Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Childhood Obsessions

We adults like to think that we are above childhood pursuits and ways of thinking, but I think that instead of outgrowing those things we just reclassify those things we loved in our minds as grown up things and just classify the things we didn't like so much as childish.

Until I was in second grade we lived upstairs from my paternal grandparents. Our apartment had two bedrooms and I had two siblings. Having us always underfoot probably drove my mother to distraction, but I learned to find time to myself by tucking myself into a corner with a book or playing in the basement where a large selection of old Reader's Digests provided unlimited entertainment.  I was an early reader and picked up anything with words in a row. Grandma had a piano and the sheet music in the piano bench as endlessly absorbing. Her active social schedule left me plenty of time to poke through her cupboards and closets with impunity. Once I even ate the pie she had set aside for her bridge club. I was a dreadfully honest child and left her a note in case there was any doubt who had done the evil deed.

While we lived there I had my first lessons in making things - sewing cards, and then embroidery. Dresser scarves were still common and we embellished ours and our pillowcases with embroidery. My mother embroidered a beautiful luncheon set of tablecloth and napkins that I still remember with pleasure.

I had my first lessons in cooking in that kitchen, learning the basics of heating up cann
ed soup and making simple dishes in the electric frying pan without burning myself. That electric frying pan served us well for many years.

I learned to ride a bicycle there, practicing on the neighbor girls new bike. I did not have one of my own yet, but the neighbor was generous enough to let me learn. We had a scooter and a selection of trikes for our own use that lived in the basement.

Both of my grandfathers were gardeners and I had my first lessons in gardening from my dad's father. The sound of baseball on the radio in the garden still brings me back to those days. I loved being outside prowling around that big yard and around the neighborhood. Most of the lots on that part of the block were very deep and featured big veggie gardens with compost heaps, fruit tress, old orchards and little wooded areas. One neighbor even had a goat.

Time has passed and my life has taken a lot of turns, but the things I loved as a child are still the things that I love and the hobbies I still enjoy. I am still dreadfully honest and tend to say what I think much more often than is socially acceptable. Sorry Mom!

 I'm pulling random pictures from my archives (a fancy word for "on my computer"). I take a lot of pictures and since I am posting frequently I feel free to feature some nice ones that I think I may not have posted before even though they have nothing to do with the post.Click on them to make them bigger; if you want to see more follow the link to my Flickr gallery. And a random entertainment from the Tonight Show.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How You Know You Are in the Right Place

Nickerson Park
Because of my knitting groups I have met a lot of different people who are living on the Cape. Some are "Cape Codders", born and raised here. There are some of what I call "Summer People", snowbirds who don't stay here for the winter. Then there are some people who are here by accident, mainly military spouses, mostly Coast Guard. The accidentals are generally year round residents for a few years. I am always surprised how many of them do not like living on Cape Cod.

I guess there are a lot of things not to like, and I do grouse about a lot of them. The summers bring a boatload of tourists who outnumber the residents four or five to one in July and August. Cape access comes in the form of two smallish bridges that back up something awful and clog the roads.  If you need to go off Cape and come back you have to time your trips across the bridge for times of slightly reduced traffic. There are few main roads to get around on, so the summer traffic sends the residents to the back roads and a trip to Falmouth must be structured so you never have to turn left.

Even though we are within fairly comfortable driving distance of Boston Cape life, especially in winter, is fairly rural. The sidewalks roll up at 6:00. The Cape is not cosmopolitan - ethnic restaurants other than Italian are thin on the ground. Movies do not play for long here; see it right away if you plan to see it at all! Major retailers are a small part of the economy, so you may have to make more stops to locate oddball items. Gasoline and most other things are a little more expensive on this side of the bridge too.

Income inequality is very noticeable here. Many of the Summer People are extremely wealthy, and many more others are poor. Lots of jobs are seasonal and winters are hard for many. Drugs and homelessness are  major issues. Professional jobs here are few and most ambitious young people have to leave the Cape for their careers.

Sandwich Harbor
For me, many of the drawbacks are positive things. Being able to go out to the beach for an hour any time I like is wonderful.  From the day after Labor Day to the end of June the beautiful beaches are nearly empty and used only by locals. Locals go out in any weather to enjoy the beaches and peaceful conservation lands. When natural beauty is so readily available it takes the place of many more expensive pursuits. The marine climate that many find unpleasant is very good for gardening and the sandy soil while nutrient hungry is not difficult to work. The light on the Cape is like nowhere else, as many painters have discovered. When the weather is nasty it is so dreary, but when the weather is fine it is like nowhere else.

