August 31st, 2017
It's kind of a scavenger hunt. Local artists paint rocks and hide them around town. People are supposed to find them, take photos of them and re-hide them for others to find. The photos are then supposed to be posted on the appropriate website.
The idea is that it's a bit of good luck for the finder. Who couldn't use a bit of good luck, eh? And even if you don't believe in "luck" it was still fun to happen across this little rock on the boardwalk at Service Club Park.
At the time I had no idea what the dealio was with the painted rock. And in fact, Tim was the one who spied the rock. We both kind of looked at each other with question marks in our eyes. I said something like, "Isn't that adorable" and picked it up. Tim said, "Yes, but why?" I shrugged because I had no idea But when we turned it over....
Of course I slipped my phone out of my pocket, took the photos while Tim held the rock and we looked it up once we got back home. How cool! Since then we have found many of them as we walk around the island. Some downtown, some in various parks, at the beaches, in front of businesses. And each and every time, it makes me smile.
I especially love that there is no prize. No monetary award. No trophy. Nothing of cash value to trade these pretty little rocks for. There is not one smidgen of "what in it for me?" involved in this project. Just the pleasure of finding a pretty thing.
That's is practically a lost concept anymore. And my hat is off to whoever thought this up. It's not as if I am one of those "good old days" sort of people who honestly believes that everything was better at a different point in time. Because that's just not true. Most things are better now. Most.
I do miss courtesy, I miss social graces, I miss a neighborhood's worth of kids playing outside in the evening without formal organization or any adults involved. It would be a variation of tag most likely and their calls and laughter would fill the air. I miss people dressing up a little bit for special occasions. I will never stop being at least a little bit surprised when I see someone walking into church for Sunday services in shorts and flipflops. And I miss children finding genuine happiness in the little things life has to offer.
Oh the really young ones still do. But that's because the world is all brand new to them and they aren't jaded yet. Babies and toddlers are still delighted with a sunbeam or a soap bubble. But in very short order I see, out in the world, very young kids snubbing the gift of a colouring book because they wanted in iPhone. I keep thinking, "You are five years old, who are you going to call?" The rude behavior and speech toward parents or other adults I've witnessed is honestly shocking to me. Oh my! The constant complaint of being bored just makes me shake my head in dismay.
We've lost something important. The joy of simple things. The delight of discovery. Even in this very technological age, we can find happiness in uncomplicated things. In fact, maybe it's even more important now to occasionally step away from the computer, to put down the tablet, turn off the television and disconnect from it all. Just for a little while. Connect differently with the world and the people around us. Otherwise you will miss something like this. And you will just have to trust me on this, it's a completely different (and better) experience in person than in a photograph.
August 30th, 2017
Much like Mary Poppins's Uncle Albert, I love to laugh. Pretty much any photo of me that Tim has taken is of me laughing because that man makes me laugh. It's one of the reasons I married him.
I seem to surround myself with funny people. My kids are funny. Sometimes they make me laugh so hard, I cannot even talk. I have friends who make me laugh until my face hurts. When I worked at the Audiology Office, those people could make me giggle until my belly ached from it all. My sister and I can crack each other up just by looking at each other because we know what the other one is thinking.
Random little kids can always be counted upon for a chuckle. They just have such a unique perspective on life that is so contrary to what we staid old poops think that for a second my brain has to kind of blink in astonishment and then comes the smile.
When my boys were young sometimes I would have to turn my back on them to scold them when they were naughty because I was laughing so hard. I didn't want to encourage the bad behavior by letting them see me smile and I knew they needed to be told the behavior was wrong but dang, it was funny! I remember an exchange between my oldest and youngest when they were about 5 and 3. I was hanging out the laundry and they were, as always nearby. The younger boy found a bug of some sort and brought it to the oldest boy to ask what sort of bug it was. The bug lay stunned in the younger boys open palm. The older boy examined it thoughtfully for a moment then slapped the younger boys palm hard. "Dead" he proclaimed in all seriousness and then wiped the bug remains from his brothers hand with the tail of his shirt. I hid my face in the sheets I was putting on the line so they didn't see me laugh.
My mother could make me laugh like nobody else I've ever known. And she was never trying to be funny, she just looked at life completely differently. Once while my sister and I were visited with all of our children (that's five kids from about ages 4 to 9, she escorts the kids to the basement and indicates the white painted walls. She hands them a box of paint and markers and glitter and lords knows what else and tells them that she is bored with the plain white walls, and walks away. My sister and I were stunned. "What are you thinking?" we asked, "They are going to make one hell of a mess! What will Daddy say?" Very calmly she waved us off, "It will be beautiful" she said. Periodically we went down to check on their progress. The basement walls became more colourful and sparkly as the day went on, as did the kids. If we dared to complain of the mess our mother would tell us to shut up and that the kids were fine and the basement looked beautiful. In the face of such firm illogic, after awhile, you can only laugh. We laughed until we cried.
Sometimes it's what I'm reading that makes me laugh out loud. Erma Bombeck had a knack for that. So do a lot of other writers. Occasionally I have to just close a book, put it down and walk away to collect myself before returning to read more. But if I read it out loud to anyone else, they don't get why it's funny and that makes me laugh even harder. Sometimes it's a comic strip that gets me going. I recall one time when I was in college, I was lying on my bed on a Sunday morning reading the newspaper. One comic particularly struck my funny bone. I'll try to describe it to you. There is a witch and a troll walking down the street. They pass a restaurant that has a sign in the window, it says, "Special Today, Smothered Steak, $9.99" the troll says, "Maybe they kill the cow by holding a pillow over it's face". Now I do not know why that struck me so funny, but I laughed so hard that my roommate got annoyed. "What's soo funny?" she demanded with a scowl on her face. Still giggling, I pointed to the comic strip. She read it and huffed, "That's not funny" That changed everything, it turned to howls of laughter. Somehow, to me, the fact that she didn't find it funny at all made it even funnier. Yeah, I know, I'm odd.
We used to go to comedy shows. We would leave just weak from laughter. In Connecticut we saw a number of very funny comedians at the Jorgensen Theatre on the UCONN campus. In Colorado we went to a local comedy club. It was very small, it always felt like everyone was sitting in each other's laps. But the best part of that was once the show started. We were sitting so close to the stage in that small room that the act became very personal. And mercy me, there was no point in wearing mascara too the show because by the end, I would have cried it all off.
As a kid I listened to my parent's comedy record albums, Shelly Berman was a favourite. I just loved his stuff. Red Skelton was brilliant. Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, George Burns and Gracie Allen all made me laugh. Someone gave me recordings of old radio comedy that I feel in love with too. All of them. The first comedy album that I bought myself was David Steinberg. Brilliant stuff. Then of course Bill Cosby, George Carlin and even the watermelon smasher, Gallagher. They all made me laugh right out loud and not care how it sounded or how it looked.
But there are a lot of levels of humour. Sometimes, watching a movie maybe, I actually think to myself, "Oh, that's amusing" but I don't laugh. Some things warrant a smile. Other things a giggle. Some things are chuckle worthy. And other times I have to just throw my head back and laugh with complete abandon.
I used to get in trouble for my laugh. When I worked at Hospice, in the office sometimes, funny things happened. I'm not even going to apologize. Funny is funny! The Big Boss would come down and scold me. Very sternly she would in form me that laughter was inappropriate for the workplace. I would nearly strangle trying to not laugh. I'd get the frowny face at school from teachers for laughing. Worse than the frownyface, sometimes I'd get in big trouble. In primary school once, I was watching a bored kid with a rubber band. He was trying to shoot it at the teacher who was back to the class, writing on the board while droning on and on and on about.....something. I watched him line the shot up carefully, pull back hard on the rubber band and then, and then, and then, it snapped and he ended up shooting himself instead. I couldn't help myself. I laughed right out loud! That one got me in big trouble. I don't regret it for one second.
