Out of Gas?

My friend J took me to lunch today to celebrate my birthday. She picked me up at home so we could have more time together in the car. We had a fabulous lunch. The pandemic had kept us apart far to long. We made plans to do more things together, fast.

We got back in her car, which is fairly new to her and as I was asking her if she liked it she noticed that the gas meter said she had 20 miles worth of gas left. “Oh My, my old car used to tell me in a big warning sign when my gas was getting low.”

I suggested we should stop and get gas on the way home, just in case. Well, it was a good thing, because apparently the Colonial Pipe Line shut down, by the Darkside hackers has hit NC hard. The line at our favorite Family Fare filling station was around the block and there was only one pump with any gas.

Only 14 cars in front of us

We sat in the line a long time and her gas meter went from 20 gallons left to 10 gallons. Thankfully two cars in front of us got tired of waiting and pulled out of line. We watched as our line slowly inched towards the one good pump. One young man in a black mustang convertible tried to jump the line, but after some words from other pulled his car out of line.

The car in front of us was unable to get gas for some reason. Turned out the card reader stopped working and J had to go in the store to pay. Only ten dollars worth allowed. That was 2.77 gallons of gas. It sent the meter up to 80 miles worth of gas, which quickly ticked back to 70 in less than a mile of driving.

I blame the Russians for offering a safe harbor for the Darkside. The pandemic is bad enough, but now a gas crisis, where there really shouldn’t be one is just an insult we don’t need. Please conserve your gas if you can. It will take a while to resupply once the Colonial is back online.

Thankfully I have gas in four cars, not that I am going anywhere. J let me know that on her way home she saw other gas stations out of gas. You are probably out of luck if you need it today or tomorrow.

Moving Is Shit

I saw a pretty wise saying the other day. “At my age I don’t get down on the floor without a plan about how to get back up.” My mother obviously never heard this saying. After a long day I found her lying of the floor of her new bedroom with no furniture except for one chair. She said she just needed a rest.

Today was an ongoing move day for my parents from their farm to their new house. My father is not really doing any moving so I am called in for what I thought was a supervisor role, but it turned I turned into a low level packer.

Thankfully Miss Daisy came with the movers today to pack with me. I was thankful for her every minute as well as the Richard, the Danville firefighter and his amazing team of movers.

After packing up the never ending sea of China I went over to my parents new house to look at where things were going in the kitchen. I should have done the inventory of available space before I let my mother dictate how many thousands of plates she wanted to keep. There is no way she has the space for half of what she wants.

To top it off the cabinets are not outfitted with any shelves or pull out drawers. This has to be fixed before much can be put away.

Downsizing is difficult at best. I can hardly wait for this month to be over. I am sore, dirty and exhausted already and don’t anticipate anything getting any better. I also would like my mom to have a bed to lie down on because she does not plan ahead when she lies down on the floor.

My Kind of Mother’s Day

Last weekend I had the treat of having Carter home, so we celebrated mother’s day then. Tomorrow ai will go to the farm to supervise the first of many parts of moving my parents to their new house. That is my Mother’s Day present for my mother, along with a couple of goodies.

So today I got to do just what I wanted to do. The first was working in the garden. There is not much “work” right now as most everything is planted and I am just waiting for things to grow. I did do some harvesting today. My friend Karen gave me a swarm of heirloom quality garden implements for my birthday.

Today I used the ceramic pruners to harvest spinach. I cooked it for dinner and Russ exclaimed it was so much better than store bought spinach.

After the garden I got spent time reading. I had a long call with Carter, then Russ and I took Shay on a hike in Duke forest. It was a glorious day here, worthy of a celebration day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother’s out there. Condolences to those for whom this is your first Mother’s Day without your mother. And to those whose mother’s have been gone a while, I am certain it never gets easier, but I hope your happy memories of your mother hold you tight through this day and all your days.

Dickinson Farm

For my birthday my friend Sally, who went to Dickinson with me, sent me a box of items from the Dickinson College Farm. This farm did not exist when we went to Dickinson. It came about as part of the sustainability program the college undertook a few years back.

Of course being a college the farm is used for research, but it also produces food for the dining hall and sells it too. Oh, how I wish we had the college farm when I was in school. I gladly would have given up Calculus for farming. I have never used calculus one day in my adult life, but I could have used farming knowledge everyday.

One of the things Sally sent was some stone ground corn meal from purple and yellow corn. I made a test batch of simple corn muffins so I could get a feel for what the corn meal was like before I dudded it up in another recipe.

It had a very strong and fresh corn meal flavor. Nothing like a jiffy mix of corn meal. But the freshness of the corn meal made a very light muffin.

I did not try the Strawberry jam with it yet, but am looking forward to tasting Dickinson’s version. I wonder if they offer jam making and canning as college credit courses or just for fun.

As I think about all the classes I took in college that were interesting, but not applicable to my regular life I wish that they had offered a real life interdisciplinary class of personal finance, basic plumbing and electrical work, tax preparation, and food safety. I am certain there were no professors who could teach this one class, but lots of college staff, like building and grounds, dinning hall and the business office people who could have taught us.

Of course I learned to learn at college so I have taught myself most of these skills, but it would have been faster if someone who really knew what they were doing had taught me.

For now I am going to use my experimentation skills on this corn meal. Thanks Sal, for surprising me with these Dickinson goodies.

Have You Fallen?

His answer is always the same. “I live on a farm. I walk outside on uneven ground. I fall on the grass. I am not hurt.” They put the bracelet on nonetheless. He just hates the overt sign of being called old that the bracelet screams.

When I go to the doctor’s office with my Dad I am always prepared for him to be mad about the first question they ask him. “Have you fallen in the last three months?” I know that the lawyers want them to ask so they can put a bright pink bracelet with the words “fall risk” on him before he takes another step. It is not an unreasonable question to ask an octogenarian.

Now that I am sixty I am wondering if they are going to ask me this question. Today, after much rain I put on my new hunter gardening shoes that Russ and Carter gave me for my birthday. I was going out back to my new moss garden (my early Mother’s Day present) to inspect where the bunnies, I presume, are already nibbling. Since major chunks of moss have been moved around I decide I need to fence this moss in until it gets a good hold of the earth.

I went back to the garage to gather random bits of wire fence I have left from building my garden. I rounded the corner, arms full of fence and slipped on the dirty, wet bricks and fell on my butt. Thankfully the extra padding I carry everywhere with me cushioned the blow and I got up unhurt and went about wrapping the moss garden in an unattractive jumble of wire. Fighting with bunnies is one of my specialties.

Next time I go to the Doctor, hopefully months from now, if they ask me if I have fallen I seriously doubt if I will remember this slick brick induced fall. It makes me wonder about the senior-seniors they ask. Unless you badly injure yourself are you likely to remember a small tumble? Seems to me that no one should legally depend on anyone over 50 to recall everything that happened to them in the last three months. For good measure just put the bright pink fall risk bracelet on everyone over 30, but just don’t print the big words “fall risk.” The medical staff should just know by the color what it means.

How to Feel Six Instead of Sixty

Carter loves bartending. I wonder whose genes that came from? In honor of my birth year she made a special drink for my birthday dinner for others to enjoy. It was a classic whiskey sour. Apparently it was the “it” drink of 1961. It must have been popular for years afterwards because it was often served at parties at my childhood house.

Being the sixties it was made with a “sour packet” that came in a box of six from the liquor store. Just add bourbon. I think the brand was Holland house. My dad used to make us “sours” by adding water and ice to the contents of the packet and run it in the blender. If we were lucky we got a cherry in it. Sure, start kids off enjoying cocktails early.

So Carter made people who wanted a drink the knob creek version of the whiskey sour. For me I had the ginger beer version which was fantastic. It used the Trader Joe’s triple ginger, ginger beer and the sour mix of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, some cherry juice and a maraschino Cherry.

It brought me back to being a kid getting a kid cocktail. This was a great way to not feel 60, but perhaps six again. Maybe in my very old age I will take up drinking again. Until then I’ll take this mock-tail version anyday.

The Loss of One Of My Favorites

Sadly my cousin Mary texted me this morning to let me know that her mother Flo had passed away earlier today. Although Flo was technically a cousin to me she was much more like an Aunt and a favorite Aunt at that. She had not been well for the last few years so her passing is a blessing and we are certain she is in heaven with her husband Johnnie, another favorite who left this earth much too early over twenty years ago.

Johnnie was my father’s closest first cousin, more like a brother. Johnnie’s mother Haidee was an older sister to my grandmother Margaret. They were two of six sisters in a crazy family of Michies from Charlottesville. Johnnie’s parents had a house in Pawleys Island and my whole childhood we spent our summer vacations on Pawleys with them and my dad’s only brother Wilson’s family.

There would be three generations spending all day everyday on the beach and Flo was a calming presence amongst those with Michie blood. We think she was the first one who married into the family who named it a support group for the in-laws to Michies.

