I had a doctor appointment yesterday morning. Nothing serious. No big deal. Just a check up with my arthritis doc. (and in case you wondered, same old, same old). But anyway, as is usual at most doc appointments, they insisted upon weighing me (sigh) but as is NOT the usual, they also checked my height. I don't think anyone has checked my height in a very long time.
If anyone ever asks how tall I am for one reason or another, I tell them the last thing I ever heard. The height I have been since I was about 14 years old. I say that I am 5 foot 2 because I am. Or at least I was. As it turns out, I am now 5 foot 1. Dang. Somewhere along the line I seem to have misplaced an entire inch.
So we know two things. One, that I am short. And two, that I am getting shorter all the time. Ratz!
The world was not made for short people. As you can see in the photos above, it seems like everything is over my head. 1) The Microwave oven is dangerously too high. To put things in is no big deal, but taking them out again? I'm liable to spill very hot stuff every time I ever so carefully bring it not just out but down to my level. Yikes. 2) The house phone is on a cabinet in the living room, and it is well over my head. The first challenge for me in answering any phone call is not my hearing issues, it's reaching the doggone phone! You can see the the phone is teetering on the very brink of falling off that piece of furniture. That's so I can reach it. 3) All door frames are dusty on top because without a stepstool I cannot reach them. I don't see it, I don't dust it, is my policy. As you can tell, door frames are WAY over my head. 4) I can just barely reach the pull cord for the overhead fans. That's my tippytoe face apparently and 5) Sadly, even the television is taller than me.
So ok, everybody knows about short people and trying to reach things that are high up like cabinet shelves and closet shelves and well most things in a house. It's probably why stepstools were invented. But, if you are a person of at least 'normal' height (and I use the word normal loosely) you have no idea about some of the other problems that we shorties face.
Like trying to buy a dress or a pair of pants without also having the added expense of paying a tailor to adjust the hem. Oh occasionally I find a pair of pants that are marked "short", but not very often and dresses and skirts? Forget it. I do not sew well enough (I should say that I don't really sew because that is the truth of it. Instead I do something that will stand in for sewing upon rare occasion but it's not pretty) And I'm too cheap to pay the additional cost of a seamstress or tailor to adjust the hem to my height sooooooo I just wear things the length that they come. As long as it's not dragging on the floor, it's all good in my world.
Being a short person in a crowd is so awful. We height challenged folk cannot see out! The world becomes a sea of shirt pockets, cleavage and belt buckles. I'm a little claustrophobic anyway, but you put me in a crowd and I'm this close to a full fleged panic attack! I cannot see the corridor or entry or hallway or door or whatever it is I'm supposed to be heading toward so the crowd just sort of carries me along. It's an awful feeling.
Looking people in the eye while standing up. Nope. That's not going to happen. Having a conversation and looking at the person I'm conversing with usually ends up with me having a sore neck. I believe strongly in making eye contact - comfortable eye contact - during a conversation. But since most people are taller than I am and some of them are a foot or more taller than I am, I am often stuck looking up their nose rather than in their eyes. Not really an effective communication method. I have asked people to sit so that I can comfortably converse. I have! I can be kind of nervy at times.
Dancing looks ridiculous. It's not that I'm called upon to dance on a regular basis. But now and again at a wedding or other festive occasion, cutting a rug as they used to say, is appropriate to the occasion and Tim will coax me out on the floor. Now Tim is more than a head taller than I am, so I'm a little tippytoe when we slow dance but it's not too bad. However, I have danced with guys who are in the six feet plus range and let me tell you, that is some ugly dancing. Either the guy is bent in half or, even more ridiculously, as one fella did, he just wrapped his right arm around my waist and lifted me. We danced with my little feet dangling in the air. I laughed like a lunatic throughout and declined any further dancing opportunities.
And speaking of dangling feet, it is nearly impossible for people such as myself to sit like an adult. Most chairs and sofas are clearly made for taller people. When I sit down properly, with my back against the chair back, my feet do not touch the floor 9 times out of 10. Not only does it look silly, it feels silly and actually makes it harder to get gracefully off of that piece of furniture. Not that I'm all that graceful to begin with but hey! Still a valid point.
The list continues but I will stop. It's not as if there is anything anyone can do about it anyway. I suppose I could walk around on stilts but that's not very practical.
On the other hand it's not all bad. In fact, there are two distinct advantages to being short. First, if I fall, I'm not that far from the ground. I'm less likely to get hurt. And Two, if there is a twenty dollar bill on the ground I will absolutely get to it before you.
Tim and I had Chinese food for dinner last night. Yum. I love veggie fried rice :) Tim had dumplings and something else. I think it was General Tso's Chicken but I'm not certain. I was too busy scarfing down my own dinner to notice. It's not a pretty truth, but still true.
One of the things many things I love about occasionally indulging in Chinese take out, is the fortune cookies we get afterwards. I actually genuinely like the taste. And of course, I always read the fortune. Mine said: "Good Writing is Clear Thinking Made Visible". Hmmm. Not so much a fortune as a bit of philosophy I'd say. That was a little disappointing. Oh well, it's not as if I believed in Fortune Cookie Fortunes anyway.
As a matter of fact, I do not believe in fortune telling at all. Not of any sort. Which is kind of funny because I grew up learning how to read tea leaves. Yup. It's true. In my house that was a perfectly normal thing to do. And so I did it. Didn't everyone? My grandmother did. My mother did. So it seemed logical to a rather sheltered child that everyone did. It wasn't until I grew up and began spending more time with my friends in their homes that I learned it wasn't a regular sort of thing.
I wasn't embarrassed by it. Not at all. But rather than just accept it all unquestioningly, I did begin to think about it more and in a different way. Why on earth would soggy used tea leaves be a method of divination? Was there anything substantive in this process? Certainly there was nothing scientific, was there something, non-scientific?
Throughout history, science has had to change it's stance on almost everything it believed that it "KNEW" for certain. At one time, the earth was flat. Everyone knew that to be absolutely true. And if you sailed too far, you would sail off into an abyss. During the time of Galileo, he determined the the sun, and not the earth, was the center of the our known universe. He was arrested and spent the remainder of his life under house arrest for heresy. So is it not possible that there are some people who have the ability to see into the future?
I suppose it's possible, yes. But I am not yet convinced that I've met anyone who could. See here is the part that makes it so unlikely to be true:
The way it was explained to me - back in my tea leaf apprenticeship days - everything the tea leaf reader sees is based on the path the fortune seeker is on at this particular moment. As soon as they step off that path, it changes the future.
Well dang! Since everyone makes a zillion or so decisions every single day, any of which could change their "path", the fortune they've just been read is fairly worthless, if it had any value other than entertainment to begin with. Take a different route home and you've literally changed your path, change your hair colour -path change, get married - big change, different job - different future. Even something as small as making a new friend or starting a new hobby could, according to the tea leaf reading rules, completely alter your future. So , again, other than for entertainment purposes, I do not see any value in prognostication.
Have I done it? Sure! At a friend's request, I read tea leaves at her tea shop a few times. I've read tea leaves for friends parties and gatherings, again by request. But always always always, I made it very clear that it was not for real, but just for fun. They seemed to enjoy it. I haven't done it in years, but I am reasonably certain that I could still do it if I chose.
During high school, in my little gaggle of friends, at least one of us owned a ouija board. That was fun for awhile too. Did we believe in it? Not at all. It was just sillyfun. One time when Tim and I were in Las Vegas for some conference he was attending, we found what appeared to be a gypsy wagon while we were walking around after dinner. The woman in the doorway, dressed in stereotypical gypsy garb offered to read my palm. At first I declined, but after a little more encouragement, I went in. I don't remember exactly what she said to me but I do recall that it was incredibly generic. It was fun. It was a new experience. But would I ever do it again? Nah.
Think about it, "You are going to meet a tall dark stranger" That is the phrase nearly everyone associates with palm reading. It's always a tall dark stranger. What about short blonde strangers? Or medium sized red heads that you already know? Why aren't they the people we ever get to meet in our fortunes? I'd frankly find that far more believable.
Tarot Cards? Yup, at one point I had a set of those too. That was probably also in high school. I know I was given a crystal ball then too. Wild eh? Someone was setting me up for a fun career! I have no idea what happened to either the cards or the crystal ball. I just know that I don't have them now and haven't seen them in so many years that I only just remembered it now while writing this blogpost! Oh my friends and I had fun with both of them for a bit. But we never ever took it seriously.
One of the strangest experiences I ever had was when I was about 16. A stranger who came up to me on a sidewalk in front of a store, grabbed my hands and told me three things: One was that I was a writer (ok that's interesting) the second was that I would have three children, all of them boys (true) and the third was that I would marry three times. (twice is close but no cigar)
Then they walked away and I was left standing thinking, "did that just happen?" It still doesn't mean that I believe in fortune tellers or fortune telling. I do not.
I do believe that there are a lot of things that science does not yet know or understand. I am open to possibility about a lot of things. Life on other planets for instance? Absolutely. I think it would be the height of arrogance for us to assume that we are the only sentient beings in the entire universe. ESP? Maybe. Ghosts? Possibly. But fortune tellers. Nope. Big Nope. At least not in the traditional sense. No I-Ching, no ouija boards, no tarot cards or palm reading and for heaven's sakes absolutely not tea leaf reading.
But is there some poor soul out there who is cursed by knowing the future? Perhaps there is. But I've never met them.
And even if it were possible to always know what's going to happen in the future, would I want to know? I don't think so. I believe that I would rather be surprised.
This is one of the three books I borrowed from the library last week. I always go straight to the biography section first.
I'm not sure why, but I've always been drawn to memoirs, diaries, biographies and autobiographies. Learning who else a person is. When you think about it, especially with famous people, you only think you know them. They show us, sometimes very candidly, their professional identity. But there is always another layer. The other person, the one they hold back, their private identity. And I find that fascinating.
And then of course, there is the why of it all. How they came to be the person that they are, both privately and publicly. It's a curse of mine, always wanting to know the "why" of everything! Quite honestly, I find people endlessly fascinating. Where better to be fascinated by real people than that section of the library. Perhaps my Nana was correct, and I am just nosey.
There was no particular reason that I chose to read this autobiography. Not really. It was just the first book that my eyes settled upon when I reached that area. It's true that I rather like Bill Engvall's humour. Tim does too. And in fact, a very long time ago (when cars played cassettes and dinosaurs still walked the earth) we had to actually make a rule that there would be no Bill Engvall comedy tapes played in the car. Strange eh? Well it was for a good reason. It happend once upon a time when we had set out upon a car trip. Prior to leaving we bought a few new cassettes to enjoy, a new Bill Engvall tape was in the mix. We happened to be driving in very busy traffic when a particularly funny bit was playing. It was the first and only time that I ever saw Tim come close to losing control of the vehicle while driving. He was laughing so hard that he could barely see. Safety first people. Thus the ban.
