Saturday, December 20, 2014

When my kids were growing up the rule for dinner was "I fix dinner, you eat dinner. No substitutions."  We didn't allow to the children to fix a peanut butter sandwich if they didn't like what was served or to complain about what was served.  This has now led to a conundrum when they return home and I want to fix meals that they like - I have no idea what they do or don't like to eat!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Taking a breath

I've been plowing my way through my list and am almost done with Christmas shopping, and it's really too early to start cooking so this weekend is when I stop to take a breath.   Some years I've gone to the beach for a long weekend but this year my husband wanted to be there for the boat parade which meant having a party (since we have a spectacular view of the boats from our condo) and I just didn't want to add another activity to my schedule.   I put him on a plane to the beach this morning (he's going to throw the party by himself, chips and dip and beer.  It will be fine.) and then I finished up my last minute chores before I leave tomorrow for Yogaville . I think it will be the perfect interruption in my schedule.  As I explained to a friend, you have no decisions to make for the whole weekend as there are no shops, no restaurants, no activities from which to choose.  You get up to the sound of a violin, do meditation, hatha yoga, eat breakfast, attend a lecture (or not), eat lunch, rest/think/walk/read until you do meditation, hatha yoga and dinner.  After dinner we will have chanting and a short program on Integral Yoga and then it is quiet hours until we start it again the next morning.  It's nice to have this break in the busy.  So until Monday -

Om shanti,shanti,shanti

Friday, December 05, 2014

we end this miserable week with a spot of bitching

This has been cold, wet, miserable week in my part of the country and I have spent large parts of it driving back and forth to my father's house, in and out of his house, in and out of the grocery store, and in and out of appointments for him.  For reasons that I cannot fathom he decided that he wanted all of his routine appointments scheduled before the Christmas holidays so being the dutiful daughter I scheduled them for him as requested. Appointments begat additional appointments - a dental filling, a follow-up at the dermatologist, etc - until we had more than five appointments this week, some days more than one.  In addition, he usually has a ride to and from band practice but this week his friend was not going to the practice so I needed to squeeze that in, too.  Then we had the special "My TV isn't working" visits  - he'd pushed the wrong button - and the "my hearing aid needs batteries" and the "I need bananas" trips.

Today, Friday, was an eye doctor appointment (which begat a follow-up right when I was planning to be in Florida in January so I need to reschedule my trip), then after I returned him home I went to the grocery with his list in hand.  His list was short - apple cider.  I did my shopping and then stopped by his house with his cider.  I knew he would be disappointed since I couldn't find any fresh cider and bought a bottled cider.  I also bought him some egg nog since I know he likes it and since I knew the cider would be disappointing I wanted to do something to make up for it.  It was a fail on both counts. As I pulled the cider out of the bag and explained that the fresh cider was seasonal and apparently the season is over and this was the only cider they had at the store, he made a face and said "That's no good."  I said "I'm sorry.  This is all they had."  He said "That's not real cider".  I said "It isn't apple juice, it says cider on the label."  He said "I don't want it."   OK.  So I put it back into the bag to bring home.  Maybe I'll use it on Noche Buena as a non-alcoholic option.   Next, I said "I thought you might be disappointed in the cider so to make it up to you I bought you some egg nog.  I know you like egg nog."  His reply was "No."  "I said "I thought you liked cider."  and he replied "It's too early.  I don't want it."  So, back into the bag to come home with me. My husband might drink it or I might just pour it down the sink as I've always hated the stuff.  It never occurred to my father that he could have said "Thank you." and then he could pour it down the sink if he didn't want it.   Or that he could have been somewhat more gracious when it was pretty clear that I tried to do something nice, even if it fell a little off the mark.

Next we went through the mail and paid the bills.  As I was leaving I asked him what time he needed me to be back to take him to church tonight.  He said 6:20 pm.  and then I asked what time approximately he thought the program might be over and he said he'd call me.  I asked if he had any idea because I'd like to plan my dinner so as to not be interrupted to pick him up. If he had any idea I could schedule around that.   His response was "I'll call you."  So my Friday night is now not the tapas night my husband and I had planned but it is "waiting around on my father night".

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It was a wonderful wedding

Our family weekend in Miami for our niece's wedding was fabulous.  It's hard to not be great when we are all together and have an amazing 41st floor condo with a view of Miami and a spot of water view.  The AirBnb condo was everything as advertised and more and we had plenty of space to be together and large separate bedrooms for each couple.
View looking southwest
 After getting the kids from airports on Friday afternoon and evening we started Saturday with brunch at a nice place within walking distance of the condo. Then Charlie and the children went to visit Viscaya which is a familiy favorite.  Katie has always thought of it as a princess location and Daniel learned to walk during our tour on one visit.  Then back to the condo to prep for the wedding.

Transportation to the wedding was by Uber, my first Uber experience and it was wonderful.  We  got an Uber XL so all six of us could go together.  Much better than a taxi. Actually it is what taxis should be.  The taxi drivers should stop complaining and clean up their act.

Of course we had drama at the wedding.  What wedding would be complete without it?  The caterers had been running on Cuban time and the venue wasn't set up at the appointed hour. Everyone waited around the lobby of the building until they could get it sort of ready for us.  The bride was pissed and throwing a temper tantrum.  Of course, the delay did accommodate those guests who were also running on Cuban time.  The ceremony was short which was perfect because we couldn't understand the officiant in any language.  I actually understood more of his Spanish than English but some of us also thought maybe he was speaking Italian.  We guess they are officially married.

Then the reception!  The drinks flowed, the food was fabulous (although they get a fail on the passed hors d'oeuvres as there were too few, they were all on sticks, and they were generally weird) and the DANCING!  The DJ was great and everyone danced all night long.  Old people, young people, little kids loved the dancing.  One very nice touch was that surrounding the large dance floor were sofas so that the old people could rest or just sit on the sofas and still be part of the dancing and at the end of the evening all the children were asleep on the sofas. A great touch for both the young and old.  

