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.

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.

Lost My Painting Arm

Last night I was having a hard time falling asleep. Nothing new about that, but the reason was new, my arm hurt. It was my right arm and I did not think it was a heart attack warning since everything else about me felt fine. Why in the world? I wondered as I tried to find a comfortable position. Then it dawned on me…my painting arm was out of shape.

After my summer of painting all my kitchen cabinets I thought that I had an invincible painting arm. Now I was feeling my frailties. I think that trying to paint the inside of the lectern shelves, with the weird angle I had to hold myself at caused me strain on my painting arm. I was definitely in the minor leagues of painters since I had only primed the lectern.

This morning I got up, arm healed and ready to go, and went back to the garage to knock out the top coats. I took a preemptive aleve and got to painting. I put the first coat on. Looked good, but definitely called for a second. I let that one dry throughly and went back for the second a few hours later. It was looking good, but I needed it to dry to judge if it was done. I came out and looked at the lectern in the afternoon sun that was streaming in the garage.

Looked like I needed one more coat on the big flat surfaces. Of course no one is ever going to look at this thing in direct sunlight, but I had the paint and my arm was holding on. One last coat on the outside. I did not see the point to add a third coat to the inside, which really very few will see.

And now it is done. I am letting it harden for the next five days before Russ and I attempt to bring this over to church. Cabinet paint really hardens up over weeks, but I think it will be good enough to move next weekend. Tonight I am taking some painkiller before I try and go to sleep. I don’t need two nights of sore-arm-no-sleep.

A Handy Husband

Being handy or good at fixing things should be a prerequisite for a husband as well as a wife. There is nothing better than having someone who can help me make my dreams real. I showed Russ a design for an expensive lectern and said, “I think we can make this and better than this expensive one.” He did not even blink.

Thanks to having every power tool known to man due to years of Christmas and birthday presents from Russ’ dad we were able to make this thing. Yesterday we finished the raw wood version which I helped make and Russ turned it over to me for finishing.

Today I sanded, primed and caulked. Tomorrow I will do at least two coats of cabinet paint. It’s starting to be better than my dreams and one tenth the price.

It has a place for the microphone holder to be attached, and a covered hole for cords to run down through the three shelves. The front wheels are regular swivel and the back are locking swivels. I think it will serve its purpose. It is all thanks to that handy husband.

It is never too late to learn to fix of make things. Thanks to YouTube there are instructions for everything. Don’t raise children who only know how to golf or play tennis, but make sure they also can build a simple box, fix a running toilet and rewire a lamp. Both boys and girls should know these things.

I probably had the skills, but not enough hands to do this myself. Getting Russ involved meant that it is perfect, square and strong. Thanks for being the handy husband.

The Smell of Spring

Oh, how I wish I had Smell-a-blog. The aroma of spring has surrounded my house. My Clematis Paniculata has encased my secret garden with a profusion of white blossoms and a scent that makes you feel like you are on a tropical island. I could sit outside and totally forget the whole last year if I just closed my eyes and took deep breaths of the citrusy floral perfume.

If only I could grab this smell in a bottle and open it up in the winter when the days are dark and dreary. For now I have to go outside on my terrace as often as the blooms are still on the vine and make as many smell memories as I can.

In the vegetable garden the scents are mostly of wet good dark earth. Last week I scattered a handful of arugula and mesclun greens seeds. They have germinated and the pair of cotyledon leaves have emerged from beneath the soil. It has been cold for the last couple of days, but not enough to hurt these babies. I expect the warming trend of the week to come to help turn the tiny buds into viable plants.

There has been a trend of eating micro greens, but that steals all the potential from the baby greens to come. Since I have plenty of beds I will just keep throwing out seeds every few weeks so that I can cut all the arugula I want regardless of size and not feel guilt that waiting a few more days might bring in a greater harvest.

For now, without any real food growing I am just going to have to drink in the aroma of the flowers. Thank goodness smells have no calories because I have binged something terrible on this clematis.

Shrimp Burger Fail

All the dark parts of the pan are shrimp burger parts stuck to the pan

In proof that even good cooks can fail I took this photo of tonight’s dinner. I was trying to make shrimp burgers no not the ones made up of fried shrimp like they have in Morehead.