One of my earliest memories of Flo was from the summer when I was eleven years old. I was the oldest cousin of the Pawleys crew so I often hung with the adults and listened in on the conversations. My mother had a serious kidney disease and after our vacation she was going home to have her kidney removed. This was a big deal in 1972 and required a long stay in the hospital.

I remember sitting on the beach and hearing my parents talk about this operation and them not knowing what they were going to do with me and my two younger sisters. This was the first I even heard of my mother’s illness as no one told children anything back then. My grandmother said she could take my baby sister Janet, but not me and my seven year old sister Margaret because that would be too much. Flo immediately spoke up and said that Margaret

and I could come and stay with them at their little house in Columbia, SC.

I was so thankful that someone was willing to take us and that it was Flo. As Flo and Johnnie only had my cousin Mary at that time it was a big deal to add two more children, but she made sure we had lots of fun and kept our minds off my mother’s situation. The highlight of that stay was when Flo took me, Mary and Margaret to be on the Mr. Knozit TV show, a local kids show. I was the only kid onthe show that day who knew the answer to the question, “what are the call letters of the TV station?” That got me an extra Icee coupon which Flo happily helped me redeem at a local store.

I am forever grateful that Flo was the kind, understanding calm person she was. The loss of her is hitting me hard as I realize that there are fewer and fewer of her generation in our family.

I send my love and hugs to my Cousins Mary and her sister Haidee. Thankfully we are all vaccinated now so we will get to go to the memorial service. Flo deserves us to celebrate her life. She certainly did a lot for mine.

The Birthday that Never Ended

It’s a good thing I only turn 60 once because you are going to be sick about reading about it. Yesterday I wrote my blog around five in the afternoon. I thought that all the birthday celebrations were concluded and I was exhausted from them all.

Then my dear friend and birthday twin, Tricia called. We were born on the same day in the same year and have been friends for 42 years. I had made a little video for her 60th that her sister Cathy put together in a movie. She told me all about her birthday movie and asked me how I liked mine. I told her I didn’t get a movie, but said my family needed to save something for my 70th.

After a quiet dinner with Carter and Russ they told me it was finally time for them to give me my presents from them. Russ leans hard on Carter for both present ideas and logistics in all things gift giving. She went above and beyond this year. Having her home was the best present I could have gotten, but I had no idea about the last big present they were giving me… A MOVIE from my friends!

Thanks to Carter’s Godmother, Suzanne, I had a funny, touching, heartfelt movie of a wide range of friends from all aspects of my life. Suzanne, as a TV producer in her last life, had strict rules about how many people, and made sure that every decade was represented starting in my teens.

I want to shout out to all you dear friends who went to the trouble to record such sweet things about me. I cried, I laughed, I howled and it made me miss each one of you so much. I tried to do a screen grab of each of you, but it is hard to get you not talking. I just want you all to know how much it meant to me and that I love you so much.

Russ and Carter made this the best birthday in my whole life along with all you friends. This getting old thing is fantastic.

Yeah for 60

For over the last year there have no celebrations. So why would I think things would be any different? Yes, we got our vaccines a while ago, but we have hardly gone back to our old ways. Until today, we had not eaten in a restaurant. We kind of just let life happen in a grey kind of way.

Well the rainbow of color rained down on me for the last two days. Yesterday Carter showed up as a surprise to me for my 60th birthday and our anniversary. Then Russ threw me a surprise birthday dinner at home with some of our dear friends. We had a huge table set up in the big room with everyone spread out. It was so nice to have friends at home again.

Then this morning I had my needlepoint zoom group, which was a lovely way to start my birthday, but those sweet friends kept a big secret from me… a big surprise lunch at the Wadu with so many of my dearest friends. Christy picked me and Carter up for what I thought was just a couple of people for lunch. It was quite a shock when we arrived to see all my friends who I have missed so much.

Lynn and Karen organized it and of course Karen provided the most beautiful center pieces. Leigh came from Charlotte and Jan came from the mountains. I got fabulous garden themed gifts, but the best gift of all was just being with my loving friends and Carter. Kristin made me a garden themed hat which I wore through the whole lunch and am going to be bringing back for the next birthday girl. Thanks to Michelle, Hannah, Amanda, Anne, sara, Stephanie, Shelayne, Kathi, Elizabeth, Kristin, Leigh, Jan, Mary Lloyd, Christy Karen and Lynn.

So far I have to say the 60 is a really good number and I am so thankful for all my wonderful and sneaky friends who totally surprised me. I wondered why no one was talking to me for the last few weeks. Mary Lloyd said she would run by my house and pray not to see me so that she would not blurt out any of the surprises.

On top of all the dear people I have seen in person I have been overwhelmed with love from old friends near and far sending Facebook message, phone calls, emails and mailing cards. Thank you for ending the drought of the pandemic for me. Thank god for the vaccination and all my friends who have gotten it so we could be together. It has been the most wonderful birthday and I still have family dinner with Russ and Carter. I am overwhelmed with love.

Good Thing the House is Clean

When Russ asked me a question about table cloths I should have caught on, but I didn’t. Why would Russ care about where and how many matching table clothes I have. He finally confessed to me that he was having a surprise birthday party for me and needed help setting up the table, but who was coming was a surprise.

Thank goodness I have had a big spring cleaning bug for the last two months since no one has been inside my house for a year. The idea of friends coming over is the best surprise I could ever have.

This morning I got up early to garden so I put off showering yet another few hours. After trimming branches and watering vegetables I came inside to find princess Shay sitting atop the pillows. The doorbell rang and as it was still early on a Sunday I wondered who it could be.

The best surprise ever, CARTER! I had texted with her already this morning asking how she was and that sneaky thing said she was great because she slept late, when she actually was up at 5:30 to go to the airport. I was a mess both literally and figuratively, but so happy for this wonderful surprise.

So the fact that friends are coming for dinner is not a surprise, but who they are still is. Russ has been busy getting ready all day. He thought that washing the cars was something he should do before the party, since the house was already spotless.

I’m glad I cleaned Carter’s bathroom last week. Seems like it is a good lesson to always have a clean house in case someone wants to throw you a surprise party and you don’t want to be embarrassed.

Almost Anniversary

Twenty-nine years ago tonight Russ and I were at our rehearsal dinner. It was at Sequoia in Georgetown with more than a hundred of our friends and family in attendance. My irreverent family told lots of bad, yet not untrue stories, about me. Russ’ Aunt Joe who was in her late seventies at the time sat with her mouth open. How could he be marrying such a wild woman?

Well, Great Aunt Jo was there with her long time, yet publicly undefined partner Aunt Ruth so she could not have thought I was too scandalous. Thankfully she accepted me fully, even after those stories.

Unflappable Russ held up perfectly at the rehearsal dinner. Going with the flow has always been his way. He did not blink when his mother asked him how the money she had given to pay for the dinner had stretched to this big party. He just told her I was excellent at party planning as a caterer. I am glad we never had to go deeper in that conversation.

I am thankful everyday that Russ and I figured out that we were a good fit for each other. I am doubly thankful that he did not let my crazy family scare him off.

The last year of Covid has been actually very fun to get to be home with Russ everyday. Twenty-nine years sounds like a lot, but it feels like a blink of an eye. Happy almost Anniversary Russ Lange. You are the best and I love you.

Lessons Learned Today

So I don’t violate any HIPPA laws I can’t exactly tell you what my day was like, but I can share some major lessons learned.

First, if you are in any medical facility and a medical professional asks you if you have EVER thought about suicide ask a clarifying question before answering. Maybe something like, “Do you mean in the last month, year or really ever?” If you have thought about it in the last month, please tell that professional and get some help.

If it was in the last year, was it just a fleeting moment that was in relation to the fact that you could not find a parking space at Christmas at the mall and after circling over and over again you thought, “I’m going to kill myself.” In that case you don’t need to share that thought with the medical professional.

Then there is the EVER, situation. If the last time you thought about killing yourself was when you were fourteen and you discovered that your boyfriend just kissed another girl and you wanted to die, and now you are on Medicare,well I hope your memory is such that you actually don’t remember that and you forget to tell your medical professional.

The big lesson learned today is you should never say anything flippant about suicide, to anyone ever.

The second thing I learned is if you call your lawyer from the hospital and they come over and represent you in the treatment room everyone does their best work. Also during Covid the one family member rule does not apply to lawyers so there is a little loophole if you want two people to be with you, have one be your lawyer.

The third thing I learned is if you name your business “Modern” that is a commitment you have to make to actually keep it modern. Unless you have a qualifying statement like, “Modern in 1956.”

For the record, everything is fine. No one is in the hospital and everyone is alive. But the Modern thing just isn’t.

Gardening is Good For The Soul

Today I spent a few hours gardening. Nothing hard and not all at once, but it made me so happy. Spring is the most glorious time of the year because of all the miracles that happen.

I scattered a few seeds in the earth five weeks ago and now I have the most beautiful arugula and mesclun greens. I hardly did a thing other than make sure they had consistent water and now I can go out with a pair of scissors and cut the most delicious salad. Three dollars worth of seeds will bring in hundreds of salads.