The next day we had to continue to stoke up on Cuban food so we went to lunch at a local Cuban restaurant with some family.  This is a picture of my kids, kids partners, a great-niece and her fiance.  
my children are top and bottom center
A great time with the kids together and my children's partners experiencing the Cuban family.  A wonderful end to our weekend.  

Saturday, November 08, 2014

I'm in need of a list

Before retirement my entire life was driven by the calendar and deadlines - calendars for family, children and work, and work deadlines that hit daily, sometimes multiple times each day.  My retirement gift to myself was a watch with just hands, no numbers, since it would now be unnecessary to plan my schedules to the minute, but occasionally I find my life drifting a bit out of control and a list helps ground me.  So...,..,
1) Today/tonight - make potato casserole for Friendsgiving tonight Mashed potato casserole was good and very easy do-ahead.  Will make again for T-giving
2) Tomorrow - Daddy to church @ 10 am.  Breakfast to follow.  Maybe take him to Momma's Kitchen?  Nope, he's already objected to that.  After much discussion I fixed breakfast for us at home.  It was fine.
3) Monday - Daddy dermatologist appointment; stop by hearing aid people for new wax baskets
2) Tuesday - hair appointment, then off to threading lady.  Book Club in evening.Added some chores for Daddy in the afternoon.
3) Wednesday - morning eye appointment and pack for wedding. - DONE
4) Thursday - early flight to beach DONE
5) Friday - drive to Miami collecting children along the way Had nice lunch with girls in Ft Lauderdale at a restaurant on the beach.  
6) Saturday, Nov 15 - wedding - Great fun, LOTS of dancing.
7) Sunday -  lunch at Versaillles  Tried a new restaurant within walking distance of condo - Havana 1957.  Terrible waitress, good food
8) Monday - drive back to beach dropping children and husband at airports along the way DONE
9) Tuesday - day at beach - and condo meeting in the evening.  Charlie at home to take daddy out to dinner  Actually cold windy day and I spent it getting the car repaired for the trip home.
10) Wednesday - drive home from beach day#1  Done
11) Thursday - drive home from beach day#2   Done along with a stop at the pharmacy for refills and a trip to the commissary to shop for Thanksgiving
12) Friday - Daddy groceries and errands And took Daddy to his new activity at the Senior Center - a group discussion of Memories of New York City - which is held monthly.
13) Saturday, Nov 22 - Drive to Pennsylvania for family get-together with Charlie's uncle
14) Sunday - Daddy breakfast
15) Monday - shop for Thanksgiving and Daddy dermatologist appointment @ 3:15
16) Tuesday - day off????
17) Wednesday - set table, make sweet potatoes, etc.  Daddy to dentist @11 am
18) Thanksgiving dinner
19) Friday - neighborhood dessert
20) weekend? no activities?  YES!
21) Saturday, Dec 6 - cookie baking day with Clara
22) Dec 10 - send Noche Buena invites
23) Friday, Dec 12 - Sunday, Dec 14 - Yogaville weekend with Judy
24) Monday, Dec 15 - start planning/cooking for Noche Buena - invites must go out earlier?  Get that date on the calendar!
25)  Tuesday, Dec 16 - hair appointment @10:30

Also, need to coordinate Christmas plans with children and get plane tickets for them.  And I have completely ignored the need to decorate the house and put up a tree.  ARGHHHH.  And what about getting the leaves raked?  Why did Adelio return to Central America? (maybe it was the impossible immigration policies??????)  Oh, and I have to reschedule my dental appointment and reschedule daddy's dental appointment.   And I have three large, really large, knitting projects to finish before Christmas!  and maybe buy a few Christmas gifts, too! 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The quiet at the end...

This past week three friends were enjoying "beach week" with me.  I had some trepidation about having four women spend a full week together but it turned out to be great fun. Yes, we each had some annoying habits but it all worked out just fine.  At the beginning of the week I used my best Girl Scout Leader skills to establish rules and expectations.  They made a bit of fun of me at the time but I think it helped keep me from constantly explaining stuff and for them to understand that I really did want them to treat the condo as though they were at home and not to feel like a guest.   They mastered all the rules except for keeping food put away, counters clean and dishes in the dishwasher so I kept putting glasses into the dishwasher and wiping the counter. They would then rush in and say "Oh, I was going to get to that later."    Since I want to keep my home bug free, and in Florida that is no small accomplishment, "later" wasn't working for me, but everything else worked great.

We all have very different styles of enjoying ourselves but we seemed to make it work fine.  Friend #1, a much closer friend to me than the other two, is a beach, pool and sun worshiper.  She does not want to be inside if the sun is shining.  She has been here many times before so she was no worry to me.  Friend #2 didn't even own a bathing suit when she arrived.  After one day here we were in a little discount shop and she found a cute bathing suit so that she could go into the pool.  I think she felt that she was very daring! Friend #3 we have always though of as very adventurous and up for any activity and I found that she is not nearly as brave as she seems. No kayaking for her, even as a passenger in my two person kayak in a river with no current and so shallow I can stand up in it!  But she did help wash the kayaks when we were done.

Once everyone got the idea that we had only three planned activities - a trip to Historic Cocoa Village for shopping, a visit to Winter Park for the Morse Museum and lunch, and a massage for a totally relaxing experience - they settled into to enjoy the beach-pool-nap-read experience that is the beach. We had perfect weather and enjoyed drinks on the porch every night.

