Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thirty-two and Counting, Summer Meal, 101 Uses for a Pantiliner

1. People ask, "What will you do for your anniversary?" Well... we really don't do anything. He and I will smile and wish each other Happy Anniversary and say, "Wow, can you believe we've been married thirty-two years?" That's it. It is the celebration!

 2. An easy, summertime meal of fresh tomatoes with basil and honey-Dijon dressing, a caramelized onion focaccia, and sweet Italian sausage.  I ran out into the misty rain to pinch the basil and rosemary for our dinner. It continued to mist while we ate.
3. Youngest and I took daughter #3's car out for a drive. The rattling glove box drove me nuts so I stuffed an Always pantiliner in the crack to shut it up. It worked. We agreed said daughter would not like the bright yellow pantiliner wrapper sticking out in view like that, so I covered it with black duct tape. Bingo! We're all happy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cooling Colors, Cross Country, Fruit in a Jar, Books and Cookies

1. Off in the distance, the mountains wear the waveless colors of the ocean. Three shades of deepest aquamarine, one for each peak, are set with emerald green at their base.
2. There's a package in the mailbox! (It's for Tess, but I still get excited to find any package in the mailbox.) It contains a small, stoppered, glass jar filled with sand from the Great Sand Dunes. We hold it up to the light and marvel at the salt and pepper quality of it. She's feeling the love when she finds two notes, one from her sister and another from her brother-in-law.
3. At her last visit, Claire's left us a jar of her homemade peach jam. She captured all the goodness of fresh peaches into this spreadable fruit. It's perfect on my English muffin.
4. I happily hauled a new stack of books home from the library. I spent my evening on the porch reading, The Orchardist. It's very good.
4a. Before ending the day, I baked a batch of cookies for the boy who loves oatmeal cookies. He came in and out while I was reading, eating more than I could count. I left three more for him in a bag to take home.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Visit, Filling the Time, New Cuisine

1. Chelsea and Chad phoned and we had our first Skype call today! I was so excited, my initial urge was to reach through the screen to hug them. We chatted and visited just as though they were here in the room with us. It was a balm to my heart, seeing them today for the first time in four months.
1a. I'm thankful for Claire and Daniel giving us the camera and setting up the Skype account. This was a most kind gift for me to be able to use this today.
2. The afternoon was dragging on so we played a game of Scrabble. The evening also dragged on, so we sat on the porch after dark, lit candles and listened to the cicadas. I think of how blessed we are to have these simple comforts and to even have the luxury of being bored.
3. I entered new territory and cooked Cuban Black Beans and Rice today. It was slightly fussy with all the ingredients for the Sofrito and Mojo and fried plantain. But, what else did I have to do today anyway? And it was well worth the effort in flavor!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hypnotizing, Summer Evening, A Good Movie

1. A gentle, soothing rain defines this Saturday morning. Its effect is irresistible and I put aside all else to sit on the porch and do nothing but watch and listen.
2. Downtown on a warm summer's evening, people are happy and relaxed. They mingle and chat, in no hurry to be anywhere or escape the elements. The days are long and life is easy when the sidewalks are warm.
3. The three of us went to a movie at the Grandin to see, The Way, Way Back. It's a great movie for its genre and we all enjoyed it.
3a. We were early and Tess wanted ice cream, so we walked around the corner to Pop's where she got a double scoop of orange cream on a waffle cone. There are so many nice businesses contained in these few blocks of town.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Watching for Dawn-Floydfest, Sharing the Road, Tomato Pie

1. Driving before dawn means there's an adventure in the making. I'm taking Tess to meet up with a friend for Floydfest. This drive is my only part in the music festival, but seeing Tess' excitement makes me happy enough. Chelsea volunteered many times at Floydfest and she gave her sister the lowdown on surviving the fun. Today is Tess' rite of passage. Sixteen.