I like the quiet, and since I am fortunate enough to be able to go to Town (Boston) whenever I want I don't feel trapped by the rural atmosphere. Since I grew up in small town Ohio near Cleveland I am accustomed to living in a quiet place with access to city life. For a middle aged lady who can't run very fast I like the (possibly illusory) feeling of safety in a quieter place.

I am posting a lot this week as an experiment. Sometimes I feel like unless something exciting has happened I do not have enough to justify a weekly post. The stakes seem lower for (nearly) daily posts. If nothing thrilling happens today a boring post will do until something amazing happens. I might feel OK about a rambling or speculative post with more dog pictures. I might ramble on about ongoing knitting projects. We'll see if that holds true. I am not sure if more frequent posts will result in more or less traffic - my family is in any event used to my rambling ways and tunes me out or not according to the content. I don't know how long the experiment will continue.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Some time ago I met a young woman named Esther. A charming and attractive girl who caused a bit of a stir everywhere she went by flirting with other people's girlfriends, she was self employed as a masseuse, so her schedule had a tendency to be erratic. She did not want to miss out on any jobs, but needed to be sure she had some time set aside for herself. Enter E-Day (Esther Day). Her  E-Day was Thursday; on E-Day she took no jobs, did not favors, did nothing that was not for her own benefit and pleasure.

I have declared Monday to be my E-Day (Ellen Day). I do no work, nothing useful of any kind if you want to be specific. No waiting around for a plumber, no picking up prescriptions, no lawn mowing, no nothing. Monday morning I go to a knitting group for a couple of hours, then out to lunch with a friend and maybe a bit of yarn shopping. I might stick around at one of the local yarn shops to knit with another group, or I might do a little window shopping at another yarn store or a local nursery. Maybe I bring a friend home to sit around knitting and gossiping. Whatever I choose to do it is of my own choosing and is a pleasurable activity. It's surprising how accommodating people can be to your schedule if you are very firm about what you are willing to do. There was a little initial resistance to E-Day due to the general flexibility of my schedule and the obvious frivolity of my plans for the day, but that petered out pretty quick. E-Day is for me only - ask your favors and request my help on any other day.

Halloween is here, and Just Jesse has a video to celebrate!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good Smiley Things and Little Pleasures

I was sitting around yesterday afternoon happy to have a new(ish) washer and dryer. It occurred to me that I was more then happy about it - I was thrilled and very disappointed that I had no laundry waiting to be done. Running across a list of things on another blog that would make the author smile I thought I might steal her inspiration and list my own smiley list. These ordinary things will always bring a smile:

1.   Roxy deigning to play with Mitzi. Never lasts long, always magical.
2.   Magazines in the mailbox. Always loved magazines, the shiny paper, the intoxicating smell, the  pretty pictures. Still do. I can hardly bear to thrown one away ever, always pass them on.
3.   A walk in the woods. Any woods, anywhere. So restoring.
4.   A cancelled social engagement. It's just like found time, a lovely present.

Truthfully there are loads of things that make me smile - some big things but lots and lots of small things. I am pretty easily amused. I like to shop, but these days it's mainly little purchases that really float my boat. Things like new nail polish, unscratched reading glasses, candy, magazines. I stop by thrift stores to check out the books. I wonder about single shoes left at the side of the road, and send pictures of them to my younger daughter (she returns the favor). That's been a running joke for years. Now that I live near the shore I don't need a whole day at the beach. An hour at the beach improves my mood for days. Knitting with friends always feels wonderful.

Currently I am stalking Mollie Makes Magazine for the fun, pretty content. It's full of projects with what I imagine to be a European-by-Way-of-Finland sensibility. Bright colors, simple lines, decorative with a sense of humor. I have pretty solid crafts credentials - I can knit, crochet, sew, cook and bake well, and lots of other skills in a half-assed way.  When driven by desire for an item I can mobilize my skills to produce something complex and beautiful, but what I really enjoy doing are simple projects with a bit of a punch. I can knit beautiful lace but really enjoy a garter stitch project in a nice yarn. I love Vogue Knitting Magazine to look at and admire the wild and crazy styling, but make many more projects from Knit Simple.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Exciting New Additions