Our shopping trip was real boost to the local economy as Cocoa Village has a number of little boutique style stores that have very reasonable prices.  We each bought something special.   One friend traded in her baseball cap for a fabulous brimmed hat that makes her look adorable.  I got a fancy new top and bling-ey jewelry for the wedding I'm attending in a couple of weeks.  I think we all declared the day a success.  The Winter Park field trip is always a hit because no one ever expects a fabulous museum of Tiffany glass and other American crafts and pottery art in the middle of Central Florida.  It is fabulous place and if you are ever in the area is a must-see. The only activity that concerned me a bit was my plan for us all to get massages at the massage school.  To be licensed the students must perform a certain number of massages under supervision.  It's $25 for a one hour massage and you just can't beat it.  When you enter this concrete strip mall building you have no idea that they will have soft lights, relaxing spa music, and you will experience one of the best massages you'll ever hope to have.  One friend had never had a massage so I explained the entire process so she would feel comfortable.  When she emerged from her treatment room I could tell she absolutely loved it!  It made me happy that we all enjoyed it so much and I could tell from the comments afterward that they weren't sure they were going to like it going in.

When I dropped them at the airport last night I was sorry to see them go, but I am enjoying the quiet today and getting the house back in order.  We all said we'd like to do beach week again next year so that seems to be a good indication of a successful week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oh, it's been a long time....

since I last updated.   I've been to SanDiego/LosAngeles for a fun wedding and visits with friends, to Las Vegas for a conference with my husband which confirmed all my thoughts about Las Vegas and now am heading to the beach.  In between I've made a million trips to the grocery for my father, mowed the lawn every week, done laundry continuously, and gotten lots done on two big knitting projects. 

This trip to the beach has trememdous potential, either for a great time or a disaster.  For one week of my trip I'm being joined by three friends.  One is a very close friend who has been to the beach with me many times and we have developed a great rhythm.  We basically are friendly roommates and don't feel like we have to do everything together all the time.   She feels comfortable rummaging through the pantry and refrigerator to find lunch and doesn't expect me to play hostess.  It's kind of like living with a sister.  I have not traveled with these two other friends except for short 2-3 day trips.   One of them is a total space cadet and the other talks incessantly.  I've tried to write out a couple of beach emails nicely giving them the lay-of-the-land on how this trip should operate, i.e. "breakfast cereal, muffins, coffee, etc will be available but you will need to serve yourself.   Lunch meat, bread, fruit etc will be in the fridge for you to find when you are hungry for lunch. We will share dinner duty so bring a favorite easy recipe."  Do I think they will do any of this?  No so I'm relying on friend #1 to set the tone and show them how to do it. And to tone down our talker I'm thinking of starting and ending my day with short yoga and meditation time and ask them to join me.  That should buy us all at least 45 minutes of quiet time. twice a day.  I'll let you know how it goes.  But any day at the beach makes me happy so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow when I'll get to put my feet in the sand.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


My plumbing experiences put me behind so now I need a list to help me get caught up.

1.  Call Harry to firm up LA plans so I can get better idea of date/time for Hearst Castle tickets.

2. Talk to children about plans for Miami wedding trip.  Who is coming and when so I can make house reservations for us all?

3.  Make Miami house reservations.

4.  Hostess gift for Jack and Susie - What to take that I can carry on an airplane?  Virginia peanuts, jams, and wine but that is heavy and takes a lot of space.  Or maybe that is fine because then I'll have space in the suitcase to go shopping in California.

5.  Send note to Florida Sharon welcoming her to the beach and letting her know  when I'll be down.

6.  Get Daddy Arena Stage tickets.

7.  Order yarn for Christmas gifts.  Hope I have to time to get them made.  At least I've selected patterns using chunky yarn!

8.  LA rental car reservation.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

We have been experiencing a sewer line odyssey which has now resulted in me having three different plumbers on speed dial. We've lived in this 48 year old house for 35 years so I guess we were living on borrowed time.

First there was the hydro-jetting person aka Plumber #1 who cleaned our original blockage last September.  They ran 18 psi water through the entire line to clean and flush out everything.  Then they ran a camera through the lines and declared that we had "belly" which is where the pipe is sagging and consequently you have a constricted flow-through.  So, basically we were now on notice that this was not going to last forever. Another blockage this June made us realize we had to get serious about getting this fixed.  I called the same hydro-jetting company and this time when they ran the camera upon completion they didn't find a belly but they did determine that the pipes were very rough and corroded, not unexpected for cast iron that has  been in use for almost 50 years.  After getting some estimates for pipe replacement in an effort to be proactive before the next blockage we had our pipes replaced from the house to the street by Plumber #2.  To replace all the way to the sewer main requires huge amounts of money and posting a $20,000 bond with the county for 15 years.  You don't do that unless you are absolutely positive that it is necessary and no one thought we had that level problem.

Two weeks ago today we had the work done and I felt so good that we could once again use the garbage disposal, shower, do laundry, and flush simultaneously!  That euphoria was short lived. Yesterday when I went into the laundry room I realized that water was backing up into the floor drain again and the sewer had backed up into the downstairs toilet and shower.  ARGHHH.    I immediately called the people who installed the new pipe (Plumber #2) to say "HELP!" but the woman in the office didn't get back to me with any promise of help so I called yet another plumber to to see if he could figure out what was really wrong.   By now it is late afternoon and we have no working plumbing in the house so I called Plumber #3, Larry and Anthony.

Plumber #3 heard the quiet desperation in my sweet Southern voice.  When I really desperately need something I unconsciously revert to my mother's soft Kentucky accent and people do seem to be nicer to you.  (My children call it my "Grannie voice" because it is the accent I had growing up and when speaking with my mother.  I learned to speak more unaccented English when at work.) Well, thankfully Plumber #3 speaks with the same Appalachian accent because he said "I'll be there in an hour."   

Larry and Anthony aka Plumber #3 were a strange couple.  Larry is a small, wiry older man, probably in his 70's, and clearly from Southern Virginia or thereabouts, and Anthony is a young man who is extremely personable but you can tell he is just a tiny bit slow.  If I had to guess I'd say he's a grandson or nephew.  Larry directs and Anthony works and you can tell that Larry is trying hard to build his confidence and let him do things on his own.  So while Larry and I chatted on the front porch, Anthony ran a huge plumbing snake through my pipes and worked hard to burst through the clog.  None of us could figure out what could possibly have caused such a clog in under two weeks.  It's not like I have kids that throw baseballs and Barbie dolls down the toilets.  During my chat with Larry he heard my whole tale of woe and I learned a lot about drains and sewer pipes.  It will come in very handy with what happened next.  

