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.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We Eat Tonight

Just picked, these are the first beans I have grown in nearly 30 years, and they look pretty good. I usually just put in tomatoes, peppers and basil, but I saw a packet of seeds this year and thought Why not? I only put in two rows but I enjoyed watching them come up and now we'll enjoy them for dinner tonight.

What I didn't enjoy while I was picking them was listening to our neighbor's puppy yip and cry.

They brought home the cutest little terrier mix a few weeks ago. They call him Cooper and he's about 4 months old now.

They already have two dogs so they really didn't need Cooper but the breeder was going to do something bad with him. They said they couldn't let that happen. Very noble of them but why do they leave him outside alone to cry and cry? Why don't people realize dogs are pack animals? When puppies are left alone and know you are nearby, all they want is to be with you.

A couple weeks ago I had to go into the house because I was afraid I'd go over there and take him away. He had been crying for nearly an hour. Some people just shouldn't have pets.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's Wrong With This Comment?

After being AWOL for almost a month I apologize for coming back on a rant. Well, not a rant exactly but I got a little excited about this. First of all, this is not about politics. I don't write about politics here ever and I don't discuss the subject often anyway.

There are apparently some ethics charges filed against Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. I do not live in either state so these people do not represent me. I wouldn't know either one of them if they walked into the room.

Yesterday I had the national news on while I was doing something besides watching but I was listening. They had sound bites from several people in Congress regarding the ethics charges. One of the men being interviewed made a comment that ended this way: "I really don't think Mr. Rangel intended to do anything wrong and I don't think Maxine did either."

Putting the politics aside, can anyone tell me what is WRONG with this comment? Please tell me it's not just me.

HINT: Does this sound a bit sexist to you?

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