We don't have nearly as many books in our home library as we used to, just a teensy tiny fraction actually but I just took a quick look 'round and saw: Harry Nilsson (My musical hero), Jeannette Walls, David Sierakowiak, Adam Richman, Kevin Smith, Frank McCourt and of course the one book I make it a point to read at least once every year, "Night" by Elie Wiesel. And that was without looking closely. Just one quick glance at the shelves and already, that many books about other real people's lives. Maybe I have a serious problem and the media should be alerted? Nah. I just like to read! I like to learn stuff!
But it isn't just about books! Sometimes there are programs on television about interesting folks, the biographies of famous and/or infamous people. I love when that happens. I sit still, eyes raptly fixed to the screen and only pay attention to what is happening there. Which is unusual in itself. Usually if I'm watching TV at all, I'm doing something else at the same time. Often multiple things. That's how little attention is required to follow most Tv shows. But tell me a true story about real people and I'm there.
I have to say that a book doesn't have to be 100% real to captivate me. It could just be fiction based on fact. That's close enough. And sometimes it's even better actually. No matter how many people are interviewed before someone write a biography, regardless of how many diaries or letters they read, the only person who truly knows what someone's life was like, is the person who lived it. And quite frequently, the subject of that story will still hold back some secrets. And biographers cannot help but lean in a particular direction while writing the story. It's human nature. Truth is always coloured with perspective. Yours, mine, his, hers, everyone has their own unique perspective.
One of my college professors once, to prove a point, set us up big time. There we were, those of us who bothered to show up to class, sitting in our seats waiting for the professor who was late. It was quite out of character for him to be late by the way. As we waited, some of us talked quietly amongst ourselves Others were re-reading material, or writing things in their notebooks or starring into space. Two people came into the room quietly. One of them started to take a seat the other stopped him. Nobody was really paying attention until their voices got loud! They started pushing and shoving and eventually books were dropped and a desk was turned over. Then the professor stepped into the room and it was over. It was mere minutes of activity, probably 2 or 3 minutes from the time the boys stepped into the room until the professor did. All of us sat their like statues. We each "tuned in" to the situation at different times but not one of us did anything other than observe, agog.
To our surprise, the professor thanked the boys who righted the desk, picked up their books, smiled and left the room. The professor then asked us each to write down exactly what we saw, with as much detail as possible. We did. The professor collected the papers and read them aloud. To our surprise, no two accounts of what we witnessed were exactly the same. It was while we were we mulling over this new information that the professor then told us, "And that is the problem with history books. Everyone sees history though their own personal lens"
His point was that we shouldn't read just one account of any bit of history but many of them. That is the only way we would learn, or even come close to learning, what really happened. Fascinating! And I believe correct.
But knowing that the biography, autobiography, memoir or published diary is probably not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, isn't going to stop me from reading it. It just means that I need to read MORE accounts of each persons life. Oh my! There have been a lot of famous or again infamous people in this world. I think it's going to take me awhile to get through them all!
But it's good to have a goal.
When we first moved to Florida I owned exactly two pair of casual every day sandals. One white. One black. The white ones were expensive S.A.S. brand. I always went to the outlet stores in Castle Rock to buy them and even there they were expensive. They certainly weren't sexy shoes by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my sister refers to them as "Nana" shoes. But they were comfortable and great for walking. I could and did walk literally miles in them.
The black ones were a super sale deal from Target. They were very cute black flat leather (or something that passed for leather) flip flops that had a back strap. I could walk around the grocery store in them or wear them to work even in the summer time if I had a decent pedicure going on. But long range walking? Absolutely not. They were incredible uncomfortable for that.
The biggest issue with the black sandals are my weirdo feet. Dismissing the many multiply broken and oddly healed bones in my tootsies completely, I have almost no arch at all. My feet are nearly completely flat. So I need a little bit of an arch in my shoe. Many sandals do not have one. So I always need to keep an eye out for at least a small built in arch.
Then there is the fact that my feet seem to be especially, ummmmm, not sure how to describe this....shallow? They are of normal width, so that's not a problem, it's the height (?) of my feet from the floor to the top of the foot. When I wear most sandals, I can fit, at minimum one finger (and often two fingers!) between the top of my foot and the inside top of the sandal. Which means that my foot is loose inside the shoe. It rattles around in there like a marble in a cigar box. Which also means, in a flipflop type sandal, I literally fall out of the shoe. It isn't pretty. I also isn't safe. Especially for someone who isn't very graceful to begin with.
But since I was still working full time back then, I made it through the summer with those two pair of casual sandals. One white Nana shoe and one too loose black shoe. Not a big deal.
And then we moved here. I soon realized that the shoe I would be wearing, the vast majority of the year, would be a sandal. Even in the fall and winter when it actually does cool off, most days I am still comfortable in a sandal, just with long pants instead of shorts.
But because I walk so much and so far on an average day, I used up my good SAS sandals very quickly. They had to be replaced but I just couldn't bring myself to spend $150 or more on a pair of shoes. Especially since A) I'm no longer bringing any money into the household and B) because I walk so much I wear out my shoes very quickly and therefore I would have to replace them within six months or so. So the search began for a pair of sandals that didn't cost the moon, were comfortable for walking and I didn't fall out of.
It took a very long time and a lot of shoe stores. I tried on and disgarded dozens of brands. Either they weren't comfortable for walking, they were crazy expensive or, back to my old nemesis weird feet, I was falling out of them. I began to think that finding sandals for me were like searching for a Unicorn. It started to feel as if I was destined to wearing only sneakers for the rest of my days. I have nothing against sneakers, understand, but there are times when they look kind of.....clunky maybe? I mean, I was doing it, but I wasn't happy about it. I know, I know, how superficial of me. I confess. I care how I look. So sue me.
Finally, one beautiful day, we stopped at a store in Sarasota called Peltz Shoes and found, Clark's. Oh me. Oh my. We found the holy grail.
They are the red shoes in the above photo. Not all Clark's worked for me, but this one did. The key is that all of those three straps are adjustable. The loosey-goosey sandal of the past was exactly that. History. My sandals now can be adjusted to suit MY feet. Huzzah! There is a small arch built into the shoe. They are so comfortable for walking. And even better, priced in the $50's, while it's still more money than I really want to spend, it's reasonable for a shoe of decent quality. And even my cheap little heart appreciates that.
The only one they had that day in my size was red. Ooooo red shoes. I am a sucker for a red shoe. It was destiny. Sold! I wore them to pieces, as you can plainly see.
The day finally came when they were just too disreputable looking to be worn in public. Time for a new pair. Well of course they didn't have that exact shoe anymore. But there was something similar enough to do the trick. Hurrah! But again, in my size I had limited options. I could buy brown or black. Black felt more versatile. I think it "goes" with more of my clothes than brown. So yay! Second pair!
The first ones, my beloved red ones, became my every day, getting stuff done shoes and the black ones were my "good" sandals. I wore them only for teaching or working at the museum or going out to dinner or shopping with my sister.
But of course, since I walk to the museum and to the library and even a lot of my shopping and dinners, within about six months the black ones were beginning to show signs of age. Time to return to Peltz's shoes and see if I can find yet another pair. Which is one of the things we did this weekend.
But this time, they let me down. They had none of the sort of my feet like. Dang. I was disappointed but well, I can always look online. I really try to not buy things on line. I try to support my local shops. Too many of them have already gone out of business because they just cannot compete with online shopping. It breaks my heart. So we looked elsewhere. Other shoe stores. Nope. Nada. We spent far too long on Saturday looking at shoes. Finally, when I thought I didn't even care any more, we made what turned out to be the last stop, J.C. Penny's.
I did not have high hopes. First of all, there aren't many J.C. Penney's stores left. And this was a rather funny little one. Each department was like a miniature version of the old Penny's store. But there was a shoe department, just a teeny tiny one. The few small hopes I still held onto fell like rain in Florida in the summertime. I halfheartedly approached the few racks of women's shoes.
To my great surprise, first of all they had Clark's Sandals! Wow! Then I was further shocked to see that they had some of the Clark's sandals that work for me! Wow! The question was, were there any in my size? There were! Woohoo! There were two, a kind of faded denim blue and a white.
Ooooo decisions, decisions. I really liked the white ones. They looked summery and a little dressy. White automatically looks dressy to me. BUT. The Big But. Bertha But. White also gets dirty so quickly. And in very short order instead of having pretty white dressy looking sandals, I would have grubby looking sandals. No matter how clean they were, they would not appear to be so. Dang. Well then, the Denim colour sandals it is! Not a colour I ever would have planned to buy but I like them just fine.
So the red ones have been further demoted to doing yard work, or dirty household chores. I just cannot bring myself to throw them out yet. The black ones are for every day and the new denim coloured ones are for when I want to look particularly nice. Yay!
I will keep my eyes peeled for sales and eventually maybe I will have every colour of Clark's sandals in my closet. Well probably not. But it's certainly fun to think about.
Okay, this is going to sound strange to you, but so far, my favourite part of being retired is the weekends.
"What?" I hear you say, "Every day is like the weekend to you now. You are retired!"
Well, yes I am. But Tim is not. Which means that while I am doing, pretty much as I please all day, Tim is still hard at work all day, every day, Monday through Friday. Poor Tim. Makes me feel a little guilty sometimes.
So, during the week while Tim is slaving away in front of his many computer screens and phone calls, I have my stuff going on, which is primarily, taking care of hearth and home. And laundry. There is always a lot of laundry. And cleaning. Endless cleaning. And cooking. And grocery shopping. And some small minor yard work. What else do I do all day? Errands. Somehow there are always a thousand small errands to run. The grocery store, the post office or the drugstore. Maybe a birthday card to pick up, oh we need envelopes, dang, I ran out of laundry soap. And don't even start thinking about any holidays!
But here's the thing. The reason why weekends are especially delicious now. Back when I was working full time, which was most of my adult life, All of that other stuff? Yeah, it got done on the weekends. I'm sure the same is true for all of you. See if this doesn't sound at least a little bit familiar.
Monday through Friday we were up and out early in the day doing our jobs, earning our paychecks. At the end of the day we arrived home in time to prepare, eat and clean up from dinner. But oh yeah, it's important to get some exercise in there too. For Tim it was usually a trip to the gym. For me it was more likely one of the marathon walks that Marsha and I did every single night. And afterwards, it might be a good night to mow the lawn, or weed the gardens, or trim the shrubs or wash the cars. Perhaps it was wintertime and then there waws almost always something that needed shoveling.
Afterwards usually we had just enough energy after a full day of work and exercise and dinner and outside chores to get one thing on the inside gotta-do list accomplished. One small thing, like, perhaps, one load of wash. And then we would just kind of keel over with a crash before getting up and doing the same thing the next day. The thing is, we loved our jobs too. We enjoyed what we did to earn a living and we enjoyed the people that we spent our work days with. But as Monday turned into Tuesday into Wednesday and the weekend drew near, we longed for the weekends just like everyone else.
Finally the weekend arrived. Hurrah! And then that's when our other jobs started. The rest of everything that needs doing. And it's a long dang list. BUT it's not healthy to be all work and no play, so we were also trying to balance out the gotta-do's with the fun-to-do's. It's important to have that down time.
