Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Soldier's Thanksgiving

As I worked on the sweet potato casserole to bring to Pam's this afternoon, I listened to the television in the background. A broadcast from an American Army base in Afghanistan caught my attention.

Lester Holt was interviewing soldiers and stopped to talk to two men who turned out to be brothers from Maine. Lester asked what was going on in their house back in Maine. They hesitated a little then answered Dad's probably asleep being tired after his early morning hunt, Mom's working in the kitchen and Gram's on her way down.

Those words just hit me right in the heart and tears started. You see, my husband Paul hasn't come home yet from his morning hunt, we called my beloved grandmother Gram, and my whole family is from Maine.

Unless we have a loved one serving overseas most of us are not even touched by the wars going. Please stop and give thanks today and say a prayer for these brave men and women who are so far from home and their families.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Author, Author!

I have been part of a book club for almost 10 years. I read early and have always loved it. I read every Nancy Drew book on my 3rd grade teacher’s book shelf and read a whole series of historical biographies when I was about ten. Whether I’m eating my breakfast or watching a movie at home, I have something to read in front of me, even if it’s just the cereal box.

However, Pam, my stepdaughter, puts my reading to shame. Remember calling someone a book worm? If you look up book worm in the dictionary, Pam's picture is there. She reads an incredible 100 books a year. She also works in a library which should surprise no one.

Pam has been involved with book clubs for years. When she and Geoff and the girls moved back in 2001 after 14 years in Arizona, she started a group here. I am part of the original group. Over the years we have had some people come and go but a core group of us have been together for several years now. Right now there are ten of us. We meet monthly at various local restaurants and make an evening of our meetings. We take turns bringing books for the group, and we vote on what we want to read to discuss the next month.

The thing I like most about being part of a book club is it makes me read books I would never have found or thought I'd enjoy. None of us enjoys every book, but we all make an effort to read the monthly selection. We’ve had some really good discussions, and I think each of us remembers the book we disliked most rather than one we loved. I think our best discussions have been about books we didn't like although seldom do we all dislike the same book. Our tastes in reading vary quite a bit which keeps the selections interesting.

The November selection was The Red Thread written by Ann Hood. Pam often goes to book readings by authors visiting the area. Recently she and Colleen, another long-time member of the group, attended an event featuring Ann. I’ll let Pam tell you what happened next…..go visit her at Pam’s Perspectives to read all about it.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank a Veteran

Today's is Veterans Day.

Please take a moment and remember the American veterans serving today and in the past.

If you would like to do something for someone serving now, please visit Soldiers' Angels to find out about the many ways you can get involved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

Whoever came up with the saying "A Dog's Life" obviously never met Lucy. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a dog in this family.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adventures in Smuggler's Notch

Last week we took some time off and got some much-needed rest and relaxation at Smuggler's Notch Resort in Vermont.

Even though the leaves were past peak it was still beautiful. It was pretty quiet in the area since the summer season is over and ski season has yet to begin.

Paul and I think Vermont is the most beautiful New England state and have visited many times over the years. This was our first time in Smuggler's Notch and were not disappointed.

Here are some photos taken from the deck of our condo.

Cresting at 2,162 feet is spectacular Smugglers' Notch Pass, a notch notorious during Prohibition as a smuggling route from Canada when our friendly neighbors to the north sent down some of the stuff they thought we Americans were being deprived of. There are little rock caves all over the notch where the illicit booze was hidden. Hikers today are still looking for long-forgotten stashes.

The drive through the notch on the way to the resort was narrow and filled with windy turns with outcroppings of rock everywhere. We woke to a dusting of snow the second morning we were there. It was sunny but cold and breezy. Paul and I decided to take a walk up the road to the notch. We parked the car at the bottom and found this:

Even though it was just a dusting below the Notch, it was reportedly icy up there and we were told the notch road was probably closed for good this year and wouldn't reopen to spring. Bummer! The drive around the notch road to get everywhere was about a 30-minute drive.

We decided to walk up the road to see how close we could get to the Notch before I collapsed in exhaustion. Here are some of the photos taken along the walk.

A vacation wouldn't be complete unless Paul played mountain goat somewhere. There was that time at Grand Canyon when he climbed down along an overlook and swung his arms out like he was falling. Another time he climbed to the top of some hill in Nova Scotia which was straight up. Here's this trip's adventure:

We didn't get very far up the Notch Road before deciding it was just too cold.