My twenty-three year old peony’s are plants that gets better and better. Like the Lady Banks rose there was something good in the combination of the right cold, the right warm and good rain that made them better than ever this year. The blooms are just starting to appear, just in time for my birthday. The plants are heavily laden with buds like I have never seen before. Please get yourself a peony and plant it this year. You will enjoy the most beautiful flowers for years to come.

The miracle of growing things make me endlessly happy. It helps to get to spend time outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and soft breezes. Don’t let spring get by without planting something, a tomato, some basil or a geranium. Just plant something. I promise it will bring you joy.

The Year of The Lady Banks

Sometime at least 15 years ago I planted Lady Banks Roses around my front porch and my garage door. Since that planting I have done virtually nothing to help them grow or feed them, quite the contrary. We have to constantly trim these roses or they will take over our house.

The nursery – turned into Russ’ home office- is the window above the garage and sometimes the vines are covering his window all the way to the roof. Normally I keep the roses cut so that cars can easily get in and out of the garage, but the Morris Minor is in the left side and hasn’t needed to leave the garage so I just let the roses take over, at least during flowering season.

As the garage is on the north side of the house it really isn’t the best exposure for the lady banks. Usually we have sparse flowering, but something happened this year. I don’t know if we have the right combination of hot and cold or if our very wet year did this, but the lady banks has never been more spectacular. I just wanted to document what a perfect year looks like so I can compare in years to come.

My inattention to this plant could not be greater so I don’t want to screw it up a new do something for it. I just want to give a shout out to Mother Nature. You did a superior job this year and for that I am appreciative.

Ode to Sophie

In our family there is one member who can be counted on to do more than her fair share, it is Sophie. Sophie is my sister Janet’s partner and the best thing to happen to our family in a long time. Yes, Russ held that spot for a while, but then came Sophie.

Sophie is the ultimate trooper. She came to the farm two weekends and packed up my parents stuff, when other closer relatives did not. Then she came to the apartment this weekend and packed up my parent’s stuff, when others did not. She worked like a dog and never complained.

Today probably took the cake. She and Janet met the two moving trucks which were taking all the furniture from my parent’s seventh floor apartment to either North Carolina or to a storage unit in Maryland. With one small elevator, which got stuck with movers in it for forty five minutes, they moved everything. Because of the elevator situation many things got carried down the stairs, eight flights because they had to go to the basement to get to the loading dock. It took over 12 hours and Sophie was there.

Sophie stayed and worked. It was not her parent’s stuff. She could have opted out on any of these unpaid jobs. She does have her own work to do, but no, she stayed and worked. She is the best. Janet did more than her fair share of all the work. Out of blood relatives Janet has done the most work, but out of all people Sophie has done the same amount of work as Janet.

What would we have done without Sophie? To top It all off she is so much fun to be around and makes the work seem not so bad. All hail to Sophie. I only wish every family had a Sophie, but I can guarantee there is only one and I pray to god everyday she stays in our family. We love you Soph.

China Love is Not a Sin

Loving china was not the sin, but according to my mother-in-law, acting on it was. She told Russ that I had too many china patterns and that could be a reason he could back out of marrying me. Thankfully he did not listen to his mother.

What she did not understand was although there were four different patterns on our wedding registry we were not asking for full sets of each, rather dinner plates from one pattern, salad from another and so forth. I was creating my own complimentary set of patterns. It was a bridge too far for my mother-in-law. Who ever heard of such a thing.

I could not explain to her that my china addiction was only half as bad as my mother’s because then she would use that as yet another reason why Russ should not mix genes with people with such terrible addictions.

Apparently It is no excuse if you are only half as bad as your parent. I had a similar conversation with an early teacher of Carter’s who complained to me about Carter being loud in class. I tried to make the teacher feel grateful by telling her that Carter was only half as loud as me and I am only half as loud as my father. I wanted the teacher to understand the generational progress we were making as a family, but she was unwilling to wait for Carter’s grandchildren to get a quiet student.

As my mother is generously giving her children and grandchild some of her treasures that will not fit in her new house I chose one of her china patterns I have loved since she bought it when I was nine years old. It is an old set of Minton that she bought at an antique store. It is not complete, meaning there are not equal numbers of all items, but it has more different kinds of pieces than I have in any of my other patterns.

Now I have egg cups, and luncheon as well as dinner plates. There are consommé bowls and cream soup bowls and more platters than I could ever use at one party. I spent the better part of today unpacking and washing just half the set. I am going to reorganize my china cabinet to fit this new, much beloved pattern in with my others.

My poor mother-in-law passed away from cancer before our first anniversary. I can only imagine her looking down and shaking her head. What she does not appreciate, which her son does, is my cooking deserves to be eaten off of good china. I make no apologies for my weakness of loving beautiful china. I take great pleasure in feeding other people and the china is part of it.

Good Bye Washington

My parents moved to Washington DC in 1983. For my mother it was perfect, but not right away. She loved living in a semi-southern city, but learning to get around was a struggle at first. When my parents first got there they lived in a corporate apartment while they renovated yet another house. Their apartment was in Crystal city, which my father deemed the Houston of Washington thanks to the lack of zoning. Their apartment looked out on the Potomac which gave them the best view and sound of planes landing at National Airport (way before it was renamed Reagan National.)

The house they were moving to was in Massachusetts heights. In the winter when the leaves were down you could see the navel observatory and the VP residence across a little valley in the back of their house. Despite my parents apartment being right at the fourteenth st. Bridge and just down the road from Memorial bridge, my mother could only find her way into DC by taking the Key Bridge. While renovating the house if she needed to go to the design center, which was on 14th street, my mother would drive all the way up to Key Bridge, cross into Georgetown and then go all the way down to 14th st. It took a while, but eventually, maybe a few years, my mother learned how to navigate the city.

My parents lived many lives in DC. From their first stint they left for a short while for my Dad to live in San Francisco and then Kansas City, where my Mom joined him. Then it was back to DC where they lived in Georgetown. Then they moved to Pawleys Island and London and then Back to DC with this last place they had by the cathedral. Somehow my mother kept coming back to Washington.

But this last time was the hardest because they also lived at the farm and they were getting too old to live in two places at the same when neither place is a vacation area. For my Mom she was not in DC enough to be part of regular clubs or activities she had enjoyed when she lived their full time. She had no garden or outdoor space of her own so the beauty of the farm kept her there more often. Then the driving got harder and harder. Not the same way with not being able to figure out which bridge was best, but the aggressive city driving does not suit older drivers with failing eye sight.

This morning, after two hard days of packing, my mother and I packed the last of our sheets and towels and the mugs we drank from this morning and closed the door on the last place in DC my parents will live. Not having the burden of caring for a second home was freeing for my mother. She was generous with giving my sisters, Carter and me the things we wanted from that home. Simplicity is a welcome state at this point. DC was wonderful to my parents, but it is so much easier to age in North Carolina. Goodbye Washington.

The Big Pack

I have decided the hardest thing on my hands is newspaper. Today I wrapped and packed well over 300 dishes, and that was after wrapping and packing hundreds yesterday. I have always disliked newspaper ink, but the paper itself seemed to take a toll on my hands. One thing that didn’t help was that I had to wash my hands after packing about every third box because I just couldn’t stand the dirty feeling.

Mom and I are sleeping here one last night and we will pack the bedding and the last of the dishes we needed for tonight tomorrow and then we will be back in the car to home again.

The feeling of dirt was worth it. Today was a power thru day to get this whole apartment packed. My sister and her partner Sophie came and with Mom we worked like dogs. Janet had her second Covid shot yesterday and she held up really well until the late afternoon when the shot finally hit her. Mom had thought me might have to stay until Monday to get everything packed, but the rest of us said, “Hell no, we can do it all today.” We did it.

If you are a hoarder or someone planning for some apocalypse so you stock up, let me give you some advice. Tonic Water does not keep. Finding these four bottles of tonic, two diet and two regular was a study in what not to keep. The regular tonic had turned brown in the liquid and the bottle. Amazingly the diet did not turn. But all the bottle went from being round to being triangular. They did have a date on them, it was just 2013.

So use the stuff you have. Don’t buy new stuff until you have run out of the old. Stuff is just a lot of trouble.

Driving and Packing

After a long time on the market my mother has sold her DC apartment at the exact inopportune time as my parents are also moving out of the farm. So with less than a weeks notice I had to drive my Mom to DC today so we could start packing her apartment. This means double downsizing all at the same time.

Thankfully my sister Janet and Sophie are coming over tomorrow so we can sort out the furniture. Some stays here with Janet and our other sister Margaret, but some goes back to North Carolina to go into my parents new house. It would be great if the new house were done and passed CO by the time time the truck arrives, but that is a dream too far.

