Friday, October 30, 2009


IT WASN'T UNTIL MID-AFTERNOON yesterday that I happened to hop in the car and drive up the road on an errand. Rounding the first curve in the road, I wished I'd have come out sooner...I'd forgotten this was Wedding Day for Jakie and Rachel's daughter!

And such a wedding! I'd seen activity going on around the place for months as the family made preparations. And who wouldn't have a lot to do to prepare for five hundred one's own house...for an all-day event?
(Yes, you heard me right--five hundred guests!)

Mind-boggling (I tend to think you'd agree) to imagine feeding and entertaining that multitude of people for an entire day (with no caveat such as 'weather permitting'... and no catering trucks or ordering-in allowed.)

Well, you can bet after that first trip out--when I had to slow to a crawl to allow the great flock of jovial black-suited young Amishmen a chance to clear the road--I scrounged up lots of excuses for frequent trips past the place again.

On one such pass-by, a buggy was rolling up the road as I approached, a single young man doing the pulling. Ah--what's going on? I wondered. Lowering my car window, I called out, "Do you have the bride and groom in there?"
"No!" was the loud reply from the throng preceding the buggy; but I didn't stop for an explanation. Instead I bravely thrust my camera through the open window and took a picture. At that, there was a burst of gleeful laughter from the group. Ha! now this handsome young Amishman would be forever immortalized playing the role of horse!

I can't tell you, Dear Reader, how often I squelched the impulse to repeat that action with the camera, there were so many photo ops! (And I drove by so many times!)

Late into the evening, the celebrating crowd spilled out onto the road, groups and clusters walking in the neighborhood and setting up volleyball games in the nearby churchyard they'd requested permission to use.

On my final jaunt past the house, it was dark and many horses clip-clopping their buggies full of tired wedding-goers toward home were exiting the place.

But the guests, of course, couldn't possibly be as exhausted as the hosts!

Now there's a tying of the knot,
I'm thinking (imagining myself the mother of the bride) that would without a doubt unravel me!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009



Well, it wasn't actually as moving for me as it was for friends of mine who are packing up more than a few carloads of furnishings and leaving the house in which they've lived for nearly thirty years. They're transitioning into a newer, smaller place...and you can imagine that involves some extreme sorting of accumulated stuff, a lot of moving decisions.

So I got the delightful job (I believe I just assumed the role) of "Kitchen Move-in Consultant" in spite of being a rank amateur --as opposed to the other friend who was also serving in this capacity, and who has herself packed up and moved a total of (gasp) thirteen times.

Mae and I, in our joint advisory role, could offer opinions about the wisdom of hanging onto various items we helped unpack, or about the proper spot to store the ice bucket or the seldom-used stack of plastic containers; but if our mutual friend--who'd be pulling open these cupboard doors and rooting around in these kitchen drawers for many meals to come--had other ideas, we could easily acquiesce. After all, as we well knew and so Nora said: As soon as we left, she'd simply undo whatever wasn't to her liking. See how that made the job a piece of cake for us consultants? We could just enjoy ourselves and sneak small odds and ends into unlikely places.

And here's the thing: When we had reduced that one carload of full boxes marked "kitchen" to empty ones, and I thought about the packing of those boxes and the many other boxes bound for other rooms and all the what-to-save and what-goes-where decisions this involved, I truly was quite moved by the very real moving experience.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


THERE IS SO MUCH IN NATURE THAT IS PLEASING to me--flowers and trees and most of the plant world, bodies of water large and small, geological formations, and all those heavenly bodies spinning in space, just to name a few off the top of my head (ha! I suppose I should include hair, now that I've been reminded of it, although it's questionable how much that small field of nature pleases me, depending upon the performance on any given day of the portion that grows off the top of my head.) And the whole animal kingdom is fascinating, but there are many members of it that I'm pretty sure I would not have tossed into the created universe if I'd been assigned the project. For example, here is a specimen that I happened to notice the other day, crawling along the balcony railing:

Considering this fellow's close proximity to the door which opens into the bedroom in which I sleep, I can't say that I found him pleasing. In fact, he tended to give me the creeps (yes, my skin was crawling faster than this guy*[to be honest, he wasn't moving at all].) Part of the problem, I'm afraid, is that my imagination was also pretty active--running a wee bit wild, presenting me with thoughts of this creature a hundred times larger. Or maybe even a thousand times his current size, his long jointed legs clinging to the side of the house, poking a proboscis through the screen of the balcony door and giving me Halloween nightmares.

