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Monday, December 31, 2007

First Night

At the risk of needing to rename “Pink Granite” to “The Snow Blog”, I will report that last night we were lucky to get only four or five more inches of heavy snow. Tomorrow we will likely get double that. Our cycle of a snowstorm every few days seems to be tightening to one every two. I don’t mind a “BOGO” at the grocery store, but I haven’t been buying a snowstorm, so I don’t need the second one for free, thankyouverymuch!

Wishing you all a very happy New Year’s Eve and all good things in 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oh My Goodness!

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an excellent time to go visit "Tacky Christmas Yards.com". They were recently spotlighted as a “Blog of Note” by Blogger. Blogger was right! Make sure you scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on “older posts” to view even more outrageous yards decorated to the hilt. I found it particularly interesting that some families submitted photos of their own electrically charged houses!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Leaping Leopards!

This head cold grounded me tonight. It seemed unkind to spread any wayward rhinovirus marauders with our friends, so our dinner will have to be rescheduled. Sigh...

So what’s a gal to do whose head is thick and heavy with a cold? Very Good! Yes, I’m cleaning my computer’s hard drive. What started this industriousness was a recent significant upgrade of RAM, to speed up my nearly three year “old”(!) Apple. Then we made the leap from Panther, right over Tiger to Leopard. Ahhhh, Leopard. Lots of very cool whiz-bang stuff came with the newest operating system from Apple. My favorites are Cover Flow and Quick Look. I mention this not to bore the pants off you, but to let you know it is an excellent way to view files, especially digi-scrap files. My Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac wouldn’t allow me to effectively use Adobe Bridge. So as a last resort, I dragged my digi-scrap supplies into iPhoto. But I effectively doubled the size of the files as they were duplicated into iPhoto. I could sort and view them easily, but goodbye hard disk storage space!

Now I just go to a file called Digi-Scrap Paper click Cover Flow and a parade of lovely digital papers glides by! It also works with any other text documents, spreadsheets, photographs, PDFs, Album Covers, etc. Slowly, but surely I’m gaining back the previously elusive space on my hard drive. Because of the increased speed, I’m also finding it much easier and more pleasant to do everything on the computer. The added bonus is, that while Apples are incredibly intuitive, it’s still very nice to feel comfortable wandering around behind the scenes inside my laptop. And now “behind the scenes” is less like a sterile computer room in a basement and more like going to a snazzy fashion show.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'Ere He Drove Out Of Sight...

Christmas, which we did celebrate on Christmas Day, was great! Our niece Carrie and her fiance Al hosted the festivities down in Rhode Island. They actually had two different dinners, which we soon came to call the first and second dinner seatings on their Christmas Cruise Ship! Multiple branches of the families came together and overlapped between meals (including two sets of twins!). The food was delicious and plentiful, the laughter nearly constant and just to gild the lily, presents were exchanged. I have no idea how Al and Carrie managed to pull it all off, but it was a great success!

Yesterday was a day for us to recharge our batteries. Unfortunately, I’m now fighting a cold and not really winning. I guess I didn’t recharge quite long or well enough! We did have a “White Christmas” up here and there was just enough snow left on the ground in Rhode Island, albeit mostly in piles, to qualify as well. The rains, which came over the weekend, still left us with a good eight to ten inches of snow on our lawn and virtually nothing on the walks, driveway or roads. I can’t ask for better than that!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thank You Santa!

MERRY
CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Baby II

Dear Santa,

Here’s what I would love you to slip under some special people’s trees:

D. would like all her kids and grandkids and great grandkids to be happy and healthy (and she wants it now!) Feel free to throw in a winning Power Ball ticket as well.

G. would like just the right amount of rain in GA and easy, low cost, on time air travel for every trip back to RI.

K. & J. would like good health and happiness for themselves and all the branches on their family tree (and for their DVD player to work).

T. & G. would like good health and happiness for themselves and their family and to celebrate a lovely Christmas ALL together.

K., M., A. & C. would like lots of time together to enjoy their family.

C. & A. would like more time together in their new home and to have a lovely wedding day and fabulous marriage.

K. & P. would like more time together, to be successful in their graduate studies and to have that honeymoon feeling never fade away.

J. & L. would like more time together and to have their nearly, fully remodeled kitchen completed.

A. & P. would like time to enjoy their new kitchen with family and friends and a happy and successful new year.

D. M. & T. would like another successful year on the farm and for the food bank larders to always be full.

R. & S. would like a smooth and uneventful pregnancy and a healthy baby at the end of the nine months.

D.M.M. would like her Tiffany Bean on the proper length chain and for February and March to be unusually pleasant.

M. would like her kids and grandkids and great grandkid(!) to be happy and healthy and she wants a Democrat in the White House - now!

Actually, Santa, we would all like World Peace, good health, increased sanity and common sense in D.C., and just a little bit more of a cushion in our retirement accounts.

As for C. & me, thanks for everything!

Love,

Lee

P.S. Yes, everyone really has been almost entirely nice this year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take A Deep Breath

As an adult, I’ve come to feel two ways about Christmas. On the one hand, I get caught up in all the excitement: the planning, the cooking and making and wrapping the presents. On the other hand, a part of me holds back. I don’t like feeling manipulated by the retail juggernaut to buy, buy, buy! The closer we get to Christmas Day, the greater the tug of war between the two becomes. At some point, I have to mentally hold my hands up and tell both sides to shut up. What’s done is good enough. It’s time to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the holiday with Chuck and the rest of my family. At the end of the day, at the end of the holiday, they’re all that really matters.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Shortest Day

Early this morning at 1:08 a.m., we passed “officially” into winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. While it was still “officially” autumn, here in New England, we were already deep in the thick of winter. We have been in a cycle where we get a snow storm every few days and now seem to have more snow accumulated by the first day of winter than we had all of last year. Unfortunately that means we are also into a very messy and challenging phase of winter. Today we have been clearing our roofs of the snow load and knocking down icicles. Then we’ve shoveled some of the relocated roof snow farther away from the house. Why do all this work? Rain is coming tomorrow - a lot of rain. That rainwater is going to go somewhere. The first stop is to sink into the roof snow like a sponge, adding tremendous weight to the roofs. Then the rest of the rainwater needs to go somewhere and with the ground well frozen, after the snow on the ground soaks up what it can, the water will keep being drawn by gravity to a lower place. For us, in a worst case scenario, that can mean our cellar. So the more we do to ready the house, the better off we’ll be.

The up side? The aquifers will continue to be recharged and we shouldn’t have any water shortage problems come spring. Right now that seems like a somewhat distant up side. In the meantime, we’ve got a cellar drain, a crazy long roof rake, shovels, an ice spade and our backs are holding up fine - thank heavens for acetaminophen and arnica montana! Perhaps most importantly, this isn’t our first rodeo. When we moved into this house in September, fourteen years ago, we had a ferocious first winter. Tons of snow and no snow blower, heavy rain on top of snow and we didn’t initially understand the elegance of the cellar drain and then the furnace died. Welcome to life in an old house in the country. It was a baptism by fire - well - water, lots and lots of water; ice to rain and everything in between. That old saying: “a pint’s a pound, the world around” means that one gallon weighs eight pounds. And moving that much water, in any form, is a challenge. “Let the tool do the work” and “Let gravity be your friend” are words to live by right now in our neck of the woods. My rest break over, I’m off to do a little more of each before dinner. I believe I see a bottle of Prosecco in our future...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thinking About Santa

I’m pretty sure that nowadays, Santa’s Workshop must be loaded with computers. And since it’s Santa’s Workshop, I figure he’s got nothing but Apples! My little workshop involves an Apple and this year I couldn’t get by without it. So how could The Big Guy do all he does without some Macs?

There’s the naughty or nice lists, the route mapping, the inventory spreadsheets, the toy design (which these days must be more like high tech design) and the elf payroll. Hey! I’ll betcha Santa and Mrs. Claus do all their personal and professional banking online!

Now that I think about it, I’ll bet the entire North Pole Operation is green. No, not global warming and ice caps melting green (although that is a serious worry!). I mean they’re probably environmentally responsible green. They have such an enormous customer base, it just makes good business sense to reduce, reuse and recycle. Maybe they use wind power or tap into those geothermal resources like Iceland is doing.