2. To the right of my car, a horse with a chocolate muzzle sticks its nose out of the trailer. At the same time, on my left, a black Dachshund, also with a chocolate muzzle, sticks his head out the window of a beat up Toyota pick-up. He sits on his old man's lap. They both make me smile. We're all going down the road together.
3. For dinner, I made a summer recipe I just cannot get enough of, Old Fashioned Tomato Pie.
Two of us ate all but one piece.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crazy Nice Weather, The Domino Effect, Team Dynamics

1. The drier, cooler air is an energy boost. I carefully plan how I will best use this precious gift of a day and spend it wisely.
2. I ate my lunch on the porch. (After I swept it, washed its doors and gave them a fresh coat of paint.) It was so nice, I decided to write my shopping list out there. This inspired me to thumb through my cookbooks to decide what to prepare for meals next week. Thumbing through my cookbooks inspired me to cook some tasty summer meals that I can't wait to cook. Now I'm even excited about going to the market to shop tomorrow!
3. After dinner, Steve and I retired to the porch to listen to our audio book for a little while. Around 7pm. we agreed to go back out to the garden and work on the paths together. He did the heavy work and I assisted. I explained my vision for the paths and he made it happen from the practical side.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Soapy Air, Blooms in the Triangle, Hear Ye Hear Ye!

1. A gentle, fresh breeze pours in from the north. It smells entirely of fresh laundry hung out to dry. More specifically, it smells like the crisp, white sheets my mom and most of the other neighborhood ladies hung out to dry when I was little. (We ran through them.) I can't figure out how the air can smell like that tonight. There are no houses close enough that I would smell their soapy laundry, especially that of Ivory soap. I decide not to question it and just enjoy it. Perhaps the scent is purely natural and that's what the soap companies were imitating when they formulated their product way back when.
2. I took a look at the landscaping we installed at church last year. Wow! The grasses and black-eyed susans have filled in the entire bed and they look fantastic. It's amazing what this rain has done and all the man hours of watering it has saved us.
3. When the air cools like this I usually go around the house like the town crier calling to everyone, "You can open your windows!" or "We're sleeping with the windows open tonight!" But tonight there's no one here for me to make the announcement. So I leave a note on the stairs for Tess to find when she comes in. She will be just as happy as me to open her windows : )

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In the Garden, Pesto!

1. An adorable baby bunny dashes in and out of the bushes that grow against the house. I see it again later, darting back and forth around the raised vegetable beds. I think he's practicing his evasive skills.
2. I am very content to have this morning outside for garden chores. Grooming and trimming, digging and dumping. It was solitudinous, yet I was surrounded by friends.
3. One thing that's growing monstrous is the basil! I set aside this afternoon to make pesto. 
This is my favorite recipe. It works just as well with parsley if you prefer a parsley pesto.

Parsley or Basil Pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
4 cups parsley or basil leaves loosely packed. (I pack them tighter than loose.)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 tea. coarse salt
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread nuts on baking sheet; toast until golden and fragrant, tossing occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
Combine first four ingredients in food processor. Process until it forms a paste. Add Parmesan and salt and continue to process until smooth.
Store in airtight containers or heavy Ziploc bags in refrigerator or freezer.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Close But No Cookie, Good Read, The Man Handled It

1. On the highway leaving NY, Tess says, "The sign looks like it says Downton Abbey". At a glance it does. In reality it says Downtown Albany.
2. We listened to a very good book on CD while we drove. Take a peek at Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. We still hadn't finished it when we got home, so we're listening to it on the porch now.
3. This trip was a little draining on me. Perhaps it was the heat. I was not feeling well when we got home and it was nice that Steve cooked some rice and noodle stuff for our dinner. Steve does not cook unless he's hiking (or brewing beer) and this was hiking food, but it was still very good.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lake George, New York