Ultimately we would end up spending one day of the weekend running around like crazy people trying to squeeze in every single thing that needed to be done so that the other day could be spent doing something fun, getting out of the house, up into the mountains maybe, or spending the day with friends, going to the movies or playing golf or......anything besides obligation.
But the push to get the weekend chores done - meaning everything that didn't get done during the week but still has to get done and make it a point to do something fun on the weekends to became ALMOST another obligation. The obligation to find balance, the obligation to fit a weeks worth of chores into one day, the obligation to do the maintenance required to have healthy relationships, to re-connect with each other and the people we care about. And, sometimes, it was exhausting.
The weekends were only marginally different from the week days in all honesty.
But now it's different. Now allllllll of that other stuff is already done. The house is clean, the laundry is done, the errands are run and yard is taken care of and the weekends are now ours to do with as we please.
We can sleep late, if we wish. We can go out to breakfast. We can go away for the entire weekend if we want to do so. The weekends are ours. Both days of it. We can stay home and veg or we can go out and play.
I find that we move at a slower pace on the weekends now. There is no rushing around. By Monday, we are more rested and prepared for the coming week. In short, I think that we are both enjoying my retirement and it's a beautiful thing. When the day comes that Tim also retires, we are going to enjoy that even more ;)
When this Friday rolls around I'll be all:
Retirement. Yup, I recommend it.
I've written before of my newspaper addiction. I don't want to repeat myself so suffice it to say that for me, a day without a newspaper is a day without sunshine. Even on day when the news isn't especially "newsy" I have a compulsion, a need, to start my day by reading the paper.
But the past seven days have been a little different. It's been a weird week for newspapers for me. This is how it went:
This past Saturday, I could tell immediately that it had been a rather slow news day. Anyone could tell. Here you are, Saturdays newspaper and there is a photo of a bird. On the front page. It's an Egret which is not even an unusual bird here. They are literally everywhere there is water. We live on an island. We are surrounded by water. And the bird is not even doing anything unusual. It caught a fish. So what? That's what they do. They catch and eat fish. All day, every day. And this was on the front page. I read the paper anyway.
The Sunday paper was fine it was just strange because I didn't get around to reading it until the end of the day and that just felt wrong. Because it was Father's Day, it was a day that was all about Tim. He was the most important thing all day. Therefore, my need to read the paper waited. The day felt a little upside down. Reading at the end of the day instead of the beginning feels strange. Not a big deal. Just out of the ordinary.
Mondays paper was nonexistent. What the heck? I walked out to the end of the driveway and .......nothing. I looked to the left. Nope. I looked to the right. Nope. I looked under the car and in the bushes. No newspaper. Dang. When I came inside I told Tim who contacted the newspaper who promised to deliver it with Tuesdays paper. Monday felt wrong all day.
Tuesday, both newspapers arrived stuffed into one plastic sleeve. So I read Mondays first and then Tuesdays. So I suppose it was a bonus newspaper day. Still while I was glad to read the Monday paper, it was day-old news y'know?
On Wednesday we always receive two papers anyway, both the National and World Newspaper - the Herald and the local Newspaper - The Gondolier Sun. The Herald was double bagged because it was pouring rain. I mean the full-on gullywasher, Florida Rainy Season kind of downpour typical this time of year. Because that newspaper was double bagged, it was completely dry despite lying in a puddle in the driveway. The Gondolier Sun, however, was single bagged in the same puddle and completely totally entirely drenched. dang.
It was so wet in fact, that I couldn't even peel the bag off. I had to cut the bag off the wet newspaper and then spread it out in the utility room on the floor with a fan on it, hoping it would dry.
The thing about a wet newspaper is that the ink runs. My hands were covered by the time I was done laying it out on the floor, it was on my shirt, on the rug in the utility room, essentially everything that it touched had ink on it. So severe scrubbing followed. Wet newspaper is also very fragile. It tears if you look at it too hard. So I didn't even dare open it. I just ever so gently separated sections of the paper before laying it down.
Once it eventually dried, the ink had bled through from one side to the next so badly that it was unreadable. Dang. After all that, I threw it into the recycle bin, unread. I later found out that there was an interview of a friend of mine in that particular days paper. Dang again.
So I went online hoping to read the article there. Nope you need a super secret password to read a newspaper on line. We subscribe to the paper so I'm sure that we have a password, but of course I have no idea what it is. I had to to ask Tim the next day for the password so that I could, at long last, read at least that one interview.
Yesterday's newspaper arrived with no puddles, no rain and no problem but missing one section. Let's see here's A, here's B and here's D. What the heck? What happened to section C? Drat. I was C-less. C is the section with the funnies in it. Which, as we all know, is the most important part of the newspaper! No funnies yesterday. It was NOT a funny day.
Today's paper is sitting on the kitchen counter. I haven't even looked at it yet. It has arrived. Check. It's not wet. Check. I haven't bothered to see if all of the sections are there yet. All in all, it has not been a good week for newspapers at this house. But hope springs eternal.
And who knows? Maybe some of the news in the paper is actually good news for a change. That would make it a perfect news day!
Have a GREAT weekend!
Hold on to your hats folks because today's story is absolutely disgusting! So naturally I had to share it with you. Lucky you.
I will start by saying that here are a lot of oak trees here. They are called Live Oaks. Not to insinuate that other oak trees are not alive, but because these never lose their leaves. They are green year 'round. So it came as no surprise at all that we have a lot of squirrels here.
I don't mind squirrels at all. I know they are rodents but I think they are kind of cute. They have terrific personalities, are kind of goofy (which I like) and have loads of energy. So without them being actual pets, they still serve as they same sort of level of entertainment.
So I was really rather sad when I came back from an errand the other day and found a dead squirrel in our courtyard. Awwwww ;(
I have no idea what happened to him. Perhaps he was just really old and had a little squirrelly heart attack while short cutting through the courtyard. Or maybe he was trying to jump from High Point A to High Point B and missed? Maybe another squirrel contracted a hit on him? Or he ratted out the wrong guy, see? Honestly no idea. And yet, there he was. Without question deceased. In our courtyard. Which makes it my problem to deal with. sigh.
So the real question was..what to do with him? Having never run across this problem before. (seriously never) I really saw only two possibilities. Bury him somewhere in the yard. Or wrap him in a plastic bag and toss him in the garbage. That second option being simpler and me being a lazybutt, is exactly what I did. Please note that handing this problem off to someone else never even crossed my mind. What an idiot I am!
So anyway, armed with a double layer of plastic bags and a dustpan (which I later washed to within an inch of it's life) I shrouded the squirrel in the plastic bags, wrapped it around him very well, said a few brief but sincere words over him and deposited him into our outside garbage can, then promptly forgot about it.
Until yesterday. Tim and I do not produce a great deal of garbage. So usually by weeks end our GIGANTIC outside can has only two bags in it at most. Yesterday late afternoon, I emptied all of the smaller cans in the house into the larger kitchen garbage bag which made it full enough to warrant taking it outside.
The instant I flipped the hinged lid open, I gagged. Oh my dear it was so disgusting! What on earth? And then I remembered. Ah! Dead squirrel + heat + humidity + giant black garbage can equals simmered dead squirrel. Gaggola! Just the nastiest smell I have run across in a long time.
I did what anyone would do. I threw the new bag in on top of the dead squirrel and wheeled the garbage can to the curb. Luckily for me, we have twice a week garbage pick up here and this morning was the pick up morning. for one of them. Perfect timing. I almost never take advantage of this second pick up day but this time I absolutely did. But I knew what that meant. It meant that today, when I wheeled that empty can back, I would have to face the music. Or at least the stink.
So I didn't bother to shower when I got up today. I put on my oldest, yuckiest, paint spattered, hole ridden, worn out clothes and my rubber sandals (so that they could later be washed), threw my hair up into a ponytail and went to work.
So there I am on the side of the house trying to decide how to do this while ignoring the stench and the maggotty grossness left behind.
This garbage can is enormous. It stands about mid-chest tall on me and I cannot reach across it. It's like a tunnel on wheels which makes it harder to clean than your basic garbage can.
First of all I decided that water, and a good deal of it would be in order. Luckily for me, there is a hose on that side of the house. Unluckily for me, I never can figure out how to coil a hose properly so that last time I used it I left it just kind of mounded in a heap. My bad.
It is an extraordinarily long hose and very heavy besides. And it simply refuses to coil. I have fought many a battle with this hose and I lose every single time. I think I have given up and let the hose win. The problem with letting the hose win is that when it sits in a heap, it somehow morphs from a rather gentle heap into a series of kinks. I'm not sure how or why, but there it is. So I spent quite some time trying to unkink the hose enough to allow ANY amount of water to run through it. It was not exactly at power wash level by the end but more than a trickle. Somewhere in between there. Sufficient water.
Then what next? I hmmmmed a bit in the utility room and decided that ammonia ought to kill about anything. It stinks almost as badly as the dead squirrel did but at least that smell ought to dissipate...eventually. So I poured in a healthy dollop of it. The smell of the ammonia combined with the existing fragrance of dead squirrel was enough to make my head swim. You'd think I might have puked by then right? Not me. I'm made of sterner stuff. Not only did I live on a working farm at one time, I also had three lively, active, rambunctious little boys who delighted in anything disgusting. AND most of my adult life I have worked my medical professionals some of whom delighted in trying to gross out non-medical people. I've already run the gauntlet and survived. I can handle dead squirrel stink.
Because the can is so big and deep, I absolutely couldn't reach the bottom to scrub without climbing in to it and I am absolutely NOT doing that. It's hard to gross me out but I am claustrophobic and no. Not climbing into the can to clean it. So I rigged up an old towel on the end of a rake and used that as my scrubber. Over and over. I'd add water and ammonia, scrub and empty the can. Emptying the can was interesting too. It's big and heavy. I am small and while not as light as I used to be, I'm still not very big. I am however, thanks to Pilates, much stronger than I used to be, so I was able to grab that now extremely heavy can by the wheels and heave it over, lift it to drain the dirty water, then pull it upright again. Over and over.
Finally, I ran out of ammonia. My assumption then was that if I used an entire bottle of ammonia it must be sufficiently clean. But just in case, I started in on a bottle of dish soap. Water, dish soap, scrub (with a new towel), empty, over and over until I ran out of dishsoap. I officially declared it clean.
I left the can with the lid flipped open until it dries. The first garbage that will go in there are the towels I used to clean it which are in a garbage bag waiting patiently. I have hosed off the area I was working in and left the hose (turned off now of course) in it's customary heap so I can complain about it again the next time I need to use it. I may throw away the clothes I was wearing at the time as well.
I've showered but I still have this urge to dip myself in Lysol which I am resisting.
And I have vowed solemnly that should another squirrel drop dead in my courtyard, this time I will bury it will full honours in something biodegradable like a shoebox in my yard. The VERY back of the yard. Never again will I use a garbage can as a dead squirrel coffin.
Let this be a lesson to you. If I cannot be a good example, I should at least serve as a cautionary tale.
When it comes to types of houses, at one time or another, I've lived in most sorts. Big, small, old and new, city, country, suburb, fancy, plain, apartment and single family. I have never lived in a Yurt or a mobile home, but otherwise, I've pretty well got the gamete pretty well covered.