Perhaps after the holidays are over, one of the big news outlets could do an in depth interview with Santa and get a behind the scenes look at the whole operation. I know I’d watch. Wouldn’t you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Armed With A Smile

Chuck and I ventured out into the retail world the other night. Eight days before Christmas is no time to be in and out of local shops, big box retailers and most certainly not a mall. But we needed a quick chat with a Genius at the Apple store, so we headed out to the Pioneer Valley. Which, if you’re going to do something as silly as shopping a week and a day before Christmas, isn’t a bad place to be so silly. I must say it all went rather smoothly. The individual stores in Hadley weren’t too crowded. We crossed a lot of little errands off our list. Feeling giddy with success we headed down to the Ingleside Mall in Holyoke.

First off, we actually found a parking space in sight of an entrance. Chuck slung the laptop over his shoulder and off we went through the slush and into the strangely electric, oddly artificial and perfectly normal world that is “The Mall”. The Apple Genius was accurately named and our minor confusion quickly resolved. Then we decided to venture out again into the main mall. It was crowded, but not bump-into-people-every-two-steps kind of crowded. We traveled from one end to the other (maybe 50 or 60 miles?) and found most folks very easy to deal with - even the guys manning the little kiosks who jump out in front of you to pitch their products. They’re good, but they were also tired and anxious as they watched the holiday profit making clock winding down. But our slightly exaggerated response, begging off because of exhaustion and hunger as we wished them better luck with their next customer, left most of them smiling.

I’m not a curmudgeonly person to begin with, but during the holiday season I am determinedly cheerful. I find that if you’re standing in a long line at a register and folks are sighing, moaning and muttering, that can really permeate the space. So I slap a smile on my face and start looking other people in the eye at the same time (I do avoid tipping over into a crazed appearance!). It’s very disarming. I also try for a polite and upbeat social exchange with the clerk. It is both heartening and sad to see their surprise and watch them visibly brighten when you ask after them.

If you still have shopping to do before Christmas, bring your best smile and be prepared to trot it out at the oddest moments. If nothing else, it will be an interesting social experiment and should help you pass the time in line!

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”
- Japanese Proverb

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Hula Hoop & Memories

It started with that song. I don’t mean the new Hollywood CGI movie version, but the real song, the original: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)”. It came out in time for Christmas 1958; my first Christmas. I liked it as a kid. But there are many more songs that I would classify as holiday favorites from my childhood. Because of the new film “Alvin and The Chipmunks” that song and all things Chipmunk are getting a lot of play here in the states. That led to my singing the line: “Me, I want a hula hoop” in that incredibly high pitched, potentially deeply annoying Alvin voice. Whenever I did, I felt transported back in time. I also felt simultaneously happy and sad. I don’t want a hula hoop. I don’t want to actually go back in time and be a little kid again. But I also don’t want the memories of all those childhood Christmastimes to fade. Yet after nearly five decades, bits and pieces must be falling away.

I can still see the green artificial Christmas tree. I can still feel the imitation branches and smell it as it emerged from storage every year. I remember the year we told my young nephew that he couldn’t open his presents until his great-grandparents Gagee and Gramps arrived. And when we all returned to the living room after ushering them in through the kitchen, J.R. had already begun tearing off the wrapping paper on his gifts! I can remember the annual banter between my Dad and his mother-in-law Gagee. He would hold the present which Gagee had carefully wrapped and placed a bow on top. It was a multi-sided tin of Yardley powder, which looked exactly like what it was. Dad wouldn’t even unwrap it. He’d just thank Gagee and they’d both laugh! I remember when we three kids would open a gift and rush over to thank our Mom and then our Dad. Dad would inevitably say: “You’re welcome. What’d I give you?” And he wouldn’t really be kidding, as Mom did nearly all the shopping. I remember Dad’s special gifts. Every year he would shop for one gift for my sisters Karen and Gail and me and one for our Mom. Mom would shop till she (and we) dropped. She would bake and cook and clean and wrap. Dad would buy us each one gift and in the instant that we opened them, it was as if the world stopped spinning ever so briefly. I remember that as I grew older, Mom would let me wrap many of the presents. She would even tape up the department store gift boxes and write my name on them so I could wrap and ribbon my own! I remember Mom’s cookies. But I am so lucky that it is no stretch for me to conjure up the tastes, textures and smells of the delicate butter spritz cookies, because nearly every year, my Mom still bakes them for us.

These little snippets from Christmas past run like a grainy, badly edited film in my head. I already treasure them. I want to preserve them. Thank you for indulging me. Thank you for helping me to do just that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Love Your Letter Carrier

Well, at least be extra nice to them today! It’s time for my annual post on the amazing job the United States Postal Service does. Today is expected to be the busiest mail day of the year - maybe a gazillion pieces, give or take a gabillion! I’m afraid we contributed to the crush with a couple of last minute cards and a few special packages, all processed through our local post office.

I remain amazed that six days out of seven; cards, letters, packages (and unfortunately bills and third class mail too!) are delivered to our home. It wasn’t all that long ago that a note from a relative living far away, was a cause for celebration. In this age of e-mail, cell phones and well, blogs, a card or letter sent through the mail can still bring a smile to the recipients face. So grab a pen, put it to paper, stamp and post it. But you might want to wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Wicked" Storm

We were lucky. The ice and freezing rain line held just to our south. Several more inches of snow fell overnight and through the morning. As the snow eased and the temperature rose into the upper 20s (@ -2 C), we only had a few bursts of sleet, not the dangerous ice storm so many others have had to suffer through. With the moon and stars beginning to emerge through the breaking clouds, we started to clear the dooryard and driveway. This photo captured the white plume from the snow blower and the last few flurries of the evening.

By the way, I know Chanukah has barely ended and Christmas is little more than a week away. Despite the nearness of both of these festive occasions, the original Broadway cast recording of "Wicked" has become my default playlist on the iPod! Can’t help it and I’m not really trying. Even if I cue up the The Roches’ Christmas album "We Three Kings" or the The Chieftains’ “The Bells of Dublin” or Barenaked Ladies’ “Barenaked For The Holidays” or even George Winston’s “December”, I pop around to my favorite cuts and then back I go to Wicked!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Distant Revels & A Rare Bird

After digging out from Thursday’s snow storm, we attended Friday’s opening night of The Christmas Revels at Memorial Hall in Cambridge. An annual tradition for us, this was one of the least accessible, yet aurally and, to a lesser extent, visually interesting Christmas Revels we’ve attended. This year’s Revels revolves around the peoples and winter solstice traditions of the Balkans. The music was both haunting and stirring as it soared through mostly minor keys, in close harmonies. But both Chuck and I felt as if it was an unusually distant experience, partly due to the language barrier and partly because of the somewhat closed staging. The performers seemed to be facing in toward one another, rather than out toward the audience. Despite a few shortcomings, we enjoyed the whole of the experience, including Lord of the Dance.

At the end of Revels we headed out onto the icy, slushy sidewalks of Cambridge and rushed over to Asmara for a late dinner of Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes. As always, everything was delicious. Stepping back out onto Mass Ave not long before midnight, unlike our little town, Cambridge was still bustling. We left Central Square and headed towards Harvard Square, enjoying all the city lights and holiday lights along the way. On our way out of town, we cut through some of the residential streets near Porter Square. We spotted the scene above and had to turn around and drive back. I quickly jumped out of the car and snapped a few photos of the animated pink flamingo! Not to slight the reindeer which was also animated, but he and his relatives are fairly easy to find in this area around the holidays. But a pink flamingo is a rare bird indeed in the winter months! Actually the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments were first created in 1957 in Leominster, Massachusetts. But this lighted, animated cousin appears to be a striking example of rapid evolution of the species!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So Close...

Chuck took this photograph while I was at the wheel. We were less than five miles from our house. We had hoped to beat the snow home, but obviously, we were unsuccessful! The snow is falling at an inch or two an hour. Before the storm is over, we’re expected to get between six and twelve inches of fluffy snow here in the hills of Worcester County. NECN Meteorologist Matt Noyes (truly the best weather guy in all of New England) is promising sun for us to shovel by tomorrow. Then another storm, more of a typical nor’easter, will arrive over the weekend. Yup. It’s definitely winter in New England!

I hope wherever you are reading this, you are safe and sound and happy...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Just Said “No”

A few years ago, Chuck and I stopped exchanging Chanukah/Holiday/Christmas gifts with each other. We’ve known each other more than two decades and been celebrating holidays together nearly that long. We’ve navigated the challenges of our different religious upbringings and family traditions quite well. But it was the gift giving that never failed to give us fits.

We tried quantity - crazy. We tried just one gift each - Oy the pressure! We tried lists of suggestions - too much like grocery lists. We tried practical, frivolous and everything in between. At one point we realized that if we needed something during the year, we talked about it and we bought it. We liked the lack of pressure, the collaboration, the bargain hunting, the whole thing. Shopping for gifts for each other at the holidays seemed artificial and externally imposed. So we stopped.