I laugh at myself a lot. I do dopey stuff. Not intentionally but still, funny is funny. And I crack me up. But Tim probably is the one who makes me laugh the most. And so you will probably never see a serious photo of me that he took. Because their aren't any! And it's all his fault. I am so very fortunate. I love to laugh and I married a man who loves to make me laugh. Win/win.
August 29th, 2017
Here it is, the evolution of a bathroom floor. Originally it was the Terracotta tile on the left, then after the plumbers finished completely replumbing the house, just concrete, but now after our awesome tile guy finished, new beautiful tile floor.
I don't actually mind the original terracotta tile, but alas, we cannot find any more of it. And we have looked everywhere including online. In fact, we asked several tile stores and they report that even they cannot get it anymore. The house was built in 1962 so honestly we weren't all that surprised that they no longer make that particular tile. So the best we can do is the best we can do and we are doing the best that we can, to paraphrase Captain Kangaroo.
Happy to report, we now have two functioning bathrooms once again. Hurrah! And all is once again well with the world.
Call it whatever you like: bathroom, restroom, ladies/gentlemen's room, the lounge, potty, can, john, outhouse, wee room, toilet, lavatory, powder room, comfort station, washroom, water closet or WC, loo, commode, latrine, head, crapper, jakes, the necessary, throne, little girl's or boys room, or the small room, it's all the same thing. At minimum, usually a toilet and a sink. If you are lucky a shower and or tub as well. And in our culture, it is absolutely essential to our existence to have at least one.
Most of the many houses I grew up in had one bathroom. And whether we were a family of three (my mother, my sister and I) or five (add in my dad and my Nana) we made do. And never really gave it a second thought. Oh yes, I do remember vividly the moments of anxiety, 'Will they ever come out of there?" while doing the pee-pee dance in the hallway. But at least we had indoor plumbing! My paternal grandparents had only an outhouse until I was in my teens. I do recall making use of that delightful little facility. But one does what one must!
I think the first time I lived in a house with two bathrooms was Connecticut. My parents had a teensy tiny extra bathroom attached to their bedroom. I believe it had a shower so that would be a 3/4 bath. It was a godsend! We all marveled at the idea. Two bathrooms! Wow! We really felt that we had come up in the world.
The first house that Tim and I bought together had one and a half baths. Perfect for us and the kids. It worked. The full bath upstairs and the half bath down. Also an older home, built in 1940 so a bath and a half which was quite extraordinary for it's time. Then of course, when we moved to Colorado, just Tim and I mind you, we suddenly had a house with two full bathroom and a powder room downstairs. That's 1/2 more bathrooms than people! Kind of silly. But I guess we became accustomed to the convenience of it all. In fact, when we travel, most hotel rooms that we stay in have just the one standard bathroom and suddenly I have a moment of ridiculous anxiety. One bathroom? Two people? Hah! How quickly I have forgotten.
But we managed to survive the summer with just the one and it worked out fine. We went to a few model homes this summer (hey it's free entertainment so hush) where there were actually more bathrooms than bedrooms! When I read the papers on the house, before we toured it, I thought it was a typo. Nope. 4 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms it said. And it delivered. Crazy! I don't want to have to clean that many bathrooms, frankly. Although Tim has pointed out to me that if we could afford that house, we could afford to hire someone to clean sooo a non-issue I suppose.
Every once in awhile when Tim and I are driving somewhere we will play the lets pretend game. He might say, if you were going to design your perfect master bedroom (for example) and money was no object, what would it look like. One of the things I find myself saying is that it would have two bathrooms. What? I can function perfectly well with just one bathroom in the entire house and here I find myself saying that the perfect master bedroom has two separate bathrooms? Yup. In a perfect world, which this isn't, every single person would get their own separate bathroom. Of course then each person is also responsible for cleaning their own personal bathroom.
Like I said, in a perfect world.
Meanwhile, I'm just so happy to have two functioning bathrooms in our house again. Hurrah and Hurrah one more time. It takes so little to please me.
August 28th, 2017
I've been getting a lot of concerned 'be safe' messages because of Hurricane Harvey. I appreciate everyone worrying but we are safe, thank you. Sadly unlike the Texas coast which is getting chewed up and spit out we are merely wet and inconvenienced a bit. What a terrible thing this hurricane is. It's almost beyond imagining unless you have lived through such a thing before. It is just terrifying to experience such a situation where most everything is literally out of your control. We are accustomed to being the Captain of our own ship and then to learn that actually, not so much, will really take the wind out of your sails, so to speak. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone there.
But of course it got me thinking of where the line is. You know the one, the line we all walked when we were young and foolish. The line between exciting and dangerous, that step between exhilarating and stupid sometimes is a narrow one. Witnessing the ocean in a normal storm is unlike anything else I know. That calm, sweet, gentle wave that even a toddler can splash in become a dervish determined to smash itself to bits on the rocks. The power of it is amazing to witness.
It is a raw and untamed beauty for sure. Like observing tigers and rhinos in the wild. Ferocious but beautiful none the less. To observe. From a safe distance. But it seems to me that is where the line gets crossed.
We went to the jetty, one of our favourite places here on the island to watch the water do it's storm dance. It's tricky because of the rain. If we turn off the wipers for me to take my photo, the window is immediately too wet to see anything, if we turn the wipers back on I have to time the shot perfectly. I end up with a lot of pictures that look like this:
Take a look at the "Jetty Closed" sign. That means closed as in shut as in No ! See the barricade? This was placed in such a way that it would be difficult for anyone to walk out onto the actual jetty, not the parking lot where we were. I'm pretty sure that they were serious about it. It wasn't just a suggestion. It means do NOT go out there. So we did not. Of course we didn't. We value our wrinkled old hides. But we saw someone on a jet ski and two people on surf boards and a few other people who just walked around the sign as if it weren't there. Or at least as if the sign didn't apply to them.
Newsflash. It does apply to you. No matter how bullet proof you may think you are, Mother Nature is the one who gets to make that final determination. She doesn't care what you think and she is in charge.
I actually do get the draw. When we visited Niagra falls, on the Canadian side, you can pretty much walk right up to the edge of the falls. There is a mid-calf high wooden barrier but it would be very simple to step over. I suspect that Canada's attitude is, "Well if you are that freakin' stupid..go head!" Whereas here in the US we are terrified of being sued so you cannot get anywhere NEAR the falls. Anyway, we stood, on the proper, safe side of the barrier by the way, and starred at the falls. It was mesmerizing. Almost hypnotic. I understand how it calls to you. But you do not have to answer. Or the answer can be, no thanks.
When we lived in Colorado we had a couple of up too close experiences with wildfires, tornadoes and blizzards. In Connecticut it was N'oreasters, blizzards and the occasional spin-off tornado. Every other place I've ever lived, there was always something trying to endanger your life. Don't help it along.
The people in the path of the Hurricane have little choice. And again, if you have never had to live through it, you cannot possibly understand. When you evacuate, you have no idea what, if anything, you are coming home to. The evacuation process alone is horrible. Grabbing those few little necessities and leaving for...where? Where do you go that there aren't already a zillion other refugees. And refugee you are! I think it's the lack of control over the situation that is the worst. That and the not knowing. How long will it last, what is happening what will I find when it's all over, is everyone safe? As I already said, it's completely out of your hands.