So today after the long drive from my house to the farm and the farm to DC I started packing stuff. Despite Margaret having moved a lot of stuff out already I see many boxes of China in our future. The main job for my mom is to look at everything and judge what she wants for her new house. It’s like Sophie’s Choice around here. How can my mother possibly decide between one blue and white plate and another, or another, or another dozen? Considering no one ever ate a holiday meal here I am amazed at the number of large, I mean giant, platters there are.

My best scenario hope was that we could get it all packed tomorrow. I am not sure my mother is that motivated. If it were any easy move, just pack it all up and move it one place and unpack it all there I am certain we could get it done, but like all things in my family, nothing is easy.

Here is the real big news for the rest of you. After my parents get all moved my sister Janet and I are going to be having a huge estate sale at the farm. There will be sofas, and chairs, paintings and China. Did I mention China?

No One Wants to Feel Like a Thirteen Year Old Again

Despite my impeding milestone birthday, sometimes I still feel like an adolescent. Today was a perfect example. I received an email from a much older person. It was in all caps and it was ordering me to do something. This was not spam, or junk mail, but from a human I know.

The issue I was being told to take care of was because this person had made a mistake, yet never said that. Nothing gets my dander up more than being ordered to do something. I go into full on thirteen year old mode.

In the end I am doing what was asked of me, but I would have been a lot happier if the person had admitted their mistake and ASKED for my help, rather than demanding it. The last thing is I don’t care how old you are it is time to learn NOT to communicate with anyone in all caps.

Learn this lesson if you don’t know it. All caps means you are screaming. People don’t like being screamed at. Reading things in all caps is harder too. I really don’t want to feel like an adolescent so don’t make me go there.

I’m a Terrible Plumber

In my continuing quest to clean everything in my house in anticipation of the time when I am not stuck here I made a rookie mistake. While cleaning out the refrigerator I put too many sticky and bulky items in my disposal. I was not alerted to this mistake until I went downstairs to my office and smelled the vinegar smell coming from the bathroom. The bathroom sink is the lowest point in my kitchen sink line and if I back up the kitchen sink it comes out in the bathroom. It was a lovely combination of smelly items pouring out over the sink onto the bathroom floor.

After mopping everything up and bailing out the sink into a bucket to dump outside I started my liquid plumber routine. I poured drain cleaner in the sink waited and then tried to flush the sink. No good. I bailed the sink out again and repeated the draino. Three times and nothing.

I then got the snake out and tried to get the stopper out of the sink. As I was unable I called Russ. He couldn’t do it either. I turned to you tube where Russ and I learned which nut had to be removed to get the stopper out. Doing that also meant there was a hole in the pipe where water would runout if there was any liquid in the sink. There was, I mopped again.

We tried the snake. No good. I think our snake is not long enough to get to where the sticky gunky is. That is when I gave up and called my friends at Drain Express. They won’t be here until tomorrow so no kitchen water, that also means dishwasher until then.

I am very disappointed in my plumbing skills and probably my plumbing equipment, but I am most disappointed in my disposal usage. I know better than to put too many yucky things too close together in the disposal. This was a rookie mistake. Now I just have to keep Russ from running the water in the kitchen.

Good Soil Vs. So-So

I am doing a little test. Planting zinnias in my regular front yard garden by the street as I have for the last few years as well as in a raised bed outside my new garden. The test is to see how the zinnias do in plain old yard dirt, versus, raised bed special soil.

Raised bed

I did no amending of any soil before planting. I planted on the same day and have watered the same amount. Today I did add mulch between the rows of the raised bed, because I could clearly see where the seedlings had come up. The street bed seedlings are behind a little from the raised bed so I have not mulched that bed yet.

In ground regular old yard dirt

The sun exposure is not quite equal as the street bed gets more direct sun, but I can’t do a totally controlled test without building a raised bed right next to the in ground bed. I am not a scientist, just an experimental gardener.

So far the raised bed seeds have come up more than the street bed. I am not sure if I covered the street bed seeds more deeply than the raised bed so it is not a race I am going to call yet. Based on today’s growth It looks like I may have enough seedlings up in the street bed by Thursday to mulch. That will be that last thing I need to do to make this a fair test.

The seeds in the raised bed appear to have a higher yield, but I was not so precise in my planting as I tend to dribble seeds out from my hand as I walk down the row. Zinnia seeds are such thin, waif like things, they hardly feel like a seed at all.

My next milestone I am looking for is plants that flower. Then it will be how long they last. It will be fun to see if the quality of the soil makes any difference in a common flower such as the zinnia.

My Music Disappeared

Sunday when I went out to work in the garden I decided that I didn’t want to listen to a podcast, but rather wanted to go old school and just listen to music. I had my ear pods in and I tried to open a playlist on my phone and there was no music in it. I went to artists and that was empty as were albums. The steam of anger practically pushed my EarPods out of my head. Where had my music gone?

I went inside to my IT department. Russ took my phone away and half an hour later came back. He could no figure out where my music had gone and his solution was just to buy my Apple Music. That just made me madder. I did not want all music, I just wanted my, well curated, music that I already owned and new all the words to.

Managing music has gotten so much more complicated. I liked the days where I would buy an album at Caldor’s on route seven in Wilton. I would bring it home and listen to it over and over until I had memorized every song. Eventually I would record my favorite songs from that album onto a cassette tape along with favorites from other albums. I would take that mixed tape to the car where I would listen to it on tape player in the car or put it in my Walkman and listen to it.

I still own hundreds of albums, as well as cds. I still have equipment to play it all on. I just don’t have it on my phone. I did at one point have a bunch of my favorites on my phone, but lord knows how they disappeared. What new update did them in is a mystery to me. I am not sure how to go about fixing this, but it would have been a perfect Covid project if only I realized it sooner.

Nature is Cruel

Russ and I have enjoyed watching the little sparrow who built her nest on top of our front porch light fixture again this year. It is the perfect spot for a small bird to nest. The lantern has a small round top so she can snug in a little nest behind it. Since it is under the cover of the porch roof no predictors can see the nest while flying above and it is protected from the weather.

The only issue with the nest being there is the mother bird flys off when we open the front door. So out of a abundance of hospitality, while the mother was sitting on her three little light blue eggs, we made Shay go out another door to go potty. It took a few days to train Shay to come back to the new door we sent her out, but even she eventually learned.

About two weeks ago the eggs hatched and we had three tiny fluff balls in the nest. Russ would stand on his tippy toes and take a photo every few days so we could see how they were doing. Yesterday we noticed the largest of the babies standing on the side of the nest. We are not sure if had flown yet, but he was certainly getting much bigger.

Tonight, while I was sitting at the kitchen counter I noticed a huge bird flying about three feet off the ground on our front porch. It flew off and then I noticed it came back I rushed to the front door because it looked as if the hawk was going after the nest.

As it flew away I saw two tiny sparrow flying after it. They were not able to catch the much larger bird, but I hope they scared him off. I know nothing about birds, but it certainly did not look like that hawk was bringing by a baby gift.

I like having hawks around to take care of moles, but they are useless on voles who remain largely underground and are my yards worst culprit. Despite liking the hawk hunting rodents I am not as enamored with it going after other birds. We have invested so much time watching this little family I would like to see it live long enough to move out at least so I can clean the lantern and get it ready for next spring.

Oh The Smell

There is no better pungent smell than that of new mulch in your garden, and twice as nice if you spread it yourself. Don’t get me wrong, the smell of new triple shredded hard wood anywhere else is not a lovely smell, but around your own shrubs it is heaven.

Seven yards of mulch is about 12’ x 16’ x 4’

Yesterday I had seven yards delivered. I probably should have gotten nine. It never fails that even after careful consideration and estimation and adding an extra yard for good measure I always find new places to mulch AFTER I have had it delivered.

My soil and mulch delivery takes longer these days because the driver wants to talk about and view my vegetable garden, which I of course could talk about for hours. Then he wants to buy my 22 year old land cruiser, which I explain I need so I can haul around plants. After all that I got to work shoveling and spreading.

Laying mulch is the best exercise you can get. It uses all major muscle groups, why would I ever pay anyone to do this exercise I so badly need myself? Yesterday I worked about ninety minutes, took a long break and Russ came out to help me for another hour. That is when I told him we needed to stop and spread out the work over a couple of days. I don’t mind doing the work, but did not see a reason to become crippled.

Today, after going to the farmer’s market we started back up mulching. Working for two more hours together. We are mostly done with the main areas I wanted mulched, but needed to save some for my main zinnia bed, which can’t be mulched until the seed had sprouted and grown at least two inches.

What the pile looks like after seven hours

Mulch is the finishing touch my yard needs before the heat of summer comes and turns the soil to concrete. Mulch is the best thing you can do for your gardens because it not only holds the water in, but it replenishes the soil for the future.

If you pay someone to get you to exercise, do yourself a favor and do your own mulch. Seven yards delivered costs just over $200, if I paid someone to do this mulching for me they charge me $1,500. It’s not that much work. We spent less than seven man hours spreading it. The landscapers are getting $185 an hour in labor to do that. They don’t quote it that way because you would say that is crazy. Just do it yourself, it will make you like the way it smells so much better.