Back into the car for a drive. As we drove down the main street of Morrisville this little piece of heaven caught my eye:

I considered dropping in and leaving my card but since I don't hold a license to sell real estate in Vermont I had to pass up the option. Otherwise I would have been all over it.

Here are a few of the random shots I took as we drove along.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Real June Cleaver

My friend Susan's mother passed away a couple weeks ago. I find it ironic that Mrs. L died just one week after the passing of Barbara Billingsly the iconic June Cleaver. Mrs. L was the real-life June Cleaver.

I have very fond memories of time spent in Mrs. L's house as a teenager. Susan and I were best friends from our early teens through our 20's. I loved being at Susan's house as much to be around her mother as to hang out with Susan.

I don't mean this as a slight to my own mother, but ours was a different family. I had responsibility and chores to do from an early age. They were good to me, gave me all the love and attention I needed but I did not get the type of attention that Susan and her brother got. The same attention I received when I stayed there. Mrs. L was always a stay at home mom. My mother worked part time in my earliest years and then full time from my fifth grade on.

Lots of the things Mrs. L did for her kids, and me when I was there, weren't the types of things that necessarily help children learn responsibilities, but her philosophy was that there was time for that. She was the kind of mother who cut the crusts off your peanut butter sandwich, picked up your wet towels from the bathroom floor without complaint, and brushed Susan's hair long after it was necessary. She just made life in general easy. Staying with Susan was a little escape for me.

I don't look back on the responsibilities put on me at an early age negatively. It was good because it made me self sufficient early and able to take care of myself, to know the real world long before many of my friends. I was married and on my own at 19, and I was more than capable.

I have so many memories of Mrs. L. I remember the glass jar of milk that was part of the lunch brought to Susan and me when we were painting the classroom for the Kindergarten class we taught in Sunday School. She put a piece of plastic wrap (we called it all Saran Wrap then) between the glass and the metal cover to avoid leaking. I still do that to this day, and it still works.

I remember in Mrs. L's closet that her shoes were still in their original boxes with a description written on the end. That was the first time I ever saw that, and I do it in my own closet today.

She was older than most mothers of the 50's when her kids were born. Mr. L was in the service during the early years of their marriage and they put off having children his discharge. She was a very pretty lady who always wore her hair in an upsweep. She went to the hairdressers weekly and slept on a silk pillow case to keep it in place between appointments. Her hair must have been long although I never saw it down.

She always wore dresses and had a beautiful smile which she wore most of the time. Although I do remember occsional exasperated moments of "Oh, Susan!" I never remember my parents taking me to Susan's. Her mother would usually drive over to my house to pick me up. She would take us to basketball games and wait for us in the car.

We were always called to meals already on the table. We never helped in prep or clean up. All this probably sounds like her children were spoiled, which I suppose they were, but it was her way of life, that's what many mothers of the 50's did. It was like a vacation for me because my mean parents made me pick up the table and wash the dishes. Certainly not slave labor but at 12 it felt like it.

The L's had a beach house which was an even better place to visit. All that pampering AND a nearby beach. It doesn't get much better than that.

It was at that beach house that Mrs. L passed away after 70 years of pampering her family. At the end Susan and her brother got to repay some of that care. But given a choice, I'm sure Mrs. L would have been happy bustling around her kitchen in her apron putting her meatloaf, green beans and baked potatoes on the table for her family.

Rest in peace Mrs. L, you were a special lady.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wah, Wah, Wah

Seems like all I do here lately is rant. Here's another. You've been warned. You still have time to leave.

I am very slow to make changes around the house. First of all I don't really like to spend large sums of money unless it's on travel or jewelry. When it comes to that, I can rationalize anything. Paul, not so much. He doesn't like to spend money on anything.

As for the house, I am never quite sure what I want and I also hate living under construction, no matter how minor. Not that we haven't done some major renovations over the nearly 25 years here. We finished the lower level years ago and it still looks great. We replaced the kitchen and one bath. The roof is new, as is the deck and we painted the outside a few years ago. Sounds like I'm writing an ad for one of my listings.