In all that time I've only lived in two brand new homes. The first was in a suburb of Chicago when I was probably 3 years old. Up 'til then we lived in downtown Chicago in a succession of very old and very tiny apartments. The only room I remember in that first house was the kitchen but I'm told that it was a small, humble tract home in a brand new development called Rolling Meadows. My dad was justifiably very proud to have done well enough to get us out of the city and into a house in the 'burbs. My parents spent a lot of time and energy keeping it looking nice for the brief amount of time that we lived there before moving to California.
The only other brand new house that I lived in was when Tim and I moved to Colorado. When we first arrived, we had lived in a rental while deciding first, what town we wanted to live in, then what house. We knew exactly nothing about Colorado when we arrived. Well, I knew that it was one of those "squarey" states out west and that it had mountains, but that was my sum total knowledge. So we spent every weekend for awhile visiting towns that were a reasonable driving distance to Tim's job. And then once we found towns we liked, we spent our two days off a week looking at previously owned homes and we didn't get excited about any of them. So we started looking at model homes and to our surprise, found one we liked better than anything else. We signed a contract and for a year we spent most every weekend watching with excitement, fascination and impatience as our house slowly took shape.
It was a beautiful house and we loved it. And, since I had spent my entire life living previously owned homes and therefore I knew that amount of work involved with maintaining and fixing up an older home, I assumed that a brand new home would require much less work. I was wrong. I was so very wrong.
While we didn't have to do any of the big stuff like repair the roof or update plumbing or electricity, there was always something that needed to be done. Painting the inside (the builder only did the primer white coat), putting handles on the cabinet doors (builder also didn't do that) pendant lights over the island, window treatements for all those damned windows (so many windows!) and of course landscaping the exterior.
After the first year of some serious Colorado weather - hail, blizzards, tornadoes, wildfires, unrelenting sun a mile closer than most other places and torrential rain we had to have work done on the roof. When we heard about some house robberies a few miles away, Tim had a security system put in place. We had to have covers made for the window wells around our basement windows. Had patio poured for the back of the house and re-landscaped. (Colorado weather is not very conducive to gardening). Fencing went in, exterior paint was touched up and landscaping was re-done again. It was a never ending circle. Different gotta-do's but still a list. There is always a list.
Consequently, when we moved to Florida and started looking for a place to live the scope was wide open. We considered everything, new houses, old houses, not yet built houses. Gated communities, non-gated communities, and no formal community at all. And the idea of an older home did not scare us away.
The oldest house I ever lived in was in Connecticut. In my first marriage I lived in an old farm house that was built somewhere in the late 1700's. Nobody was ever certain of the exact date. It had no central heat, sketchy plumbing, even sketchier electricity and used old newspapers for insulation. Let's just say that house required a lot of work.
The first house that Tim and I bought together was practically brand new by comparison. It was colonial style house that was built in 1940. See? Practically a baby! Still it needed a new septic system, new roof, new pump in the well as well as new doors and windows. Eventually we managed to scrape all of the old wall paper off of it's plaster walls and painted every single room, and even further down the line refinished the floors and redid the kitchen. And just when it was looking pretty good, we moved to Colorado!
Now we have this house which was built in 1962. We've been here 3 years now. In those three short years, we have reno-ed the kitchen, had a whole new HVAC system put into place and moved the washer/dryer out of the kitchen and into the utility room. We had the house re-plumbed, the electricity updated, painted almost every room, cleaned and cleaned (and CLEANED!) and will forever be hacking away at the jungle that that serves as our yard. And the list of things that still need to be done is still a long one.
Sometimes we tackle the big jobs, sometimes the smaller ones.
Recently Tim decided to scratch a smaller one off the list. Replacing door knobs. First of all, knobs is a ridiculous word. It looks funny and it sounds funnier. Just had to get that out of the way. The doorknobs that came with the house were the round brassy gold ones, circa 1960. Most of them were paint spattered (not by me, I swear! They were like that when we got here), chipped, and a couple of them were cranky about turning at all. I'm pretty sure you've seen this sort:
Tim is replacing them with an entirely different sort. For several reasons. First of all, we do not care for that brassy gold colour at all. No thank you. If you like it, great. We do not. Secondly, turning a knob when your hands are full of...groceries, laundry baskets, small children, dogs, whatever...is needlessly difficult. As is turning a knob when you've just put lotion on your hands. (next to impossible actually!) And then, there are my stupid arthritic hands. Some days, it's no big deal at all. Other days, just grasping the knob can be painful. Without making a big deal out of it, I know it's going to just get harder as time goes by. Gotta be realistic, right?
So we have moved on to what I suppose, is more accurately called a door lever and not a door knob.
The doors open so much more easily now! And we chose a brushed nickel colour which is what we like. And yes, I do watch HGTV shows and we go to professionally decorated model homes so I know that the newest big thing is a return to gold fixtures. But we don't especially care for gold coloured handles so, no. We will not be installing those in our house. If you like them, great! Put them in your house.
Meanwhile, as always, I am surprised and pleased with how much difference a small thing like new door handles make! It's subtle, but it definitely perks the place up! We love it!
So hurrah! One more thing off the list! Still the list is along one. We will continue to chip away at it and eventually it will be a much smaller, far more manageable list.
I figure that by the time we are both dead and gone, the house oughta look pretty good!
So last night, Tim finally got his belated requested Father's Day dinner. Burgers on the grill. It's not a fancy meal by any stretch of the imagination, but it's what he wanted. And sometimes, even with something as simple as this, it's about the details. If you start out with good quality product, you end up serving good quality product.
Which is how we found ourselves Saturday amoungst the massive and sometimes maddening crowds at our local and wonderful Farm Market, Detweillers. I've written about Detweillers before, but in case you missed that one, it's a small local, oh I guess "chain" is the correct term. They source their foods locally and try to never buy outside a fifty mile radius which nowadays is less than an hour away. They have the most beautiful produce I've ever seen, smelled or tasted. They also have an impressive butcher shop, seafood section, dairy and my favourite part, the bakery. It's an Amish bakery by the way, so no preservatives. Bliss with calories :)
Everytime we go to Detweillers on a Saturday (they close Sundays) we know before we walk into the door that it's going to be a madhouse. Even off-season it's packed. But it's totally worthwhile. It takes a lot of patience and a little bit of pushiness (if you don't you will just stand by the door for eternity) and the ability of a cat of slink through small spaces, squeezing between people and that tiny space between shopping cart and food display. I've gotten very good at it. Practice practice practice!
The plan was to restock the freezer with meat. Really, that was all we planned to buy. So we skirted the beautiful produce sections and headed straight to the back. We were on the lookout for ground beef for hamburgers and whatever else Tim found that he liked the looks of. I was kind of along for the ride. Their meats are gorgeous. Again locally sourced and Tim swears (and our friend Paul will back him up on this) that the steaks we buy at Detweillers are better than any we've had at fancy arsed steak houses! Selections made, we worked our way to the checkout via the bakery because, well hey, it's a bakery. Actually it's not just A bakery, it's kind of THE bakery.
I spied some hamburger rolls and considered it. My original plan was to go back to my local grocery store, Publix for those. I had noticed recently, (on a day when I didn't need them) that they now occasionally have brioche hot dog and hamburger buns now! Woohoo!~ Brioche any kind of bun is always a wonderful thing. However, Publix doesn't always have them. I was kind of banking on the hope that Saturday, when I was shopping for the Father's Day cookout, they would. Tim and I discussed it for a minute or two and decided to give the Amish bakery hamburger buns a shot. A Bird in the Hand kind of thought. Or well, rather, Buns in the hand. Wait a minute. That sounds rude. Sorry.
As we stood in line, meats and hamburger buns loaded in our little cart, my eyes fell on a brand of chips I'd never heard of. Good's Potato Chips. Hmm. Interesting. I asked Tim. No, he had never heard of them either. While we waited I was planning the cookout menu. In my head I was making macaroni and/or potato salads to go with the burgers. Baked Beans of course - Bush's to be specific and thought the meal would be complete. But, chips go with burgers too right? Let's be brave and try these Good's Chips and see if they are, in fact, any good.
So we felt as if we were set to go. We had specially sourced really good quality ground beef, those super nice Amish made in house hamburger buns with whatever sides I ended up making, the baked beans of course and the mysterious Good's Chips. If the chips aren't, in fact, good, there would be plenty of other food to fill in the gap.
You are dying to know aren't you?
The chips were good. The chips were incredibly good! As it turns out these are the most appropriately named product EVER. So light, just the right amount of salt, crispy, thin, flavourful and not greasy at all. Oh My Goodness!
We could easily have finished off the entire bag. BUT we did not. And I promise you, that took discipline! Wow! I was so impressed that I looked them up.
They are made in Adamstown Pennsylvannia which is in Lancaster County. Some of you may know this as the Dutch Pennsylvannia area, home to many Amish and Mennonite famers and their amazing products. AHA! The old fashioned look of the packaging should have tipped me off there.
I also learned that the company started in 1886 (!!!) and, while they now have machines to peel and slice the potatoes, they still make their products the way they did 133 years ago, in small batches, with lard. Yes, that's right, I said lard. Everyone else has moved on to other kind of frying oils, some of which have names I cannot hope to pronounce. Good's uses lard. Sometimes the old ways really are the best ways!
I checked out their website. Detwillers had two choices for Good's Chips. Original in the blue bag and Kettle Cooked in a red bag. Obviously, we arbitrarily chose the blue bag. Next time, we will check out the red one. I'm not absolutely certain what the difference is between regular potato chips and kettle cooked ones. I guess I will find out.
On the website it appears that they have branched out to pretzels, cheese curls and BBQ flavoured chips. Wow! I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that while it's very cool of them to make a nice variety, i'm betting that their best sellers are still the original old fashioned amazing wonderfully fabulous blue bag chips.
And to think that if I hadn't been in a what the heck, let's try it sort of mood instead of my usual, well let's stick to what we know, cautious self, we never would have found our new favourite potato chip! Sometimes you have to take a chance ;) What's life without a little risk now and again eh?
Hope everyone had a good Father's Day weekend! Ours was perfectly lovely despite the on and off rain all weekend. Sometimes it was just that little pittypat of rain that the garden loves and even I can walk around in with impunity. Other times it was rain of a more torrential sort. The kind that if if you are driving means that the road and the side of the road look frighteningly similar.
Sidenote: I don't think I will ever stop marveling at how Florida rain falls so very specifically. There we were driving along, minding our own business. I was reading a funny article to Tim from my phone, he was laughing at all the funny parts. Then I heard one of those thunder claps that makes the entire world seem to stop for a split second. And then it was as if we had driven into a wall of rain. As we continued to motor forward, far more slowly, around us was bizarro rain world. It was all about sensations: the sound of the rain drumming on the roof and the crashsplash of driving through massive puddles, the feel of the wind pushing against the car as we moved forward and everything else was silent. Then, just as suddenly, we drove through another end wall into sunshine and dry pavement but we could still see the rainy part in the rear view mirror. It was WILD!