And then there are weeds and mice and fungus and mold and groundhogs and skunks (I should stop right there) I could add to the list of undesirables lurking in nature's corners. But today I was looking at the brilliant fall landscape and studying the flowers that surround my porch (they are dressed for their season finale) and I thought once again how the creepy and annoying and downright unpleasant aspects of nature are exceedingly outweighed by its splendors.

*How do you feel about long-legged insects, Dear Reader? Click on the photo of this critter and then imagine the enlarged version comes traipsing across your kitchen counter tonight as you're preparing dinner. Feel the urge to scream?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I'M STILL TAKING TIME off from my ordinary, run-of-the-mill days (to go away with a friend and eat delicious smooth and creamy creme brulee) to celebrate.

I'm pausing here to see if you are perhaps beginning to forget exactly what it is that I'd be continuing to celebrate.

Well...are you?...
I notice you're not saying much, just sort of smiling and nodding and waiting around for me to say more so you can pretend that you knew (of course you knew!) all along--I'm referring to the big new decade of life I've only rather recently embarked upon.

When Nancy asked how I'd like to spend our afternoon of celebrating (post creme-brulee), I suggested we visit the National Clock and Watch Museum. It was the strangest thing--I'd wished to see this museum for years and it's not far away, yet whenever I had the time, I forgot all about the place. And when the place crossed my mind, I didn't have the time.

Yesterday, however, the time finally ticked into place. It not only ticked, but it clicked and bonged and tolled and gonged and chimed and donged and now and then proclaimed itself in more flamboyant ways. My goodness, I felt rich with time! (Quite a spirit-booster, considering how the ginormous birthday left me feeling considerably short on the stuff.)

I was ready. Oh, yes, I was ready for some time-enhancement!

If on occasion it sounded a little cuckoo, all the better.

For quite a while, Nancy and I rode the museum's waves of time,

until they carried us abruptly onto the shore at 5:00 pm.
What?! It's closing time already? We'd barely covered two-thirds of the museum, such slow-pokes as we were (er, okay, I admit it, it was me--reading every notation, studying every time-piece, marveling and gasping in amazement "...oh, wow, Nancy, look at this! Even Jesus might have carted this piece to a dealer of antiques, it's so old!!"). When Nancy and I ruefully lamented our inability to get more time at the museum, the two friendly people in charge graciously gave us each a new ticket, good for another visit.

So I ask you, Dear Reader, how auspicious a gift is that?! Now whenever I feel a bit pressed for time, I can just go to the museum and...uh, huh...get more!

(Alas, it's a pretty sure bet--whatever time I get there, I'll spend it all there as well)

Monday, October 19, 2009


YESTERDAY I SERVED VEGETARIAN CHILI to my family. It's because my daughter called me on Saturday to suggest that the family supper we often eat together here on Sunday evenings should be a late lunch instead. And I said, "A late lunch...hmm...what shall I make?" And she said... (Well, I suppose, Dear Reader, you could venture a pretty good guess what she said, considering how I just told you what it was that I served. But I'm going to give you her response, anyway, because for all you know, she said, "Why don't you start with an appetizer of baked ricotta and spinach mini-tarts. And then, probably we won't need a soup, but you could make pomegranate-glazed quail salad with grilled figs to have with the entree, which could be, let's see--I'd suggest herb-crusted lamb chops with black truffles and butternut squash. I hope for dessert you'll make dark chocolate creme brulee with carmelized bananas.")

She said, "Why don't you make vegetarian chili?"

Saturday was a rainy day. And it was late afternoon when my daughter called. As soon as I got off the phone I realized that this perfectly rainy Saturday afternoon indeed put me perfectly in the mood for making some vegetarian chili. But lest you're tempted to assume I made it perfectly according to directions, let me hasten to tell you that for me, recipes are just suggestions.