I have to tell you it has been a relief. Neither of us has felt deprived. We still do whatever holiday traditions we want and enjoy. Like lighting the Chanukah candles all eight nights and singing songs together afterwards. Having our indoor/outdoor (now) LED tree on the porch. Going to Christmas Revels in Cambridge. And of course, celebrating Christmas Day with my family in Rhode Island - on whatever day we all agree to celebrate the holiday that year!

I hope your holiday season has just the right amount of peace and quiet; celebration and delight - however you choose to define it for you and yours!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Eighth Night!

Designing is an odd process. There’s a certain amount of inspiration coupled with repetition and experimentation. There also seems to be a recurring theme of frustration! But I learned long ago (probably in my days as an auditor) that the best thing to do is to walk away, change what I’m doing or, if I can, sleep on it. That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago. I worked for a few hours on an idea for our Chanukah cards. I had a good feeling about it right off the bat. It was based around a hand drawn, hand colored Star of David I had made previously. But as I neared the end, I began to get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong. Everything looked flat and unexciting. I printed one out and it confirmed that my stomach should be thudding.

Big sigh, actually several big sighs. I had to fight the impulse to keep plowing forward. If I do that I end up in a worse place, like adding color, after color, after color of paint in a blob on a palette. Pretty soon all you have is a big, muddy blob. But I had a deadline. Chanukah was just a few days away. I headed to bed. Just before I dozed off, that defeated feeling pressing in heavier than any quilt, two different designs flashed through my mind. The weight lifted. It felt so clear and strong I didn’t even reach for my glasses and a pen and paper. I knew they would be there in the morning. There might even be more. I fell asleep immediately.

The next morning I woke up with the previous night’s ideas front and center. Sure enough, there were a few more tagging along as well. I headed for the laptop and was able to translate what I had in my mind into the computer. Not too terribly long later, (with Chuck’s assistance) our Chanukah cards began to glide out of the printer.

On this
the eighth night
Chuck and I
wish you all...








Original drawing, design and manipulations by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto 5 & Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Font: Papyrus.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Empty Nest


: : If there was any doubt left that it is most decidedly winter, the photo above will put that to rest. This nest was a snug little home tucked into our mock orange bush, all spring and summer. Now its small cup is filled with snow and covered in ice. Its former inhabitants, are most likely very far away. The only way I could snap this was to open up our bedroom window and shoot down from the second floor!

: : Last night’s sleet-snow mix, turned to mostly ice, which needed to be chipped off the back walk. We have an ice spade which gets a fair amount of use each winter. The first time I deploy it each season, I have to remember not to pound it too fiercely into the ice, sending shock waves up my arm! I need to let the tool do the work.

: : We read a tip many years ago about using kitty litter on ice to get traction. It does give pretty darn good traction right away, but don’t use it too close to the doors or you’ll track it in the house too easily. To clarify, that’s fresh, nothing-but-clay litter and perhaps most importantly, NON-clumping. Yes. But I only made that mistake once!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Of Holidays And Days

Friday we found the LED icicle lights. Saturday found Chuck up on the ladder stringing them along the porch. Today he tackled the edge of the barn. Now there are icy blue-white lights glowing and bobbing in the sleet-snow mix. We are safe and warm inside a house that smells of potatoes and olive oil transformed into latkes. Our stomachs are full of crispy outside, creamy inside potato pancakes and sour cream and apple sauce. Seven candles have burned and sputtered to tiny wax puddles in the chanukiah, on this, the sixth night. The Christmas cards are designed and ready to print. But that can wait until tomorrow.

I believe my Thanksgiving hangover is beginning to yield.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Much More Than Hay

Hay has been the main crop to come out of this field for the last several years. In the winter, when there’s a lot more snow on the ground than today, we enjoy cross country skiing here. We glide around the field, elevated above the earth on a cushion of snow. Then we used to cut through an opening in one of the stone walls and circle an adjacent field as if it were a track. When I saw the sky this evening, I decided to come over and snap a few photos. I’m not sure how long it will look like this. A “For Sale” sign has gone up and the hay field has become a potential building lot - just like the adjacent field did a couple of years ago. Now it has a very large, very handsome home on it and we no longer ski there.

One autumn, several years ago, a neighboring farmer and his family were keeping cows farther up the road. Their fences were neither strong, nor in good repair. So from time to time, we would look out to see a small, straggling herd of cows out for an exploratory stroll through, what was then, mostly corn fields. We would hurry over, pick up a stray cornstalk and slowly guide the gentle beauties back toward home. Inevitably, one of the farmer’s kids would come racing toward us to bring them the rest of the way back. We’ve had a lot of fun in these fields.

I don’t begrudge the owners the right to divide their land up and sell it as they see fit. They’re following all the zoning and building bylaws. It’s hard though, to watch a piece of land, through all four seasons, for fourteen years and not feel some sadness, as it now lies on the verge of a significant change. In fact, I know the owners are in conflict over their decision. But it involves family and finances and fairness and I do not envy their difficult choices.

Tonight, as I watched the cotton candy clouds scudding over the pond without a name, I hoped for heaps of snow this winter. Enough snow for us to glide around this field, sun glinting off the crystal flecks, wind buffeting our bodies and reddening our cheeks. Enough snow for us to fill our store of memories, before a “Sold” sign goes up and the big equipment begins to rumble and reshape this land.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Love, Loss & A Pink Flamingo

There has been a long gap in my writing about genealogy. What happened was that we began working with death records and I found it profoundly sad. It was frustrating to read that a relative had passed from some disease or injury, which today might easily be cured with an operation or medication. My vivid imagination led me to wonder about what might have been, for them, for their loved ones, for us. I was glad to have the information so as to fit more pieces into the giant puzzle. But it was difficult, especially the day we found that an elderly ancestor, despondent and in ill health, had committed suicide.

We moved on from the end of life’s journey to other voyages: namely, passenger lists. Within Ancestry.com’s immigration sources, we found the record of when Leah and her boys sailed to America to join Jacob! The name of the ship was “The Flamingo”. Trust me, I had an almost uncontrollable urge to find one of those kitschy plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments and plant it proudly in our front yard!

Now, we have found another resource. Ancestry.com has just added U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. For most of the branches of our family tree, once our folks managed to get safely to the U.S., they stayed put. Whether it was because they couldn’t afford to travel back home (or anywhere else) or because it simply wasn’t safe to return to their countries of birth. But we did find one relative who filled out a passport application in the late 1800s! The JPEG of the scanned record provided a wealth of information including their address, birthplace and birth dates, date they arrived in the U.S., from which port they had originally sailed and a written physical description.

According to Ancestry.com, many of these passport records include photographs. We weren’t that lucky. And I admit, part of me wishes that more of our ancestors had been world travelers. But that would rewrite history and I’ve already learned clocks run only in one direction...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

All In Together Now...

Lilacs in winter

I think I still have a bit of a Thanksgiving hangover - or something. It’s the third night of Chanukah and I haven’t made latkes yet. (I did get the Chanukah cards out in a timely fashion tho’, thanks to Wonder Hubby!) We’re less than three weeks away from Christmas and I’m so not ready - internally, externally or any other -ally. I think I’d rather do Thanksgiving all over again. It was an awful lot of fun being with my fun and funny family! But while my family moves holidays around rather liberally, multiples are just not done. We did celebrate Christmas in August once. It must have been 1978. My grandmother, Gagee, was hospitalized just before Christmas of 1977. She made a fiercely fought, miraculous recovery and we celebrated Christmas with her the following August.

We do have our LED tree on the porch and we’re on the hunt for some LED icicle lights tomorrow. Maybe Saturday, I’ll make latkes - lots of latkes, with applesauce and sour cream. Maybe Sunday, I’ll get to finishing the Christmas cards. And perhaps I need to translate my desire for a Thanksgiving redux into thankfulness for the entire holiday season - while letting the season be whatever it will be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Paper or Electrons?

We still write checks. We still keep a record of the checks, deposits, withdrawals and debit transactions in a little check register. Once a month we balance the checkbook. Once a month the cancelled checks are returned to us. Well, they used to be. Our bank finally went over to the dreaded scanned image of the check. I know I should want to embrace this new technology. I know I should be happy about the energy savings and cost savings my bank claims to be achieving on my behalf. (It would be nice if those savings showed up as interest in my account, though!) And I know I should have already headed over to on-line bill paying. Think of the paper that would be saved.