As soon as Larry and Anthony left, Plumber #2 showed up!  I explained that since I had not heard back from the office manager I had contacted another plumber to get the clog cleared.  He offered to run a camera through it to see if they could find why it had clogged.  Well, we found the problem  - a giant rock about 1/2 the size of the sewer pipe is out in the pipe under the street.  Hmmmmmmm..... how did that get there?  Plumber #2 and I have conflicting opinions.  He thinks maybe there is a break in the bottom of the pipe exposing some rocks and gravel and the rock came from there.  I tried to explain the laws of physics and that the rock could not have jumped or floated up into the pipe.  My theory is that it got in during there construction and then got pushed further into the pipe when I had the pipe snaked.  

Only after he left did I get to cleaning the downstairs bathroom.  First I flushed the commode and put in LOTS cleanser, then I turned on the shower to try to wash some of the muck down the now cleared drain.  The shower would not drain.  Apparently the back-up caused a local clog in the shower pipe.  So this morning another call to Larry and Anthony to get the shower unclogged.  He again came in about 2 hours and Anthony worked and Larry and I talked about the rock.  Larry agrees with me and gave me some ideas on what they can do to get it out so that when I call the company that Plumber #2 works for I can speak with some authority on getting it out of there.  

So now I have a call into Plumbing Company #2 and will wait to see what they have to say about the situation.  Maybe they will be embarrassed enough about leaving a giant rock in the line that I won't have to change to my "don't mess with me" accent.

Final, I hope, update:   Plumber #2 called in Plumber #4 to clear out rocks and debris that were left in line.  He jetted it and we looked through the camera, twice, to make certain it was clear to the main.  I have now resumed flushing, laundry, and using the dishwasher.  He assured me I could do it all simultaneously!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friend Fatigue

I believe I am suffering from 'friend fatigue'.   You know, that feeling that you are constantly listing to the concerns and complaints of friends, struggling to find the nice words they want to hear, taking on the obligations that they need from you.  It's not that they don't appreciate it because they do.  But you finally are just momentarily tired of it. If they really, really needed you, you'd be there in a heartbeat, but they keep needing you for things that they don't really need you for.  Does that make sense?  To listen to the small slights by a daughter-in-law; complaints about the boss that was too bossy; the constantly too busy, over-scheduled friend who uses that to show how important she is, especially compared to you who always makes time for her.  I thought my extra week at the beach would cure me of this but it hasn't.  I want to tell these 60 year old people to grow up and act like adults.  This is not high school and things don't always work the way we want them to.  Your daughter-in-law is not going to be your daughter and the more you push the more she will push back.  Your boss is right - you are a crybaby and you should just put your big girl panties on and move past it.  If you don't have time for me then stop making dates and then changing/cancelling them - when meeting with me is a priority then call me but don't have me put you on the schedule and then switch it at the last minute.  I, too have a life.

OK, so this is a complaint and that's what I'm complaining about.  And I apologize.  But you can stop reading anytime you want. And now, complaint over.  I'm going to go meet with friends at the pool.

Monday, July 07, 2014

lunch and name-dropping in the afternoon

Yesterday we visited some acquaintances from our former life.  We knew them through Charlie's position and attended business functions, which were disguised as social events, with them a couple of times a year. These were the kinds of events where I spent the entire plane flight memorizing flash cards of names and rank, children's names, home locations, etc.  I am not naturally good at these things but I certainly know how to do them well, albeit with a bit of effort. This couple lives about an hour and a half from our beach condo and we had visited them a couple of times at their home.  Since Charlie left that position we had not seen them although he had kept in touch through mutual friends.  I had moved on with my life.

So, through a series of emails and events we re-established contact and made plans to get together for lunch. First up was to meet at their home - an amazing lakefront property which is exquisitely decorated and perfect in every way.  Not my style but definitely beautiful and she is an elegant and easy hostess.  She's had lots of practice as he had a minor political career.  After some snacks and really good lemonade we went to a  nice restaurant for lunch where we enjoyed the food and conversation.

Then came the strange part.  Their community is full of amazing homes and the big names that go with that.   After lunch, as we drove through the streets of the community she would name who lived in each home - a basketball player here, a football player there, a bank president on this corner, a well-known politician that corner........This went on for about an hour!  The funny part is I don't follow sports so had only a vague notion of who the sports figures were.  I live in DC so I'm not impressed by politicians, and "Carrot Top" is one of the worst comedians ever.  And I'm not a fan of conspicuous consumption (do people use that term any more?).

I'm still wondering why this was the "entertainment" for the day instead of nice walk down the cute little streets of the town after lunch, or back to their home for coffee and conversation.  Any theories?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Let's talk about HOT

When I was growing up we had no air conditioning.  Finally, once I was in college my parents bought a window unit for THEIR bedroom and occasionally I would sneak in and let the cool air blow on my face but that was about as close to air conditioning as I got until I had my own apartment.  We survived by having a big back porch and lots of trees and a neighborhood swimming pool. As a kid my day was 1) go to pool for swim team practice, which I loathed but everyone was on swim team so I was too, 2) go home and play Monopoly in the basement with friends until after dinner when 3) you went back to the pool to cool off before going to bed.  Often I slept on the porch, and I do remember being hot but it was just a fact of life.

Then when my kids were young they followed pretty much the same schedule except come August, when the temps were consistently 90+, I would relent and turn on the air conditioner.  We did have central air conditioning in the house but I figured I'd survived my entire childhood without so they could too, and when they complained I told them they were "storing heat for winter" when they would look back fondly at the summer heat.  I'm not certain that the really bought that.