Which reminds me of a story: Once my father, who was a lifelong resident of the fair state of Virginia, was visiting here and riding along on an errand with his son-in-law (the one who lives with me). This son-in-law has always felt free to be creative with the speed limits (nearly always adjusting them upward), and on this particular occasion he was somewhat exceeding the posted limit. Now my dad, who was quite observant of such things, pointed out to my husband that he'd better watch himself, or he might, you know, get nabbed by a cop. My husband looked at him and responded, "Oh, didn't I ever tell you?--Pennsylvania's speed limits are just suggestions!" Well, my dad was highly amused, and went home and relayed the message to all his friends: My son-in-law in Pennsylvania tells me that the speed limits there are only suggestions! My guess is that he was hoping his friends would be momentarily impressed and amazed, just as he'd been (though he never confessed to it), and then he'd have a good laugh. Okay, that was it. Now you can step back outside of this parenthetical little tale and return with me to the Suggested Ingredients & Instructions for Vegetarian Chili:

Though I see that first I'll be stepping out to the grocery store, seeing as how I don't just happen to have a fresh lemon handy, nor zucchinis, ditto for fresh dill and...oh, all kinds of things. But--aha--the green peppers, I've got plenty of those. When I get home, I'll simply run out to the garden.

(But, alas, did I get to the garden while daylight still reigned? Or did I dally around until it was late and dark outside, putting all the other suggested ingredients into the pot before gritting my teeth, pulling on boots, taking up an umbrella and trudging through the reign of the rain to root around in my husband's truck for a flashlight...then on to the sodden garden to get myself some peppers and, hey, why not fresh basil while I'm here?)

So, finally (I know you've been patiently waiting):

3/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Zucchinis
2 Onions
4 Cloves of garlic
2 Bell peppers (or substitute carrots)

l--Chop, dice, or otherwise render the above vegetables into multiple small pieces.
2--Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the zucchini alone for
approx. five minutes and transfer to a larger stovetop cooking pan with their oil.
3--Add remaining 1/4 cup oil and remaining vegetables and saute until just wilted (about 10 min.)
4--Place pan over low heat, and add:

1 Can (35 0z) Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1-1/2 Lbs. Ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. Chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground Cumin
1 Tbsp. dried Basil
1 Tbsp. dried Oregano
2 tsp. freshly ground Pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Fennel Seeds

5--Cook for 30-40 minutes, and add:

1/2 Cup chopped fresh Parsley
1 Can (15 oz) Kidney Beans
1 Can (15 oz) Garbanzo Beans
1/2 Cup chopped fresh Dill
2 Tbsp. fresh Lemon Juice

6--Cook an additional 15-20 minutes and serve in bowls, topped with:

A spoonful of grated Monterey Jack Cheese
A dollop of Sour Cream
A sprinkling of Scallions, sliced on the diagonal

That's it! I've got no more suggestions.
Oh, wait--just this one yet: Eat up!


Saturday, October 17, 2009


HERE IT IS, A SATURDAY AGAIN...and even drearier than the one before--when I waved you away from my tables at the flea market while I scrambled to keep things dry. That day, however, the light shower gave way to a fine mist, and then the rain stopped.

The slim trickle of shoppers became a light stream. And, lo and behold, I had a customer! ("Will you take a dollar for this book?" It's marked $1.50) But, alas, no sooner did my fellow vendors uncover their wares (and I myself lugged boxes from under the tables) than the mist of rain returned. But so did my son. We spread a good layer of white trash bags (effectively hiding the merchandise from view, of course). And then the rain let up. "I think the sun's going to come out,"said the hopeful vendor to the left of me. But those finicky, finicky clouds--very soon they were weeping again. Really only tiny tears, no sobbing, but enough to put the trash bags back on duty.

Soon enough, the morning was half gone. And afterwhile, so was the rain. Even I was tempted to believe this time the skies were clearing. "Go home," I told my son. "Go back to bed." I sold a red-checked tablecloth, a few more books. Wow, I thought, I do believe I'll recoup my ten bucks. And that's about the time the wind picked up. Down came a shower of acorns (from the tree I was blessed to be under, lucky me.) They were bouncing and pinging everywhere, making a fine display in the punch bowl. Furthermore, the leaves overhead were shaking and flinging their wetness thither and yon. Of course, now the trash bags were useless, whipping and flapping in the brisk little gale. Silly me, I'd thought that if the rain would go away, we'd have an ideal day. I hadn't given a thought to things going airborne, which abruptly the beach umbrella took a notion to do. I dove for it as it cartwheeled over the table and frantically hung on as it bucked and fought to take the lead in our little dance. Before I could end the do-si-do, I caught a glimpse of my neighbor to the left. She was generously rescuing my clothes rack--hoisting it with its heavy load of clothing up from the damp ground.