I was just making it up as I went along. I pulsed one third of the raw shrimp in the Cuisineart to get a paste and I chopped the other shrimp into thirds. I probably should have quartered them, but I want real bites of shrimp in my burgers. I made bread crumbs from a King’s Hawaiian roll, but maybe I did not use enough bread crumbs. I minced two shallots and that was probably the only thing I got right.

I mixed a raw egg with a tablespoon of mayo, some lime juice, Dijon mustard and sriracha and then mixed everything up together. I did not chill the already cold mixture, which most certainly could have helped.

I heated a non-stick pan, but did not add any butter, another mistake.

I took handfuls of the mixture and patted it into lose patty shapes, but they started to fall apart soon after touching the pan.

I tried to flip the piles of shrimp and that was an epic fail. Much of the mixture stuck to the pan, but I served the shrimp mess to Russ just the same.

I put come cocktail sauce on my pile o’shrimp next to my asian Coleslaw and took a bite. DELICIOUS! It looked like a hot mess, but the flavors were perfect. The shrimp were not over cooked and the mess was nicely seasoned with the sriracha.

I had some of the mixture left over so I put it in the refrigerator and will try again tomorrow with a cold mixture, a hot pan and a little butter in it. Even if I can’t make it into a burger I know I will like it.

Late to the Schitt’s Creek Game

Carter loves Schitt’s Creek and she implored me to start watching it. I think I half watched one episode years ago and then didn’t really give it a chance. Three days ago, when I had nothing else to watch while needlepointing I started Schitt’s Creek. Thank goodness nothing else is going on in the world because I have been addicted ever since.

I am not saying that I watched TV all day. I did do laundry, cooked some stuff, cleaned some things, wrote some things, read a book, walked on the treadmill, covered the cars in case of hail, played words with friends, but all as a way of staving off my desired to watch more Schitt’s Creek.

Now that I have finished season one I know I am fully addicted and am already worried about the day I finish all the seasons. I am starting a list of non-TV things I can do so that I slow down my Creek consumption. Boy, do I ever need the Pandemic to end.

Isn’t Ireland Lovely?

My father, giving Carter and art history lesson. I can only imagine what he said.

Happy St. Patrick’s day to all, Irish or otherwise. In celebration of today I went back to look at photos of a trip my father took us on to Ireland in 2007. Carter, all happy toothed, was all of eight years old and it was her first trip to Europe, certainly giving her the bug of travel.

This was a purely adult trip with my two sisters, my parents and us, so very little was done to entertain Carter differently than the rest of us. She did a great job rolling along with us. One of my favorite artifacts from the trip is a video clip Carter made while we were riding in the car along the Bay of Bantry. There was nothing but green countryside, and rocky coast, yet Carter exclaims, “Isn’t Ireland Lovely?”

What a happy time that was, before the crash of 2008, before the Pandemic. Yes, Ireland is lovely. I look forward to the day we can travel like that again. I miss the innocence of Carter discovering the bigger world for the first time, but still love to see it with her.

With my mother in Kenmare

Shay Test Day

My mother came to spend a few hours with me today so I could wash her quilt and have lunch together. As Russ had a busy day of calls and a meeting with clients he decided he would go downtown to his empty office and make his calls before going to the clients. He also needed to water the office plants so it was a good plan for him. It was not such a good plan for Shay.

This was the first day Russ was away from Shay in 12 months. She has reveled in being his constant shadow. She has three beds in his home office and we have taken to calling her the supervisor. In the morning, Russ may be in his office as early as five AM, but Shay keeps banker’s hours. She likes to sleep in until 8:45 when she usually pops up and goes right to work by Russ’ side.

With him out of the house today she was at a loss what her role was. Who was she supposed to herd? She kept by my side all day, but she did not have any opportunity to appear on zoom calls.

After my mother went back to the farm Shay lay by my side as I needlepointed. With every little sound outside the house she perked up thinking Russ might be coming home. It was a long sad day for her, but hopefully we can do this a couple more times before she has to go cold Turkey and be without him all day. For the record, I missed him too.

Where Are The Flowers?

I love daffodils. Growing up In Connecticut, where it seemed like spring would never come, the appearance of the thousands of daffodils that dotted the woods on the hillside of our creek gave me a glimmer of hope that one day I could stop wearing my wet itchy wool mittens my grandmother knit me, that chapped the inside of my wrists.