I guess I am old fashioned. Or perhaps I am merely old. Gulp. But I like the pen to paper process of noting the items in my budget and writing out the checks. It feels very official, very real. I’m not a complete Luddite. I use our bank’s automated phone line to do some stuff. See? That’s very, ummm, late 20th century. Maybe it’s crazy, but it seems so much safer to seal and stamp an envelope; drop it into a metal box on the street corner; let people in uniforms pass it through high speed automated machines; load it into plastic crates in little trucks; deliver it to a mail room; have another automated machine slit open the envelope; then another person will type my payment into a computer, somewhere in the basement of a very tall building, in a far away city.

Isn’t that better than entering a few numerals into a little box on a web page and clicking pay? No? Oh dear.

Hey Chuck? Sweetie, I think we need to talk...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Season of Light

Christmas lights are going up all over the place. Chanukah begins tonight. The Winter Solstice, the shortest day, will be here on the 21st. It’s a very ancient instinct to push against the darkness, whether by huddling around a fire or lighting candles or turning on a lamp.

After I mentioned our new energy efficient LED tree in my post the other day, my niece Kate pointed out some important facts and figures about energy consumption. She wrote:

Did you know: If every American replaced just one light bulb in their home with a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL), the country would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year. That is $600 million in annual energy costs and the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.
Not bad!


It’s great how such a simple step can make such a big difference!

We've been using CFLs in lots of places throughout the house for many years. We started getting them back in the days when they cost an arm and a leg and we had to file for rebates from the electric company in order to afford them! But the CFLs of today are not only more affordable, they put out a much nicer quality of light than those older ones ever did. Plus, now they truly live up to the "C" for compact in their name. The old ones were oversized and difficult to fit into some lamps. Also, these new and improved models seem to "warm up" faster, reaching their full brightness quite quickly.

So as you push back the darkness of a winter night, try doing it in a contemporary way that’s good for the planet.


Happy Chanukah!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Flake By Flake, Drip By Drip

The storm began yesterday with snow flurries that turned into squalls. Then came sleet and more snow. By this morning a layer of ice had been added, followed by more flurries...

It may still be autumn on the calendar, but it is winter by feel and experience. During one of the lulls early this afternoon, I went out into the yard and captured this tiny icicle on the tip of a rhododendron leaf. That’s the same rhododendron whose flowers I almost missed this past spring. The contrast between the two seasons is sharp, but they each have their own stunning beauty.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Chaos Theory

Today, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez might have won the national vote he wanted, which would end presidential term limits.

Today, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s party may have won the national vote which could lead to increased power for the president and more rollbacks of democratic reforms.

Which makes me wonder if these occurrences in Venezuela and Russia will give George W. Bush any ideas of what he might like to have happen here in the U.S.?
Or did the actions of George W. Bush and his administration over the last seven years inspire these other leaders to be so bold?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Are The Stars Out Tonight?

This isn’t news, but Chuck is a really good sport. Several years ago we purchased a white twig Christmas tree, covered in tiny white lights. We placed it on our front porch, right in front of a living room window and it served as an outdoor/indoor tree for us. Unfortunately it only lasted a few seasons before it refused to light. Chuck spent lots of time trying to get it to light again by methodically swapping bulbs in and out of itty-bitty sockets. Despite his efforts, last year we were treeless.

Last week we found a new white tree. This one has LED lights which are supposed to last longer and be much more energy efficient. Chuck did the Tinker Toy thing; assembling the tree and setting it up on the front porch. The LEDs put out any icy white light with a bluish cast, which is actually quite lovely.

But that doesn’t fully explain why I characterized Chuck as a really good sport. Last night I got it into my mind that I would like to take some photos of the tree. But not where it was happily settled on the front porch. No, I pictured it in the center of our front lawn, where no light spills from the house and the woods would serve as the backdrop. Did I mention I wanted to do this at night and that it was hovering around 20 (-6 C)? And windy? No? Well it was all of that and none of it gave Chuck a moment's hesitation. Before I could reconsider, he had an extension cord at the ready and was hustling the tree off the porch onto the lawn. (”A little to the left. That’s good. Now can you straighten it a bit? That’s it. Oh. Back to the right. O.K. Thanks Hon...”)

No grumbling, no mumbling, nothing but his enthusiastic participation. Chuck was my Grip. Actually, he was my Best Boy, Grip and Key Grip all rolled into one! When you’re only one man, the hierarchy snowballs into one big job description. I shot 53 pictures. I love the freedom of our digital camera. I love the freedom to make as many attempts and as many mistakes as I want - as I happen to make. I love the freedom of being married to a man who loves me. Whether I’m channeling a moth or snapping pictures in the dark, he’s by my side.

Yes. I’m counting my lucky stars...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wicked Was Wicked Good!

Oh, I know that’s a lame title, but it is entirely accurate. We just returned home from the Bushnell Center in Hartford, Connecticut. We saw the touring company performance of Stephen Schwartz’ "Wicked" and it was marvelous!

A few weeks ago, Chuck and I went to see the revival and contemporary re-staging of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” at the Colonial Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. It was dreadful; poorly miked, self conscious and, most improbably, lacking passion. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even bother to mention it here on my blog. So I admit to having a touch of trepidation that the touring company of “Wicked” couldn’t live up to the Original Broadway Cast Recording starring Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. But Katie Rose Clarke as “Glinda” and Carmen Cusack as “Elphaba” easily gave those other Broadway gals a run for their money with their excellent voices! The rest of the cast was quite fine. The staging was very high calibre. The lighting and sound did exactly what they were supposed to do and did it well in the exceptionally long, exquisitely decorated, art deco Mortensen Hall.

“Wicked” is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. It explores how the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good came to be, before author L. Frank Baum, in 1900 and Hollywood, in 1939, brought them to life in the "Wizard of Oz". The dark themes of oppression and suppression of free speech and individual rights, resonate powerfully whether you look to today’s headlines or Europe in the 1930’s or any other moment in history when a few in power rule by whim and calumny. This tension is offset by the bright and witty lyrics of the lighter musical numbers, but never jarringly so.

After tonight’s finale, the audience at the Bushnell rose to their feet, cheering the cast at the curtain call and left the theater chatting brightly, humming and singing snatches from the score. That’s a collective review any cast member would be proud to lay claim to!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We’re Off To See The Wizard...

...and so much more!

Details to follow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Crash

In just a couple of days, it will be one year since we were in that minor traffic accident, which turned into a major headache. Yesterday, we were out running errands and went for an early dinner at Ixtapa. Then we drove right past the spot where our reliable Subaru was hit. It was sort of like deja vu, only in reverse, and thankfully, without the crash!

We’ve driven past the fateful spot many times in the intervening months. But yesterday, I couldn’t help but hold my breath just a little bit, as we were driving along the same stretch of road where that young gal ran into us. Looking back, I’m still grateful for all the good things that flowed out of that instant of metal crunching metal. But I could feel equally grateful if that afternoon one year ago, had been just as uneventful as yesterday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Opposites Attract - Like Moths To A Flame

I know I have a blog, but I am actually a very private person. I used to be excruciatingly shy, but I’ve learned to overcome it in most (most) situations. My husband Chuck (Wonder Hubby/BFF/Hero) is exceptionally outgoing and at ease in nearly any social situation. It’s not so much a case of opposites attracting, as it is we complement each other. We have an enormous amount in common (most happily, a shared sense of humor) and really only one taboo topic - taxes, of all things.

But Chuck has one less than charming, occasionally startling reflex, which comes smack dab up against my preference for privacy. He has described it as “Self-Disclosure Tourette’s”! We mean no disrespect to folks who suffer from the actual Tourette’s Syndrome, but there’s no other way to capture the nearly uncontrollable reflex Chuck has to share! Sometimes I can see or, more accurately, sense it coming on - kind of like how animals know when earthquakes are coming. If I’m within nudging distance, I can often give him a little warning signal. But occasionally I find myself flailing about like The Robot on television’s Lost In Space: “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!!!” Sometimes not even frantic robot waving or an elbow to the ribs can halt Chuck’s progress and my subsequent desire for the earth to swallow me up, as the embarrassing personal tidbit tumbles from his lips!

Ironically, I have managed to embarrass him only once - and I wasn’t even trying. It was silly. It was ages ago, long before we were married. We were driving around Harvard Square in Cambridge one evening, Chuck at the wheel. For some reason (which made perfect, logical sense at the time) I pretended to be a moth clinging onto the passenger window. We were driving by folks crowded onto sidewalks and at crosswalks, but I swear no one even noticed me! Chuck was somewhere between mortified and appalled. I still don’t know what it was about my moth imitation that left him aghast. And I have to admit it took me awhile to stop doing it. His response was just so much fun.