So, the point here is, when you have the line in front of you, when you are tempted by the adrenaline rush to cross it, when you have the option, don't be an idiot. Save your own life and that of the first responder who is going to now going to have to risk their own life to save you.
Be smart and do not listen to that siren call of excitement. When you have the choice, make the better decision.
Hugs all 'round and my thoughts and prayers to everyone in Texas.
August 25th, 2017
I grew up in a house filled with music. Someone was always singing or playing the piano or violin. It was just part of who we all were. Well except my Dad who was absolutely tone deaf. It all sounded the same to him, but he had no objections to us making a musical racket all of the time.
My sister and I would sing while we did chores, harmonizing nice and tight. We sang in the car as my Dad crisscrossed the country a hundred or so times. We sang to ourselves as we played and wrote music. We sang in choirs, we sang along with musicals, we sang along with commercial jingles. We played duets with our Mother and with each other .We would play our records and our parents records on the stereo in the living room and then we would dance, sing and sometimes harmonize. I would "conduct' recorded symphonies, very seriously. When we lived far apart, I would tape the music I was writing and send it to my sister. Then she would listen to it and then call me so we could discuss it.
Even our pets had a musical leaning. We had a cat who would meow along as we sang, a dog who would howl along as we played violin and a bird who trilled and chirped and tweeted itself into a frenzy anytime music of any sort was happening in our house. I've even noticed that if the windows are open, the birds outside go crazy trying to accompany me when I play the piano. So my guess is that music is an elemental thing which is why it produces in us a deep down visceral response.
When my boys were babies I sang to them as they grew sleepy; soft lullabies of one sort or another. And when they were very small, I wrote a lot of music. They would play with their little matchbox cars under the piano while I worked out a piece which meant a lot of playing sections or entire songs repeatedly and sometimes singing the same phrase over and over. They would sing along with me, having subconsciously learned all the words. Because I was classically trained, most of my practice pieces were the written by the bigs. I have a passion for sonatas in particular so there would be these little boys, colouring in their colour books on a rainy day humming Hayden sonatas without even realizing it.
When there is music playing in the background, I find myself keeping time tapping my foot or my fingers without realizing that I'm doing it until someone points it out. And there is always a song going on in my head. At least one. Sometimes I hum along with it, sometimes I sing, sometimes I dance. It's just part of who I am.
Which is how Tim found me on the beach at sunset with almost nobody else around us, singing along with the song in my head and a bird nearby accompanying me. Kind of the doo-wop backup singer of the feathered kingdom.
I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world who sings as they bike or bake or does dishes or vacuums. I know I'm not the only person who sings in the car or in the shower. Isn't that part of the beauty of having a radio or CD player in the car? So you can sing along? And honestly, it does not matter if you can carry a tune or not. If it brings you joy, sing! Sing loud, sing long, sing with a smile upon your face.
So, if you should happen to witness me walking down the beach singing at the top of my voice, please don't just write me off as yet another whackadoo. It's music! And I just can't help myself.
August 24th, 2017
Correct me if I'm wrong please, but this sign means stop, right? I mean, everyone who approaches it on wheels is supposed to stop, yes? At least hesitate for a moment if nothing else. Slow down maybe?
I only ask because there seems to be a distinct lack of consensus on the actual meaning of the word. Or perhaps there is a line of fine print below the word, STOP, which I cannot see that maybe says, "Optional" or "Except you in the white Mercedes" and "Not you, guy with New Jersey plates". It's frustrating.
I have lived in a lot of places. I learned to drive in the Ft Worth/Dallas metropolitan area. Terrifying. I lived in New England where there are notoriously scary roads and bad drivers. I lived in California where the smog alone foretells the tale of too many drivers and road rage is a national crisis. I've lived in the mid-West where there are far too many drivers of cars who are more accustomed to driving tractors and it shows. But never ever have I lived in a place where defensive driving is such a good idea as here in Florida.
The road we live on is a long one, relatively speaking. I mean, it's an island, how long can any road be here? But proportionately, yes, this is a long road. This summer, the town installed four stop signs in each direction on our road, spaced well apart. The idea was to slow down the crazies who think this road is more of a racetrack. Or perhaps they like the challenge of flying down a narrow, curvy road with bonus points for missing pedestrians and bicyclers on a road that has no shoulder at all. The stop signs were a great idea. And sometimes it even works.
But lately I have seen far too many people blithely cruise down the street without even a wink of acknowledgement to the stop signs. Infuriating.
Just came from the grocery store where I saw not one, not two but three people drive without even pausing through 3 different stop signs and one red light. Thank goodness I have good reflexes and, at this point, it has sadly become an expectation.
It's not just on the island. Everytime we drive up to Sarasota there is at least one person who cannot seem to drive the same speed as everyone else and has to weave in and out of traffic like a sewing machine that is wildly out of control. It's dangerous. It's scary. And there are, of course, the resultant accidents. Is it any wonder that I do not like to drive?
And then there are the bicyclers who either never learned or have forgotten that the rules of the road apply to you too, my friend. Signal before turning please! Stop at the stop signs, I'm begging you. And for goodness sakes, look before pulling out into the road. In a car/bicycle tangle, the car almost always wins.
Well, that's my rant for the day. My pounding heart seems to have resumed a normal rhythm now and the shaking in my knees has stopped. The grocery store in less than 5 miles away. I shouldn't have to approach each driving trip with fear of some idiot doing something incredibly stupid that has the potential to be damaging or even deadly every single time.
On the other hand, it certainly keeps my mind and my reflexes sharp.
Be safe out there, please!
August 22nd, 2017
Sooooo this is going on at my house today!
It's always chaotic when there is work being done at the house but it's still exciting. One more step toward what we envisioned. This time, bathroom floors.
I have to back up a bit to tell this story correctly. We actually planned to reno the bathrooms completely this year. Had our little reno savings all added up and talked to contractors, we chose tile, fixtures, vanities, medicine cabinets and exhaut fans. We were ready to roll.
And then someone asked if we had arranged to have the pipes (plumbing pipes) scoped. We had not done that. We had experienced no plumbing problems yet so it never really occurred to us. But, considering the age of the house (built in 1962) and a few horror stories we had heard we thought it might be a good idea. So Tim contacted a company to take care of that for us. The result was not good. We had to have the entire house re-plumbed. Sigh. It had to be done. They were good, they were professional, they did the minimum damage possible and it still cost us nearly our entire bathroom reno budget. Dang.
Meanwhile, the bathroom floors were now just concrete with tile around the edges. Not pretty. And the guest bath didn't even have a toilet or a sink anymore. Sigh again. So we called around. Not too many people want to take on such a small job. Finally found someone. Well recommended, reasonably priced. Okay let's do this. He got us on his schedule for August but he was worth the wait. But that meant that all summer long we have been functioning with one bathroom and concrete bathroom floors and with a toilet and vanity just sitting in the middle of the guest room. Lovely.
I'm sure you will understand how excited I am to have this finally done. The new vanity which is taking up the majority of the utility room (where my laundry is too by the way) will finally be where it belongs. The tile and grout, which is taking up the rest of the space in the utility room will also be where it belongs. We will once again have two functioning bathrooms! AND two darned good looking floors so that will be one huge step forward on the bathroom reno list.
The rest of it will happen at some point. And when it does, I will get all kinds of excited all over again!
Meanwhile, I'm going to go hide out at the library today. It has two things which are absolutely essential for me. Books and a bathroom.