Daffodils were also the flowers that appeared next to our garage in New Canaan when I was four after I had “planted a bunch of peat moss” the month before. Since it was our first spring in that house I told my Dad that I had planted those flowers, explaining about the peat moss episode. He never corrected me and let me believe for at least a decade that I had planted those flowers.

Every house I have ever lived in has has daffodils. In my last house in Washington, DC I had a lovely long garden between my row house and my garage. (I still can’t believe I had a house with a garage at my young age. So much upkeep.) In order not to have any grass to cut, as I knew that would be a fail, my garden was all patio and flower beds along with a big gold fish pond. In my beds I had daffodils for spring, that then got over planted with herbs and summer flowers.

Here I have daffodils. I plant some every year, but unlike the ones in Connecticut, which multiplied every year, mine disappear bit by bit. I am yet to find the underground culprits who must be eating the bulbs. This year not only are many of the bulbs just gone, but most of the plants that did come up don’t have any flowers at all. This is a most distressing situation and I am not going to suffer letting the foliage hang around until it has been fulfilled to grow again next year.

So much for feeding voles, or moles or some other rodent. I am going to have to find another way to have my favorite flowers. Just as I think I have critters controlled with my new vegetable garden this happens. Nature is daunting. It was so much easier when I was four.

Russ to the Rescue

I have spent the last few years raising money, working on plans and supervising the building of our church’s new fellowship hall. Because of Covid I basically made all the design decisions, which is quite frankly was easier than doing it by committee, which is what Presbyterians do. The last item we needed is a new rolling lectern to go with our fancy AV system.

I looked online at thousands of lecterns. They are the most over-priced things I have ever seen. I ordered one, but it was horrible so we sent it back. So I did what I always do when I can’t find what I want, I decide to make it myself. I showed Russ a design I wanted to do and asked if he would help me. It is more like I would help him and of course he said yes.

I thought it would be a weekend project. I purchased all the materials and we were ready to go yesterday morning. We got started, then Russ had to leave in the middle of the day for an appointment that took almost three hours. We got back to work and then got the call about getting vaccines, so we left for another hour. By last night we had not gotten as far as I thought we would have.

This morning we got started early, skipping watching church so we could work for church. Thanks to Russ’ perfectionism we have gotten it almost done, except for some trim and the top. We finally gave in and said we would have to finish tomorrow. That just means he will be done constructing it and I will then take over with the sanding, filling in the screw holes, priming and painting it. That will take me the rest of the week. When it is all done it will have cost me $200 in materials and will be so much nicer than those $5,000 ones made out of chip board.

I never could have done this without Russ. I just couldn’t put some ugly lectern in the beautiful building I spent five years working on.

Shot Surprise

Russ and I were working away in the garage building a lectern for church when an unknown number from Durham was ringing my cell phone. Against my normal habit of not answering my phone I did. It was Darius Russell, owner of Russell’s pharmacy wondering if we still needed a vaccine.

“Yes, we do,” I answered enthusiastically.

I turned to Russ, “We can go get vaccinated right now.” He nodded calmly and I thanked Darius and said were would be right over.

“Can you get here in half an hour, I have some for you.”

Darius and his wife, own this pharmacy over by the Durham Branch of the Food Bank in East Durham. It has been a rough neighborhood, but is improving. Two years and a half years ago they opened in an old bank. They met when they attended the high school of Science and Math and have called Durham home for the last twenty years after going away to college.

Getting our shots there was a nice experience and Darius is a friendly guy. I heard about him from our friends the Prebles who also got vaccinated there as they had been on a waiting list for leftover vaccines.

Dr. Darius Russell

We got the Moderna vaccine and Darius will call us in three weeks to schedule our follow-up second shot. Anyone can be on the list for extra vaccines, so if you are in Durham and don’t mind venturing over to East Durham call Russell’s Pharmacy at 919-908-1060. They have lots of space to sit and wait your fifteen minutes after your shot and you will be supporting a local small business. And plenty of parking behind the store.

Now we have to cancel our appointments for shots next Friday, but we don’t have to drive all the way to Greensboro, twice.

Hard to believe that we have started our shots and by my birthday we will be fully vaccinated.