Arrrgh. The End!

(Well, that's what I was thinking: It's time to end this ridiculous endeavor! I am never trying this again! And of course I wasn't speaking of the dance.)

Ah, but, as you might know, Dear Reader, I couldn't simply up and leave. There on the tables sat (pitifully) most of the items I'd so recently unloaded, still begging for someone to take them away. And after a while, the wind died down. Right-side neighbor loaned me a heavy Christmas-tree holder to keep my umbrella stable. Left-side neighbor told me she's been doing this for years--"Some years are good," she said, "some years are bad." (Yeah, and some years you can barely believe you've so squandered your time! was my thought.)

On the tails of the wind, a sudden chill arrived. The temperature plunged about ten degrees, and I was cold. Sellers had been packing up and leaving one by one for quite some time. When the few shoppers ambled by and rummaged through the boxes of books or scanned my olio of objects, I joked with them that we'd had wind and rain and cold, but I was waiting for the hail.

In truth, I was only waiting on my good, supportive neighbors, who were both old hands at this. When they finally began to pack, I knew it was my cue to do the same, and I sprang into action. It was nearly noon, and the exodus from the park had steadily increased. By now my only wish was not to be the last to leave. That was my goal, and yet I wasn't going to hastily dump everything back into boxes without much thought (my all-too-frequent modus operandi). Hence, I packed with the future of every item in mind: the Bye-bye-and-Good-Riddance objects headed for the thrift shop and the Oh-You-Fool!-You-Know-You-Will-Regret-This items headed home with me.

I was working as quickly and efficiently as possible, but this was quite a job. At last all boxes were stashed in the car. The tables were folded and my son (who'd returned for just this task) slid them carefully into the space allowed. I threw the folded beach umbrella in on top, gathered up the stray pieces of newspaper (left from the re-packing) and snapped a photo of one neighbor's loaded truck (the other having left just moments before). It was one o'clock and the park was virtually deserted (only a few vendors sitting at odd spots, clearly thinking they would not give up!) I climbed into the car and headed slowly for the exit, the boxes and tables bumping and clunking their dismay at the whole fiasco.

As I pulled out onto the road, bound for the thrift shop, the laughing face of the sun broke through the clouds. I could almost hear him say, "Oh, so sorry! You were looking for me?!"

The (actual) End


Thursday, October 15, 2009


SO, READER DEAR, HAVE YOU THE TEENIEST ORT OF interest (this would be more than an iota of curiosity and less than a burning desire to know) what course was charted for the X-less items my kids and I extracted from the attic? Do you wish to hear about my hare-brained scheme to drag big boxes stuffed with stuff to the semi-annual flea market being held at a nearby park the very next day?

While I can say that overall the birthday-bash of a weekend proved to be a delight, I've had to let some time elapse to fuzzy up the memory of arising at 4:30 am (in the blackness of night) on Saturday morning, waking my son (bless his heart, he valiantly agreed to take the early stint in the plan of Assistance to Mom), cramming a few more boxes, a beach umbrella (for shade) and a clothing rack in the fully-loaded car, and creeping down the road to the park. The air was damp with moisture, but no raindrops fell on the windshield. This is good, I told myself. People will come in hordes. I've driven past this park on flea market days in the past and it's always swarming with buyers, the parking lot spilling over with cars, the waiting traffic clogging the roadway.

Rolling down my window at the park entrance, I handed the guy with the flashlight and the orange windbreaker my ten-dollar bill. "Where shall I park?" I asked. "Oh," he responded, "There are lots of spaces. Where would you like to park? Do you want to be under a tree?"