As a real estate agent I see lots of nice houses. You would think that would encourage me to keep my own house updated. Not really. First there's the money, secondly I don't trust my own decisions. When it comes to choosing paint, furniture, etc., I'm always second guessing myself. I like it now but will I still like it next week, next month, next year? Trust me, if it goes up, it'll be there for a while.

Recently we had all of our windows replaced which meant most of the woodwork throughout the house needed to be painted. We have/had a great guy who has done all the painting and papering in our house; all of it. Unfortunately for us, Gerry has left the business and gone into another. I figured this might be the time for me to learn to paint.

Gerry does a fabulous job, no one is better. So I decided to ask him for information about how to prep and paint the dark wood that is everywhere in this house built in the 1980's. Gerry gave me step-by-step detailed instructions right down to the number of sheets of the different grit sandpaper to buy. I told him he should be teaching this.

As I was going along, whenever I ran into a point where I wasn't sure how to do something, I kept asking myself WWGD? As in What Would Gerry Do? Paul got pretty tired of me replying...."Gerry said...." whenver he offered an opinion. I have been going along very slowly and it looks great.

Our living room furniture should have been replaced five years ago. I won't go into the details of its condition because it's too embarassing but it was bad enough that one day recently Paul came home to find it on the front lawn on it's way to the street. That was the only way I could be sure I would get out and buy new.

That's generally how I get started on projects. One afternoon Paul took a nap in the den and woke up to find the shower doors on the deck. Another time he heard me yelling for help and came in to find me struggling to keep a row of kitchen cabinets up. I thought I had all the screws out of the wall and ceiling. Nope, there was one I missed and I couldn't get to it and hold the cabinets up. So anyway he knew what it had in mind when he saw the furniture on the lawn. Now I have mentioned that I really don't care to shop, furniture shopping being my least favorite. But since they won't bring the samples here I have to go there.

After a bit of looking around we found a sofa, love seat and chair that we really like. I know, very imaginative seating. Anyway, we liked the fabric on the samples in the showroom which they had in the warehouse and could deliver in two days but nooooo I had to have a coordinating fabric on the chair.

After a little time looking at fabric samples, we settled on one. The chair would take 4-6 weeks which was okay because we have other things to do. All set! Just some more paint, area rug, lamps and tables to find later. I had such a feeling of accomplishment when we left that store. In the meantime, we did find a rug and painted the walls. About three weeks ago I got a call from the store. So sorry but that fabric is no longer available. Please come in and choose another.

I wasn't happy but there was another I liked so I went back and got that arranged. Another 4-6 weeks to wait. Okay, we still have some things we can do. I'll be patient.

You guessed it. The sales person called last night to tell me that she had made an error and that fabric was for pillows only and couldn't be made into a chair. I really don't understand that but I don't care about the why, I'm just pissed that I have to make another trip there, for the third time, and choose a fabric I didn't really want in the first place and wait another 4-6 weeks.

I told her I would probably cancel the whole order, and she said she understood. I won't but at the moment I was considering it. I did tell her that if we find a third fabric which will now be okay rather than what I really wanted, I would be looking for some 'consideration' on the pricing. Oh yes, I understand. Maybe we can give you a gift certification towards a future purchase. Are you kidding?! Like I'm ever going to buy anything there again? No, I said, you can take some money off this purchase. That remains to be seen, of course.

So now this afternoon we are planning another trip back and I have a feeling I'm not going to be as pleasant as I was the other TWO times I had to do this.

If you are still with me, I'm sorry about the wah, wah, wah. But I bet you've been there, done that. Ain't service and quality control just a real treat now?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Um, Like, I mean, Like Um, Ya Know Like, I mean

Recently I've had several conversations with a woman who says I mean at least three times in any sentence. In between I mean she sprinkles Um, Like and then, of course, Um Like. I know that some teenagers tend to use like and you know a little too often but this woman is 50-some years old.

Conversing with her is downright painful. I want to scream Get to the point! She's a business associate so she's not someone I can take aside and gently suggest she not speak until she has her thoughts more composed.

I don't sound like William F. Buckley but I have worked on my speech for many years. I am a born and bred New Englander, specifically Rhode Island. There are several different accents to be found in this one little state of only one million people. Most are not very pleasant to listen to and often ridiculed, usually by the rest of us.

