the hill.
They wanted to move the balloon across the field and closer to the truck, so they offered Pipsqueak a tethered ride. She was incredibly excited since she was just telling me a couple of days ago that she wanted to ride in a balloon. They went up maybe thirty or forty feet while they moved the balloon about 500 yards. Afterward she was presented with a picture of the balloon to take to school tomorrow and a bottle of champagne.
We told them they can drop in anytime.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My garden was nearly a total bust this year. The herbs were strong, and we had a bounty of green beans and sugar snap peas, but the the rest... not so good. The tomatoes got late blight which happened in most of the northeast. (Late blight was what caused the potato famine in Ireland way back when.) Everything else was pretty unproductive. This was mostly due to an over-abundance of rain, a cold summer and not enough sun.

I had about eight pumpkin plants but only had two measly pumpkins... one green one slightly larger than a softball and one greenish orange about the size of a cantaloupe. These were not jack 0'lantern material, so today we went pumpkin shopping.

We could have gone to any area supermarket to buy them, but we wanted a fun experience, and we wanted more hot cider and cider donuts, so we went back to Wellwood Orchards where we did our apple picking.
Pipsqueak, my fashion maven, informed me that she wanted to wear orange and green this morning so she'd coordinate with the pumpkins, and she pulled out the pumpkin hat I made for her.
She wasted no time choosing a large one for me to carve and smaller one for her to carve. (We won't be carving until a couple of days before Halloween though.) She pulled the wagon holding our pumpkins, 1/2 peck of apples and a 2 year old local cheddar cheese to the car.

I rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. - Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dirty Martini

I've been thinking about dirty martinis ever since yesterday's post. I'm going to make one in a few minutes, so I thought I'd share my secrets to a good martini.

The first time I tasted a martini, I hated it. I thought I'd sooner drink battery acid. Actually, I thought maybe I was drinking battery acid. But there are so many ways to make a standard martini that you have to experiment a little to find out what works for you... gin, vodka, shaken, stirred, dry, dirty. Mine is a shaken, very dirty, very dry gin martini. Let's go over a couple of points.

Why shaken? I feel that the martini is colder when it's shaken with ice. I shake mine so long that my fingers are in danger of frost nip and there are shards of ice in the drink. The die hard stirrers claim that shaking bruises the gin. The way I shake, my gin is beaten to a pulp.

Why very dry? Vermouth, or lack thereof, makes the martini dry. I'm not a big fan of vermouth, so I pour some in the martini glass, swirl it around to coat it and pour it back into the bottle. I'd like a fancy vermouth mister, but I haven't found one yet. Some say you should merely introduce the gin, very politely, of course. "Mr. Gin, meet Mr. Vermouth."

Why very dirty? Because I LOVE the taste of olives. Olive juice is what makes it dirty. This really makes the drink for me. I usually run out of juice in the olive bottle before the olives are gone even though I use three olives for garnish. (I sometimes stuff my olives with blue cheese.) When we were vacationing in St. Petersburg, Florida, I found a big bottle of Dirty Martini Juice in a liquor store. I packed it in my suitcase surrounded by clothes and hoped it survived the baggage handlers. It did.

A friend of mine told me that I could be a totally despicable person (which I'm not) and he'd still want to spend time with me because I make such a good martini. Here's my not-so-secret recipe...

Swirl dry vermouth in the glass and pour out.

In a cocktail shaker half filled with ice, combine 2 1/2 ounces of gin and a healthy splash of olive juice to taste. Shake well. Strain into glass with three olives.

Martinis are like women; one isn't enough and three is too many. - Len Goodman


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Tag

Thanks to The Lilac Grove, I've got a fun post for today... just go to Google images and choose photos to go with each category. I think this is about all I can handle in my current fatigued-from-the-day state.

1. Your favorite beverage.

I love a dirty martini... two at the most. Three, I'm under the table. Four, I'm under the host. I believe Dorothy Parker said that. Of course, I'm not having these regularly (even though I'd like to).

Here's one more beverage I love that I have only once in awhile... a caramel latte.

2. Your hometown.

I was born in Vermont, but I spent most of my formative years in North Walpole, New Hampshire. It's a small town right on the Connecticut River which separates New Hampshire from Vermont, so even when I wasn't living in Vermont, I could look out almost any window in my house and look at it.