     This past week we drove to upstate New York to see our family. I was encouraged to see our mothers in such good spirits and our parents' homes still holding strong. I got some chores done around the property and had a bit of time to visit with Steve's parents as well. It was brutally hot every single day, but we decided my mom could endure an air conditioned boat ride on Lake George. We made a girls day of it and I'm so glad we did. We chose the Lac du Saint Sacrement cruise because it served a lunch buffet and would tour the lake for two hours. It's the first I've been to the lake in eleven years.
     When we were growing up, the Adirondack mountains were our summer playground. Steve's family had a camp on Brant Lake and my family went to Lake George every summer to camp, rent a cabin or just drive up for a day picnic or boat ride on the water. Even though it's only an hour away from Albany, the air is a few degrees cooler and the northern lakes are especially beautiful to me. The lake water is clear and cold with an ever present breeze blowing across the water. I was surprised by how little boat traffic there was on the lake and how quiet the village was on this visit. Perhaps it was due to the heat or maybe the economy. I remember this place to be bustling in the middle of summer, unlike this day. It's hard to imagine from these photos, but Lake George was actually too busy a place for my taste. I preferred the quiet of Brant Lake, Schroon Lake or Blue Mountain Lake; just a few of the many other lakes dotting the Adirondack mountains.
     A few facts: Lake George is 32 miles long and 4 miles wide. It runs north-south with the water flowing north. Control of the lake was fought over between the British and French during the French and Indian War with Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga flanking its southern and northern ends. It is 200 feet deep at its deepest. The entire Adirondack Mountain range is a state park encompassing 6.1 million acres, making it the largest park in the U.S. It thankfully remains beautiful and underdeveloped.

Me at the railing of the Lac du Saint Sacrement.

The Sagamore Hotel, built in 1883.

The other side of the Sagamore.

One of many beautiful estates on the lake.

Another Lake George Steamboat Company boat.

Looking northward with islands. Many of the islands can be rented from the state for camping.

The paddle wheel boat also owned by the Steamboat Company.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cool Mom, With Chili Sauce, Beating the Heat

1. Mom has worn a different T-shirt on each day of my visit. So far, she has worn Elton John, Rod Stewart, and the Trans Siberian Orchestra. She told me she has seen Elton John and Rod Stewart twice, TSO and Barry Manilow five times each. She's also seen Frank Sinatra, Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, and others too numerous to write. Kinda funny to see this ninety-one year old wearing Rod Stewart. Note to myself: keep going to concerts.
2. Food items are the thing I miss most about "home"(besides my family). Fish fries made with white Haddock fillets are my most missed northern, summer food. I bought one as soon as I got in on Monday. I'll have another one before I leave. We've also had bagels! And Grandpa's wouldn't be Grandpa's without a giant box of York peppermint patties in the freezer.
3. A swimming pool + a breeze = nature's air conditioning.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

In Season, Feed Me!, Creatures of the Night

1. I picked a small bowl of blackberries and left them on the counter for anyone to eat. I don't actually see anyone eating them, but the bowl is gone sometime later.
2. The trumpet vine houses a new batch of baby birds. By the sound of their high-pitched cries, we can tell they aren't mockingbirds. These are house finches, who sound much sweeter.
3. The neighbors tell me that those plops are coyote scat. He says wherever we walk and they smell our scent, they will leave their scat as marking. This is why I see it along our driveway. They come practically right up to the house!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Testing the Skills, It Involves a Shark's Tooth, Currently Reading

1. Our fourth and final daughter has learned how to drive. There was just one more skill to acquire, that of driving the interstate highway. (!!!) We both agree; I was more nervous than her. She did fine. Perfectly fine.
2. He reaches over the back seat and hands her a bag containing a small gift from his most recent business trip.
3. I'm reading The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. It's too good to put down. I read in the family room, in the living room, and on the porch. The rooms give me a change of scenery while I keep on reading.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Just We Two, Not Afraid, Berry Season

1. We left Henri-the-Schnoodle at Claire's house and hit the road back toward home. With the husband and dog both away, Tess and I felt free as birds! We stopped at antique shops on a whim, ate French toast for dinner, and watched Netflix movies at night. Of course I miss the man and the dog, but this is fun for a few days.
2. Butterflies flutter up and down among all sorts of exotic plants. Their movements appear tentative  as they rise and fall around our heads. It's magical to be among them like this. We assume Mari is pointing at the butterflies, but Claire says she is holding her finger out for a butterfly to come to her. Today is the first time she held one.