Anyway, so part rain, part sun, lotsa clouds weekend. And there is a balance to it all like most things, the rain giveth: rainbows, cooler temperatures, beautiful sunsets, some terrific photo ops and the rain taketh away: the cookout I had planned for Father's Day dinner. Ratz.
But that's ok. We know a number of pizza places in our area that deliver and since we also ended up having pizza on Mother's Day, come to think of it, it's kind of full circle ;) But I did have a fun little cookout planned really. And when I would normally have been standing at the grill, instead I was standing at the window looking out at yet another downpour. But there is nothing to be done for it. We still got out and about and had fun and got wet and enjoyed the weekend.
I told Tim that it was HIS weekend and that we would do whatever he wanted. And one of the things he wanted to do was visit my Dad. And so we did. We honoured BOTH of our fathers in one visit really. Tim's dad was in the Marine Corps and my dad was in the Navy. So spending a little bit at the National Cemetery was a tribute to both.
I adored both my own father and my father-in-law. Both men were very family oriented, very smart and very interesting men. My dad loved to laugh, and Tim's dad told some of the funniest stories I've ever heard. I think they would have liked each other. They would have balanced each other out nicely. But oddly, I don't think they ever actually met. Kind of a shame because I loved them both dearly and miss them so much. Maybe they are hanging out together up in heaven eh?
The rest of our weekend was a lot of photographs and visiting model houses (because we like doing that) and running errands and watching old movies on TV and one trip to Long Horn Steak House because that is one of Tim's favourites and being sleepy listening to the rain.
All in all, not a bad way to celebrate Father's Day.
Hope yours was a good one too.
Every week I make a giant green salad for myself. Each day I have a big dish of it for lunch. It's not a fancy salad, there is nothing interesting or creative in it. It's mostly various sorts of lettuce, a cucumber and then either tomato or celery or maybe peppers sliced up in there. Why? Because that is the way that I like it. Simple. And no, I never get tired of it.
If I want to change it up a bit, I might slice up a boiled egg on top. Or dice some really beautiful mozzarella cheese into it. By the way, I generally do not use actual formal "salad dressings". I like to drizzle a little Balsamic Reduction on top. Maybe a little unconventional, but again, I like it and I am, after all, making this salad primarily for my own use. Tim might enjoy a very small salad before a meal now and again, but for me this IS the meal.
All well and good, right? I really never gave it a second's thought until I was watching some cooking show while I was ironing.
Side note: I love cooking competition shows. It's exciting to me. It's interesting and fascinating and captivating. I could not possibly care less about sports competition shows, but give me a good bake-off or an episode of Master Chef and I am glued to the screen. Such a weirdo.
Anyway, in the particular show I was watching, the contestants had to create an entire meal, appetizer course, salad course, entree and dessert. I was so surprised at what they were calling a salad. It wasn't at all what I refer to as a salad. It was pretty, don't get me wrong. Very fancyschmancy. But if it were served to me, I wouldn't immediately think: salad. It was stuff more like:
It made me wonder. Have I been wrong all along about what exactly constitutes a salad? It's not unprecedented after all. I have been wrong before. I think I may have majored in it. So of course, I looked it up.
Learn to pronounce
Okay. I guess technically all of the dishes above quality. Raw or Cooked vegetables. Meat, fish or other ingredients. Wow. That is pretty broad. I mean we might be straying into entree territory here. Where do you suppose they draw the line between a salad that has meat in it and an entree that has vegetables in it?
You will notice that it doesn't mention fruit though. Did you see that? Vegetables. Not Fruit. So then, why is a bunch of cut up fruit in a dish a fruit salad? Or the ever so nasty gelatin with fruit in it called a Jello Salad? Or even weirder...smashed up egg with mayo is an Egg Salad!!! Why oh why oh why?
There are a lot of food related things that make me wonder. Like French Fries and French Toast. Neither one is from France. So why French? Well with French Fries, during WWI, American soldiers were introduced to this food in Belgium. The official language of Belgium is French. The potatoes are fried after all. Hence, French Fries. But technically it's wrong.
The jury is still out about French Toast. There are several interesting theories but nothing absolute. Still, it's not French particularly. And the recipe has been around since Ancient Roman times.
And then there are other things like, Boston Cream Pie. It's lovely. It's delicious. It's delightful. And it's also not a pie. It's a cake. Again, food historians aren't positive about the origin of this misnomer either, but they think perhaps it's because the cake was usually made in a pie tin because most people didn't own cake pans. Hmmmm. It reminds me of an episode of the old Harry Anderson show, "Nightcourt" where Harry says to someone, "Just because your cat had kittens in the stove, it doesn't make them biscuits!"
And please someone explain to me why some people say, "Pizza pie". Pizza MEANS pie. So effectively they are saying, "Pie pie". Pizza is certainly worth saying it twice. A good pizza is a thing of beauty after all. But really...saying pizza pie is unnecessarily redundant. Please stop.
I could continue. Endlessly. I have limitless curiosity about the world and that will never change. But that is no reason for me to inflict it upon you. I will stop here and wish you a wonderful weekend!
Happy Father's Day to all the dad's of EVERY sort out there (dads, fathers, papa's, step-father's, paters, grandfathers, daddies, pops etc.) Make sure that you celebrate them all! They deserve it!
So all of you already know that the place I primarily go to buy any clothes is Beall's Outlet. It's right here on the island and I simply cannot beat the prices. If I work it just right, I can find something at the discounted price, AND on the clearance rack, WITH a coupon, on Senior discount day! They are practically paying me to buy stuff. For a cheapskate like me, this is shopping nirvana.
Now that I shop at the outlet store, I simply cannot force myself to pay regular retail prices in other places. Just cannot do it. Doesn't matter to me how beautiful the outfit is, or how good it looks on me. For instance, before Joy left for Yellowstone this year, we did a shopping trip to a very nice mall up in Sarasota. In and out of so many pretty shops we went, Joy tried on many things and encouraged me to do the same. I declined over and over but finally, in one shop, I broke down and tried on a few tops. Super Cute Stuff! Everything I tried on fit. Everything I tried on looked good. But I just cannot make myself spend sixty dollars (and more!!!) for a cute top when I can buy a different cute top at the outlet store for under ten. Sometimes WAY under. Cannot do it.
Well, not long ago, my friend Marsha was here and, of course, we went shopping. At her request, we went to Beall's Outlet. Obviously I had mentioned that store to her before. We each found a few things that we really loved and at a non-ouchie total cost. Because I have a "membership card" there, which of course I always use, it turned out that I had accumulated enough "points" that along with the receipt, the machine spit out a $5 off coupon. Woohoo!
I hung on to the receipt for a couple of weeks before I returned. I was determined to not let it go to waste as I, unfortunately, have in the past. Those little receipt coupons just look like random pieces of paper. I am forever tiding and cleaning everything here. And I'm quite sure that I saw what appeared to be a piece of scrap paper and threw it away. This time, I paperclipped it to my desk calendar. Anything under the paperclip is sacrosanct. Appointment cards, dry cleaner pickup numbers, grocery lists, library book return slips and, in this case, a Bealls outlet 5$ off coupon.
Tuesday, when I knew I was doing the grocery shopping anyway, I decided to take the coupon along with me. I tucked it into my purse with the grocery list. While there was nothing that immediately came to mind as something I actually "needed", sometimes there is that thing that I never knew I always wanted, y'know? And before you write me off as a selfish oinker, before I left I did ask Tim if there was anything he needed. I would have been perfectly happy buying him whatever he needed. But he declined.
Beall's Outlet is in the same plaza as the grocery store. Handy eh? I walked in with no plan at all. I did wander through the clothes a little bit. But nothing really struck me as a "gotta have it". I checked out the shoes hoping for a decent pair of sneakers but there wasn't much outside of sandals (which does make sense this time of year). I even cruised through lingerie and PJ's. Nothin'. I'm not sure if it was my frame of mine or if there just wasn't much in my size there that day. (one of the down sides of exclusively shopping at an outlet store. It's very Hit-or-Miss. On good days there are LOADS of options. On bad days, not much). I admit that I did forget to look through the purses.
I sighed and moved over to the men's department. Maybe I could find a new shirt for Tim instead. I knew he said he didn't need anything but men do not always fully appreciate the value of having an extra shirt that you didn't know you needed hanging in the closet. Sadly, there were slim pickin's on that side too. Ratz.
Finally, assuming that I would be walking out with the coupon still in my hot little hand and rationalizing that, what the heck, it's only $5, who cares if I don't use it, I turned to the "this-n-that" section of the store. I rarely wander through there (although last Christmas I did find the Perfect tree skirt for Joy & Bob there!!)
It's a mishmosh of things. Surprisingly good quality but mismatched luggage, towels, pots & pans, soap dishes, toss pillows and tchotchkes of every sort. I kind of listlessly wandered around through the aisles feeling entirely uninspired. For a moment I got kind of excited when I came across a nice big toss pillow that would great in the family room. But they only had one. And the colour was kind of blah. It would work. But on the blah end of working if you follow that. Everything else about the pillow was right. The size, the pluffiness of it, the quality of it (good fabric, good stitchery, etc) but nope. I was about to leave when I found ....... Taadaa! (see the photos at the top of the page)
It practically leaped off the wall and into my arms. That tiny little step stool was perfect. It folds flat and fits in the pantry between my rolling baking station and the wall. It's light weight but very strong and it sets up and breaks back down, easy peasy.
Ok I already own a step stool. It's large, it's heavy, it's metal and it's hanging in the utility room. I don't mean to poo-poo something so very useful. As you can tell, I have found it especially useful while painting. I think every colour I've ever used to paint a wall is on that stepstool somewhere. We have been utilizing this stepstool for years and years. We may have had it for our entire married life. So I'm talking twenty-five years of usefulness! And it isn't as if it suddenly isn't useful. Not at all. But sometimes when I need to reach something higher than I can reach, I just don't need to touch the ceiling. I just need to be about 6 inches taller.
I know that I am going to find this smaller, lighter weight stepstool very useful. Reaching something on the shelf of any closet in the house and of course the upper shelves in the kitchen will be a breeze now. But I think it will use it most of all in the pantry.
I have loads of shelves in the pantry. And there is stuff on all of them. Straight ahead, to the left and to the right as I walk in. And I can reach 3 of them. When our builder guy built the pantry, he and I had a long discussion about shelving. As he was a tall guy, his starting point was a lot higher than mine. I walked into the unfinished space and said, "you need to start putting the shelves here." I pointed to a spot that was probably around his knees. He started to argue with me and then I reached up as high as I could and well, it's just not that far. So he smiled and nodded and now I have 3 levels that I can reach on the own. Hurrah. But two that I cannot. Boooooo. At least not without hauling out that big heavy bulky metal stepstool.
Until now! Yay! The little stepper is already in the pantry. It takes only just a second to pop it out and set it up and, bonus, I can do it one handed! Which means I can bring something down and still have it in my hands while putting away the stepper.
I am just tickled to bits! And the even better part? It only cost me $2.99. Woohoo! Frugal Girl Happy Dance! Already cheaper coz it's from the outlet store, and then on clearance on top of it, WITH my coupon.