August 21st, 2017
This is what the day looks like right now here. It's hard to believe that in just a few hours, it's going to look more like.....
:Even though it's still daytime. In case you haven't been paying attention, today is the day of the eclipse! I am so excited I can barely stand myself!
We have our way-cool official eclipse watching spectacles and we know what time it's happening and when the "peak" of activity will be, well peaked I suppose. And of course, as per usual, I've done my research.
We already know that eons ago something as mysterious as an eclipse was considered a sign from the gods and usually a bad sign which required responses terrifying and icky, like human sacrifices (shudder) Thank goodness we have moved beyond those days of superstition and ignorance and into days of science and knowledge. But also, thank goodness we are still moved by the powerful image.
Are there any consequences other than the Wow factor? I've heard rumours. Well it does seem to confuse some animals, such as hippos, bugs, birds and fish. The temperature of course will drop with the darkness that descends but I've read that it's also possible for people to suddenly feel very lethargic or tired. Of course anyone not observing the eclipse properly may suffer eye injury. Some folks believe it can affect digestion poorly and even spike emotional outbursts. It sounds a little silly but even the Great brainiacs at NASA have said,, "For millennia, solar eclipses have been interpreted as portents of doom by virtually every known civilization. These have stimulated responses that run the gamut from human sacrifices to feelings of awe and bewilderment. The consequences of the induced human psychological states have indeed led to physical effects."
Well there you go, if the NASA nerds say it's so, you can pretty much bank that it's true.
And Sam predicts that it's also going to be a "coming together" moment for a majority of the people in the US today. All of us Astronomy geeks and even non geeks are going to be outside marveling at this bit of celestial "magic', even if it's just for a few minutes. Enjoy this, go ahead and be a kid for a few minutes. Feel that thrill go through you when the genetic memory in your body, for just a nano-second, fears that vanishing sun and then experience the awe as darkness blankets the earth during what should be daylight hours.
And years from now we can ask each other where we were and what we were doing during the solar eclipse of 2017. I can tell you now that for me it looked a little like this:
August 18th, 2017
Do any of you remember learning about this gentlemen way back in primary school? You don't recognize him? Neither did I, frankly. Let me introduce you to Juan Ponce de Leon. Yup that's him, the fellow who, supposedly, discovered the Fountain of Youth! And then apparently lost it because nobody seems to know where it is now but that's another story.
The whole Fountain of Youth thing supposedly took place on the other Florida coast. There is no actual proof of the whole mythical fountain of youth/Ponce de Leon connection by the way. The fact is that he was exploring, seeking new lands, it was an adventure. And when, what turned out to be Florida was discovered, he actually initially believed it was just another pretty island. He named it La Florida for the lush flowers and trees.
There is some dispute over precisely where that first landing site was but generally it is believed to have been what is now St. Augustine which has the distinction of being the oldest continual settlement in the United States. Seriously. That's correct. It's not the pilgrims in New England, it's Spanish settlers in Florida and 1513. I'll repeat that 1513. I've not yet been to St. Augustine, but it is on my list! It's a city rich with history and that is my cuppa tea!
And they didn't stop their exploration there! Juan Ponce de Leon continued exploring the coastline of the entire peninsula and eventually made his way around to the gulf side in the general vicinity of Charlotte Harbor. And it seems he really liked that area because returned in 1521 with a plan for colonization, bringing with him some 200 men including priests, farmers, artisans, farms implements and animals. It was a good plan other than the fact that the Calusa Indians already lived there and took issue with the idea. Negotiations were attempted but tempers flared, followed by weapons. Juan Ponce de Leon took an arrow to the leg. His compatriots loaded him back onto the ship and took him to Cuba where he died. I assume from infection though there is speculation that the arrow tip was poisoned.
An inauspicious beginning. Still, on Charlotte Harbour today exists the Ponce de Leon park which is where that statue lives. It is a charming park right on the water with a tiny beach, a board walk through the mangroves, pretty trees and flowering things and grassy areas with bench swings and loads of historic signage.
There is also a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center there which can be toured, but only if you are there when it's open and we were not. But that's a darned good reason to return. And return we shall! And unlike Senior de Leon, with no arrows to the leg.
August 16th, 2017
my next project. Ambitious goal.
The plan is to go through all of the photographs, sort them by person, create computer files for each person then scan each photo into the computer. So far, so good. The harder part is coming up with some sort of descriptor for each photo. Not just the name of the person but a rough guesstimate of the year and more specifically the place and occasion.
The people are easy. I know who everybody is, even in baby pictures which is very impressive. Lots of babies look similar. And in our family, they all wore the same outfits which we passed around. Can't tell by the clothes. But I know those adorable little faces.
Some occasions are easy. If there is a Christmas Tree in the background, I'm pretty sure I know the occasion and the time of year. If there is snow on the ground, or autumn leaves or a full garden I can whittle the time frame a bit. A turkey on a well set table is probably Thanksgiving and a graduation gown is a give-away. But a non-holiday gathering? Unless somebody is wearing a wedding dress, I'm probably guessing.
The place is can be tricky. I recognize anywhere we used to live of course, but some of the vacation photos have me wondering, which ocean is this? They look fairly similar. I find myself showing Tim a photo and asking, "Was this in California or Florida?" He looks blankly at me and shrugs. Palm trees, water and sand. Could be either.
And then there is the memory slippage. What was the name of that place? I know it, I do! It's right there on the tip of my memory, it starts with an H. Honduras? Hawaii? Equally possible. Sometimes I actually do know everything about the photograph, where we were, what we were doing and where we had dinner that night. I just cannot this second recall the name. "It was that place, you know, the one with the waterfall. You had the chicken dish but you picked out all the pineapple. The waiter was nice, his name was Roberto, his wife worked there too, she wore the red dress." Yeah that kind of detail. But the actual name eludes me.
Even some of the pictures with pets in them baffle me sometimes, okay, whose cat was that? What was it's name? We had one cat who photo bombed nearly every picture we took. Hysterical. I didn't realize it until I began sorting these photos. Nearly every single picture taken in that time frame has that cat in it somewhere. He should have his own folder.
Here is my workspace. Everyone is assigned a large envelope. I write on the back of each picture as best as I can remember, who, what, where and when. Photo in Envelope and move on to the next one. This is going to take some time.
Well it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. Mostly. And I'm enjoying the travel down Memory Lane. Mostly. It's a good brain exercise if nothing else AND eventually this will be yet another empty bin.
Mission almost accomplished. Just gotta sharpen my memory banks.
Is there an App for that?
August 14th, 2017
My computer and I have been fighting lately. It has been an epic battle. And like most wars, it is based upon opposing, but equally strong beliefs. I believe that my computer should work. It does not.
When my computer behaves like this, I gain weight. Which also doesn't make me happy.
Last Friday, I was determined to write the birthday blogpost about my father. My computer was equally determined that I would not. But I won. It took more than three hours of starting over and over, of shutting the machine down and then powering it back up. Three hours of photographs disappearing mysteriously and of the site blinking out mid-paragraph. Essentially an entire morning of the computer behaving badly and me walking away in aggravation, eating a cookie and calming down, returning and trying again. Eventually I won that round. The previous Wednesday however, the computer won. There was no blogpost last Wednesday.
While I have endless patience with people I have very little with machinery of any kind. Cars, vacuum cleaners, computers all aggravate me. To be completely fair, I do not have a mechanical mind. I can open it up and stare at it's innards saying, "me oh my" but I have not the slightest idea what I'm looking at or what any of it means. And I know that if I mess about with it too much, I can actually make it worse. So all I can really do is complain, be aggravated and eat cookies.