Any Sharp on Sale

Whoop Whoop, tomorrow morning one of my sister’s product lines, the Any Sharp knife sharpener is going to be on Deals and Steals on Good Morning America. Usually that segment is in the second hour of the show. But you don’t even need to see it on TV to buy it for half price tomorrow. If you click on this link tomorrow it will bring you right to the deals and steals website where you can learn all about the Any Sharp (or as I like to call it, Always Sharp) and order it directly from my sister.https://gma-anysharp.com/

Deals and steals is really a life saver to these small businesses during the pandemic. It is the best way to move a lot of product fast and how else are you going to get stuff for half price? It’s a total win-win.

So stock up for Christmas with a great gift for anyone you know, even people you don’t know well. Everyone needs to sharpen their stuff, not just knives, but garden tools and sheers.

I appreciate your support of my sister’s business, spread the word, one day only, just 24 hours, get it before it all sells out. Sharpen your stuff,

Garden Report

I am about ready to do my first harvest from my garden. I planted a scattering of arugula seeds and Mesclun greens on March 10. I photographed the bare earth just to document the date. Seven days later tiny spouts emerged.

By March 20 there were more sprouts, but still tiny duo leaf babies. April 6 the plants were about an inch tall and recognizable as to species.

Today the arugula is over six inches tall and the mesclun is four inches. Both ready to harvest. Thirty five days from seed to food. They had no fertilizer, just good raised bed soil, water and sun. So easy a kindergartener could do it.

On April 4th I put in the kale and it has done splendidly. I did fertilize the small three inch plants and mulched with my homemade compost. Today they are about eight inches tall. The spinach I put in at the same time with the same treatment has hardly grown at all.

The many different pepper plants are flourishing as are the cucumbers planted with them. They have more than doubled in size. But the squashes and eggplants are doing best of all, but they have to grown the biggest so the rate seems right on track.

The green beans, direct sown are yet to appear, but are not expected to yet. My tomatoes arrive next week and I am still in the market for okra. I am looking forward to the days my harvest is more than we need and we will have food to share. So far I have been very happy with the layout of my garden.

No Mary Poppins Here

I was about four years old the first time I went to see a movie in a theatre. It was easy for me to remember because it was Mary Poppins. Imagine how disappointed I was every time I went to the movies after that. Nothing could be more magical than Julie Andrews singing and dancing with Dick van Dyke and I have loved flying kites ever since.

Despite all the excitement of riding carousel horses off the merry-go-round or having tea floating up in the air they paled in comparison to the scene where Mary sings “a spoon full of sugar” and all the toys put themselves away. Oh, how I wished Mary Poppins lived at my house and everything was as neat and tidy.

Somehow, despite loving having everything have a place and be in it, as a child I was not very good at putting things away. One reason could have been too much stuff and not enough room for it. Although we had a “play room” no toys were kept in it. My sisters and I had to keep our things in our own rooms, which were very small. I did have a big closet which acted as the repository for all my clothes as I had no dresser, and where all my toys, and crafts supplies also had to go.

It wasn’t until I went away to boarding school that I actually got organized and stayed organized. I am sure there was something about having even less space and having to share it.

It had two sliding doors and shelves on one side and there was another tiny closet inside the closet. Most of the time it was a huge mess, with clothes and shoes piled on the floor of the outer closet, making it impossible to get to the inner closet. I still have nightmares about it. About twice a year I would take everything out of the closet and reorganize the whole thing. It would take me a whole weekend and I would vow that I would keep it Mary Poppins neat after that. Never happened.

The task of putting away fibers after I finish a needlepoint is the worst part of needlepointing

Although I don’t love having to put things away, like laundry or needlepoint fibers after I have finished a project, I do it. I know that the happiness of having things organized is worth the pain of putting things away, at least most things. Somehow there is always an organization project that hangs around, like right now all the photos I brought back from my parents. I think that in my head I think that if I actually were to get every single organization project done and there was not an attic or closet that could be cleaned out I might just die. So for my longevity, I will never be Mary Poppins and never be practically perfect in every way.

Another Reason Education Matters

I was listening to NPR yesterday about the Covid Vaccines and they said the divide between those getting vaccinated and those who are not is not an urban/rural divide, not a black/white divide, not even so much a Republican/democratic divide. They said it is more along the lines of level of education. Those with college degrees and up are much more likely to be vaccinated and than those with less school.

This is no surprise to me. For years I have said that the down fall of our public education is the downfall of the country. Those with less education are much more susceptible to conspiracy theories.

Sadly there is a huge class of people who are proud of being uneducated. They renounce educated experts, and for what, snake oil salesmen.

I fear that there is not much that can be done to convince these vaccine hesitant to change their minds short of sending them to college. Of course the pause in the J&J vaccine will just add to their reasoning not to get any vaccine. It is right for the government to be fully transparent and pause J&J. The fact that one person out of seven million who have gotten the shot died is sad, but is still much better odds than the thousand or so that die everyday from getting Covid.

As far as I know, most of my friends are vaccinated or are almost vaccinated. Perhaps it is because all my friends went to college. I wish I had a sincere answer to sway the vaccine hesitant that is less deadly than getting Covid. If people thought getting the vaccine proved you were smart it might be good, but if people don’t care about being smart it just doesn’t matter.

Two Stamps?

Today we received a small, light letter in the mail with two forever stamps on it. It was mailed from DC and sent by a very brilliant young person we know. I laughed about the two stamps. I am not sure if we are educating young people fully about how they work. Forever stamps were invented in 2007 so that you didn’t need to know how much it cost to Mail a letter, those forever stamps will always be worth one regular, less than one ounce, anywhere in America letter.

The post office thought it would get them a lot of revenue fast as they thought people would stock up on stamps before the price went up and then hoped they would lose them.

So this letter that was sent only needed one of these forever stamps. So why two? Did the sender think it would get here faster with two? This person is much too smart to think that. Perhaps this person is very concerned about the state of the post office and is trying to save them by double stamping. Russ thought they wanted to give both “Freedom” and “Equality” equal billing and send us some kind of secret message by using those two stamps.

Whatever the reason it was just nice to get some “real” mail that was good news. I hope that the post office does not go away. It has served us for more years than we have been a country and in some small way I can’t imagine not having mail.

So maybe those of us who love the post office should put two stamps on every envelope we send to a real person as a way of conveying our love for the Post office. I don’t know this senders intention, but next time we cross paths in person I am going to ask.

That Perfect Spring Day

There are a few spring days that make you happy to have gardening to do. Today was the pick day of the year so far. The pollen had been washed away by the heavy rains in previous days. There was no humidity with crystal blue skies and the temperature in the seventies.

Even Russ and Shay wanted in on the gardening action. With Shay frolicking in the newly cut grass I potted a bunch of flowers for the terrace and front door. Russ cut over grown vines. I put in the seeds for the zinnia garden up near the street as well as in one of the raised garden beds on the outside of the fence. Deer don’t like zinnias so they are all safe there. I mulched the newly planted vegetables with the compost I have been tending for the last nine months.

My very old lady Banks Rose over the front porch is at last exactly the shape I envisioned when I planted it 20 years ago. I fight with my gardeners who come and cut the hell out of it every year without consulting me. I have documented it this year and am going to have a big talk with them so they know it is perfect.

Our family of baby sparrows hatched last week and the babies are getting real feathers now. They are filling that tiny nest fully so I expect they will take off soon and leave us.

I hope we have a whole week like today. These kind of days make me love the pandemic and having to stay home.

Packing the Farm

I had no idea today is National siblings day until after I spent a long happy day with my sister Janet. She and her partner Sophie have been diligently working on helping my parents pack up the farm to move down the road to a new house they are building. It is a relief that they were able to sell their farm with the guest house, art barn, office barn and three giant tractor and storage barns along with all the acreage to take care of. At their age the upkeep was just too much. Hell, at any age it was too much. So the downsizing had to start.

Janet owns a company they ships lots of stuff so she ordered hundreds of boxes, many giant industrial sized rolls of bubble wrap and all the taping guns anyone could need. I joined them at the farm today to do a big day of packing. We made great progress wrapping Imari chargers and glass animals my mother had collected. Just as we thought we were done we opened cabinets I had never seen inside before and discovered sets of Christmas China to feed forty people and lifetimes worth of old family photos, newspaper clipping of long gone relatives and funny letters my sister’s and I wrote to my mother.

The photo cabinets caused a great slow down in productivity as I read aloud teacher’s comments on Janet’s report cards. She always was the superior child in the family. I loved the hand written note as a PS on one eighth grade teacher’s glowing comment, “I don’t usually emote like this.”

A library book from the Wilton library I came across that had a due date of April 1974. Wonder what the fines are up to now?