The very best sort of surprise. That things that I never knew I always wanted. With a coupon. Excellent!
'A smile is transformative'. Those were the words I read on the page.
I will admit that most of the time when I say that I am reading, what I am actually doing is skimming. My eyes move diagonally across the page from the top left corner to the bottom right fairly quickly looking for the words that move the article, the story or the essay forward. Rarely am I moved to actually specifically read every single word on every single page. I pick up enough of the topic to get the jist of what the author is trying to say and I move on.
If what I am "reading' turns out to be more interesting than I anticipated, I might go back to skim again, more slowly, seeking that answers to any questions I am mentally asking. Or if it's something truly outrageous, I will re-read to be certain that I actually read what I thought I read before shaking my head at the absurdity of it all before continuing.
When it's really quality writing, oh yes, then I am not only reading every word, sometimes I stop and savour the words, marveling at the perfection of the construction of the sentence. It could be the deliciousness of the authors word choice or maybe it is just a beautifully captivated scene. Maybe it is just a rollicking good tale that deserves to be properly read rather than skimmed. Or it's information that it so specific and important that I absolutely must squeeze every bit of knowledge from what little is on the page. But sadly, those are the exceptions rather than that rule.
Which is why I was so surprised when that one sentence jumped out at me. "A smile is transformative". Wow! That's a pretty big statement.
I'm not sure how I ran across that particular article. It was by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. I remember that part. And I was so captured by that one sentence that I wrote it down to consider later.
It's true of course. Every dentist in the world will tell you that. It's why people are willing to go into debt to have cosmetic dental surgeries or even braces. But I"m pretty sure the good Sisters weren't talking about dental work.
So I thought I would do a little experiment. I stood in front of the mirror in our entryway and took two selfies. One not smiling, the other smiling. Literally one photo immediately after the other. It's not even a big smile. Just the littiest, teeniest, tiniest hint of a smile on my part. Very little actual effort involved. And yes. I look completely different.
The non-smiley face isn't an angry face, although perhaps it could be construed that way. It was just a non-smiling face. I look older when I'm not smiling. I look tired and, if not angry then at least not happy. Yikes! Kind of a scary face. If someone I didn't know gave me that look, I would wonder what I did wrong.
According to the Dominican Sisters, A smile not only changes how people perceive us, it also changes how we feel about ourselves and how we view others. Wow! that pretty powerful for something so very simple.
And while I am, just by nature, a smiley person, I know that not everyone is. Thought sometimes it feels like some folks go out of their way to be NOT happy. Which is very sad. I just cannot imagine going through my life intentionally being unhappy.
I witnessed this recently and then saw the positive and transformative results of a smile myself just the other day.
I was at the grocery store and it appeared that I chose the day of Old Lady Olympics. Very seriously, 95% of the customers at the store were elderly ladies, each armed with a large purse, a grocery cart and a very bad attitude. They were crashing into people, grumping about everything and everyone in the store, and being as obnoxious as humanly possible. I watched one lady clip a display in the produce section with her cart. When the fruit began to tumble down she marched THROUGH the mess on the floor squashing and kicking things out of her way and complaining about the display. Right. It was the displays fault.
They blocked people from going down aisles, rushed to beat each other out of being "first" at the bakery and deli counters, complained about everything and everyone and barged ahead of anyone not bold enough to stop them in the check out line. These are also the ladies who ALWAYS abandon their carts willy nilly in the parking lot and cannot park properly between the lines to begin with.
So I took a deep breath and decided to shop Zen. I wasn't on the clock. There was no particular rush. No other place I needed to be just then. Hey, I just want to get the stuff on my list ok? "Have mercy please", was my thought and I headed up my first aisle. I allowed them to go ahead of me, I patiently waited while I was blocked and picked up the fruit that fell to the floor. About three quarters of the way through the task, all the while thinking to myself, "You are almost done, you are almost done" I came to a complete halt while a woman was harranging her shopping companion. I have no idea what the argument was about, I really don't care. It was none of my business.
What was my business and that of everyone else trying to shop, was that while this private conversation was loudly going on in a very public place, they were completely blocking not only the aisle but everyone's access to anything on the shelves in that section. And the mouthy lady wasn't moving for anyone. No amount of "excuse me's" or "pardon me's" were helping to move her out of our way.
And so there we all stood, waiting for the show to be over. At some point, the person being yelled at noticed me. I smiled sympathetically and kind of nodded as if to say, "Yeah, I know, it's not your fault. Don't worry about it". She smiled back. Just a tiny smile but definitely there and shifted her position just a wee bit. The yeller, startled at the movement, actually stopped yelling for a moment, and looked around. She saw the tail end of my smile and frowned at me. Which cracked me up and I smiled even bigger at her.
I could see her body visibly relax. She stepped back out of the way and allowed everyone to get what they were trying to reach and then carriage on by. As I passed her I said, "Yeah, we all have bad days. Hope it gets better". She starred at me very hard for a moment and then slowly, very slowly, she smiled back. Taadaa!
It was like magic.
I'm not going to say that it works every single time. But it worked that time.
Did you know that there are other countries where people don't walk around smiling all the time as most of us do? It's true. It doesn't mean that they are unhappy or angry people, it's just not part of their culture to smile in public. And when they visit the U.S. they are surprised and more than a little uncomfortable (at least at first) at how we "walk around smiling like lunatics all the time" (that is a direct quote from one of them). HAH! I would not do well in those countries I suspect.
Meanwhile, I've made a mental note of which afternoon to NOT grocery shop unless it's absolutely necessary. And if it so happens that I do end up shopping on another one of "Those" days, at least I know that I am armed with my very best weapon. My smile.
Windsock, geegaws, whirlygigs, knickknacks, doodahs, gimcracks, tchotchkes, trinkets, twirlies, or yard decorations. Whatever you want to call them, I love 'em. You see a lot of them here. They range from artsy to awful, from elegant to cheesy and I love them all. Which is why it's strange that I do not have any. None. Awwwwww. Kind of sad really.
Well now wait a minute, I guess I sort of do. I bought something to hang on the wall in the courtyard. Maybe that counts? Or maybe it doesn't.
I have had a few in the past. Once upon a time, middle son and his wife gave me the most beautiful gazing ball. It looked like those astronaut photos of earth from out in space. The Big Blue Marble! I placed it "just so" in my garden in Colorado. It looked beautiful out there and everyone who saw it admired it greatly. And then one day, when I was at work, we had a terrible hail storm. When I finally got home, I anxiously ran to check on it outside and there amongst all of the huge icey balls of hail in the garden, surrounded by shredded flowers and plants, were the smashed remainders of my beautiful glass gazing ball. I was devastated.
I briefly had a cheap little twirly that I bought that the Dollar Store here. I really liked it a lot. It was just that one little eye catching fun thing by the entrance to the courtyard. It made people smile when they saw it. But it faded very quickly and fell apart shortly thereafter. Hey, sometimes you really do get what you pay for.
So I spent a wee bit more (not a lot) and bought some of those things that you blow on and they spin...what are they called? Pinwheels! That's it! They were slightly larger than the hand held ones but not out of control big. I put them along the circular driveway. Other people have lights. We had pinwheels. And they were very fun and pretty until the big wind storm whirled them out of the ground and far away. I imagine little fishes under the sea playing with my pinwheels now. So that's no to pinwheels as yard decorations.
I'm contemplating what, if anything, to try next. What to do, what to do.... Hmmmm
I know the first thing that comes to your mind is the ubiquitous, Pink Plastic Flamingos but you would be wrong. I have seen exactly ONE house here on the island that has two pink plastic flamingos in it's yard. One. And it's such a pretty yard, all clean and green and trimmed and cared for that I can only assume that the flamingos in question are either there ironically or maybe they was a gift from someone whose feelings they don't want to hurt. Or who knows? Maybe they just like Flamingos!
The wind sock at the top of the page is in front of a house we drive by with fair frequency. It's not far from here on Casey Key. There are some amazingly gorgeous houses on that road, all of which have water either in front (the gulf) or behind (the bay) and sometimes both! This one house has a wind sock flying almost every day. On Memorial Day however we noticed they had, instead, an American Flag, and at Christmas Time it was something else..I cannot recall what...a Santa maybe? or a Christmas Tree? But most days it's this windsock. I look for it when we drive down that road. It makes me smile every time.
There is a house right around the corner from us that has a very cool, fool the eye kind of geegaw in their yard. It's good sized too. I believe it is referred to as Kenetic Art. Okay, kenetic art then. It's very cool regardless of what it is called. I am greatly envious. It isn't like this exactly, but similar, just more doo-dah on it. Snazzier.
At any rate, it's on my list of things I would like to one day have. Some sort of whirly gig, gee gaw, knickknack, doodad, gimcrack, tchotchke, trinket, spinner, windsock, twirly or yard decoration somewhere in my yard. You can call it kenetic art if you want to. I won't mind at all. I, however, will call it nifty.
Well here we are, ten days into the "rainy" season and we finally got some rain. Hurrah! I was beginning to wonder! Everything outside is so happy. It's perking up and looking so much happier already!
The best part of this first real rain (we did have a few sprinkles earlier in the week, but we laugh at sprinkles. I don't even have to take my hearing aids off to walk in sprinkles. It's isn't enough actual rain to count) is that is happened at night. Before we went to bed last night we heard the thunder and saw the lightening. So I wasn't at all surprised to wake up this morning to all of these lovely leftover rain drops clinging to flowers and leaves that will soon dry up in the unrelenting summer sun.
Did I say summer? I', sorry, I meant to say, summer. Heh. I know, I know, officially it isn't summer until around the 21st of June, something like that right? Well we jump the gun on that, every single year. It's shorts and sandals weather here WAY before that. Probably it's April when I start shifting from jeans to shorts. The sandals and short sleeved shirts most likely started even earlier. The thing that marks "summer" or our summer anyway here is this shift to rain.
Yesterday, the humidity was indeed upon us. And while Tim and I were out and about we noticed how not just oppressive the air was, all heavy and dark, but it was as if the weather was perched just on the brink of rain all day. AT one point, as we were walking along, I looked skyward and said, "For heaven's sakes, just rain and get it over with will ya?" But no, it just hung there silently.
This morning, the rain finally having fallen, everything felt fresh and clean and light. And so much cooler. This morning it was a delight to be outside, just bringing in the garbage can. It's was Hurrah, I'm outside! Not, oh crap, I'm outside.
I grabbed my camera (cellphone) and scampered around the yard taking photos (the ones above) of raindrops and, unintentionally, scaring the bunnies. I wisely wore my rubber flipflops because not only is the lawn (or what passes for lawn) very wet but the soil (or what passes for soil) clings like limpets to your shoes right after it rains here. Rubber flipflops can be rinsed off. Not so much my good leather sandals. Just a little tip there.
I checked the weather forecast and yes indeedy, it appears that we are in for at least some rain every single day this week. Or perhaps night. It would be especially nice if the rain was only working the night shift for awhile. Ease us into this rainy season stuff.