I have tried to 'neutralize' my accent. I focus on pronouncing the G's in words ending in i-n-g. I try to put my R's where they belong and keep them out where they don't belong. My favorite example of both is Columbee-er Rivuh. Seriously, that's how many RhoDyLanduhs say Columbia River. I could go on and on with examples of some of the funny ways we talk but you would think I'm being unkind; probably funny but unkind.

While traveling in the U.S., we used to say that we're from Rhode Island, now we just say New England. I got tired of being asked "Isn't that an island off New York?" No, you geographically-challenged dumbbell, that's Long Island.

In my real estate business I often meet relocation clients; people who come from all over the United States and abroad. Eventually the conversation comes around to where I'm from. Usually when I say I'm a native Rhode Islander I hear "You don't sound like you come from Rhode Island." I usually say, thank you, thank you, I have worked to NOT sound like a Rhode Islander.

I used to have a friend who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, whose accent I found kind of cool. He knew I had worked on my 'accent' but every once in a while, usually when I was in a rant and got 'tawking' fast he would start to laugh. "What are you laughing at?" "You sound like you're from Rhode Island!"

Well, um, ya' know, like sometimes I just can't like help it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

Report: Woman eating pig's feet in bed cuts friend

The (Rock Hill) Herald
Posted: Tuesday, Sep. 14, 2010

Rock Hill, S.C. -- A woman who was eating pig’s feet in bed accidentally cut her friend in the arm, police say.

The 52-year-old Rock Hill woman told police she accidentally cut a friend in the forearm with a knife around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Both she and the victim, 50, were intoxicated, according to a Rock Hill police report.

He had a deep cut to his arm. The report did not state if he was hospitalized.

No charges were filed, but the incident remains under investigation.

Friday, September 17, 2010

As Good An Excuse As Any

We have to take a vacation. We don't want to but we have have to. Yeah, right.

A couple years ago I did kind of a dumb thing. I bought a time share in Duck, NC, on the Outer Banks. A second one. I bought the first time share in Kitty Hawk, NC, on eBay sight unseen. It's what they call a 'lock out' unit. There are actually two individual units separated by a locked door and in total it sleeps ten.

You can use either one side or both at the same time. If you only use one side, you can 'bank' a week in lieu of using it but they have to be used within two years or they expire. You can save it to trade for another week somewhere. Theoretically you can trade for stays all over the world, but it's easier said than done to find a place where you want when you want but it can be done.

Anyway, I bought the first one on eBay for a pretty good price considering the people we bought it from probably paid eight times the amount we did. It's the week of Memorial Day in May, and we've been three years in a row. We love it. We begin to look forward to it about the middle of winter.

After our first stay I immediately when to eBay when we got home to see what else was for sale in the area. There was another time share for sale in Duck at a resort right on the water, not quite as nice but a great location.

This is the second week of October. I paid $157.50 for another lock out unit, another possible two weeks annually. Seriously $157.50 for a deeded time share which means it doesn't expire like some do after 20 years. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we have four weeks and we can't seem to use them.

There is some flexibility. You can use them, or rent or give them away if you can't use them yourself. We have offered weeks to several people over the years but no one has taken us up on it.

A few weeks ago realizing we need to use it or lose it before the end of October, we started looking for a place to go. We don't really want to fly which limits us. I went to the RCI site, which is the company we use to bank and trade, and began to look for a place in New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine.

I found a week at Smuggler's Notch Resort in Vermont. It's costing us $179 for a week at a very well-rated resort with two beds, two baths and a fully-equipped kitchen. It's a big time share spot but you can rent there and a week could be as high as $1,000.

I think the fall colors will be gone but it's a nice location with nearby places to visit. It's near Burlington which is a college town. Stowe is close which is a pretty New England town. That's the home of the Trapp Family Lodge. Remember the vonTrapp family from the Sound of Music? It's an area we've visited many, many times but not recently.

So darn! We have to go away. It's rough but someone's got to do it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Blog Therefore I Am?

That's a question not a statement. Over the last few months I haven't been blogging much. This is due to several things; I've been busy, it's too hot, nobody cares. Pick one.

The main reason is that I started questioning why I blog. When I started 18 months ago I really had no idea why I wanted to write a blog. I don't have any definitive answer even now. But I know I enjoyed it and still do but I really began to ask Does anyone care? Does anyone really want to know what I think?