3. Your favorite television show.

4. Your occupation.

But I don't look this good doing it.

5. First Car. A 1984 Ford Tempo. It didn't exactly make me look cool, but it got me from point A to point B.

6. Favorite Dish

Sushi. Of course, it would be something that I can't make.

7. A celebrity you've been told you resemble.

When I did community theater, I was compared to Geena Davis in a newpaper review. It was one of my proudest moments.

8. Celebrity on your "To Do" List.

This was tough since I'd choose Sweetie over any celebrity. I thought of Hugh Grant, but after that hooker incident, I don't think so. George Clooney was in the running, but the fact that he doesn't settle down with one woman bothers me. So my final answer is Richard Gere.

9. Favorite Children's Toy

I had this game as a kid. I've been looking for one on ebay, but the ones in decent condition have been too rich for my blood. Oh, how I wish I'd kept mine.

10. Any random pic.

I love old Hollywood glamour shots. I'd love to have my photo taken in this manner someday.

11. What are you doing tonight?

Just back from my weekly djembe drum lesson.

That was harder than I thought it was going to be. I think I need a dirty martini while I watch CSI.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thinking Cap or Shower Cap?

I didn't really know what to write about today. I blame it on my shower valve... it's new and it's going to take some getting used to. I love my shower time. It's like a sensory deprivation chamber in there... surrounded by four plain white walls and all noise drowned out by the sound of falling water. I get fifteen minutes each day to escape into my own mind and just think.

(This is probably why there are days that I can't remember if I've washed my hair yet or not. And there were the few days not so long ago when I couldn't understand why my new shower gel wasn't getting any lather. I finally looked at the label and saw it was hair conditioner.)

I do my best thinking in the shower. I come up with blog ideas, solve problems, process dreams, and come up with plans. It's a cleansing of body and mind.

About a week ago, I noticed the valve was acting a little wonky... sort of a clunky slip when I turned it off. Last Friday, Sweetie pronounced it dead, so we had to shower in the downstairs bathroom until the plumber could come yesterday. I haven't been getting much thinking done in that shower, because the shower head is set in the wall too low. If I got on my knees to wash my hair, the water pressure seemed to low because I was too far away from the source, so I had to do a partial knee bend or lunge to rinse my hair. It's hard to have a good think when your thighs are starting to burn.

Today, I was back to my perfectly positioned shower head, but the new valve works differently so I was having temperature trouble. I knew that the old one should be turned to 11 o'clock for perfect showering water temperature. It took me at least three adjustments to get it right today, and then I forgot to make a note of where it was turned. I guess tomorrow won't be such a good thinking day either.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


In case the calendar wasn't reminder enough, Mother Nature fired a warning shot this morning.
My winterizing list is being prioritized and shifted into hyper drive. This won't last; it'll be gone by this afternoon. The lasting stuff probably won't show up for another month at least.
But never to be outdone for fun, Pipsqueak and Sweetie strapped on the skis and took a couple of runs down the front hill.

We're at about 1100 feet above sea level. The village is at something around 500, so they got rain. When I arrived at school with Pipsqueak this morning, kids were grabbing snow off the roof of my car for a quick snow ball fight.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

You Like Me... You Really Like Me

After I published my post last night, I scrolled down to Feedjit. I like to see who's been reading what on my blog and how they're getting there. I noticed someone had read my post on Mashed Potato Pancakes by getting there from Saveur. I asked myself, "Self, how can that be?" I clicked on the link and up comes my post on Saveur's site with a little blue badge saying "Best of the Web". They even used my photo. I was so excited. I felt like Julie in "Julie and Julia" when she got called by the editor of the New York Times asking for an interview. I know, I know, not as big, but I'm very easily excited.

There's more! When you're at Saveur's website and type Mashed Potato Pancakes into their search box, it's me! Just me! Thank you, thank you, Saveur! I promise to never let my subscription lapse again.


We had a hard frost last night, and I hear it's going to be down in the 20s tonight. Our most important winter preparation is done; our fire wood is bought and stacked. That was finished in June, but there is still plenty to do...
  • clean up the last three raised beds in the veggie garden (four are already done)
  • wash the windows, take out the screens and put the storms down (there are 27 windows in our house)
  • caulk around some leaky windows
  • weatherstrip a leaky door
  • clean out the deck pots and store them away
  • put away the outdoor toys (bubbles, balls, bats, etc.)
  • wash and put away the bikes
I'd like to clean out the shed and tidy it, too, but I think snow will be flying before I get to that. Sweetie still has to bushhog the field and give the lawn a final mow. The lawn grew into October this year. It usually stops by the end of August, but it was so wet this summer, it just kept on going.