Soon enough it will the kind of humidity that makes you sweat just thinking about going outside. The kind where your clothes stick to you. The type where it is actually possible to break into a sweat while showering. The sort of humidity that makes you feel as if you have learned to breathe under water. I'm not a huge fan of August in Florida.
On the other hand, Joy posted some photos yesterday from up in Yellowstone. It snowed yesterday in Yellowstone. The phone are stunning. Of course. She takes beautiful photographs. But I think I prefer rain in June over Snow in June. I don't have to shovel rain.
Today is National Donut Day! Woohoo! One of the best tasting days ever!
But by now I'm sure you have noticed these are not photos of donuts. These are photos of a pie. Yeah, my bad. I forgot that it was donut day until it was too late to do anything about it. There are no donuts in the house. It's all very sad and should probably be considered a civil crime if not a criminal one. Or maybe a sin. Only venial and not mortal but still a sin.
However! If you think about it, a pie is not that far removed from a donut. Not really. Both of them are relatively simple recipes with only a few ingredients. Flour, sugar, fat and in the case of the pie, fruit. The donut being a fried treat and the pie being a baked one is probably the biggest difference. While I have seen recipe for baked donuts, I've never tried them so for today's purposes, it does not count.
And both of them, pies and donuts are yummy! Both of them are probably terrible for you healthy-wise. AND both of them are excellent for breakfast. Seriously. I had the last piece of this particular pie for breakfast this morning. It was exquisite.
Making a pie wasn't on my list of things to do that day. And in all honesty, I actually hadn't made a pie in quite some time . But when I was at the grocery store just a few days ago, I could smell the peaches when I walked in the door. They smelled so good I was almost drooling. I made my way to the produce department tout suite! Ooooo the peaches looked just as good as they smelled. And they weren't hard like most grocery store peaches, they have just that wee bit of give to them indicating perfect ripeness.
At first I was going to buy just the peaches. Lots of them. Lots and Lots. I would glory in peaches, I would glut upon them, I would make them into every conceivable peach thing in existence. And then I calmed down. How many things could I actually reasonably make before they went south. I mean, once they reach perfect ripeness, the only place to go is over-ripe. Over-ripe is not good. I would have to think of something to do with them that would preserve the perfection of this moment of absolute readiness. Hmmmmm.
So many choices! I had almost settled on Peach Shortcakes, the shortcakes themselves being ever so easy to make, and then my eyes fell on some equally perfect nectarines. Oh me, oh my! I changed my mine immediately. Pie it would be.
While nectarines aren't as fragrant as peaches and not quite as supersweet, they are a little firmer and that lends itself to a pie perfectly. I came home and put all of the rest of the groceries away quickly so that I could get right to work. Pies are one of those things that, even if you haven't done it in awhile, comes back to you quickly. Like riding a bike I suppose. Only in the kitchen, with peaches and nectarines and a pastry board and a rolling pin. Which doesn't sound very much like riding a bike does it? Oh well. I suppose the point here is that it all came back to mind very quickly.
I hauled out all my gear and got right down to it. In no time at all the pie was in the oven and the house smelled sooo goooood! Once it was baked and cooling on the counter top the effort of not cutting in to it immediately was killer. I know, from experience, how hot that fruit inside really is. If we tasted it now we would badly burn our mouths! Hard to bandage a tongue. Trust me on this.
Eventually it cooled enough to try. Tim and I each had a piece. Lots of "ummmming' went on. I'm always torn between gobbling it up as fast as possible because it's so good and eating it really slowly and savouring every bite.
And each day, at some point during the day, we each had a piece of pie until there was just one piece left. One beautiful glistening jewel of peach/nectarine pie left, saved just for me, me, me. The last piece always tastes the best. Who knows when I will be moved to make another pie? It could be weeks, months, years! (Or to be fair it could also be days. You never know with me)
So yes, I celebrated National Donut Day by eating the last piece of pie. It's ok. I'm pretty sure it's not a law. If I'm truly bothered by it, when National Pie day comes around, I will eat a donut to balance things out.
PS Tim showed me a recipe yesterday for a bread make from only two ingredients, flour and ice cream. WOW! I am intrigued. I absolutely have to try that one out. If any of you have already done this please let me know how it worked for you. Thanks!
I woke up later than usual today. Not that it really matters. I mean in the grander scheme of things, it's not as if I have to punch a time clock at a particular time every day. But we are creatures of habit and most mornings find us stirring our sleepy selves by 6:30 at the latest. And by 7, Tim is almost always at his desk, giant cup of coffee in his hand, computers up and humming and brain focused on the job.
For me it's more about what day of the week it is. On Pilates Class Days, which is twice a week, I'm out the door at 7:45, mat under my arm, heading to class. If I'm teaching, there are things I want to get done before I leave for the library so I hit the ground running even earlier. On Museum Day, while there are things I want to accomplish before my 12:20 departure time, the urgency isn't the same. Oh I still get up and get moving but it doesn't really matter if the laundry gets started at 7 or 7:30. It really doesn't matter.
And on Thursdays, my laziest of days, it doens't matter at all. I have no obligations on Thursdays. It's the perfect day to make appointments of any sort. I tend to grocery shop on this day and when Joy is in town we often hike on Thursdays. It's a great day for errands and for projects be they yard, house or writing.
Today however, I almost broke a record. When I finally cracked open my sleepy eyes it was ten of 8. Slacker! By the time I was showered and dressed, my hair dried, newspaper brought in, bed made and dishwasher emptied it was nearly 9. I felt as if half my day had already gone by.
Here's the thing. I'm a morning person. Always have been. That's when my energy level is the highest. I wake up ready to roll. It doesn't matter how much (Or how little) sleep I got the night before, when I open my eyes in the morning, I'm completely totally entirely awake. I honestly don't know if this is a case of nature or nuture.
My mother was a morning person is a big sort of way. In fact, I would say that she was an Extreme Morning Person. And she honestly didn't understand how anyone could be anything else. Therefore, when she woke up, we woke up. And woe be unto us if we did not. If we slept past whatever time she deemed "time to get up" we were regaled with an operatic version of "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" as she sicced the dog on us so as to be licked into wakefulness as she pulled the covers off. OR the alternate version which was to vacuum under my bed. Nothing like waking up at 6 am after a night of studying until 5:30 am to the sound of a vacuum and the bumpbumpbumping of the vacuum into the bedframe. Delightful. I probably learned to wake early out of self-preservation. And some things that you learn early in your life, stick with you. Or perhaps, I really am just a morning person, like my mom.
But I have come to a point in my life where sleeping late is no longer a criminal offense. It is now a goal. I've written far too many times about how I am not a good sleeper so I won't expound upon that. Suffice it to say that if I cannot get my sleep at the beginning of the night, like normal people, then I will not punish myself for finding those lovely ZZZ's at the end of it. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is wonderful.
So here I am, a little later than usual, just now writting today's blog and the back of my mind is contemplating what other things I will do today. Still need to curate the photo site, read the newspaper and sweep the floors. I need to go to the post office, the grocery store and maybe stop by the library. I was thinking that maybe today I will clean the fans.
And here is the question I have about that. How is it that dust can stick to a fan blade? Our fans (and there are ceiling fans in every room) are on all of the time. I mean 24/7. It helps to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter (all two weeks of it). So they are in constant motion. Dust is light. I mean it is so lightweight that if it is touching me I cannot even feel it. You can blow on dust and move it. So how is it that dust can, first of all, manage to land on a moving fan blade (some tricky physics going on there!) and then, second of all, STICK! Does dust have teeny tiny suction cups on the bottoms of it's itty bitty feet? Or is it more of a glue?
Regardless, at some point today, my step stool and I, armed with dust clothes amighty, will circle the house, stop in each room and one by one turn off each fan, clean it and turn it back on again. And, as always, I will be shocked (and sneezy) at how much dust has accumulated!
Anyway. Have a Great Thursday!! Hugs all 'round.
Remember when you were a kid and another child, perhaps a sibling but at the very least a friend, came up to you with a smile of absolute mischief and said, "Hey you wanna see something gross?" Or perhaps it was smell something gross or taste something gross. Whatever, grossness was involved. But point is, that you always said yes. And then you looked or smelled or tasted whatever gross-osity was presented and everyone, including you, said, "Ewwwwwww!" and everyone giggled. Remember that?
This is a little like that. But, hey, gross happens. And yesterday it happened to me. And I'm gonna share it with you. Feel free to say" Ewww" at all appropriate junctures.
There was a this bag of lovely red skinned potatoes in my pantry. Those are my favourite potatoes to work with. They taste good, they are versatile, they are actually kind of pretty, and best of all, I don't have to peel them. That is not just a matter of laziness, although I will be honest and cop to being lazy. It's because I always manage to peel not just the potato skin but also my own skin in the process. And that's kind of gross on it's own. So anyway, bag of potatoes. Pantry. Got it.
I don't remember what I was planning when I bought them. There is always a plan. But I couldn't remember the specific reason why I bought them. So I was debating what to do. I didn't want to make a potato salad because I had recently done that. Mashed potatoes and roasted taters were also off the list and for the exact same reason. There are so many things that can be made with the humble potato and all of them are yummy, so there are lots of options. Then it occurred to me, Scalloped. I hadn't made scalloped potatoes in so long that I couldn't remember the last time I had done it. I think it was Connecticut. That's two moves ago.
Ok! Scalloped potatoes it is. Because it had been such a long time, I had to look up a recipe. And then a couple of other recipes (there are always lots of different ways to make the same thing) to have it all firmly in mind. I was happy to see that I had all of the ingredients on hand. Yay! Well except one. I no longer owned a mandolin. Not the musical instrument, although that would be pretty cool to own. I'm talking about the kitchen slicer. It looks like this:
I used to have a very nice one. And I used it a lot. But in my purging fervor before we moved here, I got rid of a lot of things that I maybe shouldn't have. This, as it turns out, was one of them. I debated trying to cut all of those potatoes precisely to the same thickness by hand and rejected the idea as foolish. Mostly because potatoes are lumpy, bumpy, tricky things to cut and also because my fingers are easy to cut. So off I went to the store and bought myself a relatively inexpensive mandolin. Yay! New Toy!
I gathered all of my ingredients to prepare this scalloped potato masterpiece. Casserole pan, check. Milk, butter, flour, scallions, salt, peppers, check times six. I had my brand new mandolin, I had my chopping board (for the scallions), knife, measuring cup at hand and had even turned the oven on to preheat (which is the most ridiculous term. I'm not heating it before I heat it. That is impossible. I am however, bringing it to proper temperature) Anyway, apron donned, I snagged the last item. The bag of potatoes.
Now then. I must interrupt my own story here for a moment. I have a particularly sensitive sense of smell. My olfactory system works overtime, all of the time. So if there was a funky smell ANYWHERE in my house, I would know it. There was not. Let me be very clear about that. There Was No Funky Smell. At least not until I picked up that bag of potatoes.
Apparently there was one rotten potato at the bottom of the bag. And while it sat in the pantry the bugger liquified. I mean Rotten Potato Juice. Gag. The instant I picked up the bag, the fragrance was released. It bloomed. The permeating smell of rotten potato filled the air, filled my nose, my lungs, and the entire house. Nasty. Just plain Nasty!