Then I began to miss it. And I realized I wasn't writing for anyone but myself. I did/do enjoy the comments people leave but because I don't spend nearly as much time visiting other blogs, my traffic has slowed down and so have the comments. That's okay. I like to hear myself talk.

I do know that some people are paying attention to my blog(s), there are four now. Seriously, I'm not kidding, four blogs. Recently the IT director for our agency, Tom, planned a tech panel for the quarterly company meeting. I was really flattered when Tom asked me to sit on the panel and talk about blogging.

There would be seven agents with certain knowledge of technology speaking about their areas of expertise. Tom actually called me a blogging expert. Whoa! I'm not an expert on anything but I have gathered quite a bit of experience with blogging recently. Despite being a little uncomfortable speaking before large groups, I said yes.

There were seven of us on the panel and the other six all had some really interesting things to offer. I'm sure we all learned some new things. I happened to be the seventh to speak. By then I saw that eyes had begun to glaze over so I cut my comments short.

I told them that Blogger is my format of choice because of its user-friendliness especially because I have no technology background. I talked about commenting and followers and about the difference (for me) between business related blogs (like my real estate blog) and personal blogs. I also spoke about the blogging community and about the blog Words of Wisdom that I was part of developing.

After I was finished Tom told the audience I was being modest about my blogging and that he thinks my designs are terrific. He also said that I have achieved some of the best search engine optimization he has ever seen. A year ago I didn't even know what search engine optimization meant. I'm not even sure I know now. Whatever it is, it was an accident.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Adventures on the Danube River

In July Paul and I cruised the Danube River in Central Europe. The cruise began in Budapest, Hungary and traveled west through Austria and into Germany ending in Nuremburg. It was our first time in this part of Europe, and the architecture and history are both beautiful and fascinating. Traveling through the countryside with castles, ruins and pretty litle towns along the river, it was most definitely a nice way to see a different side of cities and towns along the river.

We cruised with Viking River Cruises. They cruise all over Europe and Asia, and I would recommend this company to anyone thinking of a river cruise. This is not ocean cruising. The boat we were on, Viking Danube, only holds 150 passengers with a crew of about 20. It's a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere. That's our ship above docked along side the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary where our cruise began.

Here are some of the photos I shot on the river between towns. We didn't have the best weather and consequently the photos aren't that great but they still show how beautiful it was. Don't ask where they are.....I knew when I shot them but I don't now.

We traveled upriver from Hungary to Germany. This is one of 26 locks we went through over the course of the cruise. Some were wide enough to accommodate 4 boats at the same time and some were so small and so narrow our boat had to go through alone and only cleared the sides by inches.

Roman ruins!

Because of all the rain, the river was high at the end of the trip and the captain was not sure we would make it under the last two bridges and to our final stop of the cruise. If the boat was not able to clear the bridges, we would have been forced to dock further down river and be bused to Nuremberg, Germany to spend the last night in a hotel.

No one wanted to do that. In enough time not to disrupt the rest of the cruise, the river dropped enough and we made it under the last bridge by just inches. Then it rained (again!) and this double rainbow came out just before we docked in Nuremberg. A fitting end to a really great trip.

Stayed tuned for more photos from Passau, Melk, Vienna (my favorite!), Regensberg and Nuremberg.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Unofficial End of Summer

I am really sorry to see summer end this year. We have had such wonderful weather. Yes, it's been hot and there's been a lot of sweating going on but that is so much better than all the rain we got last summer.

Although I admit I'm going to miss this gorgeous weather the one thing I do look forward to at the end of the season is our annual family trip to New Hampshire. Four years in a row we have taken the family for Labor Day weekend. This year we had six adults, five kids and four dogs. It's a big house and you can imagine it gets pretty crazy, but we all love it and look forward to it all year.

Today I am going to feature Pam of Pam's Perspectives who just happens to be my stepdaughter and who wrote a fabulous post about the weekend. So I'm going to be lazy and just send you over there for a visit. Please take the time to stop by her post Labor Day Tradition. She's got some great photos of the weekend.

Happy Fall everyone!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marketing 101

We went furniture shopping last weekend. I hate furniture shopping. I pretty much hate any shopping but furniture is the worst. The sales people hang around the entrance to the store clutching their clipboards and looking hungrily at anyone who enters. I hear them whisper "This one's yours, Joe." One store I went into literally had a dry erase board where all could see where they kept track of which sales person the next shopper belonged to. Tacky, tacky.