Years ago, I worked in a hospital. We were instructed, that if there were a computer problem we should contact that IT department. Lovely people there, very smart people there. So smart, in fact, that they speak and entirely different language than I do. "You need to reboot your modem" they might say (actually I have no idea if that's a real thing or not) "I have to do what now?" I say in return, "What does that look like? Where might I find it? Is it bigger than a bread box?" They would sigh and make the long walk all the way out to my wing and fix it in person, every single time. I felt terrible and baked them cookies by way of apology.
Nowadays of course, if there is a problem and you call someone for help, they can fix it remotely. I find it so bizarre to watch my computer screen do things without me. It's creepy. Very 1984. I don't much like it. But I sit and watch, while eating a cookie.
I guess my expectations are not realistic. I am of the belief that machines are built to do a job. And as long as they are properly maintained and treated kindly, they should do the job they were created for. A to B. A straight line. Very mathematical. Apparently this is not so. That drives me crazy. I get frustrated and aggravated and the cookies call me.
I don't know why my computer insists on behaving so badly. It could be a poltergeist. A Ghost in the machine. A Trickster Computer who thinks it's hilarious to fool with me. I don't find it remotely amusing. But clearly I am not in charge here. The computer and the cookies are in cahoots.
I find it ironic that there actually is something computer-ish called a cookie. I know they can be enabled, which leads me to believe that they can also be disabled. Unabled? Whatever, if it's not an edible cookie, I don't much care.
Meanwhile, I will continue, each morning to approach my computer with trepidation. What sort of computer day are we going to have today, hmmm? We will stare each other down and see who flinches first. If there is no blogpost, that means the computer won that day. If there is one, have a cookie in my honour because that means that on that particular day, on that wonderful day, the victory was mine!
P.S. I had to completely recreate this post because the computer ate the original.
August 11th, 2017
Happy Birthday to my Dad today! He would have been 92. We miss him but boy did he ever leave a legacy behind.
My dad was born in rural Michigan in a farming community. Anyone who has ever spent time on a farm knows that farmers are both hard workers and optimists. My father was both of those things. He didn't stay on the farm though. He joined the Navy and saw the world, just like the recruitment posters said. He did a lot of radio and engineering work during his military time and when he left the Navy, that interest propelled him toward engineering, radio and television, primarily repair work. That wasn't enough to keep him afloat financially so he also picked up a part time job as a short order cook at a Woolworth lunch counter in Chicago. And that is where he met my mother. They married a mere 6 weeks after they met! Now with a wife to support and a future family on the horizon, he hunkered down and in addition to his work, he went back to school.
It was only a few years before that education and work ethic took him all the way to a job in California working for General Dynamics. They knew a good thing when they saw it and he quickly rose through those ranks. He travelled a lot for the company, solving problems with his engineering mind as he went and impressing his employers even more. They sent him to Missouri with us following close behind and he again went back to school. Degree in hand, he travelled for the company even more and continued to be promoted. And in fact, was promoted all the way to Texas where we again, joined him. Eventually, we again moved with him, this time to Connecticut where he continued to excel right up until they told him he needed to retire. It certainly wasn't his idea.
My dad never understood the concept of retirement or even relaxing for that matter. And he firmly believed in community service. So he ran for Mayor. And won. Following his mayoral stint he continued to be involved in his community serving on and eventually running every organization he joined and there were so very many of them. His home office walls were lined with awards and plaques. And then he decided to move to Florida where, as soon as they were settled into their new home, he continued joining service organizations and once again, eventually running them. More awards and plaques appeared on his home office walls and eventually began to run down the hallways and into other rooms.
He was the guy other people came to with questions and problems because if he didn't know the answer, he didn't stop looking until he found it. He believed in the importance of education, and if there wasn't a good enough program for education, well then by golly, he would create it and then he taught the classes. He did not know how to say "I can't" . Simply didn't believe in it.
It is from my father that I got my love of books. Both of us, voracious readers, often discussed what we were currently reading. Both of us writers, he was fascinated with genealogy and tirelessly researched until eventually he was able to put together an entire book of his family's history. My father taught me the value of hard work and of honour. He showed us every day his commitment to his job, to his community and to his family.
One of my best memories of my dad came from our time in St. Louis. I believe I was in the sixth or seventh grade and still very small, even then looking much younger than I was. There was a small local library nearby that I haunted on a regular basis. I not only read a lot but very quickly and in no time at all, I had literally read every book on the shelves that were marked as appropriate for my age. So I moved on to the next shelves. I was told in no uncertain terms, in unnecessary harsh tones, by the head librarian that I was not allowed to read anything outside of my age group. She was rather nasty about it. I left in tears.
When I got home and told my dad what happened, he marched me right back to the library and told that same overzealous head librarian that his daughter was allowed to read any book in their entire library and she was not to stop me. The librarian, shocked, was appalled that my father would willingly expose his young daughter to ideas and words that were questionable at best. My father responded that he was shocked that a librarian of all people would be in favour of censorship. He went on to say that he had faith in my intelligence in sorting out which ideas were appropriate for my life and which were not. He went on to say that that ideas and words on their own were neither good nor bad and that the librarian should know better. He wrote a letter giving his written permission and that was the end of that. My hero.
It is because of him that I love a good western to this day. It is probably because of him that I was a full time Co-Director of a non-profit assistance organization for three years, which, by the way, was a volunteer position. It is no doubt due to his example that I have always been a very hard worker, always giving my absolute best in every task regardless of what it is.
This weekend, Tim and I will go visit him at the Memorial Plaza, take him some flowers, and spend a little time. I would wish for one more day with him for real, but that would never be enough time. Memories will have to do.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
August 10th, 2017
I have a wee bit of amusement to share with you today.
I know I've mentioned before that UPS, or Brown Truck Santa as my friend Aaron says, makes frequent deliveries to our house. It's a rare week indeed that there is not at least one box in the courtyard waiting to be discovered. Usually these boxes and mailing envelopes are business related so I duly bring them in the house and leave them on the table for Tim to open later. Yesterday one of those boxes showed up in the courtyard.
I don't know what time it was delivered, but I didn't notice it until I was preparing dinner. I was doing somthing at the kitchen sink and happened to peep out the window and noticed this box way over in the corner leaning against the wall. Normally the packages are left near the front door so this was a little different. There was a lizard sitting on top of it, trying to read the label I assume. Naturally I brought it inside (the box not the lizard) and, as I always do, put it on the kitchen table with the rest of the mail.
As you can see, it's a longish box, rather like a squared off tube and was surprisingly lightweight Because of all the work related packages that arrive which are of, frankly, zero interest to me, I paid no attention to it at all and went about my dinner preparations.
Finally Tim emerged from his work cave as I was putting the final touches on dinner. He saw the box and stopped short. The conversation went something like this; (the whole while I'm cooking away)
T: "A package arrived today?"
S: "I noticed it just a short time ago."
T: "What is it?"
S: "I didn't order anything. I assumed that you did"
T: "Well I was expecting something, but nothing this large"
S: " Is it for you or was it delivered to the wrong address?"
T: (after reading the label) "It appears to be for me"
S: " Hmmm I wonder if they got your order right?"
T: "Only one way to find out"
So he opened the box and burst out laughing. I turned to see what was so funny and I started laughing. This was inside:
Ok now lets put that in proper perspective.
Hystercial! I"m still giggling about it today.
I happen to know that UPS shipping charges are not just determiend by weight, but also by the size of the box. How much extra did they pay to ship that tiny nearly weightless set of "eclipse" glasses?