Now it is only JUNE and I have the air conditioning on!  We are already having long stretches of 90+ days and, although it does cool off a bit at night, it is so humid that even the whole house fan doesn't keep things cool.  This is my own personal indicator of climate change.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

busy, busy, busy

This is what my next two weeks look like.  I barely have time to breathe but what fun!  And at the end of the two weeks I get to go to the beach for July 4th and have another party with beach friends.  Can you tell that I love a good party?
  1. Clean first floor and clean up front garden TODAY before Daddy comes for Father's Day dinner tomorrow, - DONE
  2. Grocery shop for tomorrows dinner - sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, buy roast chickens at Costco.  Dessert???? DONE
  3. Buy a nice rose bush for LaV to acknowledge her mother's death.  I know that relationship was way more complicated than I'll ever know. DONE
  4. Call All-American and discuss estimate for sewer line replacement.  Yes, the sewer line backed up for the second time in a year so I think the time has come to either reline the pipe or install a new "burst" pipe.  I have more knowledge of sewer systems that I should have to have at this point.  Last time they cleaned out the pipe they said it had "belly" and was Orangeburg pipe, both bad things when it comes to replacement.  This time the person didn't see the "belly" and said it was cast iron.  This must be resolved before we start the reline vs replace decision.  If you want to discuss sewer pipes, I'm your woman.  Definitely pipe bursting.  Now need to decide which company to do the work.
  5. Call Sharon for a lunch date next week. done and enjoyed happy hour with her!
  6. Get ready for Saturday BBQ party.  Small group - need burgers and dogs, buns, chips, appetizers, drinks. Dat is bringing Rotel dip!, Gordon bringing beans, Sally a salad, and actually don't know if anyone else is coming.  If not, then I'll buy some potato salad and make some brownies for dessert.  Taking a break from the set up now.   Hope the weather clears a bit.
  7. Clean porch for party. Remove screens and scrub off bird shit.  The bird shit remains.
  8. Buy some more plants to fill in holes now that daffodils have died back.  DONE
  9. Get ready for Wednesday party for Margie's retirement.  Chili baked chicken, rice, refried beans, chips, margaritas.  Send an email to remind people.  Email sent. 
  10. Clean upstairs and freshen guest room for Steve and Vicki's arrival. 
  11. Plan a tourist day for Steve and Vicki once I hear back on their interests.  Plan a couple of dinners, Friday we can go out to dinner after Udvar-Hazy tour.
  12. Call "other Sharon" to see what her plans are for July 4th at the beach.  Plan an introductory party for her to meet some of my friends?  Steve and Vicki, Gordon and Eileen, Howard and Janis, Linda. I wonder who will be in town that week?  "other Sharon will not be in Florida yet so postpone party plans.
  13. Go to spa and get a pedicure before leaving for Florida!  Made hair appointment for Tuesday and now need pedicure appointment.  That can wait until after Steve and Vicki leave.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

To the morons at the beach:

1)  Here in Cocoa Beach we have four beaches that provide life guards.  For most of the beach you are on your own.  The areas that are guarded are clearly marked.  If you are 15 feet outside the guarded area why don't you move over just a bit to where your children might be in the line of sight of the lifeguards.

2)  If the red flag is flying on the lifeguard seat that means "You moron, stay out of the water because if you are drowning we are highly unlikely to be able to save you and I might drown in the process of trying."  Do not let your 6 children of assorted ages go out into the heavy surf where many of them can barely keep their heads above the water while you sit on the sand talking on the telephone.

3)  If you have little children do not let them play along the edge of the water without an adult at arms length.  We can get a rogue wave and it has knocked down even a sturdy adult and pulled them out into the ocean.  You will absolutely not get there in time if it happens to your three year old while you are lounging in your chair on the sand, and even if you do manage to keep them from being swept away they will be traumatized for life.

4)  A cute little princess life vest might save your kids life.  Go to the beach shop and buy one instead of stopping at 7-11 for beer.

5)  Please note that if your kid or anyone else is drowning they will not fling their arms in the air and scream help!  help!   They will quietly slip underwater and you won't realize they are gone until you start to count heads and you come up one short.  Keep your eyes on them AT ALL TIMES.

6)  The lifeguards do their best but you are your kids best lifeguard. Use some common sense.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

a cooking mystery

We have some friends who live nearby and we really enjoy their company.  He and Charlie worked together and have that in common, in addition to the fact that he is a professional photographer and is always willing to go on a flying adventure with Charlie so he can take photos.  She is very nice and we really get along well and she got me interested in attending cooking classes with her.  She has an amazingly equipped kitchen with all high-end cookware, special pans, etc. and when we take cooking classes she is always as knowledgeable about technique as the instructor.  I am definitely a beginner at these classes but I they have helped me to develop a few new "signature dishes". ( My favorite is semolina gnocchi which is made in a pan and not boiled.  Very easy and amazing stuff which freezes well.)

We have a nice casual relationship with this couple, the kind where you can just call and say "Charlie's stopping for ribs on his way home.  Come on over for diner." or "Let's all get together Saturday night.  I'll cook something and you can bring dessert."  But the strange thing is she never has us for dinner, i.e. she never cooks.   Their invites are usually to try a new restaurant or for a casual meal at a local pizza place.  I'm a mediocre cook and have always said if you come to my house it is for the company as it is certainly not for the food. But she lives and breathes cooking - cookware, books, shows, classes.  So why doesn't she actually cook?  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Currently on vacation in Florida (is that what to call it when you are retired and everyday is vacation and you are actually at your own home?).   We started the trip with me throwing a conniption because I really, really, really did not want to fly down in my husband's little airplane.  Once I did some serious nidra yoga I finally resigned myself to the trip and we had a lovely flight down. In fact, as a nice surprise my husband had arranged our first stop to be in Chapel Hill where one of my good friends met us for breakfast.  The rest of the trip was uneventful, thank goodness, and we arrived in time for drinks and sunset on the porch. 