Uh oh...

Maybe my throat clearing, high-signing and shin kicking contributes to Chuck’s “Self-Disclosure Tourette’s”. Does this mean I should develop nerves of steel? Or maybe I need to fight fire with fire? I believe I’m beginning to feel the need to channel a moth...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two Questions

First:
Has anyone used one of the wide variety of Wacom Tablets (Graphire, Intuos, the new Bamboo or, bestill my heart, the Cintiq...)? If so, how do you like it? For what applications have you found it most useful?
I have lust in my heart for a Wacom (but not unlimited resources) and I need to know if my desire is misplaced or if it will lead to fulfillment!

Second:
If you could only load one (O.K. maybe two...) Chanukah/Holiday/Christmas CDs onto your iPod, which ones would you choose?
‘Tis just about that time of year and I’m cranking up my old favorites. But I’m always interested in something new and fabulous.

Thanks in advance for your input!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One Year!

Happy Anniversary to Pink Granite! Today is its one year anniversary!

As chief cook, bottle washer and blogger, I must say it’s been a terrific year. Back in January, I wrote about how I came to have a blog and why. But a year into this adventure it’s a little different and much better. The most wonderful thing that has happened is that I have “met” so many warm, kind, funny, intelligent and well intentioned people from all around the world. It has been tremendously reassuring and exciting. I have also noticed that I feel more at ease in my everyday world, having found such great people through Pink Granite.

So this post is a thank you to my family and old friends who were my first readers. It’s also a thank you to all the folks I didn’t know a year ago, who stopped by, stayed awhile and continue to come back. Special thanks to all those who left comments, enriched the conversation and most especially livened up the joint quite a bit! Lastly, it’s an invitation to the readers who stop by and have yet to leave a comment: keep stopping by and feel free to say hi anytime.

: : Thanks for everything! Pink Granite readers rock!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

That Which Shall Not Be Named

As you can tell from the title of this post I don’t even like the word m*n*p**s*. Mind you, I’m not even there yet. But as a woman approaches the half century mark, it’s definitely on the radar. So I went to look up the word m*n*p**s* in other languages. I was hoping m*n*p**s* in French would have a certain je ne sais quoi about it. No such luck. M*n*p**s* in French is m*n*p**s*. I moved on and checked out a half dozen more languages. Hungarian had an interesting translation: klimax. That holds a certain amount of promise, don’t cha think? But it turns out that in most languages m*n*p**s* sounds almost exactly like m*n*p**s*. Which brings me to the German translation: wechseljahre. Now to my ear that sounds an awful lot a like a vexing year. That’ll do. So when my doctor asks me questions about that which shall not be named, I think I’ll say: “Oh, you mean wechseljahre? I’ll let you know when I get there.” But privately, maybe I’ll think about it in Hungarian...

My research:
In Dutch: menopause
In French: menopause
In German: wechseljahre
In Hungarian: klimax
In Italian: menopausa
In Portugese: menopause
In Spanish: menopausia

Friday, November 23, 2007

Three Seasons, One Photo

Summer green, brown autumn leaves and white winter snow - we’ve had it all this week. Temperatures have ranged from balmy 60s (19 C) to frigid teens (-9 C). The race to get ready for Thanksgiving came to a happy conclusion. Now there is a brief lull before the next cascade of holidays. Then the slow, cold months of the beginning of the new year bring us the chance to recharge, a bit of hibernation, before our thoughts turn to spring planting and summer trips. The four seasons we have here in New England bring such rich rhythm to our lives.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Official Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

We may have celebrated Thanksgiving last Sunday, but today is the official day here in the U.S. Whether or not Thanksgiving is celebrated where you live, it might be a good time to take a moment to focus on what you have to be grateful for. Big or small, mundane or spectacular, I’ve found a sense of gratitude can have a buoyant effect on my spirit.

More Than Just The End Of Camelot

Forty-four years ago today, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

”With a good conscience our only sure reward,
with history the final judge of our deeds,
let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth
God's work must truly be our own.”

- From the Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy
Washington, D.C.
January 20, 1961

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Referral

George Geder tagged me for an interesting meme over on his blog. I’m not going to tag anyone, but I invite you to go play over at his post.

All I have to say on the subject is:

"It's a quick decision by the packer," Dave says.

All will become clear when you read the comments over at George’s blog...
Have fun!

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Family Is Funny

Wait a minute. I’m not sure I phrased that correctly!

My family has an excellent sense of humor and when we get together we laugh a lot - um - and not at each other!

Our early Thanksgiving was terrific. And despite the lack of assistance from any elves, Chuck and I managed to get the house ship shape. (I tried to get our cats Abby and Cassie to strap on dust cloths and pitch in, but no luck.) We also managed to get dinner served pretty close to on time. But that was truly a group effort. My Mom (A.K.A. The Birthday Girl) tweaked my gravy. Gail ground the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle after I dropped and destroyed the pepper mill. Carrie and Kate anticipated whatever was needed next and delivered. Likewise, Phil and Al lent willing hands to every task. And everyone brought a dish to share. Through it all, we talked and laughed and laughed and talked! There was a certain amount of iPod jockeying, singing, dancing, wedding planning, reminiscing and photo sharing. The afternoon flew by impossibly fast. The only thing that could have made it better, would have been to have even more members of the far flung family gathered ‘round the table. (Get well soon Lorrie!)

Today, still no elves, but the house is mostly put to rights. Gail is safe and sound back home in Georgia. Mom was off to another well deserved birthday celebration. And I hear there were turkey sandwiches in more than one lunch bag today.

Thankful? You bet I am.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'll Be Darned...

The elves did not miraculously appear overnight to clean the house!
They did not vacuum or dust or polish or dry mop.
They did not seek out and remove any stray cobwebs or dust bunnies.
Harumph!
Good elves are so hard to find.
Guess you can imagine what we'll be doing today!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mom
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!
Wheeeeeee!!!”


My Mom, Dorothy, is celebrating her birthday today. While she has just barely turned 84, she is already proudly proclaiming that she is now in her 85th year! I hope to be as happy, healthy, resilient and full of zest as she is, when I am her age!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grandma Jenny’s Rolls, As Promised!

Jenny was my nieces Carrie and Kate’s late grandmother. Jenny was a doll - vivacious, spunky, warm, loving, funny and a force of nature. She was a good cook and started making recipes out of her parish cookbook. She rightly called it “The Holy Angels Cookbook”, but it got renamed within the family as “the Hell’s Angels Cookbook”! (Now you understand my extended family’s sense of humor a little better!) One of the recipes from the cookbook was called “Two Day Rolls”. Jenny made them often for family celebrations and they knocked our socks off! At some point I tried making them and found the recipe to be super easy. Since Jenny passed away, we never call them anything but Grandma Jenny’s Rolls. Slathered with butter, when they are warm from the oven, they are like a little toast to her memory.

The original recipe by Carol Finnegan was found in “Angels In The Kitchen” by The Holy Angels’ Church of Barrington Rhode Island, 75th Anniversary Cookbook.

Grandma Jenny’s Two Day Rolls

1 pkg. regular dry yeast
1/4 Cup warm water
3/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 Cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Cups Flour (I like 3 Cups white + 1 Cup white whole wheat)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in milk and sugar. Add one tablespoon of the flour. Let stand at room temperature for one hour.

Beat in eggs, remaining flour, butter and salt. Cover and let stand overnight, NOT refrigerated. (I leave mine in the microwave.)

The next day, divide the dough into 2 balls. On a floured board roll each ball into a circle, of 1/2 inch thickness. Cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up, starting at the outer, wide end. Place on greased baking sheets, seam side down. (I place mine onto parchment paper on air bake cookie sheets.) Cover with a clean towel and let stand at room temperature until doubled or time to bake (up to 12 hours!).

Bake in preheated 400 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes. They should be a golden brown and sound a bit hollow when tapped.
Makes two dozen.

Note: These are an excellent do ahead recipe for holidays and dinner parties. But they must be started the day before.


These really are scrumptious and travel quite well. I’ve made them at home, put them on the baking sheets and then driven a couple of hours by car. Once at our destination, they continue to sit until they are baked just before dinner.

I'm sorry I don't have this recipe written with conversions. I hope this link or this one will prove helpful.

:: Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Plea & Grace

Help! Somebody please make this recipe!