My mother was in good spirits about letting somethings go, which is the hardest part. This is just the beginning of the paring down. If anyone is interested in any of her art work the art barn still has hundreds of painting for sale. I am hoping she can sell more before we have to move them all. Call me if you are interested in seeing anything and I can get you a 30% discount.

The next thirty days are going to be a lot of packing, moving and unpacking. I am thankful for my sisters and Sophie who are making this a better experience doing it together.

Happy siblings day to Margaret and Janet I think this was the only time we were all dressed alike in our Christmas nightgowns

Q Day

When I left my friend Jan’s house a couple weeks ago she had just a few hours to get everything ready for the arrival of two of her grand children for a two week “camp Happy” as they were out of year round school on break.

What a wonderful grandmother to take an eight and six year old for two weeks of quarantine vacation. One of the things she did was put one of each letter from the scrabble games in a bowl and everyday the kids would chose a letter from the bowl and that would be the letter of the day. A brave and creative way to fill each day.

I watched on Facebook at the letter of the day would be revealed along with all the letter qualifying activities. I responded to one of the early posts, “If you get a Q let me know and I will do quilting over zoom with the kids.”

This morning I got an early message. “Gray pulled a Q this morning.” So we set up a zoom meeting and at 2:30 today I logged in with Elliot, Gray and Jan.

Since the kids are too young to sew and I doubt there is any quilting material up at Jan’s house I had them use colored paper. They cut out squares and triangles and glued them together as I showed them how you can make many different patterns with half square triangles.

It was a good half hour of cutting and gluing and understanding patterns that was absolutely no break for Jan as she had to help them do all the steps, but it was a quintessentially Q thing to do. There way no way that Q could compare with C, when they got coco, chocolate chip cookies and Candy, and hopefully Jan got a cocktail. Q needed a guest diversion to help pass quality time, especially since Elliot did not like my quinoa suggestion.

Jan is a superior grandmother, for two weeks of entertaining an eight and six year old on a mountain could turn you into a quack, but not Jan! Happy Q day. It was a fun zoom.

I Do Like A Sticker

It happened at noon today. Russ and I got our second shots at Russell’s Pharmacy in East Durham. After we were jabbed we were offered the stickers that proudly states, “I got my Covid -19 Vaccine.” Of course I accepted it and put it on. Just like voting, I always want the declaratory sticker.

I don’t remember when getting a sticker started at voting. Probably because I can’t remember voting when I lived in DC. The thing I love about the stickers is that when I see other’s sporting them it reminds me to go do what they are advertising.

I wish my Covid sticker came in an enamel pin form that I could wear everyday. I am not certain if I know anyone who is not planning on getting vaccine, but I hope that everyone reading this is planning on it.

I know there are people weary of vaccinations, but let’s consider the alternative. Without getting one you could get Covid. If you get it you could die, or pass it to someone you love who then dies. If you get it and live you could be one of the unlucky ones who gets long haulers, otherwise known as someone who suffered for months and months of feeling bad.

The Lancet reported this week that one third of people who have had Covid and lived are developing some incidence of neurological or psychiatric diagnosis that they had never had before. As of right now they don’t know why, just that it is happening. I am sure this is just the tip of iceberg of effects we may see from having had Covid. I can only imagine what will happen in communities like South Dakota where they had the attitude, let’s just get Covid and be done with it. Imagine a whole state where one third of the citizens start having neurological issues at the same time.

It seems to me that the risks of getting it are much worse than the risk of the vaccine. That is before you consider what happens if we continue to offer Covid a host home to mutate and become even more deadly. We all need to be vaccinated to stop being a home for Covid.

So go get your shot if for nothing else to get the really cooler sticker. In two weeks, when my immunization will be fully in effect I plan on actually having lunch with someone else who is vaccinated. Of course I will still wear my mask out in public, but now at least I will feel safe to take it off to eat.

The Green Monster, NC Style

This morning I went on a search for some vegetable plants for my garden. As I drove past the golf course all I could see was a green cloud of pine pollen the size of a large Tudor house rolling towards me. Oh how I hate these pollen filled days. Everything outside is covered with a green sheet of irritation.

I did purchase a few squash plants and a symphony of peppers from sweet green all the way up to hottest red. I came home and wanted to get these things in the beds so they could take full advantage of the 85°day.

With each whack of my Japanese hoe I released a small cloud of pollen. By the time I finished putting in the dozen plants I bought I was covered in green myself. I shook my head and could see the pollen coming off of me.

It may rain tomorrow night or perhaps not until Friday. Until then there is nothing to be done about cleaning up. The glass topped table on the patio looks like it is draped in a verdant table cloth. Russ suggested eating lunch outside and I had to veto that idea since we were out of hazmat suits to wear to lunch.

I guess I will have to concentrate my cleaning on inside even though I am desperate to work on the pots on the terrace and plant some flowers. If we are going to have another spring and summer at home all the time I at least want it to be resort like. That is a resort without a pool, or tennis court, or pool attendant. I guess resort is the wrong word, maybe just better than average.

Winter to Summer in Three Days

I think is was just Saturday that It was below freezing and I was covering my arugula and Mesculn Greens to protects them from frost and right now it is 82°. So much for spring.

As the prediction is for nice warm weather for the next ten days I decided to put a few crops in the garden to try and take advantage of this warm start. I am not planting my hot weather veggies, but trying to eek out a few spring things before the summer takes over.

Besides my two different patches of arugula and mesculn, which I started four and one week ago I put in some spinach, kale, cilantro, parsley, chives and thyme. I did jump the gun and plant one red pepper plant, but she is just the first of many peppers I hope to grow.

I am awaiting the arrival of the Burbee tomato plants I ordered months ago. They said they ship at exactly the right time for planting in my zip code. I figure that when they get here I will also plant more peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash and start my beans from seeds.

After that I will have to take stock of my space. I feel like I could plant some cantaloupe outside my fenced garden as the critters don’t usually like to taste that. I also have to start my zinnia seeds. Russ turned over my zinnia plot on Sunday and a young man running by told him that he hopped we were putting the zinnias back in as he really liked seeing them on his runs. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that a young person appreciates a garden.

Now if the pine pollen will just get washed away so I can enjoy more time out in the garden I will be happy. Hope you have spring where you are.

What’s Broken Now?

There are certain things I just take for granted in life. Like being able to get into my house when I come home. Apparently this is not a given. Yesterday when Russ and I arrived home, still at the crack of dawn, from our outdoor Easter service the garage door would only open three inches and then went back down again. Up three and down three over and over.

Nothing is easy, but thankfully the last time the garage door was repaired they left a sticker on the door. So we called the repair man and he came today. Two new springs, and ball bearings and some other parts and voila, I have a garage door that opens for at least the next five years.

I had a moment of panic since we use the garage door as our primary way to enter the house. Thankfully I did have a key I rarely use, or think about and was able to get into the house. I went to the wall button inside to open the garage door to discover the issue was not electrical, but mechanical. The spring on the door had broken.

Russ recalled this might be our third spring replacement at this house. For the life of me I don’t remember ever having a garage door issue in any previous house, but I have lived here like 27 years. I just think they don’t make things like they used to.

Appliances only last five years nowadays. When I was a kid everyone I knew had a refrigerator that was at least twenty years old and going strong. Our furnace in my house growing up was at least seventy years old and there was no thinking about replacing that.

Only cars have have gotten better. Back in the olden days of the 1970’s we had to trade cars in every three years and now the average age of the cars in our driveway is like fifteen years old and that is if you don’t average in the 1964 morris minor. (Really old cars last a long time because we don’t drive them.)

This garage door fix just goes to prove the point I made last week that you have to spend between 1-3% of your homes value in upkeep every year. Glad I have a deferred maintain fund because there really is no differing opening the garage.

Happy Easter

Our second Covid Easter is slightly different from the first. Last year we had Carter home. She was working remotely at her Co-op job and after two weeks of her being alone in her apartment in Boston I told her that I really wanted her home for a little while. Russ said to me in March 2020, “If you go and get her now she will be home for two months.” It was four months, and I was thrilled to have her.

Last Easter we did not have in person church. We had no idea it would be a whole year before we did again. Today was the first Sunday we could go to church outside, socially distant if we signed up, wore masks and did not sing. Oh, it was also at 8:30 in the morning.

It was cold, no I wore shoes I normally would never wear to church, and brought a quilt to wrap around me, but it was great. We had music from Monica playing the piano and Kim Ketch playing the trumpet. They played the regular Easter standards so I was singing to myself, under my mask, which is a big improvement musically for me. We took communion from tiny plastic cups with a wafer sealed over a sip of grape juice. The wafer reminded me of my childhood Episcopalian communions. It is what I would imagine communion would be like if airlines invented it, but it was still Easter church.

This Easter Carter was back in Boston, but was invited by our cousins to spend the day in Plymouth, Mass. They had a big time and Carter even got an adult Easter basket from Andrea Lange. They called us and we all agreed to spend some time together when we were all vaccinated. It made my heart feel happy that Carter was with them for the day.