Okay people. Get it together. What is being shipped should be in reasonable porpoportion to the box it is shipped in, yes? On the other hand, it was a good laugh and there can never be enough of those moments.
Hope you get to have a really good laugh today! In the words of my old Nana, "It's good for what ails ya."
August 08th, 2017
This is one of my favourite photographs. I took it on a visit to Alcatraz while we were in San Francisco. Tim was at a conference. I tagged along. We stayed at an adorable little boutique hotel that was just outside China Town. We were walking distance to just about everything. So while Tim was doing his work conference thing, I was walking. I walked miles every day and saw wonderful things.
I adored the architecture of course but even more I loved the little surprise gardens that were tucked in here and there. I loved the little neighborhoods that popped up unexpectedly. One block in this direction and it's definitely Italian, one block in the other direction and it's Chinese, that way is Russian, the other way is something else entirely. It was fascinating, unique, delightful and from reading the restaurant window menus and sniffing the air, positively delicious.
I had no particular goal each day, I just put on my shoes, picked a direction and went. Uphill and down, walking with a tilt, travelling up the beckoning concrete stairs that I came across in the middle of a block and quietly travelling a pathway that seemed to wind through a forest ringed garden at the end of a residential block . I felt like an intrepid explorer, seeing things I've never seen before. I marveled, I ooohed and aaahed and I walked miles each day. I would get back to the hotel each afternoon and soak my bruised swollen feet in cold water in the tub and the next day, do it again.
I took hundreds of photos and a lot of them were not at all bad. But this one is my favourite. I'm not sure why. It usually works out that way. After we return from a trip, I eventually go through all of the photographs I snapped and generally there is one or maybe two that particularly speak to me. From the San Francisco trip, this is the one I keep coming back to. I try to not question my instincts or visceral reactions. If it speaks to me, it speaks. That's enough.
I enjoyed visiting San Francisco tremendously, but the town itself didn't speak to me in a way that said, you need to live here. Not At All. There have been places that did. Places that felt like perhaps I'd been there before. There have been a few places that, I immediately felt at home even though it was my first visit. San Francisco was not any of them. But I would visit again in a heartbeat.
If you haven't yet gone, I recommend it. Take a camera, good walking shoes and a smile. And then Enjoy! And if you take pictures, share your favourites. You don't have to know why it's the one you like the best. It just is. And that is sufficient.
August 07th, 2017
There is a wormhole in my bedroom. I don't know how it got there. I'm not even certain when it arrived, but that doesn't change the fact that there is a phenomenon of astronomical proportion in my bedroom. It's somewhere in the space between my bed and my bedside table.
I came to know about this wormhole on Friday. Once I was showered and dressed and getting ready to face my day, I finished, as I always do, by selecting the earrings I was going to wear that day. Sometimes I know exactly which ones I want before I look, other times, as on Friday, I need to peruse the contents of the jewelry box to decide.
I say jewelry box. In all actuality the " jewelry box" that hold my earrings is two plastic organizer boxes. I bought them at a craft store. It is intended for people who make jewelry to keep their tiny bits and pieces all organized which of course just sings to my tidy little heart. Prior to this I kept all the earrings together in one larger ordinary box and looking for matching sets was maddening. Now I have no more than three pair in each little compartment. It's perfect.
These two boxes live with all the rest of my jewelry in my bedside table in the middle drawer. We bought these specific night tables because of their drawers. There are three in each table all of generous porportion. Awesome. The top drawer holds things like hair brushes, my good scissors, nail files and other life flotsam. As I just indicated, the second drawer holds jewelry boxes. Two for earrings, two for bracelets, one for rings and so forth. The bottom drawer has only a second set of sheets, clean and folded awaiting the Monday ritual of the changing of the bedsheets.
I'll set the scene. I opened the second drawer and here was my big mistake. I attempted to lift out both earring boxes at once. I don't know what possessed me, I know better. I have small hands. In fact I have small arthritic hands so lifting out two boxes at once, even though they aren't heavy, was never going to work. Worse, I didn't close the lid on either box. As soon as I attempted to lift both boxes it all went ishkabibble. Or in the words of my old Nana, "ass over teakettle" PIcturesque speech. Earrings everywhere.
After the initial moment of shock passed, I begin the clean up. I found earrings in the open drawer, in the bed, on the floor, under the night table and under the bed. I sorted through it all making sure I had all the bits and pieces and my eye went directly to one lone silver earring. Dang. I checked again in the immediate area but no, I had not simply overlooked it. I removed everything from the open drawer. Not there. I laid on the floor and looked under both the bed and the table. Nope. I tore the bed apart. Nothing.
Determined now, I got a flashlight and searched everywhere again. Hoping for that glint of silver, I lay on the floor one more time and cast the flashlight beam back into the dust bunny zone. No earring. That's where I was when Tim walked by. "Lost something?" he asked innocently. I regaled him with the tale of the errant earring. He assured me that I must simply have missed it as it must be there, somewhere. He took the flashlight and looked everywhere I already had and then looked further, the closet, the other side of the room, the hallway. No earring. Finally he scratched his head, shrugged his shoulder, returned the flashlight to me and went back to work.
Hmmmmm. I kept thinking about it as I put the room back to rights. Finally I eyeballed the room critically. "Well", I said to myself, "If it's not where it logically should be, then it must be where it logically couldn't be". I looked inside a few closed boxes and of course it wasn't there. It couldn't possible be there. I looked in the top drawer and of course it wasn't there because that drawer was closed so it couldn't be there. I opened the bottom drawer and there, on top of a perfectly folded, snowy white sheet was the missing earring.
How on earth was that possible? It was a closed drawer! Wormhole. It's the only explanation.
I know people who claim that there is a black hole in their laundry rooms because while 6 pair of socks may go into the washer and/or dryer only 5 1/2 sets come back out. I have NEVER had that happen. Not once. Not ever.
But if it ever does happen, I know where to look for the missing sock now. My bottom bedside table drawer. Apparently that is the other side of the wormhole.
August 04th, 2017
So, I'm walking to my Pilates class this morning and, as usual, I pass a lot of people along the way. It used to surprise me. I mean after all it's not even 8 am yet and there's loads of people outside, walking their dogs, working in their yards, heading into town for breakfast and one gentleman who brings his newspaper to read in a little park I cut through every morning. Now I am accustomed to seeing a lot of people Every single person I passed and said,"Morning". Few of them actually looked at me but they all said the same thing, "Morning".
I just want to be very clear on that. They didn't say, "Good morning" or even the contracted, "G'mornin'". It was just "morning". Good. We are all in agreement. It is, indeed, morning. Makes me laugh.
We have altered the American version of the English language so much in my lifetime alone that it's barely understandable. When did "lite" become an acceptable version of "light"? Some young girl who recently was in the headlines was referred to as the "Cash me ouzide" girl. I assume they meant, "Catch me outside". How is that a thing? I keep hearing and cringing when people on television DIY or house hunter home shows refer to a bathroom as a "baffroom". When did the pronunciation of that word change? I know I'm out of touch with current trends (and frankly, I always have been so this is not just an age thing) but I have to be honest. It makes me a little crazy.