Greensboro FEMA Vaccine Site Has Appointments!

My friend Deanna just alerted me that the FEMA site giving Vaccines has lots of appointments. Russ and I went on line and had no problem scheduling appoints at the drive thru at the same time next week.

They are giving 3,000 shots a day. Half inside the old Dillards and half in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Mall. It is easy to get there as it is right off 40. The shots are Pfizer first shots for the first three weeks, the second shots the next three weeks and then two weeks of Johnson and Johnson.

Here is the link to schedule an appointment – click return to home to start your appointment.

Sharpen Your Cutco Knives

Today is the official one year anniversary of the Pandemic in America. Who would have thought that when the lockdown was declared we would still be here one year later. Although Covid been worse than I ever imagined the fact that we have 3 vaccines being rolled out is a miracle thanks to those who work in science.

Sometime before the lockdown my friend Denise told me about her big job of individually wrapping her Cutco Knifes in cardboard to send them off to the factory to be sharpened. As a proud Cutco owner I thought that was a big job I needed to do too. Then the pandemic came. At first Cutco was closed since it is in NY, so no sending knives. Then with all the Pandemic cooking I was doing I just couldn’t part with even half my knives. So I just kept using them at not optimal condition.

Last week I got a Facebook notice that there was a Cutco Sharpening event this week so I signed up for an appointment. For people who are very important to me I sometimes give Cutco as a gift so I knew I might do a little shopping.

I wrapped up 28 knives in dishcloths and arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn for my allotted appointment with Cody King, a very knowledgeable Cutco expert. He was able to work magic on my 25 year old knives. A couple have to be sent back to the Factory because they are too far gone, but that lifetime Warranty is the beauty of Cutco.

One of the best things I learned is how to use an odd thin knife I never understood was for melons and pineapple. I just happen to have a pineapple I need to cut tonight so I am going to test out my newly learned knowledge.

I adore my Cutco knives, even dull they are better than any other knives, but now that they are freshly sharpened they are a dream. I did have to warn Russ to be careful since he has had cutting accidents in the past.

Since we all have been stuck at home cooking for ourselves for the whole past year I want to remind you to sharpen your knives. If you want Cody’s info contact me. Sharp knives make every pandemic easier.

Dirt Day One

At last I think today is the perfect day to start an inaugural crop in my new garden. The frustration of finishing the build of that garden just as growing season was over has finally come to an end.

It has been warm here for a few days and at last we have gone more than a week without rain. The temps should be in the seventies for a few days and then only down to the sixties as highs so it should be fine to grow some mesclun and arugula.

I used my Japanese hoe, which is a tool with a hoe side and a claw side that is about eighteen inches long. Perfect for loosening up the winter soil. I sprinkled some seeds across my rich earth in one raised bed and then gently crumbled dirt on top to just lightly cover the tiny specimens.

I didn’t want to heavily water the bed so I filled a new spray bottle with water and misted the area where I had sown the seed. It is nothing to look at today, but hopefully in five or six days we can see some tiny sprouts and then by Easter there will be edible greens growing in the raised bed.

I am going to plant these same crops again in three weeks so I have a continuing supply for lunch. If you have never tried to grow arugula you should try. It is the easiest plant and there is nothing more tasty than fresh arugula from the garden with a drop of good olive oil and good squeeze of lemon, a few big shavings of fresh Parmesan and twists from the pepper mill. Really I could live on that. Only a month to go.

Good Weather Makes Everything Better

Sometimes the littlest things can totally lift my day. It’s an extra bonus when it happens first thing. Since it’s Tuesday I had my weekly outing to Loaf to pick up our club bread. Today’s was a rye and red durham wheat. On the way downtown I drove through the dry cleaners to pick up Russ’ shirts. The nice girl who helps me was extra friendly and when she brought the shirts to the car and was hanging them in the back she said, “No charge today, you have coupons in the system.”

I love the system! I never have a coupon for anything. It may have only been $10, but it made me particularly happy.

Then I had to go to Lowe’s to pick up materials to build a rolling lecture for our new fellowship hall at church. I had ordered one online and it was deemed a “piece of junk” so we sent it back. I searched every possible lectern seller and did not find any I liked u dear $5,000. That is just crazy. So I recruited Russ to help me build one we based on a design of an expensive one we liked.