As this was to be my husband's "airplane vacation" we flew to Miami to see his uncle, then on to the Keys where we had a fabulous time in Key West and Key Largo with his cousin and his wife.  They picked us up at the Marathon airport and we drove to Key West for dinner and sunset at Mallory Square.  Key West has gotten very touristy, or actually even more touristy, with all the big cruise ships docking there and Duval Street is nothing but crap tee-shirt shops and bars but Mallory Square with the street performers is always fun at sunset. Then the long drive back to Key Largo where his cousin has a house. The next day was out on the boat for fishing - actually they fished and I sat and enjoyed the sun and the breeze and the scenery. It was a super day with perfect temperatures. Later we went back on the boat with more friends for drinks and sunset and then back to the house for grilled fish for diner.  Finally, the next day back to the airplane to go to Ft Lauderdale to see my sister-in-law and her husband for dinner and the next day back to our beach place. Lots of flying and luckily we had good weather for all of it.  Good thing we didn't try it this week as temps have risen, more clouds have moved in and we have the threat of thunderstorms each afternoon.

The rest of the trip  has been do-nothing;  some beach walks, kayaking, some trips to Home Depot for some small home repair items, and I read a trashy novel.  He worked incessantly on his old sailboat to get it ready for the yearly marina inspection.  It should pass inspection as long as they don't have to trailer it to the launch dock as the trailer is completely rusted through and would never make it and would leave the boat stranded in the dirt.  (I see the purchase of a new "used" trailer in his future.)  We also had dinner with friends a couple of evenings and that has been fun.  My husband leaves on Saturday and then I will have my opportunity for more beach time (he just can't sit still and enjoy the beach) and some shopping and visits with 'my' friends. It's been a great vacation from my life of permanent vacation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Today one of my daughter's "cancer friends" died.  They never met in person but had been part of a very active on-line support group for young women with breast cancer.  This young woman, Holly, was diagnosed at the same time as KT and with essentially the same "kind" of cancer and they were essentially the same age. Holly was 25 years old;  KT was 27.  They received the same treatments and through their on-line group received support, hugs, laughs, they bitched, and complained and aired their fears and hopes and anger with people who understood.  Holly's cancer metastasized and she died;  KT's didn't and she lives.  Bad luck vs good luck.  Holly worked throughout her treatment until the last few weeks and then quit her job and entered hospice to die but because of our entirely screwed up medical system had to figure out how to pay for dying.  To continue to receive medical insurance and thus hospice care she had to pay for her insurance through COBRA continuation of coverage but without a job, and with her resources reduced to $0 because of the cost of her care she couldn't afford it.  She, or her friends, started a GoFundMe page  looking to raise the $5000 they estimated she would need to pay her expenses for her final weeks.  Little bits of money dribbled in - $15, $25, $50.  Katie posted her site to Facebook and KT's friends contributed even though they never met this young woman. I contributed and was so sad that this had to be one more worry for her and her family and friends and was so thankful that it was not KT who was dying.   Holly died this morning having raised $3,050.  I wonder if it is enough to cover her funeral.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

how we see ourselves

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon learning to play mahjongg.  One of my friends has a standing Wednesday afternoon mahjongg group and I was invited to round out a second table.  The group was very forgiving of my very limited understanding of mahjongg.  I've only played mahjongg once in my life about a year ago and had no recollection of the vocabulary or rules. Luckily, this group of ladies was not the cut throat variety of players but a group of friends that used the game as a time to chat.    As we were playing and dealing out the tiles, which is a fast paced activity where everyone takes a turn pulling four tiles at a time to their wall I noticed our hands as we reached to the center of the table.  All of our hands were old.  Even those women who had maintained their hair color, and figures, and style, couldn't keep their hands from aging.  Some hands had pretty manicured nails, some had short clipped nails, some were lily white and some were darker brown, but all were thin to where you could see the bones and our hands were veiny and mottled.  Even the beautiful diamond rings on some of the hands couldn't mask the age.

As play progressed and I became more comfortable with the rules and the pace of the game I started listening more to the conversation than worrying about my next move.  Suddenly one of the women commented "Aren't you always surprised when you look in the mirror and you don't look like you did when you were thirty?"  After a very brief moment everyone agreed that in our minds we are still thirty and the kids are still young and we have our whole lives ahead of us and sometimes we wonder who that woman in the mirror is.  I wonder if when we are 90 we will wonder why we don't look like we did today, and I wonder what my hands will look like.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

While reading "The Over-Protected Kid" in the April "Atlantic" magazine I realized that this may have been the one part of parenting that I got right, although I may have gone a bit overboard in allowing my children freedom.  I used to plop my one year old in an umbrella stroller and send his 6 year old sister off around the neighborhood to take him for a walk.  She wasn't yet allowed to cross the street by herself so the walk was accomplished by staying on the same sidewalk going in and out of all of the dead end courts in the neighborhood and then retracing her steps to get home.  The handles on the stroller were about at her shoulder height and she would barely be able to see over the back of the stroller.  They'd be gone a half-hour or so and I loved the chance to have them out of the house for a bit.   If I did that now I'd probably be arrested for child abuse.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

You know that smile you get when one of your kids just calls you to kill time and chat?  Well, that's how I'm smiling today.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Last fall I was deleting some junk e-mail when I saw a Groupon deal for a weekend at Yogaville.  I'd heard about Yogaville, an asram built in the middle of rural Virginia.  It's been there about 30 years and has good town/gown relations, bringing jobs and even running a credit union for the local area.  I thought for $85 dollars for two nights including meals and yoga practice, this would be an opportunity to do something a bit outside my usual comfort zone.  I put off making my reservations because of the holidays and then the weather and finally I was within two weeks of the coupon expiring.  It was now or never.