I hope this is our last Covid holiday. Two lost Easter’s feels like enough. If you told me last year it would be a over a year that we would stay home alone I might not have been able to grasp that. If you told be me we would have a vaccine and be on track to vaccinate everyone by summer I also might not be able to grasp that either. But here we are. Getting close to the end as long as everyone does their part until we can crush this virus. The only way that will happen is if we don’t offer ourselves as a host. Please get the vaccine so we can have our holidays back. And Happy Easter, Passover or just Sunday depending on what you believe.

Back to the Farmer’s Market

It certainly was cold this morning. I was happy I had put the towels on my arugula and lettuce in my garden last night. It is not ready for harvest yet, so Russ and I made an early morning trip to the farmer’s market.

It has been many months since I at shopped outside. The market has many rules to help keep everyone safe. You can only enter at one corner and had to travel in one direction. Each vendor had everything packaged and they had to serve you. This made shopping slower, but there were so few people there we never had to wait in any line too long.

I wanted to spread out our purchases amongst as many vendors as I could. I was looking for some herbs and vegetables for my garden. It is still early in the planting season, but I did get some cilantro, chives, spinach and kale. In the past when I planted cilantro it was always eaten by some critter in its first day or two. I am praying that my garden fence will protect it.

I bought some beautiful beets which I roasted. They made a yummy salad with arugula and goat cheese with a squeeze of lemon and black pepper.

I also bought many mushrooms and a bag of farro to make a New York Times meal Russ wanted. I had not read the recipe closely before today and had no idea I promised to make him something that took five hours. First, three hours to make a Parmesan broth, then two hours to make the farrow and mushroom portion. Those five hours were worth it as it was a delicious complex flavored dish. The farmer’s market mushrooms and farro probably had a lot to do with it.

It was great to be back at the farmer’s market. I am looking forward to being my own farmer’s market soon.

Jeopardy Host Matters

A game should be a game, but apparently in our house the host of the game matters. Ever since the loss of Alex we have been sampling the guest hosts. Turns out that if we are not a fan of the host we just stop watching the show.

Ken Jennings was an obvious host. Turns out he is just a little too bland for my taste. Yes, he was a superior player, but being a great player does not make you the right person to host.My opinion is not universal as some news sites liked Ken a lot.

Mike Richards, the executive producer who had to fill in for two weeks due to Covid restrictions,was my favorite host so far. As he is not a celebrity in his own right he had no trouble making the contestants the stars. He was calm, and his speaking was well paced which is very important to me.

Katie Couric was just fine, but not exciting. She had no problem reading the questions well, but I found her host chat with contestants stilted.

Dr. Oz has been too aggressive for me. I find his voice overbearing and his surprised tone when he says, “correct” is condescending to me.

Next up is Aaron Rodgers and I don’t hold out much hope.

I know that auditioning hosts is a good way to put daylight between Alex and whomever is chosen so they can have a fighting chance, but having too many annoying hosts could turn me off forever.

I hope that they give Mike Richards more time. I think not having a well known host is good for the show. Alex wasn’t Alex when he started. We don’t need to be a star to be a host, look at Pat Sajak.

Jeopardy, I hope you will take a public pole after all these guest hosts are done.

What Ever Happened to April Fool’s Day?

Used to be that anything that happened on April first was suspect. No self respecting organization would do anything serious on this day in fear that people would not believe it. So today when the New York Times sent me an alert that Roy Williams, beloved UNC basketball coach was retiring my first thought was, what a bad April Fool’s joke. Turned out to be true.

Then Russ told me his niece had gotten engaged this morning. Who get’s engaged on April Fools and in the morning? Russ’ niece does. Best wishes to the happy couple.

I know that as a country we can’t joke about anything anymore, but even April Fool’s jokes have gone by the wayside. What a sad state of affairs.

On a happy note for this day it is the birthday of my dear friend Laura Scherck Wittcoff who is one incredible woman. I think your birthday can be over looked when it is on a holiday, but apparently April Fool’s Day exists no more so no joking, happy Birthday Laura.

Infrastructure Improvements Are Not Optional

In the summer of 1982 I had a summer job selling cable television door-to-door in Pittsburgh. Having never been to the city before arriving on my first day in my yellow VW Scirocco I had no idea how bad the roads and bridges were. Since my job sent me all over the city from one day to the next I depended on the kindness of my co-workers to give me to low down on what the neighborhoods were like.

Most of the time people would tell me if they were safe or if there were good places to get dinner, but one of my fellow sales people only used to tell me which bridges to avoid. At first I thought it was a traffic warning, but I came to understand that he was more concerned about a chunk of metal falling on my car from the overhead bridge suspension. Apparently most of the bridges in Pittsburgh back that were well past their useful life with few plans to replace them.

I did notice terrible potholes and dangerous curved exit ramps, but thankfully no loose bridge parts ever fell on me or my car. Sadly I did that car in myself one night going home from a company get together.

In 2007 when the Minneapolis bridge fell into the river I immediately thought of all those Pittsburgh bridges, thankful I had lived that summer. Infrastructure is something that has been an ongoing problem in our country ever since roads started.

No one ever likes to pay for up keep, but upkeep we must. I heard a story on the radio yesterday about home ownership that said that homeowners need to plan on spending between 1-3% of the value of their house on upkeep a year. I’m not talking about mowing the grass, but replacement of systems and infrastructures, like HVAC and reroofing. Sounds about right to me. This year I replaced one HVAC unit that was about 1% of the value of our house. One unit and I am already at the baseline.

So it only makes sense that the Government needs to do the same upkeep on all public works, like roads, bridges, government owned building and parks. The fact that we have not been keeping up with the upkeep must end. The good news is that infrastructure improvements are good American jobs. You can’t make a new road in West Virginia in China. And the infrastructure all over the whole country needs upgrading so that spreads out the work everywhere.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and invest in our own safety and comfort by having the infrastructure we need. I don’t want to have to depend on the advice of local as to which bridges to avoid if I don’t want to risk having it fall in the river as I am driving over it.

Not So Happy New Mah Jongg Year

In any normal year tomorrow would be Mah Jongg Christmas, but (sigh), not this year. The new Mah Jongg card arrived today. In past years I would receive a call from an excited player asking if we were having an emergency Mah Jongg get together. The answer was always, “YES.” We dropped all pre-scheduled plans, making excuses to doctors or lawyers that we had to reschedule, just so we could all gather, new cards in hand and try and rid ourselves of our new found Mah Jongg virginity.

We would declare that this was a better card than last years, or a worse card than two years ago and try to win our first game with the new card.

People’s allegiance to favorite old hands would be transferred to the next closest hand on the new card, but if someone disliked certain tiles before they almost certainly still disliked them (ahem… 4 Dot Jan).

But the pandemic has canceled Mah Jongg Christmas, just as it canceled regular Christmas. I am certain that there are groups of Mahj players who are all fully vaccinated who will be gathering tomorrow, but not my young group. At best we are half vaccinated with the youngest still awaiting her first shot. So we will not risk getting Covid now when we are so close to full vaccination.

Online Mah Jongg will have to suffice. It’s not the celebration of the new card that I have had for the last 26 years, but this is not the normal year for anything. Nonetheless I wish all you players out there a Happy New Year for The new Mah Jongg card. Next year’s Mah Jongg Christmas is going to be a blow out.

Come On FedEx, Learn to Read

For the fourth time in a few weeks I received a very large package that did not belong to me. There is nothing more exciting than looking out my front glass door to see an unexpected package. Only then to discover it is no gift, just something Mis- delivered that belongs to my neighbor.

Usually I just walk the packages over to the neighbor’s house and leave them, but today’s box was too heavy and dirty so I texted her it was here. She had no idea I had been getting all her boxes first.

What I don’t get it how a FedEx driver can deliver to the wrong side of the street. My house is odd numbered and the the boxes go to an even number. The drivers have gotten so that they don’t even ring the bell to tell you a package is here. If they did I could get them to take their mistake to the right place.

It is not like my front door is close to the road. They would walk fewer steps from the street to my neighbor’s door. Since I can’t catch the FedEx guy in the middle of the job, maybe I need to put a sign by my walkway that says, “Are you sure that delivery is for this house?”

It is not like I can call FedEx and tell them this is happening since none of the deliveries are for me I don’t have a tracking number. I just wish the FedEx guy would learn to read.

Pandemic Silver Lining

Today, Russ and I went to church, after watching service on line, to get our palms and see our friends. I felt renewed. It was just nice to see real humans. Shay got to go and visit with Lynn and nothing makes either of them happier.

When I got home it was time for me to join a zoom celebration of my friend Paul’s mother’s life. Paul and I went to college together and I had visited his mother a couple of times in college and she had made a big impression on me. Like the first time we met when Paul and I and six other Dickinson students were taking a course on public speaking at Princeton. Paul suggested we drive up to his parent’s house unannounced and show up for lunch. Paul’s Mom did not bat and eyelash, pulled out folding chairs and set them up in their living room and made us all sandwiches. She was warm and welcoming and never said, “You should have called first.” So when I heard of her passing I wanted to attend the celebration of her life. This was easy to do since I did not have to travel to New Jersey, but just to my computer.