What do you have to do to get ready for winter?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Julie and Julia"... and Me

Sweetie and I had a little date afternoon/early evening since Pipsqueak was at a five-hour birthday party. We saw "Julie and Julia". Before we got there, I was thinking about writing a review of it for the blog, but I was worried that I wouldn't have anything fresh to say. I'd read a few reviews and I'd heard people talk about it... "The food and cooking made me hungry."... "Streep just nailed Julia Child"... "The two stories blended perfectly like a good hollandaise sauce." I was afraid it had all been said before, but I'm thinking I saw a different movie than most people saw.

I was overwhelmed by the the love story between Julia, and her husband, Paul. There was an uncommonly strong bond between them fueled by adoration, acceptance and support. They shared glances that spoke volumes without uttering a word; they touched each other often... a hand on the arm or shoulder... a loving squeeze. They were always there for each other.

A defining moment in the movie for me was near the beginning when they were sitting in a restaurant in France. Julia said that she didn't know what to do. "The women here don't do anything." And that just wasn't her. She was considering a class in hat making (which she tried and didn't enjoy). Paul asked her, "What do you really like to do?" She laughed and said, "Eat!" He was encouraging her to do what would make her happy.

I think Julia was probably easy to love. As Julie said, she wasn't a bitch. She didn't take herself or life too seriously. She was equally supportive of Paul as she followed him around the world, wherever his work took him. She seemed kind and supportive to friends and relatives.

There was contrast in Julie's relationship with her husband, who complained that she was self-absorbed. Even though Julia spent eight years writing a cookbook, she still made time to make her husband feel important and loved.

The movie also left me thinking that maybe I should have a lofty goal. Julie's was too cook all 524 recipes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days. I don't want to do that, particularly the part where I'd have to boil a calf's foot in order to make aspic. But I should find something that inspires me, set a deadline and do it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Retail Stalking

Today I went to the Ibex Clothing tent sale. Ibex is a local company that makes outdoor wool clothing. Every Columbus Day weekend, they gather up all their overstocks, imperfects and samples and offer everything at huge discounts of 50% off or better. Tent sale is a polite way of saying a retail feeding frenzy. Think Filene's Basement wedding dress sale but trade the young brides-to-be for middle-aged, middle-class people that like classic comfortable clothing.

The sale started at 7am. I arrived at 8:30, and they were already scrambling to locate more space for parking in the field. Shoppers either brought large bags or grabbed empty cardboard boxes and picked up anything and everything they might consider buying. Once all potential purchases were obtained, everyone retreated to the relative quiet outside the tent to sort and make final decisions, or crowd into the communal dressing tent (one for men and one for women). The best place for shopping was the table outside the dressing tent where all the cast-offs were put.

About half-way through my second sweep through the tent, I saw a spring green, half zip pullover that had a pretty pattern and texture to it. Most of their clothing is solid color and texture-free, so I got pretty excited about it, but it was a small and it was the only one I could find. While I was in the dressing room, I was next to a couple of women who were friends and one of them was trying on the top I loved, but she had a medium. Her friend was telling her how good it looked on her, but she was sounding lukewarm at best and complaining about the neck. She did hold on to it though.

I happened to be leaving the dressing tent at the same time they were, so I decided to follow her a bit as they continued shopping the tent. I was hoping she found something she liked better. She tried on a jacket and a vest, and I lost her in the crowd briefly. My frantic searching made realize that I was now mildly obsessed. I found her outside the tent with a big bag of items she'd selected. I stayed just inside the tent pretending to look at a rack of jackets. Nothing happened at first; the friends stood there and talked. Finally she started looking through her bag. She got to the green shirt and held it up to herself, refolded it and put it back on the pile. She stood a few more minutes doing nothing. What was she waiting for?! After what seemed like an eternity, she went back to sorting, but was maddeningly slow about it. She rejected a couple of things by folding and stacking them a couple of feet from her bag. Another woman (I don't know know if they knew each other) came up and asked her if she was discarding them. She said she was, and the woman looked at them. Now I knew if it was rejected, I'd have to act fast.