We don’t usually bake biscuits, rolls or even the little Pillsbury Poppin’ Fresh right-out-of-the-tube crescents for Thanksgiving anymore. What with the dressing and the potatoes, we are already fairly starchy. Plus there were a few years when the rolls either got burned, because we were too distracted by all the other delicacies on our groaning board. Or we completely forgot to bake them at all and discovered them when we were packing up the leftovers! But I just read this recipe for “Touch-of-Grace Biscuits” over at Orangette’s blog and they look delicious! And you can’t beat the name! So even though it won’t be on our menu this Sunday, somebody should benefit! They require a special flour, preferably a southern U.S. style. So Tonya in Tennessee, this one might be right up your alley.

I have a surefire, dead easy Two Day Roll recipe, which we now know as Grandma Jenny’s Rolls. I’ll post that tomorrow. You’ll thank me. Now go bake graceful/grace-filled biscuits. Shoo! And don’t forget to let me know how they turned out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thankful - With A Capital T

We are in full Thanksgiving preparation mode around here. You might think that we’re well ahead of schedule, but not really. This year we are celebrating Thanksgiving on Sunday, the 18th, before the scheduled holiday on Thursday, the 22nd. There are a lot of good reasons to do this and it turns out there are some side benefits. For instance, I shouldn’t need to be in the store the day before Thanksgiving, trying to find just the right size fresh turkey, from of field of three lonely plastic wrapped carcasses! Also, it means that all the family members who usually have to try to make it to multiple homes for multiple dinners on Turkey Day, will have a much more relaxing time of it.

Years ago, my family started celebrating Christmas Eve on different days. We’re independent folk. It grew out of similar reasons. We all wanted our old Christmas Eve festivities of long standing. But those just starting out with young families of their own, wanted to build new traditions. So having a “you can have your cake and eat it too” collective mentality, Christmas Eve became a floating holiday. We’ve opened presents and eaten chicken salad rolls together, anytime from a week or two after Thanksgiving, all the way to the end of February. It works for us.

Which might make you think that we’re not wedded to routine. But you’d be wrong. I’ve hosted a goodly number of Thanksgivings for a couple of decades. Sometimes I tire of wrestling a cold dead bird, just past dawn, on that particular Thursday morning. Once, I decided to break out of the mold. No turkey. Instead, a Middle Eastern Feast! I planned. I cooked... Oh Lord, I should have listened to the lack of enthusiasm from my family as they received the news of the menu change. Nope. I was undeterred. Hummus, baba ganoush, dolmas, la maejun, chicken, rice pilaf, salad... Those poor beloved family members, all they wanted was turkey and gravy and my knock-your-socks-off dressing. They wanted Thanksgiving - with a capital T, which stands for turkey.

Bless their hearts, they let me pull another non-turkey Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Yup. They’re saints. I served beef stew. I hear you! I really do. But I make a wicked good beef stew! But it was no darn roast turkey. No dressing, which my niece Kate complimented me by calling it “Holiday Crack Cocaine”. (She has a way with words that one!) So this year I am straightening up and flying right: turkey with all the trimmings, as we say around here. They’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful. Sounds like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Five Random Things...

As memes go, this one is ubiquitous. But I haven’t done it, so here goes.

Five random things you might not know about me.

1. The poorest I ever got was when I had twelve dollars to my name. I was working full time, paying rent, buying groceries - the whole nine yards. But it got down to those twelve bucks and pay day was way too many days off.

2. I once went to a Mary Kay Cosmetics pep rally/recruitment meeting thinking that I might want to sell their products. It struck me as oddly cult-like, yet very seductive.

3. I rarely, if ever anymore, wear make up. A long time ago I would feel a little naked without it. Now, I feel strange with any on.

4. My proudest teaching moment was when I covered Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the Book of Genesis in the same C.C.D. class. As far as I know, all the kids turned out just fine, thank you!

5. After I learned how to throw a football with a mean spiral, my folks gave me one for Christmas. I had learned how to throw a football at a religious retreat.


: : Care to share any of your own random things?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidential Proclamation


Honoring all who served...

Hoping for, working for peace...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Completely Different Quest

Call me paranoid, but Chuck and I are the kiss of death. It seems that whenever we find a product we really like and we come to rely on said product, the manufacturer either discontinues it or often (and worse still) improves it. Or the product continues to be made in the same old wonderful way, but it suddenly becomes as scarce as hen’s teeth to find it in a local store. This seems to happen so often, that we sometimes get a niggling fear as soon as we come to use something on a regular basis. Mind you, we really do like to try new things, but we hate to have our old faithfuls disappear.

Most recent case in point: Cento Caponata. Let me head you off. I know I can make my own caponata. I have. It’s very good. And I know we need to eat increasingly locally. But I love the convenience of the little yellow 7.5 ounce can of Cento. Their caponata is chunky and very consistent batch to batch. And did I mention it sits quietly on my pantry shelf, just waiting to be incorporated into an omelette, a pasta sauce or (my favorite) as a tasty side dish for grilled chicken?

One day we put Cento Caponata on the grocery list and it was no longer available in any of our grocery stores. At first, the location on the shelf was empty just above the appropriate shelf tag. Next trip, the shelf tags were gone. We immediately went into red alert mode. Futile trips to countless customer service desks ensued. Then we turned to the internet. Happy days! Cento is still making Caponata and we can order it if need be. Breathing easier, but still hunting. Yesterday, we went into a Shaw’s supermarket and reflexively looked for the little yellow can. Eureka! Now there are six perfect cans sitting in our pantry. Big, happy sigh of relief...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lyrics In The Heart

If you are a regular reader, you know I love words. Love is not too strong a word to use either. I delight in finding just the right word to describe a situation, experience and most especially an emotion. When Chuck and I married, we went through our truly eclectic CD collection to find the songs that spoke to us. We chose songs that sparked memories or described some aspect of our relationship or that made us smile. Chuck took the time to make a mix tape (Listen to us: a mix tape! How old are we?) which we played during our wedding reception. I typed up excerpts of the lyrics and printed them out on the micro-perfed reams of paper that used to stream through our old reliable dot matrix printer. (Oh dear!) Before our wedding we spoke to the family and friends gathered in our living room and talked about our “lust for lyrics”. Then we unfurled the scroll of lyrics which was so long it could have done double duty as carpet runner.

You also most likely recall that despite Chuck’s knowledge and love of classical music and our annual trips to Tanglewood, classical music rarely stirs me.

All that is written by way of background as to how unusual this next topic is. I am now quite taken with the non-vocal, purely instrumental performances of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. Alasdair is a Scottish fiddler and Natalie an American cellist. Their music is hauntingly beautiful, stirring, toe-tapping, ancient, modern, aurally mesmerizing and achingly bittersweet. All that comes from two musical instruments and enough talent between Fraser and Haas to fill an entire orchestra.

Chuck discovered Fraser and Haas by following a typically circuitous and serendipitous route, which only seems possible in cyberspace. The trail of bread crumbs led to the L.L. Bean website and their streaming audio for their Freeport Maine summer concert series. That concert series was recorded and broadcast by Martha’s Vineyard Radio. If you have a rough map in your head of the northeastern U.S., you know that Freeport and Martha’s Vineyard are not geographically connected except hemispherically. No matter, we are grateful they did record Fraser and Haas’ stunning performance. Here’s the most direct link I could find for you to listen their July 28, 2007 concert. Or go to the L.L. Bean website and click on the “Listen to our Concert Series” musical notes on the lower right.

Here are a few more useful locations:
Alasdair Fraser’s website
Natalie Haas’ website

Their albums (”Fire & Grace”, 2004 and “In The Moment”, 2007 - not yet released in the U.S.) are available from from Culburnie Records, from Amazon, from Amazon UK, and from Apple iTunes.

: : Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

04609

I returned home tonight to find a happy surprise. My friend Gale, who has been faithfully reading this blog since Day One, left her first comment! (Yay Gale!) As I read the comment she left on yesterday’s post, I realized that I had never uploaded any photos of Bar Harbor, Maine. I had been so caught up in the foliage and Acadia and sunsets and the beach and the ocean ---- that I neglected the town. So these photos are for lifelong islanders Gale and Tom and for their son Bodie who is living far from Maine these days. Thank you for making M.D.I, Acadia and Bar Harbor all the more special for us!

Looking down from the top of Cadillac Mountain onto Bar Harbor, Bar Island, the Porcupines and a visiting cruise ship. (Note the Red Sox sticker on our car!) Do click on this photo to view it as a larger image.

Looking over toward the shops and restaurants on Main Street from the Town Pier.