The trip
So Friday morning I headed off through the back roads of Virginia.  It was a route that I knew very well. Narrow, curvy, hilly roads that I had driven for years to get to Kentucky to see my grandmother and to get to my son in boarding school.  I could drive those roads with my eyes closed except you can't.  You have to have a good grip on the steering wheel, a good sense of how to drive through curves, and a confidence that I found I hadn't lost.  It was beautiful but changed.  A bit more sprawl outside of Fredericksburg before getting to The Wilderness.  Yes, it really is named The Wilderness. The Civil War battle of The Wilderness was fought here as were some Revolutionary War battles.  This is an area rich in America's early history. Then on through the small little towns, no more than a crossroads, then crossover the Interstate, and deep into a rural area where gas stations still have one pump with the little tabs that drop to let you know your amount and cost, no digital stuff here.  I passed rolling farmland, small little homes, amazing Virginia horse farms, and dense woods.  Some fields were turning green which was a welcome sight given our cold winter and the snowstorm that was yet to come.

I arrived at Yogaville to find a modern complex built around a quad, much like some small little college. Modern wooden buildings - two dormitories on one side, a dining hall and reception area across the quad, and a library on one side and "classrooms" on the other.  They also have some motel-like private rooms available back on a hill.  I checked in and got my room assignment for the weekend.  I was greeted by a middle aged man wearing white flowing pants and top, who looked like his "other job" may have been as an accountant.  He handed my my schedule, the booklet of all the info about Yogaville - it's history, rules, maps, and explanations of the philosophy - and pointed out my dorm.  I was assigned a bunk bed sharing a room with three 25-20 year olds.  I'm certain they were surpirsed to see me there.  I was one of the older people attending for the weekend, not the oldest, but the average age was probably more around 50,  mostly women. 

About Yogaville
You should looked it up here -  In addition to weekend and short-stay guests, it also has long stay residents, some permanent, some in a transition phase where they can stay and do work for the ashram in exchange for a bed and three meals a day.  There is also a requirement that they participate in the yoga and meditation activities.  At the beginning of the recession NPR did a story on how to survive when you lost your job that talked about moving to Yogaville. There were also the scattering of "lost children", those young people who were searching for themselves 1960's style.  And there were the "lost adults" who didn't find themselves during the 1960's and 1970's and were trying again.  Some people were just taking a respite from their lives, staying a month or so to recharge.  And then there were us weekend people. 

The weekend
They call it a "Welcome Weekend" which includes your room and board (vegetarian meals) and yoga, meditation, and some lectures about Integral Yoga and the yogic lifestyle and how to incorporate the philosophy into your normal life. The schedule was busy yet unhurried.  Up at 5:30 am for meditation at 6 am, which was followed by Hatha yoga and then breakfast at 8 am.  Quiet hours - no talking - between 10 pm and 8 am.  Following breakfast you could attend the lectures or do you own thing - there is a coffee shop, a library, and lots of hiking trails. Then at 4 pm you have another hour of meditation, another hour of Hatha yoga, and then dinner.  Following dinner there is a program about Integral Yoga including music and chanting.

On Friday evening I took the opportunity to visit the Lotus Shrine which is an amazing pink and purple circular building in a gorgeous spot on the river bank. On Friday nights it is illuminated and as I drove through the windy road to reach it the view was like something from outer space that had landed there.  It was beautiful but I can only imagine what these rural Virginians thought as it was being built.  I spent a bit of time meditating in the rotunda area and it was a most peaceful, ethereal experience.  You felt but entirely alone yet entirely surrounded by love.  It was like an oasis in the desert but it was an oasis of the spirit.

The end
The schedule repeats each day so by the time I left I'd had at least 4 hours of meditation and 4 hours of yoga and I felt great!  I drove back home, back to reality and an impending snow storm. I knew I could never be as dedicated to my yoga practice as I'd like;  I'm just too lazy.  But I knew I would find a way to put 15 - 30 minutes of meditation into my schedule both morning and evening, and they had also taught me that yoga doesn't have to an hour and half at the gym, it could be 15 minutes of sun salutations and a few good stretches to relieve your tensions and assist your body.  I've been doing that the last few days and I really do feel better.  It also got me in touch with my inner hippie which had been in hiding for so many years.  No, I'm not going to run away and join the ashram, but I do intend to live a more mindful, peaceful life.  Service to others can take many forms and sometimes my service will be to just "let it go" and not try to solve it.

The next trip
Will I go again? I'd like to buy my inner cheapskate will have to wait for another Groupon deal.  And I also don't really want to share this experience with anyone.  My husband knows how much I enjoyed and now he wants to go.  He would hate it and I would feel like I had to keep him happy and entertained and it was be a.w.f.u.l.  My best friends would want to stay in the private rooms and make it into a slumber party and they'd complain about the food in a nice, but complaining way and I don't think they would appreciate the experience in the same way that I did. I think I need to wait a long time so that my enthusiasm is not so upfront and I can sneak away alone.  Not a very sharing thought but .......

Friday, February 07, 2014

they don't make them like they used to

When I got married, many many many many years ago, it was the beginning of the crockpot era.  I got one of these new appliances as a wedding gift and at the time wondered what I was supposed to do with it.   I used the little tiny cookbook that came with it to learn to make bean soup, stew, chili, and a few other handy items that served me well for many years. The crockpot alsoserved my entire neighborhood well.  My good friend borrowed it frequently for teacher soup parties, the crew team used it for chili dinners for the kids, the Girl Scouts had many meals from it.  It wasn't a fancy appliance  but it always worked.

A couple of years ago, for reasons that will never be clear to me, my husband bought me a new crockpot.  At this point we have 1) no children at home and consequently no need for handy, filling, inexpensive meals,  2) my other crockpot worked just fine, and 3) we were no longer involved in activities that required feeding hoards of hungry children and teenagers.  But, his excuse was "This one has a removeable crock."  Yes it does which is totally unnecessary.  The old one had a big warning "DO NOT IMMERSE" as the 'crock' was not removable from the 'pot'  but it was easily washed.