About 30 minutes had passed since I first started following her and she picked up the green top for the third time, held it up, looked at it, folded it, and PUT IT IN THE DISCARD PILE. I didn't waste any time; I walked over and asked if she was not keeping those items. "Go for it," she said. I grabbed the shirt and practically ran away with it, I was so excited. I'd show you a photo of my prize, but I'm to tired to get the camera, pose and upload the photo. Stalking takes a lot of energy. If you're in the area this weekend, the sale continues Saturday and Sunday on the green in Quechee, Vermont.

The moral to this story: If you really want something, it's probably worth waiting for (at least 30 minutes).

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I thought a fluff piece was in order after yesterday's heavy topic. That got me thinking about Fluff. I've recently rediscovered it. I told Pipsqueak that I had spoonful of Fluff in my hot chocolate instead of mini marshmallows when I was a kid. She wanted to try it, so I picked up a jar. It had probably been 25 years since I tasted it, and it made me feel like a kid again. I've enjoyed a few peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches for desserts in the week or so since it's been in the cupboard.
My mom makes to-die-for fudge from the recipe on the Fluff jar. Sweetie swears it's the best fudge ever.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Racism in My Own Backyard

I heard a story today that made me very sad and angry. I wish it was fiction, but it's not. I wish I could fix it, but I don't think I can.

A bunch of moms from our school got together for breakfast and one of them was new to the group. She moved to American from Jamaica with her husband. She's originally from the US; he's Jamaican. He didn't read, write or speak English when they moved here, but he learned enough so he could get a job, and pass a driver's test. He was was embracing his new life in America.

Seven years has passed since they moved here, and he's now tired, depressed and angry because of how he's been treated. He worked at a sandwich shop in a nearby college town. The other employees chewed food and spit it on his car. He changed employers and now works as a prep cook in restaurant in the same town. For awhile, things went well there. But the manager left, and the new manager started making him clean the bathrooms all the time and clean up after other employees. Luckily, he has a second job in a popular chain cafe where he is treated kindly and fairly. A local state trooper pulled him over several times, but never ticketed him. Why? Because he wasn't doing anything wrong; he was just being harassed. Those are probably just a small number of the acts of racism that have beaten him down over the years.

Vermont is a 97% white state, but I thought we were more progressive, tolerant and accepting than that. I guess I had my head buried in the sand. I don't understand how people can be so mean because someone looks different or practices a different religion. If someone lives in your community, pays their bills, doesn't commit crimes and works hard, can't we just leave them alone? I'm not saying everyone has to love each other, but a little civility doesn't seem like too much to ask.

If I had to say what Vermont is lacking, it would be diversity, mainly because I'd like Pipsqueak to be acquainted with people from all over the world. We can travel and see them, but it's not the same as having them in your community and interacting with them. She's learned about slavery and Martin Luther King in school, and we've talked about racism at home. She's disgusted by someone being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. After what I heard today and they way I feel about it, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the stomach to watch what happened in the 60s.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kindle is the Devil

A few friends, relatives and aquaintances have been singing the praises of Kindle. I will not be singing along. I don't care how many books can fit on it, or how light weight and portable it is or the fact that you can read in the dark. Here is why. Books have soul.

Have you ever purchased a used book and found a note, a receipt or something stuck in the middle that was maybe used as a bookmark and forgotten? It's like a little clue to the mystery of the previous owner. Have you read the inscription in a used book and wondered about the person that gave it and the person that received it?

There are books that I took on vacations, books that I read while nursing my baby, books that I wet with my tears and books that made me giggle out loud. I can look at them on my shelf and remember that. A file on a machine would not evoke those memories.

I love the weight of a book in my hands, the smell of the paper and ink, watching my progress as the bookmark moves through the pages. I even love the irritation of a dust jacket that won't stay in place. I enjoy the process of selecting two or three light weight books to take on a trip.

A book store is like a crack den for me. It's hard to go in without buying something, and once I'm there, I don't want to leave. Being there lifts my mood. I'll pick up book that I never would have considered reading just because the cover or title is eye catching. I can read two or three pages to see if it grabs me without committing to a purchase. If book stores go out of business because everyone is reading electronically, it will be a great loss to me.