Wow, I thought, I get to be under a tree! But...hmm...I wondered at the availability of spaces. I'd been told when I called to reserve a spot that about 120 vendors usually show up and most of them come early. Here it was, the advanced hour of 5:30, and there didn't seem to be a frenzy of activity. Well, nevermind, there was soon a small frenzy in my allotted space. My son helped set up the tables and unloaded boxes from the car. Dear me...what a lot of boxes! As if I hadn't had more than enough unwanted items of my own, all of my children had volunteered their rejected paraphernalia, too. Sorting through the hodge-podge and making an attempt to arrange it on three (what now seemed like miniature) tables took a jumbo amount of time (In fact, everything about this crazy scheme was sucking up time like a giant vacuum cleaner in a sandbox--the night before we'd ditched our plans for eating out due to sorting, pricing, packing up, loading up, and,uh, what you might call complete exhaustion).

But now the sky was beginning to lighten. I'd set up the clothing rack, untangled the clothes hangers and hangered each piece of clothing. Almost everything was on display (okay, well, if a buyer were to crawl under the table and dig around a bit) and almost everything had a price (I was still ripping pieces of masking tape off the roll, marking with a price and affixing to items which appeared to lack one. Unfortunately, the next step was second-guessing myself immediately, ripping off the old price, sticking on a new one--each time picking laboriously at the torn edge of the tape to start a new piece, muttering under my breath.

Okay, let the rush begin!--the rush of buyers flocking by my tables, eagerly searching for a cut-glass punch bowl, or a woven bedspread, maybe a remote-control car or a set of maracas, and, by all means, let the book buyers begin their search here!

With first light I could see that a trickle of shoppers was wandering through the rows of makeshift sales stands and tables. Alas, something else that was now clearly visible was the threatening sky. "Would you take your car back to the house," I begged my son "and get something to cover this stuff in case it rains? Just grab a wad of trash bags if you can't find anything else. And, oh, good grief, you'd better hurry!" Vendors on either side of me were shaking out their large plastic sheets (Clear ones--they clearly knew the ropes!).

My son left just moments before the rain arrived. It wasn't a heavy downpour, just a dainty sprinkling. Perhaps this wouldn't be too bad. If I tilted the beach umbrella over the tables, it protected a tiny area, and I frantically moved more things beneath the tables (It was getting crowded down there-- junky and crowded, far less than a tempting display).

Arrgh. What with all this detailed telling of the tale, my memory's not so fuzzy anymore. You're going to have to wander elsewhere while I take a big deep breath and calm myself. The rain is slight, but it's persistent, and I'm busy. I'm busy moving things. I'll tell you more another day.

(to be con'td)


Sunday, October 11, 2009


THE CELEBRATION OF CERTAIN BIRTHDAYS is long and drawn-out, just as the time it takes to get to a new decade. And thus I ate cake today. Blew out candles. Opened another gift or two. Decided that a decade birthday with extended celebration has its good points, although I'm mighty glad there isn't one to greet me around every corner.

This cake-eating was the culmination of a weekend birthday bash like none I've previously experienced. My children--rather than sending me off on a cruise or some other trip to get away from it all--rallied to help get it all away from me.

And that is precisely what I had told them earlier (no subtle hints) I wished for as a birthday gift. After years of excessive pack-ratting, and a triangular-shaped room at the top of our house that's much too accommodating, it was hugely appealing. "I want a cleaned-out attic!" I had said. "An eradication of stuff." (It sounded like some vile and spreading muck, the way I said it--"stuff".)


And so, two days ago my children came to make a stab at it--this granting of my birthday wish. They weren't going to head into this (monumental) job without sustenance, so they first prepared a (monumental) birthday breakfast. After which they tromped upstairs to begin the dig down through the layers of artwork, stuffed animals, memorabilia, toys, family heirlooms, vintage clothing, Christmas decorations, Easter baskets--searching for all those items that were precious enough for at least one of the three to claim responsibility as the item's future caretaker.

Now if, dear reader, you haven't foreseen a potential problem in the scenario of three siblings rummaging around to lay claim to old stuffed animals...whoops, I mean family heirlooms, I can only assume you're an only child. I called a quick Summit Meeting on my Plan for Equity, which involved two simple steps and a roll of masking tape. "If you see anything you want, as long as it doesn't already belong to a sibling, stick it with a piece of tape and mark it with an X."