The family had a wonderful slide show of photos of Beverly through her long life with her husband, three sons, their spouses and children and other friends and family. The music was beautiful and the stories people told were sweet, funny and illuminating about her life. Although I did not know her well, I found myself tearing up during one of the songs. I was happy to see Paul and his wife Betsy and be able to be there for them. This never would have happened this way if it weren’t for the pandemic. I know memorials are not the same for the family when they can’t all be together, but there were over a hundred people on this zoom celebrating the best way we can these days.

After that zoom I had my pandemic book club. Another joy that has come out of the pandemic for me. I doubt I would have been asked to join this small group in other circumstances and I have loved our monthly zooms and chances to not just read interesting books, but get to know some wonderful women better. We are actually planning for a post vaccine real life get together in the future.

I know some people are chomping at the bit to get back to their old way of life. I am hoping to incorporate some of the new ways we do things into regular life. The slowing down has been a real silver lining.

Dog Science

While the storm was all around us, Shay shivered between me and Russ on the sofa. Shay does not like loud storms, especially thunder and lightening. Russ, trying to reassure her that it was going to be over soon, showed her the radar map on his IPad.

Shay could have cared less. Russ went on to tell her it was science and that we believe in science in our house. Shay was hearing none of it. Russ looked at me worried that we might have a science denying dog. How could this have happened?

Shay has never been allowed to watch FDN (Fox Dog Network). She does not subscribe to anything involving Tucker Carlson’s dog, if he has one. Who could trust anyone who does not have a dog?

Shay appears to like Dr. Fauci so we know she leans into science with a medical slant. She faithfully takes her heart worm and flea protection so Shay is not a complete science denier.

We hope we can rehabilitate her on the weather front. I think she understands climate change is real and perhaps she can spread the words to her dog pals. I suspect none of them likes Thunder unless they are the dogs of our former neighbors who created the Thunder shirt.

For now I am hoping my brown dog Shay knows that she is loved and is safe hear. I will keep at teaching her as much about science as a dog can learn. We don’t need more ignorance than we already have.

Back to Reality

I had three days of yesteryear with my friend Jan. As she was vaccinated months ago and quarantined over a week before I visited we were able to be in her house without masks. I quickly fell back into old life ways. It was wonderful.

As she lives in an area where there are no other people for miles it felt safe from the Covid big world. Today we awoke to a beautiful day, but we still got up and worked on the puzzle we started yesterday.

Shay and I said our goodbyes in the middle of the day. I stopped on the way down her mountain and collected moss for my garden. I passed streams and rivers full from the previous day’s rain.

As I headed home the first fourteen miles of the trip were on windy mountain roads. Although it was the middle of the day I did not pass another car, making the trip seem surreal. I stopped in North Wilksboro to get gas and put on my trusty double mask. Although every other pump was occupied I was the only person wearing a mask. For a moment I thought I had woken up from a bad dream where the world had been in a pandemic for the last year. Then I realized it was not a dream, I was just in a rural area full of pandemic deniers.

I was fairly certain I did not come in contact with Covid in the last few days, but I was not going to stop wearing my mask in public now. I had just had a taste of my old life and I liked it. Russ and I are due for our second shot in the next week, so it would be terrible to risk it all now.

Shay was happy to see Russ, as was I, but we are looking forward to the time when we can go back to visit Jan in the mountains and escape reality.

Perfect Mountain Day, Except For The Weather

Rainy days are not a problem for me and Jan so when we woke up in a cloud we knew that it would probably be a good day for a puzzle. Before I get to that I must report that we finally ate our pizza dinner last night at 10. The idea that it only took the pizza oven two hours to heat up was off by at least two hours. We went ahead and made the pizza at the four hour mark even though the oven could have been hotter.

It was worth the wait. Our arugula, pear, blue cheese and prosciutto pizza was great at ten and equally good for lunch today and the reheating only took fifteen minutes.

After lunch Jan got out a Liberty wooden puzzle and we started working it on the kitchen island because it had the best light. It is a very hard puzzle as the pieces are the wildest shapes. I think we will be up late working it, but thankfully we have already had dinner and can concentrate.

Jan’s dog Crocket and Shay have been very well behaved together, but they did not get any exercise today thanks to the rain all day. Tonight while we work on the puzzle the dogs are working on their raw hides. Shay is going to want to come visit more often after this raw hide.

I’m going to want to come back more often too.

Perfect Mountain Day…Almost

Sleeping is easier in the Mountains. Shay and I stayed snuggled in our comfy bed under a heavy down comforter. It is like a real vacation when you sleep in. Staying with Jan is a real vacation. When the sun came out we took the dogs out for a forest hike.

Shay was in heaven bounding over fallen logs as we went up and down the mountain. It was dog heaven. Later in the day Jan took Shay and me out on the Polaris for a tour of the area. The trees have not budded yet so we could see the mountains all around.

Tonight Jan is teaching me how she makes pizza in her pizza oven. She started a big fire inside the baking oven and is getting it heated up in preparation of putting the pizza in the oven…

So the heating of the pizza oven is taking much longer than we thought. I am going to have to post the actual pizza tomorrow. For now I am signing off as I am too hungry to keep writing.

Off to the Mountains

My darling friend Jan has finally left Texas and is living at her house in the mountains. As she was fully vaccinated ages ago and has been all alone at her house in the mountains for over a week she thought it would be safe for me to visit. She invited Russ and Shay, but only Shay was free enough to make the trip with me.

I was so excited to pullout my suitcase this morning, even though it was very dusty. For all my adult work years I had a travel job. Then when Carter came along and I wasn’t working I had the free time to travel. This last year of not traveling has been hard so I was so excited to be off to the mountains.

Shay and I got in the car in Durham after lunch and went west. Our only stop was to Drive though Sonic so I could get a diet Cherry limeade, the ultimate road drink. Jan’s new house is in Todd. She told me to call her when I was in North Wilksboro since that was the last place I would have cell coverage to give her my eta.

I did that just before I started to climb the big mountain on the outside of town. Waze said I had an hour to get to her house, but if I looked at the map it looked like it was only about nine miles. It is amazing what how long windy roads make the trip take.

Soon after heading up the mountain I realized I might have missed my opportunity to use a restroom. It was only an hour, I could wait.

After many hairpin turns up and down valleys and hills I came to the turn off for Jan’s house. There I was met with a gate with a “no trespassing” sign. A gate? Jan had not mentioned a gate. I tried to phone Jan only to discover no bars, not even that tiny little dot of a bar. I looked at the map to see if there was another way to get up to her house. Nothing.

I pulled my car over to the side of the gate road and Shay and I got out and walked around the stone pillars that held the gate. Shay took this opportunity to use the bathroom as I jumped up and down in front of the electric eyes that open the gate from the inside. Apparently I am not as big as a car, but this was not a comforting time to learn this.

I put Shay back in the car and I waited to see if any cars came by, perhaps someone else might be going in or out of her neighborhood. Not one car for fifteen minutes, not even on the main road. That being the case I decided it was safe for me to go down closer to the river and go to the bathroom.

As I squatted behind a group of trees I prayed that now not be the time for a car to come because I had waited so long to use the bathroom there would be no way for me to stop. I think the last time I did something like this was on my way to homecoming at Dickinson my first year out of college when Hugh Braithwaite and I drove up to Carlisle and stopped to go to the bathroom at an apple orchard. I got my car stuck on a fence post and I swore I would never stop to pee outside ever again.

Seeing no other solution I turned the car around and drove back the way I came looking for phone signal. Nothing for five miles. Not just no phone signal, no people, no stores, no nothing. Eventually I came to an intersection and saw a volunteer fire dept. No one was there. Then I saw a sign for a Post office. I pulled in and saw that it was open for ten more minutes.

The tiny post office had a lobby where the mailboxes were and another door to go in to see the postmistress. Another customer was standing in the six foot area by the postmistress talking to her. They talked and talked. Being Covid times I waited patiently out by the mailboxes, but in full sight of the customer talking. She eventually finished her conversation which had nothing to do with Mail or stamps and left. I came in and the postmistress had already departed the front desk. I called out to her. “Excuse me, do you know if there is pay phone anywhere?” She came back to the counter and I explained my predicament. She kindly picked up the cordless phone on the counter, cleaned it off and handed it to me.

I called Jan, who was horrified she had forgotten to tell me about the gate and the code. I drove back and got in no problem. It made for a very adventurous trip.

Getting to visit Jan at her beautiful home is well worth a slight detour and peeing outside. An added bonus is I am getting to sleep in a bedroom with an antler chandelier. I feel like I am in Beauty and the Beast as Gaston uses antlers in all his decorating. They didn’t have cell phones in Beauty in the Beast either.