Texting shorthand is another example. Yes it's much easier to type three letters, LOL, than "laugh out loud" and that one is fairly common. Even I know that one. But the acronyms don't stop there. IMHO and AFK, I figured those out. But AAMOF? What the heck is that? ICYMI? NNTR? ITT? FWIW? I have no idea. I could make up things that it might stand for, but it's probably not what the writer intended. ITT, could be "I time turtles" or NNTR could be Not now Tom Rosen....but it's probably not and THAT is how miscommunication happens. Now people text using just emoji's. NO words at all, just those cute little pictures. The smiley face, the birthday cake, the little hearts..... And I'm thinking, Pictographs? Hieroglyphics? We are now going back in time to communicate? It baffles me.
Communication is essential in every society. Clear, definitive, unambiguous, coherent, straightforward communication is the key to success in almost everything. At work in every single instance that comes to mind, in education, giving or receiving directions, invitations and most certainly in relationships. And yet, I find, more and more, short hand speak, short hand written or typed communiques and less and less eye contact.
It might be that the lack of eye contact is the most concerning to me. Admittedly, part of the reason is my hearing problems. Even with hearing aids, I rely a bit on lip-reading (it's a noisy old world out there people)but it's not just that.
Did you ever hear the expression, "The eyes are the window to the soul"? Well I don't know if I can see your soul, but I can definitely see in a persons eyes if they are annoyed, if they are bored, angry, interested ,caring, or intrigued , despite what their words might say. Facial expressions and body language speaks an entire language of it's own but if you don't look at me and are slumped over your phone or your computer through our entire conversation I assume that what you are feeling is, "Go away I don't want to talk to you". And that might not be the case at all. Or maybe it is. But the point is, I do not know what the person is actually thinking because they are not communicating clearly with me. I am only guessing.
Communication should not be a guessing game. It should not require telepathy or an acronym to English dictionary. There should be no question at all between the parties communicating and if, for some reason, something does require further clarity, none of it should be in picture, or acronym or with the TH supplanted by F's.
I'm not saying that we should all be speaking like Chaucer wrote. Not at all. Not even close. My complaint is simply the laziness I hear and see which is replacing a language that is rich and full and glorious. Mr. Webster went to all the trouble of collecting an entire book's worth of amazing and wonderful words. Why aren't we using them?
The photo has nothing to do with my post today, it was just a pretty picture that I liked, just in case you wondered.
I am done with my complaint of the day. I feel better now.
HAGW and ISYM :)
August 03rd, 2017
And thSo I read in the newspaper yesterday that my little town of Venice received the 2017 Florida Main Street Community award. The Secretary of State said that Venice has become a model for main street programs. And this is the third time that Venice has won this award!
I shouldn't be surprised. The Mainstreet of Venice which is actually West Venice Ave and not actually "Main St" is adorable and part of the reason we selected Venice as our new home. The business part of it is only about three long blocks but it involves 3 parallel streets. West Venice in the middle and Tampa and Miami on either side.
Tree lined with sidewalks and flowering pots galore there is just so much to recommend it. Where do I start? First of all, there is a center of town. It's not all strung up and down a highway like many towns here. There is a walkable town center. For me that is huge. Then there are the little thing like the clocks. I love the clocks. I know that's a silly thing but it's about the details. They are probably not original but they have that lovely retro look that makes me wish they were or perhaps hope that they are. Then there is the gazebo. Every small town is supposed to have a gazebo. We do! And then there are the park benches. People are invited to sit, relax, watch the world go by.
And I hope you are hungry because there are a ton of places to choose from. Are you looking for breakfast? Well there are wo bakeries, one French, one not, and both wonderful and several wonderful restaurants that cater to breakfast fans. Or is it lunch that you are seeking? Or maybe it's dinner time. Well there are more restaurants than I care to try to name, many of them with outdoor seating which is what most people choose and some with live music in the evenings.
Or are you specifically looking for dessert? On West Venice Ave alone there are three places to buy ice cream and one for my personal favourite, gelato. One of the ice cream shops also makes fudge and candies, right in the window. Dessert and a show! One of the other ice cream places also offers excellent sandwiches. It's a real serious old fashioned ice cream fountain shop with the best, the absolute best milkshakes I've ever had. How do you choose?
But of course, you came to shop, right? Not a problem. Gift shops, souveniers, clothing stores, jewelry shops and more. Orchids, fabric, art pieces, kitchen ware and homes, what are you looking to purchase today?
Please keep in mind that this is a seaside town that has a lot of visitors. There is a certain amount of kitsch required. It isn't overpowering, but it is evident. And frankly, it's part of the charm of Venice.
There are frequently events going on here too. Every Saturday morning there is farm market that Tampa Ave is closed for. But there are art shows and craft shows and car shows and parades There are celebrations and decorations and constant cleaning and beautification. Last year, during the season, there was also a trolley that totted people up and down the street that was the cherry on top of the sundae.
If you follow Venice Avenue westward to the end you will have travelled through a charming downtown, then a lovely tree canopied residential street with beautiful homes and a green meridian with a path down the center filled with trees and flowering shrubs and places to sit and eventually you will arrive at Venice Beach proper. There is the pavilion area with bathrooms, parking and a concession stand. There is yoga on the beach in the early morning and often music under the pavilion in the evenings. And of course there is the beach. It doesn''t get much better than that.
I would say the that honor Venice has received is well deserved.
August 02nd, 2017
My friend Kirstin asked if I ever put any of my recipes on my blog. At the time I said, "actually, no", but she got me thinking about it. So I thought I'd give it a try. Why not? You can let me know how you feel about this as an occasional blog idea.
The above is my version of redbeans and rice. This was dinner two nights ago. It was the first time I ever made it. Tim liked it, although it was a wee bit spicy. Easy enough to tone down for the next time. I don't know the actual amounts of anything I put into this because I kind of didn't follow a recipe. I sort of followed about six of them and then winged it.
Poor Tim has to put up with being on the eating end of a lot of my food experiments. The terror that must run through that man's heart every time he wanders into the kitchen with me in full mad scientist mode and I say the dreaded words, "I'm creating'. He never complains though and always eats the results that I present to him. But I know that quietly, on the inside, there must be a very interesting dialogue going on.
I feel like Detective Adrian Monk when I write this but, here's what happens:
Monday morning I rooted through the fridge and the pantry trying to think of what to make for dinner. I noted that there were two already cooked leftover pork chops (they come in a package of three y'see) that should probably be used. What should I make? I considered and discarded a lot of ideas, primarily because I didn't have the ingredients or substitute ingredients and because of the Tropical Storm going on, I really didn't feel like popping out to the grocery store for any missing items. I thumbed through my cookbooks and my pile of recipes that I've collected from friends, family and cut out of magazines over the years. Some I've actually tried, others not.
One, in particular, jumped out at me. It was actually cut out of a newspaper that was yellowed and crinkly with age. Red Beans and Rice it said. Hmmm, I said. I scanned the ingredients, most of which I had and while it mentioned nothing about leftover pork chops, it did sound as if pork chops could, in some way be utilized with it. Okay, now I have a jumping off point. I pulled the cook books back out and found other recipes for Red Beans and Rice in two of the books. All three recipes were different, sometimes VERY different but one of them mentioned flavouring with ham bone. Hmmm again. Leftover pork chop and ham. They come from the same critter. Close enough!
I read carefully through all three recipes and then, just for good measure, looked up a few more on line. The most important part of all these recipes to me, were the things that they had in common. All of them had the red beans concoction served over the rice. All of them involved onion, peppers, celery and garlic. And of course the red beans and the rice. Some of them were complete from start to finish in 30 minutes, others simmered for hours.
One more quick scan through all of these recipes and I'm ready to roll. Information absorbed, I put all of the books away and started to assemble ingredients. I like to gather all the necessaries before I start so I'm not scrambling last minute having discovered that I do not, after all, have enough of this or that. So I put on my apron and began making a mess of the kitchen.