3. Claire had a delicious dinner prepared for us, followed by a blueberry pie made from freshly picked berries baked in a butter crust. I will remember this treat of pie when cold, dark January rolls around and summer fruit pies can only be conjured up in memories.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Carefree, Canning Jars and Freezer, Rain Chain

1. Daughter #1 took some great photos during their visit back home in New York. I especially like this one of Mari running in Samascott's cherry orchard. I used to run in this very same orchard when I was a child and our daughters ran in it when they were little. These are the things we try to do when we go home- visit favorite places and make a few new memories.
2. Harvest time is rolling in and I scratch my head and wonder how to process the bounty. It's a blessing of a challenge and I'm happy when there's plenty to share.

3. More rain. I leave my chores undone and go to the porch to sit and listen. I'm thinking about this rain chain we saw in one of the gardens last Saturday. It would be perfect on the corner of our porch where the downspout runs. The cups make the gentle sound of rain even prettier.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hot Water, Keeping Cool, Getting A Trim

1. The sound of the hot water heater catching on is one of the vital signs that my home is functioning again. Thank you Mr. Technician! It really wasn't a hardship to be without hot water for a day and a half, but Tess and I were beginning to feel ready to have it back.
2. Throughout our afternoon at the pool, several children timidly come up to my chair and ask, "Aren't you from my school?" and  "Are you my teacher or something?" One or two simply stand beside me, smiling without saying a word. (Children can be disconcerting that way.) Tess thinks it funny that I'm so famous : ) I am wearing sunglasses so I do feel a bit of the celebrity.
3. Our lawn and gardens have never been this green in the month of July! It's finally dry enough to mow the grass and that is how I happily spent the evening. I also trimmed the Nandina to look more tree-like as we saw at one of the gardens on Saturday. B. wrote that she did hers and encouraged me to try it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blacksburg Open Garden Tours

Tess, her camera, Mercedes, and I were ready by 8:30 am. to follow B. and J. to Blacksburg where we would walk through the open gardens on the annual garden tour to benefit the library. It was a self-guided tour where you operate off a list of addresses to find your way from garden to garden. The gardens were all lush from the regular rains we've had. Most were small gardens on modest lots, no grand sweeping affairs or mansions to speak of. But, the love of gardening was on display and whimsical touches personalized each garden. The weather was perfect and we made a full day of it, stopping mid-way for lunch.
These photos are from all the different gardens and in no particular order.
What the poppies left behind.

An old window hung from a pergola. It blocks an unattractive shed.

Welcoming side door

Making a generic gate more personalized.

Looking up. A beautiful Golden Locust.

"The Oaks" Bed and Breakfast

Other beautiful things this weekend:
 - My ninety-two year old mother describes holding her great grandson for the first time. The joy in her voice cracks with emotion as she tells me how he kept turning to look at her.
- I took Tess to the Buchanan carnival to meet up with friends and see the fireworks. (Fireworks didn't start until 11:00 pm and we didn't stay that late.) I stood in line twenty minutes for the french fries. Huge russet potatoes are sliced and fried right before your eyes. Self-serve choices of salt, ketchup, or vinegar at a side table, $2.00.
- Seeing the sights at the carnival. Singular words pop into my head and I struggle to make complete sentences of them: mid-way, lights, beards, bluegrass, mountains, carnival music, cigarette smoke, smells of fried dough and ice cream, goldfish in a bag, clogging, night sky, pops of fireworks, strollers, so many tattoos!, three librarians, three supermarket clerks, and a host of humanity that looks familiar but I just cannot place : )

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebration from the Kitchen, Maid 'O the Mist, XTC

1. A holiday is all about celebrating with special foods. I merged a couple of recipes together and came up with the best oven-baked spareribs today. Later on, we had a traditional summer dessert of Red, White and Blueberry Trifle. This dessert is super-easy to make and everyone loves it.