Roxy in the old bed
Mitzi nesting in the sofa pillows
Big excitement today: the delivery of a new (to me) washer and dryer. When we bought this house I asked to have the appliances that were in place in the house. I figured it would save me an outlay of thousands and would give me time to amass the needed cash to purchase new ones before the old collapsed weeping in exhaustion. Since then we've had a few repair bills: the ice maker had a few problems that were expensive but less so than a new unit, and I had one service call for the dryer (?) that must not have been a big deal because I have already forgotten what it was. Lately the washer started refusing to click forward to the next cycle and was lounging around with a full tank until someone would come along and try it a few times or on different cycles.  True to my thrifty character I called in a repairman to see what it would take to replace the timer. Apparently people are very proud of their abilities. It cost $100.00 for me to tell him what it needed; he gave me an estimate for repair parts and labor that would actually pay for a new unit. Shana and I sat on it, we talked it over, we couldn't decide. Then out of the blue a friend told us she would be selling her one year old Maytag matched pair. For less than the total cost of our repair estimate. She was selling them for about half of what she paid for them only a year ago. I did have to pay someone to pick them up for me and take my old ones to the dump - not inexpensive but done without worry by guys I trust to handle my things without breaking them and not to break into my house later. Yay! Faster, less water, bigger capacity, and I am sure the electric to run them will cost much less than my old 20 year old units. Plus they are purty.

In the area of doggy thrills Roxy and her old bones got a new dog bed yesterday. She was starting to have trouble climbing out of her favorite laundry basket. Since she spends a lot of her time sleeping these days and has achy old bones I sprung for a new comfy bed for her. She checked it out right away - in fact she is in it right now. I keep quite a few dog beds around - three upstairs and two downstairs plus the downstairs laundry basket which is the stormy weather bed. The girls rotate around them during the day plus various spots on the sofa and my bed that appeal at different times of day. Lots of lounging going on here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cape Cod Weather

When I was a girl I thought I would like to live on the east coast. Partly it was the lure of New York City as pictured in Vogue which at that time featured many pictures of society ladies and their offspring, especially the fascinating and sophisticated Penelope Tree, who appeared both in the society pages and the editorial pages. I yearned for the exciting centers of culture and fashion that I saw in magazines. Seventeen and Glamour Magazines featured beautiful and stylish girls whose looks and wardrobes I envied.  Disposable income in my family was rather tight, my mother's ideas of suitable hairstyles and makeup for young girls were conservative, and I lived in northern Ohio, far from the meccas of style. Popular novels and movies and a slight acquaintance with boarding school girls fed my obsessions and New England added itself as an ideal place to live.

Time and life took me around the south and the southern plains where I got to experience life in several different states but although I had thought myself permanently settled in the southern plains I was still fascinated by the east coast. When I finally started visiting Cape Cod I loved it, but only ever visited for a week at a time, some portion of which was always spent in Boston. The fact that one of those visits (in August) featured temperatures in the 50's and constant rain was lost on me. I fell in love with Boston and expected to be living in the city when I finally came east. Our plans changed to a move to beautiful Cape Cod with its slower pace of life, outdoor pleasures and extreme marine climate.

Now that I live here I have to credit my upbringing in grey and rainy "lake effect" northern Ohio as the only reason I survive the weather here. We've had rain most of the time, and grey all the time since Sunday, temperatures in the 50s and intermittent strong winds. After 34 years with the 300 sunny days per year Oklahoma City gets it is a shock to the system. Summers here are beautiful, but the rest of the year can be pretty tough. It's no wonder you see Cape Codders out on the beach in any weather, because if you waited for perfect weather in any part of the year when the tourists were not overrunning the place you'd be in the house for the rest of your natural life. Just about everything fun on Cape Cod happens outside on the beautiful beaches and ponds, and it's the hardy people who are not picky about the weather who love it the most.  It's the wet weather that makes my garden lushly beautiful with hydrangeas and rhodys of gigantic size, and it's the humidity that is so good for our complexions and hair but it's hard sometimes to love it.

The other thing that took me a bit of adjustment is that because of Cape Cod's unique situation sticking out into the Atlantic the weather forecasts from the closest major television market (Boston) are without exception always wrong. That's why there is always an umbrella or a rain jacket in the car and a sweater, a wrap, or a big scarf in my purse. Temperatures here change quickly when the sea breeze comes in, and we can never be sure that what we expect will be what we get. I love it, but today, in the midst of one of our endless nor'easters that reminds me that winter is on the way, I am crabby!