Looking across at Sherman’s (a wonderful bookstore and so much more) on Main Street, from Cottage Street. You can catch a glimpse of Frenchman’s Bay on the left.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Party’s Nearly Over

The colors have peaked. The leaves are falling and blowing about. We are entering that blustery period of adjustment, which leads us gently into winter - or, perhaps not so gently. Instead of looking up, we look down. Chuck took this photo up in Maine, but it captures the confetti of autumn perfectly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Very Good Finish

Hi Ho! It really is November. November in the Northern Hemisphere that is and that means things are getting downright nippy! This morning started out with wind and rain, very raw - the kind of day you wrap both hands around your mug of tea or coffee. Indoor projects ruled the day. By late afternoon the sky had cleared and we realized that daylight was fading fast. As we got ready to go for our walk, the heavens opened up with rain and sleet. Being firmly entrenched in the 21st century, we went directly to the computer to view the latest radar. Sure enough, there was a big dark green blob rolling right over us. But about an hour later, all was calm, all was dark and a little foggy. After the green blob had passed, the temperature had dropped several more degrees and was hovering just above freezing. As we walked through the ground fog the sky above was black and studded with stars. It was so clear, the Pleiades were especially enchanting.

When we returned home, cheeks rosy, eyeglasses all steamed up, I made an eggplant pasta sauce inspired by Ilva over at Lucullian Delights. Until I read that recipe, I had never thought to use eggplant as the core of a pasta sauce. Now I’ve done it many times! I grill the eggplant first to get a smoky flavor and leave it chunky, rather than blending it. I also add whatever strikes my fancy. Tonight it was garlic, onion and some fire roasted tomatoes. I served it over Trader Joe’s Artichoke Ravioli. (Man, I love that store!)

I’m so glad that little green blob of a storm blew up and delayed our plans.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Is Only A Test

When we were up in Maine, my sister Gail, asked me a question about the sizes of the photos I upload to Pink Granite, via Blogger. We e-mailed back and forth and she told me not to fuss with anything until we returned home. I did play around with the photos a little bit while on vacation, but not to any great degree of satisfaction.

So, using Gail’s recommendations, here are three versions of the same photo taken at Schoodic Point:

This is the full sized, full resolution image

This is the smaller dimensioned, full resolution image

This is the smaller dimensioned, lower resolution image.

I don’t see any appreciable differences in the images while viewing this page on my laptop’s monitor; nor when I click on them to view them full screen.
Thanks for the suggestions Gail. Let me know which one (if any) fits the bill! There are still more variables I can try in this controlled experiment!

: : OOOPS!!!
Updated Tuesday, November 6, 2007

So sorry about the image glitches which have apparently been here much of the day. I received my sister Gail’s comment alerting me to the problem, but on my computer all was well. It wasn’t until I cleared my cache, that I also saw two photos missing! Hopefully all is well now. As I said, this is only a test... ;o)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Where Did Today Go?

It went into cleaning, changing sheets, cooking, eating, walking, talking, listening, washing, drying and half watching the Patriots Football Game. (They are so not the Red Sox. Football is so not baseball.) Then suddenly or so it seemed (even with the “extra” hour), the day was winding down. Poof. Just like that: “snap” - Monday was looming, with all the things Monday will insist be part of its very own day.

When we were on vacation up in Maine, just two short weeks ago, our days were filled with almost all “want to dos” and only the most basic of “need to dos”. It was liberating, exhilarating and relaxing. Vacation was an indulgence of the senses. What structure there was came from our hearts, a delightfully unstructured place. Here at home, the structure is of the mind; order designed to tame chaos, to bring rhythm to our days.

Yet already something is chafing. It’s more than the time change which has left me cranky. I believe it has to do with balance or more pointedly, the lack thereof. I think our days at home need to be structured to include a daily dose of “want to dos”. And by structured I mean not to leave those wants and wishes ‘till after all the needs and musts are crossed off the list.

Balance. Right at the top of Monday’s every single day’s list...


“Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
- Robert Fulghum

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Autumn Thoughts

I’m not sure if I had a residual taco hangover from Tuesday or if it was the influenza vaccination I got yesterday afternoon, but last night I was asleep on my feet! Today, we are feeling the effects of the remnants of Hurricane Noel. (Thanks to Ben the roofer, we remain warm and dry.) Here in Central Massachusetts, we aren’t getting the pounding that coastal New England is feeling, but we are grateful to have our aquifers recharged. I wish we could share the wealth of Noel with the Southeastern and the Southwestern U.S. Both areas are hungry for rain and the situations remain desperate.

The unseasonably warm weather seems to have passed and now we are feeling as if this is autumn in earnest. We even had to turn the heat on. But since this is. after all, November that seems reasonable! With a nip in the air, planning for Thanksgiving also seems a reasonable thing to do. But the Christmas carols playing in the stores while the Halloween costumes and candy are still in their markdown bins, strikes me as aggressive or crazy or both! Please let us get through Thanksgiving first, O.K.?

And, as long as I’m on a topic that makes me feel a bit disgruntled, it’s time for my bi-annual complaint about moving the clocks backwards and forwards. Tomorrow morning at 2:00 a.m., we have to “fall back” an hour. I say, let’s pick a time. Let’s set a time and then let it be. A gentle, daily change is so easy and natural - no jarring lurch in either direction, nor abrupt disruption to our delicate internal clocks.

Tomorrow, the winds will have died down, the rain will be long gone. The clocks will have fallen back and I/we will adjust. As the cooler weather becomes the norm, culinary thoughts will turn slow baked, slow roasted meals that will fill the house with tempting aromas. Recipes for soups and stews will be reviewed or reinvented as the windows begin to steam up and the leaves fall down. I love autumn - no matter what time the sun sets.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Eventide

After the rain showers, there were streaks of pale pink, which turned to salmon. Then the sky began to glow and become more brilliant. Suddenly the western slope of the hillside to the east burst into a vibrant orange glow, each tree illuminated in the waning rays of the sun. Now the salmon streaks were deepening to raspberry, approaching what we wish neon lights could replicate. Then blue gray strips of clouds began to race more quickly, spurred on by the cold front, compressing, colliding and falling down like a curtain on a stage. The raspberry, now tinged with yellow, was just a shimmer on the horizon. The show was over; my camera still in its case. I hadn’t dared to take my eyes away from the sky. How could I ever have captured the grandeur?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Tonight:
- I will not be wearing the tiger costume each of my sisters and I wore in turn as children.
- I will not be having my Mom draw whiskers on my face so I can look like a tiger.
- I will not being eating the pumpkin shaped pancakes that my Dad made for us every Halloween, before we went out trick-or-treating.
- I will not be carrying the orange plastic pumpkin with the jack-o-lantern face to collect my treats in door to door.
- I will not be coming home to sort my candy on the living room floor.
- I will not being doing any of these things, but I will be remembering them all fondly.
All treats, no tricks...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thanks Jacoby!

Jacoby Ellsbury, the rookie outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, has impressed and dazzled in the field and at the plate since he joined the team this year. And, truth be told, has set more than a few hearts beating faster!

Today, we all had free tacos from Taco Bell because Jacoby stole second base in Game Two of the World Series. Sure, there was a bit of defensive indifference on the part of the Colorado Rockies, but a steal’s a steal! As a result of Jacoby’s steal, Taco Bell delivered on their promise to offer a free taco to everyone in America. (To obtain the Free Taco, consumers must visit any participating Taco Bell® restaurant in one of the fifty (50) the United States or District of Columbia between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. (local time) on the Redemption Date only and request a Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco. Free Taco's will not be offered on any other date or time, regardless of circumstance. Limit one (1) Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco per person. Participating Taco Bell restaurant manager reserves the right to deny Free Taco to any person he/she reasonably believes has already received a Free Taco or has engaged in any other fraudulent activity. All eligible consumers: Everyone in line at a participating Taco Bell restaurant before 5:00 p.m. local time will receive a Free Taco, even if it is provided after 5:00 p.m. Free Taco offer is subject to store availability and Taco Bell reserves the right to substitute an item of equal or greater value if due to unavailability. All restaurant managers decisions are final regarding to Free Taco offer.) ;o)

So after we ate our free 79 cent tacos, we continued along on our own “Rolling Rally” and went to Bob’s Stores. There we acquired our 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series Championship T-shirts. Those were most decidedly not free! Below you can see Chuck in the Red Sox cap he’s worn faithfully all season. Note the “Go Sox” sign in the background. That will give you an idea of what life is like here in the heart of Red Sox Nation!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thanks Guys

There’s just one teensy, weensy problem with the Red Sox having won the World Series last night. Tonight, there is no baseball to watch, no beloved Red Sox to root for.

I’ll let the enormity of that sink in.

Yes, tomorrow there will be a Rolling Celebration, complete with Duck Boats. But the guys won’t be playing any baseball until Spring Training 2008.