It turned out that while I had onion, garlic and celery, I did not have any fresh peppers of any sort. Dang. I did however have a can of chopped "hot" jalapenos. Why I do not know. Never mind, it'll do. I gently sautéed my veggies in my largest frying pan, sprinkled them liberally with Cajun spice (an awesome concoction of spices that should be in every one's spice rack by the way) I trimmed any fat from the leftover pork chops and chopped them up before adding. Once the onions starting looking translucent, I turned the heat up a tiny bit before adding some white cooking wine (improves every sauce), then turned it back down to simmer before adding the red beans.
I generally don't keep dry beans in the house, but for some unknown reason I did have a can of red beans, so rinsed and drained, I added those and then chicken stock. Now every single recipe said to add water. But water has no flavor. It's bringing nothing to the party so chicken stock it is!
It simmered along, covered, happily for about two hours. I occasionally stirred and if it looked as if the liquid was getting a little low I added a wee bit more cooking wine or chicken stock (whichever I grabbed first - seriously that's how I made the decision - very scientific methodology). Then I started the rice which is what...about a 30 minute thing? And threw some corn bread together and put it in the oven - another half hour jobbie. At the last minute, I realized that there was no green vegetable involved (other than the peppers and celery of course) and so I chopped up some baby spinach and seconds before serving sort of folded it into the bean concoction to allow it to wilt. Just wilt. Not cooked to mush.
Concoction served over perfect rice, corn bread on the side and taadaa, Red Beans and Rice and a great way to get rid of leftover pork chops. Tim really liked it. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have used fresh jalapenos. The canned ones were weird and I don't know what they use to make it "hot" but it was way too spicy and weirdly so.
Oh and if you didn't already know, the secret to perfect rice? I make the Uncle Ben's original type. You know the one, water, rice bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes...that one? Put a tea towel between the pot lid and the pot to make a more perfect seal. Once the 20 minutes are up, remove from the heat completely, leave pot and tea towel in place for 5 more minutes, then remove lid and towel, give a stir and taadaa...perfect rice. Works every time.
Give me some feedback on the idea of the occasional recipe on the Blog. My feelings won't be hurt I promise.
August 01st, 2017
M&M's should be their own food group. Y'know that list? That triangle thing we all learned in primary school in Health Class a million or so years ago: meat, fruits & vegetables, dairy, grains and M&M's. That's the proper list. I'm quite sure.
M&M's or in Sam-speak just Em's (we are such good friends we are on a first name basis, y'see), are the perfect food. Very portable, colourful, and they come in a great variety. Most of which, I am a fan of, but not all. I do not care for the cocoanut ones, but then, I don't like cocoanut so that makes sense. And there have been a few relatively new ones that have not made it onto my hit parade, pumpkin spice comes immediately to mind. I do like pumpkin. I like pumpkin breads and I adore pumpkin pie. I do not like pumpkin Em's. No No and No.
But most of the rest of them I like. There was a time in fact, when Em's were the mainstay of my existence. " Hello my name is Sam and I'm an M&M -aholic....." I wish I could say that I was joking about that but I did actually have a giant bag of Em's on my desk at work all the time and that is pretty much what I subsisted upon.
Actually I've been much better about that since we moved in Florida. I'm not certain about the why of it, but it is a fact. There have not been any Em's in this house for quite some time. And I haven't been craving them or doing pantry inventory thinking, "add Em's to the list". In fact, the last time I bought some (before the above) was for Christmas cookie baking purposes! Wow! That's a long time for me.
BUT due to the perversity of human behavior, as soon as the dentist told me that while I'm wearing the temporary crown I couldn't have any nuts or any sticky foods, I immediately wanted nuts and sticky food. I don't usually crave them. But suddenly, because I couldn't have them, I desperately wanted them. So when I found myself grocery shopping the next day, and I eyed these babies, they found themselves first in my cart, then in a bag in my car nestled beside several lettuce's and some carrots, and then finally in my pantry. Waiting.
Every time I opened the pantry doors to look for something, my eye immediately fell on the Em's. "Soon", I crooned to the bag," very soon". The oddest part of this is that I've had the new caramel Em's only one other time and I wasn't wowed. In fact, I was a little disappointed. But perhaps that was my fault. I prefer my chocolate cold so usually I keep it in the fridge.
Here's a tip: When you keep caramel Em's in the fridge, while the chocolate is just cold and firm and perfect, the caramel is past firm all the way to hard. It doesn't take long for it to soften enough to be chewy again, but the lag between eating cold chocolate and waiting to have chewy caramel takes away from the combination of flavours that I was looking for. THEREFORE, this time, I left the Em's in the panty. Everything should be room temperature so I can experience the combo-flavor impact of chocolate and caramel.
My all time favourite is just standard regular original Em's. I select them one at a time and bite each one in half enjoying them twice as long. I don't care about the colour particularly. I know people who arrange them by colour and need to even up rows and that's fine. I actually kind of understand it. The tidiness of it. But while I certainly could see myself doing that or something like that, I don't. And again, I prefer them cold, right out of the fridge. If I can't eat them cold, then I drink iced water while I'm eating them. I don't know why, I just know that I do.
Second favourite is peanut butter. That was a brilliant idea. Not original but excellent execution regardless. I still bite each one in half and enjoy each half separately and still prefer them cold or with iced water, but I find that while with original Em's I can eat the entire bag (regardless of the size of the bag) the peanut butter ones fill me up faster. I can absolutely just have a few and walk away (and then return and eat more later you understand). They give me killer heartburn, but I still love them. Sometimes Love hurts.
Third is the pretzel Em's. At first, I was not a fan. The pretzel to chocolate ratio was wrong. But eventually they sorted it out, I tried it again and really liked them. It's that perfect salt/sweet combination. I honestly thought these would take over first place and bump the other two down a notch but nope the originals still rule.
Peanut Em's are awesome but they are the most addictive so I try to avoid them. You know how I said I can eat the entire bag of original Em's? Well I can with the peanut ones too, only when the bag is empty, I still want more. See? Addictive.
The mint ones? Well, I have a friend, Chris, who claims that the mint Em's are only good at Christmas time. I never thought about it until he said it, but, I concur. Mint Em's = Christmas tide. Amazingly wonderful at Christmas, but only to be eaten then.
Any of the others fall into the occasional category. I will eat them if presented to me (as long as it's not cocoanut) but probably wouldn't buy them on purpose myself. The ittybitty mini Em's are fabulous for baking but otherwise, not so much. The mega-Em's are decadent. The dark chocolate ones are, I suppose, a smidge healthier, but I'm not a huge dark chocolate fan. Which doesn't mean that I would snub them if offered, but I wouldn't buy them on purpose.
Which leaves me here today counting down the minutes until my dental appointment wherein my permanent crown will be put in place and then I will come home and eat my sticky caramel Em's. I will savour, I will relish, I will experience my Em's. And when they are gone, there is also a bag of peanut Em's in the fridge where they belong, colding up.
Right now I'm living a Carly Simon song, "Anticipation". And I'm betting that these will be the BEST Em's I've ever eaten in my entire life just because I waited so long to eat them. Yum.
There really is something to that anticipation concept. When I ate Em's nearly every day I still liked them, because, well really, what's not to like. Chocolate! But, the more infrequently I have them, the more I enjoy them.
Today I will enjoy the bejeebers out of them! How much longer do I have to wait now? I think this is the first dental appointment ever that I was excited about. Is it time yet?
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.