I make my living on sales commissions, too, but I don't pounce on people like a cheetah on an impala as they walk through the door of an open house. I might walk along with them but I don't keep a running babble pointing out the obvious. "This is a closet." "Really? I just thought they forgot to put the sink and toilet in there." Seriously, I've seen realtors who do that.

When we walked in Sunday there was a 'concierge' at a desk at the door. "Can I help you? What are you looking for today?" Reluctantly, because I know this means they will assign a haunt to us, I said living room furniture. "Leather or fabric?" To which I replied "Yes." He looked a bit confused. Honestly we don't know whether we want leather or fabric or a combination of the two. So my answer was truthful. I kept walking as he pointed in the directions where we could find living room furniture.

As we walked through, there were sales people strategically placed in different sections and each one piped up with some question as we walked along. I hate when sales people butt into our conversation as Paul and I are talking and walking along pointing out different things to each other. Quit asking me what I'm looking for. I don't know what I'm looking for! That's what browsing means.

Unless you want to be downright rude, it's pretty hard to avoid these people. I want to say "If I have a question, I'll find you." I know they work on commission and if someone that I don't find totally obnoxious begins helping us, I will be sure to find that person if I have questions and I'll tell them that.

Have you noticed the phrase they now have in sales (especially with furniture) called an "up charge?" One woman kept referring to an "up charge" as I asked about different fabrics and grades of leather. Paul had no idea what she was referring to. I had already turned the price tag over, which was huge, not so much to be visible across the store but to include all the"up charges."

As she kept saying things like "there's a $150 up charge for this" "a $250 up charge for that," and I could see he wasn't following her, I said "depending on what you choose, there's an up charge from $50 to $450 per piece." "You mean an extra charge? So why don't they call it that?"

I bet the marketing genius who came up with the "up charge" one day as they all sat around the table brainstorming got a big bonus. Or maybe an "up charge" in his pay.

Note: My apologies to sales people who may be offended. I make my living in sales, too, but you don't need to act this way to be good at your job and successful. These sales tactics only aggravate our customers.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where Does the Time Go

Can you stand another "kid goes to college" story?

Our oldest granddaughter, Katie, left for college yesterday. That sweet, little dark-haired girl her grandfather thought looked like a papoose (I suppose that's not PC) when she was born. No longer that little baby that Paul and I flew to Phoenix to see when she was just a week old. It just doesn't seem that long ago. Of course, everyone says that.

Over the last few years Katie has been spending time at our house. At first she would call and ask, "Can I come this weekend? Will you pick me up Friday, Grandpa?" She would stay one or two nights every few weeks. The grandkids can never get enough of Paul, and I knew he was the big draw back then. I didn't mind, I was just happy to know that she wanted to stay with us. It felt very special.

When she got her driver's license she started driving herself here. Same question "Can I come this weekend?" Our spare bedroom was always set up and it became her room; as in "Grandma, there are some clothes on my bed." That made me smile. We gave her a key to the house.

Paul and I have five grandchildren and there's nothing that makes me happier then seeing them in my house enjoying themselves and acting like they belong here. Because they do.

These are not grandchildren born of my children. They are the children of Paul's son and daughter, my stepdaughter and stepson. As much as I love Pam and Paul, they aren't my children. But the grandchildren.....they are mine. Well, mine and those of five other grandparents. As Pam said one time, you can never have too many grandparents.

When Katie graduated from high school a couple months ago I nearly missed it. When I stressed about it, a friend said " You see her every weekend," as in "What's the big deal?" And I replied "You don't understand. These are as close to my own children as it will get. I couldn't miss her graduation."

When Katie began driving up here on her own, she was 17. About that time she seemed to be spending as much time with me as she did with her grandfather. She'd keep me company in the kitchen or we'd do a little shopping together, and I began to see a change in Katie. She was becoming an adult.

I am often amazed by how insightful and thoughtful both Katie and her sister Madeleine, who is 15, are. During one stay Katie set up my iTunes on my computer. I was struggling with it. Suddenly I've become the grandparent who needs one of the kids to handle something technical. Never thought that would happen but I kind of like it.

Katie stayed one night this week; two nights before she was leaving for school. I didn't expect her to have time this week since she was so busy getting ready to leave, saying goodbye to friends and doing everything else she needed to do. I was really pleased when she said she was coming Tuesday.