I have tried to cook with this new crockpot and everything turns to mush.  I carefully follow instructions that I have used for years and years and years and they don't work.  Today I tried again.  Beef stew, on low, carefully following the instructions.  It is now mush.  Careful internet research yielded this note:  "New crockpots are often 40 degrees hotter than older ones."  Forty degrees!  For a crockpot that's like 25% hotter.  No wonder everything cooks down to mush - on LOW.  I thought the whole point of a crockpot was a low temperature.  I think if I use this one again I'll just use the 'warm' setting.  I can't imagine using the 'high' setting.  But I think the real solution is to pull my old faithful crockpot out of the cupboard and donate this new one to the thrift store.

Monday, February 03, 2014

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories."

I'm catching up on "Downton Abbey" while I fold laundry.  It has really sunk to the level of a soap opera but it still has a special British charm.  Today I was struck by a comment by Carson, the butler.  I don't actually remember the story line to which it refers. but I was totally struck by the quote - "The business of life is the acquisition of memories".   When it is all over we don't need the china, the sofa, the car, the TV, the house, but we do need the memories of the times with friends, and family, and the experiences of sights and smells and trips which will keep us engaged and entertained and allow us to relive them through our memories forever.  So my goal is whenever I need to make a decision between "stuff" and a memory, is to always make a memory.  Thank you, Downton Abbey.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cauliflower and Leek Soup

As part of my to-do list to cook new things I've been concentrating on soups.  Last year I did a great job of trying new soups almost each week.  This year I haven't been as good at planning ahead and shopping for ingredients so I've just been making meals out of what I happened to have in the pantry and freezer.   Yesterday I had a head of cauliflower sitting in the fridge with no plan so I pulled out one of my soup cookbooks and found a recipe that I had tried and enjoyed last year.  After a stop at the grocery for a couple of leeks I did this wonderful cauliflower and leek soup.  I like it much better than broccoli soup, which I made last week, and it really is a filling dish for a cold winter day.   Also note that my husband hates cauliflower and he actually didn't know that this is made with cauliflower as the main ingredient.

Caulliflower and Leek soup

2-4 T of butter
2 large leeks
1 large head of cauliflower
4 cups chicken broth
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup parmesean cheese (divided in half)
1/4 cup greek yougurt
Pepper to taste (don't need much salt as the broth, cheese, and butter are salty.
Parsley to garnish

Chop the leeks, including the green stems up until they get tough.  I keep peeling back the outer stems to get to the softer inside parts.
Saute leeks in butter until soft - about 5 -  7 minutes.
Add cauliflower florets, chicken broth and cayenne pepper and cook until cauliflower is soft - about 20 minutes.
Use an immersion bender to blend to a creamy consistency.  You can also use a food processor or blender to blend in batches.
Stir in 1/4 cup parmesean cheese and the yougurt.
Heat thoroughy.

Serve with a hefty garnish of parsley and a sprinkle of parmesean cheese.

This can be made ahead, frozen, reheated.  It's very forgiving.  With a nice crusty bread it makes a great winter dinner.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Every now and then I look on my sidebar and see the things that I've noted as "Things I want to do" and my "DIY projects" list.  I put those up there a few years ago and very little has moved off the lists.  It's not that I've done nothing for the last couple of years but not all those things hit the top of my priority list. 

Here are the updated lists:. 

Things I want to do

  • Knit something more complicated than "cast-on, knit, knit, knit, cast-off"    I have managed some some nice scarfs with color work, and a bit of lace, and some things that look much more impressive than they are hard to knit so I'm declaring this a success.  I have a long way to go in my knit and crochet skills and my next goal will be to make a sweater (not a baby sweater as I can do that in my sleep but a sweater for me!)
  • learn finance (again)  Actually this is my father's goal for me and I am totally hopeless at this.
  • Cook new and interesting things  I do this in bits and spurts but I have expanded our menu selections (not always for the best!) and I have a wonderful bunch of new soup recipes to try
  • Practice piano
  • Photography class (again)
  • Yoga classes  I just wish the gym had more yoga classes but I think that the pilates and other stretch classes should count toward this.  I particularly like the Sunday morning yoga instructor and just wish I could go to that class more often.  It's at the same time as my dad's Sunday brunch time at my house so unless he's out of town I always miss it  :-(

DIY projects

  • Frame sailing picture   I do have the frame catalog for these two items but I haven't adjusted myself to how expensive framing is.  Even the do-it-yourself frames are expensive and the last thing I framed took me forever and I think I wore out the patience of the nice people at the frame workshop.  These are two huge and odd shaped pictures so I don't even want to show my face at the workshop with these projects.
  • Frame Sedona poster
  • Wash windows - after yellow pollen season - And I can't cross this off because they got washed but they need it again! 
  • Paint bedroom Done!  and a lovely shade of tan  (actually called Mushroom Bisque) with (not yet finished) white trim.  The bedroom is getting complete do-over.  Charlie made a built-in cabinet under the bay window for some extra storage so I could get rid of a dresser that was crowding the room.  Next on the to-do list is to finish the trim paint, put up crown mouldings, and hang the curtains!  So in crossing off one thing I've added three more!

Friday, January 03, 2014

One of my favorite people just announced she's no longer going to maintain her blog.  I do thank her that she posted her announcement and didn't just leave me hanging and worrying as I have for some other blogs that I read and then had them just stop. 

This blog,, was very special to me, it was actually the first blog I really followed and connected with, and I've always wished we could have connected IRL (in real life - I'm starting to understand some of the new text lingo).  He life had its ups and downs, and rounds and rounds but she kept it "real", as we said in the 60's.  It was not sugar coated, or turned into a sarcastic rant, or made into a TV sitcom.  It was her life, her family, her happiness, her troubles.  She kept me grounded reminding me that we have to see the beauty where we find it, we have to accept the pain along with the joy, and we are never going to make the right decision every time. 

I think this may portend the end of the blog era.  People are moving to Facebook where there is more immediate feedback and more pithy writing, but I was looking for the story, the person, the commentary, the personality, that I found in her blog. 

So, Marianne, so long, I'll miss you.  You know where to find me. Stay in touch.