"What then?!" they all wished to know. "Why don't we just put our name on the tape?"

"Don't you want to get this stuff out of here?!

What if there's more than one X?! What then?"

Hmm. What then? Good question--precisely the one that tumbled in my brain at the moment. (My plan had a few kinks yet to be worked out.) Inside my head I said, "I'm bound to think of something." Outside, "I'll let you know!"

I said, "if there's no X, it goes downstairs."
And thus, the day wore on, the attic getting slowly more navigable, and the downstairs levels of the house getting much less so. It was a long and arduous process--this attempt to get it all away.
And no, we did not finish. There's lots more in the attic.

Aha, lot's more for me to tell another day, as well.


Thursday, October 8, 2009


I'LL DIVULGE A LITTLE SECRET. I was so busy yesterday, distracting myself from my sudden (or so it seemed) arrival over the hill, that I stashed away, still unopened, all those cards I mentioned--the ones that have been arriving in my mailbox over the past few days--so that I could, you know, savor them. That's right, I didn't open a single one until today, when I could get myself a glass of gorgeous red pomegranate juice (ice cubes clinking), sit on the balcony (afternoon sun spilling over the cushioned bench) and partake of the good wishes in those envelopes (not to mention a gift that arrived today and tickled me immensely). I smiled, I grinned, I laughed out loud. I didn't roll on the floor laughing (considering my advanced age, do you think it wise?)

It was such a pleasant activity, treasuring my storehouse of friends. I felt like some alternative version of King Midas, murmuring to myself, "I'm so wealthy," again and again.

Well, it's not like I have an excessive number of friends, but the ones I golly,there's no doubt King M. would be tickled silly if he were to have their worth to me translated into gold. His eyes would be poppin' and he'd probably have to go lie down for a bit just to recover from the sight of it all.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


SORRY FOR THAT LONG LONG LAPSE--I was climbing an exceedingly big hill. Just today I arrived here on the other side, and I find myself in a strange new place. Let's just say I'm not in Kansas...err, my fifties...anymore. I've been assigned a brand new number, much bigger than the one before, and over here they've got some different ways of talking: "Do you need some help with that, my dear?" "Do you want the senior discount?" Things like that. It's really (and I add a second really in my teeny tiny voice) disconcerting.

Because of the scariness, distractions were definitely in order for today: First of all, my realtor was planning to take a tour, with his colleagues, of the new convention center that was built downtown. When he said to me, "Why don't you meet us there and see the place?" I spryly* jumped upon the idea.
(*You see, I'm quickly learning the lingo)

This plan turned out to be an excellent one, reaping me not only a round of happy birthday wishes and a great view from the top floor, but a fine and fancy lunch on the ground floor (with aforementioned realtor)...followed, not so surprisingly, by a fine and fancy dessert.

After which I visited the local mall and bought myself some fine and fancy shoes. And moved on to the local library for some fine (they caught my fancy) books.

And yet another interesting distraction awaited: I shared some tickets (with my realtor and additional loved ones) to a fine (albeit not so fancy) evening with Chris Matthews, a personal friend of mine

( I pull your leg, dear reader, though I felt he must have known my loosey-goosey ways when he described them to a tee).

So, all-in-all, this day--what with the slew of cards and phone calls added in--was fine (I fancy now you hold your breath, dear reader, stifling a scream. I dare not use it one more time--that f-- and f-- expression. So I'll just simply say: it was a plain old happy day.)

Although, (it must be said) I fear I'm going to have a long adjustment
to this odd and downhill-sloping place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


A GOLDEN SUNDAY AFTERNOON WAS CALLING: You need (to stroll through) a garden (the ornamental kind). Take good friends (the spontaneous kind).
And so I did.

We had seventy-five acres in which to stroll, with flowers and fountains and very old trees.

Evidence of autumn abounded.

The air was balmy, the bees were busy; there was even
matrimonial bliss.

In addition to this, we got to scrunch our imaginations into a tiny train car and take a ride.

After which, the garden closed, and my friends and I, we were hungry and went looking for a dive. (Indeed, we all agreed: It had to be a dive!*)

Without a doubt, it was a frabjous day.

(*In the dimly-lit and friendly barroom,
we dove into our supper).