I must add that it is something of a knitter's paradise. Lots of yarn stores, lots of knitters, and a climate that allows you to wear and enjoy you beautiful handknits nearly every month of the year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deep in the Fall

Tug on the Cape Cod Canal
This week we are getting our first cool weather nor'easter - rain is forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in various amounts and conditions. Skies will be grey all day every day and highs all week will stay under 60° so although we are not expecting a frost here on the Cape we will be losing some heat from the house. I have not turned on the heat yet; Furnace Wars is still on. I'm pretty sure I will make it  until November 1, but after that Shana and I will be on different teams. Fortunately these days she is always hot, so I will not have to resist strenuously right away.  We've been taking advantage of good days to get in a few late season bike rides, getting our exercise and enjoying the beautiful scenery at the same time. There is a nice multi-use path along the Cape Cod Canal which is quite busy in the summer but in fall it is delightful on a bike.
Double Crested Cormorants

I am planning indoor activities this week, mainly holiday gift knitting and binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. What a contingent of vile people! Every episode reveals a more disgusting willingness to cut corners, blackmail, and cheat by every single character. If one seems to be decent you can be sure that the next episode will dispel that illusion. Great show, though. Acting, costumes, sets all perfect. While I binge watch BBC America and Netflix my gift inventory bag is gradually filling up with pretty things. Five completed projects and three others well under way. I do think one of the projects under way will end up being for me because of production issues. It will be pretty good but not quite what I envisioned for a gift. I will have another three or four items that I have not yet started, so it's acceleration time! There will be one gift project that I will make but not knit. Still getting my head around how I want to do it but I am hoping for an exciting and  Pinterest-worthy result.

I resigned my position at A Major Retailer. There is only so much "productivity" I want to provide. When you press for more from people who are doing heavy lifting you are inviting injury and I decided I did not want to do any more. Their loss, although I do miss the people I worked with. Never mind, that's what coffee shops are for! I am happy to have the extra free time, although I have to get it structured a bit better to get more done around the house and take advantage of extra time for projects. My plans for the veggie garden next summer are ambitious in the extreme. There will also be an additional flower bed plus the expansion of another. I am seriously considering asparagus. I think I have a perfect spot where nothing else is planned.

Stairwell at the Schubert Theater
Pumpkin Bread Pudding!
The last two weekends have been busy ones. We attended the opera in Boston one weekend - La Traviatta!  Fancy costumes, beautiful arias! Love, Secrets, Death! The staging was minimal (so modern) but thankfully the costumes were not. I liked the stripped down staging except it seemed unfair for some of the characters to have to sing while crawling about on the floor. Our show was at the Schubert Theater, built in 1910.  It's a rather small house, a bit over 1500 seats, so our seats in the rear of the mezzanine were not bad. We followed the theater up with a stylish meal in a chic bistro including fancy cocktails and desert. It was certainly not an evening we can replicate often, but it was a wonderful treat.

Last weekend a high school friend of Shana's was in town for the Head of the Charles Regatta. Her husband and one son were competing in a couple of races. We met up with Oleta there for lunch and boat race watching. We were lucky enough to have perfect weather and it was great to have a chance to visit. We had an outdoor lunch at the venue, not stellar food but very convenient and the least stressful choice for us so we would not miss the crucial race. Providentially Oleta is an avid gardener and had a lot to say about square foot gardening. It sounds like the way to go, and I can hardly wait to try it. She also introduced us to Uber, Which seems like a great service. We occasionally take cabs when we are in town and it looks like a terrific alternative.

The challenge at home right now is to see how long we can eat out of the pantry, with no purchases outside of milk, bread, eggs, coffee and tea. We are on our second week and still eating good stuff like frozen veggie soup leftovers. Tonight it will be black beans on brown rice, with gingerbread for desert. Next week I may try not purchasing any bread, changing to oatmeal for breakfast instead of toast and making some kind of bread. It's surprising how much we have stockpiled. Of course a few meals have been leftovers from restaurant meals, but only a very few.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Easy Peasy Tomato Preserving

Sometime near the end of the summer the tomato plants that you thought would keep you in fruit all season prove you wrong by ripening all at the same time. If you are like me you planted just enough to see you through the summer and not enough to can (because you hate canning tomatoes). What to do? The easiest possible solution I have found is to roast them. I cut them in half and put them on a baking sheet (the jellyroll kind with sides), with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and herbs. Cherry and grape tomatoes I leave whole. Into the oven they go on low heat, like 325° for an hour or two, then turn off the oven until they are cool. If this sounds like a pitiful recipe, it is. The timing depends on how cooked you want them and how big they are. The herbs can be anything you have in the garden - this year I used thyme and oregano. I divide the bounty into freezer bags, then stack the bags flat in the freezer until I want them.

They are a great addition to soups. You can make a simple pasta sauce by chopping them up a bit, then adding them to sauteed garlic and onions. Just add pasta. They are ready for bruschetta  just as they are, warm or room temperature. You can even add them to winter salads or hummus just as they are.

Ready for the oven