The three of us had dinner and just watched television. It was a very normal visit. But I kept thinking that the next time Katie comes to stay (who knows how soon that will be) she will be home from college.

So tell me, where did the time go?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Curious? Open This Pandora

Sometimes I forget just how much I love music. There are so many songs that bring me back to a particular time or place in my life. But I go through periods of time when I don't listen to music at all, and all I can do is listen. I can't sing. I don't play an instrument. I can dance but not very well and you're not likely to see me on television unless it's on America's Funniest Videos.

As I write this I'm sitting with my Bose headphones (love 'em, too) listening to Pandora. You know Pandora Radio, don't you? They call it Internet radio and so far it's free. I like free.

You get to play disc jockey for yourself and make what they call stations. Put in an artist or band and they create a play list of songs from not only that artist but others they think have a similar sound and style. Each station is given the name of the artist or band that you choose and it's saved for you to go back to. You can even choose QuickMix and they'll play songs randomly.

One very cool feature is an option to give a song a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you don't care for a song, pick the thumbs down icon and you'll get a little apologetic message saying Sorry, we'll NEVER play this song again. You can also ask why the song was chosen for you, get the full lyrics of the song, the bio of the artist or a list of similar artists that you can, of course, create another station for.

The do have ads every so often but they aren't nearly as annoying as regular over-the-air radio. I suppose they do need some advertising so that they can continue to be free. I imagine they may begin charging eventually but as long as it's free it's for me.

So what, I hear you asking, are some of MY stations? If you could log on as me these are some you'd see:

Buddy Holly
Frankie Valli
The Beatles
Billy Joel
Rascal Flatts
The Righteous Brothers
The Doors
Dave Matthews Band
The Fray
Eric Clapton

I'm listening to Jethro Tull now. I just asked for a list of artists similar to JT. Seals and Crofts was suggested. Huh? Really? Yeah, I know Ian Anderson plays flute on some cuts but Seals and Crofts?? I don't think so......

Just in case anyone is wondering, I didn't write this because Pandora asked me to.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Never Say Never

I wrote a few weeks ago that life had sort of run away with me. I had so much I could have posted about but I wasn't sure it was really anything anyone would care about. That continues.

You know that phrase: "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." That's me. The more I have to do, the more I get done. I can work at home but sometimes I shouldn't.

In real estate as long as you have a computer and telephone, you can work just about anywhere including your dining room table. When I do, it's not always pretty. There are days when I sit here in my sweats until 1 p.m. without having washed my face or brushed my hair. But I may have negotiated a deal to completion and prepared a sales agreement in that time.

There are days when Paul comes home early and I'm still sitting here. I think he's often wondering if I've actually been working or playing Jungle Jewels. It could be a little of both.

But I digress. I said I never would, but I bought a Kindle. I have been borrowing Pam's for the last year to see if I liked it. Despite being one who likes new gadgets, I put off buying one because I wasn't sure it was worth the investment. The only real issue I had with it is that you have to buy the books. I seldom buy novels. I usually get them from the library.

The average cost for the books on Amazon is $9.99 and it's a breeze to download them, usually in less than a minute. But it's still an expense I wasn't sure I wanted to have.

One problem with library books is that you may wait a long time for a hot book. Depending just how popular the book is, you might be 200 on the waiting list. No such problem with the Kindle. You can also download 50 pages of a book for free to see if you want to buy it.

When the cost of the Kindle dropped dramatically, I figured it was time. I like it, a lot. It's very easy to use and easy to carry. What I like most about it is that it's so comfortable to read with in bed. I read before going to sleep, and I could never get comfortable. I had to keep shifting as I turned a page. With the Kindle I fold back the cover (you buy a cover separately) which makes a little tent, and I can read on my side. Turning the 'page' is just a quick push of a button.

But it's not quite like reading a book. I miss being able to thumb back through the pages. You can go back with the Kindle but the pages are not numbered like a book and finding a particular passage isn't that easy for me.

It has a cool feature that allows you to change the size of the font. There is a progress bar on the bottom of the display which tells you how far you you have read in the book. I find I read quicker on the Kindle. Part of that I attribute to not turning a page. It's a very seamless read. It's not backlit like a computer, and that's supposed to be easier on the eyes. They sell book lights that fit it.