I know, Kindle might be greener than paper books, but I do my part to recycle. I keep a few books and the rest are resold or given to the thrift store or donated to the library. I've read that paper production is not a cause of deforestation because of aggressive replanting.

So lets make a deal... I'll try not to sneer at your Kindle if you don't try to sell me on it.

Here's a leather bound, 1905 edition of The Works of Edgar Allen Poe, Vol. II, that I bought at a book sale near Rockport Massachusettes for $2. This book has so much soul, it nearly has a heartbeat. Or maybe it's just a "Tell-Tale Heart".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bloody Mary

Fall has so many wonderful things... apples, pumpkins, wood fires, colored leaves. I love all of it, and I love that it's the beginning of Bloody Mary season.

As for how it got it's name, there are a few theories, but I like that one that says it was named after Mary I of England, a sixteenth century queen who was nicknamed Bloody Mary because of the number of people she had put to death. Of course, given the way English royalty condemned people to death, it surprising we don't have a whole lineage of drinks... the Bloody Henry, the Bloody Richard, the Bloody Harold. Perhaps the Brits gave Mary the nickname because such behavior was unbecoming to a female.

If you like yours hot and spicy, you've got to try this recipe...

Bloody Mary

2 1/2 ounces vodka
5 ounces V-8
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh horseradish root
1 celery rib
1 lemon wedge

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine vodka, V-8, lemon juice, pepper, salt, celery seed, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce. Shake well. Strain into a highball glass almost filled with ice cubes. Garnish with celery and lemon wedge.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Love Apples... a Bushel and a Peck

Okay, technically it was a 1/2 bushel and a 1/2 peck, but it was still a hell of a lot of apples.
I bought a 1/2 peck of Cortland at the store, because I couldn't wait to make apple crisp with this year's fresh apples. Two days later, we went apple picking and picked a 1/2 bushel of Cortland, Macoun and Honey Crisp.
I made more apple crisp, and apple pie, along with a banana bread from three overlooked bananas.Every snack request has been met with apples. They've been regularly munched and packed in lunches, but I still had a 1/4 peck left and they weren't so crispy fresh anymore. Today I made a big pot of chunky applesauce...
another round of apple crisp...
and apple mini muffins.
All my recipes came from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's the first cookbook I ever owned, and I always seem to turn to it for the classics.

I still have 10 tiny apples left, but I think I'll chuck them down the hill for the deer to munch on.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

This is what we had for dinner tonight. It's not a quick meal since it requires 3 hours of cooking time, but the filling can be made a day ahead which cuts the cooking time on the day of to under an hour. The recipe is a little vague, but I took it from a Jamie Oliver recipe featured on the Food Network and adapted it to be my own. My favorite adaptation is step #8.
Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

2 pounds beef brisket, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted
3 onions, sliced
olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
2 sticks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound or so crimini mushroom, sliced
1 large bottle Guinness
1 heaping T flour
1 small can beef stock
2 handfuls shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten lightly with fork
1 package frozen peas

1. Saute onion in a large heavy pot in a little olive oil.
2. Stir in rosemary.
3. Add garlic, saute about 30 seconds.
4. Add butter, stir until melted.
5. Add celery, onions and mushrooms. Saute about 3 minutes.
6. Add beef, a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir until well mixed.
7. Stir in flour.
8. Add 3/4 of the bottle of Guinness. (Drink the rest while you cook.)
9. Pour in beef stock to top off. Liquid should not fully cover other ingredients.
10. Bake at 350 degrees in oven safe pot or bowl. For saucier pie, cook covered. For thicker pie, cook uncovered. Or do a combination of both to suit your preference.
11. When filling comes out of oven, stir in one handful of cheese.
12. Put filling in a 8-10" square pan (glass or stoneware is best).
13. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
14. Place puff pastry on top of filling.
15. Brush top of pastry with beaten egg.
16. Score top of pastry lightly with knife for venting.
17. Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes until bubbly and golden.
18. Serve with cooked frozen peas.

Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, October 2, 2009

All's Fair

Geez, another crazy day and weekend guests have just arrived, so it's another photo heavy post.

Two weeks ago tonight, we went to the Tunbridge World's Fair. We look forward to this every year. It's small and agricultural...

yet it has all the thrills...
and goodies...
that big fairs offer.

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