I had a really nice clerk help me load the materials on my cart and then into the Land Cruiser. I didn’t ask for help, this person just volunteered. That never happens.

Lastly I went over to church and finished putting the kitchen equipment away and made a seven page layout document to show everyone where everything belongs. One other church member has volunteered to make the labels, but now she knows what they should say and where they should go. This was a project I was happy to check off my list.

I came home and since it was in the seventies I weeded my garden in preparation for coming planting.

I am thinking that the good weather, and the coming vaccinations is making everyone a little nicer. At least it felt that way today. Tomorrow’s forecast is even better than today. Imagine what I can get done!

International Women’s Day Needs to Be Longer

Hurray, it’s International Women’s Day. A day to foster equal rights. Wait, we are still having this fight. When I was in junior high school we were fighting for equal rights. The ERA spent years trying to get ratified and you are telling me it’s still not done.

We don’t need International Women’s Day, we need International Women’s years until we have equality. Sadly I think we are are going backwards. Misogyny is more prevalent than ever. And now misogyny bleeds into white supremacy and those two best friends have been happily trotted out into our National life thanks to 45.

The pandemic has thrown a body blow to women, who have stepped back to take care of children at home, or parents at home or just because they were already in service industry jobs, which went away.

To hell with one day! Women make up more than half the population so why are we settling for one paltry day? We need to make everyday about fighting for equality. The strong men I know agree and are not afraid of powerful and smart women. Russ would love to get about another dozen strong women in his firm today.

To all the men who think women are less than you, or should serve you, just a reminder you didn’t spawn from nothing. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your mother’s. Trying to keep women down does not raise you up.

Thanks to all the strong women who have fought for women’s rights, but we are not close to being over. Don’t let International Women’s Day be a once a year thing. Keep the fight alive everyday.

Needlepoint Christmas is Coming

I have more than a little guilt about the number of hours I needlepointed this weekend. Then I justified it by saying, “This might be our last cold weekend.” Yes, Christmas is coming, at least in needlepoint world.

The good people that finish needlepoint, that means turning stitched canvases into the ornaments they are meant to be, are still backed up from last year. Every year the Christmas deadline to have your stitching done gets earlier and earlier. I remember the day when you could finish a canvas before Labor Day and still get it back in time to spend the Christmas season on your tree.

This year you better have your canvas’ done by June. So this weekend I pushed through on this 6×6 Santa. It is bigger than the normal ornament, but I like varying sizes. I plan on finishing the last bit or gold boarder during the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah tonight. No guilt in needlepointing while watching royals.

Tomorrow I get started on the ornaments I have to do for my needlepoint exchange groups. The time is getting short. I know I have taxes to do and writing projects to finish, or actually start and then finish, but somehow those deadlines don’t feel as overwhelming.

Somehow Christmas is always coming at our house.

Old Enough to Be Back in Style

Russ started laughing out loud as he read something on his iPad. He turned to me and said, “We are cooler than I thought.” The barometer he was using was an recently published House Beautiful article, “10 Things From Your Grandparents’ House That Are Back In Style.” As he read me the list I laughed. We are actually the grandparents in scenario, we just don’t have a grandchild to spoil.

Here are the things they listed as now back in style:

1. Chintz

2. Floral wallpaper

3. Needlepoint

4. China Cabinets

5. Pink Tile

6. Ornate Frames

7. Decorative Plates

8. Colored Glassware

9. Quilts

10. Pintuck Pillows

For the record we only have 9 of the ten. You might think that the hardest one to come by is “Pink tile” but we have a whole full bathroom of it. It is the only original bathroom left in our house and it is in such perfect condition I have not pulled it out. You can’t beat the old craftsmen who out that bathroom in 65 years ago so I am so happy to learn that it is actually back in style.

Both an ornate frame and pink tile in one room

In just one photo of our living room you can see both decorative plates and needlepoint. Just a couple of years ago I replaced the Chintz pillows on that sofa. Perhaps I should get them out of the attic. Russ was laughing most about the needlepoint and quilts since those things have been with us for forever and are continually multiplying. The only thing we don’t have are pintuck pillows. I never liked those so there can never be a comeback.

That middle pillow is needlepoint

I always say, just wait long enough and it will come back in style.