For a moment I was scent- shocked into standing absolutely still. Meanwhile, the rotten potato juice poured out of the bottom of the bag and onto the kitchen counter. Quickly realizing what had happened, I lifted the bag off the counter and it poured down my leg and into my shoe. I carried the bag too the kitchen garbage can, leaking rotten potato juice the entire way. The smell.....I cannot even begin to describe the smell. Use your imaginations. It. Was. Bad.
I immediately took the kitchen garbage bag outside and put it into the big outside lidded can. (thank goodness it was lidded. I wouldn't want to cause an ecological disaster with that smell) and came back in. Yuck. The smell is still there. I washed my leg, my foot and my shoe with soap and water.. I washed the kitchen counter with soap and water. I washed the floor and just for good measure, even though the kitchen garbage can had a nice strong bag in it, I washed that too, also soap and hot water. I could still smell it.
I washed everything again, this time I used a kitchen cleaner (even on me). The smell was still there. Ghastly! I gave it consideration. I would be fine using bleach on the floor and even the garbage can although it is stainless steel and the finish would be forever ruined if I did. But I really didn't want to pour bleach on my beautiful granite countertop or me and it would absolutely ruin my shoe. Bleach had to be a last ditch option. Other thoughts. I prowled through the utility room and found....Ammonia!
I cut it a wee bit with water and scrubbed the dickens out of everything in the kitchen, including my shoe and my person (very clean now). The smell of the ammonia initially about knocked me out. BUT it worked. That';s the only important thing. It worked!! Eventually the ammonia smell dissapated leaving only Clean behind.
Apparently the key to getting rid of a stinky smell is to use a stinkier cleaner! And there is your tip for the day.
Meanwhile, I am itching to use my cute little mandolin so perhaps I will buy another bag of potatoes this weekend. BUT this time I will use it immediately. There will be no further fermenting in my pantry! EVER!
Have you ever tried these? Oh My Goodness! They are addictive. Crunchy, light, only slightly salty and incredibly yum. Probably everyone on the planet knew about these a long time ago but I only just discovered them last week.
One of the reasons is that in this house, we almost never see a TV commercial. Tim is in charge of the clicker and if a commercial dares to come onto the screen, he just flips to another channel. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes it's a wee bit confusing to me to be watching two shows at the same time (especially if it's two shows of the same kind like....two cop shows for instance. Sometimes I'm left sitting there saying, why is This guy on That show? Turns out he's not. It's a different show for the commercial break).
Or the situation is that in all honesty, we record most of the shows we like so that we aren't tied to the TV schedule. We can watch the shows we want, if we want, when we want. A little control and a little freedom there. Always a good thing. And then it's just a matter of fast-forwarding through the dreaded commercials. The point being, we don't see commercials so we never know about any "New", "Improved" "Exciting" products being touted. We just have to kind of stumble across them while shopping.
But the truth is, when I grocery shop, I am on a mission. I stick to the list. I do not bother to go down aisles that do not apply to me. I'm in and I'm out. No lollygagging. And it's because, for the most part, I don't especially enjoy grocery shopping. I'm not certain why. Too people-y maybe. Too many choices. And definitely too expensive.
But every once in a long while, I'm chill. On those days, I can roam the store at my leisure, come up with new ideas, explore the idea of different products, experiment a little bit. On those days, I actually go take my time and go up and down every single aisle and look at all shelves (not just the ones where I already know that the item I want is) on Both sides of the aisle. I stop now and again and pick something up, read the packaging and usually put it back. But even on even more rare occasions, I add it to the basket.
This was one of those times. I almost Never go up (or down) the chip aisle. It's candy on one side (I certainly do not need candy) and chips, pretzels and popcorn on the other side. While there is almost always a box of microwave popcorn in the pantry, I honestly do not often buy any of the rest of it. At least until Summertime.
Since we moved to Florida I have noticed that in the summertime I crave Salt. It's crazy. Never in my entire life have I ever craved salt. Sweet yes. That's an absolute with me and will be eternal, forever and ever, amen, amen. But salt? Never. In my life I have declined restaruant meals for being "too salty", I have avoided canned veg and soups for the same reason, and picked the salt off a soft pretzel because it was too much salt. Yes, I know, I'm very odd. But since we moved here, there are times, when nothing will satisfy me but something salty.
I suspect that it has to do with being outside in heat and humidity and the subsequent sweating. I think I sweat more here in a single week than I have in the entirety of my prior life, combined! Ok that's a slight exaggeration, but hey, it's a sweaty place. Especially if you are excercising, (I do), doing yard work (I do) or just hoofing it everywhere you go (also me). One of the many elements in your body that you secrete in sweat, are salts. It's just part of your body. Then I suppose, in addition to needing to drink extra water, I also need to replace the salts. At least that makes sense to me. Seems logical.
So shortly after we moved here, when I started this weird salt craving, I tried and rejected a lot of possibilities. Mostly chips and primarily because they are deep fried. Fried food in general doesn't sit well with me. My body casts out the Fried Demon! heh. So I looked elsewhere. Last year I stumbled upon a peanut butter filled pretzel - the store brand at that! - that was a lovely option. Didn't have the greasy fried effect and the peanut butter was a little sweet. And nothing pleases me more than getting sweet and salt in the same bite. Total Yummm. And I probably would have been satisfied with just sticking with that. Until.....
I found the Popables. Silly name. Not sure what about them made me throw it in the carriage with all my lovely fresh veggies and fruits but I did. And I am delighted that I tried them too. As I said at the top of this page, they are just salty enough, very crunchy but light and the absolute best part....
150 calories a serving. For something that is "bad" for me..that's not so bad. Ice cream and cookies and M&M's which are three of my favourite things, are far worse. Relatively low fat, that's nice. Low sugar. Low cholesterol. Even has a teensy bit of fiber. But look up top. Serving size. 30 pieces!! THIRTY PIECES IS ONE SERVING!
I have never seen anything yummy that had 30 pieces as a serving size. Ever. Usually it's one. Or even half a package. Poptarts. There are two poptarts in each package but a serving size is one. Stupidest thing I ever saw. Who eats one poptart? What do you do with the second one? But I digress.
I cannot eat very much in one sitting. Half a sandwich is about the most I can tolerate, for instance. But if I wait an hour or so, then I'm hungry again and I can eat the other half. I do better grazing throughout the day than sitting down to eat a full meal. So a thirty piece serving turns out to be actually MORE than I can eat! Woohoo! That NEVER happens.
These Popable things may become a standard part of our pantry through the summers. I need to see if they have any other flavours. This time I just grabbed the first one I saw which happened to be sea salt. I need to explore my options fully.
Once the weather cools off again in the fall, I won't crave salt anymore and I won't need to buy them again. But how nice to now have TWO salt happy options. The peanut butter filled pretzels and now these Popable things.
You know how they say to never shop hungry? I suppose I should never shop sweaty either. If I wasn't craving salt so badly that day, I never would have tried these things and another addiction would have been avoided.
Well, here we go. It's a new week, a new month and yes, even a new season. As of this past Saturday, (June 1st) we have entered both the Rainy Season and the Hurricane Season. And for a rainy season I can only say, it is amazingly dry out.
I am fine with that by the way. Once the rainy season commences in earnest, the humidity will rise and that's when the real fun of summer in Florida begins. Right now it's hot, probably in the 90's somewhere but I kind of like that. It's toasty. I think I'm balancing out all those Connecticut winters I shivered through where the wind felt like it was going right through me and I remember believing that no matter how many layers I had on, I was never going to be warm again. Well, I'm warm now. It's all good.
The lawn however has a completely different opinion. It is drydrydry. The lawn is unhappy times a zillion. The lawn cannot WAIT for the rain to begin. Once begun, there is a darned good chance of rain every single day. Sometimes it's just a little 15 minute cloudburst surprise. Other times, maybe just some miserly drizzle on and off throughout the day. Or, it is certainly possible that it could be a full day onslaught of wind, rain, thunder, lightening and flooding in the backyard. Very exciting. The point is, within a very short time the grass will once again be lush and green and the lawn guys will be here mowing every week once again. (they haven't had to mow in quite some time now)
As far as humidity goes, anyone who has chosen to live here full time has made their peace with the humidity. As is the case with most things, we have adapted. The first year, of course, was the most difficult which makes sense. If we had arrived from almost anyplace but Colorado, the transition would not have been as big a deal. But after living with almost zero humidity for ten years, coming to a place that often has more humidity percentage than temperature degrees was, well, let's just say, an adjustment.
But we persevered, we adjusted and now here we are, three years in, and summer is just, summer. We probably spend more time inside than out by the time August has rolled around. And we all celebrate the inventor of Air Conditioning, "All Hail Willis Carrier!" (seriously that's who invented air conditioning just FYI). And a quick shower before bedtime becomes the norm. But we don't avoid being outside. I cannot. I just cannot be cooped up indoors all day everyday and neither can Tim. Like mad dogs and Englishmen (as the saying goes) we still do our noonwalk every day unless the sky is dumping torrential amounts of rain upon us. And walking on the beach is lovely regardless of the weather every single day.
Hurricane season on the other hand is something we pay at least peripheral attention to and that started with a tax free day for Hurricane Supplies. I think that is a lovely gesture on the part of the state of Florida, so Thank you whoever thought that up. If I remember correctly that rather broad "Hurricane Supplies" title extended to things like generators and plywood, of course, but also to cases of water and battery operated lanterns. But we didn't need to take advantage of it. We looked around and decided that, for the most part, we are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.
The thing is, the experts have no idea for sure what our summer weather, i.e. hurricane activity, really will be. Ever year we hear the exact same predictions of anything from a below normal activity, to mild activity, to very active. So they have covered their bases. Actually NOAA, who makes more sense than most, suggests that lower than usual activity HOWEVER any activity that does exist should be more severe. Ok. So we are ready. We have the battery operated lantern, a crank operated radio, sleeping bags (in case we have to evacuate) lots of water, an extra gas tank for the grill and a generator. I will slowly start adding to the grocery list foods that do not have to be cooked or refrigerated, or in other words, proper Hurricane Food.
Before Hurricane Irma (the only real hurricane we've experienced here thus far) when we did our zero hour hurricane food search, our minds drew a complete blank and we ended up with essentials like M&M's and cheese crackers. LOL! It got us through but this time perhaps I can find something marginally more healthy if and when the time comes. Hopefully any and all Hurricanes will be confined to somewhere way out in the Atlantic where they only thing it disturbs is some fish. Only time will tell. And in the meantime, there is no point in obsessing about it. It will be whatever it is. And whatever it is, we will deal with.
I think those of us who elect to stay have a sort of weird pride about it. Yes, we strong and stalwart few have chosen to remain here through Florida summers, surviving the heat, the humidity, the possibility of hurricanes and tropical storms. And much like the pilgrims who first arrived in the New World facing challenges aplenty, we will survive. It is not for the faint of heart, not for the weak, not for the weenies!
Welcome to Summertime in Florida, my friends. Only the hearty need apply.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.