Spareribs Sauce:
1 lemon
1 c. ketchup
1 stick unsalted butter, quartered
1/2 c. distilled white vinegar
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
1/2 c.mild honey
1/2 c. light brown sugar
a few drops of Tabasco (add up to 5 Tablespoons if you like it very hot)
2 tea. salt
1 tea. finely chopped garlic

1/2 tea. black pepper

Halve lemon and squeeze juice into heavy 1 1/2 qt. saucepan. Add lemon halves and all remaining ingredients. Bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Discard lemon halves.
Don't worry if the sauce seems thin. It brushes onto the ribs nicely and creates a wonderful, sticky sauce when they bake.
To Bake Spareribs:
Meanwhile, wrap 2 racks of spareribs (about 2 1/2 pounds each) in heavy foil. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400° for about 2 hours. Remove from foil and cut racks into 3 sections each. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Brush ribs with generous amounts of sauce and place back on baking sheet. (I lined my baking sheet with parchment for easier clean up.) Bake an additional 40 minutes, basting 2-3 more times throughout.

2. Showers continued on and off all day. At this point, we just scooch the chairs away from the screen and enjoy the rain spray when we sit on the porch. If you can't beat it, join it!
3. A kitchen clean-up of this magnitude requires some serious loud music. I pulled out the vinyl and rolled out the turntable for some music from Steve's college days. Daughter #3 will know what I mean when I say, "I'm stupidly happy with idiot grin."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Big One, A Reason to Go Out, Listening

1. We pulled out of our driveway with wipers sweeping at the rain. We had just barely got up to speed when I had to slow down for a bear in the road. I stopped the car for fear of hitting him, but he kept moving and lumbered across the road. He briefly turned to look at us as he went across and I noticed the light colored pads on the bottom of his feet. It's always a thrill to see these creatures.
2. We continued on with lots of errands today. I made a list and we made more stops than I can even count. Most of them were fun and the not-fun ones, like the Verizon store, even turned out to be OK.
3. Still raining this evening...A pileated woodpecker hammers loudly at a tree across the field and the sound echoes through the falling rain.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A True Gentleman, Cats and Dogs in Buckets plus a Few Gullywashers, Loved the Sauce

1. Something so uncommon that it borders on chivalry; an older gentleman walks out to the curb with his umbrella to escort us into his house. (I was wearing a hooded slicker so I made a run for it.)
2. This rain is indulgent, to say the least. Other than being a soggy nuisance to gardens and people's ruined vacations, I rather love it. We slept with the windows open and to the peaceful lullaby of rain.
3. I made this vegetarian, gluten-free dish for dinner tonight. As Daughter #2 says, "It's deelicious!".

Monday, July 1, 2013


This lady consistently writes good stuff: Sayable

From Last Night, Cleaning Up, New Skills

1. The next day and I'm still chuckling to myself over some funny conversations with friends last night.
1.a. I forgot to write how much fun it was to visit with B. and J. on the porch last night. It was a good way to wind down from a busy weekend. After dark, we lit candles and soft lights and talked with the sound of rain in the background.
2. I sold the last item I had listed on Craigslist. It's nice to make a few bucks on unwanted things but, what makes me even happier is to have them cleared out of the basement.
3. One of my jobs has me learning Quickbooks. It's a challenge for this pen and pencil kinda gal. After a phone conference, a few emails, and technical help from my personal tech. guy (husband ). I'm now clicking away and getting those quarterly reports outta here.
* They say it's good for an older person to do puzzles and learn new skills in order to keep the brain sharp and hold dementia at bay. I'm surely doing my part : )