The Kindle is very sleek and compact; easy to take on a plane or slip into your bag to read in the doctor's office. There are lots of other features on it like a dictionary and a way to highlight passages and save them. You can also archive books on Amazon. I can see that might be worthwhile because they are in alphabetical order on the Kindle and scrolling through them after several have been downloaded would be time consuming.

Everything considered, I like it and am glad I finally bought one. As the title says "Never Say Never."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Think Sam Would Be Disappointed

As I sit by the window on this crisp, clear, almost fall-like Saturday morning, I can hear the pile drivers, two miles away as the crow flies, at the site of the new mega-shopping center inappropriately named Dowling “Village.”

I am so sad and so sorry for the people who live even closer. And we are supposed to welcome yet another Super WalMart and to our lovely little town of 11,000 people. I can hear the sucking sound as it begins to take the life out of our town.

I'm sorry for my friend Ruth who owns Hi-on-a-Hill Herb Farm which abuts this disgrace. Ruth is the fifth generation to live on their 75-acres. Do we really need more roll-backs? Foolish, foolish people.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Most Important Exercise

When I went to Google this morning there was an extra line that said:

Celebrating 90 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

What a great day to celebrate! The ratification of the 19th Amendment seems like something far more worthy of a celebration that lots of other holidays.

Ladies, can you imagine a world where you couldn't vote? You can't, gentlemen, because there never was. Although I need to qualify that because there was a time when only white, land-owning men had that right but you get my drift.

How many of us take the right for granted? Although if you are a naturalized adult American you may not. What a great feeling that must be to cast your first vote after becoming an American citizen.

The 1976 election was the first I voted in. I've never missed one since. Our oldest granddaughter Katie turned 18 last weekend. I called her that day and asked "What can you do today that you couldn't yesterday?" "I can vote!" was one of the first things on the list.

Again, no political commentary here, it's just something that made me smile and sit up a little straighter this morning when I saw that line. What a great day that must have been, August 18, 1920.

Great job, Ladies. Thanks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summertime and the Eatin' is Easy

Summertime…..The season for reruns and 4th of July parades, fireworks, picnics, and New England Clambakes.

This post was actually written last August after Paul and I went to a good old-fashioned clambake in his hometown. This is an annual event put on by a local fire department, and we were there again last weekend. Clambakes this good are a big deal in this part of the woods and tickets sell out quickly. In fact, you sort of have to know someone who has tickets to even get them.

We sat at a table of 26 near and distant relatives; some who traveled from several states away. This year Pam, Geoff, Katie and Madeleine came with us and Katie and Madeleine got to meet some distant (literally and figuratively) cousins they have never seen.

Here ya' go.....

There were over 750 people (not all relatives!) together for a traditional outing held every August. I took pictures of the ‘bake’ as it’s called for those of you who don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about.

Here’s a picture of the bake when it's just about ready to be uncovered and served. Usually there’s a Bakemaster in charge. He's helped throughout the day by a couple dozen people. A multi-stage process, everything has to be done right or you've got a very expensive disaster and lots of unhappy people.

What you’re looking at is a concrete pad where early in the day they layed down a layer of round stones. You can dig a pit in the sand if you have the room but this is an established location for clambakes. Over the stones they spread a layer of logs which they burn down until they get the stones red hot so they can be used to radiate heat during the cooking process. At the right time, they pull the logs off and cover the stones with a thick layer of seaweed which was probably brought in that morning and soaked with seawater.

Over the seaweed are layers of wooden baskets filled with the ingredients of the bake: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peeled onions, bags of seasoned white fish, hot dogs, bock wurst, chourico & linquica (Portuguese-style sausage), stuffing, fresh corn on the cob still in the husks and soft-shell clams or what we call steamers.

Then the entire mound is covered with canvas that has been drenched in sea water to seal in the heat and prevent the canvas from burning. The food is allowed to steam for several hours. It takes an experienced Bakemaster to get all the combinations of food, heat, seaweed & timing just right. For a bake this size you’re talking thousands of dollars worth of food and it’s not something you can stick back in the oven or back on the grill if it’s not quite done.

Here's last weekend's bake being uncovered.

The food is served right from the baskets and we dig in!

As you can see this is 'finger food' and the clean up can get messy........ I never travel to a clambake without my trusty Wet Ones.


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