I know the players and the entire organization have worked hard since last spring. I know they deserve some time off, a nice vacation, the opportunity to bask in the glow of the 2007 World Series. OK. So maybe in a week or two they could just get together at Fenway Park and play a little baseball. OK. Maybe three weeks. That’d be good too.

Sigh...

In the 122 days or so until Spring Training, I’ll try to gain some patience. I’ll try to embrace the whole Hot Stove thing. I’ll try not to freak out over every rumor, over every free agent. I’ll try to watch the Patriots win and not let my blood pressure spike every time they show Belichick on the sidelines. I’ll try to enjoy the Super Bowl. But even if some guy makes snow angels in the end zone, it won’t be nearly as good as any old game at Fenway. That’s just the truth.

Thanks guys. You all totally rocked. Enjoy your time off and we’ll see you ALL next spring.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sharing The World Series

Tonight, Chuck had a craving for sushi. Our favorite place to get sushi here in Worcester County is at Chopsticks in Leominster. Chopsticks is also our favorite Chinese restaurant. So we were quite happy when several years ago they added on to the building and built a sushi bar. But tonight we had a dilemma: we didn’t want to miss Game Four of the World Series. Fortunately the sushi bar in Chopsticks has a television which is pretty reliably tuned to sporting events, so off we went.

It turned out to be a perfect idea. Apparently everyone else in Red Sox Nation was home having pizza or Fenway Franks in front of the TV. Or they were out in traditional sports bars with beer and munchies. We arrived in the middle of the first inning and sure enough the TV in the sushi bar had the game on. There were a few folks seated in the main dining room and a few more in the teppanyaki area, but we were the only patrons in the sushi bar. But we weren’t alone. We were joined by many members of the international Chopsticks staff as we all rooted for the Red Sox. As is true whenever Red Sox fans get together, game and player statistics along with opinions were flying. The food was delicious; from the miso soup to the gyoza to the maki, it was all as good as ever. And because the restaurant was so quiet, the service was especially quick, warm and friendly.

It was a great meal and a terrific way to share the excitement of the World Series. Now we’re home (We returned halfway through the seventh inning.) and hoping against hope for a clean sweep! Knocking on wood, fingers crossed, etc.!



: : Red Sox Update - October 29th, 12:30 a.m. :
The Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 4 - 3 in Game Four of The World Series!
The Red Sox Swept and WON the 2007 WORLD SERIES in only four games!!!
Mike “I only know how to hit doubles and home runs” Lowell hit a double and a home run tonight! And he was named Most Valuable Player!!!
So good, so good so good!!!


Red Sox Nation was thrilled to break the 86 year dry spell and win the World Series in 2004. When they won tonight, I kept saying: “It happened again in our lifetime!” This really is a wonderful feeling! We are so grateful to and happy for, the entire Red Sox Organization!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hey! There’s A Man On My Roof!

Oh, that’s just Ben, our roofer. Ben was recommended by Roger, whom we trust like we trust, well, no one else in the world since John died a few years ago. John and Roger brought our barn back from the brink, when everyone else said tear it down and start over. It’s now snug and dry and holds our car and everything else that ends up in a barn on land that is no longer dedicated to agriculture. John and Roger also built our cupola. From the time I was four, until I was in my twenties and my Mom and Dad sold our house, my Dad had a Christmas routine that never varied. I would ask him: “Dad, what would you like for Christmas?” and he would reply: “A Cupola.” I would groan and say that I couldn’t get him one of those and off I would go to make him something or buy him something which would never, ever be a cupola.

I don’t know why Dad never bought a cupola nor why I never ponied up and got one installed for him. But many years and life experiences later I designed a cupola for our barn. John and Roger built it and Chuck helped them install it, from cutting the hole in the roof to lifting the two sections up onto each other like a clapboard and glass wedding cake. I climbed a crazy-scary ladder up to the roof, with a photo of my Dad in a fanny pack. I clung to my new cupola and snaked out the framed photo of Dad and had a moment I will never forget. Trying to shimmy back down that roof to the waiting ladder was something else I shall never forget, but for very different reasons!

So when we knew our borrowed time on our house roof was just about expired, we called Roger. He said call Ben. That’s how a pleasant young man, with no fear of heights, but a healthy respect for the risks of his job, came to be walking around on our roof. Ben patched a little spot, whose time had completely run out and scheduled the big roofing job for the spring. When Chuck checked the attic during today’s rainstorm, he was pleased to report it was dry as a bone. Phew!

I wonder if Ben ever brings a fiddle to work? I guess we’ll find out next spring...



: : Red Sox Update - October 28th, 1:00 a.m. :
The Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10 - 5 in Game Three of The World Series!
So good, so good so good!!!


For those of you not obsessed with the Red Sox, the “ So good, so good so good!!!” is a refrain from the classic Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline”. The song is always played in Fenway Park during the eighth inning. It is also played at wedding receptions for members of Red Sox Nation - right Kate and Phil? ;o)

Here’s a link to an NPR radio report on the tradition.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Looking Back

Here are a few more glimpses of Acadia in autumn.







Thursday, October 25, 2007

49 Up On The Board

49 Up is another in the series of ongoing British documentaries following the same group of children. The films began when the children were seven and then checked in with them every seven years at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and now 49. It was originally designed to look at class structure in England, coupled with the idea that by the age of seven each child’s future had pretty much been locked in. I had heard of the films, but had never viewed any of them until we watched 49 Up the other day. It was riveting and thought provoking. I highly recommend it.

The subjects of the films were all born in 1956. That puts every single one of them into the category of my contemporaries for the purposes of My Quest. As a result I found myself watching 49 Up through two minds. From the point of view of my quest I have to say it was wildly therapeutic. Watching these fourteen people in video snapshots at seven year intervals, showed both the enormous breadth of emotional and physical change, as well as how very recognizable everyone was. The “real” person shone through, throughout all of their adulthood. I found myself thinking of myself and wondering what sort of report would I have given of my own life at each age (and cringing at a few!). Watching the evolution of these individuals, helped me to focus on the solid core that is me and will continue to be me, even as I move through that-which-shall-not-be-named and beyond.

Thanks to all the kids, now tipped over into their second half century, for their participation, candor and generosity with their lives. They’re all now pinned up on my virtual bulletin board.


: : Red Sox Update - October 26th, 12:11 a.m. :
The Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 2 - 1 in Game Two of The World Series!
Next stop: Denver!
So good, so good so good!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sorting and Settling

This has not been an easy transition for me, going from vacation back to the real world. MDI, Bar Harbor and Acadia felt very real indeed and I miss being in the midst of that much natural beauty. The luggage has been stowed away, but I’m still slogging through the laundry. The cats are settled back in. A week’s worth of mail has been sorted, dealt with and recycled as needed. I’m remembering how to cook again, but I’m amazed at how rusty I felt in the kitchen after only a week of being waited on!

But I think the most jarring for both Chuck and me has been walking in a less dazzlingly beautiful place. Forgive me rural Central Massachusetts, this is a lovely area of the world. We count ourselves lucky to have bought a home here many years ago. We often feel we have the best of all worlds; rural but still near enough to Worcester, Boston or The Pioneer Valley to never feel deprived of anything for very long. But around here there is no Park Loop Road, no crashing surf, no Otter Cliffs, no Bar to cross at low tide, no Seal Harbor, no Schoodic Head or Point. Sigh.

Deep down, I know that getting away to someplace special is what vacations are all about. It’s those differences I’m longing for, that make getting away so terrific in the first place. If we lived on MDI, we’d probably want a change of scenery now and again - maybe to someplace like Central Massachusetts. Right? Sure. But not just to go walking round and round (and round) on the high school track. Top of the “To Do” list for tomorrow: find prettier places to walk that will tide us over until next spring, up in Acadia.


: : Red Sox Update - October 25th, 12:10 a.m. :
The Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 13 - 1 in Game One of The World Series!
So good, so good so good!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day Seven - Safe & Sound...

...and home. Before we left Bar Harbor, we had that strong pull to stay a little longer. Then came the reassuring words “next time”. When we got close to the New Hampshire border, we could feel the beginning of the internal shift. By the time we were solidly in Massachusetts, home began to beckon strongly.

We’re here. The house looks like a baggage carousel derailed and there is a ridiculous amount of laundry already sorted into baskets. The cooler is unpacked. The car is in the barn. Enough. The Boston Red Sox are playing the Cleveland Indians. The derailment can wait. We need to go root for the Sox.



: : Red Sox Update:
The Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 11 - 2!
They’ve won the Pennant!
Next Stop: The World Series!!!
So good, so good so good!!!